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.

Why not eat the chicken skin, it tastes sooo good!?

The answer to the question is very personal but should be informed. Managing weight loss long term is about making informed choices and understanding the consequences of a choice.

If chicken skin is a red line for you, a price too far, then go for it but also identify what you are willing to give up to balance it out. I personally love cooked chicken skin but not enough to make it my red line. I would rather have a nice pudding, a gin and tonic or the odd curly wurly.

However I have always wondered what was so bad about chicken skin. It is not like other meats where you can clearly see the fat and can cut it off before or after cooking. Despite this for the last three years I have always removed the skin, usually from chicken as I have done with the thighs in this picture.

The answer was recently shown to me after I followed a tip from my aunt, cooking the chicken thigh skins in the oven making a ‘treat’ for my dog. What was revealed after cooking made me realise that chicken skin would never been something I wanted so much that I was happy to consume the fat that comes with it.

When baked in the oven you get great the crispy skins you would expect but in the tray below is left a pool of fat. Now knowing there is still a layer of fat left on the still shiny skins you can see that even the skins , once cooked, carry their own fat count and must be a periodic treat for the dog rather than a regular one.

Even with some left on the skins look what was left behind and would have been part of your carefully planned meal. If you are watching your cholesterol, let alone trying to lose weight, is this a treat too far?

Would you drink this?

Perfected light Limoncello Tiramisu.

My previous post included a recipe for full fat and a lighter version of Limoncello Tiramisu. I have adjusted the recipe a little to make it even lighter but tastes just as good. For those doing SW it is now down to six syns per portion and feels like a full fat dessert.

You will need to refer to the main recipe shown in the desserts section but use these specific quantity changes for a two person portion. I also made the mistake of listing icing sugar in the recipe which I have amended to caster sugar (with a tusk tusk from Maggie at this point).

  • 8 sponge fingers
  • 20ml Limincello mixed with 20ml water (decant from a larger quantity mix if you are making a full fat version as well).
  • 1 tbsp sweetener (granulated sugar) mixed with quark or no fat Fromage Frais.

The picture shows my two person portion in the smaller dish with a full fat version for everyone else.

Limoncello Tiramisu

I had a full on taste of this recently and then adapted the recipe for a more waistline friendly version and I can honestly say that if you hadn’t had the full on version you would be more than happy with the adapted one. However both are delicious and nothing like normal tiramisu. I forgot to photograph it so this picture is slightly different to the recipe below.

I made no attempt to replace the limoncello or the sponge fingers so a 100g portion comes out at 8 syns for those of you who are SW. This is 200 kc if that helps.

I am going to include the full on recipe and the adaptations next to it so that you can make both versions if you need/want. The recipe is also for a 6 portion version in one dish. You could probably reduced the hit even further if you make a portion in a glass and then just reduce the number of sponge fingers.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 85g caster sugar (swap for 4 tbsp sweetener)
  • 26Og marscapone cheese (swap for quark)
  • 2 punnets strawberries
  • 120ml Limoncello
  • 120ml cold water
  • 200g savoiardi cookies ( swap for sponge fingers x 20)

Method:

  • Put eggs and sweetener in a bowl and whisk until thick and creamy (pale yellow).
  • Whisk in quark.
  • Hull and dice half the strawberries, halve they remaining strawberries.
  • Combine water and limoncello in a bowl and dip sponge fingers in one at a time and lay half across serving dish.
  • Cover with half the quark mix.
  • Lay over the diced strawberries.
  • Lay over remaining sponge fingers and quark.
  • Decorate with the remaining strawberries.
  • Chill in the fridge.

Home made Rhubarb Cordial – Dead Easy

If, like us, you have a rhubarb plant growing like mad at the moment you will be looking for things to do with it. This is an adapted BBC Food recipe for cordial that comes in at 1/2 a Syn per 25ml and that is rounded up. Best of all it takes no more than 30 minutes to make.

Use for a soft drink treat or maybe with gin for a Rhubarb G and T.

The only thing you will need that you might not have in is something like muslin to filter it through. I used the filter from my yoghurt maker.

Ingredients:

  • 400g chopped rhubarb
  • 15 tbsp sweetener
  • Juice and zest of one orange
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1cm on fresh ginger sliced
  • 300ml water

Method:

  • Add all the ingredients to a large saucepan.
  • Cook over a medium heat until the rhubarb is falling apart.
  • Strain through a sieve lined with muslin (or an alternative).
  • Pour into sterilised jars/pots.
  • Chill.

This should make at least 600ml of cordial (24 portions) and I have kept the cooked rhubarb to use on a dessert (minus ginger pieces).

Moroccan Fish Stew

I was meant to be having an SP (speed veg and protein) week this week but in group last week we discussed ways of using chickpeas and my taste buds got rumbling and so I fell off the SP wagon today.

However the recipe that caused this was a fantastically tasty one pot special that needed mostly standard chicken supplies. It would also have been really quick if I had not run out of Ras al Hanout. A quick google gave me a recipe to allow me to make some but my best tip is to always keep some in the cupboard or pantry.

Right enough waffling, time for a recipe

This is for two eating it as a stew and no couscous (it doesn’t need it). If you have couscous you might want to reduce the fish portion. If you are working you make the base in fifteen minutes the night before and then finish of in 20 minutes after work the next day.

Ingredients:

  • 4 small cod/pollock/haddock fish fillets
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can chick peas
  • 3 roasted red peppers chopped
  • 2 large dollops tomato puree
  • 4 cloves garlic (chopped or crushed)
  • Small bunch of fresh coriander choppedl
  • 1 1/2 tsp Ras al Hanout
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Good splash of lemon juice
  • Seasoning

Method:

  • Heat a lidded pan sprayed with oil.
  • Add garlic and cook for a minute (stirring).
  • Add chopped tomatoes, peppers, tomato purée and 1 Ras al Hanout , most of the coriander plus water if needed.
  • Bring to boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.
  • At this point you can leave the sauce and come back to it later if that is what your life style needs.
  • Season fish fillets with remaining spices (sprinkle all over both sides).
  • Add fish fillets to the heated base. Make sure they are covered with some of the base but don’t stir them around.
  • Add lemon juice
  • Cook on a low heat for fifteen minutes.
  • Serve into a bowl and sprinkle with reminding corinander (onto couscous if you are having that or with your daily allowance of bread to mop up the sauce).

COVID 19 Lock Down pie without using pastry.

Lock down has made health and weight management a lot more challenging than usual and as a result I am having what Slimming World call an SP week. This means lots and of hard to digest veg with some protein and no carbs.

For pastry making (pie crust) this becomes very difficult. Added to this is the challenge of using what is in as the cupboard without recourse to a quick pop to the shop.

Root vegetables are often used as alternative to pastry (avoiding potatoes) but these were also in short supply as I had made a big vat of soup earlier in the day. Some might say better planning would have prevented this but even with plans I often go off in a new direction so this might still have been an issue.

The one thing working in my favour was my daily allowance of fibre rich food (which does include carbs) and my daily allowance of calcium rich (I have it as fat rich as I have plenty of calcium elsewhere in my diet) food. Today this would manifest itself as 40g of rolled oats and 30g of grated cheddar. However I am getting ahead of myself.

Half an hour of research gave me nothing that ticked the box for me either through ingredients available or that hard to measure ‘Mmmmmm’ factor. As a result I put my inventive head on and this was the thoroughly successful result.

Pie Topping Ingredients:

  • 40g rolled oats
  • 30g grated cheddar
  • 4 balls frozen spinach defrosted
  • 1 egg
  • Seasoning

Method:

  • Mix together throughly.
  • Spread over the pie filling.
  • Bake in the oven for thirty minutes (in my case along side shortcrust topped pies for everyone else).

The results was a surprisingly firm pie crust that also tased delicious. The oats gave it a real pleasurable texture with spinach and cheese combing really well. My filling was chicken, leak and mushroom and was served with plenty of cabbage and mangetout. You can obviously change the filling and the side veg to suit yourself.

I will try it again but will also try blind baking a pie base (As you do with Pease Pudding Pastry – also detailed on this blog).

This is dead easy, quick and tasty. Give it ago.

Rhubarb Relish

This is an adapted recipe from a Riverford Organic Farmers. My wife, Maggie, adapted it whilst making the given recipe for herself. It is quick easy and very tasty. As we have my late father-in-law’s rhubarb growing with real gusto in the garden, it was pleasing to find a real alternative use for it. I have also discovered eating rhubarb raw with bananas and yoghurt is a spot on breakfast.

The real game changer is that I preferred it to the regular recipe so it wasn’t even like a sad alternative. The flavour was fuller. The use of water instead of orange juice made the difference I think. The result is a tangier, less sweet final product.

This is the recipe for a small quantity seen in the picture. If you are going to store it or make it for more people then just multiply up your ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 150g rhubarb, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tbsps sweetener
  • Zest of one orange
  • 125ml water
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • Chilli powder (1tsps for average fire and 2tsps for a bit more umph)

Method:

  • Put all the ingredients in a pan together.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally .
  • Add water if becoming too thick and cook for longer if too wet.
  • Eat.

I ate mine with some sweet potato and chick pea felafel and also with a burger and it was grrrrrrrrrrreat (to quite Tony the Tiger).

When you need a bit of something sweet for breakfast.

My tastebuds were yearning a treat this morning without scuppering my food regime.

Banana Fritters/pancakes was the solution and these were delicious. This batch made five 3” pancakes and I am stuffed. Feel free to adjust for a full fat version.

Ingredients:

  • 40g rolled oats. (can be used as they are but I grind mine in a coffee grinder)
  • 2 bananas (1 mashed and 1 sliced)
  • 1 egg
  • 100 ml 0% fat yoghurt (natural for soft pancakes and Greek for firmer pancakes)
  • 1 tsp sweetener
  • 3 tbsp 0% sugar/fat pancake syrup (I used Walden Farms)

Method:

  • Mash the banana in a mixing bowl.
  • Add egg, oats, 50ml yoghurt and mix thoroughly.
  • Heat non stick frying pan and cook in batches. They will hold less well than regular pancakes so aim to cook fewer at a time to allow for smooth quick turns. Wait for bubbles coming through as you would do with American style pancakes.
  • Serve on a plate with sliced banana, the remaining yoghurt and the pancake syrup.