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


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

- 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

- 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:

  • 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
  • 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)