Recipes From The Heart

by Christine Leishman


I had been working at UCSF Medical Center for more than two years when I was asked to develop a twelve-week menu cycle for patients in a new heart disease reversal program. The guidelines for the diet were simple yet daunting: vegetarian, no added fat, no nuts or seeds, no more than 2 gm of fat per serving with the exception of tofu. I had developed a number of lowfat and fat reduced recipes for the cafeteria and the patient food service but this felt, at first, as if I was being asked to cook with my hands tied behind my back.

I began by looking at the lower fat recipes I had already put in place to see if there was any way to eliminate the fat all together without compromising the dish. Soups were by far the easiest to translate. By eliminating the initial fat used to wilt the vegetables, dry toasting the spices, and using only vegetable stock or water I found all of our vegetable and legume soups were wonderful and in many cases better. I also tried fat-free recipes I came across in books, magazines and “on line” but I found many of the stews to be pretty flavorless, cream-style soups to be thin, and pastries to be dry. I reread Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking and my old dog-eared copy of Madeleine Kamman’s The Making of A Cook to remind myself of what fat does to food, what qualities I was trying to replace, and how I might accomplish that. I played with the dishes I loved at Greens at Fort Mason that had so much flavor from chilies and spices but used a great deal of olive oil. Once again toasting the spices separately and roasting the onions and garlic before beginning gave the flavor and sweetness of sautéed vegetables without the extra fat. Using nonfat milk, cornstarch, flour, or potatoes to thicken flavorful soups in place of cream was very successful. The desserts and pastries presented more of a challenge and I kept them very simple. This was, after all, supposed to be food that our patients could prepare at home themselves on a regular basis.

As you can see not all of the recipes in this book are fat-free and vegetarian. We wanted to create a cookbook that would include the recipes I had developed for the Heart Disease Reversal Program as well as some of the more popular lowfat recipes from the cafeteria, patient menu and outpatient cooking classes. The most important criterion for the recipes we have included is that they taste wonderful. And they just happen to be lower in fat.

Christine Leishman

Department of Nutrition and Dietetics
UCSF Medical Center

These recipes were created for the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center by menu and recipe coordinator Christine Leishman, who has extensive experience in some of San Francisco’s finest restaurants. They are for anyone who is serious about cooking and eating delicious and healthful foods.

Nutrition information was provided by Andrea Johnson RD.

Apple Cranberry Strudel

We are fortunate to have a bakery nearby that sells homemade phyllo dough. The frozen dough works fine but be sure to pull it out of the freezer and into the refrigerator 24 hours before using it. Also be sure to read the label because not all frozen strudel dough is unbuttered.

(12 servings)

  • 3 red apples, diced
  • 2 cups cranberries
  • ½ cup raisins or currants
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1lb. fresh phyllo

Cook all fruit together with sugar, cinnamon and orange juice in a heavy -bottomed pan until apples are tender. Dissolve cornstarch in lemon juice and stir into fruit mixture. Simmer until thickened. Let cool and drain before handling.

Cover phyllo dough with a clean damp towel while working with it. Lay a sheet of dough down and spray 2-3 seconds with a nonstick spray. Cover with another sheet of dough and spray again. Lay down the top piece of dough and slice into three strips. Scoop a heaping tablespoon of fruit filling on the bottom left corner of the strip and fold up like a flag. Spray the top of the triangle with nonstick spray and sprinkle with white sugar. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 12-15 minutes until golden and a little brittle.

Per Serving: Calories: 205 Protein: 1 gm Fat: 3 gm

Carbohydrates: 42gm Sodium: 200mg

Sweet Yogurt Sauce

(16 servings)

  • 2 cups nonfat plain yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. nonfat milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Pinch of cinnamon

Whisk the sugar into the milk then whisk all into yogurt. Let sit refrigerated several hours before using. Thin with fruit juice, if necessary, to desired consistency.

Per Serving: Calories: 108 Protein: 10gm Fat: 0gm

Carbohydrates: 16gm Sodium: 150mg

Poached Pears

(12 servings)

  • 3 cups red wine
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 6 pears, peeled, halved and cored

Bring the poaching liquid to a boil and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Add the pears and turn the liquid to a simmer. Baste or gently flip pears to insure even coloring and cook until tender. Let pears cool in the liquid, turning once during the process. Drain and fan the pears before serving. Reduce the poaching liquid to a syrup and spoon over each pear.

Per Serving: Calories: 92 Protein: 0 gm Fat: 0 gm Carbohydrates: 22gm Sodium: 2mg

Ginger Spice Cookies

  • ½ cup egg substitute
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
  • ¼ cup light molasses
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp. ground clove
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 350F. Whisk the egg substitute into the applesauce and sweeteners. In another bowl combine and sift the dry ingredients together. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or longer before baking. Prepare a half sheet pan or cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and spray with nonstick spray. Spoon level tablespoons of dough 2″ apart on sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly browned.

Per Serving: Calories: 73 Protein: 2gm Fat: 1gm

Carbohydrates: 13gm Sodium: 130mg

Fruit Smoothies

(12 servings)

  • 5 medium bananas
  • 6 cups frozen strawberries
  • 3 cups nonfat milk
  • 2 cups nonfat vanilla yogurt
  • ¼ cup wheat germ

Put all in large blender and puree until desired consistency. Feel free to substitute orange juice, apple juice or other frozen fruit for some of the nonfat milk.

Per Serving: Calories: 150 Protein: 6 gm Fat: 1 gm

Carbohydrates: 32gm Sodium: 66mg

Almond Flavored Custard

Serve this with fresh berries, papaya or Ginger Spice Cookies. It is also good flavored with vanilla instead of almond extract or try using maple syrup in place of half of the sugar.

(12 servings)

  • 4 ½ cups nonfat milk
  • 2 ¼ cups egg substitute
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350F. Whisk all the ingredients together making sure that sugar is dissolved before you begin baking. Spray the inside of the ramekins with nonstick spray and fill 3/4 full with the custard mixture. Place ramekins in a larger baking dish that will allow for water to come at least halfway up the side of the ramekins. Fill large baking dish with boiling water and cover the top of the ramekins with parchment paper sprayed with nonstick spray. Place two utensils or metal skewers on top of the parchment to keep from curling off in the oven.

Bake for 25-30 minutes before checking with a skewer or fork tines to see if custard is cooked. The skewer should have curds or be clean but there should be no liquid on it. These custards will continue to cook some after being removed from the oven.

Per Serving: Calories: 92 Protein: 7 gm Fat: 0 gm

Carbohydrates: 16gm Sodium: 106mg

Chocolate Chip Cookies

(12 cookies)

  • 2/3 cup unbleached flour
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • 1-ounce chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine dry ingredients in one bowl and stir well. Combine wet ingredients in another bowl and stir well. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, then add chips and stir gently. Chill dough for at least 15-20 minutes.

Spoon teaspoons of the dough onto a half sheet pan or cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for 8 minutes for chewy cookies and 10 minutes for crispy cookies. The dough is a bit runnier than typical chocolate cookie dough.

Per Serving: Calories: 75 Protein: 1 gm Fat: 3 gm

Carbohydrates: 12gm Sodium: 36mg

Sponge Cake

(12 servings)

  • ½ lb. (1 ½ cups) pastry flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 1 cup nonfat milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup egg whites (approximately 8 large eggs)
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • pinch of salt

Sift the flour and baking powder together. Dissolve the ¾ cup of sugar in the milk. Add the vanilla. Beat the whites with ½ cup of sugar and salt until stiff moist peaks form. Gently add the flour into the liquid ingredients and fold in the egg whites. Do not overwork. Spoon gently into a 9″ springform pan that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 25-30 minutes until set and golden. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from pan.

Per Serving: Calories: 175 Protein: 4 gm Fat: 0 gm

Carbohydrates: 40gm Sodium: 215mg

Marsala Poached Dried Figs

(8 servings)

  • 1 lb. dried calmyrna figs or black mission figs
  • 2 cups Marsala
  • 3 cups water
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp. powdered sugar

Place dried figs in a single layer in a large shallow sauté pan with a lid. Add liquids and sugar and bring to a boil then turn to simmer and cover. Cook gently until tender, remove figs to another bowl. Remove lid and reduce liquid to a syrup. Great served with sponge cake or angel food cake and fresh berries.

Per Serving: Calories: 80 Protein: 1 gm Fat: 0 gm

Carbohydrates: 14gm Sodium: 6 mg

Coeur à la Crème

This is loosely based on a traditional French dessert. It is wonderful served with ripe, mixed berries.
(12 servings)

  • 2 lb. yogurt cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar

Fold vanilla and sifted sugar into yogurt cheese and pour into cheesecloth lined mold or strainer. Smooth the surface, fold cheesecloth to cover and weight slightly. Refrigerate for 24 hours or overnight before using.

Per Serving: Calories: 290 Protein: 27 Fat: 1gm

Carbohydrates: 44gm Sodium: 398mg

Fruit Bar Cookies

(makes 32 cookies)

  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup dried apricots, chopped small
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 ¾ cups packed golden brown sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups egg substitute
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

Steam dried fruit until softened. Let this cool some while you whisk sugar, egg substitute, vanilla and salt together in a large stainless bowl until quite fluffy. Stir warm fruit into egg mixture and whisk until completely cooled. Sift flour and fold it in gently to the egg mixture being careful to not overmix. Spread this mixture evenly onto a half sheet pan or cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake in a 350F oven for 25-30 minutes until evenly golden. Cool thoroughly before cutting into bars.

Per Serving: Calories: 155 Protein: 2 gm Fat: 0gm

Carbohydrates: 37gm Sodium: 44mg