Like many of my foodie friends, I eat too much. I am not one of those people that can pass on a dessert tray or a second glass of red wine. I eat out 4 times a week or so and it can be hard to control portion sizes and ingredients in your food unless you have cooked them yourself. My strategy is to eat as whole as I can when I do not have reservations. Monday through Friday I hit the gym at Lifetime Fitness on 2145 Ford Parkwayin Highland Park St. Paul.
The Highland Lifetime Fitness had a renovation a few years back. As a part of that renovation, they added a new food concept, called the Life Cafe. The Life Cafe bills itself as good, healthy, food, fast. Their entire menu has calorie, protein, carbohydrates, fat and fiber counts broken down for each item so you know exactly what you are eating. The menu boasts no artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives or trans fats so it is very easy to eat whole and clean here.
Menu items at the Life Cafe are fairly simple. I like the Huevos wrap which takes all your favorites like refried beans, eggs, and cheese and cilantro salsa and tucks them in a wrap. The harvest turkey wrap uses the same concept tucking cranberry mayo, apple, turkey, Swiss cheese, tomatoes and mixed greens in a wrap. There are the straightforward deli sandwiches which make generous use of very flavorful remoulades and mayos mixed with herbs and spices to amp up the flavor without as much fat as a sandwich spread. Every day there is a fresh made soup and your usual salad suspects like Cobb, Chicken or my favorite grilled salmon salad with tomato, cucumber and parmesan cheese that is finished with a cilantro remoulade. Each day there is a $4 breakfast and smoothie special as well as a $5 entrée so you can get by pretty inexpensively here for a grab and go lunch or breakfast. Smoothies are a big seller and they have all the extra protein powder and healthy mix-ins you would expect. On the days I am at the gym, I will grab a fresh salad for lunch. This helps if I have a dinner planned as I can control my calories on the front end of the day knowing that I will load up towards the end.
This leads me to my favorite Life Cafe salad. It is a simple Asian Tuna salad that I eat for breakfast about two days a week. It has 336 calories and packs 21 grams of protein to start your day but more importantly – the salad is super tasty. It starts with tuna mixed with carrot shreds, craisins, mayo, sesame seeds, sesame oil, green onion, cilantro, ginger, soy sauce, chili powder and sambal olek – the super red hot spicy Asian paste. I know, you’re thinking tuna salad for breakfast? That’s crazy talk. However, this is just the right amount of salty and sweet to me this salad highly addictive. I told fellow foodie, Kathie Jenkins from the St. Paul Pioneer Press how addicted to this salad I was. She thought that this is the salad that David Fhima created for them that was on the menu at LoTo. Loto is long since gone from Lowertown but if you remember this salad and were lamenting its loss – you can find it at the Life Cafe. David, if you did create this salad – THANK YOU and please put it on your menu at Faces in MearsPark!
I have developed a friendship over the last year with one of the very nice Life Cafe employees and she offered to write down the salad recipe for me. Just like any other restaurant recipe, it sometimes takes making it a few times to get the proportions of ingredients just right. This recipe has been tested by me and is darn close. This salad is great on its own, on a bed of mixed greens or tucked into a wrap with some spinach. Warning, this recipe makes a lot so I usually half it.
- I cup mayo
- ½ cup sambel olek
- ¼ cup sesame oil
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 tbsp. honey
- 2 tbsp. ginger powder
- 1 ½ tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. sesame seeds (they use black, white is fine if that’s what you have)
Whisk all these items together then add:
- ½ cup craisins
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- ½ cup shredded or dices carrots
- ½ cup finely chopped green onions
- 1 pouch or two large cans white albacore tuna
Hand mix all ingredients.
Life Café Highland Park
2145 Ford Parkway