Thursday, March 31, 2011

Link to .pdf file for Week 65.

For a sneak peek at the recipes I will be posting next week, go here. This link takes you to a printer-friendly file so you can either print direct or download to your computer. The shopping list tells you exactly what you need to buy to make the week's recipes, and if you print it off there is space for you to add your other requirements.


Chilli beef and beans Wk64/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
1 Tblsp vegetable oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp crushed garlic
400gm extra lean minced beef
1 – 3 tsp chilli paste
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp dried thyme
300ml beef stock
1 x 400gm can chopped tomatoes
1 green pepper, chopped
3 Tblsp tomato puree
1 Tblsp cocoa powder
1 x 400gm can red kidney beans
200ml fat free natural yoghurt
240gm rice

Pour the oil into a large saucepan
Fry the onion and garlic until the onion starts to soften.
Add the mince and stir fry until the mince becomes crumbly and brown.
Now you can add the chilli paste, paprika, cumin and thyme.
Give everything a good stir.
Pour in the stock and tomatoes and tomato paste and toss in the chopped pepper.
Cover with a lid, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to minimum.
Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix the cocoa to a paste with a little water.
Add this to the mince along with the beans and stir well.
Simmer for another 10 minutes.
Check the seasoning – you will want to add salt and black pepper, and perhaps some tobacco.
Remove from the heat and let it stand for 10 minutes before serving.

While the flavours of the chilli are all mingling, cook the rice in lightly salted water.
Drain well.

Serve the chilli over the rice, with a tablespoon of yoghurt.

I ran out of chilli paste making this so I bolstered the flavour with tobasco sauce. You can barely taste 1 teaspoon of chilli paste – it needs more.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Non-exclusion diet

We have all started diets thinking that the easiest way to lose weight is to exclude certain foods. This is a fallacy. No food groups - even sugars and fats - should be totally excluded. They each have their place in a healthy eating plan. If we ban all the sweet stuff entirely, we just feel deprived and depressed. We need, rather, to take control and limit quantities.

Our efforts to improve family health and lifestyle can succeed, but we have to realize that no improvement comes without effort. So, for a start, we can buy fewer treats when we do the grocery shopping. Decide, before you leave home, which treats you are going to buy, and in what quantities. To decide what quantities to buy, you have to designate treat times, of course. And once back from shopping, we can keep those treats in their very own container, on a high shelf. Out of sight, out of mind. The treats that come in a strip or bag of individually wrapped portions are a great aid to self control.

How often should we serve treats? Certainly no more than once a day.  Give children their own choice of treat from the available selection, and let them decide when they want to eat it. Maybe after supper is a good time, or they might want to include it in tomorrow's lunchbox. But... once the day's treat is gone, it is gone. And that applies to adults, too. One rule for everyone in the family.

Chopstick chicken : Wk64/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
3 skinless chicken breast fillets, cut in diagonal strips
1 Tblsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tblsp vegetable oil
350ml chicken stock
1 – 2 Tblsp cornflour
1 Tblsp lemon juice
1 Tblsp crushed ginger
200gm frozen peas
200gm green beans
100gm green asparagus spears
6 spring onions, chopped

3 x 75gm packs 2-minute-noodles
2 Tblsp cashew nuts

Pour the vinegar over the chicken strips and turn to coat.
Let this stand for 5 minutes or so, while you get everything else ready.

Pour the oil into a wok and place over a moderate heat.
Add the chicken and stir-fry to seal it all over.
Remove to a plate.

Mix the cornflour into the chicken stock.
Pour the stock into the wok.
Add the ginger, lemon juice, peas, beans, asparagus and onions.
Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly and the vegetables are cooked but still crunchy.
Put the chicken back in the pan and allow to heat through.

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet.

Serve the chicken and veg over the noodles.
Garnish with cashew nuts.

I have found that cutting chicken breasts on the diagonal is key to keeping them tender. Rice wine vinegar helps, too; it is sweeter than other vinegars and so won’t affect the overall flavour of your dish.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spiced bean stew : Wk64/2

Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
300gm orange sweet potato, cubed
1 Tblsp ground cumin
1 Tblsp ground coriander
½ tsp chilli flakes
450ml vegetable stock
1 x 400gm can chopped tomatoes
1 x 400gm can mixed beans, drained and rinsed
200gm baby corn, sliced
1 Tblsp honey

4 whole wheat pita pockets, warmed

4 Tblsp fat free natural yoghurt
1 Tblsp lemon juice
1 Tblsp coriander paste

To make the dressing, combine the yoghurt, lemon juice and coriander.
Set aside.

Spray a large, deep pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry-fry the onion and red pepper until the onion starts to soften.
Now add the sweet potato, cumin, coriander and chilli flakes.
Stir-fry for another 4 or 5 minutes.
Pour in the stock and chopped tomatoes.
Add the beans, baby corn and honey.
Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat.
Cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes.

Serve with the dressing and the pita bread.

Monday, March 28, 2011

How to get to sleep

Within certain boundaries, we can will ourselves to stay awake, but willing ourselves to go to sleep - in my experience - is largely ineffective. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to get to sleep at night. We toss and turn. We watch the clock. We know we have to get up in a few hours and cope with the usual hectic schedule. In the end, we may even abandon all hope of nodding off, and go and make a cup of tea.

Here are a few ideas to help you drift off a little bit faster.

1. Simple deep breathing - in and out, through the nose. Inhale to a slow count of three, exhale to a slow count of three. Wait for a slow count of three before repeating. Keep this up for about ten minutes each night. Deep breathing is relaxing. Concentrate on keeping count, that helps clear your mind of all the niggles and irritations of the day.

2. Keep your bedroom clear of hi-fis, computers and TV. If you must have a TV in the room, make sure it is turned off properly, and not sitting with the beady little red standby light glaring at you.

3. Set a bedtime routine. The repeated actions of a routine are soothing. So take a warm bath if you normally bath at night, brush teeth etc, and then read for fifteen minutes - something light, not a text book or the newspaper!

4. Don't eat for the three hours before bed. A heavy or spicy meal can lead to heartburn, which will make falling asleep more difficult. If a meal was 'heavy' it was more than likely too large and too fatty for your general health, not just your sleep.

5. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol is a natural diuretic - a full bladder will make sleep difficult. Alcohol also leads to snoring, which reduces airflow to the lungs, which reduces oxygenation of the blood, which is what causes a hangover - or even just a headache. (Snoring disturbs your sleep-partners's sleep, even if you think it doesn't spoil yours!)
Caffeine is a stimulant which stays in your system for several hours - in fact it only kicks in about twenty minutes after consumption. So avoid tea, coffee and chocolate before bed.

6. Remember the old wives tale about cheese giving you nightmares? Well, eating cheese can certainly keep you awake, because it contains a chemical which causes the release of a brain stimulant. But it's not just cheese. Bacon, ham, aubergines, red wine, avocado pears, nuts, raspberries and soy sauce all do the same thing!

Good night. Sleep tight. Don't let the bugs bite.

Carrot & courgette pan cakes : Wk64/1


Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
150ml fat free plain yoghurt
3 Tblsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tsp mustard seed

2 (±175gm) carrots, grated
2 (±175gm) courgettes, grated
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp crushed ginger
1 tsp cumin seed
½ tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp ground turmeric
1tsp ground coriander
100gm soy flour
50gm semolina
1 tsp baking powder
±200ml water

First make the dressing by combining the first three ingredients.
Set aside.

Put all the remaining ingredients in a bowl and beat together.
This makes a heavy batter – it should not be runny.

Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray and place on a medium heat.
Place spoonfuls of batter in the pan and cook for 5 minutes each side.
They should be firm to the touch when cooked.
Do this in batches – depending how many you can get in the pan at one time.
Re-spray the pan between batches.
Remove each batch from the pan and keep warm.

Serve the pancakes with the dressing and a fresh salad on the side.

I got 12 good sized pan cakes out of this quantity of batter using a heaped dessert spoon for each pan cake.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Meet, greet and eat

Eating has always been viewed as social and sociable. We always offer refreshment when anyone visits; even if it is only a cup of tea, it will be accompanied by cake or biscuits. And if we are offering alcohol, then there will more than likely be crisps or nuts. And, hopefully, conversation.

I often think that the art of conversation has been buried alive under television, radio and technology. When did you last have a conversation with someone? I mean beyond a greeting. When we ask someone how they are, do we really expect them to answer us fully? We, more often than not, hope that they won't because a full and truthful answer might embroil us in lengthy sympathy or insincere congratulation. Or, heaven forbid, they might ask us for a favour!

We all talk, but do we all listen? And here is the usual excuse - we don't have time. At least, that is our perception.

Have a real conversation this weekend. Even if it is only one. And listen carefully to the other person; give him or her your full attention. Listening involves more than just the ears - there is additional information given in the tone and register of the words used, in facial expression and body language. Is the other person really listening to you, or does he/she have a glazed expression or one eye on the TV?

Conversation is food for the soul. It acknowledges our existence. It feeds our need for recognition.

Rib eye steak : Wk63/5

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quickish
400gm rib eye steak
Portuguese spice
200gm asparagus spears
4 thick slices butternut
6 Italian tomatoes, halved
12 large mushrooms
480gm baby potatoes

Pillow pack beetroot and cranberry salad

Remove all visible fat from the steak and shape into 4 portions.
Sprinkle with Portuguese spice.

Cook the potatoes in lightly salted boiling water then drain.
Boil, steam or microwave the butternut slices and asparagus, then drain and keep warm.

Spray a large ridged pan with non-stick cooking spray and heat.
Arrange the cooked potatoes, mushrooms and tomato halves in the pan.
Cook until nicely browned and beginning to char, turning occasionally.
Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Spray the pan again and place over high heat.
Sear the steak for about 5 minutes each side, or until cooked to your taste.

Plate up by placing a butternut slice on each plate.
Top with steak and finish with asparagus.
Arrange remaining vegetables and salad around the sides.

The salad I used came ready-made from Woolworths – it is a lovely combination of baby spinach, mint and basil leaves with grated raw beetroot and dried cranberries.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Link to .pdf file for Week 64.


Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 64.


Pasta with oriental mushrooms : Wk63/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
240gm whole grain pasta shells

65ml veg stock (or water)
6 spring onion, sliced
½ - 1 tsp crushed garlic
500gm mixed oriental mushrooms, chopped
1 cup frozen peas
3 cups fat free milk
2 Tblsp cornflour
1 Tblsp Dijon mustard
40gm grated pecorino (or parmesan)
2 – 3 Tblsp chopped parsley

Cook the pasta in plenty of lightly salted water.
Drain once the shells are al dente.

Now put the stock, onions, garlic and mushrooms into the pan.
Simmer until the mushrooms are softened and the liquid has evaporated.
Blend the milk, mustard and cornflour and add to the pan.
Tip in the peas.
Cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens and the peas are done..

Add the pasta and ½ the parsley and stir well.

Serve garnished with the remaining parsley and a mixed salad on the side.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Eating to feel

Working from home can make weight loss and maintenance quite difficult. The kitchen is right there, and it is oh, so easy to make a cup of coffee and get out the biscuit box whenever I feel. Yes, that is the way I intended to write that last sentence.

I used to think that I wasn't an emotional eater, but, hey, it turns out I am! And we all seem to have a similar comfort attachment to food. As soon as we feel bored, lonely, unhappy, worried, stressed, tired, dissatisfied, disappointed or overworked - I bet you can add another dozen adjectives to this list, some even positive! - we tend to comfort or reward ourselves with food (and/or alcohol). And I'm not talking sensible portions of good, nutritious food. It's a case of "what can I eat to feel better?"

While eating for comfort may make us feel better - carbohydrates are naturally calming - the feeling is very temporary, and soon swamped out by other feelings... of guilt.

So we need to take control. We always have a choice. We can choose to eat a whole bar of chocolate / bag of pretzels / litre of ice cream. Or we can make a more responsible choice. Instead of indulging in empty calories and lots of fats - which we'll regret later - we can clean or tidy something. At home there is always some little job that needs doing, and even at the office we can tidy and reorganise desk drawers, or make a to-do list. Take a walk, even if it is only to the bathroom. Any distraction like these will improve our mood, and give a sense of achievement. (As long as we then don't then congratulate ourselves with food for a job well done!) If you must eat, have a piece of fresh fruit.

Objectivity helps, too. Mentally take a step back from the situation. Will it (the situation) really matter in a week's time? a year? Stretch. Really stretch. Breathe deeply and slowly.

Now, back to work.

Simple seafood pie : Wk63/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
200gm hake fillets
200gm haddock fillets
200gm prawn meat
200gm fat free cottage cheese
2 Tblsp chopped parsley

400gm baby spinach, chopped

480gm new potatoes, sliced and par-cooked

400gm cherry tomatoes, halved
1 Tblsp white wine vinegar

Heat the oven to 180ºC.

Spray a casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Wilt the spinach and squeeze out as much excess water as possible.
Spread the spinach over the base of the casserole dish

Cut the fish into chunks and combine with the prawns, parsley and cottage cheese.
Pile this mixture over the spinach layer.
Top with the sliced potatoes.
Spray with cooking spray.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the fish flakes easily.

Meanwhile, tip the tomatoes and vinegar into a small pan.
Simmer until the tomatoes become pulpy.

Serve on warmed plates.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chicken with orange salad : Wk63/2

Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
8 skinless chicken thighs
3 tsp turmeric
3 tsp paprika
½ - 1 tsp chilli flakes
3 Tblsp white wine vinegar
1 Tblsp sunflower oil
Good grind of black pepper

4 seedless blood oranges
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
1 Tblsp lemon juice

480gm new potatoes, halved

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

Heat the oven to 200ºC.
Spray an ovenproof dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Mix the turmeric, paprika, chilli, vinegar, oil and pepper together.
Brush this mixture liberally over the chicken thighs and place them in the ovenproof dish.
Bake in the oven, covered, for 25 minutes.
Remove the cover and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Cut the skin off the oranges and cut the segments out into a bowl.
Mix with the pomegranate seeds and the lemon juice.
Toss well.

Serve the orange salad, the potatoes and 2 chicken thighs each with a salad on the side.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Snacks or treats?

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

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

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

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

Beany pancakes

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
240gm flour
Pinch salt
1 egg
1 – 2 cups fat free milk
2 x 400gm cans mixed beans, rinsed and drained
1 onion, chopped
1 red chilli, chopped (optional)
3 Tblsp tomato paste
2 cups fat free milk
1 – 2 Tblsp cornflour
Pinch salt
1 tsp Dijon mustard
80gm fat reduced feta

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl.
Make a well in the centre and add the egg and ½ the milk.
Beat together until smooth.
Add the remaining milk, a little at a time, until the batter has the consistency of cream.

Spray a small frying pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Cook 8 pancakes, browning both sides of each.
Stack on a plate and cover with a clean teacloth.

Make a white sauce with the milk, cornflour, salt and mustard.
Set aside.

Mash the beans slightly in a bowl.
Mix in the onion, chilli and tomato paste.

Heat the oven to 220ºC.
Spray a large ovenproof dish (approx.18 x 28cm) with non-stick cooking spray.

Lay the pancakes out on a flat surface.
Divide the bean mix between all the pancakes.
Roll up each pancake and place in the dish with the open side down.

Pour the sauce up and down the length of the dish.
Scatter with crumbled feta.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until bubbling and turning brown.
Serve 2 pancakes per person, with a salad on the side.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Rest and recuperation

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

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

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

I do have some fun, though: grocery shopping, cooking, menu planning, dreaming up a blog topic for the coming week, and researching that topic, visiting friends. And snoozing in front of the television.
All things I really enjoy.

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

Creamy greens : Wk62/5

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
240gm pasta twirls
100gm soy beans (frozen)
100gm frozen peas
150gm broccoli florets
100gm sugar snap peas
8 – 10 green olives sliced
2 Tblsp lemon juice
60gm grated parmesan
60gm fat reduced feta

Chopped parsley to garnish

Cook the pasta in lightly salted water until al dente.
Drain, reserving 2 – 3 Tblsp of the cooking water.

Using the same pan and the reserved water –
Add the soy beans, peas and broccoli.
Simmer for 5 minutes, then add the snap peas, olives and lemon juice.
Simmer for another 5 minutes.
Stir in the parmesan and crumbled feta.

Serve garnished with chopped parsley, with a fresh salad on the side.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Link to .pdf file for Week 63.


Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 63.


Saucy masala chicken : Wk62/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
240gm brown basmati rice
2 tsp Patak’s Tikka masala curry paste
2 Tblsp flaked almonds

3 skinless chicken breasts, cut in chunks
1 red onion, sliced
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp crushed ginger
1 Tblsp Patak’s Tikka masala curry paste
2 tsp dried turmeric
±20 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups cauliflower florets
1 cup chicken stock
1 Tblsp cornflour

Cook the rice in water to which you have added the curry paste.
When cooked, drain well and stir through the almonds.
Keep warm.

Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion, garlic and ginger for 2-3 minutes or until the onion starts to soften.
Add the turmeric and curry paste and cook until fragrant.
Tip in the chicken chunks and stir well to coat in the spices and seal.
Now add the cauliflower, tomatoes and the cornflour mixed to a paste with the stock.
Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes.

Serve the masala over the rice.
Garnish with sprigs of coriander and poppadoms if desired.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Coping with stress

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

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

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

Sticky fish sticks : Wk62/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
450gm haddock fillets, cut diagonally into sticks
1 Tblsp cornflour
1 tsp fish spice
1 Tblsp polenta
Handful basil leaves, finely chopped
4 Tblsp soy sauce
2 Tblsp lemon juice

480gm new potatoes, quartered
500gm cherry tomatoes

Heat the oven to 200ºC.
Spray a baking tray with non-stick cooking spray.

Cook the potatoes in lightly salted boiling water.
Drain well.
Tip the potatoes onto the prepared baking tray and spray generously with cooking spray.
Bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes while you:

Combine the fish spice, polenta and cornflour in a bowl.
Roll the fish sticks in the flour mixture.
Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Cook the fish for about 4 minutes each side.
Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Toss the tomatoes into the fish pan along with the soy, lemon juice and basil.
Simmer until the tomatoes become pulpy.

Serve the fish sticks with the potatoes and tomatoes.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Handy noodle veg : Wk62/2

Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
3 x 75gm packs 2-minute noodles

1 red pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
2 big handfuls of spinach, roughly chopped
2 big handfuls of broccoli florets
2 handfuls sliced baby corn
300gm firm tofu, cubed
6 spring onions, sliced
½ - 1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp crushed ginger

1 handful peanuts

Spray a wok with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onions, garlic and ginger on a medium heat.
Add the tofu, peppers, broccoli and baby corn.
Continue stir-frying for 4 – 5 minutes.
Pile in the spinach and a splash of water.
Cover the wok and allow the spinach to wilt for about 2 minutes.
Give everything a good stir to distribute the spinach.
Turn the heat right down, cover the wok and keep it warm while you:

Cook the noodles as directed on the pack.

Serve the veg over the noodles, garnished with peanuts and with soy sauce on the side.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Using time efficiently

Many of us - myself included - struggle to find time to fit all our tasks into one day. Twenty four hours just aren't enough for everything that must be done, never mind the things we would like to do. I make to-do lists. Usually I write them down - even things I know I will be doing, then at least I have a couple of things that will definitely get ticked as done.

Do you ever rough out a time-table for your day? You need to reference it frequently for it to be effective. I’ve just started using Google calendar and it reminds me, with an on-screen message, when I am due to start the next task. Actually, after using it for three days, I'm finding it just the teensiest bit irritating - it e-mails me, too!

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

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

Can you save any time in the kitchen tonight?

Soy chicken with pickle : Wk62/1

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
3 large chicken breast fillets, cut on the diagonal
2 tsp Chinese five spice
1 tsp crushed ginger
2 Tblsp brown sugar
4 Tblsp soy sauce
2 Tblsp rice wine vinegar

½ large cucumber
2 carrots
½ tsp chilli flakes
2 Tblsp rice wine vinegar

240gm brown rice

Put the rice on to cook in lightly salted water.
When it is cooked, drain it and keep it warm.

Combine the Chinese 5 spice, ginger, sugar, soy and vinegar in a shallow glass dish.
Add the chicken strips and turn to coat with the marinade.
Allow to stand while you:

Cut the carrots and cucumber into strips using a grater, mandolin or peeler.
Place in a bowl with the chilli flakes and vinegar.
Toss well.

Spray a large pan or wok with non-stick cooking spray.
Shake the excess marinade off the chicken.
Dry fry the chicken pieces for about 3 minutes each side until they are nicely browned and sealed.
Add the remaining marinade to the pan with the chicken and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Serve the chicken with the rice and veg.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Heirarchies for body and soul

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

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

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

Now, if we could look at the food pyramid, and only help ourselves to the next food group once we have established a strong foundation of the preceding group on our plate, we would all be slimmer and healthier!
The layers in the old food pyramid, in case you have forgotten, build in this order, from the bottom up:
Grains and starches : Fruit and vegetables : Meats, beans, eggs and nuts : Dairy : Fats and sugars.
Recent research seems to indicate that the base of the pyramid should be fruits and vegetables, followed by grains and starches, and certainly this makes sense if you want to lose weight.

Spanakopita rolls : Wk61/5

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
4 large eggs

8 sheets phyllo pastry

500gm baby spinach, shredded
250gm ricotta cheese
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
Good grind of black pepper
A little salt

Steam the spinach until it has wilted.
Squeeze out as much excess water as possible.
Put the spinach in a bowl and mash together with the cheese and seasoning.

Heat the oven to 200ºC.

Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
Fold each sheet of pastry in half lengthways.
Place spoonfuls of the spinach mixture on each strip of pastry.
Fold in the sides, and then roll up.
Place the rolls on the baking sheet with the end underneath.
Brush with milk.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden.

Towards the end of the baking time, poach the eggs until they are cooked to your liking.

Serve 2 spanakopita rolls and 1 egg per person.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Link to .pdf file for Week 62

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 62 - a print-friendly file that you can download, or simply print in colour or black and white.


Chicken with basil mayo : Wk61/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 – 3 Tblsp rice wine vinegar
±12 fresh basil leaves, shredded
4 Tblsp Helman’s low fat mayo

3 skinless chicken breast fillets, sliced diagonally
Portuguese (or chicken) spice

200gm butter lettuce
16 cucumber slices
20 cherry tomatoes
4 baby corn, sliced

For the dressing, combine the onion, vinegar, basil and mayonnaise.
Set aside.

Arrange the salad ingredients on four individual dinner plates.

Spray a frying pan with non-stick cooking spray and place on the heat.
Season the chicken pieces with Portuguese or chicken spice.
Dry fry the chicken for no more than 10 minutes, turning occasionally.

Pile the chicken in the centre of each plate.
Top with the dressing.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How to limit sugar consumtion

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

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

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

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

Egg and bacon pie : Wk61/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : About ! hour prep and cooking time
240gm plain flour
120gm margarine
Pinch salt
±100ml milk
6 eggs, beaten with
60ml milk and
1 level tsp dried mixed herbs
4 slices lean back bacon, chopped
½ onion, finely chopped

Heat the oven to 180ºC.

Spray an oven proof pie dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Rub the fat into the flour and salt until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add the milk, a little at a time, and stir with a knife to form a soft dough.
Turn onto a lightly floured surface.
Divide the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other (about 1/3 and 2/3).
Roll the larger piece into a circle to fit the pie dish, covering the base and up the sides.

Scatter the onion and bacon over the bottom of the pie.
Pour over the beaten eggs, milk and herbs.

Roll out the remaining dough to cover the pie.
Lay this over the pie dish and seal the edges.
Brush the top of the pie with egg.
Snip a few vents with a pair of scizzors.

Bake for 45 minutes until well risen and golden.

Serve, hot or cold, with a salad.

You can reduce the calories in this meal by using filo pastry.
This is a general purpose pastry recipe that I use it for both savoury and sweet pies.
To ensure light pastry, avoid excessive handling.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bratwurst and cabbage : Wk61/2

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quickish
4 bratwurst sausages
4 bread rolls
1 medium cabbage
1 tsp caraway seed
½ cup vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
Tomato relish:
1x410gm can tomato & onion
½ tsp curry powder
2 tsp cornflour
1 Tblsp water

Spray a ridged frying pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Fry the sausages over a medium heat until nicely browned and cooked through.
Keep warm.

For the tomato relish:
Mix the curry powder, cornflour and water to a smooth paste.
Tip the tomato and onion into a sauce pan.
Bring the tomatoes to the boil.
Add the cornflour paste.
Stir over a medium heat until the relish has thickened slightly.
Keep warm.

For the cabbage:
Measure the vinegar and sugar into a small bowl.
Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Finely shred the cabbage and cook until soft.
Drain well.
Add the caraway seeds and vinegar syrup and stir well.
Keep warm.

Split the rolls and pile the cabbage on one half and the tomato relish on the other.
Top with a sausage.
Serve with mustard and a salad if you like.

Monday, March 7, 2011

What to feed the kids

Small children can be notoriously picky about what they will eat. It takes patience and perseverance to get them to accept new foods in their diet. A good example set by Mum and Dad can go a long way towards helping. Provided you can get them to eat anything even remotely resembling healthy food, here are some guidelines.

For 1 – 2 year olds
Meat/fish/chicken/beans: 1/2 to 1 Tblsp finely chopped with gravy or sauce OR 1 egg: 2-4 x per day.
Fruits: 1/2 a small apple or pear or a small plum (peeled please): 2-4 x per day.
Veg: 1 Tblsp soft or mashed carrot, courgette, pumpkin, broccoli etc: 3-5 x per day.
Grains/cereals: 1/2 - 1 slice of bread, or 1 Tblsp mashed potato/rice/porridge: 4-6 x per day.
Dairy: 2 Tblsp yoghurt or custard or 3 dices of cheese: 2-4 x per day plus 500ml full fat milk or formula per day.
Added fat and sugar: avoid at this age.

Increase these quantities gradually until by 2 years of age your child is eating:

Meat/fish/chicken/beans: 1 1/2 Tblsp chopped meat, 1 fish finger, sausage or egg: 2-4 x per day.
Fruits: 1 small apple or pear, or slice melon, or 4 strawberries: 2-4 x per day.
Veg: 1-2 Tblsp carrot, courgette, pumpkin, broccoli, a small chopped salad etc: 3-5 x per day.
Grains/cereals: 1 large slice of bread, or 1-2 Tblsp mashed potato/rice/porridge: 4-6 x per day.
Dairy: 3 Tblsp yoghurt or custard or 4 dices of cheese: 2-4 x per day plus 750ml full fat or low fat milk per day.
Fat and sugar: 1 plain biscuit or 1 small slice of plain cake: 1-2 x per day.

Once your toddler is 3, he will need:

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

And, for the under-5s, the number of daily portions required are:

Meat/fish/chickens/beans: 2-4 portions
Fruits: 2-4 portions
Vegetables: 3-5 portions
Grains/cereals/potatoes: 4-6 portions
Dairy: 2-4 portions (excluding milk for drinking) plus 500 - 750ml depending on age
Food containing fat/sugar: 1-2 portions

Portion size gradually increases with age.

Don’t be surprised if your pre-schooler eats all the broccoli in sight one day and flat out refuses it for weeks afterwards. Some children are picky about texture, others flavour, and some are even fussy about colour! Just keep offering small quantities of new or rejected foods – and be seen to eat these foods yourself. Coercion and bribery are counter-productive.

Sweet and sour chicken : Wk61/1

Sweet and sour chicken
Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
300gm cooked chicken, cut into bite size pices
1 large red pepper, diced
4-6 spring onions, sliced
2 cups chopped pineapple

1 Tblsp tomato sauce
1 tsp low salt soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
3 Tblsp rice wine vinegar
¼ cup water (or pineapple juice)

3 x 75gm packets 2 minute noodles

To prepare the sauce, combine the tomato sauce, soy, sugar, vinegar and water.
Stir until smooth.
Set aside.

Cook the noodles according to the directions on the packet.
Drain and keep warm.

Spray a wok with non-stick cooking spray.

Dry-fry the red pepper for 2 minutes.
Add the spring onions and continue stir frying for another 2 minutes.
Add the chicken, pineapple and sauce.
Bring to the boil and then simmer, stirring, for 5 minutes.

Serve the chicken over the noodles, with extra soy if desired.

Friday, March 4, 2011

How to eat for health

If you have been with me since the start of this year (or longer) you will have learned a bit about the different food groups, portion sizes and GI values. But this doesn't necessarily guide you to making healthier food choices.

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

To eat for health, we need to focus on nutritious foods in healthy quantities, for ourselves and our family.

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

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

For a quick review of the food groups / portion sizes, go here.

Enjoy your weekend.

Quick chicken : Wk60/5

Quick chicken
Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
±250gm cooked chicken, shredded
±150gm hickory ham, chopped
1 cup frozen peas
1 x 400gm can chopped tomatoes & onions
½ tsp crushed garlic
Pinch of sugar
2 Tblsp chopped parsley
6 large white mushrooms, chopped

240gm rice

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

Tip all the remaining ingredients into a non-stick saucepan.
Bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes - or until the rice is cooked.

Serve with a crispy green salad.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Link to .pdf file for Week 61

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 61.

Baked fish : Wk60/4

Baked fish
Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
4 skinless hake fillets
2 tsp Dijon mustard
4 Dsp Helman’s low fat mayo
3 slices dry bread
4 – 6 pitted black olives

480gm baby potatoes

200gm rocket, watercress and baby spinach salad
12 cherry tomatoes
12 slices cucumber
Small amount alfalfa sprouts

Heat the oven to 200ºC.

Put the bread and olives in a food processor and pulse.

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

Make up a side salad with the leaves, tomatoes, cucumber and sprouts.

Spray a large oven-proof dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Lay the fish in the dish in a single layer.
Spread each fillet with mustard and then with mayo.
Pile on the breadcrumbs and press down gently.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove the foil and bake for another 5 minutes.

Serve the fish with the potatoes and salad.

This recipe works equally well with chicken – just lengthen the cooking time to about 30 minutes to ensure that the chicken is cooked through.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

6 ways to control blood glucose levels

What was done to your food before it was dished up? I'm still talking about GI values.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Couscous with charred vegetables : Wk60/3

Couscous with charred vegetables
Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
2 aubergines, peeled & cut into wedges
4 courgettes, thickly sliced on the diagonal
16 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red pepper, cut in squares
2 Tblsp vegetable oil
1 Tblsp chilli paste (or mild curry paste)
2 Tblsp honey

240gm couscous
3 Tblsp Colman’s classic mint sauce

Combine the oil, honey and chilli paste.
Put all the prepared vegetables in a bowl.
Pour the oil mixture over the vegetables.
Turn the veg to coat with the oil mix.

Measure the couscous into a bowl.
Pour over 250ml boiling water.
Cover with a plate or cling film, and stand for 10 minutes.
Fluff up the grains with a fork and stir through the mint sauce.

Spray a ridged pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Heat the pan and tip in the vegetables.
Cook for 10 – 15 minutes, turning occasionally, until the vegetables are cooked through and slightly charred.

Serve the vegetables over the couscous.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rosemary chicken : Wk60/2

Rosemary chicken

Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
4 skinless chicken breast fillets, cut in strips
1 red onion, sliced
½ tsp crushed garlic
1 x 400gm can chopped tomatoes
Pinch chilli flakes
½ - 1 tsp dried rosemary
½ cup dry white wine
16 black olives, pitted and sliced

240gm small pasta shells

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

Spray a large sauce pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the chicken pieces until sealed.
Remove from the pan to a plate.

Now fry the onion and garlic until the onion starts to soften.
Add the tomatoes, chilli, rosemary and wine.
Simmer for 5 minutes.

Add back the chicken and toss in the olives.
Simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve over the pasta with a green salad on the side.