Friday, April 30, 2010

Rules can break your commitment

I’ve just seen on Face Book that my niece is starting a ’major health kick 28 day plan’. She says she is giving up smoking and alcohol (both excellent commitments to make!), and that she intends to cut out sugars and fats altogether.

Alarm bells are already sounding in my head! Very few people can set these kinds of limitations, all at once, and succeed.

The greater the number of stringent rules you make for yourself when committing to a diet or health regimen, the less likely you are to keep them up. The only rules – not even rules, but guidelines - you need to implement to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle are:
1. Make healthy food choices
2. Master portion control
3. Consume sufficient kilocalories/kilojoules
4. Introduce gentle exercise
5. Don’t set a time limit

Making healthy food choices means eating more fresh fruit and vegetables, and choosing whole grain products over their refined equivalents – whole grain bread and pasta, brown rice etc.

Mastering portion control is a little more difficult and takes a bit of time. Use the Google search tool above, type in ‘food groups’ and it will list all the posts I have written in the past about how much of what equals a portion, and how many portions of each food group your body needs in a day.

Eating enough is tied in to portion control. If you eat the number of portions from each food group, each day, you will be getting sufficient energy from a healthy variety of foods. When you radically limit the quantity and quality of the foods you ‘allow’ yourself, you will be hungry, tired and quickly get depressed and down on yourself. All foods are 'allowed' - just watch your portion sizes.

Introducing gentle exercise is as easy as parking on the far side of the lot, before walking briskly into the mall or shopping centre, where you will use the stairs in preference to the lift or escalator.

Don’t set a time limit. You will more than likely set an unrealistic goal, not be able to meet it, and get despondent. You will lose faith in yourself, be de-motivated and give up on the whole idea! Slow and steady attains the goal – it’s not a race. Changing too much all at once means you have too much to think about and consider every time you want to eat.

Have a great weekend.

Chicken Ukraine : Wk18/5

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick

4 skinless chicken breast fillets

2 Tblsp chopped parsley
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp olive oil

1 slice whole wheat bread, crumbed
Chicken spice

Preheat the oven to 180ºc.
Spray a baking tray with non-stick cooking spray.

Slit the chicken breasts three-quarters of the way through horizontally, so that they open like a book.
Mix the parsley, garlic and oil together.
Spread the parsley mix over one ‘page’ of each chicken breast, and close each ‘book’.
Place the chicken on the baking tray.
Press the fresh breadcrumbs on the top of each fillet.
Sprinkle with chicken spice.

Bake the chicken at 180ºc for twenty five minutes.

Cut each fillet in half diagonally.
Serve with a fresh mixed salad.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Link to .pdf files for Week 19

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 19.


Wikipedia tells me that potatoes are the world’s fourth largest food crop, after rice, wheat and maize; and that nearly a third of the world’s potatoes are harvested in China and India! The average global citizen, over the last decade, will have consumed 33kg of potatoes per year.

I remember, with delight, that as a child I went to firework displays and stood round the bonfire burning my fingers and mouth on baked potatoes, but I have never baked a potato in foil, in the oven, in all my (many) years of cooking. I usually do them in the microwave in a little water, but they are just not the same cooked like that. From the oven they come out fluffy and the skin goes a bit crispy. What is the secret? Maybe it’s best that I never find out, otherwise I would be cooking them every day!

A few years ago the potatoes in this country were packaged and labeled as ‘suitable for’, so I could buy potatoes specifically for baking or mashing or chips or boiling. That labeling seems to have fallen away and our supermarkets now stock potatoes graded only by size. I like to buy the ‘medium’ size (about the size of a tennis ball), they usually weigh about 120gms each which is a handy portion for one person. If you mash them, of course, they shrink before your eyes and it looks like you should’ve cooked two per person instead of one.

I’ve recently been experimenting with mashed potatoes and found that they bulk up very nicely and look and taste more interesting if you combine them with something else. By adding white beans you can retain the texture and colour while adding to the flavour. Peas and mint, broad beans or soya beans change the texture and colour, and keep the kilocalories/kilojoules down. Spinach is very good too, but then you should ‘crush’ rather than mash. Try leaving the skins on, too (anything to save peeling!)

If you want creaminess in your mash, reach for natural fat free yoghurt or smooth cottage cheese, or a little bit of low fat mayo. Add some spices – nutmeg is very good and wholegrain mustard makes an interesting addition. And a teaspoon of baking powder in your mash is supposed to make it light and fluffy.

You know how left over mash picks up a funny taste in the fridge? Mash in some sweet potato and that taste won’t appear.

Four B roast : Wk18/4

Serves 4 : Easy : Time depends on size of joint.

1 x Aitchbone beef roasting joint
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp beef stock powder

400gm potatoes
1 head broccoli
1 large butternut, peeled and cut in chunks
250gm green beans

2 cups water
½ cup wine

1 – 2 Tblsp maizena

Pour the water and wine into a shallow ovenproof dish.
Stand the roast on a rack over the water dish.
Spray the meat with non-stick cooking spray.
Grind black pepper over, and sprinkle with stock powder.
Put in the oven at 160ºc for 45 minutes per kilo, plus an extra 20 minutes.
(The meat should be moist and still slightly pink in the middle.)

Meanwhile boil, steam or microwave the vegetables.
Keep warm once they are cooked.

When the meat is done to your liking, remove from the oven and cover with foil.
Allow to stand for 10 minutes before carving

Tip the juices from the water dish into a small sauce pan.
Add a little more beef stock powder, and thicken with the maizena.

Serve with Dijon mustard or horseradish sauce.

I found this joint sulking in the bottom of my chest freezer, and thought I had better use it up! I have some left over for sandwich lunches.
Aitchbone is a close grained cut. Don’t overcook it, it will just go tough.
The ‘Four B’ name comes from the Butternut, Broccoli, Beans and Beef.
There is no need to preheat the oven. Turn it on when you put the roast in.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Warming Food

I am afraid that winter has come early to the southern hemisphere. As I sit here, I am dressed in a spencer, a lamb’s wool jersey and a tracksuit top plus pantyhose, denims and slippers. And I am cold.
There is nothing like being cold to increase the appetite – especially for starchy foods: mountains of creamy mashed potato and thick slices of hot toast dripping butter! There’s nothing the matter with either potatoes or toast, it’s just what you eat with them (and the amount you eat) that can be a problem.

My favourite food solution to the winter chills is soup, it’s warming and satisfying and oh, so easy to make. I operate on the ‘rusty nail’ principle (remember the children’s story?) Here’s how I go about it.

I pour at least 1 ½ liters of water into a large saucepan and put it on the stove to heat.
Then I toss in 150gms of mixed dried peas, lentils and barley.
And 1 Tblsp of stock powder.

Next comes the ‘what’s in the fridge’ part.
Could be I have:
2 large carrots – scrubbed, topped and tailed, chopped
Celery – 2 stalks, scrubbed and sliced, leaves and all
Turnip – 1 or 2, scrubbed, topped and tailed, chopped
Leeks – 2 - well washed and sliced
Butternut – about ½ peeled and chopped
Green beans – end of the packet, looking a bit sad, topped and tailed and chopped
Courgettes – 3 – 4 topped and tailed and chopped
Aubergine – 1 peeled and chopped
I add these to my simmering pot as I prepare them.

Now, what’s in the store cupboard?
A can of chopped tomatoes with onion
A can of chick peas, cannellini, kidney- or butter beans, mixed beans (1 can, contents rinsed and drained)
Pasta? 1 cup of pasta – shells, alphabet shapes, broken spaghetti – sometimes I use rice.
These are unceremoniously added to the pot.

I check to see if I have enough water in there (add more if necessary), then I cover the pan and while it simmers away for 25 minutes or so, I dig a loaf of crusty bread out of the freezer and put it in the oven to thaw and re-crisp (about 20 mins at 180ºc). And I’ll maybe take the cheese out of the fridge – you get a better flavour when it is not so cold.

Once I’m ready to serve I blitz the soup with my hand blender – just 3 or four times, I’m not trying to puree it, only thicken the stock. Voila - wonderfully tasty, warming, filling, healthy soup.

Do you have a ‘rusty nail’ soup recipe? You can use any or all of the ingredients I’ve listed, and plenty of others. What are your essential soup ingredients?

Sweet and sour fish : Wk18/3

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick

500gm smoked haddock, skinless
1 onion, quartered and thickly sliced
150gm button mushrooms, sliced
1 green pepper, cut into cubes
1 ±410gm tin chopped tomatoes
1 ±220gm tin pineapple pieces in fruit juice
60ml cider vinegar
3 Tblsp soy sauce
1 Tblsp tomato puree
2 Tblsp maizena
250ml water

240gm rice

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

Cut the haddock into chunks.
In a bowl, mix together the maizena, soy, vinegar, tomato puree and water.

Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Put the onion pieces, mushrooms and peppers into the pan.
Dry fry for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes and pineapple pieces and juice.
Add the fish pieces.
Simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the combined maizena and liquids.
Allow the sauce to thicken while stirring.

Serve the sweet and sour fish over the rice.

As a side dish, I served home-made Chinese pickles with this.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How clean is your food?

I personally think that a little bit of dirt never killed anybody – in fact, children raised in completely sterile homes are usually more likely to become sick when they are exposed to the real world – so I am not overly obsessive about cleanliness.

Yes, I use an antibacterial handwash before preparing food. I keep a hand towel in the kitchen for drying hands (not dishes) and I change my washing and drying up cloths twice a day. Okay, maybe I am just the teensiest bit obsessive – but, hey, it’s food and food preparation I’m talking about!

All fruit and vegetables should be thoroughly washed before being prepared. Even the stuff you’re going to peel. Bacteria and chemical residue from production and storage can transfer from the knife you use to peel and chop to the flesh of the food you’re preparing. Cooking may well destroy bacteria, but it won’t remove toxic chemicals. If you are preparing food which is going to be eaten raw then the cleaning process is even more important. Even if your pillow-pack of lettuce says ‘washed and ready to serve', give it another rinse just to be on the safe side.

Use cold water - you can add a splash of vinegar, if you want. Leave leafy veg like spinach and lettuce to soak for two minutes, shake off the excess water and then use a salad-spinner or swing the veg around in a clean tea cloth (this is best done outside!). Soak broccoli and cauli for a few minutes, too. Many are the little bugs I have drowned in this way.

Remember that all the fruit and vegetables you buy have been sprayed with preservative chemicals and insect repellants (unless they are organic) and have been handled by many people before arriving in your kitchen.

Creamy mushroom pasta : Wk18/2

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick

300gm button mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 small onion, sliced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 x ±340ml can ‘lite’ evaporated milk
2 Tblsp maizena mixed to a paste with a little water
2 Tblsp chopped parsley

400gm ribbon pasta

Put the pasta on to cook in lightly salted boiling water.
Drain, once cooked, and keep warm.

Meanwhile, spray a saucepan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onions and garlic for 2 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and chilli.
Continue cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes.
Pour in the milk and heat until it starts to bubble.
Gradually add the maizena paste, stirring all the time.
Once the sauce has thickened, stir through the parsley.

Serve the mushroom sauce over the pasta, with a mixed salad on the side.

Monday, April 26, 2010

How clean is your kitchen?

There are many, many things I am more interested in and more inclined to do than housework. I do give the house a pretty thorough clean once a week, but my home is by no means immaculate. I am reasonably tidy, but I’m not paranoid about a bit of dust or a used teacup on the draining board. I am, however, fairly fussy about kitchen cleanliness.

I try to keep my kitchen tops clear – it just makes them easier to wipe down – but this can be difficult to manage if, like me, you have things that are used frequently, and you have insufficient cupboard space to house them (things like the kettle, toaster and microwave spring to mind immediately).

My counter tops are polished black granite, which looks very smart when clean, but getting them clean can be problematic because I can’t use a chlorinated cleaning agent – it dulls the shine over time. I’ve found the best thing to use is very hot clean water and a clean dish cloth: sometimes I add half a cup of white vinegar to the water – vinegar helps cut through grease and is mildly antibacterial. Cleaning agents generally leave smears and chemical residue, which can transfer to food, so rinse well if you do use one.

Counter tops should be swabbed down before and after food preparation. Once you have washed the surfaces down, hang the dish cloth somewhere to dry before running it through the washing machine on a hot wash. You should use a fresh drying cloth each time you do the drying up, too, and recycle the same way. A damp drying cloth left hanging around is a wonderful breeding ground for bacteria, as is the dish cloth.

Replace scouring pads at least once a week, and make sure to rinse them well after each use. Keep your pot- and bottle-brushes fresh by standing them in a medium strength solution of bleach and water for half an hour or so, then put them in the dish-washer (if you have one) next time you run it.

So much of life and living revolves around the kitchen, let’s keep it healthy.

Morocco chicken : Wk18/1

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick
450gm skinless chicken breasts
1 large red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 large aubergine, peeled and cubed
1 brown onion, sliced
½ head broccoli, broken into florets
4 large carrots, scrubbed and sliced
1 Tblsp Moroccan spice mix
400ml hot chicken stock
2 Tblsp orange marmalade

160gm dried couscous
325ml boiling veg stock
8 soft dried apricot halves
2 Tblsp chopped fresh coriander

If you can’t find Moroccan spice mix, you can make your own by combining:
1 tsp each of: ground cumin, ground ginger and salt, plus
½ teaspoon each of: black pepper, ground cinnamon, ground coriander, cayenne pepper
ground allspice and ground cloves.
Mix all together and store in a screw top bottle. Remember to label it.

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion until it is soft, but not brown.
Add the chicken and seal.
Add the spice, vegetables and chicken stock
Simmer for about 25 minutes.
Stir through the marmalade.

While that is bubbling away, snip the apricots into tiny pieces.
Mix the couscous, coriander and apricots together in a bowl.
Pour the vegetable stock over the couscous..
Cover with clingfilm or a plate and allow to stand for 5 minutes.
Fluff up the couscous grains with a fork.

Serve the chicken with the couscous.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Supermarkets are in business to make money, and they have ways of making you spend more than you intend to. I've talked before about only shopping the perimeter of the store, but most of us tend to wander up and down the aisles from one end to the next, indeed, if you need bird seed or toilet paper then you have to. Here are a few tips for getting more for less.

Know your supermarket.
Knowing where different items are stacked in your supermarket speeds up the whole shopping process. Using an unfamiliar shop can be confusing and time consuming. I use a supermarket 2 kilometers away because the one closest to me had a big reshuffle about a year ago, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of logic behind their shelving. For example the curry paste and curry powders are two aisles apart! I can never go straight to the item I want.
Always, always eat before you go shopping.
A rumbling tum does nothing for your will power when you can smell freshly baked bread and the rotisserie chickens at the deli. If you are really hungry, then buy an extra piece of fruit to munch.
Always, always have a shopping list.
You have planned what you are going to be cooking over the next week and carefully worked out what you need to buy. If it is not on the list, you don't need to buy it this week.
Move your eyes.
The bigger brands often give supermarkets incentives to shelve their product at eye-level. Look up and look down - there is probably a nutritionally comparable, lower priced equivalent nearby.
Check the nutrition facts and ingredients labels.
The cereal you buy should have at least 5gm of fibre. Any product claiming to be whole grain should have 'whole' as the first word on the ingredients list. If you are buying low fat or fat free products, check the different brands for the lowest fat content - you'll be surprised how much they vary (even fat free isn't entirely fat free).
Avoid special and '2 for 1' offers.
Unless the 'special' is on your list, or is something you know you will use, don't buy it!
Bigger pack, cheaper price.
This is so often not true! It is cheaper to buy my favourite brand of tea bags in packs of 100s rather than 200s - okay, I only save about R1.00 on the deal, but have you checked the price variance on coffee by size, or soap powders?
Time to pay.
 If you shop at peak times, there may well be long queues at all the tills. This gives you (and the kids) time to be tempted by all the sweets and snacks on display. Curb the impulse - check your shopping list again to make sure you have everything; rearrange the goods in your trolley for ease of loading onto the counter; start up a conversation with the person behind you; quiz the children on general knowledge or their times-tables.

Oh, and be green - take your own shopping bags with you.

Have a great weekend.

Cannellini pizza : Wk17/5

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick

4 naan breads

1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
4 Tblsp passata
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
120gm low fat mozzarella, grated

Dried oregano

Preheat oven to 200ºc.
Spray a large baking tray with non-stick cooking spray.

Spread the passata on the naan breads.
Space the naan breads on the baking tray.

Top with onion and pepper slices.
Pile on the cannellini beans.
Sprinkle with the cheese.
Finish with a pinch of oregano.

Bake at 200ºc for 15 minutes until bubbling and browned.

Serve with a crispy fresh salad.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Link to .pdf files for Week 18

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 18.

Reducing our carbon footprint

Everyone seems to be increasingly aware of health - our own and that of the Big Blue Marble on which we live. We've all heard about CFC gases, carbon emissions and the state of the ozone layer - even if we don't understand much about them. But out of concern for this and future generations, we should each do our little bit to be green.

Organic produce - whether animal or vegetable - is free from pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones, and therefore it is kinder to the environment, livestock and our health. But I have my doubts about how truly 'clean' it is, growing as it does in our generally polluted atmosphere.

Unless you live in an agricultural belt, all produce still has to be harvested, packaged and transported to the supermarket shelves and coolers. The refridgerated trucks used for transporting are not environmentally friendly (have you ever driven behind one?), nor is the plastic wrap generally used for packaging. And how far has that produce been transported? Where did it originate?

The moment vegetables and fruits are harvested (organic or not) they start to deteriorate. The longer they are wrapped in plastic the more estrogens they absorb (the softer the plastic, the more estrogens there are given off). How long has the stuff been sitting in the supermarket? How long has it been sitting in your fridge? Most of the fruit sold in this country grows in the Cape (much of the best is exported) and it is a long way from the Ceres valley to our northern borders, and the rest of the world - making a large carbon footprint!

So support your local farmers. Their produce has probably been harvested within the last twenty-four hours, will more than likely be in it's natural state (not packaged) and it will still be full of nutrients.

Or you can always grow your own.

Honey-mustard hake : Wk17/4

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick

2 Tblsp honey
2 Tblsp whole grain mustard
Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
4 large skinless hake fillets

150gm baby carrots
150gm sugar snap peas
150gm green asparagus
500gm new potatoes, scrubbed and halved

Put the potatoes on to cook in lightly salted boiling water.
Boil, steam or microwave the carrots, peas and asparagus.
Once cooked, drain and keep warm.

Mix together the honey, mustard, lemon juice and rind.
Brush onto the fish.

Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry-fry the hake, about 5 minutes per side.
Pour any remaining honey/mustard mix into the pan.

Make a bed of baby vegetables on each plate.
Place the fish on top of the veg.
Spoon any juices from the frying pan over the potatoes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Who are you kidding?

I've talked before about keeping a food diary. In the beginning it helps you to see not only how much you are eating, but also whether you have emotional triggers that cause you to over-eat  and/or make unhealthy food choices.

A food diary is simply a record of the time and reason you ate, along with the type and quantity of food you consumed. It is best updated immediately after eating, or no less than once a day (how good is your memory?) And it needs to be honest.

I still keep track of everything I eat, but sometimes I 'forget' that I had some chocolate or biscuits. My daughter-in-law says that if you don't write it down, it doesn't count. How I wish that were true! Most people lie to themselves about what and how much they have eaten, and that lie can be as expensive as 2,000kjoules - or more - in a day! That's 14,000kjoules in a week - as much as you need for another whole day and a half of healthy eating!

So who are you kidding? Be honest with yourself. You are the one who stands to benefit the most.

Minestrone a la Genoa : Wk17/3

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick

1 large onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, sliced
2 large carrots, scrubbed and sliced
250gm green beans (I used frozen)
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small cabbage, shredded
350ml tomato juice (I blitz a can of chopped tomatoes)
80gm small pasta shells
1 litre hot vegetable stock

2 x ±350gm cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 small loaf olive Ciabatta

Put all the vegetables into a large saucepan as you prepare them.
Add the stock, tomato juice and pasta shells.
Simmer for 20 minutes, by which time the vegetables and pasta will be al dente.

Add the cannellini beans.
Allow to heat through thoroughly.

Ladle into individual bowls and serve with Ciabatta bread.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Time to move

I've never been a great fan of exercise - I'm still not - but I do try to walk at least twice a week. No weight loss program can rely on healthy eating alone, although I still maintain eating is the biggest part, sadly you have to introduce some form of exercise. To lose weight, kilojoules in must be less than kilojoules out.
But I just can't get excited about doing the whole gym thing.

I did it once.

I wriggled, gyrated and squirmed.
I stuck my legs out at awkward angles.
I waved my arms around.
I stretched up.
I bent down.
I wriggled, gyrated and squirmed some more.

But by the time I was finally in my leotard, the class was over.

Joking aside, any exercise is healthier than none. So when you start an exercise program, begin gently. Don't over-exert yourself. Even gentle stretching is good.

Tuna Salad with avocado : Wk17/2

Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick

2 x 170gm tins tuna in brine or spring water
1 small chilli, finely chopped
Juice and rind of 2 small lemons
1 large, firm mango, peeled and cubed

1 large, ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
±24 mini Italian tomatoes
½ medium cucumber, sliced
Small bag mixed lettuce

Drain the tuna. Tip into a bowl and break up slightly with a fork.

Add the lemon rind and juice, the chopped chilli and the mango cubes.
Toss gently to combine.

Make a bed of mixed lettuce on each of four dinner plates.
Divide the tuna between the plates.
Garnish with avocado, cucumber slices and tomatoes.

Monday, April 19, 2010


When you have a goal in mind, it's good to keep renewing your commitment to that goal. One way of doing this is to reward yourself as you pass milestones along the way (eg every 5kg weight lost). Of course, these rewards should not be edible. But depending on your finances, a pedicure or manicure (even if you do it yourself!) is a nice reward; a facial or a massage; a handbag or new shoes.

Once having reached your goal, you don't want to slide back into old habits, so keep rewarding yourself, every month or so, for sticking with healthy eating - eg a new book or lipstick. Look at your reward and remind yourself what you have done to deserve it.

It sounds silly, but periodic rewards provide continuing motivation and keep you on track.

Sausage and lentil hot pot: Wk17/1

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick

20 cocktail sausages (low fat , if you can get them)
1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
140gm whole brown lentils
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
400ml hot beef stock
125ml dry red wine (if you have)
150gm carrots, sliced
150gm frozen green beans
1 Tblsp maizena

400gm potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks

Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Brown the sausages all over.
Add the onion and garlic, and stirring, continue cooking until the onion is soft.

Add the lentils, stock, herbs and wine.
Add the carrots and green beans.
Cover and simmer for 25 minutes until the sausages are cooked through.

Meanwhile cook the potatoes in lightly salted boiling water.
Once cooked, drain and mash.

Mix the maizena to a thin paste with a little water.
Add to the sausages/lentils.
Stir while the gravy thickens.

Serve the hotpot over the potatoes.

I usually boil sausages before frying. Firstly, it gets rid of quite a bit of fat; and secondly, I know they are properly cooked; and thirdly, it stops them from exploding when I do ‘fry’ them.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Add fibre with ease.

Yesterday, my number one tip was to eat more fibre, and it really isn't difficult.

A high-fibre cereal for breakfast - oats, muesli or bran. A forty to fifty gram serving of any of these with 1/2 a cup of fat free milk and 1/2 cup of fat free yoghurt, sprinkled with a little powdered cinnamon, makes a great start to the day.

A whole grain bread sandwich for lunch: two slices of bread (or a roll) stuffed with lettuce, tomato and cucumber slices, cress, 1/4 of an avocado pear, spread with mustard and/or low fat mayo. Add a hard boiled egg or a thin slice of ham or cheese for protein. Serve this with some home-made, broth-based vegetable soup, if you like - chunky or smooth.

Dinner: at least two fresh vegetables (carrots, broccoli, butternut, spinach, mixed salad, whatever - I like to combine different coloured vegetables on my plate) with brown rice, barley or beans as your starch. Try and stick with chicken or fish as your animal protein source. They are lower in saturated fats than red meats.
Check out the dinner recipes I post here: there is a new recipe every day.

Snacks: choose from fresh fruit, nuts and seeds.

And drink plenty of fluids (preferably water). All that extra fibre needs lots of water to digest.

Chicken patties : wk16/5

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick
3 skinless chicken breast fillets
1 onion
1 tsp mixed herbs
1 tsp chicken spice
30gm dry breadcrumbs

500gm new potatoes, scrubbed
8 courgettes
Head of broccoli
Medium butternut, cleaned and cut into chunks

Preheat the oven to 180ºc.
Put the chicken, onion, mixed herbs and chicken spice in a food processer or mincer.
Blitz or mince.
Shape into eight patties.
Lightly dust the patties with the dry breadcrumbs.
Spray a baking tray and the patties with non-stick cooking spray.
Place the patties on the tray and bake at 180ºc for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile boil, steam or microwave the vegetables.

Serve two patties per person alongside the vegetables.

These patties are very dense. If you want to, you can use just 2 chicken breasts and two slices of bread. If you don’t have a food processor or mincer buy chicken mince and chop the onion very finely.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Link to .pdf files for Week 17

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 17.

5 tips to make weight management easier

Whether you are overweight or just trying to manage your weight, you can benefit from today's five tips.

  1. Eat more fibre - with every meal. I know I'm always on about fibre but it really is important. Firstly, it keeps you regular, and secondly it keeps you fuller for longer so you won't feel deprived or 'starving' until the next scheduled meal. Fibre comes from fruit, vegetables, and wholegrains. Try to get 3 servings of whole grains, 3 servings of fruit and 5 servings of vegetables every day. Minimum.
  2. Watch your portion sizes. When you start a weight management program - or if you are trying tro eat more healthily - it really helps to monitor your portion sizes. Get into the habit of consistently measuring your food when eating at home. This gives you a much better idea of how much you need to eat when you are out to dinner.
  3. No second helpings. Oh, okay, if you are really still hungry, have some more vegetables, a salad or a piece of fruit. But did you give yourself time to realise you've had enough? Eat slowly and chew your food well.
  4. Eating out? Eat only half of what you are served in the protein and starch food groups. Consider ordering from the starters menu only, or stick with a salad (dressing on the side) for your main course. And leave those hot white rolls alone! If others at your table are ordering starters as well as entrees, and you intended to order only a main course, have a plain salad (dressing on the side) or broth-based soup to keep you occupied while you wait.
  5. Eat regularly - breakfast, lunch and dinner, or five to six smaller meals, spread throughout the day. Don't skip a meal, you'll just get extra hungry and eat too much (or the wrong thing!) as soon as the opportunity arises. Always, always eat breakfast.

Spicy bean stew : wk16/4

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick
200ml fat free smooth cottage cheese
1 Tblsp chopped coriander
Juice and rind of 1 lemon

1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Tblsp ground cumin
1 Tblsp ground coriander
1 x 400gm can chopped tomatoes
1 red pepper, cut in squares
1 small red or green chilli, finely chopped
300gm butternut chunks
200gm baby corn, thickly sliced
1 x 400gm can mixed beans
¼ cup cider vinegar
3 Tblsp honey
500ml vegetable stock

4 naan breads

Combine the cheese, coriander, lemon juice and rind.
Set aside.

Spray a large saucepan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry-fry the onions and garlic for 3-4 minutes.
Add the cumin and coriander.
Once you can smell the spices, add the remaining ingredients (except the naan breads).
Stir well to combine.
Cover with a lid and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, and simmer for twenty minutes.

Toast the naan breads lightly.
Ladle the stew into bowls.
Serve with the naan breads and a spoon of the cottage cheese topping.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Train of thought...

Trains chuff and huff and hoot and generally make a great deal of noise - stream trains, anyway. It's the same with the train of thoughts rushing through your brain. 'What can I make for dinner?/where are my car keys?/did I turn off the iron?/mmm... feel like a coffee.' etc. etc.. Mundane, arbitrary thoughts without end. Worrying, anxious thoughts. Often circular thoughts, coming round again and again.

It can be difficult to slow the train down, and nearly impossible to stop it. But we all need to take a break occassionally. Sometimes we can escape by reading a book or watching a movie, but it is worth the initial effort involved to clear the mind - clean and polish the train and oil the tracks, if you like - other than by distraction. Take a deep breath, mentally stand back and take a look at those thoughts as they flash by.

Weigh the worries and anxieties - is there anything you can do to ease the problem?  If you can do something about it, then do it. If you can't, then let that thought go. Worrying won't help. Stop worrying and fretting, and a solution may come to you.

Very often, there is so much noise - both internal and external - that we don't notice the quiet little voices of instinct, experience and reason softly humming away.

Salmon in lemon-butter sauce : wk16/3

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick
4 salmon steaks each ±100gm

3 Tblsp low-fat spread
2 Tblsp chopped parsley
1 Tblsp capers, rinsed and chopped
2 – 3 Tblsp lemon juice
Grated rind of 1 lemon

500gm new potatoes, scrubbed and halved
8 courgettes, sliced
±20 baby carrots, scrubbed
±200gm asparagus stems

Put the potatoes on to cook in lightly salted boiling water.
Drain and keep warm once cooked.
Steam or microwave the asparagus, carrots and courgette slices.

Meanwhile, spray a non-stick frying pan with cooking spray.
Spray the salmon with non-stick cooking spray.
Cook the fish in the frying pan, about 5 mins each side, or until the fish flakes easily.
Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Wipe the frying pan out with kitchen paper.
Place the pan back over a low heat.
Melt the spread.
Add the parsley, capers, lemon juice and rind.

Plate up the fish and vegetables.
Spoon the lemon-butter sauce over the fish.

You don’t have to use salmon; any firm white fish goes well with this dressing.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Oats for breakfast

The word oatmeal conjures up a mental image of a burly, bearded Scotsman complete with kilt and sporan. I have no idea why. Maybe oatmeal packaging back in my childhood depicted a kilted man, playing the bagpipes. Who knows? Who remembers? Oats and oatmeal have certainly been on breakfast menus around the western world for very many years.

Oats are generally considered a 'health' food. They are certainly high in soluble fibre, and contain protein nearly equal to that found in soya beans.

Oats are a whole grain, so they give a feeling of fullness for longer - always a good thing if you want to lose weight. Oats are said to reduce 'bad' cholesterol (LDL) - always a good thing if you want to avoid cardiovascular disease. Oats are incorporated in many commercially produced food stuffs too, from muesli to oat biscuits.

Serve oats with: cooked apple: milk and a little sugar: with a sprinkling of cinnamon and raisins: with a handful of blueberries and a dollop of fat free yoghurt: or whoosh them up in your breakfast smoothie. Replace the breadcrumbs in burger patties with oats. Use half flour and half oatbran for sweet pastry. Use half flour and half rolled oats as a crumble topping on fish pie.

Oats make a very soothing face pack, too.

Oats are the only cereal always refered to in the plural. We don't talk about wheats or corns (unless they are on our feet) or barleys, do we? I wonder why that is.

Moussaka : wk16/2

Serves 4 : Easy : Takes a little longer
3 large aubergines, peeled and thickly (2cm) sliced
300gms lean minced lamb
2 red onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
35gms red lentils
1 x 400gm chopped tomatoes
1 Tblsp tomato paste
½ cup dry wine (red or white)
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp sugar

2 cups fat free milk
2 Tblsp maizena
100gm strong hard cheese
½ tsp grated nutmeg
Salt and cayenne pepper

Boil, steam or microwave slices until starting to become transparent.

Spray a large oven proof dish and a large saucepan with non-stick cooking spray.
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºc.

Make a sauce with the milk, maizena, cheese and seasoning.
Set aside.

Fry the onion and garlic in the large pan.
Add the lamb mince and brown.
Stir in the lentils, herbs, tomatoes, paste and wine.
Simmer for about 15 minutes.

Taste. Add the sugar if the sauce is too sharp for you.

Place a layer of aubergine slices in the base of the ovenproof dish.
Top with ½ the mince.
Then another layer of aubergine followed by the rest of the lamb.
Top off with the remaining aubergine and the cheese sauce.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until bubbling and browned.

Serve with a fresh green salad.

It looks as if I burnt mine – but it was just the lighting. My husband asked if we could have this again tomorrow night! Not a chance, maybe next year.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Nature and nurture

Did you ever think, when you looked at a newborn baby, that (s)he is already everything (s)he will ever be? (S)he is. So is that teenager. So is that good looking guy in the next office. So is your grandmother. All of these people have potential, and it's all down to genes.

Our genes (nature) come from our biological parents - half from mum, and half from dad (and each of them got their genes half from mum and half from dad, and each of them etc. etc.). Genes dictate race, hair and eye colour, gender and blood type. But, beyond that, genes provide us with potential in every area - physical, mental and emotional. And it is nurture that feeds and allows that potential to develop. (This is my personal opinion and you are welcome to disagree - many people do!)

Nurture is usually regarded as the effect of family upbringing, but it goes way beyond family influence. We develop, mature, change, grow and evolve throughout our lives - physically, mentally and emotionally - because we are exposed to new environments, stresses and experiences on an almost daily basis.

Family upbringing - I'm using the term 'family' rather broadly here - has the greatest and most lasting impact on our eating habits, and therefore on our physical health. Children grow taller now than in previous generations because food is more readily available. Children (and adults) grow fatter now than in previous generations because portion sizes have increased way beyond what the body actually requires. We grow fatter and lazier because there is so much processed food available.

Isn't it time we got back to nature and nurtured ourselves, and our children, with healthy portions of fresh nourishing foods? Eating habits are formed at a very early age, but they can be changed. Change yours now. And help your children learn and enjoy the benefits of healthy eating.

Couscous green bean salad : wk16/1

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick
200gm couscous
400ml boiling veg stock
75gms Turkish (soft dried) apricots, snipped into pea-size pieces
Juice and rind of 1 lemon

200gm frozen green beans, thawed
20 cocktail tomatoes, halved
6-8 large spring onions, sliced

400gms smoked turkey

Put the couscous, apricots, lemon juice and rind and stock in a bowl.
Cover and stand for 10 minutes.
Fluff up the couscous with a fork.

Stir through the thawed green beans, tomato halves and spring onions.

Serve with smoked turkey.

…or smoked chicken, or a piece of grilled fish. Or just serve the salad on its own.
When you make couscous, measure the stock very carefully. If you put in too much liquid it becomes sticky and heavy.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Mind your p’s and q’s

My grandson is eighteen months old. He doesn’t say much yet, although he doesn’t really need to say anything, he just smiles beatifically and points and gets pretty much whatever he wants. I’m trying to get him to use ‘ta’ at the moment, but maybe I’m being too ambitious? He can follow simple instructions, and his comprehension is amazing.

When I was about three, my mother tells me, I sat in my highchair and asked for cake.

Me: want cake.
Mum: and? (looking for a ‘please’)
Me: want cake.
Mum: and? (still looking for a ‘please’)

Me: … and nemolade.

I got both. Delivered with a smile and a kiss.

Lemon and herb chicken (Week 15 Day 5)

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick
280 gm skinless chicken breast
Juice and rind of 1 lemon
Dried mixed herbs
Chicken spice

Mixed lettuce
Tomato slices
Cucumber slices

4 brown hamburger rolls
Low-fat mayo
Dijon mustard

Spray a ridged pan with non-stick spray, and heat.
Lay the chicken breasts on a plate.
Squeeze over ½ the lemon juice.
Sprinkle the lemon rind, mixed herbs and chicken spice over the chicken breasts.
Turn the pieces over, and repeat the seasoning.
Cook the chicken in the ridged pan, about 5 minutes per side.

Split the rolls and spread mayo on one side and mustard on the other.
Stack up with lettuce, cucumber, tomato and watercress.
Top with the cooked chicken breast.

This makes a quick and healthy lunch. I had actually asked my husband to bring home take-aways, then phoned him to say not to bother. The four servings probably cost less than one take-away!
And I know what went into them.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Link to .pdf files for Week 16

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 16.

What you see is not always what you get

As a teenager, I used to rinse my hair with malt vinegar after washing it. Vinegar removes the last traces of shampoo and is supposed to enrich hair colour (malt vinegar for brunettes, lemon juice for blondes – or white spirit vinegar, I guess).

On this particular day (my mother was out) I helped myself to a cup of malt vinegar and repaired to the bathroom for the hair-washing ritual.

The final vinegar rinse smelled a bit odd.

I went back to the kitchen to check the bottle. The label did indeed say ‘malt vinegar’.

My hair felt sticky.

When mum came home:
Me: Mum, please don’t buy that type of vinegar again. It smells funny.
Mum: Which vinegar, darling?
Me: (retrieving suspect, now nearly empty bottle from the pantry) This one.
Mum: Oh, no!!! That’s not vinegar, that’s the brandy I’ve been saving to put in the Christmas cake!

It took three shampoos to get the brandy out.

I think I stopped the vinegar-rinse after that.

Pork strips with cucumber salad (Week 15 Day 4)

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick
±400gm lean pork strips (or fillet cut into strips)
2 Tblsp soy sauce
I heaped tsp grated ginger

12 radishes, sliced
½ long cucumber, sliced
2-3 stalks celery, sliced
2 Tblsp chopped parsley
½ red onion, chopped
1 Tblsp olive oil
1 Tblsp lemon juice
1 Tblsp Dijon mustard

240gm rice

Mix the pork strips with the soy sauce and ginger.
Grind over some Chinese 5 spice and black pepper.
Allow to stand while you:

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

Make the salad by combining the cucumber, celery and radish slices.
For the dressing, mix the mustard, lemon juice, oil and parsley together.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well.

Spray a large pan with non-stick spray, and heat.
Tip the pork and marinade juices into the pan.
Cook for about 5 minutes.

Serve the pork over the rice and the salad on the side.

This salad keeps well in the fridge. Add some garlic, if you like. And the marinade on the pork strips is so simple, but so yummy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A night off

On Monday night, I didn’t feel much like pfaffing around in my mother’s closet-sized kitchen. It feels very strange to cook in unfamiliar surroundings where you can’t immediately find what you’re looking for, and all the cupboards and drawers are arranged according to someone else’s logic. And the tin that is marked ‘cake flour’ probably isn’t cake flour (or any kind of flour) at all.

Anyway, I prepared loads of fresh vegetables and put those on to cook, and rustled up a mushroom and onion gravy. Total time spent in preparation: 15 minutes. Then I set the timer, turned the gravy down low and went back to my laptop.

We had: potatoes, butternut, broccoli, carrots, courgettes and patty pans. And I opened a tin of butter beans.

There was nothing left. I didn’t even get the chance to take a photo.

Veg tomato medley (Wk15 Day 3)

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick
1 onion, sliced
1 small cabbage, shredded
8 large baby corn, quartered
250gm mushrooms, sliced
1 small butternut, peeled and chopped
1 head broccoli
200gm cocktail tomatoes, halved
250ml passata
250ml veg stock
½ glass dry red wine (if you have)
1 Tblsp sugar free red jam

240gm pasta twirls

Put the pasta on to cook in lightly salted boiling water.
Once tender, drain and keep warm.

Meanwhile, spray a large pan with non-stick spray.
Fry off the onion lightly, until it starts to soften.
Now add the other vegetables and stir well to combine.

Pour in the passata, stock and wine, and bring to the boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Taste. If you find the sauce is too sharp for you stir through a tablespoon
of sugar free red jam.

Serve the vegetable medley over the pasta.

I used St. Dalfour cranberry and blueberry jam because that was what I had, and it was the very end of the jar. It actually opened the sauce right up. Delicious.

This recipe is a special creation for Juliea and Sarah – my vegetarian inspirations.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What's in your fridge?

If you are serious about healthy eating, you need to clear out the fridge, wipe down the shelves and sort through everything – throwing out anything which has wilted or expired, or is no longer recognizable as food - before repacking.
Every fridge should contain:
Eggs: Eggs can make a quick, complete meal. I only ever buy eggs by the half dozen, and I keep them on the top shelf of the fridge – rather than in the door – because the temperature is more consistent. Continual temperature fluctuations (opening and closing the door seven or more times a day) will eventually weaken the shells and make them more susceptible to cracking. Cracks in the shell allow bacteria access.

Yoghurt: I buy a LOT of yoghurt – up to five litres a week! Wipe the edge of the container when you have finished serving, it helps keep the container closed properly and prevents residue drying and flaking next time you take it out. I buy fat-free yoghurt with live cultures, and at least one is natural (unflavoured) to use in cooking in place of cream.

Cottage cheese/fromage frais/crème frais/feta cheese: again, I buy fat-free or reduced fat products. Again, wipe the container lip before re-sealing and putting back in the fridge. I keep hard cheeses, like parmesan and low-fat mozzarella, and butter in the cheese compartment of the door.

Vegetables: mixed lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots, courgettes, aubergines, sugar-snap peas/mange-tout, baby corn, spinach, rocket, watercress, broccoli, etc.

Fruits: apples, pears, oranges, berries, grapes, papino, melon, mango, etc.

Milk – fat-free (skimmed) or low-fat (2%).
Fruit juices: unsweetened pure fruit juices.

Inevitably, you will have a shelf devoted to pickles, pastes and prepared herbs such as pickled garlic, gherkins, curry paste, chopped garlic, chopped ginger, chopped coriander, mustard, low-fat mayo, low-oil salad dressings, etc. Keep these bottles and jars clean.

You probably have a ‘chiller’ drawer, too. Use this to store animal proteins you will use within the next three days – fresh chicken, fish or meat – or cold/cooked meats. However, do NOT put cooked and raw meats in the same space because of the potential for contamination. And, of course, this drawer must be kept scrupulously clean.

Smoked haddock in mushroom cheese sauce (Wk15 Day 2)

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick
±500gm smoked haddock, skinned and cut in chunks
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 cup fat free milk
250gm button mushrooms, sliced
400gm broccoli florets
400gm rice
1-2tsp maizena, mixed to a paste with a little milk or water
80gms strong cheese, grated

Chopped fresh parsley

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

Meanwhile, spray a large pan with non-stick spray.
Put the fish, onion, mushrooms, broccoli and milk in the pan.
Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove everything from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the milk in the pan.
Thicken the milk with the maizena paste.
Add the cheese and stir well.

Put the fish and vegetables back into the sauce.
Turn gently to coat everything with the sauce, but be gentle so as not to break
up the fish any further.

Serve the fish in sauce over rice. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

To get closer to your 5-a-day, you can serve peas with this. You can cook them in the rice.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter and Pesach greetings

Happy Easter, everyone, and well over the fast.

If you don't want the kids bouncing off the walls and feeling sick, limit their chocolate/sweet intake - rather encourage them to eat fruit instead.

Paprika chicken and beans (Wk15 Day 1)

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick
2 skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 x 400gm tin chopped tomatoes
1 x 400gm cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup dry sherry (or white wine)
200gm frozen spinach

Fat free natural yoghurt, to serve
4 wholegrain rolls

Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion and garlic until the onion is soft and starting to brown.
Add the paprika and cayenne and continue frying for about 2 minutes.

Add the chicken pieces and stir well.
Once the chicken is sealed, add the tomatoes, beans and sherry (or wine).
Simmer for 15 minutes.

Now add the spinach and allow everything to heat through fully.

Serve the stew with warm wholegrain rolls and a dollop of natural yoghurt.

This is a lovely warming meal. Filling, too. If you want to feed it to younger children, adjust the seasoning. The alcohol in the sherry/wine cooks off.

Friday, April 2, 2010

9 steps for healthier eating out

Eating out is sometimes difficult. Restaurant menus are usually full of cheesy, fatty, creamy items, and the serving sizes are much too big - for your health and waistline, if not your stomach. So here are a few quick guidelines for next time you eat out.

1. Stick with grilled or baked - grilled will still have added fats, but not as much as fried. Fish and chicken are the best options.
2. Ask for sauces or dressings 'on the side' - you only need a tablespoon to enjoy the flavour. If you choose pasta in a sauce, make sure the sauce is tomato, not cream, based.
3. Start with a salad - this will fill you up a bit so you will be less inclined to eat too much of the main course.  Have it with balsamic vinegar - the acidity of the vinegar dampens the appetite, too.
4. Chips, rice or baked potato? Baked potato is good, but you'll want sour cream or butter with it, won't you? So go with rice to save kilojoules.
5. Vegetables or salad? The veg are likely to be in a creamy sauce of some sort, or have added salt, sugar and butter, so have the salad.
6. Eat only HALF of the protein and starch served to you.
7. Eat slowly. It takes about twenty minutes for your stomach to tell your brain it's had enough food.
8. Dessert? Really? Okay, have a fresh fruit salad (canned fruit has a lot of added sugar).
9. Coffee to finish? De-caff only please.

And I didn't even mention alcohol! Assuming you must have a drink, half a glass (glass, not bottle) of dry wine is good for you occasionally.

Bon appetit!

Spaghetti putanesca

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick
1 onion, chopped
2 – 3 sticks celery, sliced
1 can chopped tomatoes
20 pitted green olives, sliced
1 Tblsp capers, drained and chopped
4 Tblsp finely chopped parsley
1 red or green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (opt.)
4 Tblsp grated parmesan

320gms spaghetti

Put the spaghetti on to cook in lightly salted boiling water.
Drain when al dente and keep warm.

Meanwhile, spray a saucepan with non-stick cooking spray.

Dry-fry the onions, celery and chilli (if using) until softened.
Add the tinned tomatoes, olives, capers, and parsley.
Cover and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.

Serve the sauce over the spaghetti, topped with the parmesan, with a salad on the side.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Link to .pdf files for Week 15

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 15.

A change of season

April on the Highveld usually brings the most beautiful weather: warm, with clear sunny skies but cool in the early morning and evening. You can tell that winter is approaching, though, so now is the time to build up your immune system ready for the colder weather ahead and the annual cold and ‘flu viruses.

Yes, colds and ‘flu are viruses, so going to the doctor and asking for a course of antibiotics will not help you in the least. What you need to do is follow some healthy practices - eat nutritious food, get enough rest and take regular exercise. Prevention is better than cure, right?

The immune system protects us against infection; if it’s not functioning optimally then we are more susceptible to sickness and the effects of environmental pollution. We can help it work properly by eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables – make the contents of your dinner plate as colourful as possible by including orange, green, red and purple vegetables, and try to eat half your food raw.
Colourful fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals which all help us to fight disease. Ginger, garlic, chilli peppers, figs and fish all boost the immune system, too.

If you do succumb to cold or ‘flu germs, then drink plenty of fluids. Cold fluids (water, fruit juice) loosen mucus and get it moving out of the body while hot liquids move viruses and germs out of the nose.
Avoid caffeine, it can dehydrate you. And don’t eat or drink too much dairy - it increases the production of phlegm. Get plenty of rest and take things easy, too. You'll get better that much faster.

Stay well.

Lamb stuffed pita bread

Serves 4 : Easy : Quick
±400gm lean lamb strips
1 - 2 Tblsp curry paste
4 Tblsp fat free natural yoghurt
1 – 2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 onions, cut in wedges
4 whole meal pita breads

5cm piece cucumber, diced
4 Tblsp fat free natural yoghurt
1 – 2 Tblsp good mint sauce

First make the dressing by combining the cucumber, mint sauce and 4 Tblsp yoghurt.

Mix the curry paste, garlic and the other 4 Tblsp yoghurt together.
Toss in the lamb strips and stir around so the lamb gets nicely covered.

Spray a frying pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Cook the onion wedges in the pan until they start to brown.
Remove the onions from the pan and keep warm.

Tip the lamb and marinade into the pan.
Cook over high heat, stirring all the time, until the lamb is cooked and starting to char
at the edges.

Warm the pita breads – I usually cut mine in half and put them in the toaster.
Open the pitas to make pockets.
Stuff with the lamb and onion wedges.

Serve with the dressing and a crisp green salad on the side.

I made the garlic-y bean salad from week 10: day 4) as it is a favourite in our house. But any fresh green salad – lots of it – is good. The whole meal pita breads are very filling.