Friday, February 26, 2010


We enter into relationships all the time. Some are never pursued, for whatever reasons, but others are cultivated on a daily basis. There are no written rules for relationships, even in a marriage. Oh, in marriage there is the 'love, honour and obey' bit, but I don't think much cognisance is given to that these days.

In all relationships there are implied and infered expectations. Rarely are these verbalised, except perhaps parent to child (I expect you to...), and then most likely with irritation. And expectations change over time, too.

What are your expectations of your current partner? And what does he/she expect of you? Do either of you actually know?

I have been married for going on 35 years this year. I'm very fortunate that my husband is kind and supportive of any venture I undertake. He is neither verbally nor physically abusive. He is loving, affectionate and loyal. And undemanding. But what are his expectations of our relationship? Has he even thought about it? I tried to think what I expect of him, and it's actually quite difficult. Is this because he has already met and surpassed all my conscious and subconscious expectations? I found it easier to list what I think he expects of me - and I realised that what I think he expects of me is what I expect of me. So am I falling short?

Maybe it's time we all verbalised our expectations, so we each know where we stand. Suppressing emotion is damaging to our physical health and our relationships.

Recipe : Week 9 : Day 5

Ricotta pasta with fennel
Serves 4 : Easy : Quick
300gms curly spaghetti
2 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
500gms cherry tomatoes
10-12 fresh basil leaves, shredded
1 Tblsp balsamic vinegar
80mls water
100gms low fat ricotta, crumbled

While the pasta is cooking:
Spray a saucepan with non-stick cooking spray.
Put the tomatoes, fennel, basil, balsamic and water in the pan.
Bring to the boil and immediately reduce to a gentle simmer.
Cover with a lid and allow to cook gently until the pasta is done.
(By this time the tomatoes should be squishy).
Spoon the sauce over the pasta.
Crumble the ricotta over the top.
Serve with a crisp green salad on the side.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Link for .pdf files : Recipes and list for week 10

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 10


My mother belongs to a speakers forum. Once a month, the members meet for a social morning, and one of them will give a talk on something they have experienced or researched. My mother is giving the talk this month, and the topic she has chosen is "Fatal familial insomnia". This is a very rare disease, symptomised by total and complete lack of sleep. There is currently no treatment available - gene therapy may be useful, once the gene in question has been isolated. But until then, it is, literally, a killer. Sufferers die from total exhaustion. So it seems that sleep is as essential to our health and well-being as food and water.

Oddly enough, I have been thinking about sleep for a while now, even before I knew about my mother's up-coming talk. I love my sleep.

From various reasearch done since the mid 1950s, an average adult sleep-need has been calculated.
Apparently, adults (including the elderly) require 7 to 8 hours sleep a night, and if we don't get it we run into 'sleep-deficit' which is detrimental to health.

Lack of sleep can be a risk factor for weight gain, high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes - all conditions that we normally associate with food! Too little sleep definitely leads to irritability, lethargy, memory lapses, impaired cognitive function and a weakened immune system.

So for optimal health, eat wisely and sleep well.

By the way, if you are pregnant you need more than 8 hours sleep a night - perhaps to help you through those first few months of night feeding.

Recipe : Week 9 : Day 4

Old-style chicken casserole
Serves 4 : Easy : Takes a bit longer
600gms chicken breast
2 Tblsp flour
2 tsp chicken spice
300gms leeks, sliced
300gms parsnips, sliced
300gms carrots, sliced
200gms frozen peas
250ml chicken stock
600gms potatoes

Cut the chicken into bite size pieces.
Place in a plastic bag with the flour and spice and shake well to coat.
Spray a large saucepan with non-stick cooking spray.
Put the chicken pieces in the pan and cook to seal.
Add the prepared vegetables and give a good stir.
Pour in the stock.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.
Simmer 45 – 50 mins.
Meanwhile, cook the potatoes until soft.
Drain and mash well with a little milk.
Serve the casserole over the mashed potato.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Time for a snack

Toddlers and children under 5 have small tummies but big physical expediture. We can't expect them to make it from one meal to the next without a top-up. This is where snacks come in.

Parents need to learn first, so that they can teach their children, that snacks are little mini-meals - food that can be eaten anytime you feel hungry. So a snack might be a small peanut butter sandwich, some fresh fruit, nuts and raisins, yoghurt or a few wheat crackers and a small piece of cheese.

Although it is tempting - in the interest of speed, if nothing else - to offer biscuits as a snack, these (even plain biscuits) should be reserved as treats.

So a snack is something that is nourishing, and can be eaten any time little ones are hungry. Treats are occassional, for birthday parties and such. And it is fine to introduce children to treats - as long as they (and you) know the difference.

Recipe : Week 9 : Day 3

Fish continental
Serves 4 : Easy : Quick
4 x 150gm white fish fillets
1 x ±400gm tin chopped tomato and onion mix
½ a large red bell pepper, sliced
2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
1 small mild red chilli pepper, chopped
2 tsp dried thyme
1 Tblsp capers, rinsed and chopped
1 Tblsp chopped parsley
10 black olives, pitted and sliced
600gm new potatoes, scrubbed, and halved
240gm green beans
Pre-heat oven to 180ºC.
Spray an oven proof dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Lay the fish fillets in the dish, in a single layer.
Pour over the tomato and onion mix.
Scatter over the red pepper and fennel slices, the chopped chilli and capers.
Sprinkle with parsley and dried thyme.
Arrange the olive slices across the top.
Cover loosely with foil.
Bake for 15 mins, then remove foil and bake for a further 10 mins.
Meanwhile, cook the new potatoes in the usual way.
Steam the beans above the potatoes.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Change one thing at a time

Change is often viewed as negative: it disrupts our habitual patterns and takes us out of our comfort zone. Sometimes the change is of our own choice - changing jobs, moving house, having a baby.
Sometimes it's forced on us - a new boss, a petrol price increase, redundancy.
Whether the change is forced or chosen, it takes a toll on our general health and well-being because it is stessful. We don't always cope well with stress, especially when several stressors occur at the same time, but we can improve our coping skills by eating wisely.

In our journey to healthier eating habits - and a healthier overall lifestyle - we can make small changes, one at a time. Once we have adapted to that change, and it has become habitual, then we can make the next change.

For this week, let's turn off the television while we have dinner. Dinner time is prime time for fast food advertisers, and while hamburgers, pizza and chicken burgers may have been the furthest things from your mind when you started to eat (unless you are actually eating one of them), these intrusions will detract from your enjoyment and appreciation of the food in front of you. Within reason, plan your mealtime so that it doesn't conflict with everyone's favourite programme. But then again, you can always record the show, can't you?

Recipe : Week 9 : Day 2

Spring veg lasagne
Serves 4 : Easy : This takes longer – but you can leave it to do its own thing once it’s in the oven.
12 baby corn cobs, each cut in 3 or 4 pieces
2 large carrots, sliced
2 large parsnips, sliced
1 medium aubergine, chopped
2 – 4 large courgettes, sliced
bunch of spring onions
1 x ±400gm tin chopped tomatoes

8 – 12 sheets no-cook lasagne

500ml fat free milk
2 Tblsp maizena

50gm fat reduced cheddar, grated
2 Tblsp grated parmesan
8 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 – 2 Tblsp chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 180ºC.

Spray a large saucepan with non-stick cooking spray.
Put all the vegetables, from the baby corn down to the tinned tomatoes into the pan.
Stir well to combine.
Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer.
Cook for about 15 mins, until the veg are tender.

Make a white sauce with the milk and maizena.

When the vegetables are cooked, it’s time to assemble the lasagne.

Spray a large ovenproof dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Spoon one third of the vegetables into the dish.
Place lasagne sheets, in a single layer, over the veg.
Spoon quarter of the white sauce over the lasagne sheets.
Repeat these three layers, finishing with the white sauce.
Sprinkle over the grated cheeses.
Decorate with the halved cherry tomatoes.

Bake, uncovered, for 45 – 50 minutes.
Allow to stand for 10 mins before serving.

To ensure the lasagne sheets cook nicely, I usually lay them in hot water while I spoon the other stuff into the dish.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Change is desirable?

You may have noticed a few changes on my blog recently.
I've been restructuring and sorting and creating and posting.

There are now four links (just to the right of your screen) which will take you to recipe collections, grouped by protein type. So the top link, "Chicken recipes", will take you to the collection of all the chicken recipes I have posted here. The second will take you to the fish recipe collection, etc.
I will update these collections each week, as and when necessary.

Please let me know what you think. I value the support of all my readers, whether you are in Texas, California. Missouri or Florida; Singapore, Malaysia or India; Australia or New Zealand; Israel; Portugal, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands or England; Botswana, Zimbabwe or South Africa. I see you all. I welcome you all - I love to see you coming back.
I will still be posting the link to the .pdf file of recipes and shopping list each week. Here. On a Thursday. As usual. I will still be posting a recipe a day - if that is useful to you.

I'm still working on other stuff, too. Attempting to simplify and streamline. Am I headed in the right direction?

Recipe : Week 9 : Day 1

Dijon honeyed chicken with fennel salad
Serves 4 : Easy : Quick
±600gm (4) chicken breasts
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
2 medium fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
4 sticks celery, thinly sliced
1 large granny Smith apple, grated
3 Tblsp chopped parsley
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tblsp lemon juice
2 Tblsp fat free natural yoghurt
2 Tblsp low fat mayo
400gm cherry tomatoes
600gm new potatoes, scrubbed, and halved
Mix the mustard and the honey together in a small bowl.
Brush this over the chicken.
Mix the other 2 tsp mustard with the garlic, lemon juice, yoghurt, parsley and mayo.
This is the dressing for the salad.
Put the new potatoes on to cook in lightly salted boiling water.
They will take about 20 mins. (at sea level, they will cook faster).
Drain and keep warm.
Meanwhile, combine the thinly sliced fennel and celery with the grated apple.
Pour over the dressing, and stir well.
Spray a frying pan or ridged pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Cook the chicken in the pan over a moderate heat.
Turn after about 10 mins.
Remove from pan when the second side of the chicken is cooked.
Tip the tomatoes in to the pan with about 1 Tblsp of water.
Cover and cook until the tomatoes are starting to shed their skins.
Shake the pan occasionally so the tomatoes pick up a glaze from the pan juices.
Serve the chicken with the fennel salad, tomatoes and potatoes on the side.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Time for some relaxation

Weekends are supposed to be a time to relax and recharge our batteries. But they seldom are.

We have rushed around doing stuff all week long, only to find that we need to rush around all weekend to accomplish other stuff that we didn't have time for during the week. And if you work in an office, there is always something that needs doing around the home which gets put off until the weekend.

I work from home, so I sometimes manage to get some household chores done during the week. But I often find myself doing mountains of washing and ironing on a Saturday.
And catching up on office work on a Sunday, because I need the husband's input.

I do have some fun, though.
The rest of the weekend is spent doing grocery shopping.
And cooking. And menu planning.
And skype-calling with my older daughter - who is VERY clued up on technology, and always sets me internet-based homework.
And dreaming up a blog topic for the coming week. And researching that topic.
All things I really enjoy.

I hope you have a great weekend, and get to do something you enjoy.

Recipe : Week 8 : Day 5

Fishy Crumble

Serves 4 : Easy : Fairly quick
400gm haddock
1 x ±400gm can baked beans
1 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup fat free milk
60gm nutty wheat flour
40gm rolled oats
40gm lite margarine
2 tsp mixed herbs
1 large head of broccoli
Spray an ovenproof dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Lay the fish in the dish.
Rub the fat into the flour, oats and mixed herbs.
Mix the milk, beans and peas together in a bowl.
Microwave until the mixture is hot.
Pour this mixture over the fish.
Season with black pepper – go easy on the salt, if you are using South African haddock.
Sprinkle the crumble mix over the fish.
Bake at 200ºC for 35 minutes.
Serve with generous portions of steamed broccoli.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Link to .pdf files : Week 9 recipes and list

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 9.

Saving time

Did you rough out a time-table for your day? Did you look at it closely?

Any time-table or schedule needs to be reviewed and modified every so often. If you're new to scheduling it's probably a good idea to review once a week. Even if a schedule works for you, it isn't necessarily efficient use of your time. And you shouldn't get too obsessed with it, either. Some people get so involved in tweaking their schedules and making to-do lists that they waste time. They use scheduling and list making to procrastinate, and as a result get nothing done at all (except beautiful, masterful schedules and to-do lists!)

I'm planning on saving some future time tonight. It will cost maybe five minutes extra tonight, but will gain me at least half an hour some other time. I'm making Speedy Spaghetti for supper, and I will double up on the quantities. I can freeze the second half and have a night off when I need it. Or I can use the extra for my grandson, and not have to cook specially for him. Or freeze for later AND feed my grandson - bonus!

Can you save any time in the kitchen tonight?

Recipe : Week 8 : Day 4

Mexican chicken with spicy okra

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick
8 chicken drumsticks, no skin
Mexican spice
2 large onions
500gms okra
1 x 400gm tin chopped tomatoes
1 red chilli, finely chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
1 Tblsp chopped coriander
4 medium naan breads
Spray a large frying pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Spray a large saucepan with non-stick cooking spray.
Spray the chicken pieces with non-stick cooking spray.
Sprinkle with Mexican spice.
Place the chicken in the frying pan, partially covered.
Cook on a medium heat, turning occasionally.
Meanwhile, chop the onions.
Slice the okra into 2cm slices.
Dry fry the onions in the saucepan until softened.
Add the tomatoes and finely chopped chilli.
Stir in the okra.
Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring gently every so often.
Add the ground coriander to the okra and cook for another 10 mins.
Stir through the chopped coriander.
Warm or toast the naan breads.
Serve alongside the chicken and spicy okra.
Okra ‘bleeds’ a sticky clear substance when it is cut – this is fine, it cooks away.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A time for every purpose...

Most days, particularly as you gain age and responsibilities, are fairly predictable.

The first hour and a half of my day goes something like this:
I get up and make the early morning tea.
I shower, dress and make the bed.
I publish to this blog, I tweet, I make nice on facebook.
I feed my grandson his breakfast.
I eat my breakfast and clear up the kitchen.
I check what I need to take out of the freezer for dinner.
Then my real work begins.

Having worked out how to schedule my blogs, so that they post automatically, I have already saved myself 15 precious early morning minutes. Enough time to have another cup of tea and put on a load of washing.

How can you save 15 precious minutes before work?

Recipe : Week 8 : Day 3

Talking sticks
Serves 4 : Easy : Quick
180gm haloumi
2 large courgettes
neck of a large butternut
1 medium aubergine
4 Tblsp reduced fat pesto mixed with 4 Tblsp water
Small bunch of fresh basil
240gm pasta screws
Cook the pasta in lightly salted water.
Drain when al dente and keep warm.
Peel the aubergine and the butternut.
Cut them and the courgettes into fat juliennes.
Cut the haloumi into similarly sized sticks.
Spray a wok with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the haloumi until it browns nicely.
Remove from the pan.
Lightly spray the wok again.
Tip in all the vegetable sticks. They will make a lovely squeaky noise.
Keep stirring and turning the vegetables over.
Add a splash of water to stop them catching.
When they stop ‘talking’ to you, the vegetables are cooked.
Stir the pesto and water through the vegetables.
Add the pasta.
Toss to combine well.
Serve the pasta and vegetables topped with the haloumi, and
garnished with basil leaves.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Excuses, excuses

I have had clients, in the past, who have come to me for guidance on diet and nutrition, and one of the main problems they have cited for their poor eating habits is time. For example:

"Oh, it's such a rush in the morning, getting the kids off to creche/school, I don't have time for breakfast."
"My job is demanding, and I don't have time for lunch."
"My lunch hour is always taken up with running errands, and I don't have time to eat."

While I agree that we may not want to run our lives according to the clock, our time is precious and needs to be allocated and monitored periodically. This takes time, too, but the last five minutes before you fall asleep, or the first five minutes before you get up, is a good time to mentally review the day ahead and give it some structure.

Do you remember when you were at school? I loved getting the new time-table at the beginning of the year, and I would spend hours making coloured charts. When I did my degree, I structured my study time - according to the subjects and level of difficulty - with a time-table.

Take a few minutes and draw up a rough time-table for your typical weekday. We all need between six and eight hours sleep a night. We, most of us, work at our jobs eight hours a day. That still leaves eight hours 'free' to do the other things we must do - and to have some 'me' time.

Recipe : Week 8 : Day 2

Lamb steaks and butternut

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick
400gm lamb steaks
Ground cumin
500gm butternut, sliced in rounds
4-6 large courgettes, sliced lengthways
1 large onion, sliced
300ml dry couscous
300ml chicken or lamb stock
1-2Tblsp good quality mint sauce
100gm reduced fat feta, crumbled
Salad leaves
Mint leaves
Prepare the butternut and courgettes.
Stem or microwave until cooked.
Keep warm.
Put the couscous and boiling stock in a bowl.
Cover with cling wrap or a plate.
Allow to stand for 10 minutes.
Stir through the mint sauce.
Fluff up with a fork.
Spray a frying pan or ridged pan with non-stick cooking spray. Put on high heat.
Spray the lamb steaks, both sides, with cooking spray.
Sprinkle cumin over the lamb steaks, both sides.
Cook the lamb steaks about 4 minutes per side.
Fry the onion in the same pan.
Lay a bed of lettuce leaves over each plate.
Spoon a mound of couscous onto the lettuce.
Now make a layered stack of butternut, courgette, onion and lamb on top of the couscous,
ending with lamb.
Garnish with crumbled feta and mint leaves.
I’m so sorry I lost the photo for this dish – it looked so impressive. Delicious too.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Basic needs

We all have basic needs.

Abraham Maslow (April 1st 1908 - June 8th 1970) was an influential and inspirational figure in the field of human psychology. In 1943 his hierarchy of needs was published in his paper entitled 'A theory of human motivation'. The hierarchy of needs forms a pyramid - much like the old style food pyramid - with the most basic needs forming the foundation of the pyramid.

Maslow says that we need each layer of the pyramid, in order, and that we will not progress to worrying about building the next layer before we have laid a solid foundation of the preceeding layer.

Maslow's hierarchy builds as follows:
Our first and most basic needs are physiological : water, food, sleep, etc
The second level is concerned with safety : shelter, personal and family security, health, employment,etc
The third need is for love and a sense of belonging : family, friends
The fourth level is for esteem : respect for and of others, achievement, confidence
And the fifth level is self actualisation : morality, creativity, acceptance, altruism.

Now, if we could look at the food pyramid, and only help ourselves to the next food group once we have established a strong foundation of the preceeding group on our plate, we would all be slimmer and healthier!
The layers in the food pyramid, in case you have forgotten, build in this order:
Grains and starches : Fruit and vegetables : Meats, beans, eggs and nuts : Dairy : Fats and sugars

Recipe : Week 8 : Day 1

Seafood laksa

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick
500gm marinara mix
150gm egg or rice noodles
750ml chicken or fish stock
250ml lite evaporated milk
2-3Tblsp Patak’s tikka masala paste
2-3Tblsp chopped coriander
1 Tblsp maizena mixed with water
4Tblsp bean sprouts
4 spring onions, sliced diagonally
4Tblsp sweet chilli sauce
Spray a large saucepan with non-stick cooking spray.
Fry the marinara mix until cooked (about 5 mins).
Remove the fish from the pan and set aside.
Add the curry paste to the saucepan and fry for 1 minute.
Add the stock and allow to simmer for 5minutes.
Add the noodles.
Continue simmering until the noodles are cooked.
Add the evaporated milk.
Add back the fish, and heat through.
Stir through the coriander and maizena.
Serve the laksa garnished with the spring onions, bean sprouts and sweet chilli sauce.
To make sure you get your minimum 5-a-day, serve with a green salad.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Recipe : Week 7 : Day 5 : Chicken

Fried rice with chicken

Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick

400gms chicken breast
240gms rice
1 cup frozen peas
1 red bell pepper
4 sticks celery, sliced
1 small aubergine, peeled and chopped
1 small head broccoli, broken into florets
Kernels cut from 2 corn cobs
Bunch of spring onions
3 Tblsp soy sauce
Sweet chilli sauce to taste
Put the rice on to cook in lightly salted boiling water.
Drain when tender and keep warm.
Deseed the pepper and chop into squares.
Slice the spring onions and celery
Peel and chop the aubergine.
Break the broccoli into florets.
Cut the kernels off the corn cobs.
Microwave, steam or boil all the vegetables (except the onions) until tender.
Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.
Spray a wok or large frying pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Cook the chicken bits in the wok (about 5 mins) stirring all the time.
Add the vegetables (including the onions) to the chicken.
Keep stirring.
Fold in the rice.
Stir through the soy sauce and sweet chilli.
And it’s ready to serve.

Treating yourself

Why is it that when we think of 'treats' or 'treating' someone we immediately think of chocolates and cake? or dinner at a fancy restaurant? or an alcoholic drink?

We need to go back to the original legal, medical and moral meanings of the word.
Treat is a transitive verb meaning to deal with; to handle; to discuss; to behave towards.
As a noun, treat means a free entertainment; a pleasure excursion; a source of great gratification.
(Chambers English Dictionary.1988. p1563)

Try treating yourself, your children, significant other and co-workers with kindness, patience and respect.
Try playing games with the kids (a free entertainment), or take them to a park or swimming pool (a pleasure excursion).
Any or all of these will be a source of great gratification to everyone involved.

Oh, and Sunday is Valentine's Day - all about treating others with love and affection. Treat yourself to some fresh flowers and serve strawberries and frozen yoghurt for dessert.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Week 8 : Recipes and list

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 8.

Sugars and fats for kids

No matter how conscientious you are, you cannot prevent your children from coming into contact with, and consuming, sweets, biscuits, cakes, chocolates, crisps etc. Certainly by the time a child turns 2 he/she has already been to several birthday parties and family celebrations where such food items will have been readily available. The best you can do is keep your own house as clear of these items as possible and, when out with the children, set an example by not eating such things yourself.

I'm not saying that no-one should ever have such treats. But the quantity should be controlled. And maybe we shouldn't label them as 'treats' - they are just other food items, and no longer things saved for special occassions. Food items packed with calories from saturated fats and sugar, and loaded with artificial colourants, flavourings and preservatives.

The next time you host a party for kids try to keep the menu as simple and fresh as possible.
Brown bread sandwiches with: egg mayo, grated cheese, marmite and cucumber, etc.
Fruit bread instead of cake.
Fresh fruit - strawberries, grapes, apple slices - instead of sweets.
Plain biscuits - digestives, ginger nuts, maries.
Dried fruit and nuts (just check none of your guests have nut allergies) instead of crisps.
If you want something savoury and munchy, opt for pretzels - less fat, less salt.
Instead of ice-cream serve frozen yoghurt.
And to drink, diluted fruit juice or smoothies.
At least if there are any left-overs, they are healthy - not temptations to stray. And I promise the kids will not miss eating cake.

The other thing you can (and should) do is spread the word about healthy eating. By example, and with healthy eating habits instilled from an early age, hopefully this newest generation will not have to battle with their weight and health the way we have had to.

Recipe : Week 7 : Day 4 : Vegetarian

Stuffed pancakes

Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
120gms nutty wheat flour
pinch of salt
1 egg
325mls fat free milk
for the stuffing
2 onions, sliced
6 large tomatoes, sliced thickly
125gm button mushrooms
60gms strong cheese, grated
chopped parsley to garnish
Put the flour and salt in a bowl, and make a well in the centre.
Break the egg into the well.
Add about half the milk.
Beat well.
Add the remaining milk, and beat again.
Allow batter to stand while you prepare the stuffing ingredients.
Spray a small frying pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onions, mushrooms and tomato slices until the tomato begins to break.
Remove from the pan and keep warm.
Wipe the frying pan with kitchen paper. Respray with cooking spray.
Pour 1/8th of the batter into the frying pan, and cook for about 3 mins
or until the underside is nicely browned.
Turn or toss the pancake to cook other side.
Remove pancake to a plate. Cover with a clean kitchen cloth.
Continue cooking the rest of the batter in the same way until you have 8 pancakes.
Lay pancakes on a board, 2 at a time.
Place onion, mushroom and tomato down the centre of each pancake.
Fold pancakes over around the stuffing.
Sprinkle with grated cheese and parsley, and serve.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Portions for the under 5's

Okay, Sally (and any other mums out there), are you ready?

Sarah Avridge is 9 months old. She is an active baby, just starting to crawl.
Once she turns 1, Sarah's portion sizes are:
Meat/fish/chicken/beans: 1/2 to 1 Tblsp finely chopped with gravy or sauce or 1 egg: 2-4 x per day.
Fruits: 1/2 a small apple or pear or a small plum (peeled please): 2-4 x per day.
Veg: 1 Tblsp soft or mashed carrot, courgette, pumpkin, broccoli etc: 3-5 x per day.
Grains/cereals: 1/2 - 1 slice of bread, or 1 Tblsp mashed potato/rice/porridge: 4-6 x per day.
Dairy: 2 Tblsp yoghurt or custard or 3 dices of cheese: 2-4 x per day.
Fat and sugar: avoid at this age.
Milk: 500ml full fat milk or formula per day.
Until she turns 1, Sally should keep Sarah's portion sizes small, increasing them gradually to the 1 year old level.

Toby is an adventurous little boy of 2yrs 9mo. He loves climbing and riding his tricycle. Until he turns 3, Toby needs:
Meat/fish/chicken/beans: 1 1/2 Tblsp chopped meat, 1 fish finger, sausage or egg: 2-4 x per day.
Fruits: 1 small apple or pear, or slice melon, or 4 strawberries: 2-4 x per day.
Veg: 1-2 Tblsp carrot, courgette, pumpkin, broccoli, a small chopped salad etc: 3-5 x per day.
Grains/cereals: 1 large slice of bread, or 1-2 Tblsp mashed potato/rice/porridge: 4-6 x per day.
Dairy: 3 Tblsp yoghurt or custard or 4 dices of cheese: 2-4 x per day.
Fat and sugar: 1 plain biscuit or 1 small slice of plain cake: 1-2 x per day.
Milk: 750ml full fat or low fat milk per day.
Sally can start increasing Toby's portion sizes now, gradually.

Once Toby is 3, he will need:
Meat/fish/chicken/beans: 2-3 Tblsp chopped meat, or 1-2 fish fingers or sausages, or 1 egg: 2-4 x per day.
Fruits: 1 small apple, banana,pear, slice melon, or 6 grapes: 2-4 x per day.
Veg: 2-3 Tblsp carrot, courgette, pumpkin, broccoli, a small chopped salad etc: 3-5 x per day.
Grains/cereals: 1-2 large slices of bread, or 2-3 Tblsp mashed potato/rice/porridge: 4-6 x per day.
Dairy: 4 Tblsp yoghurt or custard or 1 small matchbox of cheese: 2-4 x per day.
Fat and sugar: 1 plain biscuit or 1 small slice of plain cake: 1-2 x per day.
Milk: 750ml full fat or low fat milk per day.

Recipe : Week 7 : Day 3 : Vegetarian


Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
1 large onion
1 – 2 celery stalks, sliced
1 medium aubergine, peeled and cubed
200gm mushrooms, sliced
400gm can chopped tomatoes
1 Tblsp chopped basil
4 – 6 Tblsp passata
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
240gm penne
Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Gently fry the onions until soft and starting to colour.
Add the rest of the vegetables, the basil, pasta and chilli.
Simmer for about 20 mins until the aubergine is cooked through.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in lightly salted boiling water until al dente.
Drain and keep warm until the sauce is ready to serve.
Serve the penne and sauce with a garnish of chopped parsley and
grated parmesan.
Add a fresh green salad if you wish.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Feeding children

We need to focus on nutritious foods in healthy quantities, for ourselves and our family.

Eating habits and food preferences are formed from a very young age. They are affected by race, religion, culture, ethics, economics, health and climate. They should also be influenced by a little knowledge of what is sound nutritional value and what the body requires.

Body requirements are pretty much covered by portion control. I covered recommended portion sizes and healthy nutrition when I discussed the different food groups. What I didn't cover was the number of portions and portion sizes for children.

So, for the under-5s, the number of daily portions required are:
Meat/fish/chickens/beans: 2-4 portions
Fruits:                              2-4 portions
Vegetables:                       3-5 portions
Grains/cereals/potatoes:    4-6 portions
Dairy:                               2-4 portions (excluding milk for drinking)
Food containing fat/sugar:  1-2 portions
Milk:                            500 - 750ml depending on age
but the portion size varies with age.

Sally Avridge has been asking me for some guidelines for feeding her two little ones, so tomorrow 1'll talk about portion sizes for the under-1s, the 2-3s and 3-5s.

Recipe : Week 7 : Day 2 : Chicken

Sesame chicken

Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
±400gm skinless chicken breasts
300 gm broccoli florets
6 spring onions
6 – 8 mini corn
1 medium aubergine
1 green bell pepper
1 Tblsp pickled ginger (if you have)
1 – 2 tsp Chinese five spice
3 Tblsp soy sauce
Juice of a lemon
2 – 3 Tblsp sesame seeds
240gm egg noodles
Cook the noodles in lightly salted boiling water until cooked.
Drain and keep warm.
Cut the chicken into bite size pieces.
Clean, peel and slice or dice the vegetables.
Spray a wok or large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Place over a high heat and toss in the chicken.
Once the chicken is sealed, add all the vegetables and about ¼ cup of water.
Cook, stirring the whole time for about 5 minutes.
Now add the spice, soy. lemon juice and sesame seeds.
Cook to heat through.
Serve with noodles and extra soy sauce.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Teach your children well

Children learn by modelling.

Yes, they go through phases. At the moment, my grandson, who used to eat any and all fruit put in front of him in preference to anything else, shakes his head and turns away at the offer of even his favourites - raisins, blueberries and bananas.

I don't make a fuss. I don't try to cajole him into eating. Nor do I offer him an alternative by way of food or fruit at that meal. This week he is off rice, too, but he'll eat quinoa and all vegetables. And he loves pasta. Today, at least.

At some stage, a child will be expected to eat whatever the rest of the family eats. Don't drive yourself crazy cooking different meals. Yes, what the rest of the family is having may need some extra mashing or chopping until little ones can cope with bigger bits, but it is a good idea to introduce them to different textures and flavours. I'm not suggesting that you puree Madras curry for baby's lunch, but after nine months, a mild curry is fine.

 Be adventurous and try some new foods yourself. Eat together as often as you can. Let little ones see you enjoying what you eat. They are enormously interested and curious about everything around them - capitalise on that. Let's face it, everything they can pick up goes straight in their mouths.

Be adventurous and try some new foods yourself.
All new foods should be offered with a confident and positive attitude, and as a separate item - don't stir it through his entire meal. Just a teaspoon the first time, at the start of the meal when he is hungry. Make no comment if the new food is rejected. Try it again tomorrow, or next week. Just be sure that you do try it again. Don't cross it off the menu forever.

I firmly believe that a normally healthy, growing child - no matter how young - will eat as much as his/her body needs.

Recipe : Week 7 : Day 1 : Fish

Smoked trout potato cake
Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
280gm smoked trout fillets
500gm mashing potatoes
150gm spinach
1 Tblsp chopped dill
1 Tblsp chopped capers (optional)
4 slices stale bread, crumbed
Tartare sauce
1 Tblsp low fat mayo
1 Tblsp horseradish
1 Tblsp chopped capers
4 Sliced tomatoes
Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
To make the tartare sauce, combine the mayo, horseradish and chopped capers.
Mix well.
Cook the potatoes in lightly salted boiling water until soft.
(Cut the potatoes into small cubes so they cook faster.)
Add the spinach to the pan, cover with a lid and let the spinach wilt in the steam for 5 mins.
Drain the potatoes and spinach.
Add the dill and capers and mash the whole lot together.
Break up the smoked trout, and stir through the potato mixture.
Spread half the breadcrumbs on a dinner plate.
Gently tip the potato mix on top of the crumbed plate.
Press the potato down into a round.
Sprinkle over the remaining crumbs and press gently into the cake.
Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray, and place over a high heat.
Slide the potato into the pan.
Cook for about 5 minutes, until the underside browns nicely.
Grill the top for another 5 mins to finish off.
Slide the cake out of the pan onto a serving plate.
Cut into wedges and serve with sliced tomatoes and tartare sauce.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Way to go

Now you know a bit about the different food groups, kilocalories and kilojoules, portion sizes and GI values. But this doesn't guide you to making healthier food choices.

Weight management is difficult enough - especially as we get older - and putting yourself on a restricted regimen only leads to depression, dissatisfaction and disillusionment. So dump the doomed diet discipline. The healthy style of eating still comes down to having controlled portions of a wide variety of foods from all the different food groups - with emphasis on vegetables and fruit. Eliminating foods you normally enjoy is not the way to go - a little of what you fancy does you good, and stops you feeling deprived.

Have a great weekend.

Recipe : Week 6 : Day 5

Pizza Toasts
Serves 4 : Very easy
1 French loaf
2 – 3 large tomatoes, sliced
passata or tomato paste
16 green olives (pitted)
crushed garlic (optional)
1 yellow bell pepper
1 onion, sliced
160gm fat reduced mozzarella
Slice the olives.
Cut the bell pepper into thin strips.
Cut the French loaf into four, along the length.
Split each piece.
Toast both sides lightly.
Smear each toast with passata .
Spread with garlic, if using.
Now share all the toppings between the eight pieces, starting with tomato slices
Top with the grated cheese.
Grill until the cheese bubbles and turns brown.
Serve with a green salad and beetroot.
This is very quick and easy – just have everything ready before you toast the bread.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Week 7 : Recipes and shopping list

Go here for the printable .pdf file of recipes and shopping list for Week 7.

Examples and a link for GI values

I thought I'd better give you some examles of which foods are high, intermediate and low GI. This is by no means an extensive categorization. Go  here for loads of information, and a fairly extensive GI value list.

Vegetables - Low GI
Tomatoes, green beans, peas, sugar snap peas, bell peppers, cabbage, lettuce, cucumber, broccoli, etc.
Veg - Intermediate GI
Carrots, beetroot, spinach
Veg - High GI
Turnips, parsnips

Fruits - Low GI
Grapefruit, cherries, oranges, apples, kiwis, mango, pears, peaches, grapes etc.
Fruits - Intermediate GI
Banana, apricots, melon, pineapple, paw paw/papino
Fruits - High GI

Grains and starches - Low GI
All beans, lentils, oat bran, pasta, barley, rice (brown, wild, Tastic white), sweetcorn, sweet potato
Grains and starches - Intermediate GI
New potatoes, Basmati rice, pita bread, bran muffin, rye bread, white bread (high fibre)
Grains and starches - High GI
2-minute noodles, rice cakes, potatoes (boiled, mashed, baked).

The GI values of the different foods on your plate average out . So the more you pile on the low GI value foods, the lower the overall GI will be. You will stay fuller for longer and have more energy.

Recipe : Week 6 : Day 4

Chicken and Butternut hot pot
Serves 4 : Very easy
2 chicken breasts (about 325gm)
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ tsp chopped ginger
½ large butternut, peeled, deseeded and chopped
125gm green beans, cut in threes
½ can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
6 spring onions, sliced diagonally
10 or so mini corn cobs, sliced
1Tblsp coriander, chopped
1 Tblsp peanut butter
1 Tblsp soy sauce
250ml (1 cup) chicken or veg stock
240gm brown rice
Put the rice on to cook in lightly salted boiling water.
Remember that brown rice takes longer to cook than white.
Drain once it’s cooked, and keep warm.
Meanwhile, slice the chicken.
Put the peanut butter into a jug with the soy sauce and stock.
Spray a large pot with non-stick cooking spray and place over a high heat.
Add the ginger and garlic to the pan and sizzle for two minutes.
Add the chicken and cook until it is ‘sealed’.
Now tip in the butternut and stock mixture.
Cover and bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the green beans, chickpeas and mini corn.
Simmer for another 5 minutes, then stir through the spring onions and coriander.
Serve with the rice and extra soy sauce.
I do buy fresh coriander, but I have found that it doesn’t keep terribly well in the fridge.
So I generally buy John West’s little bottle. For convenience and ease of use I buy the
John West ginger, and the garlic too. They used to make chopped basil in a bottle, but
I haven’t seen that around for a few years now. I miss it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How did that food get on your plate?

... or rather, what was done to the food before it was dished up? I'm still talking about GI values.

Yesterday I mentioned that particle size has impact on the GI value of a food. Any sort of processing -grinding, milling, mashing, beating, liquidizing, refining - reduces particle size and raises the GI value. Heat and cooking increases the ease of digestion, and has the same effect.

Here are a few ways to reduce the resultant rise in blood-glucose levels.

Eat more slowly. Research shows that eating more slowly raises blood-glucose levels more gently.

Add lots of low GI vegetables to your plate - especially salads.  Salads are usually raw, or if not raw, at least chilled. Adding low GI veg will slow down the rate of digestion. Slower digestion equals a slower release of glucose into the blood stream, and a slower release of glucose leads to a more gradual insulin reaction.

Eat regularly.  What you eat at breakfast, strangely enough, impacts on what you eat at lunch time, and lunch impacts on dinner; so a low GI, low fat breakfast, for example fresh fruit and oat porridge, will keep you going until lunchtime without a problem. You will not then be tempted to cram high GI foods into your mouth in an attempt to assuage your hunger. Hunger as a result of eating high GI foods, or of not eating at all, will make you overeat at the earliest opportunity.

Add other low GI foods to your meal. Whole-grains, beans, lentils. These all fill you up, and keep you satisfied for longer.

Eat in-between meal snacks - fruit is the healthiest and easiest snack, or crudites.

Eat fibre. Most of us don't eat anywhere near the recommended 30 - 40gm a day. Fibre is filling and satisfying. Get it from oats, beans, pasta and leafy vegetables like cabbage and spinach. Fibre helps protect against high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Recipe : Week 6 : Day 3

Couscous and feta

Serves 4 : Very easy
200gms couscous
Juice and rind of 1 lemon
150gms fat reduced feta cheese
200gm broccoli florets
4 tomatoes, chopped and deseeded
3 Tblsp pine nuts
1 Tblsp chopped parsley
1 Tblsp mint sauce
Lettuce and bean sprouts
Tip the couscous into a plastic bowl.
Add the lemon juice and rind, and enough boiling water to just cover.
Cover with cling film or a plate and allow to stand for 10 minutes.
Blanch the broccoli florets until they are just cooked, and still bright green.
Cut or crumble the feta cheese.
Fluff up the couscous with a fork.
Fold in the broccoli, tomato pieces, pine nuts, feta, the mint sauce and parsley.
Serve on a bed of lettuce, with bean sprouts as a garnish.
There is something about couscous that just begs for lots of herbs. I particularly like
mint in mine, and the mint sauce is an easy way to add it – no chopping, no mess, no fuss.
I finally found a good quality mint sauce – a lot of them are not so nice - Colman’s Classic mint sauce. Don’t be tempted to use mint jelly – there’s hardly any mint in it, and it’s way too sweet.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What makes for low GI

Despite what I said yesterday about eating at least 50 % of our carbohydrates from the low GI group (and I still hold with that) we shouldn't eat low/no GI foods indiscriminately. Nor should we eat overly large portions of the healthy low/no GI foods - excess intake of any food can lead to weight gain (unless we're talking about broccoli or lettuce).

What we are aiming to achieve is good nutrition and weight management, without inopportune hunger pangs. We want (and need) all-day energy. We need to be able to cope with stress. We need to maintain our emotional equilibrium

When we eat a meal, we usually eat a combination of different foods. Some will be high GI, some intermediate, and some low GI. Some will be NO GI, because animal proteins contain such a small percentage of carbohydrate that they are considered to have very little or no effect on blood-glucose levels, therefore they have no GI value. But animal proteins (meat, cheese, etc) have high levels of saturated fats, which, in the interests of weight management and health, we want to limit. So we have to consider the GI value of a food in light of what else it contains, other than carbohydrates.

Adding a little animal protein or oil to a meal slows down digestion and so gives a feeling of satiety for longer. Always remembering, of course, to add only mono- or polyunsaturated oils in limited quantities.

A salad with a vinegar or lemon dressing helps keep blood-glucose levels controlled. It has to do with acidity, so sour dough breads will do the same. A salad (low GI) added to a high GI meal will lower the overall GI of the meal.

Soluble fibre, such as is found in rolled oats, lentils, beans and apples, is excellent for blood-glucose control. Insoluble fibre, however, is not digested at all, so has no impact.

The size of the particles in food products effects the GI. If the food item is made from a finely milled flour, then the GI will be high (white bread = 70), but if the flour used is whole grain, or stone-ground then the resulting product will, in most circumstances, be low GI. The finer the particle, the easier (and faster) it is to digest.

By all means, buy products marked with a low GI rating - just be aware that other factors come into play

Recipe : Week 6 : Day 2

Smoked turkey bagel

Serves 4 : Very easy
4 bagels
±200gms smoked turkey
Low fat mayo
Mixed lettuce leaves
1 raw beetroot, grated
1 Tblsp dried cranberries
Crudités to serve
Prepare your crudités.
(I’ve used cocktail tomatoes, mange tout peas and cucumber sticks.)
Carefully split the bagels, and toast lightly.
Spread both halves of each bagel with low fat mayo.
Put lettuce and grated beetroot on the bottom halves.
Top with sliced smoked turkey.
Cap with the top halves.
Put a teaspoon of the mayo in each hollow.
Sprinkle with dried cranberries.
Serve with the crudités.
This recipe came about because I was digging in the freezer, looking for chicken.
I had completely forgotten about the smoked ½ turkey I bought, sliced and froze at Christmas!
Mind you don’t burn your fingers on the bagels – I think it is the sugar bath they are boiled in before baking that makes them retain the heat.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Glycemic Index

There must be hundreds, more probably thousands, of books available on the market devoted to the glycemic index. And if you google it, you get over a million returns. So I will keep it simple. I will give you the basics, and you can ask questions afterwards in a comment. Everyone knows how to leave a comment, right? You click on the word 'comment' at the end of this post, and a comment box will pop up for you to fill in. Easy? Thank you.

The glycemic index (GI) is a rating of the carbohydrate content of a food, according to what impact the food in question has on blood-glucose levels, in comparison to a preset standard. The preset standard used is usually glucose = 100.

Foods with a GI in the range 70 - 100 are High GI. Anything between 55 - 70 is Intermediate GI. And anything lower than 55 is, of course, considered Low GI. We need to eat at least 50% of our carbohydrates from the Low GI group.

Foods with a high GI are digested and absorbed very quickly, releasing sugars (glucose) into the blood stream. This promotes an immediate and sometimes excessive insulin response. The insulin reduces the glucose levels in the blood stream by diverting the glucose to body tissue (muscles, organs), either for use now or by storing it as fat.

Eating high GI foods, then, produces what's known as a 'spike' - a lot of glucose is rapidly released into the blood stream and the insulin response removes the glucose from the blood stream just as fast. And you're hungry again an hour later, yes? Lots of glucose demands lots of insulin.

On the other hand, foods with a low GI are digested and absorbed more slowly, so that the body's demand for and release of insulin is retarded. You stay satisfied for longer.

This might seem an odd place to stop, but I don't want to keep you from your work. It's the beginning of a new week and a new month, so come back tomorrow for more.

Recipe : Week 6 : Day 1

Hungarian Stew

Serves 4 : Very easy
400gm pork fillet, cut into bite sized chunks
1 large onion, chopped
1 large leek, sliced
1 small butternut, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
±150gm fine green beans
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 ½ tsp Mexican spice
1 tsp dried thyme
2 Tblsp tomato paste
½ cup dried red lentils
3 cups beef stock
240gm linguine
Parsley and tomato to garnish
Spray a large sauce pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Toss in the onions, leek and butternut.
Dry-fry for about 5 minutes or until the onion is soft.
Add the paprika, Mexican spice and thyme.
Fry for 2 mins more, stirring all the time, until spices are fragrant.
Add the pork and ‘seal’ it. (This takes about 5 mins on high heat, turning continuously.)
Now add the green beans, tomato paste, lentils and stock.
Bring to the boil; then simmer for about 30 mins, while you cook the pasta.
Drain the pasta and serve with the stew.
Garnish with chopped parsley and tomato slices.
The paprika that I have been able to find is the ‘sweet’ variety, and not hot – that’s why I have used Mexican spice for heat. I meant to spoon fat-free natural yoghurt over the stew, but I forgot.