A twist on something familiar.

Everyone loves a baked spud (well almost everyone). I do prefer them oven baked as you get the crispy skin and mine are sprayed with a little oil and sprinkled with salt to get the best effect.

If you are still with me then you might like this recipe. I fancied baked spuds for tea tonight but was a little bored with the normal arrangements and didn’t fancy a major cook so I reverted to good old google and found this recipe. It is not mine so credit goes to a mealhack.com .

This is a take on a samosa and I slightly adjusted my version based on what I had in, personal tastes and what is the healthiest way of preparing it. This is for the filling only, I leave the baked potatoes to your own method.

Ingredients:

  • 1 smallish onion, finely chopped
  • A good handful of coriander, well chopped coriander.
  • A cup of frozen mixed veg
  • 1 1/2 tsp medium curry powder
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp grated ginger

Method

  1. You can do this earlier and heat up once the potatoes are ready or do it just before the potatoes are ready as it needs to be hot at the end.
  2. Soften the onions in a pan with a squirt of spray oil. Use a little water if needed to keep them loose and unburnt as you cook them (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add all of the other ingredients and cook until every thing is soft. Use water to keep it going but cook it off before you finish.
  4. Cut the potatoes in half and scoop out the potatoes and add to the pan with the samosa mix. Mix together until everything is is well mixed. (This is a 1 pan recipe)
  5. Scoop back int the potatoes, they will be piled high.
  6. Dollop ‘no fat’ natural yoghurt on top and eat.

I served mine with a salad piled high with my favourite pickled veg with a bed of iceberg lettuce and red pepper. The finished product was delicious.

Tips for making the changes last.

If you are serious about losing weight in 2019 there are some simple tips that I can share that might be of use. They have worked for me and you might focus on your own different ones. No one approach is the only available way of losing weight.

This little dish of rice pudding epitomises some of these tips in one go and is ably supported by the savoury stew that preceded it when I ate my evening meal yesterday.

Tip 1. Identify what you feel you can reduce the most with least effort. If there is something you don’t want to reduce too much find a healthier way to make it. I have always loved puddings and that is probably one key reason why I reached the size I did. I grew up with at least two meals a day including a pudding. Even school meals include a pudding every day.

For me alcohol was the easy one. I didn’t give it up completely but it became my occasional treat. Puddings stayed although I do not have one every day. Home made puddings are best as you can adapt them to make them healthier.

Rice pudding, for me, should be creamy with a full flavour and ideally has that creamy colour as well. Skimmed milk, or even semi skinned milk don’t do it for me but full cream milk and/or cream is not an option.

I have adapted the recipe by using unsweetened almond milk. It has that creamy texture and colour that I want and makes a great rice pudding. 400ml to 600ml with. 70 grams of pudding rice or arborio rice works well for me. If you like you rice with a bite use a smaller quantity of the milk and if you like it soft (like me) use a larger measure. This is also great for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant.

I add 2 tsp of sweetener whilst cooking and then add a couple of tsp of low sugar jam as it is obligatory to swirl it in. I really like lemon curd in it but I have not found a healthier version of this.

If you make this I can guarantee that in half an hour cooking on the hob (longer if you bake it) you will have a delicious pud.

Tip 2: Don’t be afraid of bulking up with vegetables and reducing the meat and carbohydrates. There is nothing wrong with the meat or carbs but many of those other veg will aid weight loss as they are harder to digest and can make you feel really full after an enjoyable meal. If you have followed previous posts you will know that reducing our meat intake is also good for the planet.

This stew was made using three chicken thigh fillets and some left over lean ham pieces and then bulked out with quartered mushrooms. The initial browning of the meat was done with spray oil and some finely chopped onions. The gravy is just a crumbled chicken stock cube thrown in and then turned into gravy with water and seasoning. You get a tasty gravy which I have added to with a good pile of mixed frozen veg. Propped up with other veg (have your carbs here) this is a meal that is tasty, filling and weight loss aiding.

Tip 3: Don’t get into using a smaller plate or small portions. This can work but then you have to get back to eating normally once you have lost weight. Change how you cook and change what you eat permanently. Once you have reached your target add in a few more treats and then keep eating lots of what you have got used to eating.

You cannot go back to what you were eating before (quantity or nature) if you want to keep the weight off. To think otherwise is a delusion.

Tip 4: You don’t need to do exercise to lose weight so don’t use this as an excuse for not trying. No matter what you physique is, or your disability or even your age you can lose weight and will lose weight from dietary changes alone.

Exercise is then the added extra, make the most of it but do not rely on it.

Tip 5: Get the family/household involved (if you live alone this one is easier but you still have to go out to eat, visit friends etc.) . Don’t be afraid to tell people and ask them to try and make it as healthy as possible for you. It may not be perfect for you but it will be better and every little helps.

If they want to help you they will help out and maybe share this blog with them so that they can get ideas for dishes that they can cook. Healthier doesn’t have to mean boring and unappetising.

Tip 6: if you are not ready and willing to make changes then you are not going to lose weight or keep it off once you have reached your target.

We live in a society where styles of food are fused in interesting ways, where we value portion size above all and our right to eat everything on the same plate. If you pull back and look at traditional food in each country and culture it will always have a staple group of ingredients that it uses and others are used less frequently. Meat is the treat and used more sparingly. We have got used to having it all, all of the time. How often have you asked for chips to go with a dish that doesn’t normally have them and how often do you see bowls of garlic bread on a table in Italy?

Let’s try valuing the origins of food and eat them as they are intended and not as we have made them. This will automatically result in changes straight away that will help.

This doesn’t mean we cannot have a naughty treat, but they will be just that not the norm.

Tip 7: Don’t feel that you cannot have a meal off plan. The group/programme I attend places great stock on a meal being one of 21. One full on meal set in a healthy well managed rest of the week is not an issue, just don’t make it every day.

The more realistic the approach you take the more likely you are to be able to keep the weight off.

My patent fish pie recipe.

I love fish pie, especially one ladened with a rich cheesy sauce. However, as we all know, when you are managing weight loss, or maintaining a weight loss, things like cheese will always be restricted.

I have tried various fish pie recipes and most have been less than satisfying but today I managed to break the duck and have my sauce recipe and pie mix spot on for me.

The mash potato was my standard combo of smooth mashed potato mixed with 0% Creme Fraiche (Quark will do if you cannot get the Creme fraiche).

I used smoke haddock, plain cod and prawns for my fish mix and these were poached in milk but then drained thoroughly after it was all cooked.

This milk was used to make the cheese sauce for the family’s pie which was made the traditional way with hot melted butter and flour cooked in a pan, with milk added to make the base sauce (plus a splash of mustard powder) and then grated cheddar added.

My sauce was something else. I sprayed a good quantity of butter spray oil into a pan and then added a small amount of wholemeal flour. This was cooked a little and then loosened up with veg stock (I would have used fish stock but had run out). Stock was slowly added until a creamy sauce had been made. I now added the twist with a pile of chopped jalapeño peppers to the sauce. If I had capers I might have used these instead or as well. I have to account for a little naughtiness in the use of flour and probably for the quantities of spray oil, but not much.

The sauce was poured over my fish mix in the dish and then my new go to treat was added. This was in the form of a chopped pickled egg sprinkled over the top of the mix and then covered in mash.

My apologies for the veg mix with it. I was using up two bags of frozen veg to make space in the freezer.

The final product was, for my tastebuds, spot on. Give the Jalapeño and eggs a try to see if it works for you but you can always use a regular hard boiled egg with parsley in the sauce, capers or any other veg of your choice.

For me, this is now my go to fish pie recipe. For the first time I did not feel I had missed out because I did not have the cheese sauce.

The BBC, the best source of interesting recipes.

Keep reading beyond my soap box moment for the recipe, blink and you might miss it.

When those of us in the U.K. bemoan our licence fee we often do not realise what we get for that £150. Before I get onto food I thought a reminder was needed of what we do get:

1. Nine national channels plus some funding to Channel 4

2. Local TV news and some programming

3. Ten national radio stations

4. Local radio stations

5. iplayer

6. radio player

7. BBC sounds

8. BBC New website

9. BBC Sports website

10. And so on, and so on

One of my favourite online tools is the BBC food database. I often add an eclectic group of ingredients to find a recipe and always find an option on the site.

Last year there was a plan to strip this resource of all but the most recent recipes. I am pleased to say the outcry saved it and as a result this recipe was still available.

I won’t type it up again as you can follow the link yourself. The only difference is that I made mine using a single large squash that we had grown in the garden (courtesy of a house warming gift from John and Ann Davie). This will need cooking for a longer time than several smaller ones.

We had this one as part of a Boxing Day table of food.

Pumpkin Biryani

Whilst this is a vegetarian recipe you can easily add some chicken, lamb or other meat products if you want as well as play around the the vegetables in the sliced mix.

You need to spoon down through the mix to get all the layers.

Have fun with this one, plenty of room for of a little personal twist.

Inspiration from all quarters.

I haven’t posted for a while having had a full on Christmas. I have put on some weight but know how it get it off again. However this doesn’t stop me looking for interesting new recipes to try whilst ‘getting it off again’.

This one landed on my door step courtesy of Sally Taylor, who forwarded this link to me.

Scalloped Potato Roll

Now I am not going write out the whole recipe as the video is quite easy to follow as long as you let yourself pause and rewind every now and then.

What I will do is share how I have changed it and why. Before I do this I will let you know what the feedback from Maggie and Reuben was. Reuben was not a fan, although this is not unusual. His direct quote was ‘What’s wrong with a plain chicken breast on the plate?’ That says it all about Reuben and not a lot about the dish.

Maggie was more appreciative but felt there was two much of the spinach mix.

My main feedback is that I sliced the potatoes too thinly. As a result I used far fewer potatoes but my roll was a little flimsy. Allow your self the thickness in the video which looks like a 1.5 to 2mm. More importantly have the potato slices on the edges a little thicker than in the middle as the cook more quickly and might burn. I took. Mine out early because of this and this might have added to the flimsyness.

I would also have a thinner layer of each filling. Mine held in the middle but pushed out of the ends which suggest it was a little over filled.

Now for the changes . The first and most obvious of these is the amount of oil. The recipe cooked absolutely fine with spray oil. This also goes to prove that oil is often over used in cooking.

I also added no salt. It is thrown in at every opportunity in the video. I rarely add salt to my cooking and in my opinion this did not need it. Your taste buds may still be reliant on the salt so you can allow yourself a little if you wish.

I was very precise about the amount of cheese as I was serving three from the roll. I used 45g of Parmesan and 50g of mozarella. My third of this was what I can allow myself when losing weight (like after Christmas). I replaced the ricotta with quark which is a tasty, but fat free, alternative to other soft cheeses when cooking.

As part of my aim to use less meat I also used only 150g of minced beef and added 7 medium sized mushrooms chopped into small pieces. This is a technique I have shared before and always works well.

Overall mine involved smaller quantities as I was making a smaller roll but you could easily feed four with my version with a good selection of vegetables alongside it. Apologies that this final picture is poorly orientated. I am sure you will cope this however.

I will try this again making the changes suggested but will also look for alternative fillings as things like a spicy chilli filling would work really well with this.

If you give it a go please show me the outcome and maybe share alternative fillings.

Comfort food can be healthy food.

If we are all honest, comfort food is often not something that should be a continual part of our daily diet.

I have always been a bit partial to a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Karamel Chew Chew ice cream. By a tub I mean one of the 500ml tubs and I also mean downing it at one sitting. and with no help from others. Come near my tub and you risk losing your fingers.

Scotch eggs, sausages rolls, fish and chips and the list goes on. Now life would be sad without these things every now and then and I can probably still get away with the full tub of ice cream every now and then.

Portion size also tends to be an important part of enjoying comfort food.

However if we stick to these obvious things we forget some of those dishes that provide real comfort and can be both healthy and tasty. These are the dishes of your childhood; hard days on a budget when you are first working or a student. If you have a think, now, and make a list I am sure you will come up with your own list.

My list for the last couple of days is as follows:

1. Baked Potato with Chilli Con Carne on top.

Now I tend to use stewing beef these days for my chilli and I did this time. I did stick to my current aim of reducing the meat we eat. So this chilli for up to four people only used 300g of lean stewing beef.

It was topped up with mushrooms, roasted peppers, onions, tinned tomatoes and, of course, kidney beans.

All that was needed was a well baked potato. You can do these in the microwave of course but given the time I prefer them oven baked having been sprayed with low calorie oil and with salt rubbed into the skin. You cannot beat the rich crisp skin you get at the end and as I use no salt in my cooking I can allow myself the salt tang that goes with this.

Of course there was not butter on the potato but you know what, I didn’t miss it and it didn’t need it when it had a huge wallop of chilli plopped on top. You can play spot the potato now.

The added bonus is there was chilli left of for another day (the sequel will follow next, so no need to wait).

2. Jalapeño and Spinach Omlette, stuffed with left over chilli.

This one is exactly what it says on the tin and made a superb lunch. The omelette I have shared before on Facebook. It is just a three egg one, seasoned with black pepper. Once it is cooking in the pan I add the chopped jalapeño pepper and chopped baby spinach leaves (these cook down as the omelette cooks). I had plenty of spinach because I love it.

I zapped the left over chilli in the microwave and just before the omelette was cooked dolloped it in the middle and folded over the omelette. The only thing that would have improved this was a pile of salad and some air fried chips. However it was more than enough for a full lunch.

3. And finally Cottage Pie.

Shepherds Pie or Cottage Pie are a must for most homes and today was no exception. Cottage Pie (with beef rather than the lamb of Shepherds Pie) was on the menu. Again the meat content was reduced using 250g of lean beef mince.

Added to softened fine chopped onions and browned, padded out with a pile of frozen mixed veg (supermarket own brand) and given a tang with a healthy slop of Worcestershire Sauce a perfect mix developed. Knowing that Reuben, my youngest son, is not a fan of tomato in anything I went to his comfort zone and added a little naughtiness in the shape of two tablespoons of gravy granules and then water to make a thick gravy and finished off with a pile of chopped mushrooms.

The topping has to be mashed potato, mixed with no fat Creme fraiche, seasoned with black pepper and then sprinkled with some squirts of butter low calorie spray.

Finished off in a hot oven to crisp the top and and balanced with some lightly boil broccoli, where can you go wrong.

Still banging on about meat.

This will be a quick post. This table, from several on the BBC website this morning, shows the impact of different food sources on the composition of atmospheric air. Making good food choices is healthier for my body and healthier for the planet and therefore healthier for everyone.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46384067

Depending on whether you are a Flat Earther, Donald Trump or an average human being you can decide whether this is a significant factor in global warming.

The one table I have extracted makes the case that even if I were not to give up meat completely but did reduce or eliminate beef from my diet, I would be making a small difference.