Purple Smoothie

Purple SmoothieDid you know that foods that are naturally purple (like blueberries or acai berries) are exceptionally high in antioxidants are therefore are super good for you? It’s true. Back in 2010 when I first began my weight loss journey, before I discovered juicing, I would have a purple smoothie every morning with a slice of cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread. It is such a good breakfast. In fact I may just have to start doing it again.

Blend all of the ingredients below in a magic bullet or whatever blender system you have. I specify the Sambazon variety of acai berry juice because this is the brand they carry at Costco – it’s 2 bottles for $10, whereas one bottle will run you around $7 at Whole Foods. I also get all my frozen berries at Costco. Usually I buy one of their huge bags of frozen strawberries and either frozen blackberries or whatever berry blend they have available. It lasts for weeks and is such a good bang for your buck. As far as bananas go, the more ripe the better. If you like your smoothies extra thick and cold you can freeze the bananas once they’re ripe and add them to  your smoothie that way. At the end of the day, it’s your smoothie, so put in whatever you like – I’d love to hear your variations!

The Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup Sambazon acai berry juice
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 fresh or frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen blackberries or blueberries
  • 1 large frozen strawberry
  • 1 generous squeeze of honey
  • 1 tbsp fresh ground flaxseed
  • pinch of old fashioned rolled oats
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp Greek yogurt (optional)

Now I am not an advocate of protein powders and the like because at the end of the day they are super processed products that your body will have trouble digesting. However, if you must, this smoothie will be a perfect vehicle for that or any kind of powdered or liquid supplement you take.

A Bright Spot for Brunch

Brite Spot French Toast

Perhaps my two favorite things on earth are diners and breakfast. So you can imagine that having breakfast on Saturday at a diner I’d never been to before is my idea of a party. The Brite Spot in Echo Park is a delightful, hipster-y dive that boasts old school booths, friendly alternative staff, and a dessert case that would make Mariah Carey elbow Jenny Craig in the stomach. Now, being in bootcamp working towards a weight loss goal, I was unable to fully indulge in the majesty of their breakfast creations like the brussells sprouts and bacon hash or the house-made buttermilk biscuits with eggs and sausage gravy or the chicken fried steak with same said gravy…. however, the date I was with could. He opted to keep it simple and went with French toast and eggs, which were perfectly executed, rich and fluffy, and smelled divine. I opted for a bowl of oatmeal, which was perfectly thick, just the way I like it, served with brown sugar, walnuts, and raisins. A delightful way to fortify my Saturday. Our waitress was totally precious and indulged our questions about her new skeleton dolphin tattoo, which was apparently meant to be a tasteful nod to animal rights. Well done.

Despite being fully packed for Saturday brunch time, our food came out almost alarmingly fast. Our waitress never missed a beat – totally on the ball, very attentive. That damn dessert case was calling my name, HAUNTING ME the entire time, but I managed to run screaming from the restaurant before I could indulge. Next time, Brite Spot…. next time.

But I think what I loved most about this place is the atmosphere. You can tell it’s a community spot – people wandering in barely dressed and hungover, groups of friends laughing, locals stopping in to grab take out – it has that air, that feel that you can’t buy or force. It just has to be there; it has to be brought in by the food and the clientele. For me, this is exactly the characteristic that warrants a five-star score on Yelp.

In short, this is starving artist heaven. Affordable, relaxed, full of life, outstanding home made food. Can’t wait to come back and try all those baked goodies!

The Brite Spot
1918 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Click here to read my review on YELP

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions Paty's Toluca LakePerhaps one of the greatest features of the fitness studio I spin at in Toluca Lake is its close proximity to Paty’s Restaurant. Oh yes, it’s a diner, and we all know how much I love love love diners. I was introduced to this establishment by dear friend Tim who I spin with regularly. An innocent post-workout breakfast quickly turned into a ravenous craving that surfaces every time I’m up there. And who could blame me? It’s everything you could want – counter seating, reliable staff, regular local clientele, breakfast served all day…. it’s that intangible yet unmistakable quality that you find only at a good diner, and Paty’s definitely has it.

So I like this place for many reasons: the adorable little waitress who always waits on us, the old booths, the fabulous outdoor seating, the hot cops that come in and sit at the counter… but what really makes it for me is the “Fitness Menu”. Being that we are in California, land of Yogis and the overly conscious self-image, there is quite a large market for healthy dining options. I am no exception to this since I come here only after vigorous workouts. My go-to breakfast is “The Treadmill”: a grilled veggie patty with egg whites topped with copious amounts of Tapatio hot sauce (also very California). Normally this comes with brown rice and choice of toast or bran muffin. Neither toast nor bran muffins are on my healthy eating regimen, so I just skip them. And is it not hilarious that one can get brown rice at a diner? This is why I love California.

Being a breakfast whore, I have never gotten any lunch or dinner items at Paty’s, BUT one of my friends who I recently brought onto the Paty’s train got an omelette filled with their famous chili and beans, which he said was super good. Also I love their turkey patty, which I usually get these days instead of the veggie as I’m trying to avoid gluten at all costs. Very juicy, very delicious. And let’s be honest, when I want to splurge I get the corned beef hash and eggs. Diner breakfast bliss.

Now I have to do my starving artist duty and tell you that the service is not always perfect. Some of the waitresses that work in the morning have more personality than others and sometimes the kitchen seems to be asleep. When I ordered the pictured breakfast yesterday morning, the veggie patty inexplicably took a lot of extra time to cook and came out at least 5 minutes after the egg whites. Once I went in with a group of friends – it was the week before Christmas. The place was crowded, the waitresses were training new staff so they took the food took forever, came out at different times,  – it was sloppy. My meal didn’t come for a good 5 minutes after everyone else’s. The waitress was very aware of this and apologized several times. When it came time to pay the bill, my meal was no where to be found. A nice gesture that more than made up for it. And you know, I don’t think there is any restaurant that doesn’t occasionally have a bad day. Especially one you frequent as often as I frequent Paty’s. And I also have to call out that they break one of my good diner rules! They aren’t open late – only 10pm. But who are we kidding, it’s Toluca Lake. No one is out late.

So what’s the verdict? Paty’s is totally starving artist – enjoy a great diner atmosphere with great diner food for around $10. I love being a regular here and look forward to many more breakfasts in the years to come.

10001 Riverside Dr.
Toluca Lake, CA 91602

Click here to read my review on YELP

Magic Muffins

Ok, they’re not really magic, they’re just blueberry. But the way people scarf them down, you’d think they were magic. When I lived in NYC back in 2005-9 I had an office job at a fantastic music publishing company. Usually once per week I would bake these muffins and share them with my coworkers. It’s amazing how fresh baked goods really brighten someone’s day, particularly in an office setting. I hadn’t made this recipe in almost two years, mostly because when it comes to self control, I have zero, and having an entire batch of muffins laying around is never a good idea for me… in fact it can get downright ugly.

Right now it is blueberry season in SoCal, so everywhere you go you find vast quantities of the berries for little money. I had a giant bucket of blueberries sitting on my counter over the weekend that I got from Trader Joe’s for only $5.99 – a serious bargain. As you read in yesterday’s post, I decided baking muffins for my friends would be the perfect way to start off our Sunday.

Truth be told, the recipe is not of my own creation. It is actually a recipe from Ina Garten called “Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins.” And she is right to call them that – the muffins are just like coffee cake except without the crumbly topping… and blueberries… fluffy, eggy, and not too sweet. It’s a fool-proof recipe that is always a crowd pleaser. Definitely worth sharing, even if it isn’t mine. Thanks, Ina!

Blueberry Muffins (Recipe PDF)

Maple Vanilla Fruit Salad

Well friends it looks like this is going to be Costco week. I’ve said it before I’ll say it again – I love Costco. Starving artist’s best friend. I went at the end of last week and ended up with quite a bounty of items. As you know, the point of Costco is bulk, and as you further know, the starving artist loves a bargain that he is able to morph into many diverse treats. First up – berries. I bought a gigantic bucket of gorgeous strawberries for $5 as well as a sizable container of blackberries for $4. Of course the majority of these beauties are destined for my juicer, but since I have SO many I thought what a perfect opportunity to make a fruit salad. But throwing fruit in a bowl is not good enough for the starving artist – no no. I need to use my pantry to make it sparkle. I immediately went for the maple sugar – I’m sure you remember me talking about it in my Maple Roasted Sweet Potato post.  I sliced 7 strawberries and placed them in a small bowl with a few handfuls of blackberries and some blueberries I got from Trader Joe’s for $2.99. I threw in about 3 tablespoons of maple sugar. two to three drops of vanilla extract, tossed it all together, and let it sit on the counter for a good 20 minutes (as long as an hour would be even better). When I was ready to eat it I sliced up a banana and tossed that into the mix along with a handful of sliced toasted almonds for crunch. Delicious.

If I really had it my way I would have used the innards of a vanilla bean instead of extract, but I’m the starving artist – there is no budget for such luxury. Also if you’re looking to make it completely over the top you can drizzle on a little maple syrup before you eat. And of course, this is fruit salad, which means you can put in whatever you want. Maple and vanilla are two of my favorite flavors on earth, and I love fresh berries, so this salad does it for me, but there are so many possible variations. Here are some ideas:

  • Top it with a dollop of your favorite honey-flavored greek yogurt
  • Use granola instead of almonds for added flavor and texture
  • Instead of maple, use plain sugar and toss in a few finely diced leaves of mint.
  • Almond extract would work well in this application, as would peppermint, just be careful – potent stuff
  • Use any combination of fruit you love – pineapple, grapes, mango, pear, apple, etc, etc.

Stay tuned for more treasures from Costco, including what to do with a huge tray of campari tomatoes and how you can put a bucket of cilantro lime shrimp to excellent use. God I love summer.