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

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

  • 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


  • 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