Thursday, September 30, 2010

Link to .pdf files for Week 41

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 41.

Sticky chicken with stir-steamed vegetables : Wk40/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
240gm rice
Chicken stock powder
4 skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
4 Tblsp soya sauce
4 Tblsp honey
2 Tblsp lemon juice

2 large carrots, julienne
150gm green beans, chopped
150gm button mushrooms, sliced
8 spring onions, sliced
2 sticks celery, sliced
Small cabbage, shredded

Combine the ginger, soya sauce, honey and lemon juice.
Pour half of this over the chicken and allow to marinate for 20 minutes (or longer).

Cook the rice in boiling water, adding the chicken stock powder.
Once cooked, drain and reserve ½ cup of the stock.
Keep warm.

Dry-fry or grill the chicken pieces until cooked.
Allow to rest for 5 minutes and then slice diagonally.

Spray a wok with non-stick cooking spray.
Toss in all the vegetables except the cabbage, and dry-fry for 5 minutes.
Pour in the reserved rice water and cover with a lid.
Cook for a further 5 minutes.
Add the cabbage and toss well.
Pour over the reserved marinade and stir well.

Serve the stir steamed vegetables alongside the rice and sliced chicken.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Minerals : Sodium

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

Functions of Sodium:
Necessary to maintain cellular fluid balance
Aids in nerve impulse transmission
Maintains blood pressure
Needed for muscle contraction

Sources of Sodium:
All foods, in varying degrees
Breakfast cereal
Processed foods

Deficiency symptoms:
Muscle cramps
Poor appetite
Dry skim
Dry mouth

Sodium is readily available in nearly all foods, and as you can see from the list of sources we are more likely to have too much than too little. Go easy on the salt: your daily intake should not exceed 1600mg. You’ll notice that, other than when cooking starches (potatoes, pasta, rice) I never add salt to a dish in my recipes. Additional sodium may be required if you have a prolonged illness involving diarrhea or vomiting, or you sweat excessively (as in very hot weather) or if you become dehydrated.

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

Steak ‘n’ egg with insalata Caprice : Wk40/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
4 pieces fillet steak about 100gm ea.
Steak seasoning
4 eggs
4 brown rolls, split and toasted

Small pillow pack mixed baby spinach, rocket & watercress
½ large cucumber, sliced

2 large tomatoes, sliced
Fresh basil leaves
100gms low fat mozzarella, thinly sliced
2 tsp olive oil
1 Tblsp balsamic vinegar

To make the Caprice salad:
Alternate slices of tomato and mozzarella with fresh basil leaves in a round dish.
Mix the oil and vinegar together and pour over the salad.

Make a separate salad with the salad leaves and cucumber slices.

Spray a ridged pan with non stick cooking spray.
Season the steaks and cook to desired doneness, turning only once.

Break the eggs into a separate (sprayed with non-stick cooking spray) frying pan.
Once the whites have set, add ¼ cup of water to the pan and cover with a lid.
Let the eggs continue to cook in the steam.

Serve 1 toasted roll per person, topped with the steak and egg, alongside the two salads.

This is not a meal to eat every week! Egg plus steak plus cheese equals a lot of cholesterol. But we all need to indulge our cravings once in a while.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Smoked salmon and sesame seeds : Wk40/2

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
1 litre veg stock
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
3 x 75gm 2 minute noodles
2 Tblsp peanut butter
2 Tblsp Kikoman soy sauce
250gms smoked salmon
1 tsp sesame oil
1 cucumber, halved and sliced
Bunch spring onions, sliced
2 Tblsp sesame seeds

Roll the strips of salmon lengthways and slice into pin wheels.

Combine the peanut butter and soy sauce.

In a small pan, heat the sesame oil.
Toss in the spring onions and cucumber slices.
Fry lightly while you:

Break the noodles into a saucepan.
Add the stock and ginger.
Cook for 2 minutes – or according to time given on package.
Drain and return to pan.

Tip the onions, cucumber and soy dressing into the noodle pan.
Stir well to combine.
Fold through the salmon pin wheels.

Serve scattered with the sesame seeds and extra soy, if desired.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Lose weight the easy way…

I am continually amazed that  this kind of advertising is still successful: Lose 5 kilos in just a week!: Lose weight the easy way!: etc, etc… in all the years of trying many different diets, all I lost was my faith in diets (and the advertising industry). Take it from me, there is no easy way to lose weight.

Many fad diets do, indeed, work… if you very strictly adhere to the specified foods, pills and potions they call for. But this involves such a major change in eating habits that you won’t stay on such a diet for very long before becoming bored, disillusioned and irritable, or feeling deprived and hungry – often long before you have lost any significant amount of weight. The restricted foods and portion sizes are so radically different from what might be considered ‘normal eating’ that you can’t wait to ‘finish’ the diet! And once off the diet, of course, you quickly return to your old style of eating – which is what made you overweight in the first place.

‘Going on a diet’ always presupposes that, at some stage, you will come ‘off’ the diet. If you are serious about losing weight, and keeping it off for good, don’t go on a diet; rather consider your overall health and make some lifestyle changes. This means changing the way you eat, certainly, but, as I’ve said before, you can make small changes, gradually.

Starting today, make sure you eat regularly, starting with breakfast. If you are really in a rush in the morning, with no time to eat, take a couple of pieces of fruit to work with you; a hardboiled egg, some cheese and crackers or a small tub of yoghurt. Whatever you choose, eat it before 10:00am.

Lunch can be difficult when you’re working away from home. Pack your own healthy lunch at least twice a week, rather than sending out for fatty, salty take-aways. This is not only beneficial to your weight and general health, but it costs far less too.

Dinners are easy… use the recipes I post here. They are all low fat, low salt, high fibre, healthy recipes using fairly standard ingredients. They are simple to prepare and most of them don’t take more than half an hour to make. My daily recipe posts are meals that I have prepared myself with the intention of staying healthy and maintaining my weight loss.

It took me a year to lose 18kg – quite a bit slower than I would have liked - but I have not regained any weight in the last twelve monrhs. And the way I eat now has become such a habit that I’m sure the weight I’ve lost is gone forever.

Good pizza crust : Wk40/1

Serves 4-6 : Very easy : Takes longer because of rising time
3 tsp instant dried yeast
½ tsp sugar
80ml warm water
2 cups plain white flour
1 cup nutty wheat flour
½ tsp salt
1 cup warm water
Toppings of your choice. I used:
1 large onion, sliced
2 x 400gm whole peeled tomatoes, drained
2 Tblsp chopped basil
2 Tblsp balsamic vinegar
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 red or yellow pepper, deseeded and cut in strips
150gm low fat mozzarella cheese

Place the yeast, sugar and 80ml warm water in a small jug.
Allow to stand for about 10 minutes while you:

Sieve the flours and salt into a bowl.
Add the cup of warm water and the yeast mix.
Mix well with the dough hooks on your hand beater.
Knead lightly and set in a warm place to rise for an hour or so.

Chopped the drained tomatoes and place in a saucepan with the basil and vinegar.
Simmer for about 10 minutes to allow the juices to reduce.

Heat the oven to 220ºC.
Spray 2 x 25cm pizza pans with non stick cooking spray.
Knock down the dough and knead briefly.
Roll out the dough or use your hands to press it into the pans.
Spread with the tomato mix.
Scatter the chicken. onion and pepper slices over.
Cut, tear or grate the cheese and place on the top of each pizza.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes and serve with a salad on the side.

This is great a pizza crust. If you use lots of tomato, as I do, you may need to cook it an extra 5-10 mins. I have yet to find a restaurant or pizza place that uses enough tomato for my tastes. I even put extra halved cocktail tomatoes on mine.

Friday, September 24, 2010

(C)Leaning up

Having de-cluttered the kitchen, we now need to check whether the foods we store and prepare in there are healthy. To develop healthy eating habits we need to eliminate any potential foody pitfalls, so:

Throw out: white rice and pasta, refined flour products (bread, English muffins, crumpets, bagels); thick dressings and cook-in sauces; high salt stock powders and high sugar cereals. And while we’re at it, ditch anything containing caffeine – caffeine slows down the metabolism.
Replace with: whole grain pasta and brown rice, whole grain flour products; oil-free or low-fat dressings; make your own ‘cook-in’ sauces with healthy fresh vegetables; buy rolled oats, bran flakes, low-fat low-sugar muesli, raw unsalted nuts and dried fruit.

We can only succumb to temptation if temptation is there! Stop buying sweets, chocolate, cakes and salty snacks; nibble on fresh fruit or a small handful of dried fruit, or crudités with fat free cottage cheese instead. Don’t buy ice-cream, buy frozen (fat-free) yoghurt – or make your own. I have to be honest and admit that I do still buy and eat chocolate on a regular basis, but I only buy dark chocolate – preferably with almonds – and I limit myself to two little squares as an after dinner treat. If you know something is just too tempting, delicious and irresistible, don’t have it in the house. There is absolutely no harm for the rest of the family to adopt these habits, too. Learning good eating habits now will stand them in good stead for a healthier life.

Cutting down on salt doesn’t mean that our meals should be bland and tasteless – stock up on lots of herbs and spices. ‘Must haves’ are: fresh chopped (and you can freeze these for easy use) mint, parsley, coriander, ginger; fresh grated lemon zest and juice; dried thyme, dill, oregano, and rosemary; ground cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, paprika and cayenne pepper; chillies – dried or fresh or frozen, or in a paste; one or two good quality curry pastes of differing ‘heats’. All these not only add flavour but have nutritional and medicinal value, too.

Start collecting low-fat, low-salt quick and easy recipes – or try out the recipes I post here. Dig out your old recipe books and put them in clear view so that you use them! Recipes are easily modified to reduce the salt and fats – use herbs and spices and a no-fat cooking spray, fat free yoghurt or cottage cheese as replacements.

No matter how motivated you are to eat healthily, if you don’t have healthy foods and snacks available you are setting yourself up to fail. We need to continually review and modify our eating and shopping habits.

Horseradish salmon : Wk39/5

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
4 salmon steaks
1 Tblsp lemon juice
1 tsp honey
1 Tblsp horseradish

400gm potatoes
200gm baby spinach, roughly chopped
12 cocktail tomatoes, halved

3 Tblsp low fat mayo
1 Tblsp horseradish
1 Tblsp lemon juice

Combine the mayo and 1 Tblsp each of horseradish and lemon juice.
Set aside.

In a small bowl combine the honey and 1 Tblsp each of horseradish and lemon juice.
Brush this mixture all over the salmon steaks.

Cook the potatoes in lightly salted boiling water.
Add the chopped spinach for the last 5 minutes.
Drain well.
Add a good grind of black pepper and crush* the potatoes and spinach together.
Keep warm.

Spray a frying or griddle pan with not stick cooking spray.
Cook the fish for about 5 minutes each side, or until it flakes easily.

Serve one salmon steak per person, with the potato/spinach crush and tomatoes.
Top the fish with a dollop of the mayo dressing.

*Crushing involves mashing slightly so that there are still whole pieces of potato in there.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Link to .pdf files for Week 40

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 40.

Chicken pilaf pile : Wk39/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
3 skinless chicken breasts, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 fat carrots, chopped
300gm cauli & broccoli florets
320gm rice
640ml chicken stock
1 Tblsp mild curry paste
200gm frozen peas
3 courgettes, chopped

Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion and chicken pieces until the onion softens and the chicken seals.
Stir through the curry paste.
Now add the carrots, cauli and broccoli, the rice and the stock.
Stir well and bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the courgettes and frozen peas.
Simmer for another 10 minutes until the rice is cooked and the stock has all been absorbed.
Stir well to combine.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Minerals : Potassium

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

Functions of Potassium:
  • Regulates blood pressure and heart beat
  • Healthy nerve and muscle function
  • Regulates digestion

Sources of Potassium:
  • Nuts
  • Avocados
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Bananas
  • Apricots
  • Nectarines
  • Raisins
  • Figs
  • Dates
  • Prunes
  • Fish
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes

Deficiency symptoms:
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Thirst
  • High blood pressure
  • Listlessness

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


Chilli prawn pasta : Wk39/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
300gm thin spaghetti

350gm deveined prawn meat
200gm spinach, roughly chopped
70gm peppadew peppers, drained and quartered
12 fresh basil leaves, shredded
400gm can chopped tomatoes
2 tsp chilli paste
1Tblsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tblsp corn flour

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

Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Heat the pan and add the tomatoes.
Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.
Now add the prawns and peppers and continue cooking until the prawns start to turn pink.
Add the garlic and chilli paste and cook for another 2 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir through the spinach, basil and vinegar.

Tip the pasta into a large serving dish and top with the prawn mixture.

(Photo shows 4 servings – lift pasta through the topping to mix as you serve.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Veg moussaka : Wk39/2

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
500gm aubergine, peeled and thickly sliced
200gm mixed cauli and broccoli florets
150gm green beans, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
400gm can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano

500ml fat free milk
2 Tblsp grated parmesan
2 Tblsp corn flour

Heat oven to 200ºC.

Boil, steam or microwave the aubergine slices until they are almost transparent.

Combine the remaining vegetables with the tinned tomatoes.
Cook, uncovered, over a medium heat until the tomato juice is reduced by about half and the vegetables are almost cooked, but still crunchy.

Make a cheese sauce with the milk, corn flour and half the cheese.

Spray 4 individual baking dishes (500ml capacity) with non-stick cooking spray.
Spoon the tomato vegetables into the dishes.
Lay aubergine slices down the centre of each dish.
Top with the cheese sauce.
Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan.
Bake at 200ºC for 15 – 20 minutes until lightly browned.

Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Heart of the home

In days gone by, when Dad went to work and Mum stayed home with the kids, the kitchen was the heart of the home. I remember, when I was a child, spending a lot of time in the kitchen with my mother. I would sit and read, draw or do homework while she did laundry, ironing or washed dishes. Often we would cook and bake together, plan meals and make shopping lists – even do dressmaking! All at the kitchen table. The kitchen was my favourite place to be, and I remember sitting in the lounge only in the evenings, when all the chores were done.

These days, Mum and Dad are – more than likely – out at work all day while the kids are at school or day-care. The kitchen is left in chaos after breakfast; dirty dishes stacked waiting to be washed – not the kind of environment you want to rush home to!

For you to lead a healthier lifestyle, your kitchen needs to be a haven; a place you want to come home to. To be a haven, it doesn’t have to have all the latest mod-cons, gleaming marble worktops and masses of cupboard space – but it does need to be organized. You should be able to put your hand on whatever you need in the way of utensils in a matter of seconds. If you have to search through three drawers of tangled cutlery to find the garlic press, chances are you will skip the garlic altogether.

Take a day to turn out your kitchen. Throw out or give away all the stuff you don’t use or want any more. Arrange your drawers and shelves logically – like items grouped together, most frequently used items to the front of the shelves. If you’re short of drawer space, you can always keep plastic bags or dish cloths in a basket on top of the fridge. Stand kitchen utensils in a large vase or flowerpot on the counter next to the stove. Knives do need to be kept in a drawer or knife block, for their own protection – and out of the reach of little fingers. Make sure all your small electrical gadgets are in full working order and within easy reach. Check all your plastic storage pots have lids that fit well – odd lids and odd boxes need to go. Got a large collection of empty glass/plastic bottles and jars? Are you really going to use them? Recycle.

Tidying cupboards and drawers is enormously therapeutic and emotionally satisfying. I bet, once you’ve done the kitchen, you’ll do the bathroom cupboards and wardrobes too. I did.

Chilli chicken and beans : Wk39/1

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
350gm mini chicken breast fillets
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp chilli paste
½ tsp dried rosemary
400gm can chopped tomatoes
400gm can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

240gm rice

Mixed salad leaves
A few sprigs of fennel

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

Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
Dry fry the chicken and garlic until the chicken is lightly browned.
Add the chilli paste, rosemary and tinned tomatoes.
Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
Add the cannellini beans and allow to heat through.

Serve the chicken on the rice, with the salad leaves and fennel on the side.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A thought provoking question

Do you sometimes berate yourself? Call yourself fat / ugly / a pig / useless? This serves no useful purpose. It certainly won't boost your self confidence!

A friend of mine sent me an e-mail the other day. It was a list of thought provoking questions. The question that caught my attention was:

“If you had a friend who spoke to you the way you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you stay friends?”

We all of us have our failings and weaknesses, especially when it comes to changing our eating habits and leading a healthier lifestyle. It can be difficult to keep on making those incremental changes and sticking with them, though it’s not impossible. We all have slip-ups and indulge in unwise food choices or overly large portions occasionally; but when we do, we can and should forgive ourselves.

Be kind to yourself. Don’t let mistakes disempower you, learn from them and move on.

You can find more questions at

A reader has pointed out that I have misquoted the original question. It should read:
"If you had a friend who spoke to you the way you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow that person to be your friend?"
My apologies for misquoting.  17/09/10 5:55PM

Griddled fish with potatoes and spring onions : Wk38/5

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
4 large hake fillets, skin on
Fish seasoning
480gms new potatoes, quartered
Bunch spring onions, sliced
2 tsp butter

250gm green beans
2 large fennel bulbs, halved lengthways

3 Tblsp low fat mayo
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

Mix together the mayo, lemon rind and juice.
Set aside.

Boil, steam or microwave the green beans and fennel.
Drain and keep warm.

Boil the potatoes in lightly salted boiling water until cooked.
Drain and leave in the colander.
In the same saucepan, melt the butter and gently fry the spring onions for 5 minutes.
Tip the potatoes back into the pan and turn to coat with the buttery onions.
Keep warm.

Spray a griddle pan and the fish fillets with non-stick cooking spray.
Sprinkle the fish seasoning over both sides of the fish.
Cook the fish about 8 minutes each side (skin side first), turning only once.

Serve the fish with the potatoes and vegetables, the mayo dressing separate on the side.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Link to .pdf files for Week 39

Go here for all next week's recipes and a shopping list.

Spring chicken : Wk38/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
3 boneless chicken breast fillets, cut in chunks
1 onion. sliced
2 leeks, sliced
3 carrots, chopped
3 courgettes, quartered and sliced
125gm broad beans
300gm new potatoes, quartered
450ml chicken stock
1 Tblsp corn flour

Parboil the potatoes in lightly salted boiling water for about 10 minutes.
Drain and set aside.

Spray a large pot with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onions until they start to soften.
Add the chicken and continue cooking to seal.
Tip in the carrots, parboiled potatoes and leeks.
Pour in the stock, bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes.
Now add the courgettes and broad beans.
Cook for another 10 minutes.

Thicken the sauce with the cornflour.

Divide between four bowls and serve.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Minerals : Iron

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

Functions of Iron:
  • Synthesis of haemoglobin
  • Oxygen transportation
  • Immune response
  • Physical and mental growth
  • Proper liver function
 Sources of Iron:
  • Oily fish
  • Lean meats
  • Eggs
  • Legumes
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Raisins, dates
  • Dates, figs
  • Apricots, prunes
  • Seeds
  • Molasses
  • Liver
Deficiency symptoms:
  • Food cravings
  • Pale skin
  • Fatigue
  • Circles under the eyes
  • Anaemia
  • Stunted growth
  • Brittle nails
  • Constipation

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

Gammon steaks : Wk38/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
4 gammon steaks ea ±140gm
1 Tblsp honey
1 Tblsp Dijon mustard

1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
4 large carrots, julienne
250gm baby spinach
480gm new potatoes


Mix the honey and mustard together.
Brush over the gammon steaks.

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

Spray a ridged pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Cook the gammon steals no more than 5 minutes each side.

Serve the steaks with the vegetables and extra mustard if desired.

Gammon steaks are usually pickled and/or smoked when you buy them, so they only need to be heated through. Soak them in cold water for 5 minutes to remove excess salt, and pat dry with kitchen paper before cooking.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Crustless quiche : Wk38/2

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 leeks, sliced
150gm button mushrooms, sliced
150gm baby spinach, coarsely chopped
6 eggs
125ml fat free milk
60gm grated fat reduced cheese

Crusty bread to serve

Heat the oven 160ºC.

Spray a frying pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the leeks and garlic until the leeks start to soften.
Add the mushrooms and stir fry for 5 minutes more.
Pile the spinach into the pan, cover with a lid and allow the spinach to wilt.

Beat the eggs, cheese and milk together.
Spray an oven-proof pie dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Tip the vegetables into the prepared pie dish.
Pour over the beaten eggs.

Bake at 160ºC for 25 – 30 minutes, turning on the grill for the last 5 minutes so that the top browns.

Serve with a fresh mixed salad and some crusty bread.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Water, water everywhere

Are you drinking enough water? I know that it is more difficult to drink plain cold water when a chill hits the air, but, by the same token, warmer days make it easier – and more necessary. Some people swear by an early morning cup of hot water with lemon juice to revive and refresh, and keep the bowel functioning well. Though I must admit, I haven't seen any scientific research on that, it certainly can't do any harm.

Very few people drink enough water. We should aim for 6 - 8 glasses a day. Don't get too carried awa drinking mineral water, the minerals build up in your system. Purified or filtered water is best. If you can't stand it plain, use herbal teas or stand a jug of water on your desk with a bunch of fresh mint and a cinnamon stick in it, and sip on that. You don't have to gulp the water down; in fact sipping is more beneficial. Don't wait until you are thirsty before having a drink... by the time you are thirsty, you are already 2% dehydrated. Water is good for the skin: other drinks (tea, coffee, cold drinks, alcohol) actually USE the body's water supply to digest. Every single cell of the billions in your body contains water, and is surrounded by water - this situation is necessary for the import of nutrients to each cell and the export of waste from each cell. A body can keep going for several days without food, but it needs topping up with water all the time.

If you are exercising, remember to drink water before, during and after exercise.

Fruits and vegetables consist of 90% water, and this form of water is easy for the body to use; plus it provides a good supply of minerals and vitamins. Five to eight servings per day of fruit and vegetables produce over a litre of water as a byproduct of digestion. Eating carbohydrates also helps to store water in the body: carbohydrates (not just the starchy ones) are broken down by digestion and stored as glycogen, and each unit of glycogen is bound with nine units of water - as the glycogen is liberated for use as energy, so too is the water.

So, drink up and stay hydrated.

Cheese crust fish : Wk38/1

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
4 skinless hake fillets ea ±120gm
1 egg, beaten
50gm stale breadcrumbs
40gm rolled oats
2 tsp grated lemon rind
20gm finely grated parmesan
2 Tblsp chopped parsley

250gm mixed broccoli & cauli
4 thick slices butternut
480gm oven chips

Heat the oven to 200ºC.

Combine the oats, breadcrumbs, lemon rind, parsley and cheese.
Dip the fish fillets in the beaten egg and then in the breadcrumb mixture.

Spray 2 baking trays with non-stick cooking spray.
Place the coated fish on one baking tray, and the oven chips on the other.
Bake the fish at 200ºC for 15 – 20 minutes, until it flakes easily.
(Follow the instructions on the oven chip packaging for cooking time.)

Meanwhile, steam, boil or microwave the broccoli, cauliflower and butternut slices until tender.

Serve the fish with the vegetables and oven chips.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Keeping an eye on portion sizes

Now you know what constitutes a portion in each of the food groups, use the kitchen scales and/or measuring cup to better see what a portion really is. My digital scale sits out on my counter top all the time, ready for weighing recipe ingredients AND my food servings. Portion size control is vital – and your portions can increase very rapidly if you don’t keep a close watch. If you've been visually controlling portion size for a while, get the scale out and measure again, you may well find you have become over generous.

The portions I have suggested in my posts this week provide a daily intake of ±2000kcals/8400kjoules, which is adequate for a moderately active female. Men obviously need more – they have bigger bodies to maintain and generally they metabolize food faster (so unfair!). If you find that you do not lose weight, then reduce your daily portions of oils and grains slightly. If you lose a lot of weight fast, then increase the number of grains and meat portions. Vegetables are low in kilojoules/kcals and a good tummy filler – you can healthily increase the number of portions at any time. Weight loss of more than ½ - 1 kilo per week is unhealthy, over an extended period, unless you are VERY overweight to begin with. Losing more slowly means the weight will stay off.

Don’t weigh yourself more than once a week – same time, same clothes (or lack of!). Your weight fluctuates from day to day, even throughout the day. Do measure yourself: chest, waist, hips, thigh. You’ll be pleasantly surprised after a few weeks.

Cauli, rice and lentils : Wk37/5

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
1 onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
60gm red lentils
240gm rice
3 Tblsp Patak’s Korma paste
4 cups of veg stock
1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
150gm frozen peas

2 Tblsp roasted cashew nuts
4 Tblsp natural fat free yoghurt
4 Tblsp mango chutney

Spray a saucepan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion and carrots for about 5 minutes.
Stir in the rice and lentils.
Add the korma paste and vegetable stock.
Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Stir through the cauliflower florets and cook for a further 10 minutes until the rice and lentils are tender.
Add the frozen peas for the last 5 minutes.

Serve with the cashew nuts sprinkled on top, and the yoghurt and chutney on the side.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Link to .pdf files for Week 38

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 38.

Bulghar burgers : Wk37/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
60gm bulghar wheat
500gm chicken mince
1 red onion, chopped
80gm chopped parsley
1 Tblsp grated lemon rind
1 Tblsp lemon juice

4 whole wheat pita pockets
2 large tomatoes, sliced
4 gherkins, sliced
240gm mixed lettuce leaves

½ cup Helman’s low fat mayo
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tblsp lemon juice

Place the bulghar wheat in a small bowl and cover with cold water.
Allow to stand for 10 minutes.
Drain and squeeze out excess water.

Combine the wheat, chicken, onion, parsley, lemon rind and juice.
Shape into 8 patties.

Spray a frying pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the patties until; cooked through (about 8 minutes each side).

Mix the mayo, crushed garlic and lemon juice in a small bowl.

Serve 2 patties per person, with the salad vegetables, warm pita bread and the mayo dressing.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More PC

On Monday I covered fruits and vegetables. Today I’ll cover the remaining food groups.

Grains are starchy carbohydrates.
The grains group includes all foods made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley etc, such as bread,
pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals. At least half of all grains consumed should be WHOLE grains, so
choose whole wheat bread and pasta and brown rice. Generally, 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat
cereal or ½ cup of cooked cereal, cooked rice or cooked pasta represents 1 portion.
Recommended daily consumption: 6 portions of grains (8 for men)

Meats and beans, nuts and seeds are proteins.
Meat and beans – 30gms lean steak or chicken, 50gms white fish, 1 egg, 1 Tblsp peanut butter,
¼ cup cooked dried beans/lentils or 15gms nuts/seeds equals 1 portion. Limit eggs to 3 per week,
although the cholesterol/egg dispute has more or less been settled in favour of the egg.
Recommended daily consumption: 3 portions of meats and beans (4 – 5 for men)

Milk and milk products are dairy.
The milk group includes all fluid milk products and foods made from milk that retain their calcium
content (yoghurt, cheese). Foods made from milk which do not retain the calcium content – cream,
cream cheese, butter – are NOT part of this group, they are fats. Most choices from this group should be low-fat or (preferably) fat-free. In general, 1 cup of milk or yoghurt, 45gms hard cheese (natural, uncoloured), or 60gms processed cheese (not reccomended) is considered to be 1 portion.
Recommended daily consumption: 3 portions (4 for men)

All fats and oils count as fats.
Oils include fats from many different plants and some fish, these oils are liquid at room temperature,
e.g. canola, olive, sunflower. Some foods are naturally high in oils, like nuts and avocados. Foods that are mainly oils include mayonnaise, some salad dressings and soft margarine. Avoid trans-fats, and try to limit saturated fats (solid at room temperature, of animal source). Mono- and poly- unsaturated fats are the good ones – monounsaturates, in particular, are supposed to help get rid of belly fat.
Recommended daily consumption: Maximum 6 teaspoons (men and women)

I’ve labeled the different food groups as either carbohydrates, proteins, dairy or fats, but obviously there is a bit more to it than that. Carbohydrates can contain some fats and proteins, they definitely contain fibre. Proteins contain fats and, in the case of beans, nuts and seeds, fibre too. Dairy products contain fats. Only fats and oils are purely fats and don’t overlap with any other food group. All food groups contain vitamins and minerals.

That covers the six food groups. Come back Friday for tips on portion control. (434)

Garbanzo pasta : Wk37/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
300gm pasta twirls
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, sliced
±400gm can chopped tomatoes
±400gm can garbanzo beans (chick peas)
100ml dry red wine (optional)
1 tsp oregano
2 Tblsp capers, rinsed, drained and chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

A few shredded basil leaves

Cook the pasta in lightly salted boiling water until al dente.
Drain and keep warm.

Spray a saucepan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion and pepper for about 5 minutes until they start to soften.
Add the tinned tomatoes and the garbanzo beans including their liquid.
Stir through the red wine, oregano and capers, and a good grind of black pepper.
Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Tip the drained pasta into the pan with the sauce and combine well.
Garnish with shredded basil leaves.

Serve with a rocket and watercress salad if desired.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kashmiri chicken : Wk37/2

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
4 skinless chicken breast fillets
100gm Patak’s mango chutney
60ml water

1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp mustard seed
¼ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp garam masala
300gm rice
750ml chicken stock
2 Tblsp chopped coriander

Spray a saucepan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion and garlic until the onion starts to soften and turn golden.
Add all the spices and the rice.
Stir well.
Pour in the stock and stir again.
Simmer, uncovered, until the rice is tender.
Drain if necessary.
Stir through the coriander and keep warm.

Spray a frying pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Fry the chicken until it is cooked through and lightly browned both sides, 8 – 10 minutes per side.
Rest the chicken for 5 minutes before cutting into thick slices.

Mix the chutney and water together in a heatproof bowl.
Warm gently in the pan you used to cook the chicken.

Divide the rice between four plates.
Place chicken slices beside the rice and spoon over the warmed chutney.
Serve with a crispy fresh salad on the side.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The new PC – portion control

At the risk of boring people who have been following my blog since the beginning, this week I’m covering portion sizes again. Portion control really is key to losing and/or maintaining your weight and staying healthy, so herewith healthy eating, weight loss guidelines.

Please think of this as an eating guide, rather than a diet. “Diet” implies something you will stop once
you reach your goal weight. For successful weight loss (i.e. to lose and keep weight off, once and for all) this is a style of eating you need to follow forever.

ALWAYS eat breakfast – fasting all night raises cortisol levels: high levels of cortisol encourage
fat storage. To control cortisol levels you need to raise insulin levels (insulin suppresses cortisol). To raise insulin levels, you need to eat.

To control blood sugar levels, try to keep to low GI foods. You can use cinnamon sprinkled on fruits and cereals. Cinnamon helps maintain blood sugar levels.

Try to eat dinner before 7.00pm – this may be difficult if you eat out.

There are basically six food groups: Fruits, vegetables, grains, meat and beans, milk and oils. I’ll cover fruits and vegetables today.

Fruits are carbohydrates.
The fruit group includes all fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits and fruit juices. In general,
1 cup of fruit, or ½ cup of pure fruit juice (unsweetened) or ½ cup of dried fruit is considered to be 1 portion. I suggest you limit bananas to 2 per week, and dried fruit to 1 cup per week – purely because of the high sugar content. If you wish to set fruit salad in a sugar free jelly, slightly reduce the water used to make the jelly. Do NOT put pineapple in, it affects the set.
Recommended daily consumption: 2 – 3 portions of fruit (3 – 4 for men)

Vegetables are carbohydrates.
The vegetable group includes all fresh, frozen, canned and dried veg and veg juices. In general,
1 cup of raw or cooked veg or veg juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens (eg lettuce) equals
1 portion. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are NOT included in this group - these come under the grains group.
Recommended daily consumption: 3 - 5 portions of vegetables (5 – 8 for men)

On Wednesday, I’ll talk about the other four food groups.

Cupboard love curry : Wk37/1

Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
200gm green beans, chopped
2x400gm tins chopped tomatoes with onion and garlic
2 curry leaves
2 large Tblsp Korma curry paste
1-2 tsp Harrief (chilli) paste
80gm seedless raisins

1x400gm tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1x400gm tin mixed beans, rinsed and drained

4 Tblsp fat free natural yoghurt
4 tsp chopped coriander
4 Naan breads

Spray a large saucepan with non-stick cooking spray.
Mix the tomatoes, the curry and chilli pastes together in the pan.
Add the curry leaves, raisins and green beans.
Simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes until the beans are tender.

Add the chick peas and mixed beans.
Allow to heat through thoroughly.

Warm the Naan breads.

Serve the curry topped with yoghurt and coriander, with the warm Naan bread on the side.

This is a wonderfully filling meal, which is so easy to prepare - and everything is already in the cupboard. If you don’t have any green beans you can use frozen peas instead.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Time for a change...

There are thousands of diet plans, books, pills, shakes and regimens available, but most of these are detrimental to health (and finances!) in the long-term. Yes, you may lose weight, but once the pills are all gone or your 14 day detox plan is over, you will more than likely revert to old eating habits – and these are what got you overweight and unhealthy in the first place! Do you actually need to lose weight? Do you know what your healthy weight-range is, based on gender, age and activity levels?

Weight loss is difficult to achieve, and even more difficult to maintain, if it is not undertaken as an adaptation to a healthier lifestyle – and even then it can be difficult. But not impossible – it just takes attention and application.

Maybe it’s not weight loss you’re after, rather a healthier way of eating. A healthy lifestyle will promote weight loss where necessary, and eventually maintain weight at your optimal level. You’ll not only look better, but feel better too. And have more energy. But you have to be realistic. Understand and appreciate that changes need to be made, and it will be easier to accommodate such changes if you make them one at a time. Once one change has become automatic, then it’s time to make another, and so on. Who are you doing this for and what is your rationale? You need to want to do this for you, no-one else. It takes a lot of persistence to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back on track when you slip up (we all slip up occasionally). But the effort is very rewarding.

Here are some changes you can implement right now, from today – without disrupting your life too much:
  • Switch to buying low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
  • Eat breakfast. (Scroll down to see Monday’s post)
  • Eat smaller portions – especially red meats, starches and full fat dairy products.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruit.
  • Eat your vegetables first – they will fill you up so that you don’t want so much starch and protein.
  • Eat more slowly - chew your food well.
  • Eat only when you are hungry – sometimes we mistake thirst for hunger, try a glass of water first.

Those will keep you busy for a while.

Vegetable platter : Wk36/5

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
480gm new potatoes
400gm green beans
4 large carrots, julienne
400gm tenderstem broccoli
400gm butternut, sliced
250gm green asparagus spears
250gm large button mushrooms

160gm cheddar cheese, grated

Steam, boil or microwave all the vegetables until they are tender, but still have some crispness left.

Arrange on dinner plates and sprinkle with grated cheese.

Sometimes it’s nice to just have a plate of veg. Don’t be limited by the vegetables I have listed – use any of your favourite vegetables, just include a good range of colour.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Link to .pdf files for Week 37

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 37.

Salmon in shrimp sauce : Wk36/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
4 (±400gm) salmon steaks
2 cups milk
250gm tiny shrimp
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 – 2 Tblsp corn flour
1 – 2 Tblsp chopped parsley
Grated rind of 1 lemon

480gm mashing potatoes
500gm green beans

Cook the potatoes in lightly salted boiling water until tender.
Drain, then mash well and keep warm.

Boil, steam or microwave the green beans for about 10 – 15 minutes.
Drain and keep warm.

Place the salmon and half the milk in a large pan.
Partially cover and simmer until the fish flakes easily.
Flake the salmon into bite-sized chunks.
Add the shrimp.

Mix the corn flour to a paste with the remaining milk, the parsley and the mustard.
Stir this mixture into the fish and continue to stir while the sauce thickens.

Serve the salmon over the mashed potato, with the beans on the side.
Garnish with the lemon rind.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Minerals : Magnesium

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

Functions of Magnesium:
Required for normal heart rhythms
Needed for proper muscle contraction
Used in hormone synthesis
Aids cartilage formation
Keeps nerves healthy

Sources of Magnesium:
Dairy products
Fruit and vegetables
Organ meat

Deficiency symptoms:
Panic attacks
Stress and anxiety
High blood pressure
Kidney stones

Supplements are unnecessary provided you are normally healthy and your diet includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Always check with your doctor before taking supplements of any kind. An excess of any mineral can have unpleasant side effects.

Chicken with warm mango salad : Wk36/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
480gms (±4) skinless chicken breast fillets
3 Tblsp marmalade
1 Tblsp whole grain mustard

2 ±400gm cans mango in juice
4-5 spring onions, sliced
2 Tblsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp ground cumin

250gm couscous
220mls chicken stock

Heat the grill to 250ºC.

Mix together the marmalade and mustard.
Cut each breast into 3 or 4 thickish slices lengthways.
Place the chicken slices on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
Brush the ‘mustalade’ over the fillet slices.

Put the couscous in a bowl, and pour over the stock.
Cover with a plate or cling wrap.
Allow to stand for 5 – 10 minutes.
Fluff up the grains with a fork.

Grill the chicken for 5 minutes, then turn.
Brush the remaining ‘mustalade’ over the slices.
Grill for a further 5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Cut the mango slices into chunks.
Place in a bowl and add the spring onions.
Pour over the vinegar and cumin and mix well.
Just before serving, warm the mango salad briefly in the microwave.

Serve with a fresh green salad or avocado slices.