For I am going to help you with two of your New Year's resolutions: being more cultured and eating some vaguely healthier foods.
The culture one is easy: go to the opera. Failing that, go here and download art. Free!
Now for the other bit. Did you know that you can eat healthier food, while still enjoying all of the pleasure of your favorite "guilty pleasure" treats? Well, no, you can't, and frankly, I'm embarrassed for both of us that you were dumb enough to think that. But that doesn't mean that you can't substitute healthier alternatives. To cut off any whining at the pass ("This barley salad wasn't as pleasurable as a steak! This list is all lies!" Look, dumbass, I already told you that healthier food isn't going to be as viscerally satisfying. Learn to read. Dumbass.), I'll add what I consider to be the replacement value of the healthier options.
Before starting in on the list, you'll notice that I use weights instead of volumes for some measurements. If you're asking, "Does that mean I need to buy a kitchen scale?" the short answer is "Yes." The long answer is "Yes. Now shut up and let me get back to my business." Also, some things can probably be eyeballed, but a kitchen scale makes life much easier, and a decent digital version can be acquired for about $25.
Let's start with breakfast:
What you want: A six-egg steak and cheese omlette from IHop; five lemon-filled Krispy Kremes with a jug of chocolate milk (shut up—it's delicious)
What you're going to have: A breakfast smoothie, with a recipe from Alton Brown
What you'll need: Frozen fruit, milk (soy and other alternatives are fine—I use soy milk for these), and some kind of purple juice (I like grape)
The fruits themselves are up to you, but I follow AB's recommendation and go with bananas, strawberries, peaches, and blueberries. The measurements can vary, but shoot for roughly equal amounts—I generally go for 2 ounces of each, which makes a 12-ounce smoothie, which is fine for me in the morning.
How to do it: The night before, put everything in the blender (add in some flax or chia seeds if you'd like—probably can't hurt), then put the blender carafe in the refrigerator to let the fruit thaw a bit. The next morning, blend it, slow at first, then gradually up the speed and blend until it's a consistency that you like, about two minutes.
Replacement value: If someone asks for a six-egg steak omlette and you put this in front of them, they're likely to go upside your head, as they should. Nevertheless, once you get past the fact that those eggs just aren't coming, it's a reasonably satisfying smoothie, and it can be consumed while driving to work much more easily than my traditional breakfast rack of barbecued ribs.
And now, for lunch/dinner:
What you want: A Caesar salad to start
What you'll get: A Caesar salad to start
Huh?: This is another Alton Brown recipe—Caesar dressing made with tofu instead of eggs
What you'll need: 2 ounces of parmesan, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 block of silken tofu, 1.5 teaspoons each of Worcestershire sauce and white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of dijon, and about two tablespoons of olive oil, give or take
How to do it: Cube up the parmesan, then chop it fine in your blender (takes about ten seconds on medium speed). Add the garlic and do the same. Then add everything else except the oil and blend until smooth. You should also add a decent pinch of salt and black pepper to taste (good rule of thumb: grind until your arm hurts). Then, turn the blender on and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. When it's all in, taste and adjust to your liking—maybe it needs a bit more salt, more vinegar, more oil, whatever. Refrigerate for a while and put it on some romaine.
Replacement value: It depends. If you're expecting the kind of Caesar experience that comes with having some poor schmuck make the thing at your table while pretending not to hate your rich ass, it's probably a disappointment. However, I would put this up against just about all of the bottled Caesar dressings I've had—it's quite good.
What you want: A burger and fries
What you'll get: A black bean patty (I don't like calling it a burger, as burgers start off attached to cows) and oven fries—the patty recipe comes from LifeHacker, the fries from Ellie Krieger (I think)
What you'll need for the patties: Two cans of black beans (rinsed and drained), a teaspoon each of cumin and chili powder, some salt, and 1/4 cup of AP flour
How to make them: Put it all in a bowl and get to mashing—you'll need to go at it with a potato masher, forks, something until they're crushed and shapeable. Shape them into patties (you should get about six), then refrigerate them until you're ready to use. I like to go simple—cook them over medium heat with some vegetable oil and a slice of onion for 4-5 minutes a side, then put them on a toasted bun with some shredded cheddar and picante sauce.
What you'll need for the fries: A potato
How to make them: Cut the potato in wedges (I cut in half, length-wise, then cut each half in half the same way, then go down the middle of those, for eight wedges), then put it into a bowl and toss with some vegetable oil, salt, and seasoning mix, if you've got it. Toss to coat, then put it on a sheet pan (lined with foil or parchment makes it easier to clean up) and bake at 450 for about half an hour.
Replacement value: It's all about expectations. If you're expecting a burger, you're going to be let down—if you need a burger, buy some 93% lean beef, but for God's sake, cook that thing rare, or why bother? If you're expecting a black bean burger, it's actually pretty good. The fries are really nice—I like thick-cut fries anyway, so I would put these up against homemade fries any day.
And for dessert:
What you want: One of those 1,500 calorie pieces of cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory, the ones that come with an entire Ghiardelli bar melted on top and a slab of bacon mixed in
What you'll get: A French pseudo dessert, courtesy of Jacques Pepin
What you'll need: An apple
How to make it: Cut out the stem and...other ends, then cut it in half, core it, and cut it in slices. Squeeze on a good amount of lemon juice, and add some cracked black pepper. If you've got a piece of bread and cheese to go along, so much the better.
Replacement value: Kiss my ass. Okay, here's the deal, and this is one of those "there aren't any real replacements" situations. If you want the 1,500-calorie piece of cheesecake, get it. Just, you know, don't get it every night. An apple with lemon juice and pepper just isn't going to satisfy that particular craving (although I do have that quite a bit, and it's pretty tasty, but come on, it's not cheesecake).
So, those are some things I like (and I actually do have them pretty regularly); if you have your own replacements, let's hear about them.