Spinach and Quark Cannelloni.

This is an adapted recipe from a Pinch Of Nom recipe. I have tried to make mine free using quark instead of Ricotta and using Healthy Extra (HE) allowance for the rest of the cheese involved. I am using SW parlance here.

Just remember that Quark isn’t something newfangled. It is a Nordic soft cheese that has not fat.

Because I had had milk with my breakfast I did miss off the cheddar on the topping but on another day I could put all my HE in to the cheese involved.

You could also use fat free Fromage Frais if you quark averse or cannot get quark.

This recipe is for one portion, You can multiply it up for others. Remember you could also have the grated cheddar all over the top and still be on plan if you have save the HE allowance,

Ingredients

  • 3 cannelloni tubes
  • 70g spinach
  • 40g quark
  • 15g grated parmesan
  • 35g light mozzarella
  • 40g grated light cheddar
  • 150g passatta
  • 1/2 tsp garlic granules or 1 crushed clove garlic
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Paprika

Method:

  • Put spinach in a frying pan on medium heat. Cover and cook for a couple of minutes until it has wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
  • In a bowl mix together the quark and Parmesan.
  • Stir in wilted spinach (make sure it has cooled a little).
  • If you have a piping bag fill this with your mix and pipe into the cannelloni tubes (I didn’t so see the next instructions).
  • If you don’t have a piping bag stand a cannelloni tube on end on a plate.
  • Using a tsp and and up-ended tsp to spoon mix into the tube, pushing it down with the up-ended tsp. The plate will stop it coming out of the other end.
  • Lay the filled tubes in a dish.
  • Mix together the passatta , garlic and herbs.
  • Pour the passatta evenly over the cannelloni tubes.
  • Break up the mozzarella into pieces and spread over the top of the mix.
  • If, unlike me, you can have the grated cheddar sprinkle this over the top.
  • Sprinkle paprika to your taste over everything (I like lots).
  • Put it into an over at Gas Mark 6 / 180 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes or until the cheese is browning on top.

Milk Pudding

This came about because I had too much milk in the fridge so did some searching for a pudding that used the milk but didn’t add to the pounds.

This recipe would easily serve four people.

Ingredients:

  • 500 ml milk (I used skimmed milk)
  • 3 beaten eggs
  • 3 tbsps sweetener (you can add more if you want it sweeter)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 6 sheets gelatin (60g if using powder)
  • Fruit of your choice

Method:

  • Mix milk and eggs together.
  • Bring to boil, stirring all the time.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for two minutes.
  • Dissolve gelatin sheets in boiling water (use instructions on the packet for amount of water).
  • Stir dissolved gelatin into mix and stir well.
  • Stir in sweetener and vanilla essence.
  • Add chosen fruit to dish.
  • Pour a ver milky mix.
  • Chill until set in the fridge.

Healthier Tortilla Chips Using Lasagna … Yes Lasagna!!!

This one has come from someone in my SW group. It is dead easy and very tasty.

Ingredients:

  • 3 lasagna sheets per person (approx 50g).
  • Low calorie spray oil.
  • Flavour of your choice (paprika, rock salt etc).

Method:

  • Cook the lasagna sheets in boiling water.
  • Drain and pay dry the lasagna sheets.
  • Cut each sheet into triangles.
  • Spray a baking tray with oil.
  • Sprinkle your chosen flavour on top of the oil.
  • Lay your lasagna triangles on the sheet.
  • Spray again with oil and sprinkle with your chosen flavour.
  • Put into a hot oven for ten minutes or until golden and crispy.

These are served with Frijamole which is just blitzed chick peas, another bean such as butter beans, cannellini beans or bortelli beans with lemon juice, roasted red pepper, garlic, coriander and chillis.

Katsu Chicken

Now firstly I can claim no credit for this recipe. It comes directly from SW. All I would say is that if this sort of food tickles your taste buds then why not have a look into SW. There is an online version for those living overseas.

Advert over, here is the recipe for a dish I love. This is a real goody. I have highlighted the few changes you can make to turn this into a vegetarian dish. It needs no adapting to make it kosher or halal as long as you buy your meats (and stock) from a suitable vendor/source.

Katsu Sauce:

2 onions, halved and sliced thinly

2 carrots, grated

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

600ml of chicken stock (vegetable stock if you are using quorn)

1 tbsp mild or medium curry powder

4 tsps soy sauce

Pinch of sweetener

Method:

  • Fry the onions for 4 or 5 mins until soft, adding splashes of water if they start to catch.
  • Add the grated carrot and continue stir frying for another 5 minutes.
  • Add all the other ingredients, stir and cook for 29 minutes on a medium heat.
  • Blitz to a smooth sauce using a stick blender or large blender.

The Chicken:

  • 4 chicken fillets (quorn fillets will also work)
  • 2 whole meal bread slices
  • Finely zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 eggs
  • Pinch of salt

Method:

  • Wrap each chicken fillet in clingfilm and bash with a rolling pin to flatten a bit (don’t bother trying this with a frozen quorn fillet the result will not be pretty).
  • Blitz the bread in a food processor.
  • Mix the lemon zest and salt into the bread crumbs.
  • Beat the three eggs.
  • Dip each fillet in the egg and then the bread crumbs.
  • Lay the breaded fillets on a baking tray.
  • Pour any remaining egg onto the fillets and then spray with low calorie spray.
  • Bake in an oven (Gas Mark 6 /180 Celsius) until golden brown.

Pickled Cucumber:

  • Half a cucumber, halved again lengthways and thinly sliced
  • 150ml white wine vinegar
  • Pinch of salt

Method:

  • Stir the cucumber, vinegar and salt together.
  • Put in a fridge and leave for at least half an hour.

Serving:

  • Slice the chicken, keeping the overall shape of the fillet.
  • Put the Katsu sauce on the plate.
  • Lift the chicken with a slice and lay on top of the sauce.
  • Add rice and a good pile of pickled cucumber.
  • If you are trying to impress someone place some sliced chilli and long strips of lime zest on top of the rice.

Can you make a mince pie using Pease Pudding Pastry?

A comment from Nicola, who had found my previous post on Pease Pudding Pastry, has inspired an experiment today. She asked if I had tried make a sweet version to make mince pies.

Now a sweet version is not a problem. The problem really lies in the consistency of the pastry which can make a great crust but as it is couldn’t be guaranteed to make a tart case that can be lifted whole from a mould.

I had thought on this issue previously and had considered adding gram flour to form up the mix. However I had not tried this yet but a recent investment in a bag of gram flour made this an option to try today.

The benefit of gram flour is that is gluten free although it does have a calorific hit to take.

Today I have tried an experimental bake with standard pease pudding pastry and with a batch with gram flour added. I will repeat the main recipe at the end and for now will focus on the success or otherwise of each option.

For ease I made a savoury quiche filling using eggs, cottage cheese, ham and chilli flakes.

Half the tray (6 tarts) were made using with the regular mix and half with gram flour so that both sets were baked under the same conditions.

Both batches looked similar when they came out of the oven.the four on the right and the lower two on the middle row used the standard mix. However lifting them out quickly showed that the batch with gram flour included could be lifted more easily and retained their shape completely.

These ones used the regular recipe and as you can see from the images the base has crumbled and fallen apart when lifted.

The batch that used gram flour lifted with a little teasing and made a tart that had a firm base and top and worked very well. I would cook them for longer next time just to firm up the base even further.

I will try again in the coming week to perfect the timing and to make a sweet version but for now clearly this is a great addition to the available menu. I will also try chilling the mix as you would with regular pastry

The Recipe:

  • 1 tin of pease pudding (410g)
  • 1 egg
  • 75g of gram flour

Mix the pease pudding and egg into a smooth mix and then stir in the gram flour until a pastry ball has been made.

Spray the muffin tin with fri-light oil.

Without chilling shape a lump of dough into a ball and then flatten into a patty.

Gently press the pastry into a mould until there is a thin and even covering over the area. Make sure it is thick enough so that the dark of the tin cannot be seen through it but not too thick leaving no room for filling.

Fill each base with filling and then repeat the exercise with a smaller amount of dough to create a top, gently pushing it against the filling and edges of the tart.

Bake in a medium oven (Gas mark 6/7 180-200c) until golden brown on top with browning edges.

Put on a wire rack to cool and then gently lift each tart from the tin. You may have to use a knife to gently loosen the edges.

If you have a try and perfect the recipe please share you success here for others to see.

Tom Collins – a cocktail that won’t break the calorie bank.

I had the pleasure of a Zoom based gin master class with the Bombay Sapphire team and in this I discovered a drink called a Tom Collins.

This is a proper cocktail that can be no syns up to 6 syns (for those SW followers like me). To have no syns you would need to use no alcoholic gin and sweetener / no sugar syrups but this recipe will use gin (but refer to alternatives)

You can personalise your drink though the choice of fruit you use, what type of sweetened substance you choose (even honey or posh cordial can be used). You can also add spices like cinnamon and fennel seeds. This drink can be different every time you make it.

Ingredients:

  • 35 ml gin (replace for no-alcohol gin if you wish)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon, 30-50ml (or lime/pink grapefruit)
  • 2 tsps of caster sugar/flavoured syrups (including sugar free)/honey/posh cordial
  • Soft fruit of you choice
  • 100ml chilled soda water
  • Lots of ice

Method:

2 tsps of sugar /sweetener/flavoured/syrup/honey/posh cordial.
Add 50ml of citric juice (approx half a lemon). You can also lime, pink grapefruit etc. Stir the mix throughly.
Add 35ml of gin. You can also use no-alcohol gin. And again stir throughly you can also add spices like cinnamon and fennel seeds as well as fresh herbs like mint, basil and rosemary.
Add your soft fruit of choice.
Crush the fruit and then stir the mix thoroughly.
Fill the glass with glass ice until sitting above the edge of the glass. Don’t be timid at this point.
Fill the glass with soda water. Pouring it down the spiralled spoon keeps the fizz in your drink better but is not essential.
Stir thoroughly, add a slice and enjoy.

Baked Oats – The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Baked oats are proving to be a very versatile addition to a varied and healthy menu. Today’s version is baked oats breakfast waffles. However this could equally be a dessert or a savoury option with additions of things like cheese/ham and topped with sautéed vegetables.

These ones are banana waffles. This gives you a naturally sweet waffle with no need for sugar or syrup. I did sweeten the yoghurt with a tsp of sweetener and of course piled on fresh fruit to finish off. If you regime allows feel free to add some maple syrup or other sauces (within moderation).

You could use other chopped or grated fruit as an alternative to bananas. I wouldn’t use whole fruit, even is small like blueberries as the waffles are thinner than a baked oats muffin and this might weaken the structure,

The nice waffle brown surface of these is from the bottom of the mould. The cooked top colour will be lighter than this.

I am repeating the recipe to save you scrolling through other posts. The only additional equipment was a silicon waffle mould. As an aside the yoghurt is my homemade yoghurt made from skimmed milk.

Ingredients (to serve 1)

  • 40g porridge oats
  • 1 egg
  • 100g fat free yoghurt
  • 1 banana (chopped into small pieces)

Method:

  • Mix together the yoghurt, oats and egg into an even mix.
  • Stir in the chopped bananas.
  • Spoon into the waffle mould.
  • Put onto a baking tray and into an oven at about gas Mark 6 (180C).
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and gently tease the edges of the mould loose.
  • Turn upside down onto a plate and gently lift the mould allowing the wedges to drop down.
  • Add yoghurt and fruit on top.

Variety is the spice of life, Bacon and Cheese Baked Oats.

Effectively losing weight has to come with changes and these changes must be manageable. Without these changes sustained weight loss is a fantasy.

Making changes is not however, a deficit option or a negative option. I am a firm believer in finding ways to eat what you like (this is where core comfort comes from) , usually by cooking it in a different way.

This still allows for the adventurous to experiment with the completely new as well, I am one of those but today’s post is a new version of an old favourite.

I have shared recipes for baked oats in the past, with more recent versions being cooked in muffin cases which has become my new norm. However my food loving self also yearns for old favourites like croissant stuffed with bacon and cheese.

If we are truly honest the real flavour of this treat comes from the cheese and the bacon, the croissant is just the transport device to your stomach. This recipe provides a better transport device for the same flavours which sits well in a more balance food menu. It also provides an easy savoury version of baked oats.

Cheese and Bacon Baked Oats Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of chopped back bacon (all fat removed)
  • 30g cheddar cheese, grated
  • 40g porridge oats
  • 100-150ml thick 0% pain yoghurt
  • 1 egg

Method

  • Cook the bacon pieces in a non-stick pan using fri-light. Ideally cook until they have browned a bit, this improves the flavour. Put to one side to cool a little.
  • Mix together all the other ingredients and season with a little black pepper.
  • Stir in the bacon.
  • Spoon the mix into two silicon muffin cases.
  • Put on a baking tray in an oven (Gas Mark 6 / 180 degrees Celsius
  • Cook for twenty minutes or until golden brown on top and springy when tapped.
  • Eat hot ideally but also good cold.

Why not try your own versions of baked oats. I have thought I might try adding a tsp of ketchup or HP sauce to the middle of each (or homemade BBQ sauce). Why not cook onions with the bacon or chopped tomatoes and/or mushrooms.

Your food is as interesting as you want to make it but none of us gain weight because we don’t like food, we are either food lovers or comfort eaters (or both). When food is boring or the same, you don’t get comfort or enjoyment and then you look for the alternatives (the snacks and nibbles that really do the damage).

Too busy to cook in the morning or not a breakfast person?

I often observe that for some the challenge of meal management is made much harder by busy working lives.

I don’t work any more but when I was working my eating habits were dreadful. I rarely had breakfast, would snack on the rubbish available in the staff room and grabbed food on the way home (even if an evening meal was the norm).

There are great breakfast options that can be prepared before hand, like overnight oats, but if you are the grazer and snacker that I was these might not fit the bill.

I have been playing around with recipes for baked oats and have turned it into a muffin like breakfast and the great news is that one portion of baked oats will make two large muffins which means you can take a couple of pre-made muffins to work and graze on them in the morning if that is your way. The ones in the images are apple muffins.

Ingredients (for one portion / 2 muffins):

  • 40g oats
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g thick Greek yoghurt (no fat)
  • 2 tsps of sweetener (if you have a sweet-tooth like me)
  • 100g of fresh fruit (chopped apple, chopped banana, blueberries, raspberries, chopped strawberries even fruit purée if you allow for the concentrated sugar).
  • Add any spice that might go with the fruit such as cinnamon if you like that flavour.
  • Instead of fruit you could include a small quantity of dark chocolate drops, nuts etc if your food plan allows).

Method:

  • Mix together all the ingredients (apart from the fruit) in a bowl until a smooth mix.
  • Stir in your fruit.
  • Spoon into muffin cases. Silicone ones are really good here and reusable.
  • Bake in the oven for 20- 30 minutes (Gas Mark 6/180 degrees Celsius) or until golden brown or dark brown (depending on your taste).
  • Eat when warm or cool and store.
  • If you want to plan ahead you can make a bigger batch and make several days worth for an easier week all round.

What do with a courgette (zucchini for those from across the pond and some bits of Europe)?

My Slimming World consultant set us all the challenge of sharing our best recipes using courgette.

Now I use Courgette regularly but must be honest and say I do tend to use it in the same old ways and my sons certainly spurn it when offered. It was clearly time to use any generic search engine ( yes, I know , it was Google. What can I say?) to find some more creative uses.

Many if the options were on a theme of grilled, kebabs etc. There were some interesting stuffed options but I finally settled on a fritter option.

Credit should always be given to the source, even with a little adaptation on my part. This came from Host The Toast – A Kitchen Kapers Blog.

Now before we get into the details a little detail of what the making really involved. Firstly you do need some time so this is not one for an evening after a busy day at work. However it can all be prepared before hand and can be reheated.

My youngest son, Reuben, came in mid cook to find out what was for tea. He is quite Yorkshire in his taste and doesn’t like anything too new-fangled and turned his nose up at the thought of vegetarian pulled chicken. I did persuade him to try a spoonful and the initial snarl became “That’s alright actually’ and so defrosting chicken was returned to the fridge and my life became a little easier.

He returned later responding to the very loud smoke detector alarm that insists on going off even when windows are open, extractor fan is on and the front door is open but I dare cook something that produces a little cloud. On hearing the list of ingredients he curled his lip, but then followed this with ‘Well what do they taste like?’ After a quick sample however, he decided he liked them although he would prefer more cheese.

If a truculent 18 year old can get over the list of ingredients why not give this a go.

So here we go with Courgette, Spinach and Feta Fritters with Pulled Jerk Vegtarian Chicken and Yoghurt (with some extra bits).

Fritter Ingredients:

  • 2 courgettes (grated)
  • 3 handfuls of spinach (chopped).
  • A small pile of Basil (chopped finely)
  • Another small pile, Dill this time (chopped finely)
  • And there is another pile, Mint this time (chopped finely)
  • 3 spring onions (chopped finely)
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped/crushed).
  • 90g feta cheese (crumbled)
  • 3 eggs (beaten)
  • 75g of plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Seasoning to your taste
  • Low calorie spray oil for cooking

Vegetarian Pulled Jerk Chicken Ingredients

  • 300g Linda McCartney Vegetarian Pulled Chicken
  • One red pepper (sliced)
  • One red onion (halved and sliced)
  • One large red chilli (deseeded and sliced)
  • 400ml Passata
  • A spoof he of tomato purée
  • A good sprinkling of jerk seasoning (for your taste buds)
  • Low calorie spray oil for cooking

Lazy Tzatziki Ingredients:

  • No fat natural or Greek yoghurt (half fill a small bowl)
  • Mint (tsp dried or handful fresh chopped finely )
  • Lemon juice (a good glug to your taste)
  • Low calorie garlic spray oil

Method:

  • Put the grated courgette in a sieve, sprinkle with salt and leave for ten minutes.
  • Hand squeeze the courgette over a bowl to get rid of as much water as possible.
  • Mix together all the ‘leaves’, spring onions , garlic and courgette.
  • Add the crumbled feta and mix in well.
  • Stir in the beaten egg.
  • Add flour and baking powder, stirring small sprinkles at a time.
  • Put to one side.

Making the Tzatziki. This should have included cucumber, garlic and olive oil etc but I hit a lazy point here, Therefore I haven’t used cucumber and I replaced garlic and olive oil with a few squirts of low calorie garlic oil spray. You can off course choose to use real garlic and olive oil as well as the cucumber.

  • Mix all the ingredients together.
  • Put in the fridge to chill.

Now it’s time to make the Jerk Chicken.

  • Spray a large frying pan or wok with your low calorie spray oil of choice and cook until softened.
  • Add the vegetarian pulled chicken (still frozen) and stir in, also until softened.
  • Sprinkle on the jerk seasoning stir in.
  • Add the sliced peppers and cook until starting to soften.
  • Stir in the Passata and tomato purée , cook for twenty minutes and then turn down to a low heat to simmer.
  • Season to your taste.

Fritter Cooking Time.

  • Spray a large frying pan with spray oil.
  • Dollop 3 large spoonfuls to make three Fritters.
  • Cook for two or three minutes on each side.
  • Remove to a warm dish and then cook another batch of three.
  • Repeat until the mix is finished.