Friday, April 29, 2011

Week 68 Day 5

Salmon pasta bake
Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
240g pasta quills

200gm mushrooms, sliced
150gm cherry tomatoes, halved
1 x 400gm can chopped tomatoes with onion

250gm pink salmon (drained weight)
80gm reduced fat cheddar cheese, grated

Cook the pasta in plenty of lightly salted water.
Drain when al dente and set aside.

Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the mushrooms until they soften and start to colour.
Add the fresh and canned tomatoes.
Simmer until the cocktail tomatoes go pulpy.

Spray a large oven-proof dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Heat the grill.

Tip the pasta into the pan with the tomato mixture and stir well.
Fold in the drained salmon and allow everything to heat through.

Pour the pasta mix into the oven proof dish.
Scatter the grated cheese over the top.

Brown under the grill for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and starting to brown.

Serve with a salad of mixed lettuce and cucumber.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Link to .pdf file for Week 69


Go here for a sneak peek at the recipes and shopping list for Week 69.


Week 68 Day 4

Puff pastry pizza
Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
400gm ready-roll puff pastry
2 Tblsp tomato paste
1 onion, sliced
3 – 4 Italian tomatoes, sliced
1 – 2 courgettes, thinly sliced
200gm mushrooms, sliced
100gm fat reduced mozzarella, grated
1 – 2 tsp dried oregano

Heat the oven to 220ºC.

Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
Roll out the pastry, on a floured surface, to desired shape.
Place the pastry on the baking sheet.
Fold over the edges to form a raised lip.

Spread the tomato paste over the pastry base.
Scatter the rest of the ingredients over in the order listed.

Bake for 25 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and the pastry edge is puffed and golden.

Serve with a fresh salad.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Week 68 Day 3

Lime pickle chicken
Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
± 360gm chicken thigh fillets (about 4-5 thighs)
1 onion, sliced
300gm carrots, thin julienne
300gm broccoli florets
1 green pepper, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced

1 Tblsp Patak’s lime pickle
1 Tblsp cornflour
500ml chicken stock

240gm rice

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

Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion and chicken until the chicken is sealed all over.
Add the carrots, broccoli and peppers.
Pour in 250ml of the chicken stock and stir through the lime pickle.
Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
Add the cornflour mixed with the remaining stock.
Raise the heat and, stirring, allow the sauce to thicken.

Serve the chicken and veg with the rice.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Week 68 Day 2

Spiced fish with warm lentil salad
Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
4 hake fillets (ea. ±120gm)
2 Tblsp mild curry paste

240gm red lentils
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp crushed garlic
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
Small bunch parsley, chopped
Squeeze of lemon juice

100gm watercress

Cook the lentils in water until tender (about 15 minutes).
Leave to drain in a colander.

Brush the fish all over with curry paste.
Spray a large frying pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Fry the fish for about 5 - 8 minutes each side until it flakes easily.
While the fish is cooking:

Spray the lentil pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion and garlic until the onion starts to soften.
Tip the lentils back into the pan.
Add the tomatoes, parsley and lemon juice.
Stir well and cover with a lid.

When the fish is cooked serve it with the lentil salad and a garnish of watercress.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Week 68 Day 1

Butternut cannelloni
Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
±1kg butternut squash
1 large onion, sliced
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp dried rosemary
250ml water

16 cannelloni tubes
2 x 400gm cans chopped tomatoes
200gm low fat mozzarella
2 Tblsp grated parmesan

4 Tblsp chopped parsley
Mixed salad

Peel the butternut and remove the seeds.
Chop the flesh into cubes and place in a saucepan.
Add the onion, garlic, rosemary and water.
Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Drain well and mash roughly.

Heat the oven to 200ºC.
Spray an oven-proof dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Tip ½ the tomatoes into the dish.

Taking one cannelloni tube at a time, press one open end into the mash repeatedly.
As each tube is filled with mash, nestle it in the dish on top of the tomatoes.
Once all the tubes are filled and in the dish, pour over the remaining tomatoes.

Grate or slice the mozzarella and place or scatter over the top of the dish.
Sprinkle on the parmesan.

Bake for 30 minutes until the cheese is melted and browned and the pasta is cooked.

Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with a mixed green salad.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Easter : Mo'adim lesimha

Since next week is Easter week and May 2nd is a public holiday, I will only be posting the daily recipes.
I’ll be back waffling on May 4th.
In the meantime, don’t eat too many hot cross buns and chocolate eggs!

Week 67 Day 5

Chicken Sesame
Serves 4 : Very easy : Quickish
400gm skinless chicken breast fillet
   (about 3 large breasts)
1 Tblsp sesame oil
3 Tblsp soy sauce
2 Tblsp sesame oil
2 Tblsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp crushed garlic
80ml sesame seeds

200gm asparagus
240gm rice
Mixed salad, to serve

Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.
Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl.
Tip the chicken pieces into the marinade.
Turn to coat all the pieces.
Set aside while you:

Put the rice on to cook in lightly salted water.
Drain and keep warm once tender.
Steam the asparagus for 5 minutes.
Drain and keep warm.

Heat 1 Tblsp sesame oil in a large frying pan.
Tip the chicken and marinade into the pan.
Fry for about 5 minutes before turning over.
Continue cooking for another 5 Minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve with the rice, asparagus and a fresh mixed salad.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Link to .pdf file for Week 68


Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 68.


Week 67 Day 4

Almond Fish
Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
4 hake fillets
½ tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp dried mixed herbs
3 Tblsp Hellmann’s low fat mayo
½ tsp crushed garlic
50gm cheese, grated
60gm flaked almonds
60ml French salad dressing
400gm new potatoes

Mixed salad

Heat the oven to 220°C.

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

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

Lay the fish fillets, in a single layer, in the oven proof dish.
Mix together the mayo, mustard, garlic and mixed herbs.
Brush this mixture over the fish.
Sprinkle with grated cheese and almonds.
Drizzle with the salad dressing.
Bake for 20 – 30 minutes.

Serve the fish with the potatoes and a mixed salad.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Eating wisely

Sensible meals and snacks
On Monday I talked specifically about alleviating hypoglycemic symptoms, but the meal and snack suggestions I'm making today are applicable to anyone wanting to improve their eating habits. If you suffer with hypoglycemia then save some of your breakfast for a snack later; but don't eat a piece of fruit on its own, the sugars are too quickly and easily digested so you need to have a couple of provitas or 1/2 slice of whole wheat bread and half a glass of skim milk as well.

A healthy breakfast
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, but we pay scant attention to it and just grab whatever comes to hand - a slice of toast, a bowl of cereal. Or nothing at all! You have been fasting all night, your blood sugar is low and you need a kick start before you can expect your body and brain to perform optimally. Many of us make the excuse that we 'don't have time' for breakfast. Make time. It's vital for your health. Ideally, breakfast should contain a little protein, a little fat and carbohydrates. Some ideas:

No time available?
A small carton of low-fat or fat-free yoghurt (fat and protein - even fat free has a trace of fat). Add to this one tablespoon of seeds - sunflower, pumpkin, linseed, sesame, flax, linseed, whatever (fat and protein) - and one tablespoon of bran (carbohydrate).

4 pro-vita biscuits (carbs) spread with one tablespoon low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese (fat and protein). Top with slices of cucumber or tomato (more carbs).

A smoothie: 1/2 cup of each of the following: frozen (or fresh) berries, yoghurt, milk, water. Whoosh together with a hand blender. Accompany with an English muffin or crumpet (whole wheat, of course).

A piece of fruit, a small piece of cheese and a slice of whole wheat bread or toast.

A little time available?
A piece of fruit, 1 egg (fat and protein), 1 slice wholewheat bread or toast.

40 - 50gm high bulk, high fibre cereal with 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup yoghurt. (I particularly like the Weigh Less Hi-Bulk Meusli. 50gms gives a respectable bowl-full).

2-3 Tablespoons baked beans on toast. Sprinkle with some grated cheese. Eat a piece of fruit or drink 1/2 glass pure unsweetened fruit juice.

No rush?
Cooked oats with 1/2 cup of chopped fruit (or 1 tablespoon raisins or cranberries) and 1 tablespoon cottage cheese, creme fraiche or yoghurt.

One egg omelette with a filling of 1 thin slice ham chopped or 1 tablespoon grated cheese, tomato, chopped mushrooms (quickly dry fry mushrooms and tomato before adding to the omelette). Serve with one slice of whole wheat toast.

A home-made pancake (use 1/2 nutty wheat flour, 1/2 cake flour, no sugar) filled with 1 cup chopped fruit of your choice, sprinkled with cinnamon, topped with a dollop of fromage frais.

Poached haddock or kipper with one slice whole wheat bread

See? It's not so difficult to come up with no-fuss, nutritious breakfasts, is it? Any of the No time breakfasts make easily portable, eat any time snacks, too.

Week 67 Day 3

Mexican rice
Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
200gm rice
70gm fava / broad beans

300gm chickpeas
1 red pimento, chopped
100gm mushrooms, sliced
100gm asparagus, chopped
50gm sugar snap peas, halved
50gm baby corn, halved

Small bunch coriander, chopped
Juice and grated rind 1 lemon
1 - 2 Tblsp Mexican seasoning

Cook the rice and beans in lightly salted water for ±10 minutes.
Add the chickpeas, pimento, mushrooms, asparagus, snap peas and corn.
Simmer for another ±5 minutes, or until the rice is done.
Drain and tip into a serving dish.

Mix together the lemon juice, rind and Mexican seasoning.
Scatter the coriander over the rice.
Drizzle on the seasoned lemon juice.
Toss well to combine.

Serve with sweet chilli sauce.

Use Mexican seasoning with caution - it is surprisingly hot! Start with just 1 Tblsp- you can always add more.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Week 67 Day 2

Milano chicken
Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
240gm pasta twirls

1 tsp crushed garlic
300gm button mushrooms, sliced
600gm skinless chicken breasts, cut in bite-size pieces
1 cup fat free milk
1 cup chicken stock
1 Tblsp cornflour
±8 sweet & sour Golddew peppadews, sliced
250gm cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup frozen peas
2 Tblsp grated parmesan

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the pack.

Spray a large saucepan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry-fry the mushrooms and garlic for 5 minutes.
Add the chicken and stir-fry until it is sealed (about 5 minutes).
Pour in the milk and add the peppadews, tomatoes and peas.

Simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the cornflour, mixed to a paste with a little of the water.
Stir and allow the sauce to thicken, adding chicken stock as necessary.

Stir through the parmesan and a good grind of black pepper.
Fold in the pasta.

Serve with a fresh green salad if desired.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Handling hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)

If you have prolonged and/or recurrent symptoms, you need to visit your doctor in order to find and treat the underlying cause of this condition. Changing to a healthier way of eating may well help ease the symptoms while you undergo tests, and will certainly do no harm. Keeping a food/symptoms journal for a week to ten days will help highlight any recurring pattern of symptoms. Be sure to track stress levels, too.

Hypoglycemia can be caused or exacerbated by; diseases of the pancreas, liver or kidneys; PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome); diabetes; pregnancy; a weakened immune system; chronic mental or physical stress; alcoholism; allergies or prolonged drug use (including antibiotics). Three types of drug having a known blood glucose lowering effect are monoamine oxidase inhibitors (used to treat depression), quinine sulphate (anti-malarials) and aspirin. However, do NOT stop taking drugs that have been prescribed for you without first checking with your doctor. See what I mean about looking for the root cause of the problem?

One thing about the symptoms of hypoglycemia is that they can very simply be eased by eating something. The symptoms will generally dissipate within ten to fifteen minutes once food is ingested (if they don't, then perhaps hypoglycemia is not the problem). So you will find symptoms easier to manage if you have more, smaller-than-usual, meals throughout the day.

If you have chronic, prolonged or recurrent symptoms of hypoglycemia, here are some suggestions:

DO plan on having something to eat every two-and-a-half to three hours, for example: breakfast at 7:00am, a snack at about 10:00am, lunch at 1:00pm, a snack at 3:30 or 4:00pm, dinner at 6:30pm and a last snack at about 9:00pm (I'm using these times as a rough guideline. Your own preferences and needs will dictate when you eat.)

DO include a little fat, a little protein and, of course, carbohydrates at each meal and snack. You cannot afford to skip or even delay a meal or snack.

DO keep your portions small - you don't want to increase the number of calories/kilojoules you consume in a day.

DO aim at reducing, or (better still) eliminating, simple and refined carbohydrates like white flour, sugar, honey, all syrups - replace these with natural whole foods. Stick with low- and moderate GI foods.

DO increase your protein intake slightly, by using eggs, nuts, seeds, fish, beans and pulses.

DO avoid caffeine, alcohol and anything with high levels of potassium e.g. bananas (potassium lowers chromium and manganese). Avoid the sweetener 'stevia', too, because it has the potential to lower blood sugar and blood pressure.

DO (and I never thought I would say this!) increase your salt intake slightly. Salt slows insulin response so helps to diminish the rapid rise and fall of blood sugar levels. It also helps to raise blood pressure.

DO come back on Wednesday for some meal and snack suggestions.

Week 67 Day 1

Sweet pepper fish with broccoli
Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
240gm rice

±480gm white fish
125ml fat free milk
125ml strong chicken stock
200gm broccoli florets
1 red pimento pepper, chopped
6 spring onions, sliced
Grated rind & juice of 1 lemon
4 Tblsp fresh dill, chopped

250 – 300ml water
1 Tblsp cornflour
60gm strong cheese, grated

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

Poach the fish in the milk for 8 minutes, or until it flakes easily.
Remove to a plate and flake.
Set aside.

Heat the grill to 250ºC.

Tip the broccoli, pepper and spring onions into the fish pan.
Add the dill, lemon juice, rind and 250ml water.
Stir and then simmer for 5 minutes.
Raise the heat and stir in the cornflour mixed to a paste with a little water.
Stir gently and allow the sauce to thicken.
Fold in the fish flakes.
Pour into an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with the cheese.

Grill for 5 – 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.
Serve with the rice.

Friday, April 15, 2011

8 really relevant questions to ask about your diet

There are hundreds of diet plans available, through clubs, books, clinics, pharmacies, the internet - even on your cereal box! There are hundreds of medications available - and these pills and potions usually come with a diet sheet, too. All of these companies advertise that their plan/pill/potion is the plan/pill/potion that really works! And most of them do, indeed, help you lose weight... You're waiting for the 'but'... BUT at what cost?

Will you really drop a dress size in a week?
As a rational, reasonable, intelligent being you can't believe this one!

Will you be satisfied with the food you're allowed to eat?
It doesn't matter how many delicious options there are on the permitted list, the mere fact that there are 'forbidden' foods leaves you with a sense of deprivation and dissatisfaction.

Will you keep your temper?
Restricted and reduced nutrition lead to irritability and an inability to cope with stress.

Will you keep your sense of humour?
Feelings of deprivation, dissatisfaction, irritability and stress contribute to depression - which is definitely not funny.

Will you be able to keep up the regimen?
Well, as long as the weight is coming off, you will probably be motivated to continue. But once you hit a plateau - generally in the third or fourth week - the whole idea is probably going to go out the window. And you'll get despondent.

Can you afford the continuing financial cost?
Pills and potions are expensive - they have to be. No return customers for these products, because once you've tried them you probably won't buy them again.

Will you keep your health?
This is the most important question. Many pills, shakes and meal replacements are full of synthetic additives, e-numbers, caffeine and artificial sweeteners. Some of them even contain toxic drugs. The side effects can be numerous: insomnia, nausea, altered blood pressure, blurred vision, diarrhoea... to name but a few. Is that healthy?

Will you keep the weight off afterwards?
The straight answer? With no behaviour modification? NO.

We all know at least one person who has gone on a diet, if we haven't gone on one ourselves. I personally have started many different diets through the years. And finished them. And put all the weight back on again afterwards. With interest! It's called 'yo-yo dieting'.

People who know me know that I avoid using the word 'diet' whenever possible. In colloquial English, the word has negative connotations. It implies feelings of deprivation. It implies forbidden foods. Going on a 'diet' implies a begining and an end. And this last sentence shows just where the problem lies. Not so much the 'begining', but the 'end'.

We start a diet, usually with good intentions and high motivation. We intend losing x pounds/kilograms. When we finish the y-week plan, or when we get to goal weight, we stop the plan. And gradually resume the eating habits that made us overweight in the first place!

The only way to lose weight, and keep it off, is to modify the way you eat now. That means making gradual healthy changes to our food choices. And then making those changes stick. 'Forbidden' food lists shouldn't feature - we still want to be able to indulge ourselves occassionally, don't we?

Sorry, it's not a rapid weight loss strategy - there's no such thing - but it is worth the time and effort.
For your health. Which is everything, right?

I'm not anti diet clubs - they can supply advice, encouragement and camaraderie. But in the end, you're on your own. Is your club teaching you anything about nutrition?

The sentiments and opinions expressed on this blog are my own. You are entitled to your own opinion, too. If you have had a healthy experience with a diet plan or pills, and you have lost weight and kept it off for at least a year after stopping the plan/pills, I would love to hear about it. Bet you didn't do it without changing your old eating habits.

Week 66 Day 5

Speedy pasta plate
Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
240gm pasta quills
200gm baby spinach, chopped

200gm mushrooms, sliced
2 x ±400gm cans chopped tomatoes with chilli
120gm fat reduced feta cheese

Put the pasta on to cook in plenty of lightly salted water.
Cook until al dente, then drain and keep warm.

Meanwhile, spray a saucepan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the mushrooms for about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Pile the spinach into the saucepan, cover with a lid and allow the spinach to wilt.
Tip the drained pasta into the veg pan and stir well to combine.
Crumble the feta into the pan and stir again.

Serve with a salad, if desired.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Link to .pdf file for Week 67


Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 67.

Week 66 Day 4

Teriyaki chicken
Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
±400gm skinless chicken breast
2 Tblsp teriyaki sauce

200gm sugar snap peas, halved
200gm baby corn, halved
2 large carrots, julienne
3 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 Tblsp sesame seeds

240gm rice
Chicken stock powder or cube

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl with the teriyaki sauce.
Turn well to coat and allow to marinate while you prepare the veg.

Put the rice on to cook in water to which you have added the chicken stock powder or cube.

Place a steamer over the rice pan and steam the carrots for 10 minutes.
Add the corn and peas to the steamer and steam for a further 5 minutes.
Tip the veg into a bowl.
Scatter with the sesame seeds and onions and stir well to combine.
Drain the rice and keep it and the vegetables warm while you:

Spray a frying pan with non-stick cooking spray and place over a high heat.
Stir fry the chicken for about 5 minutes until it is cooked to your liking.

Serve the rice with the vegetables, chicken and extra teriyaki sauce.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What can I eat for dinner?

Another question:

We are trying not to eat that many carbs at night so what we have been doing is making things like stuffed gem-squash (boiling them, adding a little creamed sweetcorn, then frying in a tiny bit of olive oil: some onions, mushrooms, and lean bacon, then adding a tiny bit of cheese and grilling). Can you let me know whether this is bad or not? We tried filling the gems with mince but that wasn’t so nice...

First of all, I want to say that all fresh food is good, so there is nothing 'bad' about a meal of stuffed gem squash. What you have described doesn't sound very sustaining, though. Try mixing some cooked rice - or better still, quinoa - into your filling, and I think you will find the meal more satisfying, and no less healthy. You can try stuffing butternut (more robust than gem squash), aubergine or bell peppers, or even large tomatoes as a variation.

When you talk about 'carbs', I think you mean 'starches'. Yes, starches are carbs, but so are gem squash, onions and mushrooms! The majority of your food should consist of carbs, and if what you are eating is not meat and not fat, then it is carbohydrate.

The best nutritional value comes from foods that are as natural as possible, so as long as you are avoiding processed foods you are doing really well. The next best thing to fresh is frozen or canned. These products are usually free of colourants and preservatives, and they provide foods that are quick and easy to prepare plus giving you year-round availablity. If you buy canned vegetables, just check for added salt (always rinse cannd vegetables), and only buy fruits canned in fruit juice - the fruit canned in syrup is overloaded with added sugar.

If you are physically active, you do need starch for optimum performance. What time of day do you go to gym? You should have between 6 and 9 servings from the grains (starches) food group every day. Remember that the grains group includes: potatoes, sweet potatoes, whole wheat pasta, brown and wild rice, bulghar wheat, couscous, cereals and breads, etc. You shouldn't cut out starches (but do control portion sizes), rather reduce saturated fats and added sugars, for health and weight control.

I welcome questions, from all my readers, provided they are relevant to the past or present content of this blog. Please leave your question in a comment, and I will do my best to answer you promptly.

Week 66 Day 3

Stuffed butternut
Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
2 large butternuts, skin on, halved lengthways
300gm baby spinach, chopped
100gm fat reduced feta cheese
2 Tblsp pumpkin seeds

4 naan breads

Mixed salad leaves and basil to garnish

Scrape the seeds out of the butternut.
Score the flesh to within 1cm of the skin.
Boil the butternut for 15 minutes until tender.

Remove the butternut from the saucepan.
Toss the spinach into the pan and allow it to wilt while you:

Carefully scoop the flesh out of the butternut skins leaving a 1cm thick shell.
Place the flesh in a bowl.
Drain the spinach well and add to the bowl.
Crumble in the feta.
Gently mix everything together.

Heat the grill to 250ºC.
Place the butternut shells onto a grill tray.
Pile the butternut/spinach/feta mixture back into the shells.
Scatter with pumpkin seeds.

Grill for 8 – 10 minutes to brown.

Garnish with sprigs of fresh basil.
Serve with the warmed naan breads and mixed salad leaves.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Week 66 Day 2

Lemon parsley sauce on trout
Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
480gm new potatoes, halved
400gm green beans, halved lengthways

6 spring onions, thinly sliced
½ tsp crushed garlic
2 Tblsp chopped parsley
2 Tblsp lemon juice
½ - 1 cup water

±500gm trout fillet, cut into 8 pieces

Boil or steam the potatoes and beans.
When cooked, drain well and keep warm.

Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Gently dry fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes.
Add the parsley, lemon juice and ¼ - ½ a cup of water.
Simmer for another 5 minutes.
Pour out of the pan into a cup or bowl and set aside.

Spray the pan again with non-stick cooking spray.
Place the trout fillets in the pan, presentation side down.
Cook for 5 minutes and then turn over.
Continue cooking for another 5 minutes or until the fish flakes easily.
Remove the fish to a plate.
Tip the lemon parsley sauce back into the pan with the remaining water.
Allow to heat through while you:

Make a bed of potatoes on each of 4 dinner plates.
Top with the green beans and 2 fillets per plate.
Spoon over the lemon parsley sauce.

Garnish with mixed salad leaves and cocktail tomatoes if desired.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What should I have for lunch?

Here is a question that I am asked frequently:

What should we eat for lunch? We are trying to eat a lot of fish. At lunch we have tuna on ryvita with sliced cucumber, but have to be naughty and add a little aromat. We eat those packet tuna 'John West light tuna' with the mixed in dressings - do you think they are bad?!

I don't know that the light tuna with mixed in dressing is 'bad' - I haven't read the label, but they probably contain some sort of synthetic preservatives. They are certainly very expensive. A plain old tin of shredded tuna in brine, drained and mixed with a little Hellmann’s low fat mayo (with the green lid and very yummy!) and some finely chopped spring onion or red onion works out much cheaper. Add a little salt and a good grind of black pepper - plus a little bit of tomato sauce and / or lemon juice if you like. Instead of mayo you could mix in some other low-oil salad dressing (Ina Paarman's range is delicious.) Aromat contains monosodium glutamate, and quite a few E-numbers - read your packaging. Try using a sprinkle of veg stock powder instead - Ina Paarman's has no MSG, and no E-numbers.

Don't get bogged down in having the same lunch every day - try and vary it a bit, or you will get very bored with it eventually. Try roasting a whole chicken occassionally, strip the meat off the bones and throw away the skin. Freeze in small portions for lunchtime use. When you thaw it, you can either use the slices, or chop up finely with some mayo.

Melrose low fat cheese slices and wedges are also a good breakfast or lunchtime food. And a hard boiled egg is hard to beat.

Ryvita's are crunchy and tasty. Have you tried all the different varieties? I particularly like the ones with sesame seed. Provita are also yummy, specially with marmite, cucumber and tomato. I have a problem with crackers and savoury biscuits - they just taste like 'more' (gotta have some 'more')! Have some bread occasionally, too - rye bread is one of my favourites.

Make the effort and eat more salad veg at lunchtime. Eating a plate of mixed salad is very satisfying, fills you up, and helps you meet your 5-a-day quota. And there is pretty well no limit to what you can put in a salad. Did you know that butternut and sweet potato are both good raw? Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), cannellini beans and butter beans are all salad friendly. Throw in some chopped mango or pineapple and add some nuts and you have a very healthy nutritious lunchtime feast.

Week66 Day 1

On top of linguine
Serves 4 : Very easy : Takes a little longer
2 skinless chicken breast fillets (± 350gm)
1 small onion
2 Tblsp parsley
100gm spinach
50gm fresh breadcrumbs
A little plain flour
1 Tblsp sunflower oil
For the sauce
1 onion
1 x 400gm can chopped tomatoes
½ - 1 tsp crushed garlic

240gm linguine

Place the chicken, onion, spinach and parsley in a food processor.
Using the metal blade, pulse until well ground.
Add the breadcrumbs and pulse again to combine.

Flour your hands and, taking about a dessert-spoon-full at a time, shape the mixture into ±36 balls.
Roll each little ball in flour and dust off the excess.

Put the linguine on to cook in plenty of lightly salted water.
Cook until al dente then drain and keep warm.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan.
Put the chicken balls in the pan and fry for about 10 minutes, turning frequently.
Remove from the pan and set aside on kitchen paper to drain.

Fry the onion and garlic until the onion softens.
Add the tomatoes.
Simmer for 5 minutes.
Check the seasoning – you may want to add salt or a little sugar.
Put the chicken balls back in the frying pan, cover and allow to heat through.

Serve the chicken and sauce over the linguine with a green salad on the side.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Making ends meet...

In our present economy - a 'double (if not triple!)-dip' recession followed closely by several devastating natural disasters - we all need to cut down our expenditure. Prices keep rising while, for the majority of us, our incomes are static. So we all have less disposable income.

This doesn't need to be depressing. Let the economy be 'depressed' all on its own. Let's rather adopt a positive and generous outlook - positivity and happiness play an enormous role in our physical, as well as our mental, health.

So, let's look at being positive. Materially, we have some, if not all, of: a bed to sleep in, clothes to wear, a roof over our heads. These provide physical comfort and respite.
Emotionally, we have: friends, family, children - all of these people need us and enrich our lives with love.
Spiritually, we have faith, hope and charity.

We have so much to be thankful for, we can afford to be generous.
Materially, we can clear out the cupboards - stuff we haven't used or worn for the last year can be donated to charity. Someone somewhere is desperately in need of the things we've had stashed away so long that we probably forgot we even had them. There is something about de-cluttering and simplifying our lives which is enormously satisfying.

Emotionally, we can clear out negative feelings. There is no point in holding on to anger and resentments. The only person negative emotions hurt is you! The person you resent or are angry with probably doesn't even know that you feel that way, and if they do they more than likely don't care! Forgive and move on. (Forgetting may take a while.) Close your eyes, take a deep breath and as you exhale, let go of anger and resentment. Letting go of negative emotion frees up energy for some more positive project.

We can practice kindness (a form of charity) in our daily lives - it doesn't have to cost us financially. We can help someone by supplying a shoulder to cry on, a friendly ear or by giving sympathy, empathy and moral support. I've said before that a friendly smile or a hug improves the self esteem of the recipient, it also gives the giver a spiritual lift.

Have a great weekend. Enjoy being with your loved ones. And if you are alone - for whatever reason - use the weekend to relax and rest, you never know when someone might need you.

Hake with red pepper sauce : Wk65/5

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
4 hake fillets (±120gm each)
480gm potatoes
200gm frozen peas
4 basil sprigs, to garnish
1 large red pimento pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 x 400gm can chopped tomatoes
1 Tblsp lemon juice
¼ cup dry white wine
2 Tblsp capers

First, make the sauce:
Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray,
Dry fry the onion, garlic and pimento until the onion softens.
Add the tomatoes, lemon juice and wine.
Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to low.
Simmer for 5 minutes.
Blitz to a smooth puree.
Add the capers, stir well and keep the sauce warm.

Cook the potatoes and peas.
Drain well and keep warm.

Spray a ridged pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Spray the fish fillets with non-stick cooking spray.
Sprinkle fish seasoning or freshly ground black pepper over the fish.

Place the fish in the ridged pan, presentation side down.
Dry fry for about 5 minutes before turning.
Continue to cook the fish until it flakes easily.

Serve the fish with the vegetables and sauce.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Link to .pdf file for Week 66.

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 66.

Download to your laptop or print - see bigger photographs.

Chicken frittata : Wk65/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
250gm skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
400gm potatoes, diced and boiled
1 large onion, chopped
½ tsp crushed garlic
80gm asparagus spears
80gm mushrooms, sliced
2 good handfuls baby spinach

4 eggs, separated
2 Tblsp chopped parsley

Beat the parsley into the egg yolks.
Whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks.

Heat the grill.

Spray a large frying pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion and garlic until the onion starts to soften.
Add the asparagus, mushrooms and cooked potatoes.
Stir-fry until the vegetables start to brown.
Scatter the chicken and spinach over the other veg and stir well.

Gently fold the egg whites into the yolks.
Pour the eggs into the frying pan.
Cook for 2 minutes to set the eggs, then remove from the heat and place under the grill.

Grill for 4 – 5 minutes until the top is nicely browned.

Serve with a fresh green salad and crusty bread.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The importance of sleep

Research has shown that people generally like to sleep between five and eleven hours (depending on age and activity levels) in every twenty four, the average preferred period being just under eight hours. No-one really knows why we sleep, but it is absolutely essential to our health, as necessary as air, food and water. Adequate sleep is necessary for proper brain function - thinking, evaluating, memory, coherent speech, concentration. Lack of sleep effects every part of life - jobs, relationships, productivity and safety.

Staying awake for only seventeen hours at a stretch - which many of us do every day - leads to a decrease in performance similar to that experienced by drinking two glasses of wine!

Quality sleep needs to be continuous and uninterrupted. And here-in lies a problem. Most of us live in densely populated areas. All our neighbours have at least one dog and one car. And probably an alarm system. We all live in close proximity to main roads. Not to mention small children who have bad dreams or wake for feeding.

We can habituate to certain noises or sounds - this means that the sound is so consistent that you stop noticing it - the clock ticking, the thrumming of electrical appliances, that sort of thing - but a sudden loud noise, or a change in the quality of a sound, or even a cessation of a noise can wake us. Then we have to start going through the various sleep stages again, from the beginning, until we get back to deep beneficial sleep.

There is little we can do to combat night noise pollution. Some people go to bed wearing earplugs, but personally I've found that physically uncomfortable, and I feel very vulnerable when I can't hear. Others use an air-conditioner to give an overlay of 'white-noise'. I guess it's a case of whatever gets you through the night.

Lentil curry : Wk65/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
1 onion, chopped
1 bunch coriander, chopped
2 Tblsp Thai red curry paste
200gm dried red lentil
200gm potato, diced
1 red apple, diced
450ml vegetable stock
1 400gm can chopped tomatoes
Small bunch basil, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 red chilli, finely sliced

4 whole grain pita breads, warmed

Spray a saucepan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion and most of the coriander until the onion starts to soften.
Stir through the curry paste.
Add the lentils, potato, apple and veg stock.
Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, basil and dried oregano.
Simmer for another 15 minutes, or until the lentils and potato are cooked.

Serve the curry with the pita breads, garnished with the remaining coriander and chilli slices.

Check for seasoning – you may want to add a little salt.
Mango chutney goes well with this.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Citrus crusted fish : Wk65/2

Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
4 skinless hake fillets
30gm plain flour
60gm polenta
1 tsp dried thyme
Grated rind from ½ orange
1 egg, beaten

480gm new potatoes, halved
400gm baby spinach
3 carrots, sliced

Beat the egg in a shallow dish.

Rub together the flour, polenta, thyme and orange zest.
Place in a separate shallow dish.

Dip the fish in the beaten egg and then in the coating mix.

Boil the potatoes and carrot slices.
Wilt the spinach.
Drain and keep these warm once they are done.

Spray a large frying pan with non-stick cooking spray and place over medium-high heat.
Dry fry the coated fish for about 5 minutes each side or until the fish flakes easily.

Serve with the vegetables.

You can add some orange zest and juice to the carrots for extra zing.

Monday, April 4, 2011

How to break the habit...

A while ago, I talked about emotional eating - eating to compensate for something that's lacking in our lives or to comfort ourselves. But we often eat from habit, too. Actually, I'm not talking about eating as in 'eating a well balanced meal' (as in breakfast, lunch or dinner - all of which I hope are established habits in your day), but eating as in snacks and treats.

If you think about it carefully, you will probably realize that there are rituals associated with your in-between meal snacks and treats. Perhaps you habitually have a couple of biscuits with your tea or coffee: always munch on chips while you read a book; usually eat sweets while driving; reward yourself with chocolate for a job completed.

Habits can be difficult to break. So maybe try modifying the habit instead - have only one plain biscuit, and only with your afternoon tea or coffee: munch on grapes while you read: sing along to the radio or CD while you drive (good for coping with traffic stress, too): move on to the next challenge when you've completed the job (or tick the job off your to-do list). These new strategies are wiser choices for your mental health and your waistline. It is really not a good idea to eat anything while you are doing something else anyway. Your attention is diverted, and you consume far more than you realise.

We should be aware of every morsel that passes out lips - do we really need it? Probably not. Do we really want it? In the long term, no.

Chicken melts : Wk65/1

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
480gm new potatoes, halved
500gm green beans
3 carrots, julienne
1 head cauliflower

4 skinless chicken breast fillets
4 low fat Melrose cheese slices
4 slices lean back or shoulder bacon
Dijon mustard
Portuguese spice

Heat the oven to 200ºC.
Spray a shallow oven-proof dish with non-stick cooking spray.

‘Butterfly’ the chicken, then place between 2 sheets of plastic.
Hammer until thin.
Spread the cut side of each breast with Dijon mustard.
Place a cheese slice and one rasher of bacon on the mustard-y side of each breast
Carefully roll up and secure with a cocktail stick.
Place the chicken roll-ups in the prepared dish.
Spray with non-stick cooking spray and sprinkle with Portuguese spice.

Bake for 20 -25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked to your liking.

Meanwhile, boil, steam or microwave all the veg.
Drain and keep warm.

Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes before cutting each roll-up in half diagonally.

Serve with the vegetables.

Friday, April 1, 2011

5 - 8 portions of fruit and veg per day

If you have been looking at (better still, using) my recipes, you will have noticed that all of them have at least three vegetables in them or with them; if there is a shortage of veg on the plate, then I always suggest a salad. You don't have to serve the vegetables I recommend - you can substitute your own favourites - but I do try to include a variety that is seasonal, relatively inexpensive and colourful. A colourful plate is a healthy plate. A variety of colours indicates a variety of vitamins and minerals. But leave out the veg you or the family really doesn’t care for; just be sure to substitute something else. I personally don't care for pumpkin (except in pumpkin pie, when it is wonderful) - I find it watery, stringy and bordering on tasteless. But I really enjoy butternut squash which has real substance, form, colour and flavour. And butternuts come in a usable, storable size, which is always a plus in my book, unlike pumpkins.

If I use something unfamiliar to you, do try it. You might enjoy it. I bought ochra a little while ago, something I've never tried before. They were alright. Interesting. A little bit different. I don't know that I would rush to buy them again - but at least I gave them a chance.

Buy a different vegetable this week - something you haven't served in a while. Or ever. You might be pleasantly surprised.