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Friday, December 24, 2010

Blue cheese pasta : Wk52/5

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
240gms linguine

400gm broccoli florets
3 leeks, sliced

2 cups/500ml fat free milk
I Tblsp cornflour (maizena)
45gm Danish blue cheese
100gm fat free plain yoghurt

Method

Precook the broccoli and leeks until just tender (or use frozen that you have thawed).

Cook the linguine in a large pan with plenty of lightly salted boiling water until al dente.
(If you’re using frozen veg, add them to the pasta for the last 5 minutes to heat through.)
Drain and keep warm.

Mix the cornflour into the milk and pour into the pan.
Bring to the boil, stirring all the time.
Add the cheese and yoghurt and continue stirring over a low heat until the cheese melts.
Tip the pasta and veg into the sauce and turn and stir well to combine.

Serve with grated parmesan, if desired.
This recipe needs no additional salt – the blue cheese is already salty enough.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Review (13)

In case you want to look back, here are the links for recipes and shopping lists for weeks 49 - 52:
Week 49
Week 50
Week 51
Week 52

Pawpaw salad : Wk52/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
Ingredients
65gm 2-minute noodles
1 small pawpaw (papino), sliced
6 spring onions, sliced diagonally
200gm bean sprouts
½ cucumber, cut in thick matchsticks
2 large carrots, grated
Small bunch of fresh mint, chopped
Small bunch coriander, chopped
3 smoked chicken breasts, sliced
Dressing
1 Tblsp sesame oil
2 Tblsp lemon juice
1 Tblsp Roses lime cordial
1 Tblsp soy sauce
1 tsp grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Garnish
Lemon wedges
2 Tblsp sesame seeds

Method
Don’t be dismayed by the long list of ingredients.
This is so quick and easy.

Break the noodles into a bowl.
Cover with boiling water and allow to stand for 5 minutes while you make the dressing.

Mix together all the dressing ingredients in a small jug or screw-top jar.

Rinse the noodles in cold water and drain.
Peel, de-seed and slice the pawpaw.
Place in a large bowl, along with the onions, sprouts, cucumber, carrots, mint and coriander.
Add the noodles and chicken and toss well.

Pile onto 4 dinner plates or bowls.
Garnish with lemon wedges and sesame seeds.
Let everyone serve their own dressing.
I used smoked chicken breasts, but you could use left-over chicken or turkey – in which case you will need about 400gms of meat, chopped or shredded.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Updated

I have updated all the recipe collections, up to and including Week 52.
Click on the links to the right of your screen.

Fish and raita : Wk52/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
480gm new potatoes, halved
1 large bunch spinach ±400gm

4 cooked beetroot, diced
4 Tblsp fat free plain yoghurt
2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 – 2 cloves garlic, crushed

4 skinless hake fillets
4 Tblsp cornflour
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp fish seasoning
1 Tblsp vegetable oil

Method
Cook the potatoes in lightly salted water for about 15 minutes.
Drain and keep warm.

Steam the spinach, just until it has wilted and heated through.
Keep warm.

Combine the yoghurt, garlic and mustard seeds.
Pour over the diced beetroot, but only stir it through as you serve the raita.

Mix together the cornflour, coriander, cumin and fish seasoning and place in a long, shallow dish.
Pat the fish dry with absorbent kitchen paper then lightly coat with the cornflour and spices.

Spray the coated fillets and a large frying pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Pour the oil into the pan and place over a medium heat.

Fry the fish about 5 minutes each side until the flesh flakes easily.

Make a bed of spinach on each of 4 dinner plates.
Lay a fish fillet on top of each pile of spinach.
Spoon the raita on top of the fish.
Serve with the plain boiled potatoes.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Noodle salad : Wk52/2

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
300gm cooked chicken breast, shredded or sliced
200gm egg noodles
1 red pepper, sliced
1 small cucumber, sliced lengthways (use a potato peeler)
3 large carrots, coarsely grated
200gm rocket, spinach and watercress leaves, roughly chopped
For the dressing:
1 Tblsp fish sauce
1 Tblsp light soy sauce
1 – 2 Tblsp lemon juice
1 – 2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ - 1 tsp crushed fresh ginger

Method
Break up the noodles into a bowl.
Pour in sufficient boiling water to just cover.
Allow to stand for 5 minutes.
Test for doneness, then drain and rinse with cold water.

Make the dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients.
Set aside.

Once the noodles are cool, add the remaining ingredients and toss well.

Pile onto 4 dinner plates or bowls, with the dressing on the side.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Haloumi stack : Wk52/1

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
200gm haloumi, sliced

100ml fat free plain yoghurt
2 tsp harrief (chilli) paste

200gm whole wheat couscous
1 tsp vegetable stock powder

Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
4 Tblsp Colman’s Classic mint sauce
1 x 400gm tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
200gm cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 red onion, chopped

Method
Dry fry the haloumi slices in a small pan until golden.
Drain on absorbent kitchen paper.

Combine the yoghurt and chilli paste and divide between 4 sauce bowls.

Measure the couscous and stock powder into a large bowl.
Add 200ml boiling water and stir.
Cover with a plate or clingfilm and stand for 10 minutes.
Fluff up the grains with a fork.

Now add all the remaining ingredients to the couscous and turn well to combine.

Pile the couscous salad onto 4 dinner plates and top each pile with haloumi slices.
Serve with the yoghurt dressing.
Haloumi is high in saturated fats. To halve the calories of this meal, skip the cheese!
You could substitute tofu slices instead.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Checking out

Most people are going on holiday round about now.
I'll still be posting recipes every day next week, with a final 'review' link on Thursday.

Where ever you go, travel safely; whatever you do, have fun.

Pad thai chicken : Wk51/5

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
200gm Chinese egg noodles
2 large skinless chicken breasts, chopped
2 Tblsp lemon juice
2 Tblsp fish sauce
1 tsp grated root ginger
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 Tblsp chopped coriander
1 tsp chilli paste
1 red onion, sliced
150gm mixed oriental mushrooms, sliced
200gm shredded spinach
50gm raw peanuts
50gm mung bean sprouts
Thinly sliced red and yellow peppers
Method
Cook the noodles according to the directions on the packet.
Drain and keep warm.

In a large bowl, mix together the lemon juice, fish sauce, ginger, garlic, coriander and chilli paste.
Drop in the chicken pieces and keep turning until they are covered.

Spray a wok with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion until it starts to soften.
Add the mushrooms and stir fry for 5 minutes.
Now tip in the chicken (and juices) and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Scatter the spinach, peanuts and bean sprouts into the wok.
Fold in as the spinach wilts.

Serve with the noodles.
Garnish with sliced red and yellow peppers.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Link to .pdf files for Week 52 and Review (12)

The menu for Week 52 is designed for using up all that leftover turkey and ham: if you have leftovers, then check the shopping list twice – maybe you don’t need to buy all the animal protein listed.

Here are the recipes and shopping list for Week 52.

And, in case you want to look back, here are the links for recipes and shopping lists for weeks 45 - 48:
Week 45
Week 46
Week 47
Week 48

Creamy hake : Wk51/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
240gm mashing potatoes
60ml fat free milk
1 Tblsp cornflour
400ml fat free milk
2 tsp chicken stock powder
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 small red pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
200gm broccoli florets
1 cup frozen peas
400gm skinless hake fillets, cut in cubes
80gm grated fat reduced cheddar
2 Tblsp chopped fresh parsley.

Method
Cook the potatoes in lightly salted boiling water until soft.
Drain well and mash.
Beat in the 60ml of milk.
Keep warm.

In a small jug, whisk together the cornflour, mustard, stock powder and milk.

Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion, pepper, broccoli and peas for 3 to 4 minutes.
Pour in the milk mixture.
Simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce thickens, stirring all the time.

Drop in the fish chunks and simmer, covered,for another 5 minutes until the fish is cooked.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir through the cheese.

Serve the creamy fish sauce with the mash.
Garnish with freshly chopped parsley.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 366

My objective is achieved! When I started this blog, my intention was to compile a quick-and-easy-to-prepare collection of healthy recipes, suitable for a family of four. I have posted a different main meal recipe every week day, hoping to encourage you – and myself – to change to (and maintain) healthier eating habits.

My weight has only varied by about 1kg over the past twelve months and what has helped me to maintain my 18kg weight loss is tracking and portion control. I now eat breakfast and lunch every single day – I never used to eat breakfast, and would skip lunch too, more often than not, only eating very small portions at dinner; but I didn’t lose weight, in fact I just kept gaining! So excessively restricted eating is not the way to lose weight. Our bodies need fuel at regular intervals, otherwise our BMR (basal metabolic rate) slows right down and we conserve our energy as fat.

To stop those awful feelings of hunger, deprivation and lethargy, be sure to eat a wide variety of foods from each of the food groups every day. Eat regularly and never, never skip breakfast.

Sweetcorn fritters : Wk51/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
40gm polenta or mealie meal
30gm whole wheat flour (‘Nutty wheat’)
1 flat tsp baking powder
3 large eggs, beaten
100ml fat free natural yoghurt
1 x 340gm can sweet corn kernels, rinsed and drained
6 spring onions, finely chopped
½ tsp harrief (chilli) paste

1 Tblsp vegetable oil

Method
Measure the polenta, flour and baking powder into a bowl.
Make a well in the centre and pour in the eggs.
Beat well.

Now add the remaining ingredients (except the oil), and stir well to combine.

Spray a large frying pan with non-stick cooking spray and add the measured oil.
When the pan is hot drop in spoonfuls of the fritter mixture.
Cook for about 4 minutes each side.
Keep warm in a clean tea cloth.

Serve with a fresh mixed salad, sliced avocado and sweet chilli sauce or chutney.
WARNING: These will disappear faster than you can make them!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chicken and mushroom penne : Wk51/2

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
240gm whole wheat penne
1 red onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 Tblsp cornflour
2 large skinless chicken breast fillets, cut in small chunks
200gm button mushrooms, sliced
4 Tblsp tomato puree
250ml dry sherry
250ml chicken stock
1 head of broccoli (±400gm)
Parmesan shavings, to serve

Method
Cook the penne in plenty of lightly salted boiling water until al dente.
Drain and keep warm.

Place the cornflour and rosemary in a plastic bag.
Add the chicken pieces and shake well to coat.

Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion and garlic until the onion starts to soften.
Add the chicken pieces and stir fry until they are ‘sealed’.
Tip in the mushrooms, puree, sherry and stock.
Bring to the boil then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, steam, boil or microwave the broccoli until tender, but still retaining some crunch.

Pour the chicken and sauce in with the pasta and stir well.

Serve the pasta with the broccoli, garnished with parmesan shavings if desired.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Herbs and spices

Herbs and spices have loads of disease fighting antioxidants – more than most fruits and vegetables. Here are some of my favourites.

Cinnamon helps maintain blood sugar levels. Sprinkle on cereal or add to smoothies. Try a slice of melon with a squeeze of lemon juice and cinnamon for breakfast.
Ginger helps relieve nausea and travel sickness and is an anti-inflammatory. It increases circulation, is good for detox, and a great digestive, too. Add to fruits and vegetables, or drink as a tea.
Garlic kills cancer cells, improves blood sugar levels, blood clotting and cholesterol levels. Chop or crush garlic and let it stand for 10 minutes or so to allow the protective phyto-chemicals to develop fully. Always cook over a low heat and don’t let it burn. Try pickled raw garlic – it really doesn’t taste garlic-y.
Tumeric inhibits the growth of cancer cells. Add ¼ teaspoon of ground turmeric to the water next time you cook rice.
Cumin is anti-inflammatory, anti oxidant and anti-cancer. It is one of the main ingredients in curry pastes and powders.
Coriander soothes the digestive tract and is also anti-inflammatory. Try ½ teaspoon coriander seeds mixed with natural yoghurt as a salad dressing, or alongside a curry. Use fresh leaves in a green salad.
Basil is anti-oxidant, antiseptic, anti-microbial and anti-viral (supposed to be particularly helpful with herpes and hepatitis), plus it smells and tastes wonderful. Use as a garnish on any tomato dish and fruit salad.
Parsley contains many anti-oxidants. It is preventative against halitosis and can ease bladder and kidney problems. It’s also anti-cancer. Use as a garnish, in salads, stews and sauces.

Spicy baked fish : Wk51/1

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
4 hake fillets ea. ±120gm
1 Tblsp Patak’s tikka masala curry paste
2 tsp lemon juice

240gm rice
4 slices lemon

Mixed green salad, to serve

Method
Put the rice on to cook in lightly salted boiling water.
Once cooked, drain and keep warm.

Heat the oven to 200ºC.
Mix together the lemon juice and curry paste.
Spray a baking tray with non-stick cooking spray.
Lay the fish fillets on the baking tray, presentation side up.
Spread the curry paste mix over the top of each fillet.
Bake the fish for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the flesh flakes easily.
(If cooking from frozen, allow 20 minutes.)

Serve the fish alongside the rice, garnished with lemon slices.
My green salad consisted of baby spinach, rocket, cucumber and spring onions.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Resolutions

Some people are already thinking about their ‘New Year Resolutions’. Research shows that most resolutions are abandoned by March – did you keep the ones you made last year? New Year resolutions are usually aimed at self improvement, so when you break them you are cheating yourself most of all.
No matter what your resolution is – weight loss, a new house, healthy eating, being a better parent – it requires:

Believing in yourself - You can do almost anything you set your mind to. Positive thinking is a powerful tool
Commitment – How important is this to you? My elder daughter always says ‘write it down, make it happen’. Have a written list of resolutions (even if it’s only one!) in plain view – almost like a ‘to-do’ list. Sometimes it helps to break the task down into achievable mini-goals.
Thinking and planning – Every day, work out the next step you need to take to get closer to your objective. Or re-affirm your current effort.
Accepting help and advice - where and when it’s offered (and appropriate), from positive sources. Ask for help when you need it. Most people love to give advice – though it’s not always what you want to hear.
Taking action – Track your progress regularly. Are you moving forwards or maybe slipping back?
Learning – from every experience. Be prepared to make mistakes along the way – I once had a boss who believed that if you don’t make mistakes, you aren’t working or learning anything.
Trying a new approach - Not getting there fast enough? Maybe a change of tactic is required. Don’t be afraid to break out of your comfort zone.
Rewarding yourself - remember to give yourself recognition for all your achievements, no matter how small.

Of course, you don’t have to wait for New Year to set new goals and challenges for yourself.

Have a great weekend.

Feta couscous patties : Wk50/5

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
200gm couscous
200ml hot vegetable stock

1 Tblsp fresh chopped parsley
1 egg, beaten
45ml natural fat free yoghurt
80gm fat reduced feta cheese, crumbled
1 large tomato, deseeded and chopped
4 spring onions, finely chopped

1 Tblsp vegetable oil

Method
Measure the couscous into a bowl.
Pour over the stock.
Cover with a plate or cling film.
Stand for 5 minutes.

Fluff up the couscous with a fork.
Now add all the remaining ingredients, except the oil.
Stir until everything is nicely combined.

Wet your hands, and then shape the mixture into 8 patties.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan.
Fry the patties for about 5 minutes each side.

Serve the patties, 2 per person, with a crispy fresh salad and some chutney.


I’ve used chopped parsley, but any soft fresh herbs would be good – basil or mint immediately spring to mind, because their flavours go so well with tomatoes.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Link to .pdf files for Week 51 and Review (11)

The menu for Week 51 is not particularly festive. It is designed for ordinary everyday eating : even when you are not cooking turkey, a ham and all the trimmings you still need to eat, right?

Here are the recipes and shopping list for Week 51.

And, in case you want to look back, here are the links for recipes and shopping lists for weeks 41 - 44:
Week 41
Week 42
Week 43
Week 44
 
 

Hake with soy bean mash : Wk50/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
4 fillets of hake, each ±120gm
Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
Fish seasoning

320gm mashing potatoes, cubed
160gm edamame (soy) beans
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 Tblsp chopped fresh basil
100ml chicken stock

24 (or more) cherry tomatoes

Method
Heat the oven to 200ºC.

Boil the potatoes for about 10 minutes.
Add the soy beans (I used frozen) and cook for another five minutes.
Drain well.
Add the garlic and basil to the potatoes and beans and mash well.
Beat in the stock, a little at a time.
Keep warm.

Lay the fish fillets, in a single layer, in a large pyrex dish.
Squeeze over the lemon juice and sprinkle with the rind and fish seasoning.
Scatter the tomatoes over the top.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily.

Serve the fish and tomatoes with the mash, and a mixed salad if desired.


This is a chunky mash, quite creamy tasting with the added benefit of extra protein from the beans.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lunch today

I had this soup for lunch today and thought I might as well post the recipe. Sorry, I was hungry and it was all gone before I thought to take a picture.

Tomato and lentil soup – Serves 2
Tip into a saucepan:
1 x 440gm tin chopped tomato and onion mix
400ml vegetable stock
½ tsp crushed garlic (or more… or none)
1 large carrot, sliced
¼ tsp dried oregano
±6 large fresh basil leaves
60gm dried red lentils
Stir well then simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes until the carrots and lentils are soft.
Stir occasionally if you think of it.
Blitz before serving.

I just had a slice of toast with mine, but you could garnish with grated parmesan, natural yoghurt, croutons or more fresh basil if you want. This is quite a thick soup; adjust the consistency to your taste with more or less vegetable stock.

If you have time and energy to spare, you could add more vegetables such as celery, butternut, red or yellow bell peppers or extra carrots. Or all of the above.

Cinnamon chicken : Wk50/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
4 skinless chicken breast fillets
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tblsp vegetable oil

1 red onion, sliced
250ml chicken stock
2 Tblsp lemon juice
1 Tblsp honey
1 x 300gm can broad beans, drained
6 Turkish apricots, thinly sliced
2 Tblsp chopped coriander
200gm mashing potatoes
3 large carrots, thinly sliced
1 small butternut, peeled & cubed

Method
Cook the potatoes, butternut and carrots together.
Once cooked, drain well and mash.
Keep warm.

Sprinkle the chicken with the combined cinnamon and cumin.
Heat the oil in a large pan.
Fry the chicken about 5 minutes each side on a moderate heat, then remove from the pan.

Fry the onion, in the same pan, until it starts to soften.
Add the stock, honey, apricots and lemon juice and stir well.
Put the chicken pieces back in the pan.
Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the pan again, and allow to rest.
Tip in the broad beans and coriander and allow 5 minutes to heat through.

Cut the chicken into thick slices on a slight diagonal.

Make a bed of mashed vegetables on each of 4 warmed plates.
Place the chicken slices on top of the mash.
Spoon over the sauce.
Garnish with extra coriander, if desired

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Skinny asparagus pasta : Wk50/2

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
240gm ‘angel hair’ pasta
1 onion, chopped
250ml strong chicken stock
200gm fresh green asparagus pieces
300gm cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 Tblsp fresh chopped parsley
2-3 Tblsp fresh chopped mint
1 clove garlic, crushed

Green salad

Method
Cook the pasta in plenty of lightly salted boiling water for 10 minutes, or until al dente.
When cooked, drain and keep warm.

Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray and dry fry the garlic and onion until it softens.
Add the tomatoes and continue cooking until they start to go pulpy.
Now add the stock, asparagus, parsley and mint.
Simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour the sauce over the pasta and lift the pasta through the sauce to combine.

Serve with a fresh green salad on the side.

Use vegetable stock in place of chicken stock for a vegetarian option.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Granma’s apron

A friend recently sent me an email about ‘Granma’s Apron’.

Remember making an apron in Home Ec? I don't think our kids know what an apron is.

"The principal use of Grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath because she only had a few. It was also because it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and aprons used less material. But along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.

It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.

From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.

When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids..

And when the weather was cold Grandma wrapped it around her arms.

Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow,
bent over the hot wood stove.

Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.

From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables.
After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.

In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.

When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.

When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men folk knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.

It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that 'old-time apron' that served so many purposes.

REMEMBER:
Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool. Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw.

They would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron.
But I don't think I ever caught anything from an apron - but love... “

I think the apron has fallen out of use because people generally have become very lazy cooks. Who shells peas anymore – don’t they come in cans or frozen in a bag?

More than potato salad : Wk50/1

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
480gm new potatoes, quartered
1 x 200gm can tuna chunks in brine, drained
1 x 400gm can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 red onion, chopped

2 Tblsp Helman’s low fat mayo
1 Tblsp sweet chilli sauce
1 Tblsp olive oil
1 Tblsp lemon juice
¼ cup fat free milk
4 Tblsp chopped parsley

Method
Whisk together the mayo, sweet chilli sauce, oil, lemon juice and parsley.
Now add the milk, a little at a time, whisking until the dressing is smooth and creamy.

Boil the potato quarters in lightly salted boiling water until cooked – about 10 minutes.
Drain well and allow to cool. (Run cold water over them if you are in a hurry.)

In a bowl, combine the tuna, beans, onion and potatoes together.
Pour in the dressing and turn gently.

Serve with a mixed green salad on the side, if desired.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Weight control for self preservation

 
The main focus of most weight-loss advertising is on physical appearance, and though we all want to look good – in and out of our clothes – the main benefits of weight loss are actually to do with health.

 
  • Losing 10% of your excess body weight reduces blood pressure, cholesterol and blood triglyceride levels; all of these are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Losing excess weight reduces blood glucose levels and halves the probability of you developing type-2 diabetes.
  • Losing weight reduces the strain on weight-bearing joints (hips, knees, lower spine) and reduces the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
  • Being overweight is a risk factor for developing cancer of the uterus, breast, gall bladder, colon and prostate.
  • Losing excess weight can help to alleviate sleep apnea.
  • Carrying excess weight puts strain on all your internal organs, not just your heart.
  • Being overweight can cause complications during surgery.
  • Being overweight means that you are less likely to take exercise, which in itself is a health risk.
  • Reducing and then controlling your body weight increases self-esteem.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight improves your quality of life as well as your longevity.
Adapting to a healthy lifestyle is the only way to achieve a healthy body weight.

Lamb meatballs Morocco : Wk48/5

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quickish
Ingredients
350gm lean minced lamb
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp grated fresh root ginger
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 x 400gm can chopped tomatoes
400ml lamb stock
2 Tblsp chopped coriander

200gm couscous
2 Tblsp chopped fresh parsley
2 Tblsp chopped fresh mint
2 Tblsp chopped fresh coriander
200ml boiling water

Method
In a large bowl, combine the lamb, onion, breadcrumbs, cinnamon, cumin, ginger and garlic.
Shape the mixture into tiny meatballs.

Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the meatballs until lightly browned and sealed.
Remove to a plate.

Tip the tomatoes, stock and coriander into the pan.
Cook for 5 minutes.
Put the meatballs back in the pan and spoon the sauce over.
Cover with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes.
(If there seems to be a too much liquid, remove the lid for the last 5 minutes to reduce it.)

Put the couscous in a bowl with the fresh herbs.
Pour over the boiling water and give it a stir.
Cover with a plate or clingfilm and allow to stand for 10 minutes.
Fluff the grains up with a fork to separate.

Serve the meatballs and sauce over the couscous, garnished with extra coriander, if desired.

If you like, you can put only half the spices, ginger and garlic in the meatball mix and add the rest to the sauce. I served mine with a very simple green salad of baby spinach, rocket and watercress.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Link to .pdf files for Week 50 and Review (10)

What’s on the menu for next week?

Here are the recipes and shopping list for Week 50.

And, in case you want to look back, here are the links for recipes and shopping lists for weeks 37 - 40:
Week 37
Week 38
Week 39
Week 40

Somehow, I got myself out of step last week and posted Week 49 recipes instead of Week 48. So this week's postings are from Week 48. I'll be back on track next week.

Italian style chicken : Wk48/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
3 skinless chicken breast fillets, cut in strips
Juice of 1 large lemon
1 large red onion, sliced
8 large Italian tomatoes, thickly sliced
30gm fresh basil, chopped
375ml chicken stock
12 – 16 pitted green olives, sliced

Crusty bread, to serve

Method
Lay the chicken in a glass or plastic dish and sprinkle with the lemon juice.

Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Stir-fry the chicken strips for 5 minutes until they are sealed and lightly browned.
Remove from the pan.

Dry fry the onion until it softens.
Add the tomatoes and about 20gm of the basil and cook until the tomato is pulpy.

Now pour in the stock, the olives and any remaining lemon juice.
Thicken the sauce with 1 Tblsp cornflour, if desired.
Bring to a boil then reduce the heat.

Scatter the chicken strips over the top.
Simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked to your liking.

Serve in warmed bowls garnished with the remaining basil.


Crusty bread is the perfect accompaniment to this – it is great for mopping up the sauce.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Staying young

 
Maintaining health and vitality as the years go by involves:

Choosing food wisely – Eat three meals a day, plus snacks if you need them. Make sure to include a varied selection of foods from each food group. Choose 6-8 portions of grains, 5-8 portions of fruit and veg (preferably fresh), 2-3 portions of protein (fish or chicken; cut down on red meats), 2-3 portions of dairy and a little mono- and/or poly-unsaturated fats.

Getting some exercise – If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’m not that ‘in’ to exercise! In contrast, my husband goes to a gym about 4 times a week on average, and it shows. People never believe his age. Not only does he look good, the exercise keeps him supple and healthy, with a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes. Exercise releases endorphins (the ‘happiness’ hormone) into the blood stream, which is good for stress relief too.

Getting enough sleep – Everyone needs between seven and eight hours sleep in every twenty four. If you have trouble sleeping, set up a bedtime ritual to inform your brain that it’s bedtime. Try deep breathing, or tensing and releasing muscle groups. Keep electronics out of the bedroom as much as possible and, definitely, leave your cell phone well away from the bed.

Keeping an active and open mind – Do crossword puzzles or Sudoku. Read magazines, journals and books. Consciously and attentively listen to the radio and try to summarize what you have heard. Listen to what is said to you and learn from what you hear. In fact, try to learn something new every day.

Sharing – Isn’t this what we encourage our children to do? Share your time, energy, knowledge, experience and expertise with those around you.

Mozzarella pasta salad : Wk48/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
240gm small pasta shells
160gm low fat mozzarella, cut or torn in chunks.
12 red cherry tomatoes, sliced
12 yellow cherry tomatoes, sliced
50gm wild rocket, torn
For the pesto:
20gm basil (leaves and stalks)
2 Tblsp olive oil
1 Tblsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tblsp water
20gm pecorino cheese
1 clove garlic
30gm pine nuts

Method
To make the pesto:
Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz to a paste.

Cook the pasta in lightly salted boiling water until al dente.
Cool under cold running water.
Drain well.

In a large bowl, stir the pesto through the pasta until the shells are coated.
Add the mozzarella, tomatoes and rocket and toss well.

Serve with crusty bread if desired.


I’ve used pecorino cheese because it was what I had – you could use parmesan instead. Pecorino has a similar flavour but costs less than parmesan.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hot and sour fish : Wk48/2

Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
Ingredients
4 skinless fillets hake, cut in sticks
4 Tblsp cornflour
2 Tblsp vegetable oil

2Tblsp dry sherry
2 Tblsp cider vinegar
2 Tblsp soy sauce
2 Tblsp sweet chilli sauce
250ml vegetable stock

240gm rice
250gm extra fine green beans

Method
Cook the rice in lightly salted boiling water until tender.
Drain and keep warm.

Boil, steam or microwave the beans until they are cooked but still crunchy.
Drain and keep warm.

In a jug, combine the sherry, vinegar, soy, sweet chilli and stock.

Turn the fish pieces in the cornflour to coat, shaking off any excess.
Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the fish for about 5 minutes.
Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper.

Pour the sauce into the pan and bring to a boil.
Drop the fish pieces into the sauce and stir gently.
Simmer for another 3 minutes.

Serve the fish on the rice with the beans on the side.


The cornflour dusting on the fish keeps it succulent and helps to thicken the sauce. My husband gave this recipe a 5-star rating - mind you, he does enjoy his food! But it was really tasty.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Making cake... and eating it

I’m always surprised to hear people say that they don’t like fruitcake. I’ve even found sites on the web that tell you how to get rid of your unwanted (fruit) Christmas cake that ‘nobody wants or eats’! Really? I suppose my up-bringing was very English and fairly traditional – Christmas wasn’t Christmas without a proper (preferably marzipanned and iced) Christmas fruit cake.

Many years ago, a work colleague gave me his wife’s ‘boiled fruit cake’ recipe. It was a wonderfully moist rich cake, eminently suitable for Christmas. And very easy to make; no beating of butter and sugar, no sifting of flour etc. I used this recipe for many Christmases, and I used it for my children’s christening cakes. But a couple of weeks ago I looked everywhere and could not find it. I started asking friends if they had a recipe for me to try, and two of them did – both are boiled fruit cakes, so last weekend I tried the first one. This weekend we ate most of it (with a little help from visitors). It was pretty good, though I felt it needed more fruit; in fairness, the dried fruit I used had been in the cupboard for a while so maybe it wasn’t as ‘plump’ as it should have been. Next weekend I’ll have to try the other recipe. And hope the cake lasts, uncut, until Christmas.

I’ve been doing a bit of research on the web to try and find out how and why Christmas cake evolved. I do like to know the ‘why’ of things. I know that the spices are supposed to represent the Wise Men from the East, bringing gifts to the baby Jesus. In the early years, the fruit used must have been ‘sun-dried’ (a process used as early as 6000BC). The spices and fruit would have been imported and very expensive.

Christmas (fruit) cake is a particularly English tradition that has evolved over the years. It started out as plum porridge which was eaten on Christmas Eve, after a day of religious fasting, before attending midnight church services. Wealthier people started to add dried fruits, spices and honey to the mix, and this is the basis of today’s Christmas pudding.

By the 16th century, the oatmeal in the porridge recipe was replaced with wheat flour, eggs and butter and people who had ovens then baked the pudding, instead of boiling it – ta-da, Christmas cake. In the late 1700s Carollers were offered slices of this cake as ‘payment’ for their singing, and around the same time laws were put in place to say that ‘plum cake’(fruit cake) could only be eaten at Christmas, Easter, weddings, christenings and funerals!

People tend to make Christmas cakes in November, and ‘feed’ them with brandy each week up until Christmas. The high sugar content of the fruit preserves the cake, while the brandy keeps it moist.

So now I see the ‘how’, but I still don’t understand the ‘why’.

Chicken and mange tout salad : Wk48/1

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
3 chicken breasts, cut in strips
120gm pearl barley
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
250gm mange tout, sliced diagonally
40gm flakes almonds
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 Tblsp chopped fresh parsley
1 Tblsp red wine vinegar
1 Tblsp olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp paprika

Method
Cook the barley in lightly salted boiling water until tender (about 20mins).
Toss in the mange tout for the last 5 minutes.
Drain well.
Cool under running water and drain again.
Set aside.

To make the dressing:
Combine the vinegar, mustard, oil and paprika in a small bowl.
Mix well and set aside.

Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the chicken strips for about 5 – 10 minutes.

Put the barley, mange tout, chicken, green pepper, almonds, tomatoes, lemon rind and parsley in a large bowl and toss well to combine.

Pile the salad onto 4 plates and serve with the dressing on the side.


This dressing was a bit of an experiment, and when I tasted it I wasn’t quite sure, but on the food it was perfect.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sabotaged!

 
We strive all week to make healthy food choices, control portion sizes and take reasonable exercise. Then along comes the weekend (or a special occasion) and all our good intentions dissolve – whether it’s drinks with colleagues after work, someone’s birthday or Sunday lunch at the in-laws’ place – and the road to healthy eating is forsaken. One weekend of eating and/or drinking too much, or failing to keep up with your exercise routine can undo a lot of the good work you did during the previous week, both physically and mentally.

 
After a weekend of over-indulgence we may well feel guilty and call ourselves weak-willed, resolving to do better next weekend. But we need to help ourselves keep that resolution. Here’s how:

 
  • Start with a healthy breakfast, as on any other day. A good breakfast ensures that we will be able to get through to lunchtime without gnawing hunger pains or a headache. High fibre cereal with yoghurt, whole grain toast with a smear of peanut butter or thin slice of cheese, or an egg – all healthy choices.
  • Keep on track by tracking, every day – yes, even weekends. We need to stay up-to-date and honest with our food journal/diary – even if we go overboard. At least we will be able to see how (and maybe why) we did.
  • Going shopping? Eat first. If we’re hungry while grocery shopping, we’re likely to pick up all sorts of food items that we don’t really want, and certainly don’t need.
  • Occasional treats are allowed. Any eating plan that leaves us feeling deprived is sure to fail. There is no harm in enjoying a small piece of dark chocolate or one scoop of ice cream. Occasionally; I said that already, didn’t I? Don't save all your treats to splurge at the weekend.
  • Plan ahead. Knowing what we are going to eat is really important for keeping on track. We need to plan weekend meals, too, and make a shopping list accordingly. And stick to the list. If we don’t put poor food choices in our trolleys, they won’t be in the house to tempt us later. Stock up on fresh fruit instead.
  • Spend some time reading and planning. Reading health magazines keeps us up-to-date with current research and tips on food and nutrition – there are usually some tasty, healthy recipe ideas, too.

 
Enjoy your weekend. You deserve a break.

Vegetable and lentil curry : Wk49/5

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
1 onion, chopped
1 – 2 Tblsp Patak’s tikka masala curry paste
1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
1 green pepper, sliced
1 small butternut, cubed
2 large carrots, sliced
1 cup of dried lentils
500ml vegetable stock
1 x 400gm tin chopped tomatoes
4 Tblsp chopped coriander

240gm rice

Method
Cook the rice in lightly salted boiling water .
Drain and keep warm.

Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion until it starts to soften.
Add the tikka masala paste along with the cauli, green pepper, butternut and carrots.
Give everything a good stir to distribute the curry paste.

Next, add the lentils, stock and tinned tomatoes.
Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are soft.

Stir ½ the coriander through the curry.

Serve the curry, garnished with the remaining coriander, alongside the rice.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Link to .pdf files for Week 49 and Review (9)

What’s on the menu for next week?

Here are the recipes and shopping list for Week 49.

And, in case you want to look back, here are the links fto recipes and shopping lists for weeks 33 - 36:
Week 33
Week 34
Week 35
Week 36

Salmon pepperonata : Wk49/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
4 salmon steaks, each ±120gm
Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
1 red onion, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 yellow/green pepper, sliced
2 Tblsp seedless raisins
1 Tblsp capers, rinsed and chopped
2 Tblsp red wine vinegar

480gms new potatoes, scrubbed and halved
500gm broccoli florets

Method
Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
Lay the salmon on the baking tray and sprinkle over the lemon juice and rind.
Heat the oven to ±200ºC.

Put the potatoes on to cook in lightly salted boiling water.
Cook the broccoli on a steaming rack above the potatoes.
Drain when cooked and keep warm.

Bake the salmon for about 15 minutes, or until it flakes easily.

Spray a small pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion until it starts to soften.
Now add the peppers, cover and cook gently for about 5 minutes.
Tip in the capers, raisins and vinegar and stir well.
Simmer gently for 5 minutes to reduce the liquid.

Serve the salmon topped with the pepperonata with the vegetables on the side.


I think the pepperonata is sweet enough with the raisins, but you can add a teaspoon of dark brown sugar, if you like.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Routine eating for kids

Children – right into even late teen years – are growing and developing. We send our kids to school for academic training, but education about food has to come from home. They need a solid basis of sound nutrition in order to provide energy for all that is going on in their bodies, and the good eating habits they develop now will serve them well in the years ahead.

Children learn by example – they will eat fruit and vegetables and try new foods, as long as they see you do. You are their role model, and younger children especially really want to be just like you. If you can’t stand to eat anything green, you are going to have a problem ‘faking’ enjoyment of vegetables. The first one to train in this case is yourself! Carrots make a good starting veg since they are naturally sweet and crunchy. Most children seem to enjoy peas and sweetcorn, too; and it’s not a giant-leap to progress from peas to beans and pulses. Try cooked chickpeas as a nibble snack.

Sometimes it may seem easier to give them take-aways, like burgers or pizza, just to save fights and resistance, but you will not be doing them or yourself any favours. Nearly all processed foods (especially take-aways) are overloaded with saturated fats, sodium and sugar which are unhealthy, and though you may think that this can be overcome at a later stage why set up bad eating habits in the first place?

The closer foods are to their natural state the more nutritious they are. Home prepared meals will provide more in the way of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients than any restaurant meal or take-away.

Routine is important for healthy eating. Children thrive on routine because it gives them a sense of security, so set regular meal and snack times, and have a specific eating space that the whole family uses. Always start with breakfast; gradually replace sugary cereals with high fibre cereals served with fresh fruit (e.g. chopped banana, pureed apple, strawberries) and/or yoghurt for natural sweetness, or opt for toasted whole grain bread with peanut butter. Don’t let the gap between meals stretch too long. A hungry child will get scratchy and irritable very quickly so a snack may be in order – provided there is at least an hour to go before the next scheduled meal.

Don’t stress about the amount of food your child eats – forcing him to finish everything on his plate is bad for everyone’s digestion; some days he may devour everything you put on his plate - and then ask for more! When he doesn’t eat enough (by your standards) don’t bribe (sweeties or ice cream if he eats) or threaten (no TV), just accept that he has had as much as he wants. Don’t be tempted to offer an alternative food, either. He’ll eat when he’s hungry.

Quick pork casserole : Wk49/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
3 large pork chops, all visible fat and bone removed
1 red onion, sliced
200gm button mushrooms, wiped and sliced
2 red eating apples, cored and each cut in 12 pieces
500ml chicken stock
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice*
1 Tblsp corn flour

400gm boiling potatoes
500gm green beans
4 large carrots, cut julienne
6-8 courgettes, topped and tailed and left whole

Method
Boil, steam or microwave the vegetables until cooked.
Drain and keep warm.

Cut the pork into strips.
Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion and pork strips until the onion softens and the pork is sealed.
Add the mushrooms and apples to the pan and stir fry for 5 minutes.
Pour in the stock and stir through the Chinese 5 spice.
Cover with a lid and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.

Mix the corn flour to a paste with a little water.
Add this to the pan to thicken the sauce.
Stir gently so the apple doesn’t break up.

Serve the casserole and vegetables on four warmed plates.


*Chinese 5 spice is a combination of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise and black pepper.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bistro salad : Wk49/2

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
200gm pillow pack spinach, rocket & watercress
50gm mange tout, sliced lengthways
1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
12 red cherry tomatoes, halved
12 yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
8 baby corn cobs, quartered
4 eggs, hard boiled, shelled & halved
4 rashers lean bacon, chopped (optional)
30gm croutons
80gm Danish blue cheese, crumbled

1 Tblsp each of Dijon mustard, olive oil and lemon juice
2 Tblsp each of Helman’s low-fat mayo and fat free natural yoghurt

Method
Spray a frying pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the bacon bits until crispy.
Drain on kitchen paper.

Make a dressing by combining the mustard, oil, lemon, mayo and yoghurt.
This is a very sharp dressing, but it goes really well with the salad.

Tear the salad leaves into a bowl.
Arrange the other ingredients, in layers, finishing with the eggs, croutons, cheese and bacon.

Serve the salad with the dressing and plain boiled baby potatoes or crusty bread.

For a vegetarian option, leave out the bacon – one less pan to wash, too!

Monday, November 22, 2010

False economy

Yesterday, someone told me they found shopping for groceries very expensive, and that eating take-aways was far less costly. Am I missing something here?

My weekly grocery bill is between R600 and R800 for two people. That includes some toiletries and cleaning products – these products are expensive, so let’s say they constitute 15% of R700 (average) - that’s R105, which leaves R595 spent on food. R595 divided by 2 is R297.50 per person. R297.50 divided by 7 (days of the week) equals R42.50 per person per day: divided by 3 (meals a day) comes to just over R14 per meal. Show me where I can buy a healthy take-away meal for R14!

Here’s what I get at each of my R14 meals:
My typical daily menu consists of breakfast – cereal or toast, with fruit; lunch – a salad with cheese, canned fish or an egg, or maybe the same ingredients in a sandwich; dinner – fish, chicken, vegetarian or, very occasionally, red meat with loads of fresh vegetables and some starch (pasta, rice, couscous, beans, whatever), followed by a good size helping of fresh fruit salad and yoghurt.

At the end of each week, there is still plenty of food in my house – I could probably go six weeks without shopping, and we would still eat reasonably well. There is always something in my freezer – chicken, fish, frozen peas, home-made ready-meals etc. There is always plenty of pasta, rice, flour, canned goods, dried beans, nuts, tea, coffee and treats in my store cupboard. Of course, I would run out of fresh fruit, vegetables and yoghurt within 10 days, but we would survive the six weeks in reasonable health.

And that is the key issue in my book – reasonable health. Take-aways are notorious for their high fat and salt content, and are usually starch based. Loads of calories that will push you way over the recommended daily allowances of cholesterol (300mg), salt / sodium (2,400mg), fats (65gm, including 20gm saturated fats) and carbohydrates (300gm) – and all in one meal. Eating in excess of these allowances can lead to weight gain, water retention, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, diabetes… must I go on? Poor eating habits lead to disease, which can be horribly expensive.

Beyond the ubiquitous paracetamol I keep on hand, and sinus tabs (we live in a gold-mining area with a lot of environmental pollution), I don’t need to buy vitamin and mineral supplements, antacid powders, laxatives or any of the other thousands of over-the-counter medications most people take (in an attempt) to compensate for poor eating habits.

Eating a variety of foods from all the food groups provides all the vitamins, minerals, fibre and calories anyone needs – in a balanced and healthy form; vitamins and minerals are synergistic – they work together. Fresh foods provide a wonderful variety of textures, aromas, colours and flavours – far more interesting, satisfying and delicious than a burger and chips, don’t you think?

Cheaper, too.

Corn chip chicken : Wk49/1

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
4 skinless chicken breast fillets
100gm bag Doritos (Corn chips)
±1 tsp chilli powder
1 egg, beaten

480gm new potatoes
500gm green beans
8 parsnips, quartered lengthways
8 small courgettes

4 Tblsp Helman’s low-fat mayo
2 Tblsp fat free natural yoghurt
±1 Tblsp lemon juice

Method
Steam, boil or microwave the vegetables until tender.
Drain and keep warm.

Mix the mayo, yoghurt and lemon juice together until smooth.
Set aside.

Crush the Doritos quite finely and mix through the chilli powder.
If the chicken breasts are very thick, halve them through the centre.
Dip the chicken breasts in the beaten egg and then in the Dorito crumbs.

Spray a large frying pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the chicken over a moderate heat for 15 minutes, or until it is cooked through.

Serve the chicken with a dollop of the mayo dressing and the vegetables on the side.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Polling

If you are a regular visitor, you may have noticed that I have added a poll (to the right). Please let me know if you want me to continue posting recipes and commentary next year. The poll closes on December 18th 2010. Just mark your preference and click on ‘vote’. Thanks.

And / or you can leave a comment. Anytime. I'd love it, if you did.

Beef ‘n’ broccoli : Wk47/5

Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
Ingredients
1 Tblsp vegetable oil
400gm rump steak, cut in strips
1 red onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp grated ginger root
1 tsp chilli paste

400gm broccoli florets
6 spring onions, shredded
3 – 4 Tblsp soy sauce

Cashew nuts, to garnish

Method
Heat the oil in a pan or wok.
Fry the beef for 2 – 3 minutes to seal.
Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.

Fry the onion, garlic and ginger until the onion softens.
Stir through the chilli paste.
Add the broccoli and a splash of water to the pan.
Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Turn up the heat and return the beef to the pan.
Add the spring onions and soy sauce.
Cook for another 3 – 4 minutes.

Serve garnished with cashew nuts.

I served this with noodles, but it also goes well with rice or naan breads.
Make this even faster – cook the broccoli first.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Link to .pdf files for Week 48 and Review (8)

Want to see recipes for next week?

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 48.

And, in case you missed them, here are the links for recipes and shopping lists for weeks 29 - 32:
Week 29
Week 30
Week 31
Week 32

Crusted kingklip : Wk47/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
±500gm kingklip fillet
2 slices bread, crumbed
1 Tblsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp dried thyme

1 medium cabbage
4 Tblsp fat free natural yoghurt

480gm new potatoes (skin on), quartered

Method
Heat the oven to 200ºC.

Cook the potatoes in lightly salted water for 10-15 minutes.
Drain well and crush.
Keep warm.
Steam the cabbage for 10 minutes, or until tender.
Keep warm.

Combine the breadcrumbs, mustard and thyme.

Spray a grill pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Lay the kingklip in the grill pan.
Press the seasoned crumbs on the top.
Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until the flesh flakes easily.

Stir the yoghurt through the cabbage and season with lots of freshly ground black pepper.

Divide the kingklip between four warmed plates.
Serve the cabbage and potato crush alongside the fish.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Micro-minerals : Iodine

Micro-minerals, like minerals, are organic elements present in the soil. Plants absorb them from their growth medium. We need even smaller amounts of each micro-mineral in our diet, but they are just as essential to maintain all nerve and muscle function, teeth, bones and body cells. Micro-minerals are insoluble in water and need to be bonded with a soluble compound before they can be properly utilised. That is why foods are the very best sources.

 

 
Functions of Iodine:
  • Necessary for thyroid function
  • Controls the basal metabolic rate
  • Needed for growth and development
  • Aids in reproduction and lactation
  • Important for mental alertness and cognitive function
  • Helps metabolize excess fat
Sources of Iodine:
  • Seafood
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Watercress
  • Kelp
  • Iodized salt
Deficiency symptoms:
  • Dry hair and skin
  • Cold extremities
  • Easy weight gain
  • Impaired immune system
  • Goiter
  • Cretinism

 
Inorganic elements are not destroyed by heat. Some cooking methods may break down mineral-rich substances, and release the mineral into the product: such as in the canning of fish – bones (salmon, pilchards, sardines) are softened releasing calcium into the flesh.

 
Supplements are usually unnecessary provided the diet includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Always check with your doctor before taking supplements of any kind. An excess of any vitamin, mineral or micro-mineral can have unpleasant side effects.

 

Mixed bean tagine : Wk47/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
2 red onions, sliced
1 heaped tsp each: coriander, cumin and cinnamon
1 medium butternut, cut in chunks
250gm courgettes, sliced thickly on the diagonal
1 x 400gm whole peeled tomatoes, sliced
100gm seedless raisins
400ml vegetable stock
1 x 400gm can mixed beans
200gm frozen peas
4 Tblsp chopped mint
240gm rice
1 tsp tumeric

Method
Cook the rice with the tumeric in lightly salted boiling water.
Once cooked, drained and keep warm.

Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Gently dry fry the onions until soft
Add the butternut, courgettes, stock, raisins and tinned tomatoes.
Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Tip in the mixed beans and frozen peas.
Simmer for a final 5 minutes.

Serve the tagine with the rice, garnished with freshly chopped mint.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lemon chicken with chickpeas : Wk47/2

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
1 large onion, sliced
4 skinless chicken breast fillets, cut into chunks
1 x 400gm can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
300ml chicken stock
250gm pack baby spinach
Marinade:
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 – 2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
1 Tblsp sweet chilli sauce

Method
Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a large glass dish.
Toss in the chicken pieces and turn to coat.
Allow to stand for 10 minutes.

Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Gently dry fry the onion for 5 minutes until it starts to soften.
Add the chicken and marinade to the pan and stir fry for another 5 minutes.
Now add the stock and chickpeas.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Fold in the spinach and allow to wilt for 2 – 3 minutes.

Serve with warmed naan breads and extra sweet chilli sauce.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday ‘blues’

Unless you really, really love your job (and even if you do), it seems we are almost programmed to hate Mondays. Which is a pity, because glumness on a Monday sets the tone for the whole week. To mis-quote Shakespeare entirely – ‘a Monday by any other name would be sweeter’. How can we overcome the grudge we hold against this one day of the week?

Let’s try some mood-lifters, such as:

Get a good night’s sleep on Sunday – I mention sleep often because it is so essential to our mental and physical health. The average person needs seven to eight hours sleep a night. A regular bed time and rising time every day including weekends sets our body clocks, so that after a while we don’t need to set alarm clocks. If we are consistent with our sleep behaviour, it helps us cope with those times when we are stressed and don’t sleep so well.

Stretch and breathe deeply – first thing, while you wait for the shower to heat up, and through the day. Stretching wakes the muscles up ready for action. Deep breathing calms the mind and gives us a much-needed boost of oxygen; we very seldom use our lungs properly.

Sing – in the shower, in the car. Singing is a real mood enhancer as well as being good exercise for the facial muscles and lungs. Sing with gusto and volume. Singing will help you to …

Smile – even if you don’t feel like it! Smiles are infectious – you’ll improve how other people feel and eventually your own mood, too. Smiling activates the release of endorphins (the happiness hormone). And endorphins can boost creativity, too.

Eat breakfast – I’m always going on about breakfast being the most important meal of the day; isn’t that what our mothers taught us? It’s true. Skipping breakfast leads to low blood sugar levels – detrimental to both our physical health and cognitive function. Skipping any meal can lead to weight gain, too, so…

Eat regularly – eating controlled portions of healthy foods throughout the day helps provide stamina and prevents that awful 'slump' in energy and concentration. Some people can manage quite happily on three meals a day, and if that suits you that’s well and good. Other people cope better on smaller, more frequent meals; or three smaller main meals and a couple of snacks in between. Provided your portions are controlled and your food choices wise, you are less likely to over-eat this way.

Eat Omega 3 foods – these are believed to enhance mood, alleviate depression, help with concentration in A.D.D. and A.D.H.D. and help you cope better with stress.

Pay someone a compliment – there’s nothing like a compliment to boost morale and self-confidence and raise a smile (which is infectious, remember?) Maybe someone else will praise you.

These tips are useful every day, not just on Mondays! Try them.

Grilled fish with warm potato salad : Wk47/1

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
450gm firm white fish fillets
Fish seasoning

480gms new potatoes, cut in chunks
6 sweet and sour peppadews, sliced
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
12 black olives, sliced
2 Tblsp Helman’s low fat mayo
2 Tblsp natural fat free yoghurt

Method
Heat the grill.

Cook the potatoes in lightly salted boiling water.
Drain well.
Add the peppadew, bell pepper and olives to the potatoes.
Mix the mayo and yoghurt together until smooth.
Pour over the potato chunks and stir to combine.

Spray the fish with non-stick cooking spray and sprinkle with fish seasoning.
Grill (or dry fry) the fish for about 10 minutes until it flakes easily. (Turn fish over after 5 mins)

Serve the fish with the warm potato salad and some mixed salad leaves on the side.


It is very easy to overcook fish and then it becomes dry and unpalatable. Be careful not to overcook, specially if your fillets are not very thick.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Microwave cooking

Microwaves are very short waves of electromagnetic energy travelling at 186,282mps (that is the speed of light). They are used to transmit telephone-, radio-, television- and computer signals around the world. The shorter the wavelength, the higher the energy. Radio waves have the longest wavelengths, X- rays and gamma rays have the shortest. But if we think about microwaves at all, we will think of them in terms of that great kitchen appliance, the microwave oven; fast, convenient and energy-efficient. The radiation from microwave ovens has a longer wavelength than infrared radiation and visible light, but shorter than that of the VHF and UHF broadcasting bands.

When I Googled ‘microwave safety’ I got over 9.5 million results in 0.15 seconds. Obviously, I haven’t read them all (and don’t intend to!). A lot of these links are re-iterations, mostly concerned with the radiation produced by microwave oven magnetrons, and the possible leakage of radiation from the ovens – which no-one seems terribly alarmed about. Some of them state safety considerations that one normally thinks of in connection with any kind of cooking anyway: which type of container to use, use of oven mitts, caution with high temperature foods and liquids, uneven heating etcetera.

But how do microwaves actually work?

Food molecules – or the water molecules in food – are polar; like a magnet has a north and south pole, water molecules have a negative end and a positive end. Microwave radiation interacts with food molecules. All radio wave energies change polarity from positive to negative with each wave cycle. In microwave ovens these changes occur millions of times per second. It is these changes which generate friction, and friction generates heat; that’s how your food gets cooked. But friction causes substantial damage to food molecules, tearing them apart or forcefully deforming them (only with microwave cooking? I'm not sure.); this is called ‘structural isomerism’. Doesn’t sound too healthy, does it?

I’m interested in the work of Dr. Hans Hertel (food scientist with a major Swiss food company) and Dr. Bernard H. Blanc (of the Swiss Federal Institute of Biochemistry). They collaborated and made (supposedly) in-depth studies of the effects on the human body of eating microwaved foods. Their findings were published in “Search for Health” in the spring of 1992 (and then withdrawn). Because of the very negative nature of their findings , a ‘gag’ order was placed on their report. They were told that they would face heavy fines and up to one year in prison if they tried to publish their report again. In response to this, Blanc recanted but Hertel stood his ground and went on a lecture tour, giving talks about his results. The gag order was rescinded in 1998. You can read an article here which covers Hertel’s results and some of the other research that has been conducted. Russia did extensive research along similar lines – and even banned microwave ovens in 1976, though the ban was lifted in 1985.

The problem with scientific research is that, at a minimum: the experiment must be repeatable; the variables must be controlled; the results must be verifiable; there must be a ‘control group’. In the write-ups I have read of  Hertel’s work, there are too many unknowns. And I can’t find the original research report to get clarification. The test group (which was also the control group) consisted of only eight male vegetarians, tested over a period of two months. Is that long enough? Large enough? This article is slightly less alarmist. And this one pretty much decries the other two. (I hope you follow these links and read at least some of the information, otherwise you won't really know what I'm talking about.)

So who do we believe? We’re often told not to believe everything we read – but that goes for negative AND positive reports. I don’t think I’m going to toss out my microwave just yet, but I will limit my usage (not that I use it that much now), and I certainly won’t use it for heating my grandson’s food any more. Maybe I’ll unplug it for a week, and see if I feel any healthier. I’m sure that eating only foods that have been microwaved doesn’t constitute healthy eating.
And it never hurts to err on the side of caution.

Chicken and couscous salad : Wk46/5

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
2 – 3 chicken breast fillets
6 – 8 courgettes, sliced diagonally
200gm couscous
200ml hot chicken stock
1 Tblsp Harrief (chilli) paste
2 Tblsp chopped coriander
30gm chopped pistachio nuts

4 Tblsp natural fat free yoghurt
Juice and grated rind of 2 oranges
4 handfuls mixed salad leaves

Method
Spray a frying pan with non stick cooking spray.
Fry the chicken over a moderate heat for 10 – 15 minutes, turning once.
Remove from the pan and cover with tin foil.

Fry the courgette slices, in the pan you used for the chicken, for about 5 minutes until they start to soften and colour.

Measure the couscous into a plastic bowl.
Pour over the stock and mix in the harrief paste and coriander.
Cover the bowl with a plate or cling film and allow to stand for 5 – 10 minutes.
Fluff up the couscous with a fork and stir in the courgette slices and pistachios.

Shred the chicken into strips.

Make a bed of mixed salad leaves on each of four plates.
Divide the couscous between the plates and arrange the chicken strips on top.
Spoon the yoghurt over and finish with the orange juice and rind.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Link to .pdf files for Week 47 and Review (7)

Want to see what’s on the menu for next week?
Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 47.

And, in case you missed them, here are the links for recipes and shopping lists for weeks 25 - 28:
Week 25
Week 26
Week 27
Week 28

Sweet potato fish pie : Wk46/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
240gm mashing potatoes
240gm pink sweet potatoes
150gm butternut

4 haddock fillets
2 cups fat free milk
1 cup frozen peas
1 Tblsp cornflour
½ tsp mustard powder
1 tsp dried dill

2 eggs, hard boiled and chopped

Method
Cook the potato, sweet potato and butternut in lightly salted boiling water.
Drain when cooked and mash well.

Mix the cornflour and mustard to a paste with a little water.

Poach the haddock in the milk until the fish flakes easily.
Remove the fish to a plate and break up into large flakes.
Thicken the milk with the cornflour paste.
Add the peas, chopped egg and dill.
Fold in the flaked fish.

Tip the fish mixture into an oven-proof dish.
Gently spread the potato and butternut mash over the top.
Grill for 10 - 15 minutes to brown and crisp the top.

Serve with a side salad of baby spinach and rocket.
Adding butternut in with the potatoes gives extra colour – and extra vegetables.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Micro-minerals : Manganese

Micro-minerals, like minerals, are organic elements present in the soil. Plants absorb them from their growth medium. We need even smaller amounts of each micro-mineral in our diet, but they are just as essential to maintain all nerve and muscle function, teeth, bones and body cells. Micro-minerals are insoluble in water and need to be bonded with a soluble compound before they can be properly utilised. That is why foods are the very best sources.

Functions of Manganese:
  • Keeps nervous system healthy
  • Aids in formation of connective tissue
  • Metabolizes carbohydrates and lipids
  • Improves wound healing
  • Indirectly maintains blood sugar levels
  • Supports thyroid function
  • Helps prevent anemia
Sources of Manganese:
  • Beetroot
  • Blueberries
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
Deficiency symptoms:
  • Weak hair and nails
  • Weak ligaments and tendons
  • Hearing loss
  • Stunted growth
  • Sterility
  • Skeletal abnormalities

Antacids and oral contraceptives may interfere with the absorption of manganese.

Supplements are usually unnecessary provided the diet includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Always check with your doctor before taking supplements of any kind. An excess of any vitamin, mineral or micro-mineral can have unpleasant side effects.

Spicy butternut pasta : Wk46/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
Ingredients
1 Tblsp vegetable oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 large butternut, cut in chunks
1 Tblsp brown sugar
1 Tblsp Patak’s Rogan Josh curry paste

1 sm. can ‘lite’ evaporated milk
1 Tblsp Patak’s lime pickle
1 – 2 tsp grated ginger

2 Tblsp chopped coriander

240gm spaghetti

Method
Fry the onion in the oil until it softens.
Add the brown sugar and curry paste and stir for 2 minutes.
Now add the butternut, the evaporated milk, lime pickle and ginger.
Give everything a good stir.
Simmer for 20 minutes until the butternut is soft but still firm.

Meanwhile cook the spaghetti in lightly salted boiling water until al dente.
Drain well.

Divide the spaghetti between 4 warmed pasta bowls.
Top with the spicy butternut and garnish with freshly chopped coriander.