Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Chicken & Vegetable Souvlaki Kebabs

I love a diversity of cuisines, but especially food from the Med.  So many fantastic ingredients immediately spring to mind; garlic, olive oil, herbs, lemons, tomatoes (need I go on?).  How can anything taste bad when it's prepared with these wonderful ingredients?  There is also something to be said about a Mediterranean diet.  Such low levels of cancer and a higher life expectancy must have something to do with a higher consumption of olive oil and all those lovely fresh vegetables.  At home we try to emulate this sort of diet as much as possible, minimising any excess fat to help with maintaining / losing weight.  With an Italian heritage it really isn't a hardship to eat like this, now all we need to do is emulate the weather!

But, given we have had a few nice sunny days I wanted to bring a little ray of sunshine to my plate.  These chicken & vegetable kebabs are perfect for Summer and require a very small amount of olive oil making it WeightWatcher friendly too...

You'll need for 2:
  • 340g chicken breast cut into chunks
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 large garlic clove, sliced
  • Seasoning
  • Sprinkling of dried oregano and dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 pepper
  • Half a red onion
Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and herbs together in a shallow dish.  Add the chicken and toss thoroughly.  Season and leave to marinade for a good few hours.

Slice the courgettes into 1/2 cm rounds, cut the pepper into bite sized pieces and cut the onion into wedges.

Skewer a piece of chicken followed by 1 each of the vegetables and repeat.  You should get 4 long metal skewers out of this.

BBQ or grill under high heat, turning occasionally until the chicken is cooked through. 

This dish goes with so many different things.  Some of my favourite sides would be: rice salad, roast potatoes, salad & pitta bread. Weigh out your choice of side for the correct ProPoints.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 5

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Fennel & Paprika Chicken with Roast Veg

There is a whole lotta love for chicken in our household at the moment.  It's filling, healthy, a good source of protein and relatively low in ProPoints. I only buy free range chicken and I often buy corn fed free range chicken with its yellowy tinged skin.  I get very excited (saddo) to spot a pack of organic or free range chicken in the reduced aisle in the supermarket and I snap it up pronto. When I get it home I carefully portion out the chicken breasts into varying weights to cater for all manner of dishes some of which will include kids dinners.  We are also fond of chicken thighs and drumsticks and in every case I remove the skin before cooking.

Having talked about my love affair for chicken, having it 5 days out of 7 can get pretty tedious!  Therefore I am always interested in finding new ways and new flavours to pair up with our everyday bird.  This concoction is my own mix which has been perfected over the last couple of years.  It's really tasty and the flavours penetrate the chicken really well.

You'll need for 2:
  • 450g chicken thighs & drumsticks, skin removed, flesh slashed
  • 2 tsp runny honey
  • 4g fennel seeds, crushed (bizarrely there is 1 PP to 5g tsp of fennel seeds, so use just under a tsp!)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 heaped tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • seasoning
  • 1 tsp white wine or cider vinegar

For the Roasted Vegetables:
  • 1 potato 200g once peeled
  • 2 small - medium courgettes, roughly chopped
  • half a butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • Approx 10 cherry tomatoes
  • Half a punnet of chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium aubergine, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Dried thyme and rosemary
Prepare the chicken by mixing the marinade ingredients together in a shallow dish.  Add a tiny amount of water if you need to thin it out a little.  Toss the chicken ensuring it's fully coated.  Cover and marinade for a good few hours

Prepare all the vegetables and throw into the biggest roasting dish you have.  Season well and scatter over 1 tsp each of the herbs.  Finally add the olive oil and tpss well with your hands to coat all the vegetables.

The vegetables need approx 45-50 minutes in a hot oven (200 fan) and the chicken needs 30 - 40 minutes depending on the size of the pieces.  Ensure the chicken is cooked all the way through.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 12

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Tandoori Chicken & White Bhaji

I’m starting to build up a nice collection of my mother’s recipes.  Mum’s tandoori chicken is well renowned among their large circle of family & friends.  At every party my parents host, there is always a huge platter of drumsticks carefully marinated and grilled to perfection.  In the old days Mum would add a few drops of red food colouring to give it a more authentic colour but we live in a more health conscious time where additives are simply not required and can be happily omitted.  It doesn’t change the taste anyway.

The white bhaji is not like anything you will get in a British Indian restaurant or indeed in your local supermarket.  It is a really refreshing, light, mildly spiced mix of vegetables.  I add potatoes to the mix too if I fancy a change from having rice.  This delicious accompaniment does require a few rarer ingredients that you may not have in your store cupboard but these keep forever and are relatively inexpensive.

For the chicken:

  • 320g chicken skinless breast, cut into large-ish chunks
  • 300g fat free natural yogurt
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 level tsp mild curry paste such as Pataks

For the White Bhaji:

  • 2 tsp sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 1 heaped tsp Garam Masala
  • ½ onion finely diced
  • ½  head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • Half a pack of fine green beans, halved
  • 3 tbsp frozen peas
  • ½ tsp minced garlic
  • ½ tsp minced ginger
  • 400g new potatoes, cubed into small chunks, quarters or 6ths.
  • 1 heaped tsp mixed of Mustard seeds yellow & black, Cumin Seeds, Fenugreek seeds
  • 2 – 3 mugs of water
  • Seasoning

The chicken is best marinated overnight so this recipe does require some forethought.  Essentially you need to simply mix all the ingredients together and toss the chicken so it is coated.  You can use this with skinless drumsticks and thighs or use breast pieces on skewers as I’ve done.  If using pieces then grill for a good 30-40 minutes until cooked throughout.  The breast chunks will take much quicker.  Or you could stick them on the BBQ to get an even lovelier charred taste.

For the White Bhaji, heat the oil in a saucepan and once hot add the seeds.  When they start popping add the.  Once softened add the garlic, ginger and the garam masala.  Next add the potatoes and stir continuously for a few minutes.  Add the water to the pan and simmer for a good 10 minutes until starting to get tender.  Then add the vegetables and a little water if you think it looks a little dry.  Cover with a lid and cook on a moderate heat for another 5-8 minutes until everything is cooked through.  Lastly season to taste.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 12

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Asian Steamed Cod with Stir Fried Rice

Every so often I do a trip to an Asian supermarket and stock up on authentic storecupboard ingredients such as dark and light soy sauces, fish sauce, herbs & spices, Sake, noodles and pastes.  It's much cheaper then your local supermarket and these ingredients keep really well in your cupboard. 

The last time I went, I picked up a large bamboo steamer and I really do get my moneys worth from it!  If you don't have a bamboo steamer you can use a regular steamer or you can even bake in a foil parcel creating a steam effect in the oven.

You'll need for 2:
  • 2 x 130g cod loin
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tbsp Sake
  • 2-3 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp lazy ginger
  • 1 tsp lazy garlic
  • 1 tsp groundnut oil, or oil of your choice
  • Pinch of chilli flakes
  • Pack of pak choi
  • Half a punnet chestnut mushrooms
  • 125g brown basmatti rice, cooked and cooled

What to do:

On a plate place the cod loins.  Scatter over 1 tsp ginger, lime juice, sake, 1 tbsp soy sauce, a small handful of spring onions and a sprinkling of fresh coriander.  Place in the bamboo steamer over a pan of boiling water and steam for 7-8 minutes until the fish is opaque throughout.

At the same time as getting the fish on, heat the oil in a wok and stir fry the vegetables with the garlic, 1 tsp chopped ginger and chilli until beginning to colour.  Season using 1-2 tbsp of soy sauce.  Add the rice and stir continuously until the rice is fully heated through.  Sprinkle with the rest of the chopped coriander.

Carefully lift the cooked fish out and place on top of the rice.  Pour over any remaining juices from the steamer.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 11

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

BBQ Chicken, Oven Chips & Roasted Carrots

I'm on a mission to change the eating habits of my very fussy 4 year old.  He starts school in September and will be having school dinners plus with our Sicilian holiday (with the family) round the corner, the boy needs to improve his table manners and start eating what we eat.  Mealtimes are just so stressful so I was nervous about having a 'family meal'.  

I decided it was time to relinquish some control.  This evening, he had a big boy plate (the same as Mummy and Daddy's) and a knife and fork.  I refrained from putting the food on his plate and allowed him to serve himself. I am terribly proud of the results.  He made good attempts at cutting his food for the first time and he behaved really well eating his meal almost entirely without fussing.  We all ate together and even my 1 year old wolfed down the homemade oven chips and chicken, not that I thought for 1 second my little one would have any issue!

I had to carefully consider what to cook for our family meal.  Until now, family meals only happen occasionally on Sundays when I've cooked a roast, so I needed an easy mid-week meal that was tasty for the kids but didn't bust our healthy eating.  Funnily enough my 4 yr old did ask where the 'orksheer' (Yorkshire) pudding was!!

I decided on BBQ chicken. I've used this recipe before (from the wonderful BBC Good Food website) for BBQ marinade and once you have thrown these storecupboard ingredients together you will never buy a bottle of BBQ marinade/sauce again!  The only change I made was to reduce the oil (chicken will omit enough fat during cooking) and to use dark soy instead of light soy as it gives a lovely depth of flavour and taste.

For the Potatoes & Carrots:
  • Allow 250g potato before peeling and cutting into wedges per person.
  • Allow 1 carrot per person, peeled and cut into wedges.
What to do:
In a shallow dish, mix all the ingredients for the marinade together reducing the oil to 1tsp and use dark soy instead of light.  Skin the chicken and make a couple of slashes.  Leave to marinade for a few hours or at least 1 hour.  You can BBQ or cook in the oven for 35 - 40 minutes until cooked through.

Place the prepared carrots and potatoes in a saucepan with cold salted water and bring to the boil.  Boil for 5 minutes then drain and allow to steam dry for a couple of minutes.  Meanwhile heat a roasting tray in a hot oven (210 fan).  Tip the potatoes and carrots back into the pan and drizzle over 2tsp olive oil and carefully toss to coat.  Tip the vegetables into the hot tray and roast, turning occasionally until golden brown. (approx 30 minutes)

Serve with some greens of your choice.  We enjoyed some steamed tenderstem broccoli and did not push my luck in attempting to get my 4 yr old to try some!

WeightWatchers Points per serving: 12

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Harissa chicken with Giant Couscous & Roasted Veg

I have a new love in my life.  No not a new pair of killer hills (yeah right!) or a designer handbag (not that out of the question), but my BBQ!  I have realised how quick, easy, healthy and tasty it is to BBQ food. You may have noticed that I have gone a little skewer crazy this week, but I am truly loving the way you can add so much flavour to meat and it cooks so fast.  Admittedly I have a gas BBQ and that works great for me as you can simply light and go…

If you have never had giant couscous, you are missing out.  It's a treat in the mouth and is a very versatile, filling grain. Merchant Gourmet make a regular and wholewheat version and you can find it in Waitrose or Sainsburys.  You only need 50g per serving once paired with a decent amount of meat and vegetables which made tonight’s supper very WeightWatcher and Simming World friendly indeed.

You’ll need for 2:

For the chicken:
  • 2 x 165g chicken breasts whole or cut into chunks
  • 2 tsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp white wine or cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp harissa paste
  • Seasoning

For the Couscous
  • 100g giant couscous (or 120g regular couscous)
  • Half a butternut squash, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 small aubergine, chopped
  • Handful cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tbsp tinned chick peas
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • Vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Seasoning

What to do:

Mix the marinade ingredients together and add the chicken.  Leave to marinade in the fridge for a couple of hours. 

Toast the fennel and cumin seeds in a dry, hot frying pan and then pound using a mortar and pestle.

Place the vegetables in a roasting tray and coat in 1 tsp olive oil and seasoning and the ground spices.  Roast in a hot oven (200 fan) for around 30 minutes turning occasionally.  If the tray looks a little dry spoon over a couple of tablespoons of veg stock to moisten.  The tomatoes will also help to add moisture.

Place the couscous in a sauce pan and cover with vegetable stock.  Add the bay leaf and boil for 8 minutes (or follow the packet instructions) then drain in a sieve.  Add the chick peas for the last 2 -3 minutes of cooking to heat through.  Toss the drained couscous and chickpeas into the roasted vegetables and stir thoroughly.

At the same time as cooking the couscous, skewer the chicken and place on the BBQ, turning once.  If you are cooking the breast whole it may need longer and always make sure the chicken is cooked through with no pink showing.  Enjoy!

WeightWatchers Points Per Serving: 12

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Honey, Soy & Ginger Chicken with Stir Fried Rice & Veg

I look forward to my evening meal all day.  I was already thinking about tomorrow's meal as soon as this evenings' was over!  The thing is with WeightWatchers or any other 'diet' recipes is that they don't always meet my requirements for healthy but tasty evening meal:
  • Fat friendly
  • Filling
  • Flavoursome
I have a huge collection of cookery books and I constantly browse the web looking for new ideas.  I've learnt to adapt standard and diet recipes to meet my requirements so I thought I would share a few tips on adapting recipes. 

1.  Ditch the low fat, calorie controlled cooking spray.  It tastes disgusting and you get the same low fat effect by using pure olive oil (or whatever your choice of oil may be) via a spray or by using 1 teaspoon oil (1 PP) between 2 people. 
2.  Really consider the carb element of the meal.  Seriously how can anyone be satisfied on 50g of potatoes?  Adapt it to a more sensible amount that will be filling and fat friendly.
3.  Go for fish and white meat where possible  I restrict red meat to once a week and then it has to be very tightly portion controlled and I have to heavily compromise on the carb element to ensure I stay within my ProPoint budget.
4.  Big up on PP free flavours!  Use more garlic, ginger, chilli, herbs & spices, lemon etc etc to your liking making your meal really tasty and flavoursome.

I decided last week to purchase the latest WeightWatchers cookbook 'Simply Enjoy'.  I am pleasantly surprised there are a number of recipes I would like to try, obviously with my own twist. The first of which I tried this evening and I have to admit I really enjoyed it!  The original recipe in the book is for Honey & Ginger Scallops and I used the marinade as a base for my chicken skewers.

You'll need for 2:
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp lazy ginger, finely chopped
  • pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp groundnut oil (or any other flavourless oil)
  • 300g chicken breast cut into chunks
  • 125g dried basmati brown rice
  • Lots of chopped Asian vegetables. I used: mushrooms, pak choi, baby corn, sugar snap peas
  • Light soy sauce

What to do:
Mix the first 7 ingredients together in a shallow dish or a plastic container. Cover the chicken and refridgerate for at least an hour, preferably 2-3 hours. 

Cook and cool the rice according to the packet instructions.  These first 2 steps can be prepared in advance.

Chop all the vegetables and skewer the chicken.  When ready, skewer and BBQ until cooked through.  You can also grill for a few minutes until cooked through. 

Heat 1 tsp oil in a wok or frying pan and when hot stir fry the vegetables on a high heat turning frequently.  Allow to cook through and then add the remaining marinade and allow to bubble away for a few seconds.  Add the cooled, cooked rice and keep stirring.  Add some light soy sauce to season.  Once the rice is fully heated through serve onto plates and top with the chicken skewer.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 12

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Mackerel Fillets, Fennel Remoulade & New Potatoes

I’ve only ever eaten Mackerel in a restaurant and was amazed by its wonderful flavour.  I do make a super smoked mackerel pate but to date that is the extent of my relationship with mackerel.  Mackerel is very rich in omega 3 making it extremely good for you.  However it really doesn’t bode well on the WeightWatchers plan largely due to its saturated fat content.  A 150g fillet racks up a huge 9, yes 9 ProPoints. But I just had to have it again and paired with a small amount of new potatoes and point free vegetables I knew I could make it work for a healthy mid-week supper. Oh and it was surprisingly really filling too!

You’ll need for 2:
  • 300g mackerel fillets
  • 1 garlic clove thinly sliced
  • 200g new potatoes
  • Spray of olive oil
  • Seasoning
  • Bunch of asparagus
For the remoulade:
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp parsley
  • ½ tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ lemon juiced
  • 2 tbsp extra light mayo
  • Black pepper
What to do:
To make the remoulade mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.  A traditional remoulade also has shallots but I cannot tolerate raw onion of any sort and this worked fine for me with just the fennel.

To cook the mackerel, spray lightly with olive oil and fry in a hot griddle or a non-stick frying pan with a squeeze of lemon. Scatter the garlic and if you can get hold of it wild fennel.  We were fortunate to have some leftover from our weekend Italian feast.  As an alternative you can use the fronds from the top of the fennel bulb.  The mackerel doesn’t need much added to it especially when served with the piquant fennel remoulade.

Boil the potatoes until tender, drain and allow to steam dry for a few minutes.  You can serve them up on the side but I tossed them in with the remoulade to coat them in the tasty dressing.

We also enjoyed some steamed asparagus with our meal this evening which complimented the mackerel and remoulade perfectly.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 13

Lamb Skewers, Couscous & Roast Veggies

What a blowout Sunday I had!  I ate 2 portions of my husbands Nonna’s pasta al forno, a cornetto, a third of a cream cake and to top it all off I settled down to Sunday night TV with a slab of Taleggio and half a ciabatta!!!  What was I thinking??!!  I don’t even want to think about the ProPoints in all of that, let alone the wine that accompanied it all.

So time to knuckle down and knock off a few more lbs especially as I am on a 4 week countdown to holiday. 

I was really in the mood for some red meat and my mum had lamb chops marinating when I got to her house. This marinade is a flavour I will never forget.  Year after year and BBQ after BBQ Mum would marinade dozens of little lamb chops in this marinade and as a child I would feast on them.  You don’t get much on the little chops so now I am watching my weight I tend to go for a lean lamb leg steak removing any possible fat.  Portion control is critical so I allow 150g per person.

The longer this marinades the better and I allowed a good 4 hours.  When ready, skewer onto metal or soaked wooden skewers and bbq until cooked through.  You can grill turning occasionally.

You’ll need for 2:
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried marjoram
  • ¼ - ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4-5 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Sprinkling of ground black pepper
  • 300g lean lamb leg steaks, trimmed of any fat and cut into chunks
To accompany the lamb you could have 200g new potatoes or 55g dried couscous.  I quickly roasted off some chopped vegetables (see previous blog entry for Couscous & Vegetable recipe) in 1sp olive oil and some seasoning to accompany.  I was lucky enough to get a doggy bag of mum's couscous too so all in all Monday nights supper came together without much effort at all!

WeightWatchers ProPoints Lamb per serving: 8

Friday, 1 July 2011

Fillet Steak in Marsala Sauce with Rosemary & Garlic Potatoes

I love Friday evenings because:
a) I get to have a glass or 2 of wine after 4 non-drinking & strict dieting days
b) Hubby & I enjoy a nice meal together
c) It's the start of my weekend indulgences. Yeah baby!

Tonight's supper is a great example of how you can have your cake and eat it!  You just have to watch your portion sizes and cook smartly.  If you are following a WeightWatchers plan you can have a really nice 3 courses for just 17 ProPoints!

We started by sharing a pack of M&S steamed prawn dim sum.  There are 6 pieces which works out 2 points per person.   They just need a minute in the microwave and a dip into some soy sauce and they are truly delicious!

For our main I trundled off to my local butcher earlier today to purchase 2 fillet steaks.  Trying to stick to my PP budget I need to ensure each steak weighs no more than 165g which may seem a bit mean but if you want to stick to a diet you really don't need an 8oz-er. 

The last point of note is the Marsala required for the sauce.  I've made this sauce a few times now and find that by using just a tiny amount of Marsala wine you get such a rich, velvety sauce with depth of flavour.  Plus it lasts for ages in your cupboard.  It is worth the investment.  If you are like me and do a weekly supermarket shop (admittedly mine is done online) stick one in your basket next week.

You'll need for 2:
  • 2 fillet steaks 165g each
  • Steakhouse pepper seasoning or chilli flakes
  • Seasoning
  • 1 tbsp half fat creme fraiche
  • 150ml beef stock
  • 1/2 tsp butter
  • Half punnet mushrooms (I tried these new Forestiere variety this eve and they were v good!)
  • 1 large baking potato or 2 small ones, peeled and cut into chunks. 325g once prepped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • Green veg of your choice.  We had tenderstem brocolli and green beans
What to do:
Prepare the potatoes in advance.  These can be left in a saucepan in cold salted water while you get on with other things.  pre-heat the oven at 200 (fan).  When ready bring to the boil for max 5 minutes.  Drain and allow to steam dry for a few minutes while you heat a roasting tray in the oven.  Place the potatoes back in the pan and drizzle over 1 tsp olive oil, salt & pepper, dried rosemary and bashed garlic clove.  Toss lightly and pour into hot roasting tin.  Place into the oven, turning occasionally for about 20 - 25 minutes until golden brown.

Meanwhile prepare the steak by spraying lighltly with olive oil.  Sprinkle some steakhouse pepper seasoning and some salt.  Place in a pre-heated frying pan and allow to seal nicely for a couple of minutes.  Turn and brown on the other side.  I wish I could tell you exactly how long to cook the steak for to get it medium /medium rare but I'm not a trained chef, just an adept home cook so I use my gut instinct!  You can look and see how far up the steak has browned and prod it to see how tender it is, but I honestly tend to guess and err on the side of caution if need be.  If undercooked you can always stick it back in the pan but an overcooked steak is only destined for the bin!

Remove the steaks to rest somewhere warm (I place mine in the top oven.) In the same pan add the mushrooms and stir fry for a minute on a high heat.  Add the Marsala and reduce.  Then add plenty of black pepper and the beef stock. Allow to bubble away for a couple of minutes until reduced somewhat then stir in the creme fraiche.

Oh I almost forgot the last 3rd of the meal! Add some steamed or boiled veggies of your choice!  We had some lovely tendersteam broccoli & green beans!

Just to show you that you can have your fill for a Friday night I finished off with a WeightWatchers mini magnum for 3 points, but you could also have a Solero or 3 squares of dark chocolate or a GU Millionare Flapjack for 3 points. All of which satisfy any need for something naughty but nice come Friday eve.

Steak in Marsala Sauce: 8 ProPoints
Rosemary & Garlic Roast Potatoes: 4 ProPoints