Thursday, 29 September 2011

Chicken Balti

My love for a chicken balti started some 16 years ago whilst I was at university in Birmingham.  Monday or Tuesday night was partaay night!  Drinks in our uni flat, followed by student night at The Dome which invariably ended up in one of Birmingham's many curry houses.  My usual, was a chicken balti and naan bread and I am quite ashamed to admit that this is still my curry of choice when eating out 16 years later!

I'm not great with too much chili so this mild to medium curry is perfect for me and I'd much happier go for the sweetness of tomatoes in a balti over a creamy korma any day.  This bodes well when you are trying to Eat Healthy But Tasty as cooking a creamy curry with all that coconut cream is simply out of the question.  I'd hate to even try to work out the ProPoints on a korma or a chicken tikka masala.

You'll need for 2:

  • 1 tsp sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 385g chicken breast, cut into large chunks
  • Half an onion, finely diced
  • Red pepper, chopped
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 2 tsp Pataks Balti curry paste
  • 1 fat garlic clove, grated or minced
  • 1 thumb piece ginger, grated or minced
  • Half a lemon
  • Seasoning
  • 1 tsp soft brown sugar
  • 140g dried brown basmati rice
  • 1 tbsp fat free natural yogurt
  • Handful fresh coriander

What to do:

Spices cooking out
In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onions and fry until soft.  Add the curry paste a cup of water.  Stir to mix in and allow to bubble furiously to cook out the spices.  Add chili if you like it medium - hot and grate or crush the ginger and garlic.  Give it 3-4 minutes and then add the chicken.  Keep stirring to coat the chicken.  Add the red pepper and any other vegetable you fancy.  You could add cauliflower, spinach, green beans or even tenderstem broccoli.

Next add the juice of half a lemon and some seasoning.  Add the tomatoes a little more water so everything is nicely covered.  Add the sugar and stir well. Simmer on a medium heat for 15 - 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  Stir in a tbsp of fat free natural yogurt.

Serve with brown basmati rice and a sprinkle of fresh coriander.

I was fortunate enough to have some of my mother's white bhaji in the fridge tonight so I didn't add any green veg to my balti. 

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 13

Trout with Roasted Vegetables & Giant Couscous

Trout is the new salmon and giant couscous is the new couscous in our household! I have long been cooking my salmon with couscous and roasted vegetables and I didn't think it was possible to improve on it, but OMG! We are in food love with this new version!

Trout is a much under-used fish but I just love it's delicate flavour.  I prefer it over salmon and if you follow WeightWatchers you will be pleased to know it is slightly better on ProPoints then salmon. So give it a go!!

Until recently, I've only had giant couscous in a pre-bought salad type pot in the supermarket.  Since finding it in Waitrose (Merchant Gourmet brand is very good) I've been experimenting with it alot and love it's chewy texture.  It's very quick and easy to cook too but just like normal couscous you need to add flavour to it so I cook it in stock.

You'll need for 2:
  • 120g giant couscous
  • 2 x 120g trout fillets, skin on
  • 1 small aubergine, chopped
  • 1 courgette. chopped
  • Half a punnet chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • Half a red onion, roughly chopped
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • Seasoning
  • Vegetable stock bouillon
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme

What to do:

Prepare all the vegetables and place them into your big roasting tray.  Season well and sprinkle with the thyme. You can prepare this in advance ready to roast later.  When left, the salted vegetables will omit moisture meaning they require less oil so this helps save ProPoints!  When ready, roast in a hot oven (200 fan) for a good 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes or so.

10 minutes before the end cook the couscous in a saucepan with boiling water and vegetable stock or 1tsp of vegetable bouillon and some salt.  Cook according to the packet instructions which is about 7-8 minutes. Drain once you have finished cooking.

While the couscous is cooking, heat a frying pan or griddle pan.  Lightly spray the skin of the trout fillets with olive oil and season with salt & pepper.  Place skin side down in the hot pan and leave for 3-4 minutes to brown and crispen.  Season the flesh side and then turn over to cook on the other side.  Depending on the thickness it should take a total of approximately 8 minutes although I do like mine a little pink inside.  If you find it's getting too brown in the frying pan, finish cooking in the oven for 2-3 minutes.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and put the drained couscous into the roasting tray mixing well.  Serve the couscous and veg on the plate and top with the trout fillet.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 10

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Tuna Nicoise

I tend to make this a fair bit for lunch using tinned tuna (especially when I have lunch guests) as it's quick and easy and healthy and tasty.  Whilst I completely love this dish I always feel ever so slightly guilty when I make it. My husband is not so keen on tinned tuna and although he doesn't complain (that much) I can't help but feel a bit bad. 

So this week I decided to splash out on some lovely fresh tuna steaks and up the quantities so we could have it for dinner.  Apart from over-cooking the tuna ever so slightly (I am blaming that on my husband for saying it was too thick a steak!) it was really delicious and so full of interesting flavours and textures.  Amazingly I also felt much less bloated this morning as it is protein laden with less carbs then other meals I cook.  Am thinking this is the way forward....

You'll need for 2:

  • 2 fresh tuna steaks - approx 140g each
  • 2 eggs
  • Half a pack of green beans
  • 10 or so olives (in brine if you really want to keep your PP to a minimum)
  • 2/3 a bag of salad leaves.  I used a mix of rocket, watercress & spinach
  • 10 or so cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Fat free french dressing
  • Seasoning
  • 350g new potatoes, halved or quartered if large
  • A chunk of cucumber, chopped
What to do:

In a large saucepan place your potatoes and cover with salted cold water.  Bring to the boil. Then gently add the 2 eggs.  Set your timer for 7 minutes and turn the heat down to medium so it is simmering.  After 7 minutes remove the eggs and place in a bowl with cold water to cool. This time will give you ever so slightly soft yolk but if you want it runny, reduce it to 6 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare your salad / veggies.  Chuck all the tomatoes, cucumber, salad leaves, olives in a big bowl. Trim your beans if need be but don't put them into the bowl.

Heat a griddle or frying pan.  Very lightly oil the tuna and season.  The potatoes should take about 18-20 minutes to cook until tender.  Five minutes before you think the potatoes are ready (keep prodding with a knife to see how tender they are), get the tuna cooking. It's hard to say how long it will take but keep looking at the steak to see it changing colour.  If you like it very rare, just sear on both sides and allow to rest.  Remember it will carry on cooking after you have removed it from the direct heat so err on the side of caution (unlike me!)

Carefully peel the eggs and slice in half.

Two minutes before you think the potatoes are ready add the green beans.  Drain the potatoes and beans and once dry-ish add to the salad mix bowl.  Toss in 2-3 tbsp of fat free French dressing and serve on the plate.  Add an egg onto each plate and place your tuna steak on top.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 12

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Spaghetti Bolognaise

Who doesn't love a good spag bol? It's a firm family favourite, quick, easy and full of goodness. The supermarket is stacked with jarred sauces to make this meal even easier but you really don't need to use them as it's so easy to get a fantastic flavour by using good storecupboard and fresh ingredients.  The key is to pack in the veg and use a very lean mince beef so you can really stretch how far the sauce can go.

All this said, I've long struggled with finding the balance of bolognaise sauce & pasta, that meets my requirements; tasty, filling, max 12 ProPoints.  I am pleased to say that I think I am there! My tastebuds are tingling from the wonderful eating experience of this evening.  (Ok I admit, after a glass of red to wash it down, I may also be a tad tipsy!)

One last thing; the preparation of this was super-quick with the aid of my fabulous Pampered Chef food chopper. It really made light work of the prep and if you ever get invited to a Pampered Chef party, you won't regret this purchase!  No wonder it's one of their best sellers.

You'll need for 5 adults or 4 adults & 2-3 kids. (I usually freeze bolognaise x2 adult portion and x2 child portion)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium sized onion,  finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 large courgette, finely chopped
  • A few chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 500g extra lean mince beef, 5% fat
  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • Approx 10 dashes of worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, crushed or chopped
  • Handful of freshly chopped basil
  • 425g spaghetti or your choice of pasta
Get a large, heavy bottomed saucepan on the stove.  I love using my cast-iron pan.  Heat the olive oil.  Gently saute the onion.  I tend to prep vegetables as I'm going and throw them into the pan as they are chopped. This often involves turning the heat on and off depending on how quick I am at chopping!!  Next add the carrots, celery, garlic, courgettes and then the mushrooms.  Keep stirring and add a little water if it looks a little dry.

Next, turn the heat up and add the mince, breaking it up with the wooden spoon and browning all over.  Add the 2 tins of tomatoes.  Fill one of the cans with water and add that to the pan too.  Keep stirring and add the worcestershire sauce, the tomato puree, salt & pepper and pinch of sugar. 

Now just leave it for a good 30 - 40 mins on a low simmer and add some freshly chopped basil at the end. 

Boil your pasta in salted water according to the packet instructions.  I work on the basis on 85g dried pasta per portion. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce. Serve up!

You can portion up the bolognaise sauce and freeze for later date

Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese for additional 1-2 PP.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 12

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

It's all about soup!

This is the time of year where I start eating a little less salad for lunch and I increase my intake of soup.  Unfortunately it's a bit more time consuming to make then knocking up a quick salad but at least you can make on mass and freeze or save for tomorrow.   If I am really pushed for time I have to admit that a WeightWatchers Tomato soup from Heinz is actually quite acceptable!

Soup Cooking

Of course nothing can beat homemade soups and my favourite has to be a broccoli and Stilton (more cheese, there's a surprise).  I've yet to make a broccoli and Stilton soup diet friendly although I think I am setting myself this challenge as I type...

Leek & Potato and Five Vegetable Soup have been on the menu these last 2 weeks so I thought I would share my recipes for these delightful, filling soups coming in at a very agreeable 2 ProPoints per decent sized bowl!

Leek & Potato Soup
For the Leek & Potato Soup:
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 leeks, trimmed, washed and chopped
  • 1 potato weighing 300g, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 150ml skimmed milk
  • Approx 1200ml vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Seasoning

For the Five Veg Soup:

  • Half onion, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, washed and chopped
  • Approx 350g swede, peeled and finely chopped
    Five Veg Soup
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • Approx 200g potato, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Approx 2l vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Seasoning
  • 2 small bay leaves or 1 large
  • 150ml skimmed milk

The method for both these soups is pretty much the same. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan and saute the onions and leeks until soft.  Add the vegetables.  In the 5 veg soup, add the swede first, followed by the carrots as these take longer to cook.

Basically chuck all the vegetables into the pan and cover with the stock.  Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer.  Season with plenty of black pepper.  Simmer for a good 30 minutes until all the vegetables are soft. 

Remove the bay leaves, add the milk and blitz.  I prefer to use a stick type blender as it saves a bit on washing up!  Taste and add more salt & pepper if need be.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 2

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Lamb Koftas & Giant Couscous with Roasted Vegetables

I've got a thing about lamb at the moment.  My slow roast shoulder of lamb last week (it's not on this blog as not exactly WeightWatcher friendly!) was divine and we really enjoyed moussaka last week.  I'm always reluctant to have red meat as a mid-week supper as it does use up valuable ProPoints, but there is only so many times a week you can eat chicken!!

I was originally going to serve the lamb koftas with a tabouleh style dish but the weather changed so dramatically as the afternoon went on I wanted something more warming....then of course the sun came out again!  But never mind, couscous with roasted vegetables it was!

For the lamb koftas:
  • 200g lean lamb mince
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tsp harissa paste
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 salt
  • Sprinkling of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Half a small red onion, finely diced
  • Handful fresh parsely, finely chopped
  • Handful fresh mint, finely chopped
For the Couscous:

  • 1 small aubergine, diced
  • 1 yellow or orange pepper, diced
  • 1 courgette, diced
  • 8 or so cherry tomatoes
  • A few mushrooms roughly chopped
  • Half a red onion cut into wedges
  • 120g giant wholewheat couscous
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • Seasoning
  • 1 tsp olive oil

What to do:
Mix all the ingredients for the koftas together in a bowl.  With slightly damp hands shape around 4 wooden skewers.  I am a bit sad and weigh everything so I weighed the mix and divided it equally into 4 portions each weighing 74g!  (I told you I was sad!). If you are using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them in cold water for 20 mins or so beforehand.  Refridgerate the skewers until required.

Chop your veggies up into bite sized pieces and place in a large roasting tray.  Use whatever veggies you like but I think this selection went really well with the lamb and couscous.  Season with salt & pepper and sprinkle over some dried rosemary.  Spray thoroughly using no more than 1 tsp olive oil.  Roast in a hot oven (200 fan) for a good 30 - 35 minutes turning every 10 minutes.

Heat a griddle pan until very hot.  Spray one side of the koftas with olive oil and place in hot pan.  Allow to sear and brown and the turn ensuring all sides are browned.  They should cook in about 10 minutes. 

Cook the couscous a saucepan following packet instructions.  I like to boil it in vegetable stock as it gives the couscous more flavour.  Drain well and mix into the roasting tray with the vegetables coating nicely in the juices that have been omitted in cooking.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 12

Friday, 9 September 2011

Chicken Jambalaya

I was in a quandry over what to cook for dinner yesterday.  Usually it's a quick and easy pasta dish on Thursdays due to football / zumba but we both fancied something using rice and I'd already taken some chicken out of the freezer... So after researching a bit on the web I decided on a jambalaya style dish for the flavour and I like the idea of cooking using a one-pot method too.  I had most ingredients at home but really needed a pepper so off to Waitrose I popped.  £11.76 later (how does that happen??!) I bought some lovely sweet red Romano peppers and some cooking chorizo to add to my dish, amongst alot of other crap.

Chorizo is not what one would usually think of eating when dieting but it is all about portion control and chorizo gives you a whole lotta flavour for a very small amount.  I have to admit I did play around alot with the portion sizes to ensure that I got the right balance of vegetables, carbs & protein, that the meal was 12 ProPoints or under, and of course it was tasty!!  We both really enjoyed the outcome and it was a great meal for re-heating later as hubby ate his at 5pm before football and I had mine at 8.15pm after Zumba!

You'll need for 2:
  • Half a medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 -2 garlic cloves, crushed or grated
  • 1 red pepper
  • 35g chorizo, halved, then sliced thinly
  • Half a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp Cajun seasoning (more if you like it hotter)
  • Seasoning
  • 140g dried basmatti rice
  • Approx 350ml chicken stock (you will need double the volume of rice)
  • 2 tbsp frozen peas
  • Half a punnet of chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 260g chicken breast cut into chunks
What to do:
Spray a good non-stick frying pan with a little olive oil (use about half a tsp). On not too high heat saute the onion till soft.  Add in the garlic and the chorizo.  The chorizo will omit some oil so don't worry if it looks too dry to begin with.  The chorizo will also flavour and colour the onions beautifully.

Next add the peppers and saute for a couple of minutes.  Turn up the heat and add the chicken to brown.  Add the mushrooms and continue to saute.  Sprinkle over the Cajun seasoning and add the rice.  Stir quickly to avoid the rice sticking until it is all nicely coated.  Next add your tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Then add nearly all the stock and turn down to simmer.  Stir well and cover turning down to a low heat so it is just simmering.

Do give it a stir every few minutes to ensure the rice is not sticking and add a little more stock if need be.  After 10 minutes add the frozen peas.  All in all the cooking time should take approximately 20 minutes but you will know when the rice has cooked through and absorbed the stock.  Taste and season as required.

I've got to say I REALLY enjoyed this meal.  It was sooo tasty (in fact I did scoff a few mouthfuls at 5pm!) and it's a great meal mid-week if you want something to prepare in advance.  I am sure it would freeze pretty well too, if any is left that is!

WeightWatchers ProPoints per serving: 12

Monday, 5 September 2011

Sesame Prawn Stir Fry

Today I really am starting to be good.  I indulged a little too much (again) this weekend but am determined to lose 2lb this week.  It doesn't help when we have an open bottle of wine from Sunday that just has to be finished off on Monday... fortunately hubby and I did the bottle of Red yesterday with his slow cooked veal ragu (v yum indeed) so there is no excuse tonight and no cheeky little glass of wine with our meal. 

I think the thought of a stir fry makes you feel healthy.  Seeing all those colourful vegetables gives you instant gratification that you are putting something good into your body.  I decided to couple my stir fry vegetables with prawns this evening as they are very low in fat and cook quickly.  I'm using a bag of frozen raw tiger king prawns from the supermarket which defrost during the day.  I've also discovered the convenience of supermarket packs of stir fry veg.  The pack I used (from Tesco) had lovely julienne carrots, tenderstem brocolli and pak choy.  Dinner tonight was literally thrown together in under 10 minutes!

You'll need for 2:
  • 250g raw tiger prawns
  • Half a punnet of chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 supermarket pack of stir fry mixed vegetables
  • 120g dried egg noodles or other wheat based noodles (such as Udon)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil or groundnut oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tsp root ginger, finely chopped or grated
  • Pinch of chilli flakes or a fresh red chilli depending on how hot you like it
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tbsp dark soy
  • 1 tbsp light soy
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted in a hot dry frying pan
What to do:

Place the noodles in a pan with boiling water and cook according to the pack instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water.

In a wok or frying pan heat the oil. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and stir.  Next add the vegetables and stir fry on a high heat.  Add the prawns, the dark soy, honey and rice wine stirring until the prawns have turned pink and are cooked through.  Throw in the drained cooked egg noodles and toss together.  Finish with by topping with the sesame seeds and serve into bowls.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 12

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Fish n Chips

Friday night is traditionally a fish night.  Every local town has it's favourite chippie and it's always a good sign when you see queues out the door on a Friday at 6pm.  There is nothing more delicious than a lovely piece of cod or haddock battered served with luscious big fat chips, salt & vinegar and peas.  I'm salavating at the thought!  However we know it is just not possible to eat like this all the time and maintain or lose weight.  This is my alternative for a healthier fish and chips which does not compromise on taste!

You'll need for 2:
  • 2 x 130g fillet of white fish
  • 4 tbsp dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 lemon
  • Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 500g potato, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 160g frozen peas
  • Handful of finely chopped fresh parsely.

What to do:
You can prepare the fish earlier in the day to save you time later on.  Get 3 plates / shallow bowls out.  In one beat an egg.  In the next place your flour and season it.  In the third place your breadcrumbs.  Season the breadcrumbs and add the zest of the lemon and the finely chopped parsely.  Give the breadcrumbs a good mix.

Dry the fish using a sheet or two of kitchen towel.  Dip into the flour first, shaking off any excess, next the egg, and lastly the breadcrumbs.  Ensure that every part of the fish is covered.  Place on a clean plate and repeat with the other fish fillet.

In a roasting tin spray the potato wedges with olive oil spray or low cal cooking spray and season.  Place in a hot oven (200 fan) for 30 - 40 mins turning occasionally.

In a frying pan heat the sunflower oil.  Place the fish fillet and allow to colour nicely.  Don't touch it for at least 2-3 minutes and it should be golden brown.  Turn it over and cook for another 3 minutes on the other side.  Depending on the thickness of your fish it will take 5-10 minutes.  If it is quite a thick piece say perhaps a loin fillet it will take longer and you can always pop it in the oven for a couple of minutes if you unsure if it is cooked through or not.

Boil the peas for a couple of minutes according to the pack instructions.

Serve with lemon wedges and tartare sauce.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving:  14