Apple and Celery Salad

Suzann has just asked me for this one. I cannot claim credit for this, it is a SW recipe. This is the best picture available until I make it again.

The last time I made this a number of people said the liked the Apple and Cucumber Salad, having no idea it was celery so even celery haters can give it a go (or don’t tell them if they are).

The chopping for this is a little fiddly but it is a great salad and keeps well.

Ingredients I :

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
  • Pinch of sweetener
  • 2 apples, cored, sliced and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 4 celery sticks, cut into thin matchsticks
  • 4 tbsp roughly chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh mint

Method:

Mix the lemon juice, fish sauce and sweetener together and then mix with all the other ingredients.

Losing the weight is only half the story.

A year ago I hit my target weight having lost just over 5 stone. For the next three months I managed to stay in my target range. For those not familiar with Slimming World you have a six pound range around your target. The idea is that you try not to stray more than 3lbs above or below this weight.

For the first three months I managed this although it took effort and was more stressful than the weight loss journey.

Christmas arrived and I decided to enjoy a good Christmas (although not the excess of years gone by), knowing I could lose the weight I might gain because I had done it before.

However this was, and is, a salutary lesson in hubris. I did put on a few pounds and edged just outside my target range. However more importantly I had got out of my rhythm, my routine. I spent the next three months bouncing in and out of my target range until I finally landed back on my exact target weight in March vowing to stay in my range thereafter.

The problem is summer arrived and the number of opportunities to eat out, eat with guests and trips away was more than normal, I had redeveloped bad snacking habits again and then the summer holidays arrived with an enormous 6lb gain after three weeks away from group.

I now have a much larger task being almost a stone over my target weight. Time to get back in the game. Week 1 of a fresh start and meals planned , recorded what I have eaten (especially my syns) and 3lbs knocked of in a week. I can still do it…

Week 2 of a fresh start comes and goes with a 2.5lb gain. The yo-yo reappears. The only cause is ‘between meal’ snacking. Family goodies proving to be a temptation, I had my well measured synned snacks like a Curly Wurly. I count those 6 syns. But then a trip to the fridge offers a couple of slices of salami, that bit of chilli cheddar gets nibbled on, finishing off someone’s pudding and on it goes. All those little bits add up.

Group was the bit I was dreading when I joined SW but it has priced to be the best thing about it (other than the treat recipes). The beauty of group is that it allows you to think out loud and honest input from those in the same boat can help you work out what is going wrong. There is no shaming or false encouragement. It does focus on the positive but also seeks to work out why you have gone wrong when it happens. Two things were said at group that struck home.

Number one was “You haven’t blogged for a while”. It might not be anything but maybe my thinking out loud through my iPad was part of the way I have kept on track. Focusing on why I am doing things, what works and what doesn’t might be part of my answer. So here I am blogging again.

Number two was “…well you have been spending all your time trying out new recipes!” And what is true was that by spending a lot of time on cooking up new dishes I was not giving time to the other meals and snacks. This has contributed to me grazing on less helpful things.

Finally we come back to why I needed to lose weight in the first place. I like food, I still like food. I enjoy eating food. Give me a choice between a large Coffee Choux and and an apple and without will power the Coffee Choux will always win.

Which one…
would you choose?

So here I am back to blogging and planning meals that will focus on back to basics.

With this in mind meet Gardeners Pie. It is nothing complex and extremely filling.

In a large pan throw in roughly chopped and large onion (1), carrot (2) , parsnip (1) celery (3 sticks), garlic cloves (2) and loads of spinach. If you are in a rush try a bag of frozen mixed veg as any veg will do.

Soften in the oil sprayed pan, added water if needed for about five minutes and then add 300ml veg stock and frozen peas and season to your taste. Then cook for half an hour.

Put in a large dish with mashed potato (mashed with 50ml veg stock and two eggs) on top and bake in the oven for half an hour.

A back to basic classic. The downside is that my son , although it smelt delicious, was not enamoured with the lack of meat even if I gave him a jug of Bisto gravy to with his.

The final learning curve is to go with the mantra, if you don’t like what is on offer then cook something for yourself. It works with his adult brother (Uni student) and he will be 18 in November, Tough love that will take away the final temptation, nibbling on the other meal versions made for the less willing.

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.