Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy new year!

As the sun sets on 2009 (how saccharine sweet can you get!! - sorry.) ...

(photo: Windows XP 'Sample Pictures')

Happy new year to everyone who comes across this post!

Have you made your resolutions yet?
I resolve to:
1.  Keep blogging
2.  Keep making up menus and shopping lists
3.  Keep the weight I have lost off
4.  Keep on keeping my Brownie promise to "help other people every day, especially those at home"

 What are yours? I hope one of them will be to try out some of my recipes!

If you are out on the roads tonight, take care and come home safely.

Until next year...

Meal planning

Menu planning takes quite a lot of patience and attention to detail.
I still use recipe books and magazines for inspiration, but I often find that I hone in on one or two key ingredients and then my imagination and experience takes over. Sometimes what I make is a great success. Sometimes a disaster; it's edible, and fills the gap, but it is not something I will make again - or share with you!
So I go about my ten-point planning like this:
1.  In any seven day cycle, I will have 2 chicken dishes, 2 fish dishes, 2 vegetarian dishes and 1 'other'. The 'other' dish may be another chicken, fish or veg dish, but it is usually a red meat meal
2.  Each meal must come with a different starch - bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, couscous etc.
3.  If a starch is repeated in a seven day cycle, then there must be at least two full meals between repetitions.
4.  If there is no animal protein in the meal, then there must be a combination of foods that provide all the necessary amino acids.
5.  There must be at least three vegetables in or with the dish.
6.  There must be a small amount of fat: I seldom cook with added oil, I would certainly never add animal fat, other than that occuring naturally in the animal protein.
7.  There must be fibre.
8. Each recipe must be 'new' - there will obviously be similarities, these will inevitably happen. But not often enough for you to get tired of them - and they are only similarities.
9.  Ingredients must be readily available - I'm not going to make a special trip to buy one item. OK, I do go to the Chinese market occassionally.
10.  Nothing must keep me in the kitchen for more than 45mins. I am basically a lazy cook - recipes have to be simple and quick. And not make too much mess.

It takes time. But I enjoy the challenge of cooking something different every night.
I hope you will, too.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Out to lunch

I know a lot of people who skip lunch altogether. They work straight through the lunch hour, without the thought of food even crossing their minds. Or they have to pop out of the office to 'quickly run errands'.
If you don't eat lunch, (did you have breakfast this morning, like you promised? I doubt it!) you will be ravenous come 4pm, and ready to stuff your face with the first edible thing that comes to hand - a pie from the cafe, biscuits, chocolate - with no consideration of the nutritional value. You won't make it through to dinner time in a friendly, co-operative frame of mind. The kids and/or spouse will suffer, too.
And imagine where your cortisol levels are!
It's easy enough to pack a lunch to take to the office - make it the night before, if the morning really is too rushed. Soup, a salad or a sandwich are all nicely portable. So is fruit. And nuts and seeds. As with breakfast, include some protein. Tuna, ham, egg and cheese all make good sandwich fillings and salad toppings. Nuts and seeds are also good sources of protein and fibre.
In my lunch pack (photo) I have a tuna mayo sandwich with lettuce, tomato and cucumber. An apple, a few grapes, a cheese triangle and some pecan nuts.
Actually, I couldn't eat it all. I ate the sandwich and the apple, and that was plenty for me.

What did you have for lunch today?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wakey, wakey! Rise and shine...

Most of us are rushed off our feet in the morning - trying to get the kids off to school and ourselves to the office on time, but, and I know you've heard it before, I'm going to say it again: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I mean it. I fought against it for years, but it's true.                             

I was never a great fan of breakfast. It was a meal I could quite happily go without - except for the gargantuan-I'm-on-holiday-after-10am-buffet variety: fruit, cereal, yoghurt, eggs, bacon, toast, marmalade etc, etc. But breakfast every day? No thanks. At least, not until I learned about cortisol.
After fasting all night, cortisol levels in the blood are raised. High cortisol levels encourage fat formation and storage. To balance and reduce cortisol levels, you need insulin. You can encourage the production of insulin by eating.
Now I am a big fan of breakfast. Wouldn't miss it. Most days it is something small; cereal or toast, with fruit or yoghurt, sometimes a piece of cheese.
Wholewheat bread and wholegrain cereals are best, as they are usually low GI - they will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Introduce some protein - milk, yoghurt, cheese - and breakfast will see you through to lunch without a problem.
So, have some breakfast tomorrow morning. For the sake of your waistline. Promise?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sensible shopping... and other ideas

I'm definitely a 'ducks-in-a-row' kind of person. When I undertake a project, I like to have all the relevant information and the necessary tools to hand before I start. This style of thinking led me to realise that if I want to help anyone change their lifestyle, I need to supply the
whys.and.wherefores at the outset.
Working with my nutrition clients, I have often found that they struggle with (self-imposed) time constraints. Time constraints can be changed, though this has to be a fairly slow and gradual process (I'll come back to time management another day). The same goes for eating habits. These, too, can be changed. After all, a habit is just that - a habit.
We can 'give up' alcohol. We can 'give up smoking'. But we cannot 'give up' eating. It is all about making choices - and living with the consequences.
A very useful tool to use at the beginning of lifestyle change is a diary or journal. A little notebook that fits in a pocket or handbag, or a file on the desktop - whatever is convenient. Whenever you eat or drink anything, jot it down with the time and a reason (habit, mealtime, hungry, thirsty). Do this for a week, and then review the information. It can be a revealing exercise.
Eating needs to be balanced; wise food choices and considered portion sizes to fulfill the body's needs. Notice I said needs, not wants.
Changing your style of eating requires a fair amount of planning. I have done a lot of the work for you by supplying the recipes and (partial) shopping list, but you still have to have a rough idea of what you will buy to eat for breakfasts and lunches. Even if you follow my recipes religiously, you will not magically improve your health - unless you have been eating burgers and chips every night! Some thought is required.
Having said that, I guess some pointers on wise shopping are in order. People are, generally, fairly orderly - we start at one end of the shop, go up and down the aisles until we reach the other end, and then proceed to the check-out.
Most supermarkets are laid out with the fresh foods around the perimeter. Of course we still need to cruise some of the aisles - we need toothpaste, washing powder, tinned foods, frozen fish etc - but most of our eating needs can be satisfied around the walls.
Fruit and vegetables: Buy only what you need. Buy loose when possible (generally cheaper, and you can check the condition). Buy the best you can afford. Don't buy stuff because it is on special unless you know you will use it before it spoils.
Eggs and dairy: Buy low-fat or, better still, fat free. If you feel you can't make the switch to fat free in one step, then switch to low fat this month and fat free next month. If you have children under two years of age they still need full fat milk, yoghurt and cheese, so you will be buying full fat products for them - that doesn't mean you have to use full fat for yourself. I usually buy the large size eggs, an egg is an egg after all. I used to buy the Omega 3 variety, but I'm really not sure that the amount of Omega 3 I get from my two eggs a week warrants the price difference. I do buy free-range or grain-fed - on humanitarian grounds.
Meat: Pick the leanest cuts possible - yes, you will pay a bit more, but everything you're paying for, you can eat. On the same basis, buy off-the-bone (unless you're buying shin for soup) - why pay for bone weight?
Poultry: I usually buy chicken from a wholesaler - it is a bit cheaper, but you do need to have freezer space available. Buy un-frozen so you can package it according to need before freezing it yourself. Otherwise you can end up with a solid kilo lump of chicken which takes ages to thaw - and has to be used immediately.
Fish: We are not exactly spoiled for choice in the Highveld. There is hake. There is haddock (which, though technically a totally different breed, is just dyed hake in this country). There is Cape whiting. Then there are kingklip, salmon and trout - all horrendously priced. I don't understand why, because we have trout fisheries in this country. You can only get reasonably priced trout if you go and catch it yourself - but then you have to de-scale and gut it. I usually buy frozen hake and whiting, in bulk and on price. Prices tend to vary according to the size of the fillets in the pack, so 'petite' are the least expensive.
Bakery: Go for whole wheat and whole grain products - the same applies to breakfast cereals.

Ready? Shopping list in hand? Oh, did you want the link for the recipes and list for Week 1 again?Here is the shopping list for Week 1.
And now go here for the recipes.
Or you can scroll down to "Week 1 recipe re-run on screen" dated December 20th.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Christmas lunch in the Southern Hemishere looks like this:

and like this:

and, best of all... like this!!! He is sooooooo special!

A perfect day.

The only thing missing... my beautiful, precious grand-daughters in England.

Miss you, my darlings.
Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The driving machine

My husband's entire family has always been car crazy. Weekends have always included some sort of car-related activity - driving, tinkering, washing, servicing - so it is easy to understand why I use the car as a convenient analogy.

The human body can be compared to a car. The body's driving force is the brain (engine).
Nutrients are taken in through the mouth (filler cap), and pass to the stomach (petrol/diesel tank).
The stomach begins the digestion process, and prepares the nutrients we have ingested for combustion (combustion).
Just as you wouldn't fill your diesel car's tank with petrol (or vice versa), you should take care to fill your stomach with nutritious foods in the right quantities. The fuel tank on a car is rigid (ok, not entirely), which means that it can hold so much and no more. Our stomachs are not rigid, but are possessed of almost inexhaustible expansion; to the extent that we can eat, and eat, and eat, and eat....... to the point of discomfort, usually accompanied by much groaning!

This time of year is always associated with eating, drinking, gift giving and socializing. Let's rather focus on the giving. Let's give out bodies a break. Ease up on the consumption of alcohol and give our livers a break. Let's give ourselves a healthier body, so that we can give the ones we love more time and energy.

Have a happy, relaxed, safe festive season. I want all my readers to come back, safe and sound, and ready to follow a new dietary path with me.

P.S. Thanks to my grandson for the loan of his dinkies.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Summer lunch for two

My father hated yoghurt, and he wouldn't eat an avo if you paid him! However, this soup is absolutely delicious, and he loved it.
Put a peeled, de-stoned avocado in the liquidizer, add 1 cup of fat free natural yoghurt, 1 cup of skim milk and a generous tablespoon of mint sauce. Whoosh altogether. Test for seasoning - you will need to add a little salt and a good grind of black pepper, and maybe more mint sauce. Thin it down with more milk, if it's too thick. You might also want to sharpen it up a little with some lemon juice. Serve immediately (it discolours if you let it stand too long) with crusty bread. Unfortunately, this is high in calories/kilojoules. But at least the oils in the avo are mono-unsaturated and healthy.
4.5 Weight Watcher points per serve, without the bread. Very filling, though.

Monday, December 21, 2009

getting forgetful in my old age!

I added chunks of low-fat mozarella to the salad platter, too.
If I'd had time, I might have put hard boiled eggs in there.
Oh, well. Next time, maybe.

lunch in a hurry...

I don't know what it is about Saturdays, but they are over before they even start. There is always a myriad things to do.

During term time, I am day-mother to my stunningly-gorgeous-adorable-14month old grandson, so week days are pretty full (yes, I will be giving some baby-friendly recipes in the near future; look out for those). So when the weekend comes around, I have to catch up on those necessary chores like washing, menu planning, shopping and chilling-out. Notice how 'chilling out' is bottom of the list!

Anyway, I was expecting visitors for Sunday lunch, but this conflicted with their travel plans, so the date was brought forward to Saturday. Needless to say, they would have had the same meal presented to them Sunday, so the difference was the time available.

By the time I had finished my weekly skype call with my eldest child in London - isn't technology wonderful? - it was mid-day. The photo just goes to show what you can elegantly put on the table in 25 minutes (you do not want to know what my kitchen looked like, an hour later!)
A low-fat, healthy meal. Literally in minutes.

The soup was a classic gazpacho with salsa, served in tea glasses:
Serves 8 with no leftovers - more's the pity.
2 x 400gm cans of chopped tomatoes (chilled)
200gms Italian cherry (Rosa) tomatoes
2 tsp crushed garlic - or more. Or less.
2 tots of vodka - or more. Or less.
2 Tblsp sweet chilli sauce - or more. Or less.
Salt, freshly ground black pepper and worcestershire sauce to taste

Whoosh all together in a liquidizer (I did mine in two batches).
Then sample. (You have to check the seasoning, don't you?)

The salsa was made up of finely chopped:
1 red onion
more garlic
1/2 a small cucumber
1 small red bell pepper (capsicum)
1 small yellow pepper - or green
1 green chilli -deseeded
2 Tblsp chopped fresh parsley or coriander

Stir well to combine. Add a bit more vodka.

This floats quite comfortably on the gazpacho provided you position it gently, with a steady hand.

For the salad, I took a large platter, and artfully arranged on it:
1 small pillow pack of baby leaf salad
1 small pillow pack of rocket, basil and baby spinach
2 large firm ripe avocados, each sliced into 1/8ths
a pack of asparagus spears (about 16 spears) cooked 2 mins in the microwave in a little water
the other 1/2 of the cucumber used for the salsa
2 spring onions
3 small firm ripe nectarines cut into thin wedges

Then, for the dressing, I combined:
1 Tblsp of wholegrain mustard
1 Tblsp low fat Mayo (I like Helman's)
1 Tblsp lemon juice
and I added about a teaspoon of caster sugar.

I put wholewheat rolls on the table. And, to my chagrin (dictionary def: acute vexation or mortification - I felt both!) my husband insisted on putting out Vienna sausages.

No left overs. Just lots and lots of dishes.

That was Saturday.
And then it was Monday.
What happened to Sunday?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Week 1 recipe re-run on screen

If you want to save a tree, then you can view the shopping list and recipes for Week 1 right here, right now. Take your laptop to the kitchen, clear a space on the counter and get started.

Week 1 Menu

a) Linguine with fish poppets
b) Ginger pork with cabbage
c) Avocado and orange salad with chicken
d) Butternut and chickpea curry
e) Salmon with caper cream, spinach and new potatoes

a) Linguine with fish poppets
800gm skinless haddock fillets
2-3 slices bread, crumbed
1 large egg
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup chopped parsley
60gm strong cheese, grated
400gm can chopped tomatoes
1 Tblsp tomato paste
½ cup wine
                                                240gm (dry) linguine
Chop the haddock, and squeeze out any excess moisture.
Place the haddock, egg, garlic, parsley and cheese in a mixing bowl.
Mix well. Add half the breadcrumbs and mix again.
Keep mixing in breadcrumbs until the mixture is firm.

Take large teaspoonfuls of the fish mixture and compress into balls.
Roll the balls in a little flour.

Start the linguine cooking, according to the instructions on the pack.

Heat a large frying pan with a tablespoon of oil.
Fry the poppets in the oil until they are nicely browned all over.

Remove the poppets from the pan. Drain off any excess oil from the pan.
Tip the chopped tomatoes and paste into the frying pan, and boil until the sauce is reduced.

Stir the wine into the sauce.

Add the poppets back into the pan. Heat through.
Serve with linguine and a fresh salad.

(The poppets can be made up to a day ahead. They make excellent party snacks.)

b) Ginger pork with cabbage
500gm pork fillet, trimmed and sliced
2 Tblsp soy sauce
1 Tblsp honey
½ tsp Chinese five spice
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp olive oil

Accompaniment ingredients
250gm egg noodles
150gm cabbage, cored and shredded
150gm spinach, washed and shredded
1 small red bell pepper, deseeded and diced
1 red or green chili, finely chopped
A handful of bean sprouts

Mix the marinade ingredients together in a shallow bowl.
Add the pork, turn to coat, and allow to stand while you prepare the vegetables.

Tip the pork and marinade into a heated pan. Keep the pork moving so that the honey doesn’t catch.

Cook the noodles in plenty of water, according to the packet instructions.
Just before the noodles are cooked, add the shredded cabbage and spinach, the diced
bell pepper and the chopped chili.
Return to the boil and allow to cook for a further 2 mins.
Stir well to combine. Drain.

Divide the vegetable-noodles and the pork between 4 serving plates.
Garnish with bean sprouts.
Serve with extra soy and sweet chili sauce if desired.

c) Avocado and orange salad with chicken
±600gm skinless chicken breasts
cut into strips
1 Tblsp lemon juice
Grated rind of 1 orange
2 Tblsp orange juice
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
Good grind of black pepper
4 Tblsp orange juice
1 Tblsp wholegrain mustard
3 Tblsp cider vinegar
1 Tblsp olive oil
another tsp grated fresh ginger
More black pepper
1 (100gm) pack of mixed lettuce
2 large oranges, skin and pith removed, and segments cut free
1 firm, ripe avocado
generous handful of black olives
salad sprouts

Combine marinade ingredients in a shallow dish.
Add chicken pieces, turn to coat each piece.

Cover the dish and refrigerate for 30 mins.

Put a little olive oil in a pan (or use a cooking spray) and heat the pan.
Take the chicken out of the marinade and then fry it until nicely browned and cooked through.

Mix the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.
Pour dressing into the frying pan and boil while stirring until reduced to about ½.

Tip the mixed lettuce into a bowl. Top with the orange segments, avocado slices, olives, sprouts
and chicken.

Pour the dressing over the salad while still warm.

Serve with hot crusty bread.


d) Butternut and chickpea curry

2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
5 cardomom pods, crushed
½ tsp chilli powder (optional)
2 onions,finely chopped
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 sm. butternut – about 500gm
400gm can chopped tomatoes
300gm can chickpeas
70gm red lentils
2 cups veg stock
1 Tblsp tomato paste
240gm rice

Peel and chop the onions.
Peel and crush the garlic.
Deseed and peel the butternut, and chop roughly.
Drain and rinse the chickpeas.

Start the rice cooking.
Drain when tender.
Keep warm.

Meanwhile, spray a large pan with cooking spray. Place over heat.
Cook onions and garlic until the onions are soft, stirring all the time.
Add the spices to the onion/garlic mix, stirring to combine.

Add the butternut, chickpeas, tomatoes, paste, stock and lentils.
Cook over low heat until lentils and butternut are tender.

Serve with rice and sweet chilli sauce.


d) Salmon with caper cream

4 salmon steaks (about 100gm each)
4 Tblsp fat-free smooth cottage cheese
1 Tblsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tblsp capers, drained and chopped
2-3 Tblsp chopped parsley
500gm bag baby spinach, well washed
500gm new potatoes, scrubbed and halved
Measure out the cottage cheese, lemon juice, capers and parsley into a small bowl.
Mix well to combine.

Place new potatoes in a pan with some water, and cook until tender.

Spray the salmon, both sides, with cooking spray (or brush with oil – your choice).
Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat a ridged pan (griddle pan) and dry-fry the fish for about 5 mins each side,
until the steaks are golden and the fish flakes easily.
Remove from the pan and allow the salmon to rest.

Place the spinach into the griddle pan, season well, add a splash of water.
Cover the pan, and allow the spinach to wilt.

Divide spinach and potatoes between four dinner plates.
Add 1 salmon steak to each plate.
Garnish with the caper cream and lemon wedges.

And now for the shopping list - but you still need to print this off, or copy by hand.

a) 800gm haddock fillets
b) 500gm pork fillet
c) 600gm chicken breasts
e) 400gm salmon steaks


a) 60gm strong cheese
e) 60gm fat free smooth cottage cheese

[Fat reduced feta]

a) 3 slc whole wheat bread
c) Ciabatta or Panini loaf

[Sandwich loaf]

a) 240gm w/w linguine
b) 250gm egg noodles
d) 240gm brown rice
d) 70gm red lentils

[Breakfast cereal]
[Tea, coffee, sugar]

a) 400gm+ chopped tomatoes
d) 400gm+ chopped tomatoes
d) 300gm+ chickpeas

{Check – You may already have some of these}
Soy sauce
Clear honey
Chinese 5 spice
Black pepper
Iodated salt
Wholegrain mustard
Apple cider vinegar
Olive oil
Kalamata olives
Ground coriander
Ground cumin
Cardamom pods
Chilli powder
Tomato paste
Veg stock powder
White wine (a box is fine)

Fresh garlic
Bunch of fresh parsley

a) ±20cm fresh c)root ginger
b) Small cabbage
b) ±150gm baby spinach
±500gm baby spinach
b) 1 small red bell pepper
b) 1 red or green chilli
b) ±100gn bean sprouts
c) 1 lemon
c) 3 large oranges
c) 1 firm, ripe avocado
c) ±150gm salad sprouts
c) 1 pillow pack mixed lettuce
d) 2 brown onions
d) ±500gm butternut
e) 500gm baby new potatoes

[Remember to get makings for green salads and any veg you need for the two unplanned days.]
[Buy fresh seasonal fruit for munching.]

Other categories you may need: Baby needs; Cleaning stuff; Drinks; Pet food; Toiletries

You can still scroll down for links to the .pdf files.
The recipes look much prettier in that format.
For that matter you can look at the .pdf files on screen!

Good cooking!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Recipes for Week One

Although the recipes are intended for use starting January 4th 2010, a few friends have suggested that I give the links to the recipes and shopping list today, as many readers will be away for the next week or so. It seems everyone is eager to see what is in store for the new year.

Firstly, I want to emphasize, no recipe is written in stone. If I use an ingredient that you don’t like or can’t get, don’t panic – substitute.
My recipes are all for four servings: is this right for you? It is easy enough to scale them up or down – but whatever changes you make to the recipes, carry across to the shopping list.

Secondly, the shopping list (also for four people) doesn’t always stipulate quantities. The supermarkets I use sell things like carrots and potatoes by the bag, not as singular items.
If the item appears on the shopping list in colour and coded (a, b, c, d, e) then it is required for a specific recipe.
If it is in black and uncoded, then it is stuff that you need, but maybe already have (spices, herbs, mayo).
If the item appears in black and in square brackets [], then it is just a suggestion or a reminder. Most of us buy things like eggs and milk on a regular basis, but whether you have shopped with or without a list in the past, you know how irritating it is to get home and realize that you ‘forgot’ something.

You will need to spend half an hour with a cup of tea, and the recipes and shopping list, double checking that everything you need is listed. Also take into consideration purchases required for breakfasts and lunches – and the two evenings of the week that I haven’t given you a recipe: will you go out? have take-aways? a frozen ready-meal?

Let’s look at the menu for week one:

a) Linguine with fish poppets (WW points 9 per serve, including pasta)
If you have a cupboard full of pasta shapes, use those up first, the type of pasta really doesn’t matter.
You could have rice, noodles or mash instead, for that matter.
Haddock does have quite a strong flavour, so use a white fish such as hake for a milder taste.

b) Ginger pork with cabbage (WW points 8 per serve, including noodles)
If you don’t like chillies, leave them out. Don’t eat pork? Use chicken breast instead.

c) Avocado and orange salad with chicken (WW points 5 per serve)
Make this a hot salad if the evening is cold– leave out the avo and lettuce and stir-fry cabbage and courgettes with the orange segments. Warm the dressing.

d) Butternut and chickpea curry (WW points 5.5 per serve)
This is a very mild curry; spice it up if you like hot.
You can use kidney- or cannellini beans instead of the chick peas.

e) Salmon with caper cream, spinach and new potatoes (WW points 5 per serve)
Tuna steaks would work just as well as salmon, or use kingklip, hake or whiting.

Fellow Weight Watchers, you will have to re-point the recipes if you change them.

Remember to carry any changes in recipes across to the shopping list.

Here is the shopping list for Week One.

Now go here for the recipes.

I hope you will enjoy preparing and eating these meals.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A recurrent favourite

Soup: n. usually a savoury liquid dish, made by boiling meat, fish or vegetables etc. in water or stock.

That doesn't sound very appetizing to me, and yet I love soup. I eat/drink it almost daily. Sometimes hot, sometimes cold.

The soup in the photo was today's lunch, and it's really easy to make and freezes well.
Take note, all fellow Weight Watchers, this one is no points.

Butternut and carrot soup - yield for these quantities: 6 - 8 servings (approx 350ml per serve)
Peel and clean 1 medium sized butternut, 4-5 big carrots and 2 onions. (I usually just scrub and top'n'tail the carrots.) Or you can use all butternut or all carrot, just use double quantities of either.
Chop all the veg roughly and put in a large pan with 1 level Tblsp veg/chicken stock powder.
Add enough water to cover (more water = thinner soup).
Cover with a lid and bring to the boil then simmer approx 25 mins until vegetables are very tender. Blitz or liquidize until smooth.
At this point, you can add:
1 - 2 Tblsp of your favourite curry paste (I like Patak's Tikka Masala) OR
1/2 - 1 Tblsp chopped fresh ginger OR
1 -2 Tblsp chopped coriander OR
Grated rind and juice of 1 orange.
Blitz again, adding more water if you want thinner soup.

If you are going to freeze this, don't make it too thin - it gets thinner in the freezer.
When you thaw it, it looks a bit grainy so it helps to give it another blitz.
Serve hot or chilled, with a swirl of fat free natural yoghurt. Or a slice of orange.

Or a sprig of Petroselinum crispum.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The humble herb

My mother taught me always to buy fresh parsley in large quantities, chop it and freeze it. Then I always have it on hand to add to any dish I’m cooking.

So, last evening, while I was cooking supper, I destalked the parsley from two boxes – bought in the same supermarket, off the same shelf, on the same day, both labeled ‘Parsley’. But they were different. One box contained the curly leaf variety (petroselinum crispum), the other contained the flat leaf type (p. neopolitanum), and I wandered what the difference - other than appearance – is.

There are actually at least thirty seven different varieties of parsley, but it is the curly variety that is used in herbal medicine – and aromatherapy.

According to Wikipedia (, both are of the same order (apiales) and family (apiaceae). But the curly variety is the main species, and the flat leaf is a sub-species. Supposedly, the flat leaf has a stronger flavour – it has higher levels of essential oils. Personally, I can’t tell the difference in taste. However, I would always choose the curly leaf because it is much easier to de-stalk and chop, and it makes a much prettier garnish (pretty much ubiquitous on every restaurant plate). In England at least, the curly leaf variety is cheaper, too.

Coriander (aka Chinese parsley or cilantro) is of the same order and species as parsley, but is lower in nutrients and calories/kilojoules. Coriander has 20 kcals/84 kilojoules per 100gms, parsley has twice that – not that anyone is likely to eat 100gm of either at one sitting!

Parsley has medicinal uses, too. A tea made from parsley is said to control high blood pressure. When crushed and applied to the skin, parsley can relieve itchy mosquito bites – useful to know in this country, at this time of year! And of course, there is the old folk remedy – chew parsley to alleviate the smell of garlic on the breath. I think this rather depends on the quantity of each consumed!

All this, because I took my husband to lunch today, and guess what… there was NO parsley garnish.

Anniversaries today: The Boston Tea Party 1773 - damn all taxes!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Healthy eating made easy

Recently, a friend of mine said to me that she was very concerned about what she eats between Christmas and New Year. We should all be far more concerned with what we eat between New Year and Christmas!

If we can develop a habit of healthy portion sizes and wise food choices, then we will all feel and look a whole lot better. This is where I hope I can be of help to busy people leading hectic lives.

Each week I will supply five main meal recipes, and a shopping list to go with it.
I'm only supplying five recipes so there are two days when you can:- eat out /let someone else do the cooking/just have baked beans on toast. Or you can use up fridge contents or make a family favourite.
I hope your family will find some new favourites among my recipes.

The shopping list assumes that you have nothing in the fridge, freezer or pantry, so you will need to go through it to check which items you still need to buy.
You will need to go through each recipe, too, to check for family food allergens - if you make changes to a recipe, make sure that you remember to apply those changes on the shopping list. The list is colour coded (and labelled, in case you only want to print in black), with the recipe names at the top, also colour coded and labelled. You may also need to scale the quantities up or down, depending on how many you are feeding.

Please visit again, I will put up the first week's shopping list and recipes next Monday (21st December) so you can print off a copy and be ready to start a healthier lifestyle in the New Year.

In the meantime, please leave a comment, so I know someone found me!
And suggestions are always welcome.

Monday, December 14, 2009

About me

One day, I woke up and realized that I was fat! I joined Weight Watchers,and, over the course of a year, I lost 18kg. During that year, I designed a healthy eating plan,to keep the weight off. On this blog I share my menus, recipes and shopping lists - and probably some other stuff, too. All my recipes are tried (by me) and tested (by my husband). Welcome to my blog-cook-book.

I've been cooking since I was about eleven, but after that many years I was tired of all the 'tried and tested' family favourites. Now I prepare a different meal every night - often my husband almost begs for a repeat, but that's not going to happen any time soon!

I have three children, two girls and a boy. I have three grandchildren, two girls and a boy! I have the great good fortune to be day-mother to my grandson (my son's son), it is so special to have him with me and we have a lovely bond. I missed my little grand daughters (my second daughter's daughters) growing up through the early years because they live overseas, and I really regret that I don't know them very well. Of course, we visit them when we can, and they come here on holiday when they can. But it is a horrendous trip - especially with little ones, and with the world economy the way it has been for the last while, the cost is pretty scary too. At least there is Skype, and those calls are very precious to me.

My older daughter always said I should be certified - so now I am. I am certified in: anatomy and physiology; aromatherapy; diet and nutrition; holistic massage and hypnotherapy. My favourite is nutrition. I avoid use of the word 'diet' where possible, because it has such negative connotations - although everybody has a diet that they follow! Oh, and I have a degree in psychology. Does that mean I'm qualified to certify myself?