Saturday, 19 April 2014 - , , , 0 comments

RECIPE : American Style Baked Vanilla Cheesecake


As you know, I love making your dreams come true and showing you that anything is possible even if you're trying to lose or maintain a healthy weight.
You don't need to feel deprived-there's always a solution to our cravings! So when my friend Jill told me that the food she missed the most from her pre weightloss days was baked vanilla cheesecake, I just had to rise to the challenge!

***

My baked vanilla cheesecake has a dense, velvet-textured creaminess on a lovely sweet biscuit base.
Most shop-bought American-style cheesecakes start at around 9-10pp/approx.400kcal for a small slice.
Mine is 4pp/approx.160kcal per slice!

***

My recipe has a traditional digestive biscuit base, but I've found a clever way to lower the fat content significantly by using 30% reduced fat biscuits and binding them with melted marshmallows instead of butter!
Read on, you'll see how to do it.
The cake is very easy to make but it takes time to bake and more importantly, time to cool down and chill before eating. This is really important otherwise the texture just won't be right-however desperate you may be to sink your teeth in!

***

YOU WILL NEED : (Serves 8)

8 reduced fat digestive biscuits
30g mini marshmallows
3 eggs
50g caster sugar
250g Quark
1 tablespoon vanilla extract/essence

A loose-bottomed cake tin 8"/20cms

***

How to make the base



Make sure that you use a loose-bottomed cake tin for this recipe as the finished cake is very moist and hard to handle!



Mist the inside of the tin with Frylight oil.



Count out 8 reduced fat digestive biscuits and pop them in a polythene bag.



Bash them with a rolling pin until you have fine crumbs.



Tip into a bowl. Any large pieces of biscuit remaining can be broken down with a pestle or wooden spoon.



Now for the clever part! 
Add the mini marshmallows and pop in the microwave for 30 seconds until they puff up.



Use a fork to mix the crumbs into the melted marshmallow. It's very sticky at this stage but keep going until you can't incorporate any more crumbs.
It forms a kind of crummy 'dough'.



With clean hands, keep turning and pushing the crumb 'dough' into the remaining crumbs, pressing down so that they stick to any exposed marshmallow.



Keep going until you have a very dry but pliable mixture. If you have a few biscuit crumbs left in the bowl, don't worry, you can add them later.


Using a rolling pin, roll the mixture out into a rough circle to fit the base of your tin. It doesn't need to be perfect.



Press it into the tin. Don't worry if you have any small spaces.



Any remaining crumbs can be sprinkled over to fill the gaps.



Pop the base to one side.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4.

***

How to make the cheesecake



Separate the eggs, put the yolks to one side.
Whisk the egg whites in a large clean bowl until firm.
Gradually incorporate the sugar, whisking each time.



You should have a lovely, thick meringue-like mixture. Place to one side.



 Pop the Quark and vanilla extract into another large mixing bowl.



Add the egg yolks.




 Mix well with a wooden spoon until smooth and silky.



Gently fold in the whisked egg white mixture one generous dollup-ful at a time! Use a large metal spoon to do this in a figure-of-eight motion. Dont beat the mixture, you want to keep as much air in it as possible.



When everything is beautifully blended, gently spoon the mixture over the biscuit base.



Using a spatula, smooth the mixture right to the edges.
Bake for 15 minutes at
180C/350F/Gas4,
then once a lovely golden colour, turn the oven down to
160C/325F/Gas3
and bake for a further 25 minutes.
Turn off the oven, open the door slightly and allow the cake to cool in the oven for as long as possible.


The cake will be this beautiful rich caramel colour. Don't worry if it cracks slightly. It will also have a 'mousse'-type appearance, which will sink and condense down slightly as the cake cools.
Once cooled in the oven, place in the fridge to chill for around 2-4 hours.


Chilling thoroughly not only improves the texture of the cake but will make it easy to remove from the tin.
Simply run a knife around the edge of the cake then push the loose base up. I always leave my cheesecake on the metal base on the serving plate as it is quite delicate to handle.


Cut into eight equal slices. I love the cracked, rustic appearance. You could always dust with a tiny sprinkling of icing sugar if this bothers you.


Serve simply with fresh strawberries.

***

Slimmified cheesecake!

***

TIPS

Try serving with a WeightWatchers Greek style lemon yoghurt, or mix some Total 0% with some lemon curd.

*

Try adding lemon zest to the cheesecake mixture before baking.

*

Top with sliced banana, strawberries, raspberries or blueberries.

*

Try WeightWatchers biscuits in the base. You'll need 4 packets of 2 biscuits. I used ginger and lemon flavour which was delicious. Chocolate chip would be good too. 
This doesn't affect the propoints per slice.

*

For a denser, 'heavier' textured cheesecake, add 200g Lightest Philadelphia to the Quark mixture and beat well to remove any lumps. Bake more slowly at 140C/275F/Gas1 for 1 hour as this version cracks more easily.
This adds another 1pp/40kcal to each serving.
(My taste testers all preferred the original, lighter version!)

***


Monday, 14 April 2014 - , , , , , , , , 0 comments

Easter Bento Boxes!


Every year, I try to come up with a funky idea for Easter.
I've been longing for an excuse to buy some of these brightly coloured egg boxes in the supermarket, so my gorgeous
Easter Bento Boxes
gave me a great reason to do so!

***

A bento box is a traditional Japanese selection of edible goodies packed beautifully into little boxes in single portion sizes. Some are simple, some very ornate.

I've come up with my own version especially for Easter- a savoury one, a sweet one and a mixed one.
You can go to as much or as little effort as you wish with these-I've used shop-bought dips, little crackers, fruit, vegetables, sweets and treats.
You could use homemade dips, make tiny little sandwiches-whatever takes your fancy. Just try to make them colourful and vibrant and you can't really go wrong!

***

All of my Easter Bento Boxes work out to between 5-7pp/approx.230-320kcal per box-much less than most Easter eggs and much more fun!

***

YOU WILL NEED


Colourful egg boxes.

(You could use plain ones and decorate them with pens or washi tape. (My favourite!)


Colourful plastic eggs.

These were from The Works and cost £1 for a pack of six eggs.
I washed them thoroughly in hot soapy water and left them to dry on paper towels. 
Six eggs are enough for two boxes as you use both halves separately.


Fluffy easter chicks.

I would say these are optional but I don't really believe it. They are so cute and an absolute necessity! 
This whole box was £2 from The Works.

***


Simply pop the clean, dry plastic egg halves into the egg boxes. Try and use a variety of colours in each one.

***

The Savoury One


Take a selection of goodies and decide what you are going to fill your little egg-shapes with.


I weighed the dips into the egg containers. Just pop the whole box onto your scales, recalibrate back to zero and dollop in the dips. The plastic egg containers I used held 30g of dip.


These lovely Tesco Healthy Living dips worked out to 1pp per 30g portion.


Add veggie sticks, slices of mini peppers and for a Springtime look, some chives and fresh mint.



If you have the time, decorate the lid of the egg box with washi/decorative tape and a couple of cheeky chicks!
The lid won't close fully once you've filled the boxes, but still look inviting and amazing like this.


I used:

30g Roasted Garlic Dip 1pp
30g Coronation Dip 1pp
30g Beetroot Dip 1pp
1/2 bag of  Tesco Vegetable Crackers 2pp
Fresh veggies; cucumber, carrot & peppers

TOTAL: 5pp/approx.230kcal

***

The Sweet One


Repeat the process with sweet treats and plenty of fruit.


You could make some little washi tape flags using cocktail sticks. These look gorgeous and also help to pick out the grapes and marshmallows-especially if you fill one of your containers with fruity yoghurt for dipping.
The flag picks make it more fun to eat too!


Egg boxes have perfectly-positioned holes to pop the flags into! It reminds me of a little sand castle.
Note the funky carrot-shaped paper napkins in the background! These were from Tesco's Easter range.


Decorate the outside of the box.

I used:

1 box mini smarties 2pp
1 mini packet iced gems 3pp
10g mini marshmallows 1pp
Fresh fruit;mango, grapes, strawberries

TOTAL: 6pp/approx.300kcal

***

The Mixed One


If you prefer, you can pop a mixture of savoury and sweet goodies in one box together...snack followed by pudding!


I used:

30g Beetroot dip 1pp
30g Coronation dip 1pp
1/2 bag Tesco Vegetable crackers 2pp
1 small bag Malteasers 3pp
Fresh fruit and veg

TOTAL: 7pp/approx.320kcal

***



Remember, you can make these to fit in with any aspect of the plan you are following by using appropriate ingredients! 

Have fun and Happy Easter to you all.

Saturday, 12 April 2014 - 2 comments

USEFUL STUFF : Potato Ricer


I like to think of myself as a pretty competent home cook but there are a couple of things I still struggle with...well, I tell a lie-I've finally mastered poached eggs (vinegar in the water!)
But mashed potato?-I make the lousiest textured mash you've ever seen!

That was until I discovered the potato ricer.
This simple tool has restored my reputation as Mrs.Slice-of-Slim as now I can finally make a smooth mash!


Actually, I've had this a while but had forgotten about it and found it lurking at the back of one of my kitchen cupboards recently.
You can buy them from many kitchen outlets and supermarkets.
They usually start at about £10-12.



I find that in a low-fat recipe where I'm not using lashings of butter and milk to help the texture of the mash, this is why I struggle.
But this giant garlic-press style tool turns cooked potatoes into a lovely, smooth consistency which you can then add some low fat spread, skimmed or soya milk to -even some quark, light cream cheese or cottage cheese to add the creaminess back in.


Seasoned with lashings of black pepper, dried herbs and garlic granules no one would ever know that it was once a struggle!

***

Mash perfection. 
Wednesday, 9 April 2014 - , , , , , 1 comments

SMASH & GRAB : Tesco Spicy Lentil & Chickpea Dip topped Mushrooms


I've had a really busy week and it's only Wednesday!
I haven't had much time to plan ahead or prepare meals. Thinking about food prep and propointing can be time-consuming, so sometimes it's handy to have food in the fridge that does all the work for you.

***

There's nothing wrong with using convenience foods to help you save time, especially if you know they're packed full of great ingredients.


This yummy

Tesco Healthy Living
Spicy Lentil & Chickpea Dip

fits into this category perfectly and even has the propoints worked out for you on the packaging!

It's only 2pp/81kcal for quarter of the pot, made with an interesting combination of ingredients and tastes fab too. 
If I had to describe the taste, I'd say it's a little like a vegetarian coronation chicken flavour with a houmous texture.

***


I spread a serving onto large raw mushrooms, added a few chopped chives, a grind of black pepper and hey presto!
An instant, filling little snack.

I often use raw mushrooms in this way-they have a great texture and you save a huge amount on propoint/calorie-laden crackers or toast!

You could even go the whole hog and dollop with 15g of mango chutney for an extra 1pp/40kcal

***

Mushroom magic.