Saturday, May 28, 2011

Episode Three: To Bake or Not To Bake? The Answer is YES!

Alright, so grammar aside, YES is the answer to the question queried in this post's title. Today marks my first recipe posting, and not only is there one sinfully delicious (and remarkably healthy!) recipe for you to sink your teeth into, there are THREE, all with seven ingredients or less (7 Points Plus or less for you fellow Weight Watchers out there), and all requiring very little in the way of kitchen utensils. Plus this recipe is so simple, you can literally make it with any variety of ingredients to satisfy any palette.

Today we'll be unbaking, thank you Lewis Carroll, with a simple No-Bake Cheesecake recipe (Thus the YES to our baking without baking enigma). I did a little poking around online, just to scope out the other Cheesecake contenders on the table. Your average store-bought no bake mix (such as Jell-O) is already between 7-10 Points Plus, which is over 200 calories per serving, PRE-PREPARATION! And don't even get me going on The Cheesecake Factory's delectably-anti-trim-waist-line offerings. We'll just not go there today. Cheesecake is one of my absolute favorite desserts, and I hate hearing myself or fellow "dieters" (I ABHORE that word) say, "Oh, I can't have that." Yes you can! Healthy weight maintenance is most definitely not about deprivation, it's about moderation. And while Weight Watchers may not be everyone's choice for a weight loss plan, they have a remarkably simple motto, Don't Eat Less, Eat SMART. Thus, my foray into the world of guilt free cheesecake consumption! 

**The base recipe is NOT my creation, but came from a recipe site called Gina's Recipes. She's a fellow Weight Watcher and strives as I do to create healthful recipes based on old favorites. The modifications I'll talk about are some of my own ideas to make Gina's base recipe more versatile.

Me with my mother
from the show
This post also commemorates the closing of Church Basement Ladies: A Second Helping, which I've been working on in Fort Myers, FL since February! I tested out several of my Weight Watchers friendly recipes on this cast (including soda cupcakes and some devastatingly delicious pistachio parfaits), and my no-bake cheesecake was my final thank you for a fabulous run of over 90 performances! A few weeks prior to closing I told the cast I'd be baking for them one last time before our time together ended and I told them they could choose the ingredients and I'd supply the dessert. Simply and unanimously: Chocolate and Peanut Butter. They could care less what else was involved. I, of course, was happy to oblige, especially since these two are among my top 5 favorite ingredients to bake with (or just eat together, let's be honest). I had recently discovered the no-bake cheesecake recipe and thought it'd be the perfect base for my delicious deviation.

The original recipe calls for Whipped Topping, Cream Cheese, Splenda, Lemon Juice, and a reduced-fat Graham Cracker Crust. And don't worry about writing all this down, I have a handy-dandy easy to download PDF linked at the bottom of this post. Just download and print and you'll be ready to hit the super market! For my Chocolate/Peanut Butter concoction, I simply added reduced-fat peanut butter to the mix, some mini chocolate chips, and substituted a chocolate graham cracker crust

Pictured at Right is everything you'll need to make my Peanut Butter Chocolate No-Bake Cheesecake!

8 oz fat free whipped topping, thawed
8 oz fat free cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup Splenda
1/4 cup reduced fat peanut butter
5 teaspoons mini chocolate chips (or you can shave 2 pieces of Dove dark chocolate)
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
1 9-inch Keebler Chocolate Redi-Crust

To start, place the 8 oz of cream cheese in a large bowl. I softened mine first, but I found microwaving it for approx. 45 seconds makes it easier to incorporate with the other ingredients. After microwaving, stir with a spoon until smooth. Add in the 1/4 cup of Splenda and 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice and stir until well combined. Add the 1/4 cup of Peanut Butter and stir until well combined. Slowly mix in the 8 oz of whipped topping (it will be the whole carton). Stir until the mixture has a warm brown tint from the peanut butter. Spoon the mixture into the Chocolate Redi-Crust and spread evenly along the bottom and up the sides.
Finally, garnish with the 5 teaspoons of mini chocolate chips or the two shaved pieces of Dove Dark Chocolate. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours, until firm. Cake! Well, CHEESEcake...

YIELD: 6 Slices.

Now, the beauty in this recipe is how easy it is to modify. If you like Strawberry Cheesecake, try substituting 4 oz of Philadelphia 1/3 Less-Fat Strawberry Cream Cheese into the recipe. You can garnish it with Strawberry slices and even make your own sugar-free strawberry sauce (take 1 cup thawed frozen strawberries, 1 teaspoon Splenda, and 1 Tablespoon water, place in saucepan on the stove over medium high heat and stir continuously until sauce forms). Craving that Jello-Oreo Cheesecake? Use the chocolate Redi-Crust and crumble some reduced-fat Oreos into the cheesecake mixture. And, of course, if you just want plain and simple delicious (but healthy!) cheesecake, just follow the recipe as directed.

For all you Weight Watchers out there, the Points Plus as figured on the PDF are listed for the base cheesecake, the strawberry, and the chocolate peanut butter. If you make your own creation (which you should!) be sure to re-calculate the Points Plus for any modifications you make.

To get this amazing recipe for your recipe book, simply right click and save the image to your desktop. 

Let me know any crazy delicious creations you make! I'm always looking for new, tasty ideas!

Happy Baking!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Episode Two: The Great Milk Debacle of 1937.

I feel like no matter what the event, it should be accompanied by a word denoting serious conflict as well as an arbitrary year for added emphasis. I highly doubt Milk has ever been involved in war-like circumstances, but I do know that there is no use crying over it when spilled and that it does a body good.

Which brings me to today's subject: MILK.

Milk was a constant staple of my diet up until a I joined Weight Watchers. Before we go any further let me preface: WEIGHT WATCHERS ENCOURAGES THE CONSUMPTION OF MILK. I just opted not to have milk so that I could have other things for my allotted daily points.

 I was a 2% drinker for most of my youth and downgraded to Skim once I moved out on my own. Once I endeavored to change my eating habits and pursue a healthy lifestyle, milk was suddenly a difficult item to include, despite my absolute adoration of it as a beverage crucial to daily life (AND health). Chocolate Milk became virtually off limits. You can imagine my devastation over this intolerable fact. I've spent the last year trying to no avail to really work milk into my daily food consumption.

Enter Stage Left: A Co-Worker of the Vegan-Raw-Whole Foods Persuasion. Enter Stage Right: A Weight Watchers-Friendly Blog...

A Co-worker of mine is very conscious of the quality of food he consumes. He doesn't drink milk but chooses instead a non-dairy alternative. I've always been a little leery of these, mostly because I hate the idea of sacrificing flavor for less calories. I also try to eat sugar-free as much as possible and these drinks tend to go for conventional sugar as sweetener. So, one can see how the non-dairy alternative would not have much appeal. Here's where the blog comes in. I subscribe to The Hungry Girl blog. She's a conscious eater and is always looking for the tastiest, yet healthiest, options on the market. Low and behold, an answer to my struggles!


This healthy milk substitute gets you a whopping 8 ounces of "milk" for just 40 calories! For anyone also following the Weight Watchers program, this is just 1 Points Plus per cup (You can even have a 1/3 cup serving for 0 Points Plus!) vs. the 2 Points Plus for the same portion of Skim Milk. I use it plain on my cereal in the morning, but with a little Splenda, this becomes a delicious stand alone beverage. It's thicker and creamier than skim in texture and sits somewhere between 1% and 2%. 

And don't even get me started on the Chocolate... I have again become a chocolate "milk" drinker! This decadent liquid packs just 45 calories into it's 1 cup serving, again only 1 Points Plus! For this, I add a little Splenda as well and drink it all by itself! It seems so guilty, but it's so not! These awesome substitutes are also great for baking, milkshakes, and even to have in your coffee. The unsweetened vanilla comes in a refrigerated variety but is also available in a shelf-stable carton as well. The unsweetened chocolate is only available in the shelf-stable carton (you'll find it near the Soy and Rice Dream alternatives.)

Now, I know what you're thinking because I thought it too. Going for this type of alternative has to be more costly, right? WRONG. With the coupon I have linked below, you can get a 1/2 gallon of Almond Breeze for just a few pennies more than a 1/2 gallon of Skim. So with a minuscule price difference, why would you not go for the healthier choice? More for less, and just as tasty? I sense the conclusion of all milk-related conflicts everywhere!

Click this link: Almond Breeze Coupon!

Happy Drinking! Have a Chocolate Milk for me!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Episode One: The Saga Begins.

I have to first begin by extending an enormous thank you to the lovely Miss Anna Lise Jensen for her suggestion of such an appropriate nom de guerre. Many thanks to the other suggestions I received, but this one landed closest to home. Donna Reed not only captures the essence of what we have come to know as the "stereotypical housewife," but she truly exemplifies a defining characteristic of the 21st Century Woman: WE WORK.

A Little Bit About Donna Reed...
Donna Reed was an Academy Award & Golden Globe winning actress, remembered best for her turn as Mary Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life and as Donna Stone on The Donna Reed Show. She appeared in over 40 films during her 30+ years in the business.

She was truly a woman ahead of her time, despite her on-screen embodiment of the cookie-cutter housewife of the times she lived in. She was college educated (she insisted on graduating before fully diving into her MGM career), co-chaired an anti-war advocacy group called Another Mother for Peace during The Vietnam War, had a successful film career, and still managed to have a home, a husband (or three), and raise four children.

After her death in 1986, the Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts was created in her memory and provides scholarships to performing arts students.

A Little Bit About This Modern Day Donna...

While I may not (yet) be an Academy Award & Golden Globe winning actress, I'm certainly aspiring to be one. My crowning characteristic of the moment is that I'm at least a working actress. I have steady theater work through the remainder of the year in sunny (albeit humid) Florida. I'm hoping as ever to book other gigs, be it modeling, film, or commercials, to fill up the limited free time around my shows. My goal ultimately is to return to Los Angeles as soon as possible in 2012. And while I will constantly be seeking the growth and improvement of my craft that will hopefully ensure me a long, successful career in this business, I am a firm believer that to enjoy one's work, one must have and enjoy one's life. After all, how are we to accurately re-create, or in reality live, life on the stage or screen if we have never been out and experienced the glorious world around us? For the majority of my readers, I know you're affiliated with the arts in some capacity, and living life fully on the income of an artist can prove a difficult, but not un-accomplishable feat.

Which brings us to the definition of Adventure...

adventure |adˈven ch ər; əd-|nounan unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity her recent adventures in Italy.• daring and exciting activity calling for enterprise and enthusiasm :she traveled the world in search of adventure a sense of adventure.• archaic a commercial speculation.verb [ intrans. datedengage in hazardous and exciting activityesp. the exploration of unknown territory they had adventured into the forest.• [ trans. dated put (something, esp. money or one's life) at risk he adventured $3,000 in the purchase of land.

I myself prefer the verb tense of this word as it instills a sense of movement, a seeking quality. Of course, an adventure does not have to involve the loss of life or limb (or even that ever precious dollar). An adventure to me is simply finding something you love and pursuing it with vigor, and simpler still, enjoying the pursuit.

Thus, a blog is born...
Those that know me well will tell you with unwavering certainty that there are few places I love more than the kitchen. I love to cook and especially to bake and even more to eat whatever I've created. However, just over a year ago, I realized that my love for the kitchen was harming more than just my waistline. My self-esteem was at an all time low and years of negativity were wreaking havoc on my perception of life. The kitchen became a place of solace, but not for the right reasons. So one cold day in January 2010 standing with my mother, appropriately, in her kitchen, she asked me a simple question, "Where do you want to go from here?" I could either continue on the downward spiral I was on, or I could dig my heels in and change my path completely. A week later,  I made the best decision of my life to date and joined up with Weight Watchers. 16 months and 30+ pounds later, the lightness I experience isn't just the numbers on the scale, it's in every particle of my being. The small, active choice of just wanting to be thinner has become about so much more than that. I have finally discovered the ability to love myself for who I am no matter what that scale says.

The kitchen has again become a place I truly love to spend my time, and I have found many ways to make it work to my advantage. I'm an actress which means I'm judged the second I walk in a room based solely on my appearance, but I also love to eat and I refuse to starve myself in order to wear "smaller clothes" or fit this twig-skinny idea of beauty that is forced down our throats daily from every media outlet available. This woman is going to have her cake and wear her skinny jeans too!

I get asked a lot about living the Weight Watchers lifestyle, what my tricks are in the kitchen, food recommendations, etc, etc, etc, and I want to share what I've learned with as many people as possible! You don't have to do Weight Watchers to find success in whatever your weight-loss goals may be. You just have to be willing to choose yourself and make smart, healthy choices for your body.

The Modern Day Donna Blog Menu...
*Expect to see a lot of recipes. I'm all about creating the healthiest foods possible without sacrificing taste. I've done a lot of research into "smart" foods, modified hundreds of recipes, and found a number of healthy tricks. Everything I share will be something I've already made, so I'll be able to offer extra tips and advice to aid in your success!

*As a working actor I travel, a lot. I try to experience local culture as much as possible wherever I am, but that can be a costly endeavor if not done correctly. I hope to share some tips about getting out and seeing the world without breaking the bank in the process. After all, a good housewife is a thrifty housewife!

*I love to decorate and create meaningful gifts, but again,  I do it on a limited budget. There is a blog in the future where I will attempt to decorate my Los Angeles apartment for under $500. It will be a challenge, but one I fully intend to overcome!

*Q&A: I want to answer your questions, so if you have them, post them! Whether it be about food, exercise, acting, modeling, traveling, etc, etc, etc, I want to hear from you!

*As an artist, there will be posts regarding my work, and any tips I've found to be particularly useful to an actor striving to make it in this business.

The World is an Empty Plate...
See everything around you as an opportunity to explore, learn, and grow. Fill your plate with the things you love and experience those things fully! I hope you'll enjoy sharing in the filling of my empty plate. I'll try anything once, so expect a flavorful adventure complete with pearls, heels, a whole lot of metaphorical and physical cake, and of course, the skinniest of skinny jeans.

Here's to the road ahead,

-Modern Day Donna