Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Keeping my Men Fruity

This week, I tried out two recipes from the current edition of ESSENTIALS, which received not so warm reviews. Not so much because the food wasn't nice - in my opinion it was - but because my men are prejudiced when it comes to vegetables.

So, what, the gratin contained squash and sweet potato! It also contained parmesan, didn't it? It was creamy, wasn't it? (Though I replaced the cream with full fat yoghurt and 1 avocado - probably didn't lower the calories but the avocado fat is healthier) I even served them a meat skewer, didn't I?

Squash & Parmesan Gratin, p.119 -- takes 1 hour 20 though
(squash, potatoes, red onion, parmesan, double cream, chicken stock, garlic, parsley; cook covered for 50, then uncovered for 20 at 180)

I thought it was yummy at only 394 calories.

The next recipe didn't work so well because my grill isn't working, and baking the lamb cutlets just didn't do the trick. And can I please remember now that neither man nor boy like lemony things??!!

Meat & Two Veg with a Twist, p.109 -- 30 mins marinating, ready in 30 after that
(2 lamb cutlets per person; marinade made from zest of 1 lemon, garlic, parsley and chili flakes; 'sauce' made from capers, black olives, tinned artichokes & lemon juice; 3 small waxy pre-boiled potatoes each, threaded on to a skewer with asparagus spears; first put the marinated cutlets under the grill for 3-4 minutes per side, then add the skewers - brushed with some of the remains of the artichoke oil - for another 5 minutes; drizzle the 'sauce' over everything; serve. USE YOUR FINGERS)

As I love lemony things, I thought this was great; especially at only 409 calories!

I served both mealsa with a mixed salad. Unless there are steamed vegetables to go with a meal, I always serve a salad, and the men have not only come to expect it, they make their own when they're cooking. So, that's an enormous step towards the 5 a day.

And what's my way of keeping my men fruity? Keep a fruit bowl right next to where they're "working" and replenish with small, easy peel (or no peel!!) fruit, like clementines, plums, grapes etc. The more frugal my main meals get, the fruitier my men become - it's that easy!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Szechuan Hot & Sour Soup

Chinatown Birmingham
Most bought soups, no matter which format (tinned, carton, bag), are not really up to much, I find. I'd much rather make my own, starting with a tsp of olive oil and a sizeable amount of chopped onions. Very finely chopped celery also adds flavour and health benefits. Then I add whatever vegetables are left/need using up, or otherwise, passata and spices for a tomato soup.

One of the only bought-in soups I really liked, was this one:  Asian Home Gourmet, Special Paste for Soup, Szechuan Hot & Sour Soup, Suan La Tang. Birmingham has a Chinatown (albeit small in comparison with London) with Chinese supermarkets, so this is easy enough to get hold of.

One word of warning though: it says use water or stock, and I did the latter the other day, and it turned out far too salty. So, note to self: only use water!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Homo Soupiens

The other day, I mentioned soups for lunch. I have always found, when on a diet, I turn to soups. In fact, I turn into a veritable Homo Soupiens! (Remember, you read it here first!).
Most soups, even in restaurants, are low cal (by comparison), but give you that warm, comfort food feeling that salad just can't deliver. (And salads, other than home assembled ones, are, as you will know, great deceivers in terms of calories/fat content...)

This recipe for a red pepper and lime soup came from a very dear friend of mine, and in her collection it comes under the heading "Recovery Recipes". It is my absolute favourite, and it really does make the spring return to your step!


(4 portions)

4 large red peppers, de-seeded and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
At least 1 clove of garlic, choped
1 teaspoon of oil
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1.5 pints of stock, hot
Chilli sauce to taste
Salt & pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, fry onion, garlic, and peppers till soft
Add all other ingredients, with HALF the stock (this means yuou only have to use the food-processor/liquidiser once)
Simmer for for 15 min
Cool briefly and puree until smooth
Return to pan, add rest of stock, return to heat until just about to boil

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Another fantastic recipe from Gino - yesterday's spicy fish soup (p81; The Italian Diet, not the one above ). Admittedly, I added a few thin slices of Chorizo (cut into 4 pieces), an addition I saw in another recipe, and that might have made it so super yummy (and more calorific, of course). Definitely got the thumbs up from The Boy - who had seconds. So another three star recipe.

I don't just use Gino's book, of course. One of the problems with dieting (and cooking for the rest of the family at the same time), is that you also want to use up what is in the house, or you really need to use up frozen food to make space for all the soups you're cooking right now for your lunch time meal...

So, some of the time, you just have to make it up as you go along and hope that it's still low fat and low cal. I find that portion control in terms of the stodge (rice, potatoes, pasta) helps, and also my little rule of never using more than a TEASPOON of olive oil - whatever your recipe says!!! Most pan-fried things are most forgiving if you add a tad water if they are too much clinging to the pan. So, absolutely no need to add more oil!

At other times, you have to check your books/notes/the net for what to do with your glut of mangetout/chicken/beansprouts. One of my favourityes for diet recipes that work, are tasty and fast, is Ainsley Harriot's "low fat meals in minutes". This is where I found Wok-it Chicken Chow Mein on page 75, for my ingredients above. Unfortunately, this recipe wasn't as great as others I have cooked from his collection. I loved the way the mangetout are sliced lengthways (looks great and cooks them faster), but all in all, it could have been tastier and moister. Still a 2 stars meal as far as the men were concerned - though they did add salt!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Back to Square 1

I can hardly believe that more than a year has passed and I haven't blogged at all!! Certainly not about food. But even my 'From Brum to Berlin' contributions were rare.

What's much worse though is the fact that, not only have I not lost any weight, in fact, in 2012, the Battle of the Bulge is an even tougher one, as I'm actually back to the grossly overweight state I was in when I was approaching 50. Since then, I had been down somewhat twice, though never all the way to my ideal weight of however many years ago. One might well say that this is the weight my body wants to be but that's just one of the facets.

Now, if I could say that the diet(s) fell by the wayside because I finally addressed all the issues inside and outside this house, then at least SOME things would be all sunshine and roses. But no, the domestic battle front has also not moved one little bit, in fact, it can safely be said that we are well and truly entrenched!

But it's all going to change now, right?!! Right... The self-help books - of which I own too many for it to be healthy - all seem to say that step 1 is to state what you're going to do, and then do it. So, here goes:

  1. I'm going to lose weight this year and keep it off
  2. I'm going to get the house restored
  3. I'm going to put my affairs in order

I've said it, now on to the far more demanding following through...

In terms of the diet, we started last week, and while the men DID have some chocolates over Easter, I managed to abstain. So far, so good.

I'm going to cook a lot from Gino D'Acampo's The Italian Diet. I bought it at a Charity shop and son Nr 2 has been through it, marking the recipes he would like me to try out, and I've got a few favourites of my own.

So far, we've had

  • Light Spicy Meat Balls p75
  • Baked Stuffed Onions With Sun-Dried Tomatoes p53

Both were delicious, and the meat balls were an absolute treat, my men said. So 3 stars there!

Next week, I'm intending to cook

  • Spicy Fish Soup p81
  • Fillet Of Cod With A Spicy Red Pesto p132
  • Egg & Salami Salad With Toasted Pine Kernels p95