Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ridiculously Easy Bread Puddings

Traditional bread pudding is made with egg yolks and heavy cream so it is sky high in calories and loaded with fat. I have developed, with the combination of right ingredients, a few recipes that yield sweet, moist bread puddings, which are a cinch to prepare. Here is the first of the two I created….

Recipe # 1: Apple Cinnamon Whole Grain Bread Pudding


3 whole wheat English muffins, cut into ½ inch cubes (Oroweat double fiber are the best)
1 ½ cups chopped apple (2 small or 1 large, gala is best)
1 ¾ cups skim milk
¼ cup egg subsititute (such as Egg Beaters®)
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup pecan bits


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray and spread it with the cubed English muffins and apples. In a separate bowl whisk the milk, eggbeaters, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon a together and pour over the bread cubes. Add the nuts and stir a few times. Then use a spatula to pat down the bread cubes a bit to make sure they are well covered with the liquid and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes for it to be well absorbed. Then place the dish in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and toothpick comes out clean in the center.

Makes eight servings

Serving size: 1/8 of the dish Calories 115 Protein 5 g Carb 20 g Fiber 4 g Sugars 10 g Fat 3 g saturated fat 0 g Sodium 144 mg


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Favorite Restaurants in LA (and what do I order?...)

I was recently asked by my good friend Maria to post a “Top Ten” of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles. Since I have lived here for almost 8 years now I have had the chance to discover so many great places that it is tough to choose just 10, so instead I am listing my Top Ten restaurant categories with a corresponding few places in each. Also listed are some items that I order…remember, I’m a dietitian and like to keep fit so I try to pick things that are tasty AND healthy! Check these spots out…


Pancho’s (Manhattan Beach) - I order the Tostada de Miguel (chicken tostada salad) and sometimes a cup of Black bean soup to start.


Monsoon (Santa Monica Promenade) - a big and beautiful place. Usually I’ll pick the Ginger chicken, XO Long beans and Sake braised mushrooms. All their sushi is great too and the Won ton tuna decker is a crowd favorite.

Chinois (Santa Monica) - all kinds of dishes with a fancy flair here. Chicken salad, Wok charred wild salmon, Grilled free range chicken, Stir-fried mushrooms and Crispy spinach are some of Wolfgang’s best creations.

American/Diner/ Comfort Food

Nichols (Marina del Rey) - like Denny’s but with awesome quality. I think they have great chicken soup, make your own omelettes, as well as Greek and Barbeque chicken salads.

The Counter (various locations) - at this spot your burger is custom made. I like the chicken, turkey and veggie burgers, with all kinds of veggie toppings like sautéed mushrooms and roasted red peppers, also on a bed on lettuce instead of a bun.


Literati Café (Brentwood) -I’ll choose oatmeal with fresh fruit or “design your own”egg white omelette here and this bright and sunny cafe. All their soups are yummy too and my husband loves the turkey asparagus affair sandwich and the hash browns.

Java Man(Hermosa Beach) - a fantantic local café, with homemade baked goods. Any of their low fat or fat free/sugar free muffins of the day rock! Coffee is sensational as well.

Beach 26 (Marina del Rey) - this place has a chabby chic décor and I dig the Far east Salad or House blend salad and Carrot cake for dessert.


Petro’s (Manhattan Beach) A semi-swanky Greek/ Mediterranean restaurant which has great Fasolatha (vegetable bean) soup, Chicken Souvlaki (kabobs) that are really delicious and my parents think the grilled lamb sandwich is to die for!


Fritto Misto (Santa Monica or Hermosa) - A cozy Italian venue. I love the Misto salad here and they have a create your own pasta menu, where I’ll do grilled chicken, mushrooms, artichokes with marinara sauce.

Maria’s Italian Kitchen (various locations) - Maria’s restaurants have been around for awhile and have great Chopped salad, Minestrone soup and the Chicken Michelangelo with sautéed spinach and mushrooms (light on the oil) is amazing.


Taste (West Hollywood) -at this quaint little venue for starters I love the Grilled artichoke, Chicken tortilla soup or the Grilled romaine salad and entrée’s which are great include the Pan seared Alaskan salmon, Chopped sabrosa salad (like Mexican chicken salad) or Grilled chicken marsala.

Hal’s Bar and Grill (Venice) - Manuel’s Salad (with wonderful fruits and goat cheese), the Pan roasted breast of chicken, roasted Atlantic halibut and the turkey burger are all standouts at this jazzy joint.


Ragin Cajun (Hermosa Beach) - a big time favorite of my husband’s and I, this authentic eatery has awesome Gumbo soup, Blackened chicken salad and Red beans and rice with vegetables.


Bamboo(West Los Angeles) - a great place to hit on Friday or Saturday night with relaxed atmosphere. The Mushroom soup, Caesar salad and Yucatan chicken or salmon that come with grilled veggies, plantains and black beans are like nothing I’ve ever tasted.


Tender Greens (Culver City)- this place uses very fresh ingredients, many of which are local and organic. All the salads are wonderful, as are the Grilled veggies and Rustic chicken soup.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Guest Recipe: Turkey Burgers by Sonny Amou

This recipe was kindly submitted by my friend Sonny Amou. He is a great writer and quite creative in the kitchen as well! Here is his recipe for unbelievably tasty turkey burgers and a little background behind it too. Thanks Sonny!

During my last full year at the University of Iowa, I lived with roommates that ate a boatload of my food. After getting into some heavy duty arguments, I struck a deal with them, that if they paid for the ingredients, I’d make batches of this recipe, make them on Friday afternoon in large quantities and they could do whatever they wanted. Harmony was achieved. This isn’t the exact recipe, at best it’s a calculated guess. I’ve made it a number of different ways over the years and kept losing the recipe – this is based on the most recent recipe M. found on the back of a post-it note about three years ago. In fact, I’ve made a couple of tweaks since I made these for Christmas Eve dinner. The key elements that have stayed the same, however are (1) the onions are always embedded in the burger, (2) the powder ingredients are mixed in the egg, and (3) tabasco sauce and cajun seasoning have always been the core seasonings of the recipe. Beyond that if you want to mix things up, go ahead.


1 pound lean ground turkey
4 egg whites or 1/2 cup egg substitute
¾ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 medium white onion
1 – 3 shakes of tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon. red pepper flakes
½ tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons. cajun seasoning


(1) Slice onion in half, coarsely chop half into dime-sized pieces and set aside. This is already a heck of a lot of onions, so if you want more, either (a) dice up other half, or (b) slice other half condiment style and place with tomatoes and lettuce or whatever else you put on the condiment tray.
(2) Using a large bowl, take egg whites/substitute and beat vigorously.
(3) Stir in all powdered ingredients into eggs and continue mixing.
(4) Add ground turkey and onion and knead egg/powder mix until it is evenly distributed
(5) Add bread crumbs, same deal…knead into turkey mix until evenly distributed
(6) Add tabasco sauce and knead for a bit. Then let the mix marinate for about 20 minutes in the fridge.
(7) Break into sand-dollar sized patties and place on wax paper. You should have about 4-6, it varies from batch to batch.


(1) Warm up skillet on medium heat and spray surface with cooking spray
(2) Place patties onto skillet and cook, flipping every 2-4 minutes.
(3) You should be pretty close to done when the burgers start to blacken and they resemble giant salmon croquettes-orange/red color.
(4) Place onto preheated burger buns and enjoy.

Misc. tips:

(1) Initially, do not press down on patties until the end with the spatula. I still make this mistake from time to time. Ideally, the egg and breadcrumbs will act as a sort of paste that holds everything together. Usually by the third or fourth flip, you can tell the paste has done its job, and you can press down on them then, if that’s your thing.
(2) Assume you’re going to lose some of the onion bits on the grill while you flip them. What I’ve always done is let them carmelize in the skillet, then scoop them into a saucer or small dish, adding them onto the bun after the cooking part is done.

Make 4 -6 servings (6 small or 4 large burgers)

Serving size: 1 small size patty Calories 130 Protein 18 g Carb 5 g Fiber <1 g Sugars 1 g Fat 5 g saturated fat 1.5 g Sodium 1040 mg

Serving size: 1 large size patty Calories 200 Protein 26 g Carb 7 g Fiber 1 g Sugars 2 g Fat 8 g saturated fat 2 g Sodium 1570 mg


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quick Spiced Indian Lentils and Vegetables

This Indian inspired vegetarian dish is easy to prepare and has a nice exotic flavor. Using canned lentils cuts down preparation time, but you can use regular dry lentils cooked according to the package or canned chickpeas if you prefer. Serve with brown rice and top with yogurt for a warm hearty meal.


1 eggplant cut into one inch cubes (about 4 cups)
3/4 cup chopped white onion
1 package of sliced mushrooms (about 3 cups)
4 cups raw spinach, rinsed well
One 15 ounce can of lentils, rinsed (I used West brae) or 1.5 cups cooked lentils
1/2 bouillon cube (chicken or vegetable, *use a gluten free brand like Herb-Ox if you are on a gluten-free diet ) + 1 cup water (or 1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth, *use a gluten-free brand such as Progresso Natural if you are on a gluten-free diet)
1 to 1.5 teaspoons curry powder
1 to 1.5 teaspoons cumin
ICB or olive oil sprayer or 1 teaspoon of olive oil
instant or microwave brown rice (optional, to serve with meal)
Greek or regular plain nonfat yogurt (optional, for garnish)


Spray a large deep pan with ICB or olive oil sprayer (or drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil). Put on medium heat and add the eggplant cubes and onion to brown for about 5 minutes. Throw in the sliced mushrooms, add a couple more sprays of ICB or olive oil and cook for another few minutes. Put in the lentils, bouillon cube + water (or 1 cup broth), curry and cumin and stir well. Simmer uncovered for a 2-3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, throw in the fresh spinach, folding it into the warm lentil mixture, and cover until spinach gets soft. Serve with brown rice and top with yogurt if desired.


As previously listed above, canned chickpeas can be used instead of lentils. Dry lentils can be used in place of canned lentils-prepared according to package directions to yield 1.5 cups cooked.

Makes 5 cups, four servings

Serving size: 1 + 1/4 cups (lentil mixture only) Calories 152 Protein 10 g Carb 25 g Fiber 7 g Sugars 6 g Fat 2 g saturated fat 0 g Sodium 307 mg saturated fat 1 g Sodium 383 mg


Saturday, February 14, 2009

No Death By this Chocolate Cake

Chocolate, ridiculously easy, low in fat…. need I say more? Happy Valentine’s Day!


1 box chocolate cake mix (I used Betty Crocker Super Moist)
1 cup light coconut milk (which I get at Trader Joes)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the cake mix into a large mixing bowl, add the light coconut milk and stir until completely blended into a uniform thick batter. Spray a 9 X 9 inch pan with cooking spray and spoon in the batter to coat the pan evenly. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.



¾ cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons hot water
1 teaspoon almond extract


Put all of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until smoothly blended. Drizzle over cake once it is cooled. For creative presentation, try using small cookie cutters to make shapes for serving. You can also garnish with fresh berries or mint leaves.

Makes 16 servings, serving size 1 square (about 2 X 2 inches)

without icing Calories 134 Protein 1.2 g Carb 26 g Sugar 13 g Fiber 0 g Fat 2.8 g Saturated fat 1.4 g Sodium 268 mg

with icing: Calories 156 Protein 1.3 g Carb 35 g Sugar 22 g Fiber < 1g Fat 2.8 g Saturated fat 1.4 g Sodium 207 mg


Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Side of Spaghetti Al Pomodoro, Two ways….

Spaghetti Al Pomodoro is a simple, yet classy and tasty dish that you will find at most any Italian restaurant. As I pointed out in a previous post, pasta dishes can be full of calories and fat and therefore not figure friendly to those watching weight or trying to eat healthy. Try this version that cuts the fat by using less oil and adding more flavor with dialed up doses of tomato, garlic and basil. Want to cut calories and carbs even more? Try it with spaghetti squash instead (recipe also listed below). You can also do the spaghetti squash version if you are on a gluten-free diet! Serve this as a side dish with chicken or fish, or have two servings with a salad if you want to make it a meal.


4 oz whole wheat spaghetti or spaghetti squash (2 cups cooked)*use spaghetti squash if you are on a gluten-free diet)
2 cups chopped tomato
2 cloves garlic, diced or 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil


Recipe using whole wheat pasta:

Cook pasta according to package directions. Two ounces of dry long pasta bunched up in your hand, such as spaghetti, thin spaghetti, linguine or vermicelli, is about the same size as the diameter of a quarter. Two ounces of dry pasta yields about 1 cup of cooked pasta. You will need twice that amount for this recipe.

While the pasta is cooking, put the oil and garlic in a medium pan and add the tomatoes and sauté on low heat for 3-5 minutes until tomatoes begin to soften slightly, then remove from heat and set aside. Drain the cooked pasta and add to the pan with the tomatoes. Cook on low to medium heat for a few minutes stirring occasionally. Toss in the fresh basil and cook one more minute- then serve.

Recipe using spaghetti squash:

An average four pound spaghetti squash will yield about 4-5 five cups so you will need a half that for this recipe. Cook the spaghetti squash by piercing it a few times with a fork, place in a shallow pan and bake it whole in a 375 degree oven for about 60 minutes. Or it can be cooked by microwaving whole (after pierced with a fork a few times) for 20-30 minutes. The squash is done once it is very soft when pierced with a knife. Let the squash cool for 10 minutes then cut in half, scoop out seeds and discard. Then scoop out the flesh of the squash which will be stringy like pasta and set aside.

Once the squash is done cooking and it is cooling, put the tablespoon of oil and garlic in a medium pan and add the tomatoes and sauté on low heat for 3-5 minutes until tomatoes begin to soften slightly. Add the cooked squash to the pan with the tomatoes. Cook on low to medium heat for another five minutes stirring occasionally. Toss in the fresh basil and cook one more minute- then serve.

Makes 3 cups, four servings

with whole wheat pasta:

Serving size: ¾ cup Calories 140 Protein 5 g Carb 22 g Fiber 4 g Sugars 3 g Fat 4 g saturated fat <1 g Sodium 5 mg

with spaghetti squash instead of pasta

Serving size: 3/4 cup Calories 70 Protein 1 g Carb 9 g Fiber 2 g Sugars 4 g Fat 4 g saturated fat <1 g Sodium 20 mg


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Brussels Sprouts with Shallots and Toasted Pecans

I make this dish at every holiday gathering and it’s always eaten up entirely!


3 cups of washed, stems trimmed and halved Brussels sprouts,
¼ cup minced shallots
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
ICB spray or olive oil using olive oil sprayer (if both n/a use a teaspoon of olive oil)


Cook the Brussels sprouts until almost done- they can be cooked by either boiling them in a pot of water, steaming in a pyrex dish in an half inch of water, or even quicker, put them in a Glad® Simply Cooking™ Microwave Steaming Bag and heat on high for about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, spray a medium sized pan with ICB or olive oil (lightly drizzled or sprayed on to the pan using olive oil sprayer) and put on medium heat. Add the minced shallots and sauté for a few minutes until just before they get brown. Throw in the cooked Brussels sprout halves and spray a few times more with ICB or olive oil sprayer (or drizzle with a teaspoon of oil) and sauté until shallots and Brussels sprouts are lightly browned and tender. Toss in the pecans for the last minute to lightly toast. Serve with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 3 cups (6 servings)

Serving size: ½ cup Calories 48 Protein 1.8 g Carb 5.4 g Fiber 2 g Sugars 1 g Fat 2 g saturated fat 0 g Sodium 11 mg


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The BAD/BETTER/BEST of Foods Challenge Post # 2


BAD – Iceberg lettuce

Iceberg is a popular green in the U.S. and though it is fat free and is low in calories and carbs, unfortunately this lettuce is pretty much a nutritional weakling, containing only minimal amounts of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

BETTER- Romaine and Field greens

Romaine is the lettuce used commonly used in Caesar salad, and field greens are used in variety of creative salads as well. They are the most nutritious lettuces, with twice as much fiber as iceberg, and have several times more vitamins and minerals too, namely vitamin A. Toss some in a bowl for your next salad. Or even better, try my recipe for Grilled Pear and Toasted Walnut Salad tossed in Honey Dijon Herbs de Provence Vinaigrette

BEST- Spinach

Spinach, often listed as one of the top power foods, is the most nutrient dense of all the greens. It’s a great source of vitamin A and folate, as well as the minerals iron and calcium. Spinach is also one of the top sources of lutein, a plant chemical beneficial for eyesight. Remember to wash it well before serving and enjoy it’s versatility- use it in salads, sandwiches and if you don’t finish all of it raw you can cook it up in soups, pastas and as a great side dish too, like my Greek Inspired Spinach recipe.


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