Simple, tasty and great to look at.

Now before I hear you proclaim that this post must be about me (my modesty prevents me making the comparison myself) I am in fact talking about a veggie burger recipe.

I am having to get back on track after a very indulgent few weeks with a little addition to my midriff (and I am not pregnant – which those who know me in person know is impossible).

I had planned to make healthy burgers for Reuben and Maggie. I wanted something vegetarian as I am reducing the meat I eat and want almost none this week. Their burgers were made with lean beef as per a previous post.

My fingers did the walking to good old ‘Google’. The verb ‘ to google’ is now part of common parlance because it is so effective and comprehensive. There are flaws and commercial bias but for this purpose it is perfect.

I am not going to detail a full recipe as the site a found did not give the details so I will write it almost as was on the site with my quantities. I will be coming back to The Minimalist Baker again after experiencing this recipe.

Before I start also note that as well as being meat free it is free of any products linked to living creatures so is also a vegan recipe. On top of this it is gluten free, has no added salt or sugar (unlike shop bought versions), no fat apart from the spray oil and bags of flavour. Even better for anyone who is keeping kosher you can have cheese on it as there is no meat in site (I didn’t of course) and is also halal. Only someone who doesn’t enjoy flavourful food will decline the winner.

Ingredients:

  • Baked Sweet Potato, mashed. (I used two)
  • Cooked rice. (I used a good handful)
  • Chopped onions, cooked with the spices and chilli until soft. (I used 1 1/2 medium sized onions)
  • 1 chopped large chilli.
  • Black beans. (I used 1 can)
  • Spices. (I used ground cumin, paprika and sumac)

You vary all of the above and I will be trying again with different spices and maybe extra vegetables in the mix.

Method :

This is the really tricky bit.

  1. Mix all the ingredients together.
  2. Shape into Pattie (I used my burger mould but freestyle is of course fine)
  3. Bake in the oven (with a little oil spray)

I served mine with a salad drizzled with lime juice and splattered with pickled onions, pickled gerkins and pickled eggs. Mmmmmmmm.

When you need to try a little harder.

We all have times when life puts more barriers in our way and either will power or circumstances result in us having too much of what we like and not enough of what we need.

This is not the end of the world but we do then need to redress the balance.

This is the point when reducing or eliminating certain food types, for a short period of time, can help you get back on track.

Key to this is carbs. We all need carbs in our diet but we don’t always need as much. We can also do without them for a short while.

We can also, for a short time, do without the treats we still allow ourselves normally. This is the bit I find hardest of all.

This dish is a good example of a dish that gives you plenty of good stuff with an alternative to pasta being used. Also rather than using my allowance of cheddar (another vice) I have used zero fat cottage cheese on top.

Finally the main mixture in the dish, because I have used cottage cheese with plenty of protein, can do without meat . The cheese does have.a small amount of carbohydrate but also has the bonus of increased amounts of calcium compared to full fat cottage cheese.

Now don’t run away if you are not a fan of cottage cheese. I was the same but have learned to like it. You can allow yourself a little regular cheese but ask yourself if this is a price you are willing to pay for a short period of extra gain.

This is vegetable lasagne, using thin slices of courgette instead of pasta.

The sauce is made of good fibrous vegetables that are slower to digest and therefore help speed up the redressing of the balance (onions, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, pasatta and herbs.

The topping is just zero fat cottage cheese with chives

I layered courgette on the bottom followed by two layers of veg mix and courgette with the cottage cheese on top.

The whole dish was then baked in an oven as you would a lasagne.

The final dish was then served with a salad dressed with lemon juice.

Tasty, filling and good for the waistline and overall health.

Gastro-porn but ok for your midriff.

This is a recipe that a friend (Sally Taylor) shared and I promised to try it, making it as Slimming World friendly as I could. As a result this post has to make reference to the afore mentioned approach to diet/healthy eating. However you do not need to be following SW to try and it, and it is worth trying it.

This is recipe for Breadcrumbed Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Cheese and Ham.

You can of course watch the video and just follow that. I have tried to amend/calculate the use of cheese, flour, milk and butter to make it work for me and others with similar needs.

I made it for three people and so all my calculations are made on this basis. For larger/smaller quantities divide by 3 and then multiply by the number of people you are feeding.

The first component was the Bechamel Sauce. I opted for a simple quick version rather than one with infused milk.

Ingredients:

  • 200ml semi-skimmed milk (6 syns or HEa)
  • 20g Lurpack Light ( 4 syns )
  • 10g plain flour (1.5 syns)
  • Seasoning
  • Ground cloves.

Method:

  1. Melt the Lurpack in a pan.
  2. Add the flour and stir until you have a thick paste and it has cooked until it starts to brown slightly.
  3. Add the milk slowly, stirring all the time.
  4. Cook until a creamy white sauce.
  5. Season to taste including a sprinkling of ground cloves.

I used less than half this white sauce but have halved the final syn total for the whole sauce to 6 syns.

The chicken stage, including the gastro-porn in the video which I am sure you have all spotted, is quite straight forward.

Ingredients:

  • Three chicken breasts
  • Two slices of emmental cheese ( 6 syns or HEa)
  • 2 slices of ham, all visible fat removed
  • 40g grated mozzarella (6 syns or HEa)
  • 40g breadcrumbs (6.5 syns)
  • 1 egg
  • 10g plain flour (1.5 syns)

Method:

  1. Layer ham and emmental and slice 6 ways (U.K. breasts without the recourse to steroids etc not as deep as a yank breast – home grown gastro-porn this time in the style of the Carry On films).
  2. Dust each breast in flour.
  3. Coat each breast in beaten egg.
  4. Coat each breast in breadcrumbs.
  5. Unlike the video (and my picture) do not lay on a bed of cubed potatoes, cook the potatoes separately and longer (or par boiled) to let them get crispy.
  6. Lay two bundles of ham/cheese along the groove in the chicken.
  7. With a teaspoon dribble the sauce along the ham/cheese so that it covers most and has run over the sides a little. I only used half the sauce so will adjust syns accordingly.
  8. Sprinkle mozzarella over the sauced area.
  9. Put the chicken in an pre-heated oven at 180 degrees Celsius.
  10. If par boiled put the potatoes in the oven at the same time having sprayed with oil. I also added cubed sweet potato pieces (from a bag of frozen cubes).
  11. Cook for twenty five minutes.


Serve with veg of your choice (I had green beans in).

Now for overall syns. I weighed out all my ingredients and also weighed what was left for accuracy today. I suggest you weigh out yours but you can guesstimate what is left over if you wish or weigh it like me for accuracy. If you don’t care because you are not trying to lose weight/maintain lost weight then you can eat what you want.

2 syns for Lurpack from the 4 syns in the entire sauce mix (halve used) rounded to 1 syn per portion.

1.5 syns for flour as only half of sauce and dusting flour used. 0.5 syns per portion

3 syns for the milk as only half the sauce used. 1 syn per portion.

6 syns for emmental cheese. 2 syns per portion.

6 syns for mozzarella cheese. 2 syns per portion.

6.5 syns for breadcrumbs. Rounded to 2.5 syns portion.

Now for the fun bit. If you combine the syns per portion for the milk and both cheeses you are one syn short of a full HEa. Add a little extra mozzarella is the easiest way to make this up to a fill HEa.

If you do make all your dairy your HEa then you are left with 4 syns per portion. If you replace the potatoes with lots of speed you can even get close, if not exactly on, an SP meal. The breadcrumbs and flour stop it being truly SP but the quantities are so small you might get away with it in psychological terms. Don’t do this if you are planning a strict SP week.

Anyone reading this who knows the SW stuff, please check over my syn and HE calculations. This double checking would be really appreciated.

This is a really tasty treat of a tea so give it a go. We will be having it again.

A one pot wonder.

This is an improvised recipe, with a finished stew (including tender chicken) in an hour. The finished product is great for one of those cold evenings still marking the days in late spring.

(This picture shows the pot after two large portions have been decanted and enjoyed.)

If you don’t want the meat just replace the chicken with a tasty vegetable alternative like Jerusalem Artichokes, sweet potato or turnip (and a veg stock cube of course).

There is no thickening of the sauce so the only thing to be wary of (if a coeliac) is the choice of stock cube. It can easily be kosher (no butter, milk etc being used), halal or any other beliefs based food choice.

Maybe it should be renamed the Universal One Pot Wonder (using produce and flavourings from your own geographical area). Perhaps not, it doesn’t exactly trip of the tongue.

If you are a fan of Nigella Lawson you can cook it yourself in a suitably unctuous and seductive way and if you are more of a John Terode just slap it all in without any messing around (as would Daliah – long overdue for culinary beatification in my mind).

Ingredients:

  • 3 chicken thighs (trimmed of fat and cut into four pieces each)
  • 1 large onion roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot cut lengthways and sliced
  • A handful of green beans chopped into 2cm pieces
  • A large handful of new potatoes, halved
  • A large handful of mushrooms quartered
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • A dollop of tomato purée
  • A good splash of Worcester sauce
  • Seasoning to your taste

Method:

  1. In a large lidded pot soften your onions (with fry light).
  2. Add your chicken pieces and brown gently.
  3. Crumble a chicken stock cube onto the mix.
  4. Add a water to cover the mix easily and bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes (with lid on)
  5. Add all the veg apart from the mushrooms and add more water to cover all the veg and meat. Bring back to the boil and simmer for forty minutes. (With lid on)
  6. Add the tomato purée, Worcester sauce and seasoning and stir well.
  7. Add the mushrooms.
  8. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  9. Serve in a deep bowl with a knife, fork and spoon (to get all that gravy).

And the good news is there is only one pot to wash (plus bowls and cutlery unless you eat straight from the saucepan).

Making something tasty with what is in.

This one is adapted from a Slimming World recipe. The original was designed to be one made to take to work as a stand alone meal. This one works as both a work day lunch or a family supper and was adapted around what was in and what I fancied eating.

My youngest son, who is not the most adventurous when it comes to his food, said that he would have that again, even if it was rather spicy. This counts as a hit, especially as I served his with a big mound of mash. I had mine with a selection of veg so that I could have a low carb meal.

Rather than write this as a recipe with method I will talk through the process as it is a good technique and one that I am adding to my arsenal.

Spicy Beef, Chickpea and Lentil Stew.

The base of the sauce is a mixture of tomato, peppers, onions and garlic. I used 6 tomatoes (halved), 2 medium red onions (cut into wedges), an orange pepper (descended and quartered) and four cloves of garlic skinned but not chopped.

These were roasted in a medium/hot oven at about Gas Mark 7 / 200 Celsius for thirty minutes.

These were then added to 700ml beef stock in a sauce pan with 1/2 tbsp of harrisa spice mix, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp dried thyme and 1/2 tsp chilli flakes. The mix was brought to the boil and then simmered for twenty minutes.

The mix was then blitzed in a food processor. Obviously stick blenders etc can be used equally well.

I prepared my lean beef in a large pan, sprayed with fry light. The meat was browned and then 1/2 tbsp of harrisa spice and a good dollop of Passata was added and the meat was cooked until the sauce had reduced to a thick paste sticking to the beef.

The sauce mix was then added to the beef along with a can of chickpeas and the equivalent of a can of cooked lentils. I cooked a good handful of lentils myself to add as I only had dried in.

The entire mix was cooked over a low heat although this would be a great combination to put in a slow cooker during the day to come home to.

The finished product was a really delicious meal. There are plenty of options to personalise this. You can make it vegetarian with veg stock, no meat or a meat alternative like Quorn.

Chicken or lamb could be used as an alternative to the beef. Choice of colours of pepper are entirely yours. Probably, like me, you will use the one you have in.

My choices were based on what I had in and needed using. The lean beef pieces had been brought a few days earlier and needing eating up. I have already mentioned why I chose dried lentils (in that I didn’t, it was what I had in).

Everything else is supported by keeping a good stock of base herbs and spices.

What this recipe guarantees is a thick and full sauce without any need to use a thickener and packed full of veg.

I also recently made a sort of cassoulet using gammon steaks chopped instead of lardons and sausages. Again this was a case of looking to use what was in a way that would tickle the tastebuds. This was also a goodie.

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.