Wednesday, March 17, 2010

DESSERT: Healthy and Easy Gajar Ka Halwa

Early in the evaporation phase
Note: Gajar Ka Halwa ("Sweet of Carrot") is a traditional Indian/Pakistani dessert - the standard recipe calls for ghee (clarified butter) and a ton of sugar - this recipe eliminates all the bad stuff so you can really taste the great ingredients.  The traditional method involves grinding the carrots and a series of complicated steps, which have also been eliminated in this recipe. 

Servings: 10-15

Late in the evaporation phase
  • 1/2 gallon non-fat or low-fat milk (substitute: soy milk)
  • (2) 1 1lb bags of whole carrots, peeled and chopped into thirds
  • 5 cardamom pods, peeled and ground finely (substitute: 1/4 tsp ground cardamom powder)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/4 cup honey (substitute: agave or no sugar and use vanilla soy milk instead of regular milk)
  • 1/2 cup almonds, cut into small pieces (with peels on)
    • OPTIONAL ALTERNATIVE: peeled and cut into small pieces - you can easily remove the peels on almonds by placing them in boiling water for 5-10 minutes, removing them from heat, and then peeling them as soon as they are cool enough to be handled
    Halwa is ready - milk has evaporated
  • Saffron (optional)
  • Option 1
    • Quickly grind carrots in a food processor (just so that they're in pieces)
    • Place carrots into a large pot with milk
    • Bring milk to a boil
    • Once the milk comes to a boil. immediately bring it down to a simmer - now proceed with remaining steps
  • Option 2
    • Place carrots into a large pot with milk
    • Bring milk to a boil
    • Once the milk comes to a boil. immediately bring it down to a simmer
    • Once the carrots are soft, use a potato smasher tool to mash the carrots
  • Keep heating mixture until the milk evaporates entirely (this can take more than an hour)
  • Add almonds once most of the milk evaporates
  • Once the milk evaporates, add cardomom, cinnamon, and sweetener
  • Keep the mixture over low heat until it becomes thick
  • Add a pinch of saffron
  • Enjoy!

Friday, March 12, 2010

FITNESS: Super Gym Deal: 24 Hour Fitness Memberships at Costco?!

I have been a member of a great, but seriously overpriced LA gym until a recent shift required me to change gyms.  I came across an amazing deal at Costco: $299 for a two year, all-club (except the Super Sport and Ultra-Sport) 24 Hour Fitness membership.  This works out to $12.50 a month - I was paying almost seven times that at my old gym.  I got my membership today, and it was a total breeze.  I went in to a local 24 Hour Fitness, showed the membership representative my id, and was on my way. Whether or not you go for the prepaid Costco card,  I highly recommend visiting the Sherman Oaks Galleria location and signing up with Brady, he's super nice, funny, and doesn't try to upsell you on anything...oh, and supposedly Britney Spears stalks him...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

DESSERT: Waist-Conscious Chocolate/Vanilla Trifle

Servings: 12-15

  • 1 large container strawberries, cut into small cubes or slivers
  • 2 peaches, cut into small cubes or slivers
  • 3 packages instant chocolate pudding (try the Trader Joe's version - it's low fat, gelatin-free, and easy to make - you can also use the Jello brand low-fat instant pudding mix as well)
  • 1 (8 oz) container of low-fat or non-fat vanilla yogurt (Trader Joe's Non-fat French-Village Vanilla and Mountain High Low-Fat Vanilla are both good options )
  • 1 small box graham crackers (you will only use about 20-30 crackers max)
  • Optional: Carob Chips or Mini Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • Prepare pudding and put aside to chill for at least five minutes
  • Use a large, clear, glass serving bowl (or a footed trifle bowl if you have one) 
  • Cover base of bowl with a solid layer of graham cracker
  • Layer on ingredients - 2" of vanilla, strawberries, crushed graham cracker,  2" of pudding, then peaches
  • Repeat your layering pattern 
  • Top with remaining fruit, graham crackers, and any optional ingredients
  • Let chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour
  • Enjoy!

Monday, March 8, 2010

DINNER: Stuffed but Skinny Pasta Shells and Sauteed Mushrooms and Tomato over Spinach

Servings: 5 - 6

  • 1 lb lean ground beef (or ground chicken or tofu)
  • 1 large bunch of spinach (try the Trader Joe's bag of spinach - it's pre-cut)
  • 1/2 pound of mushrooms (or try one of the small containers), chopped
  • 1 box of large pasta shells (try Barolli's)
  • 1 container of low-fat/non-fat cottage cheese (Trader Joe's has a good one - but the half or full size container depending on what ratio of cottage cheese/mozzarella you prefer)
  • 1 bag of shredded light mozzarella cheese (personally prefer a spicy blend such as Trader Joe's light Mexican blend)
  • 1 bottle of arrabiata pasta sauce (Trader Joe's has a great one) 
  • 1 small can of tomato paste (Hunts makes small bottles that are perfect for this recipe)
  • 3 eggs (substitute: 3 egg whites)
  • 1 chopped red pepper
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Oregano
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • Boil Pasta 
    • Tip: add a pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp of olive oil to the boiling water prior to adding in the pasta 
  • Prepare Meat/Tofu/Chicken Sauce
    • Saute garlic with a 1 tbsp of olive oil for at least 2/3 minutes
    • Add in ground beef (or alternate)
    • Allow beef and garlic to simmer for 3-4 minutes
    • Add 1/2 to 1 tsp of black pepper
    • Add in 1/2 of bottle of arabbiata sauce and mix the meat and sauce to ensure a uniform consistency - allow the the mixture to simmer for at least 3-4 minutes
    • Add in all of the tomato paste and mix
    • Add in red pepper
    • Add in remaining arabbiate sauce
    • Allow mixture to simmer for another 5 minutes or so - toss in a handful of spinach if you like
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Prepare Cheese Sauce
    • Mix cottage cheese, mozzarella, and eggs 
    • Set aside in the refrigerator until you prepare your pasta
  •  Prepare your pasta for baking
    • Spread your meat sauce across the bottom of your casserole dishes (use as many as you need to use all of your pasta shells)
    • This layer should cover the bottom of your dishes entirely
    • Spread out the pasta face up across your dishes - leave them with breathing room
    • Fill your pasta (use a spoon) with the cheese mixture
    • Drizzle any remaining sauce on top of the pasta
  • Bake @350 for 30 minutes
  • While your pasta is baking, prepare your saute
    • Wash and leave spinach to dry
    • Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a medium size frying pan and add in all of your mushrooms
    • Add in a dash of garlic salt (or garlic powder and salt)
    • Add in a generous amount of black pepper
    • Add in cayenne pepper to your taste
    • Allow mushrooms to saute for at least 4-5 minutes
    • Add in tomatoes
    • Allow mixture to heat for another 5-10 minutes
    • Serve the sauteed mushrooms and tomato over the spinach
  • Enjoy!

Friday, March 5, 2010

HOTSPOTS: Set your alarm now for these LA Breakfast Spots

A combination of my "pork-allergies" and health-consciousness caused me to avoid eating breakfast out for a number of years...until I found the following breakfast-savers:
  • Mani's Bakery and Cafe on Fairfax in Los Angeles - ultra healthy, tasty, and no other-white-meat on site
  • A Votre Sante in Brentwood - great organic, healthy options - o.w.m. free - do order a side of blue corn and banana pancakes
  • M Cafe de Chaya in Culver City, on Melrose, or the new Beverly Hills location - vegan, and you won't miss anything
  • Figtree's Cafe on the Venice Boardwalk - organic, super-reasonable, and o.w.m free - they use soy-cheese, chicken sausage, and make multigrain pancakes - yum
  • Inn on the Seventh Ray in Topanga Canyon - go here for an amazing, organic, and o.w.m. free Sunday buffet (a la carte is good too for those of you who aren't big morning eaters) - where else can you enjoying a stevia sweetened scone and crab legs while sitting next to a running creek?
  • Madeleine Bistro in Tarzana - check them out for an ultra-unique vegan brunch experience - just don't wear your Juicy sweats to this slightly dressy establishment
  • Whole Foods Market everywhere - variety, variety, and more variety - and you can sit and eat here for you grocery-store-phobes
  • Marston's Restaurant in Pasadena - they are ultra-helpful with any "allergies" and serve up amazing corn-flake coated french toast (I get mine made with whole wheat toast, low oil, and a side of strawberries)

TECHNOLOGY: Fat Conscious Foodie is on Twitter

For all you Twitter-holics - follow FCF @consciousfoodie

FITNESS: Griffith Park Night Hikes

I can't be the only one who feels like passing out while hiking in full sun...right? Well, it turns out there is a great alternative for the sun-phobic amongst us (or more realistically, those who don't have time during the day): night hikes! 

The Sierra Club hosts night hikes a few days a week at Griffith Park in Los Angeles.  Here is what I know for sure:
  • Who: The Sierra Club, 213-387-4287
  • Where: Meet at the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round, 4730 Crystal Springs Dr Los Angeles, CA 90027
  • When: 6:45 p.m. (don't be late), Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays
  • What: Night Hike, silly
I will definitely upload pix when I finally make it to the hike; thus far I have been curtailed by high winds, strep throat, a fender bender, and a number of other random, but minor tragedies.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

HOTSPOTS: Honolulu for the Healthy

How many times has one of your traveling companions urged you to indulge in some not-so-healthy habits (typically some serious dessert or pasta) because, "you're on vacation".  Don't fall into this trap my friends - moobs, and muffin-tops never, ever go on vacation, and your diet shouldn't either.  Here are some healthy-spots/ideas worth considering in and around Honolulu:
  • Food
    • Breakfast/Lunch
      • Whole Foods
        • 4211 Waialae Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96816-5340 
      • Ruffage Natural Foods
        • 2443 Kuhio Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815, (808) 922-2042
      • Marie's Health Foods - Organic Cafe 
        • 2155 Kalakaua Ave, Ste 110, Honolulu, HI 96815, (808) 926-3900
      •  The Cheesecake Factory
        • I know this place is notoriously bad news for the healthy, but make your own omelet (I recommend all egg whites, mushrooms, green onions, tomatoes, and avocados)
        • 2301 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815, (808) 924-5001
    • Dinner 
      • Tokkuri-Tei
        • You'll see way more locals here than tourists - amazing sushi
        • 611 Kapahulu Ave, Ste 102, Honolulu, HI 96815, (808) 739-2800
      • Duke's 
        • You can't go wrong with their salad bar (included with all entrees - stay away from the fresh caesar and go straight for their fresh veggies), grilled fish, steak, or poultry
        • 2335 Kalakaua Ave, Ste 116, Honolulu, HI 96815, (808) 922-2268
      •  Roy's
        • Stick with their grilled poultry, fish, or steak (make sure you get a lean cut)
        • 226 Lewers St, Honolulu, HI 96815, (808) 923-7697
  • Activities
    • Surfing Lessons
      •  DCX Surf School
        • Supposedly the best - it's right on Waikiki beach and it's a great deal - $35 
        • 2410 Koa Ave, Honolulu, HI 96805, (808) 926-1414
    • Hikes
      • Manoa Falls Hike 
        • Amazing, and you're under full shade for the majority of the hike
      • Diamond Head State Monument 
        • Diamond Head Rd, Honolulu, HI 96816, (808) 587-0300
      • Mariner's Ridge Hike   
        • Kaluanui Road, Honolulu, HI 96825
    • Kayaking
      • Kailua Beach Park
        • Great kayaking and the beach is gorgeous
        • Rent a kayak and head to the Kaneohe Bay Sandbar (miniature dissapearing island) or a nearby bird sanctuary
          • Twogood Kayaks - highly recommended 
            • 345 Hahani St, Kailua, HI 96734, (808) 262-5656