Thursday, December 6, 2012

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hangin’ Loose with some Teri

One of my favorite things about traveling is tasting local recipes. Sometimes it can be as exciting as trying something you have never tried before, like a new type of fish or exotic fruit, or as simple as a spin on a classic. During my honeymoon in Hawaii the past two weeks I had a little bit of both experiences! One of my favorites that I thought I would share with you was a great Hawaiian classic that is perfect for a family dinner called teri-burgers.

Why have you done a good thing?

Hamburgers get a bad reputation for being a highly caloric, greasy comfort food and they certainly can be. Between cheese, bacon, high fat meat content, and a side of fries, hamburgers can use a makeover. A Hawaiian teri-burger however is loaded with all the flavor and none of the usual suspects. Traditionally, Hawaiian burgers are prepared with local grass-fed beef, substantially lowering the fat content and therefore the calories per burger. Plus beef is rich in iron, making lean beef a great occasionally treat. Instead of cheese and bacon, toppings on a teri-burger include grilled pineapple and sweet onions, packing an antioxidant punch to your burger. Plus the sweetness of the pineapple and onions mixed with savory taste of the meat is sweet/savory heaven! Here’s how you make a teri-burger:

Hawaiian Teri-Burger – serves 4

1 lb 95% lean grass fed beef or bison meat (4 ounces per person)
½ cup low-sodium teriyaki sauce
4 pineapple rings, grilled 
8 slices of sweet onions, grilled
4 slices of lettuce
4 slices of tomato
4 whole grain buns (recommend Arnold’s Whole Grain Buns – 100 calories)

Marinate the beef or bison overnight in teriyaki sauce. Also marinate pineapple and sweet onion in teriyaki sauce in a separate container from the meat. Heat the grill or frying pan on high and cook the beef until cooked through or temperature of 160 degrees with an instant read thermometer. While the burgers are cooking, grill the pineapple and onion. Stack 1 slice of pineapple, onions, lettuce and tomato on each burger and serve immediately!

Don't eat red meat or meat in general? Make a veggie teri-burger. I'm sure it's delicious too! 
**For a great side, serve with baked sweet potato fries or parsnip fries!

This is the perfect meal for a cold fall or winter day. Makes you feel like you are on the sunny beaches of Hawaii. We NY'ers certainly all need that feeling right about now.  So have your family and friends over for dinner.  Share the power (your electricity if you have it and love) of a warm meal together. Do your best to hang loose, as they say in Hawaii, and remember to be grateful for what you have during these hard times. You will shout out a big “mahalo” or thank you while you enjoy your teri-burger. Aloha!

--Amy Santo Rosenfeld, MS RD CDN

Friday, October 26, 2012

Have a Healthy Halloween Party!

As the weekend approaches and Halloween quickly creeps forward, it brings with it fears of trans fats and excess calories from sugar. Yes, it can be very daunting to ward off the crazy amounts of candy, but really as adults, what’s our weakness? We don’t exactly get handed candy just for showing up at a house and yelling “Trick or treat!” However, we may have some trouble facing the foods and drinks at that great Halloween party tomorrow night! If you are truly concerned about the selection of foods at the party, why not bring something yourself...

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

We always say that the best way to eat healthy is to make your own food, and this candy-crazed holiday is no different. However, being the moderation-preaching nutritionists we are, we would never tell you to bring something too “dietitian-y”. As long as the foods are prepared from scratch, they will be healthier than their pre-packaged counterparts, often with less fat (specifically made without trans fat) and less sugar. Here are a few things that I would bring to the party… who’s going to invite me???

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:
I know they sound a little lame, but I promise they are delicious and perfect to place on the bar for a nibble. Plus, it's super easy to make.

Simply cut the top off of a medium sized pumpkin and proceed to cut into quarters. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and place on a baking sheet; let dry out overnight or for a few hours. Coat with 2 tsp olive oil and some ground cinnamon and bake in the oven on 300 F for 10-20 minutes. Watch them closely to make sure they do not burn!

Pumpkin Bread:
Since you already cut up that pumpkin to get the seeds out, you might as well bake those pumpkin quarters in the oven on a baking sheet (open face down) for about an hour on 350 F, or until soft. Then simply peel and place in the blender, adding a little water as you go along to help it to blend together.

Now, find your favorite and easy pumpkin bread recipe, utilizing the fresh pumpkin, and substitute out half of the oil for pumpkin puree, making the bread a delicious and low-fat treat!

Homemade Candy:
If you are feeling very adventurous and want to make your own candy, I applaud you! Since peppermint patties are one of the least caloric candies (and because I love Giada De Laurentiis) I am loving Giada's recipe from The Food Network’s website:

With these 3 dishes, you will have something healthy to nibble on, a low-fat snack, and likely a lower-calorie candy than most at the party to satisfy that ever-present sweet tooth.  It's the perfect 3 course "meal" to keep you happy and satisfied all night long. Just be careful of the spooky drinks…

Happy Halloween!!

--Samantha Jacobs, MS RD CDN

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Amy and I were cooking up some delicious and healthy French Toast Sticks at the Farmer's Market a few weekends ago when we discovered a new fruit... 

As one of the vendors brought it over to for us to sample, I naturally asked what this small grape-looking fruit was. He told me to try it first and then he would tell me. Being a little adventurous, I popped the little guy in mouth and instantly I knew...a kiwi!! But so small? And bald? Since it truly was the sweetest kiwi (or Kiwi Berry to be more specific) I've ever had, I was motivated to do some research. 

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

Unlike your typical hairy kiwi, this kiwi berry needs no peeling, just a quick wash and pop  in your mouth. Kiwi berries are not only scrumptious but they are also a nutritional powerhouse. High in powerful antioxidant with plenty of vitamin C, they are a great way to keep your immune system strong as the cold weather approaches. They are a perfect snack; high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, while low in calories and practically free of any fat or sodium. 

Get 'em while there hot...
These lovely little fruits are only in season briefly, from September to November. Look for them at your local farmer's markets or specialty grocery stores. A good snack-size portion is about 8-10 kiwi berries.

Try them sliced in your next salad, fruit salad, yogurt parfait, or oatmeal.

Or, cut them up and cook them down in a sauce pot with a little bit of water to form a compote. Use this as a topping for our fabulous and healthy Your Secret Ingredient French Toast Sticks...

French Toast Sticks

Serves 4-6

4-6 slices of whole grain or whole grain cinnamon raisin bread, sliced into 1.5” slices
1 whole egg
3 egg whites
1 cup skim or almond milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract

1)   In a small bowl, add 1 tbsp of real maple syrup and 2 tbsp apple butter to the Greek yogurt. Set aside.
2)   In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, egg whites, vanilla, milk of your choice, and cinnamon. Dip each slice of bread in egg mixtures on both sides until moist.
3)   Heat a large skillet and spray with cooking spray. Cook each slice of French toast until lightly golden brown.

**Cut each slice into 2” wide slivers to make French toast sticks. Serve 4 sticks per adult and 2 sticks per child. Dip French toast sticks in sweetened Greek yogurt:

1 cup of low-fat Greek style yogurt
2 tbsp apple butter
1 tbsp real maple syrup

--Samantha Jacobs, MS RD CDN

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lunchbox Learning: Bento Box Style!

I have developed a reputation for myself as a “snack luncher.” What does that mean? Many say I have“kid-like” lunches, with a little bit of this and little bit of that such as 1-2 oz low-fat cheese, hummus, crackers, veggies and fruit for example. Nothing wrong with a non-traditional lunch and can often be a refreshing change from salad and sandwiches! The best way to do this is with a bento-box. Passing my ideas along, here is my addition of Lunchbox Learning Bento-Box Style!

Why have you done a good thing?

I always run across the problem of balance in my clients’ meals. For kids, there are often a little too many carbs and not enough protein while adults often have the opposite problem. I always try to educate and encourage my clients of all ages to have well-proportioned meals that include every food group! Why? When you have a portion-controlled but balanced mid-day meal, your body is refueled and energized to help you get through the rest of the day. No matter what age you are, a healthy meal has been shown to improve concentration, athletic performance, mood, and productivity. Plus when you have a little bit of everything, yes even carbs, protein, and healthy fat, you feel full and satisfied, helping you to avoid excessive snacking and overeating at night.

So give these ideas a try and pack a lunch bento box style! Tip: always pack your lunch the night before. There is just no time in the morning. Try packing lunches as a family before or after dinner (yes, kids can help too!)

Bento box lunch ideas:

Step 1) Pick up bento box tupperware! Having the tools makes snack-like lunching much more convenient and easy. Much to my excitement the other day while walking through Whole Foods Market, I discovered they sell such wonderful creations: bento box plastic lunch containers! Here are some of the other great selections we found for bento-box tupperware from Walmart,  Pottery Barn, The Container Store, and Amazon.

Step 2) Get Packing! Try these great fun ideas as a spin on a traditional lunch.

  • Taco bar Everyone loves a little Mexican! Use soft whole-wheat taco shells for the base. Pack a couple pinches of low-fat cheese such as Monteray Jack, 2 tbsp of guacamole, 2 tbsp salsa (spicy or mild), shredded lettuce and tomato, and black beans or shredded chicken. Great hot or cold.  Add a side of sliced mango or papaya for dessert.

  • Yogurt bar – Bring the healthy yogurt bar to your lunchbox. With plain or flavored Greek yogurt, add sides of low-fat granola, Kashi Go Lean, Cheerios, or Puffins cereal. Add another container of slivered almonds or trail mix as well as seasonal sliced fruit or berries. Want your kids to eat plain Greek yogurt? Try mixing in a tbsp of their favorite jam with honey for sweetness. For another variety, try this bar with low-fat cottage cheese or low-fat ricotta cheese!

  • Anti-pasto box – Make your lunch Mediterranean. Pack a handful of pistachio nuts, 1 tbsp low-fat feta cheese with sliced cucumbers, olives, and tomatoes tossed with olive oil, oregano, and lemon juice. Add a whole-wheat pita (try Trader Joe’s mini pitas) with 1 tbsp of hummus. Optional: add a few slices of fresh turkey for a bigger meal.

  • Asian noodle box Make a cold noodle dish with lo-mein noodles, soba or udon noodles. Check out Rachael Ray’s recipe. Try making other sauces such as peanut noodles! Add a side of shelled edamame beans and or sliced avocado. Finish it off with pineapple or sliced oranges for dessert.

  • Dip bar – Who doesn’t love to dip? Create a bento dip bar with low-fat chicken/tuna or egg salad and whole-wheat crackers or pretzels (such as Kashi TLC crackers), sliced carrots/celery/peppers, and sliced green apples for dipping. Vegetarian? Try adding various bean dips such as black bean dip and hummus. Try our low-fat chicken salad recipe:

1 ¼ cup of rotisserie chicken, boneless and skinless, pre-cooked and shredded
½ Gala or Fuji apple, finely chopped into ¼ inch pieces
½ cup blueberries
1 stock celery, finely chopped
Pinch of salt & pepper
2 tbsp low-fat mayonnaise
1 ½ tbsp honey mustard

1)    In the bottom of a large mixing bowl, stir together the mayonnaise and honey mustard.

2)   Add the remainder of the ingredients and mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

 No time to make your own bento-box? Look what we found in the prepared section of Whole Foods Market:

Don’t be afraid to be a snack-luncher like me. Perfect for kids and you...

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lunchbox Learning: Back-to-School Edition

As everyone gets settled into a new school year, you may be struggling on how to fill that daily lunchbox with nutrients and love! Striving for smiling faces opening their lunchboxes, we have come up with some unique MINI sandwich options to keep them satisfied and guessing each day. Here is this year's first edition of Lunchbox Learning!

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

Packing your own lunch (or lunch for your child) is the best way to eat healthily because you can control exactly what goes into the foods you eat. Lunch is an important meal to keep your child going strong for the rest of the school day; plus, it can be a sense of comfort for children to see a loving, fun-filled lunch packed just for them. Mini sandwiches are perfect for children because they are small! The can hold them better and more easily take a good bite. For us adults, mini sandwiches can be the perfect portion controlled lunch we have been looking for, with the perfect balance of protein and carbohydrates.

Try these 5 mini sandwich ideas for you or your child:

1. Mini Bagel Monte Cristo

For your kids:            
Slice the mini bagel in half and spread a little bit of real maple syrup on each side. Place 2 slices of turkey or ham (in-house smoked meats are the best, such as at Whole Foods or Balducci’s) on one side and 1 slice of cheese on the other. Toast for 1-2 minutes until just slightly melted, then put together to form the sandwich and wrap in tin foil.

Your version: 
3-4 slices of turkey or ham and 1 slice of low-fat cheese. Top with fresh lettuce, tomato and 1-2 slices of avocado. 

2. Turkey Roll

For your kids:
When buying turkey for this, ask for it to be sliced very thick, around ¼ of an inch. Place plastic wrap down on a table or counter. Then place 1 slice of turkey down and spread about 1 tsp of low-fat mayonnaise, mustard, or honey mustard. Next, add a slice of cheese onto the turkey, followed by lettuce if desired. Roll up as you would a sushi roll. Refrigerate for about an hour, remove plastic wrap, and then slice into “sushi” style pieces.

Your version: 
Kick up the flavor with dabs of sliced roasted red peppers, hummus, jalapeno peppers or guacamole!

3. Pancake or Waffle Pieces

For your kids or your inner child: 
Lightly toast 4 frozen whole-grain mini pancakes or waffles (we like Van’s brand). Spread 1 tablespoon of nut butter or soy/sunflower seed nut butter for nut-free schools in between 2 mini pancakes or waffles with some jelly or sliced banana, if desired. Repeat for the other two.

4.  Rice Cakes

For your kids or you:
Spread 1 tablespoon of hummus in between 2 mini rice cakes (brown rice if available). Serving size is 2 mini rice cake sandwiches. Try adding sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, sprouts, avocado, and even apple slices taste delicious!

5. Spectacular shapes

For your kids:
Make a sandwich of your choice on whole-wheat or multi-grain bread. You can try any deli meats, nut butter and jelly, low-fat chicken salad, egg salad, or tuna salad, hummus and vegetable or apple sandwich, etc.. Then using fun shaped cookie cutters, cut out shapes. Try to make 2 mini shapes out of one sandwich.Check out these great sandwich cutters from Williams Sonoma

Try different variations and continue to mix it up with different side dishes. Here are just a few ideas to turn those sandwiches into a full lunchbox with one vegetable and one fruit or grain:

Vegetables: Baby carrots, Pepper strips, cucumber strips, snap peas, jicama, cherry tomatoes
Fruits: Cherries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, apple, pear, peach, plum, small box of raisins,
Grains: pretzels, wheat thins, Pop chips, baked potato chips, popcorn, 100 calorie mini cookies from Trader Joes, homemade mini muffin

We hope this gets you started on lunch ideas for the year and makes your back-to-school time a breeze! 

-Samantha Jacobs, MS RD CDN

Thursday, September 13, 2012

For a sweet new year…

As the Jewish holidays roll around, every year I hear my friends, family, clients and myself saying, here comes the gluttony! If your family is anything like mine, we treasure delicious foods on the holidays particularly the sweets. And on Rosh Hashanah, our Jewish new year, we celebrate a “sweet new year” with sweets galore! But this year, as a quickly approaching October bride-to-be, I need to keep my sweets in check! Here’s to a sweet new year, Your Secret Ingredient style…

Why have you done a good thing?

As we have discussed before here at Your Secret Ingredient, everything in moderation! Particularly around the holidays, we celebrate life through great people, good conversation, and of course delicious foods. But when you are dieting for a big event or weight loss like I am right now, the holidays can be most difficult and it can be tempting to just forget the rules. But getting through the holidays successfully can be one of the best and rewarding challenges and a great self-esteem boost.

Here is how I make it through holidays, parties and social gatherings while dieting for the wedding:

1)    I exercise that morning. If I workout that day with a good sweat, I don’t want to blow it away on one meal. Exercise keeps you focused.
2)    I don’t go hungry. I stay lite and lean with all meals and snacks before I go out to save on calories but I never skip meals or snacks, eating every 2-3 hours in very small portions. I have high protein and vegetable-rich snacks before I go anywhere; this way I can make decisions with my brain, not my stomach. My go-to: rice cakes with peanut butter and carrot sticks.
3)    I negotiate with myself. I read menus ahead of time or plan ahead what special treat I will have at the party. Will it be a bite or dessert or a glass of wine? What exactly am I going to order? Planning ahead makes all the difference in the world.
4)    I bring the healthy option. If someone asks me to bring dessert, I bring a platter of fruit in addition to a homemade baked good. Everyone appreciates the healthy choice.
5)    Out of sight out of mind. At parties, I stay far away from buffets and platters of foods. I try my best to surround myself with supportive friends and family who will help me make healthy decisions (thank you MR).
6)    I keep my eye on the prize. I know that nothing will taste sweeter then looking fabulous in that wedding dress. Focus on your motivation. What is your ultimate goal?

Now enough diet talk. Let’s talk food! Here are some sweet new year treats that have been lightened up. Even if you are dieting you deserve some portion-controlled fun too!

Apple Cobbler
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup oatmeal
¼ cup chopped walnuts
3 tbsp cold whipped butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
6-7 Braeburn apples, thinly sliced (with or without skin)
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp corn starch
½ cup 100% apple juice
1/2 lemon, squeezed 
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 

In a small bowl, combine the flour, oatmeal, walnuts, 1 tsp cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter and blend with a fork or pastry blender to form small pieces.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the sliced apples, white sugar, corn starch, apple juice and lemon juice, and remaining cinnamon, stirring well.

Into a large pie pan sprayed with cooking spray, add apple mixture. Evenly top the apples with butter topping. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until bubbly. Serve warm.

Lightened Up Challah French Toast Casserole (for breakfast the next morning!)
Cooking spray
1 raisin challah, cubed into 1 inch pieces
6 large eggs
6 additional egg whites
2 cups almond milk or skim milk
1 tbp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup slivered almonds
½ cup raisins
1 cup chopped apples (any variety you like!)
2 tbsp maple syrup

Spray a 9 by 13 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Arrange the bread in a single layer in the baking pan. Whisk together the eggs, egg whites, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg. Pour the egg mixture over the bread in the pan. Add the apples, raisins and almonds on top evenly. Cover and refrigerate overnight

The next morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 40-50 minutes. Drizzle 2 tbsp of maple syrup over the casserole and serve.

Happy New Year!

--Amy Santo, MS  RD CDN