Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Confession of a Food-a-holic

I've been really slacking on the blog posts this month! It's not that I haven' t been cooking, in fact, I've been cooking more than normal, and tons of new recipes too. Truth is, I'm a tiny bit embarrassed because I've been keeping a secret from you, blog world. So here it is... I'm on Weight Watchers. I know, nothing to be ashamed of really, but I love food and watching every morsel that goes into my mouth doesn't allow for complete cooking and eating freedom. Also, I feel kind of guilty because I'm always that friend who is saying "come on!! eat the ice-cream!!! it's no big deal!!" and now I'm the one who says "umm can I get a salad instead of the onion rings??"

Despite being worried that I would be depriving myself of the joys of food, I have been surprised how good the recipes from Weight Watchers have been. Don't get me wrong, there are some foods that just aren't the same when you scale them down (french fries!) but the great thing about Weight Watchers is that you can eat anything, you just have to plan accordingly and control your portions. One of my biggest challenges is my sweet tooth, so I decided to see what the Weight Watchers recipe bank had in the way of sugary goodness.

I decided on the Berry-licious Cupcakes because the picture of them looked so cute. I realize that these aren't *healthy* but they have less calories and fat that regular cupcakes, and taste just as good, proving you can have your cupcake and eat it too!

Berry-licious Cupcakes
150 calories and 2.5g fat (with frosting)
Dunken Hines Yellow Cupcake
270 calories and 12g fat (not including frosting)

Berry-licious Cupcakes
Courtesy of Hungry Girl and Weight Watchers, comments by Amanda

Makes 12 cupcakes
Prep time 20 min
Cooking time 20 min

4 oz (or half an 8oz container) fat free Cool Whip
1/4 cup fat-free cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp SPLENDA No Calorie Sweetner When recipes call for artificial sweetener, you can't just use sugar instead because 1 tbsp sweetener might not equal 1 tbsp sugar. Also, baking is a science as well as an art, so you might mess up the chemistry if you sub sweetener for sugar or vis-versa
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
2 drops neon pink food coloring (1 drop for icing, 1 drop for batter) I skipped this part because I wanted to have white icing so my sprinkles would look cool
1/2 Tbsp sugar free raspberry or strawberry syrup again, skipped it for white icing
9 1/8 oz (about half a package) regular white cake mix I weighed this out just to be sure I had exactly half, remember, this is science! Also, I used yellow, but I would recommend white, read on to find out why.
1 cup diet cola, black cherry flavor I used Diet Dr. Pepper
4 large egg whites (about 1/2 cup)
6 medium strawberries, pureed I used my mini food processor
2 sprays cooking spray or cupcake liners


1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In a medium bowl, comine whipped topping, cream cheese, Splenda, vanilla extract, 1 drop of food coloring (optional but looks cute and girly) and syrup (also optional, but tastes good).
Using electric mixer at medium-low speed, blend frosting until mixed thoroughly, about 1 minute. Chill frosting in freezer for 20 minutes and then transfer to refrigerator until ready to frost cupcakes.
3. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, soda and egg whites; add pureed straberries and remaining drop of food coloring. Mix with electric mixer at medium-high speed until smooth, about 45 seconds. I used yellow cake mix because it was on hand, and left out the pink food coloring. This caused the batter to be a slightly unpleasant yellowish-brownish-pinkish color, tasted fine, but not so pretty looking.
4. Coat a 12 cup muffin pan with cooking spray or line with cupcake wrappers. Evenly spoon batter into prepared muffin pan.
5. Bake until firm, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely in pan. Once cool, remove cupcakes from pan and evenly spread with frosting. As I was decorating I noticed that the icing had tiny chunks in it where the cream cheese didn't incorporate into the cool whip all the way. I didn't like the way this looked, but as soon as I started topping each cake with sprinkles, not only did they look adorable, but I couldn't stop smiling! Oh, the magic of sprinkles.

Ingredients for the frosting

Ingredients for the batter

Showing off my new cupcake tree!

Practicing my food photography skillz! (with a z cuz I learned them on the streetz)

Does that look low-cal to you?

Final thoughts? These cupcakes are moist, sweet, and simply adorable. Everything a cupcake should be!

So what does Amanda's new eating habits mean for Down 2 Eat?

A few changes, like more vegetables, and less Amanda (I've lost 7 lbs so far, woo hoo!), but plenty of good eats!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tips for Maximum Southern BBQ Enjoyment

By: a Northerner By Birth But Southerner By Choice

For: Midwesterners, Yankees, Hoosiers, West Coasties, and anyone who needs to know

1. BBQ Means Low and Slow- Many people misuse the word BBQ. If you plan on having some people over and throwing some hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill you are not having a BBQ. Repeat after me: BBQ means low and slow. The ribs, pulled pork, and brisket you get at a BBQ restaurant have been cooked for hours and hours, maybe even DAYS!

2. Pink Means Smoked- In this case, pink meat does not mean "CALL THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT", it means your meat has been smoked to maximum tastiness, usually the pinker, the better.

3. Don't be Scared by Crappy Exterior - Most tasty BBQ places are in tiny little buildings on the outskirts of town. Don't be surprised to see a collection of fat smiley pig figurines. My all time favorite BBQ restaurant, Oklahoma Joe's in Kansas City is in a gas station. I am always skeptical of "fancier" BBQ joints, but there are some good ones, try The Pit in Raleigh, NC.

4. Coleslaw on the Pork = YUM - When I first saw people put coleslaw on their pulled pork sandwiches I thought it seemed weird. Don't knock it till you try it! It adds some cool freshness to your hot and spicy pork. Once my mom asked if she could get her coleslaw on the side instead of on the sandwich, and the waitress told her that if she wanted it on the sandwich, it was included, but if it was on the side, it cost extra! (This was years ago but I believe it occurred at Allen & Sons).

5. Choose Sides Wisely / Get Your Own Dang Coleslaw- Most places allow you to choose 2 (or more) sides to go with your meat. While side choices are personal, I always get coleslaw if I am having pulled pork and it doesn't come on the sandwich (see tip on coleslaw). I demonstrated the coleslaw on pork technique to my BF and he proceeded to eat all my coleslaw. Don't get me wrong, I love sharing food, but there's a limit- get your own coleslaw! In addition to coleslaw, I usually go with something unique and southern.... sweet potato fries are a favorite, and Olde Time BBQ in NC has apple pie sticks- fried batter filled with apples and cinnamon, yum!

6. BBQ Sauces Vary by Region- Each region has its own BBQ sauce "style". They come in different colors- red, yellow, white- and different flavors - sweet, tangy, or a combination. Here is a fun song to help you learn the types of BBQ. Sadly, they fail to mention MY home state of Virginia! In case you were curious, I think that Virginia mostly takes after North Carolina in our BBQ tastes- usually vinegar based, but sometimes you can find some red, sweet BBQ sauce.