Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Veal Ragu


A whole number of celebrity chefs have done their best to change the country's opinion on eating veal. The latest of which was Jimmy Doherty with his series 'Jimmy and the Giant Supermarket'. Still, the British public think it's 'cruel to eat veal'. The truth is it's cruel not to eat it. If there was a thriving market for British rose veal, these poor veal calves would not be shot senselessly at birth but would be reared for purpose under much higher welfare standards then outside the UK. Read the facts from Jimmy here.

I have long been a fan of veal, especially as it favours very well on a low fat diet such as WeightWatchers. It's not cheap by any means, in fact veal escalopes are the same price £29.99) per kilo as fillet steak at my local butchers. I am beginning to find that it is becoming much more accessible in the supermaket. Shame Tesco did not see Jimmy's veal meatballs as a viable product for the mass market, but Waitrose and Sainsburys offer veal products at reasonable cost. In any case, I am always a sucker for a reduced item as in the freezer it goes till I am ready to knock something scrummy up with it!






You'll need for 5 adults or 4 adult portions and 2 kids:
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced
  • 1 stick celery, finely diced
  • 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 500g veal mince (always use British rose veal)
  • 475g pasta, tagliatelle, fettucine or spaghetti (that's 95g per person)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • Handful fresh basil
  • Seasoning
  • Pinch of sugar
  • A chicken stock cube or liquid chicken stock
Method:

In a large non-stick frying pan add the olive oil and saute the onions on a low heat. Add the celery and carrots and continue to soften in the pan. Add some of the chicken stock if a little dry.

After a good 10 minutes or so when the vegetables are soft, turn up to a high heat and add the meat and brown all over. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree. Fill up the tin from the tomatoes with chicken stock or water. Slowly add half of this liquid with the stock cube or liquid concentrate.

Stir well, turn down to a simmer and allow to cook slowly for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add a pinch of sugar.  Finish with the freshly chopped basil.

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, drain and toss into the sauce. Serve in pasta bowls with plenty of parmesan cheese to serve.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 13

Monday, 6 August 2012

Healthy Foods Make a Positive Impact on a Cancer Patient

Having lost my mother and my father-in-law to cancer in the last few months I feel it was fitting to blog a guest post from Jillian McKee on the health benefits of healthy eating with cancer patients. You can follow Jillian on Twitter @jillianmckee or connect via Facebook.


Cancer patients deal with many different issues. These can include, physical changes, weight loss, weight gain, loss of muscle tone, lack of energy, and severe mood swings. Dealing with these issues on top of cancer treatments, medication and treatment side effects, and financial issues can be absolutely draining. Incorporating a healthier diet and researching beneficial foods can play a large role in increasing energy as well as improving moods which can provide a lasting, positive result for many cancer patients.


Salad with egg

The National Cancer Institute recommends cancer patients try out foods such as whole grains, eggs, extra dairy foods, and foods that are low in fiber.  In addition to consuming more of these foods, increasing the intake of vegetables and fruits will also help to increase energy, add endurance, and improve the body’s immune system in many cases. Each person reacts and responds differently to both treatments and food. Trying out the recommended foods and discovering which ones work best is the best place to begin changing an old diet with a new diet.


One of the biggest benefits that whole foods, dairy, natural fruits, and vegetables can give to a cancer patient is the strength to continue through rounds of treatment. Side effects and the treatments themselves often prove to be very trying and draining on a person in both physical and mental ways. By increasing the amounts of healthy, whole foods, and foods rich in vitamins and proteins will help a person to be more physically prepared to deal with treatments, as well as cancer side effects and mesothelioma side effects.


If a cancer patient has a family living with him or her, getting the entire family on board with new eating changes will also benefit the other members in the family by giving them quality nutrition and wholesome foods to feel better and have more energy throughout their day. This also is a great way to form a support alliance for a person who is going through cancer treatments. Support groups, exercise, and healthy nutrition are vital for a person who is undergoing consistent rounds of treatment.


Colourful veggies, great for roasting
For healthy recipes containing roasted vegetables, click here
Because some foods can become boring to eat when they are consumed in the same way meal after meal, there are many creative ideas for menus and snack suggestions in which healthy foods can be prepared in fresh and appealing methods.  Blended fruit drinks, grilled vegetable kebabs, cheese and vegetable quiches, and homemade pizzas loaded with cheese and vegetables are simple meals to prepare that are also delicious and fun to eat.


Sunday, 5 August 2012

Individual Guilt Free Pavlovas

This traditional dessert with a healthy makeover makes the perfect sweet ending to your meal when you don't want to bust the diet.  A typical pavlova uses a meringue base, whipped cream, topped with fruit.  By using 0% fat Greek yogurt as a replacement for double cream, a large individual pavlova totals just 4 WeightWatchers ProPoints which can easily be halved to 2 ProPoints by making smaller meringues.



If you don't want to make the meringues yourself you can of course get shop bought ones, but since I have discovered just how easy and how much better tasting home-made ones are, I don't think I'll ever buy them again. Oh and a good tip is when you are making something that uses a yolk, don't throw the white away, pop it into a freezer bag and freeze it. I hate wasting anything and all you need is a couple of egg whites in the freezer and you are on your way to a delicious, low fat pud. 

Part of my failure to make a good meringue previously was largely down to a very old handheld mixer. It was so old and slow that it actually left part of the egg whites runny in the bowl! I should have worked out that this was never going to result in stiff peaks. Earlier this year I became the proud owner of a beautiful KitchenAid. This coupled with a fool-proof meringue recipe (both courtesy of one of the best friend's a girl could wish for) I can finally add pavlova to my repertoire. This one's for you Lisa x

Makes 4 large ones or 8 mini ones:

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 110g golden caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cornflour
  • 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 400g 0% fat Greek yogurt
  • Selection of fruit
Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C /160 fan °C / Gas mark 4
  • In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites till stiff peaks form
  • Slowly add the sugar followed by the vinegar and cornflour
  • Whisk for another 2-3 minutes till stiff and glossy
  • Lay a piece of paking parchment or a silicon baking mat on a large baking sheet
  • Spoon out the meringue to the shape and size of your choice. This mix makes 4 large individual meringues or 8 small ones.
  • Place into the oven and turn the oven down immediately to 130°C / 110°C fan / Gas mark 1
  • Bake for 1 hour then turn the oven off and leave the meringues inside the oven to cool down completely. These keep nicely in an airtight container for a couple of days.
  • When ready, top with the yogurt and fruit.
WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 4 (large) 2 (mini)

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Pan Fried Salmon in Creamy Vermouth Sauce


I am slowly finding the motivation to lose the whole stone I have gained in the last 3 months since losing my mum. Everyone keeps telling me that it's ok to put on weight during this time, but it doesn't make you feel any better about yourself and my back is giving me trouble because I am so unfit. So it's back to Zumba for me and eating healthy but tasty to shift these excess lbs. I hope to start adding some more really tasty recipes to my food blog over the next few weeks.



At the moment the eating tasty part is absolutely crucial. I need to re-realise that with my style of cooking, following Weightwatchers means you do not miss out. I cooked this dish for the first time a few weeks ago for my husband and my father-in-law. At this time, my Father-in-law was ill and was staying with us. His 'mmms' meant that my dinner met his seal of approval, despite the fact his favourite meal was a nice pork chop or sirloin steak with a nice bit of fat around the meat. Sadly he passed away shortly after this (just 2 months after my mum). I'll always think of him when I carefully remove any fat from my meat in future, sadly now it will stay on the side of my plate and won't be on his.

This meal is based on a classic dish of fish in a creamy herb sauce, but it really is so simple to make it lower fat and WeightWatcher friendly with my little adaptations.

You'll need for 2:
  • 2 x 115g salmon fillets, skin on
  • Fry light spray
  • 400g new potatoes
  • Green beans / spinach / asparagus / kale / greens of your choice
  • 1 tbsp dry vermouth
  • 2-3 tbsp half fat creme fraiche
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Small handful of chopped chives / parsley / tarragon
  • 1 cup chicken stock (made using cube or stock pot or concentrate)
  • Seasoning

Method:

  • Put the potatoes in a pan of cold salted water and bring to the boil. Boil until tender. This should take about 20 minutes once boiling.
  • After about 15 minutes, heat a non-stick frying pan. Spray with fry light. Pat dry the salmon fillets with some kitchen towel and season. Place the fillets skin side down in the frying pan and cook for 5 - 8 minutes. Turn and reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook. I like my salmon pink in the middle so 8-10 minutes should do it depending on the thickness. You can finish the salmon off in a hot oven for a few minutes to ensure it is cooked through if you prefer.
  • Drain the potatoes in a colander and allow to steam dry for a few minutes
  • Remove the salmon and keep warm on warmed plates whilst you make the sauce
  • In the frying pan add the vermouth and after a few seconds add the chicken stock and boil away to reduce slightly. If using fine green beans or fine asparagus you can add these into the stock to cook for a couple of minutes so they maintain their bite. They will absorb the lovely flavours from the stock too. 
Asparagus cooking in the stock
  • Remove the veg to the plates and season the sauce with plenty of black pepper and add the freshly chopped herbs. Take off the heat and add a squeeze of lemon and the half fat creme fraiche. Stir well and pour over the salmon and vegetables.
  • Serve with the new potatoes
WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 12

Friday, 15 June 2012

Rosemarie's Recipes - A tribute to my wonderful mum

Rosemarie's Recipes - A tribute to my wonderful mum

I feel I should apologise and explain about the lack of posts recently. Those that follow me on twitter will know  this, but I lost my mum in April after a 2 1/2 year battle with bowel cancer. It has been a very difficult couple of months and my distinct lack of healthy eating during this time has shown on my hips with a weight gain of 10lb. I am trying to come to terms with such an enormous loss and trying to get back on track to shift these excess lb but I am not finding it easy.


I am going to make a conscious effort next week to start trying out some new recipes (as this is what I love doing) and hope I can make a start in eating better. After all, a healthy, balanced diet can go a long way to prevent bowel cancer. We are delighted to have raised £890 in lieu of flowers at mum's funeral for Bowel Cancer UK and hope they can continue to raise awareness and help others catch this disease early enough that it can prolong life expectancy.


I feel very lucky to have learnt some of my mum's recipes although I couldn't help but give them my healthy makeover to make them Weight Watcher friendly, and I have given a round up here. Mum's Anglo-Indian upbringing made her cooking very unique and I am so happy to have captured some of these on my food blog. Many of her other recipes exist and I hope to add these in time.  These, and other of mum's dishes will always be favourites of mine and will always continue to remind me how lucky I was to have the most wonderful mother for 37 and a half years. Sleep tight mum.

Chicken Biriyani

Marinated lamb chops / steaks

Devilled kidneys

Chicken and vegetable curry

Tandoori chicken and white bhaji



Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Flapjacks With Hidden Vegetables

My recent lack of blogging reflects my recent lack of healthy eating. I've not had the desire or inclination to really stick to a diet for longer than a few days so needless to say I've put on a few Easter lbs which I know are going to be a struggle to shift. It's a rubbish excuse and I should just stick to a blooming diet but I seem to be juggling way to many things right now.

One of my biggest concerns is about my 2 year old boy. He has for some time been behind his peers in terms of communication, speech and understanding. We are now beginning what looks to be a long process to understand his developmental delay. He does have some glue ear and hearing loss but it is my concern, and also the concern of the professionals, that they may also be an underlying problem. With an autistic nephew I cannot help but recognise many of the signs in my own little boy. I am trying to stay positive but a mothers gut feeling is most often the right one.

His eating has steadily got worse and worse. He refuses 'wet' foods, eats no meat, fish, eggs or cheese or any fresh fruit or vegetables at all. He is very picky about the texture of foods and lives off of toast, dried fruit, fruit smoothies & yogurts. He also loves those organic cereal bars which have proved to be life savers. When I looked carefully at the ingredients they are mostly a mix of oats and raisins. Since he loves raisins already I wanted to see if I could make my own bars filled with lots of other nutrients that he is currently missing out on. This is my first attempt to make some flapjacks / cereal bars and success was achieved with a cleared plate!



These flapjacks are moist which are perfect for kids. You can also replace the ground almonds and sesame seeds with pumpkin seeds for a more grown up texture.

Makes 16 bars

  • 100g unsalted butter, diced
  • 50g golden syrup
  • 25g soft light brown sugar
  • 150g porridge oats
  • 1 large grated carrot
  • 50g dried cranberries / apricots /  raisins or dried fruit of your choice
  • 35g ground almonds
  • 15g sesame seeds
  • 1/2 a ripe banana, mashed
  • Pinch of cinnamon (optional)

What to do:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3.
  • Grease and line a square 9cm tin
  • Melt the butter, syrup and sugar in a large saucepan over a low heat
  • Add the remaining ingredients and stir well together
  • Press into lined tin
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes
  • Remove tin from oven and mark into bars with a sharp knife
  • Allow to cool in the tin and then cut through with the knife again
  • Store in an airtight container for 3-4 days

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Bar: 3

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Baked Gnocchi with Spinach and Sausage

I have been rather useless of late. Instead of trying to shift a few more lbs I have been gorging on cake (well it was my son's 2nd birthday) and all sorts of naughties. It's not surprising then, I have steadily put on a few lbs. Anyway it's time to get serious, especially as it's less than 4 weeks to our school ball and I'd love to squeeze into a little red dress I bought before Christmas.

To kickstart this new period of 'being good' (can't stand the word 'diet'), I've been experimenting with a few new recipes. This one I tried for the first time last night and hubby and I were really pleased at how satisfying it was for a 12 ProPoint meal, not to mention completely scrummy! I use my favourite sausages, Porky Whites which are a Surrey Sausage and they have a real depth of flavour.  You don't need many sausages, which is a good job seeing how ProPoint laden they are. By using lots of spinach you can fill out the dish. If you didn't like spinach you could easily substitute this with broccoli or your other favourite green vegetable. It's also a very economical dish and whilst I've not worked out the exact cost, you could feed 4 for around a fiver.





You'll need for 4: (easily halved)
  • 1 small onion or half a large onion, finely diced
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes or a large jar of passata
  • 2 tablespoons lighter mascarpone
  • 1 large bag of spinach or a few frozen portions of spinach
  • 4 tbsp grated parmesan,
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Small handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • 6 chipolata sausages. I use Porky white sausages which are just delicious!

What to do:

Heat the oil in a non stick pan and saute the onion. Add the garlic and gently fry for 8-10 minutes until soft and golden. Chop the sausages into nugget size pieces, add to the pan and turn up the heat to brown. Add the spinach and season with salt & pepper.

Next add the tinned tomatoes, the basil, and the mascarpone. Let the sauce bubble away for 10 mins or so. It should be quite a runny sauce.

Add the gnocchi to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes. Then tip into a roasting dish and allow to cool a little. Sprinkle with some parmesan. You can prepare the dish up to this stage in advance

When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 190 (fan) and place in oven for 10-15 minutes until golden on top and piping hot.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 12

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Blueberry Compote with Vanilla Ice Cream

I have given up chocolate for Lent. I thought it would be easy as I tend to usually just nibble on the odd square of dark chocolate, well so I thought. I actually eat far more chocolate than I ever realised. The odd chocolate biscuit, a mikado stick, my childrens chocolate button, maltesers and what about choccie puds at the weekend! So in my attempt to satisfy these sweet craving right now, I have discovered a truly awesome mid-week pud of just 1, yes 1 ProPoint.



Serves 4:
  • 1 punnet of fresh blueberries
  • Squeeze of half a lemon
  • 1 dsp caster sugar
  • WeightWatchers new vanilla pod ice cream, 2 level scoops per person

In a small pan, place the blueberries and put on a high heat. Sprinkle over the sugar and squeeze the lemon juice. Stir occassionally and allow the blueberries to release their juices and pop a little. Cook until some berries have dissolved and some are just nicely soft

Scoop the ice-cream (using the WeightWatchers handy level scoop) into 4 bowls and spoon over the blueberry compote

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 1

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Low Fat Banana and Walnut Cake

It's quite unusual for me to blog about a sweet food because to be honest I am all about the savoury, but the over-indulgences from Christmas have left me with a sweet craving that I cannot seem to satisfy. A sizeable amount of my weekly food bill goes on purchasing low fat sweet treats so it's time I extended my love for home cooking and got better at baking sweets & puds in an Eat Healthy But Tasty way.



There has been alot of noise about the new breed of low calorie sweeteners made using extracts from the Stevia plant. Brands such as Pure Via and Truvia have engaged in some heavy TV advertising. I was very excited to learn about these products as they are different from traditional sweeteners that use artificial means. They are calorie free and sugar free so also suitable for diabetics, plus are granulated so much better for baking. Good un's all round then?  Well I purchased Truvia (not cheap by the way, a 180g tub sets you back a fiver!) and upon first taste in my coffee I was not impressed. The saccharin taste lingered for ages and I decided I preferred Splenda.

However I decided to give Truvia another go, taking note that 1/3 of a tsp is equal to 1sp of sugar so basically it needs to be used sparingly. I significantly reduced the quantity based on my original inspiration for this recipe that I found on this fab website called All Recipes.  I was very pleased with the outcome and will continue to use Truvia in my quest to Eat Sweet Treats Healthy But Tasty!

I am also including this blog post in Turquoiselemons.com #nowaste food challenge run by the lovely Kate. Since I had some really over-ripe bananas to use up (I'm talking full on black ones!) this recipe perfectly fits this challenge for this month.

Equipment needed: 1 loaf tin, 2 mixing bowls, spatula, wire rack

Ingredients:
  • 200g plain flour
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tbsp apple sauce
  • 45 Truvia or calorie free sweetner
  • 75g walnut pieces, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 mixed spice

Method:

  • Lighly grease the loaf tin
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180c / 170c fan / gas mark 4
  • In a large mixing bowl sieve the flour, baking powder, bicarb, cinnamon and mixed spice
  • Stir in the walnuts and sweetner
  • In the other mixing bowl, mash the bananas and then stir in the apple sauce
  • Add the fruit to the dry ingredients
  • In the empty bowl crack the eggs and lightly whisk with a fork
  • Using a spatula, fold the eggs and fruit into the dry mix ensuring everything is mixed well but trying not to over-mix
  • Tip the mixture into the loaf tin and cover with foil
  • Bake in the oven for 50 -55 minutes
  • Uncover the foil for the last 15-20 minutes to brown on top
  • Test the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre to see if it comes out clean
  • Cool for a good 20 minutes in the tin and then transfer to a wire rack to cool
  • Slice into 12 pieces


Enjoy with a nice cuppa!

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Slice: 3

Monday, 6 February 2012

Low Fat Creamy Mushroom Pasta

I've always been under the impression that mushrooms were a bit of a cheat in vegetable terms. By this I mean they look a bit strange, a wee bit dull in colour and seem well, a bit meaningless. So my thinking was they can't be that good for you? Not as good as all the green stuff that's for sure. How wrong was I??!!

This fabulous website explains it all but I was very surprised to learn that:
  • Mushrooms are one of the highest antioxidant foods in the world, in the same league as the red pepper and spinach.
  • The dietary fibre in mushrooms also helps promote good bowel function and leaves you feeling more satisfied, so you won’t be hungry again as quickly.
  • Mushrooms are also extremely rich in protein, so are a great alternative protein source for vegetarians



Choosing some really good tasting mushrooms is essential for this dish, as the mushrooms need to add flavour and meatiness. I used a mix of oyster mushrooms, chestnut mushrooms and just a small amount of dried porcini to pack a mushroomy punch. 

But importantly, how to make a classic creamy pasta dish waistline friendly? I used low fat creme fraiche (WeightWatchers brand), lots of black pepper and a pinch of nutmeg to enhance the flavour.  If I had some in my fridge I would have finished with a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley but it was perfectly fine without it!


You'll need for 2:

  • Half a small onion, finely diced
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Seasoning
  • 125g punnet of mixed oyster mushrooms
  • 150g of chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 5-10g dried porcini mushrooms or dried wild mushrooms
  • Handful fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp low fat creme fraiche
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • Cupful of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 200g pasta, penne or tagliatelle work well
  • Pinch of nutmeg


What to do:
  • In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, get the pasta on as per packet instructions
  • Pour some boiling water over the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and leave to soak
  • In a non-stick frying pan heat the oil and very slowly saute the onion and garlic until soft and translucent
  • Meanwhile prepare the mushrooms by slicing the chestnut mushrooms. With the oyster mushrooms, just gently tear them length ways. Add the mushrooms to the onions and and turn up the heat to get a nice colour on them. Stir frequently. If it's a little dry add some of the stock. Cook for a few minutes until softened and nicely browned
  • Mix the cornflour with cold stock or cold water then add the stock bouillon / cube to the mug.
  • Add the stock / cornflour to the pan and stir well
  • Season well, especially adding lots of black pepper and add the nutmeg
  • Turn the heat down and add the drained dried mushrooms and a little of the water from soaking. Add as much of this as you like for your own personal taste. I find the flavour a little overpowering so I go easy on this part.
  • Turn the heat down or off and stir in the creme fraiche. It may split (as it's low fat, not double cream!) when cooked on a high heat so be careful at this point
  • Drain the pasta and add to the mushrooms along with the parsley and toss everything together
  • Serve with  a little Parmesan cheese
WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 12

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Baking Mad's Low Calorie Blueberry Muffins

The whole ethos of this food blog is that you can have your cake and eat it i.e. you can lose or maintain weight by eating healthy but tasty. Likewise if you are interested in maintaining a healthy, balanced diet you will find that all my recipes are carefully balanced with a mix of whole grains, vegetables and lean proteins making the dishes naturally low in fat. 

So of course I was keen to try out some low calorie sweet treats and jumped at the chance to recipe test for Baking Mad using Silver Spoon's latest 'Half Spoon' product. It has a small amount of sweeteners added to make it twice as sweet and half the calories.  It's granulated form makes it ideal for baking.



There are a list of recipe ideas on the Baking Mad website and I decided to give the Blueberry muffins a go. The lovely people at Baking Mad sent me the recipe, the flour and half spoon then I purchased the remaining ingredients.  I carefully timed the baking of these on a day I was hosting a mum's coffee morning so to test them on a live audience! They are quick and easy to prepare with very little washing up and I managed to get them done before the school run which was pretty impressive!




All the mums liked the muffins. There were two main observations; 
1) The muffins were not overly sweet. Some may say not sweet enough but for me I liked them.
2) The muffins did not rise particularly well. You can see by the picture they look more like cupcakes without icing. I followed the recipe and made 12 muffins as the recipe stated but perhaps it could do with some added baking powder to get a better rise.

On the whole though a nice recipe and if you are after a sweeter taste my advice would be to up the Half Spoon quantity or use a naturally sweeter fruit such as ripe banana.  Hmmm, thinking that could be a good way to go especially as on the WeightWatchers plan bananas are 0 ProPoints!!

Ingredients - Makes 12

  • 250g self rasing flour (I used Allinson Nature Friendly)
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 50g low fat margarine
  • 75g Half Spoon Granulated sugar (Silver Spoon)
  • 100g fresh blueberries
  • 2 large free range eggs (I used Happy eggs)
  • 235ml milk (recipe did not state full fat so I used semi-skimmed)
  • Juice from half a lemon

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180c / 160c fan / 350f / Gas mark 4
2. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with muffin cases
3. Sieve the flour and baking powder together in a bowl, twice
4. Add the margarine and rub gently until it resembles breadcrumbs
5. Stir in the sugar and blueberries
6. Whisk together the eggs, milk and lemon juice
7. Add to the flour mixture stirring gently but not over-mixing
8. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases and bake for 20-25 minutes
9. Allow to cool slightly and then serve warm



WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Blueberry Muffin:  4

Monday, 30 January 2012

Leftover Lamb Jalfrezi

What a gastronomic feast I cooked up this weekend!  It was hubby's birthday so thought it only fitting I spoil him by cooking all his favourite things.


Friday night (his actual birthday)
- Starter of roasted butternut squash ravioli in sage butter sauce
- Main of veal Milanese, roasted rosemary & garlic potatoes and sauteed spinach

Saturday
- Freshly made pesto made with walnuts & pinenuts with linguine for 8 of us. It was a good way to line the stomach before drinks in our new favourite pub
- Chocolate birthday cake, iced with white fondant and decorated with black and white stars

Sunday
- Lazy brunch consisting of slow roasted tomatoes with oregano, baked portobello mushrooms, softly scrambled eggs, black pudding & Wiltshire cured smoked bacon
- Supper of slow roasted shoulder of lamb with rosemary & garlic, potato dauphinois, roasted carrots and minted peas.

The black pudding, bacon, veal escalopes and shoulder of lamb were purchased from my amazing local butcher. If you are local to the Woking area, you really must try him out as the quality of the meat is far superior to anything I buy in Tesco or Waitrose and reasonably priced too. OMG, now I have just realised what I cooked I feel quite tired!!  This is an entire blog post in itself!

So onto Monday night's healthy dinner which was much needed after this weekend!  I simply feel obliged to use up leftovers and cannot bear to through anything away. I decided on a lamb jalfrezi which has long been a great way to use up leftover meat. Typically a jalfrezi is a quite dry, thick sauce which includes onions and tomatoes.  After researching online I found that the range of spices differ tremendously from recipe to recipe. So I went with my own concoction after from sound advice from mum, obviously.  I was really impressed with dinner and what's more hubby thinks his birthday celebrations are still going on as he loved it! 



If you have alot of lamb leftover, double up the curry and freeze half for a later date

You'll need for 2:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
  • 1 tsp root ginger, chopped or grated
  • Half a lemon
  • Half a tin of finely chopped tomatoes
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Green chilli (optional)
  • 180g leftover lamb shoulder or leg fat removed. Alternatively use fresh raw meat of your choice e.g. lamb, chicken or pork
  • 1 courgette, roughly diced (or any other vegetable/s of your choice)
  • 140g dried basmati rice
  • 1 heaped tsp mixed of Mustard seeds yellow & black, Cumin Seeds, Fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Mug or so of water
  • Handful of fresh coriander (optional)

What to do:

  • Rinse the rice in cold tap water for a couple of minutes and then cook the rice in salted boiling water for a good 25 - 30 mins. Once cooked, drain and rinse through with boiling hot water from the kettle. You can do this in advance and re-heat the rice thoroughly later
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan or stir fry pan / wok and add the mix of Mustard seeds yellow & black, Cumin Seeds, Fenugreek seeds
  • Fry the onions, garlic and ginger, chilli (if using) until soft and slightly golden
  • Mix the rest of the spices with some salt in a mug and add some water to stir to a paste. Add the paste to the onion mix with about 2/3 mug of water
  • Cook on a high heat for a few minutes to cook out the spices
  • If using raw meat add this now to seal, otherwise add the courgette or vegetable of your choice. Red and green peppers are also a good choice
  • Add the tinned tomatoes , squeeze of lemin and a little more water if need be
  • Cook on a high to medium heat for about 10 - 12 minutes and then add the cooked meat if using
  • Taste and season accordingly
  • Cook for another 5 minutes until the meat is fully cooked through and the courgette still has a little bite. I also threw in a few leftover peas from yesterday too
  • Serve up and finish with a sprinkling of fresh coriander

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Jerk Pork, Rice & Peas

I'm craving spicy and warming foods at the moment.  At 37 I was beginning to think I would never be a chilli lover, but slowly I find myself increasing the amount I use in cooking.  This is unusual for me as I'm the one that usually orders lemon and herb chicken in Nando's as the medium is just way to hot for me!  This Jerk inspired dish does pack a heat punch and may not be suitable for very little ones or for that matter it might not be the best choice for great big chilli wossers, but you never know, you, like me, could learn to love a bit more spice in your life.

The rice in this dish would traditionally be cooked in coconut milk but this would just make it way too many ProPoints (or calories / fat / syns) so this healthy version uses vegetable stock and a dollop of 0% Greek yogurt to finish.



Whilst calculating the ProPoints on eSource (I cannot survive without this tool!) I realised that all the ingredients in this dish, except the sugar, were filling and healthy foods. So if you have adopted WeightWatchers latest plan you could increase the portion size if need be to feel satisfied (not stuffed!).

I am still struggling with the whole filling and healthy thing, probably because I find it hard to tell when I am just satisfied and would rather get to the stuffed part, so I am sticking with my good old ProPoints for now, but all you filling and healthy lot, fill ya boots on this meal!

You will need for 4 (easily halved)
  •  4 Pork loin steaks, trimmed of fat so approx 120g each
  • 1 tin Adzuki beans
  • 3 tbsp frozen peas (I use Birds Eye Petits Pois)
  • Half an onion, diced
  • Jerk Seasoning
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 lime
  • 250g dried brown basmati rice
  • Vegetable stock
  • Spinach
  • Low fat cooking spray
  • 1 tbsp 0% Greek yogurt
  • Light soy sauce

What to do:

Season the pork loin steaks with salt and the Jerk Seasoning. Leave for a few minutes to allow flavours to sink in.

In a saucepan saute the diced onion with some low fat cooking spray until soft.

Rinse the rice in cold water and add to the pan. Cover with vegetable stock. You will need approximately twice the volume of rice and a tbsp or 2 of soy. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer and cover for 15-20 minutes.  Keep an eye on it and do add more water / stock if necessary. It's harder to cook brown rice in this way as it does require longer cooking and more water than white rice. It's got a lovely texture, it's really  filling and has a lower GI though so worth trying.

Add the beans and peas for the last few minutes of cooking to heat through thoroughly. If you find you have too much liquid at the end of cooking, simply strain through a sieve as the rice will have absorbed the flavour from the stock anyway. Stir through the yogurt to finish and check the seasoning.

Meanwhile heat a griddle or frying pan and spray the pork steaks with oil spray. Fry for a few minutes on high each side until nicely coloured. Sprinkle over the brown sugar and a squeeze of lime.  Turn down the heat and cover to allow the meat to cook thoroughly.  You can also finish the steaks in the oven if you prefer. Allow to rest for a few minutes to retain those lovely juices. By this time your rice should be cooked so you can serve up!

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 14

You can reduce the ProPoints for this dish by using chicken breast


Friday, 20 January 2012

Crab, Chilli & Rocket Linguine

I've been experimenting with some new recipes this week, in particular pasta recipes as I tend to stick to my old favs. Pasta is cheap and filling so it makes a good basis for a family meal.  However if you are trying to lose weight, pasta needs pairing with something light if you are to keep to a 12 or 13 ProPoint dinner and this makes its use is slightly more challenging. Seafood is ideal and this dish uses crab meat as it's protein element.



It is that time of year where everyone tightens their belts a bit after the spending spree of Christmas so I've also been looking at budget friendly recipes this week. This dish for 2 people totalled £3.85 or £1.92 per serving. You can't buy a decent ready meal for that (and I use these words together in the loose sense).

As we all know there are  health benefits to home cooking a meal from scratch, far less 'processing' going on, yada yada. Plus you can adjust ingredients to suit personal taste e.g. salt, garlic, chilli.  I know I am preaching to the converted, but if you are new to eating healthily and trying to lose weight on WeightWatchers or any other plan, it doesn't have to be all ready meals.  And, and this is a big AND, this meal takes less than 15 minutes to prepare! Perfect mid-week supper!

You'll need for 2:

  • 4 vine medium to large vine tomatoes, seeds and insides removed, diced
  • 1 170g tin crab meat in brine
  • 1 lime
  • Half a back of wild rocket
  • 200g linguine
  • 1tbsp oil (I used chilli & garlic oil)
  • or pinch chilli flakes & 1 garlic clove
Get a large pan of salted boiling water on the go and stick the pasta
in to cook according to the packet instructions.

In a large frying pan, gently heat the oil. I was given a lovely set of flavoured oils from Italy for Christmas so this was a perfect opportunity to start using them! If you don't have a flavoured oil, then just bash the garlic clove and add this with a pinch of chilli flakes to the oil.

Add the diced tomatoes (seeds and inner bits removed) and saute for a few minutes.

Add the crab and a squeeze of half a lime. Season to taste.

Once the pasta is ready, drain reserving some of the cooking liquor. Add the pasta along with a couple of ladles of the liquor to the crab mix and toss through on a very low heat. Add the rocket and stir through so the rocket just wilts with the heat from the pan.

Serve up (with extra chilli and garlic oil if you are not weightwatching!)

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 13

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Venison Sausages & Mash

It's bloomin freezing at the moment so I am guessing I am not alone in craving comfort food. Sausage & Mash is comfort food at it's best but when you are WeightWatching, sausages are really just out of the question as pork is such a fatty meat.  I am personally not a fan of the reduced fat sausage. It's likely to be pumped full of other stuff to make up for the lack of proper pork. This is where venison sausages are just an excellent replacement. Tesco do a 300g pack of 6 sausages which have a delicious meaty taste. The smell fills my fridge and when grilled are just 9 ProPoints per serving (3 sausages). Compared to the Tesco Finest Cumberland Sausages which are a whopping 23 ProPoints for the same weight, it's worth giving Venison a go.



Creamy mash potato is an obvious accompaniment to sausages, although I am partial to a oven baked jacket potato too. With my low fat mash potato there is no need for cream or lashings of butter. Just a tiny amount of butter and a couple of tablespoons of skimmed milk are plenty. Using the right potato is also essential. I tend to buy a 2.5kg bag of baking potatoes in my weekly shop as I find it's a versatile spud resulting in really good mash, perfect roasties and a crispy jacket that's fluffy inside.

I sometimes make the red onion gravy from scratch, but more often rely on little cheats. By using a dollop of shop bought red onion marmalade with Bisto gravy, it is the perfect finale to the meal. (I did make a batch of marmalade over Christmas which was just amazing with our naughty indulgence of foie gras, and you can make your own easily using the recipe from BBC Good Food.)

You'll need for 2:
  • Pack 300g venison sausages
  • 600g potatoes, peeled and diced
  • Savoy cabbage or green beans or other veg of your choice
  • 1/2 tsp butter
  • 1-2 tbsp skimmed milk
  • 1 tbsp red onion marmalade / chutney
  • 3-4 tsp bisto original
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Seasoning
First job is to make the mash. I usually make this much earlier in the day as it nicely re-heats later in the microwave.  Place the diced potato in a saucepan with cold salted water and bring to the boil. Simmer until the potato is tender which is approximately 20-25 minutes. Drain and allow to dry in the colander for a few minutes. Meanwhile, put the saucepan back on the hob and melt the butter and warm the skimmed milk.  Add the potatoes back to the pan and using a masher to mash the potato. Season and add the nutmeg and stir through. If you have a ricer then push the potato through this, but it is not necessary.

Grill the sausages according to the instructions and cook your vegetables by steaming or boiling.

At the same time as the sausages and vegetables are cooking, make your gravy. Heat through the marmalade in a saucepan. Mix the bisto with some cold water and add it to the pan stirring all the time. Top up with boiling water from the kettle until you have the right consistency.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 12

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Asian Style Turkey Meatballs with Stir Fried Rice

I am struggling with knocking the bad eating habits of the festive season on the head. I am being really good all day and then I go and ruin it all with a glass and half of wine or a nibble on some chocolate, or a slither of cake...you get the picture. It's still way better than I was eating pre 3rd Jan but I am not going to shift these extra lbs quickly at this rate.  I have missed exercising over the holiday period and was glad to get back to walking to school and back twice a day. 1st Zumba class of the year is Thursday so I think that will really help too.

 


Anyway, onto the dish. Turkey is probably the last thing anyone wants right now but 2 excellent reasons why you should use it in this dish. It is very low in fat and high in protein which makes it very WeightWatcher friendly and secondly the flavourings used in this dish completely transform a boring old cheap bit of mince into something REALLY tasty!

You can make the meatballs in advance and boil the rice way in advance so the final part is much quicker to get from pan to table.

You will need for 2:

MEATBALLS:
  • 250g turkey mince
  • 1 dsp dark soy
  • 1 dsp fish sauce
  • zest of 1 lime
  • Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander
  • 3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp breadcrumbs
RICE:
  • 130g dried brown basmatti rice
  • 1 tbsp mirin or 1 tsp brown sugar
  • Juice of half lime
  • Mix of your favourite stir fry veg e.g. pak choi, mangetout, sugar snap peas, baby corn , sliced mushrooms etc
  • 1tsp groundnut or vegetable oil
  • Handful fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp chopped ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or crushed
  • Pinch chilli flakes or 1 fresh chilli (optional)
Rice the rice in a sieve under cold water. Place in a pan of boiling salted water and cook for 30 minutes or according to packet instructions.  Once cooked, drain and pour over boiling water from the kettle.  Leave to cool and place in fridge until required.

Meanwhile prepare the meatballs in advance by mixing all the ingredients together with your hands then dividing into 10 meatballs. I tend to weigh mine to ensure each one is equal which is approx 30g each. Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge until required.

Get all your veggies, garlic, chilli & ginger ready before you start to stir fry. You will need a small frying or griddle pan for the meatballs and a wok or large frying pan for the rice. I find it easier to do these separately and they roughly take the same amount of time - 5-7 minutes. 

Spritz a tiny amount of oil onto the meatballs and place in hot griddle pan, turning to brown all over. Once browned, turn the heat down and cover with a lid so they cook through. You could also place in a hot oven to ensure they cook through.

At the same time, heat the 1tsp oil in your wok. Stir fry the veggies with the garlic, ginger and chilli for a couple of minutes. Add the soy sauce, mirin or sugar and lime juice. Once the veggies are nicely cooked (about 4-5 minutes) add the rice. Using a metal spoon or spatula keep stirring so the sauce coats the rice nicely and the rice heats through thoroughly.

Serve the stir fried rice on the plate topped with the meatballs.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 13


    Friday, 6 January 2012

    Broccoli & Blue Cheese Soup

    My fridge is bursting with leftover cheese but clearly this does not bode well with the whole healthy eating, losing weight mission that naturally follows the festive season. 

    Cheese has to be my sin of choice. In fact I frequently choose a cheese plate over a pudding when eating out.  I kind of consider myself a bit of a cheese snob. No boring old Port Salut or the Christmas standard stilton on my cheeseboard!  Favourites on our cheeseboard this Christmas included Ossau Iraty, Sardinian aged pecorino and Cashel Blue. I somehow ended up with the leftover cheese from New Years Eve dinner party where we all brought a course to our friends house. I've been very good not to tuck into any of it this week, but can't stand the fact that it's sitting in the fridge waiting to be devoured! 

    The leftover New Years Eve cheese was dolcelatte so this is what I used in the soup, but you can use your favourite blue cheese or whatever is lurking in your fridge.



    Serves 4:
    • 1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
    • 1 large potato: 350g when peeled and chopped
    • 1 bay leaf
    • Spritz of olive oil
    • Head of broccoli, approx 350g.
    • 1.5 litre water
    • 1 vegetable stock cube
    • Seasoning
    • 60g blue cheese, crumbled or chopped

    What to do:

    This is quite a quick soup to prepare as it doesn't require much chopping.  Get the kettle on the boil to begin with. Then, spritz your saucepan with a little olive oil and saute the onions on a moderate to low heat for a few minutes until soft. Add a touch of water if too dry.  Prepare the broccoli by removing the stalks from the main tree. Discard the tree part and then separate the stalks from the florets. The stalks take a bit longer to cook and overcooking the florets will result in a loss of the the lovely green colour so it's best to separate them.


    Add the diced potato and the stalks from the broccoli followed by boiling water. Judge the amount of water based on how well it covers the vegetables. You will need approx 1.5 litres. Crumble the stock cube in and add the bay leaf and season.  Leave to bubble away for 15 minutes and then add the florets.  Cook for another 5-8 minutes until the potatoes and broccoli stalks are tender. Remove the bay leaf and blend. Put the soup back on a low heat and stir in the cheese so it melts.

    Serve with 50g wedge of baguette and some freshly ground black pepper.

    WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 3 for the soup, 3 for 50g baguette

    Thursday, 5 January 2012

    Pastina in Brodo

    So the New Year has started and I am back on a healthy eating mission after a wonderful few weeks of indulgence. My birthday, Christmas, New Year and the holiday period has left me half a stone heavier. But it has been well worth it! 

    The weather has been up to all sorts this week with that biting wind fiercely blowing.  What better way to warm up when it's cold outside with baby pasta in a homemade chicken broth or 'pastina in brodo'.  I've had this dish cooked for me many times over the years by various members of my husbands Sicilian family. I have always loved it and learnt how to make it a few years back.  Watch the pasta portions if you are WeightWatching, but overall it is a low fat, healthy but very tasty meal.  My kids absolutely love pastina and it is one of those versatile meals that we can sit down together as a family and all enjoy.  It's also the only food I can get into my 5 year old when he is sick!

    You'll need for 3- 4 adults or 2 adults and 2 kids:

    • 6-8 chicken thighs and drumsticks
    • 1 medium to large onion, halved then quartered
    • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
    • 3-4 sticks of celery, cut into 2 or 4 pieces per stick
    • 1 tsp black peppercorns
    • 1 few parsley stalks
    • 1-2 bay leaves
    • 1-2 tsp salt
    • 3-4 vine tomatoes, halved then quartered
    • 250g - 300g baby pasta such as farfalline

    What to do:

    In a very large saucepan place all the ingredients in and cover to the top with cold water from the tap. It should be around 3 litres but this very much depends on the size of your pan. Place on a high heat and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally. Once boiling, reduce heat a little so it doesn't boil over. After 15-20 minutes use the wooden spoon to press the tomatoes against the side of the pan to extract out all the flavour.

    Add the salt, treading cautiously if cooking for children. You can always add more for adult taste later.

    After 45 minutes or so, depending on the size of the chicken you should have a delicious tasting chicken stock. Using tongs, remove the chicken carefully and set aside.

    Using a large colander and another saucepan, strain the vegetables catching the stock in the new saucepan.  Depending on the size saucepan you used originally you may have leftover stock. I usually have enough to freeze a container full (approx 1 litre) for the kids to have another time, or you have some fabulous homemade stock to use in any other dish requiring it.  To be sure you use the right amount of broth for the quantity of pasta, put 1 litre-ish aside and top up if there is not enough for the next step.

    Place the new saucepan with the stock on the heat and bring to a boil. Add the baby pasta and reduce the heat slightly, cooking until the pasta is cooked through. This usually takes about 5-6 minutes. Do not be tempted to speed up the process by cooking the pasta seperately in water! The pasta absorbs all the wonderful flavours from the broth and is what really makes this dish so utterly moreish.

    There are a number of ways you can serve this dish. For the kids I chop the chicken and carrots up and mix it in the pasta and broth with loads of parmesan grated on top. In true Italian fashion, we like to have the chicken as our 'secondi', or second course along with salad or vegetables. Don't waste the delicious tasting carrots and celery used in the broth(this is the reason I peel my carrots) and finish them off in a hot oven to serve with the chicken.  This evening we ate the pastina at 5pm with the kids and then much later ate the chicken, heated in a hot oven along with the vegetables and some roasted butternut squash.  Perfecto!



    WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 12
    (based on 80g pasta, 1 large chicken thigh & 1 large drumstick per person)