Tuesday, 31 January 2012 - , , , , , 12 comments

RECIPE : Apple Filo Pie


You will need:
A large flan dish
3 large sheets filo pastry
(mine were 45g each)
6 red eating apples, skin left on, cored and sliced into chunky slices
Frylight sunflower oil
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons Candarel granular sweetener
2 teaspoons icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 190G/375F/Gas 5

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If you like pastries and desserts, you will absolutely LOVE this pie. I guarantee that the freshly-baked smell promising soft, cinnamon-infused apple, surrounded in crisp,icing-sugar-dusted pastry, will live up to your expectations. 
It is one of those dishes that is crazily simple to make, but impresses every time. It looks so professional, and best of all, costs you very few propoints or calories.

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This WHOLE pie works out to 11 propoints,
(or around 800 calories).
This makes 6 generous slices, making each individual portion 2 propoints,
(approx.135 calories).

Even if you decided to divide it into 4 REALLY generous portions, it still only works out to 3pp, (approx.200 kcal) per slice.


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When you work with filo pastry, the trick is to be really organised, as you have to work quickly to stop the pastry from drying out. Make sure you have the pastry, some clingfilm, the spray oil, sliced apples, sweetener and cinnamon to hand. You may want to put the apple into a bag or cover it to stop it browning.

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Take a flan dish and spray with about 8 sprays of Frylight oil.


Take the first sheet of pastry and lay it gently over the flan dish, leaving the sides overhanging. Roll up the remaining sheets of pastry and cover with cling film to stop them drying out.


Arrange the apple slices in one layer covering the base of the dish.


Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of granular sweetener and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon over the apple.


Lay the second piece of pastry over the apple slices. Make sure the second piece is diagonal to the first one,
forming a cross shape.
Leave the sides overhanging.
Spray with a little Frylight oil.


Repeat with a second layer of apple, cinnamon and sweetener.


Cut the last piece of pastry in half. Place one half to cover the sliced apple, then gently bring the overhanging pastry up onto the top of the pie, letting it ripple and fold haphazardly. Tear the other half of the last piece of pastry into about 4 pieces and scatter them onto the middle of the pie. Give it volume and peaks, don't let it lie flat.
Spray with about 8 sprays of frylight oil.

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Place on a metal baking tray in a pre-heated oven (190C/375F/Gas 5) for 10 minutes, or until a beautiful golden colour.


Turn the oven down to 150C/300F/Gas 2, then bake the pie for 1 hour. This cooks the apple so that it is soft but still has a bite to it, and the layers of pastry will cook thoroughly, but won't colour any further. If you are using a ceramic flan dish, it's really important to place it on a metal baking tray so that the base cooks. If your flan dish is metal, this is not so important.


After an hour, remove from the oven and dust with 2 teaspoons of icing sugar.
(Sift it over the top for a fine, professional finish).
At this stage, the apple pie just reminds me of a beautiful mountain range, covered in light snow.


Serve warm.
The pie cuts and serves beautifully and by leaving the skin on the red apples, it is so pretty... pink-tinged edges contrasting with white apple and golden pastry.
It is as light as a feather.

The beauty of this apple pie is that it can be made in advance, then reheated in a low oven. It also freezes very successfully.

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Apple pie heaven!

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TIPS

You could add 30g Weightwatchers thick cream for an extra 1 propoint (43 kcal), or a low-fat topping of your choice. Just remember to weigh accurately and calculate the propoints or calories of anything you add.

*

If you have any excess pastry or apple, you could make a couple of individual pies in exactly the same way. If you use 1 sheet of pastry, it works out to 1-3pp for an individual pie (approx. 100kcal), depending on the size of your filo sheets.

*



Make some roses out of apple peel, then bake them for 20 minutes before adding as a garnish to the pie.
Sunday, 29 January 2012 - , , 8 comments

EUREKA MOMENT! : Portioned Pasta


I have previously written about apportioning pre-cooked, weighed food into cooked servings. (click HERE to see).
I have an aversion to weighing things more than is necessary due to my maths phobia and my need for an easy life. I mentioned that boil-in-the-bag rice had solved this particular problem for me, but that I was working on some ideas for pasta.
 Sometimes, you may want to cook yourself a separate, weighed portion from the rest of the family's...or you may have various members of the family wanting different amounts of pasta, so I think this is a great solution. It saves you having to re-weigh the pasta once cooked, so you only need to weigh it raw.

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I surfed the internet looking for pan dividers/drainers and the ones I found were mostly discontinued or exorbitant,(I'm talking £27 for 2 drainers!) So I got my thinking cap on and found these stainless steel cutlery drainers in Poundland!(Guess how much they were?) I can fit 3 of these into my stock pot, so am now able to cook 4 pre-weighed portions of pasta at once. (The last portion goes into the pan itself).


I've had a couple of really successful attempts, with most shapes of pasta, even with fine angel hair spaghetti.


 The beauty of the containers is that they act as drainers as well, so once the pasta is cooked, you literally remove the containers from the pan (with oven gloves), stand them in the sink to drain then pour the drained pasta straight into your serving bowls.


So, until I can afford my own range of Slice-of-slim kitchen products to make our lives easier, you'll have to put up with my mad ideas! 

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Good luck with your perfect portions people!

***

TIP
You could use this method for potatoes too.
Friday, 27 January 2012 - , , , , , 1 comments

SMASH & GRAB : Pretty Pavlovas


If you need cheering up after a hard day, or a friend pops in unexpectedly, or you just want to feel indulged without the guilt, then this is a perfect little treat. You could even serve these at a dinner party and I'm sure your guests would be very happy.

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I know what you're thinking. Why would I put this decadent-looking dish in the
"smash and grab" section of the blog?
 If I told you this plate of delightful little treats took me 5 minutes to prepare, I would be exaggerating. It took no more than 60 seconds!
 Think sweetness, creaminess, gooeyness and decadence.....and to top it all, one of these pretty pavlovas is only 1 propoint!
(around 65 calories). 

***

You will need:


A pretty plate and a good quality 
meringue nest.
(1 propoint or 52 calories).
Please note that 2 meringue nests are 3 propoints.


One pot of Weightwatchers
layered fromage frais.
(This dish is really, really sweet. If you prefer, you could use 0% fat greek yoghurt).



Dollop  a tablespoon of fromage frais 
onto the meringue.(Make sure you swirl some of the fruit puree through the fromage frais).

***

There is enough fromage frais in one pot to make 4 pavlovas. If you only eat one pavlova, you don't need to propoint the tablespoon of fromage frais. However, if you eat two pavlovas, you will need to charge 1 propoint for the fromage frais.
(For calorie counters, each pot is 47 calories, so calculate according to how much you consume).


Arrange fruit of your choice on the top. Keep it simple and delicate.
"Less is more".
If you are making more than one, make each one different.


Finally, embellish the plate with more fruit, then tuck in!


So, to recap;
One pavlova is 1 propoint
(or 65 calories).
 Two pavlovas is 4 propoints  
(3 pp for two meringues
plus 1 pp for the fromage frais).
(Around 150 calories).

***

Guilt-free decadence!

Thursday, 26 January 2012 - , 7 comments

CUPBOARD LOVE : Reduced Salt Soy Sauce


You may have noticed by now, that none of my recipes contain any neat salt in the list of ingredients. I love tasty food and enjoy finding ways to flavour the dishes I make without using it. I'm not a saint - along with herbs, spices, garlic, chilli, lemon and lime juice etc, I do use stock cubes and soy sauce for flavouring, but I always buy the reduced salt versions.

***

The main reason for this is that last year, whilst I was on my weightloss journey, my husband had a heart attack aged 50. Last year, he was very overweight and the biggest foodie you can imagine, with some bad eating habits and no intention of changing them. This is going to sound clichéd, but the heart attack was a huge wake-up call and he decided to act on the warning. In ten months, this man has lost 4 and a half stone on the Weightwatchers plan and has walked many many miles. He has taken responsibility for his eating habits and acquired an interest and knowledge of healthy foods. He has also reversed the damage to his heart and is extremely fit and well.
Awesome!

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I have always made tasty food, but now I am having to be a little more creative about the ways I flavour my recipes, especially as they are low-fat too. This has to be the way we eat for ever now so that we don't undo all our good work. I find this reduced salt soy sauce is an absolutely invaluable store cupboard ingredient.(Don't muddle it with 'light' soy sauce when you buy - this is merely thinner, not reduced salt). Obviously, I am careful with the amount I use as it does contain some salt, but the way I see it is that at least soy sauce has antioxidants which can help prevent cardiovascular disease, plus it is rich in lactic acid bacteria.

***

Try and think outside the box when using soy sauce. I don't use it solely in Chinese cooking (as you saw in my 'Magical mushroom soup' recipe). It gives a depth and richness to all sorts of dishes and you will often see it in my ingredients lists, so don't be surprised!

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 If you are making changes to your diet because you want to be slimmer or healthier, then alongside cutting the fat content right down, it really is worth cutting the salt down too. This can help to prevent, or lower high blood pressure which is one of the main causes of strokes and heart disease. I don't want to be a scare-monger but, like I said in my post about portions ("Problem solved: portion perfection"), we don't do ourselves or the people we love, any favours by overfeeding them. By reducing the fat and salt content in our foods too, we are doing all we can to live a long and healthy life.

***

Season with soy!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012 - 4 comments

USEFUL STUFF : Short Bamboo Skewers


It's always worth having some skewers in the house and these short ones are great because they fit into a griddle pan if you are making kebabs etc. I can't stand it when the long skewers hang over the edge of the pan as they lift the food up in certain areas and then it doesn't chargrill evenly. These are probably about a third shorter than the regular barbecue-style ones you see most frequently. Also, as you know, I have a bit of an aversion to grilling, so when I use a griddle pan, I don't have to presoak the skewers to stop them burning, as they are not in contact with the grill element.


Here's a little picture of them in use to whet your appetite, I'll share my chicken kebab recipe with you in coming weeks.....it's really yummy. The skewers are another great way to apportion weighed portions as I mentioned a couple of posts ago,("Problem solved: Portion perfection"). The presentation always looks really professional and interesting on the plate too. I also have a couple of lovely sweet ideas coming up which both use the skewers, so if you see some on your travels, try and stock up. I can't remember where I bought these short ones, but knowing me, it was probably a supermarket.

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MEMO-short skewers on the shopping list!

Monday, 23 January 2012 - , , 8 comments

RECIPE : Tuscan Fish Ragù


You will need:(serves 2)
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 medium aubergine
1 tin whole cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1/2 jar (350g) passata
1 teaspoon Candarel granular sweetener
1 pinch chilli flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried mixed Italian herbs
1 bay leaf
fresh basil leaves
black pepper
120g cod fillet
100g smoked haddock fillet
130g salmon fillet

***

I often get inspiration for my own recipes when I'm eating out, or if I'm on holiday. Somehow, food tastes better when someone else has prepared it for you..... and when you are on  holiday under the Mediterranean sun, even the simplest of foods can taste amazing! I have been known to cook pasta in mineral water on return from a holiday just trying to recreate that special 'something'! (I know-I'm totally bonkers!)
I ate a version of this fish ragù in a beautiful Italian seaside town called Viareggio a couple of years ago. It was a simple, rustic dish, served in the same small metal saucepan it had been baked in. Delicious, unpretentious and filling, I've recreated it many times since and it is always fabulous.....it tastes of sweet Tuscan tomatoes and sunshine.

***

I've given you the ingredients for 2 very generous portions. Served on its own, it is only 5 propoints per portion, (or approximately 400 calories per portion). You could serve with rice, pasta, or rustic bread -rubbed with garlic, sprayed with a little Frylight or olive oil, then oven-baked. Obviously, you would have to calculate the extra propoints or calories.

***

In a large frying pan, spray about 8-10 sprays Frylight sunflower oil. Slice the onion and garlic finely, cube the aubergine and fry until soft and browning. Add the tinned tomatoes, passata, puree and all the seasonings (chilli flakes to taste). Leave some fresh basil for the top when serving. You may think that candarel is an odd ingredient, but I always sweeten my tomato sauces, as it neutralises the acidity of the tomatoes. Allow to bubble on the hob for a few minutes.

***

Cube the fish into chunky pieces and weigh out the different types of fish evenly into 2 separate portions. I have a great cheat for this part of the recipe. Most supermarkets do pre-packed fish pie mixes......


......so, if you are time-short, or feeling lazy, this makes life SO easy as you can literally count out the pieces of fish as you add it to the dish. Check the propoints and calories though, as I have bought similar ones from different supermarkets and some work out to 5 and others 6 propoints per portion. (The listings shown are usually for half a pack, which is one portion).

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Now, yesterday's post was all about apportioning portions when serving, and I have found the easiest way to serve this dish, is to use individual oven-proof bowls. They need to be quite large, soup or spaghetti-type bowls. This way, you are not guessing how much to give each person, and also, the fish is not being moved around too much, so it stays lovely and chunky. Layer some of the hot tomato sauce into the bottom of each bowl, add the raw fish, dotted randomly on the top of the sauce, then layer more hot tomato sauce on top to cover the fish. Remember to take out the bay leaf.

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Bake uncovered in a hot oven; 190-200 degrees centigrade for 15 minutes. Because the fish is sandwiched between the layers of hot tomato sauce, it cooks quickly and remains beautifully succulent. The tomato sauce thickens and caramelizes around the edges of the dish, which makes it absolutely delicious. Garnish with a few freshly torn basil leaves just before you serve.

***

You can ring the changes with this dish by adding, or substituting seafood such as prawns, mussels and squid into the ragù. Just recalculate or adjust your propoints/calories accordingly. It always turns out beautifully.
This is a great, homely, every day meal but can also be 'dressed to impress' for a dinner party.
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 Bellissimo!


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Sunday, 22 January 2012 - , , 0 comments

PROBLEM SOLVED : Portion Perfection


One of the first and most obvious lessons I learned when I started my weightloss journey, was the importance of weighing foods and portion control. It may sound crazy, but I hadn't realised how much I had been overfeeding myself and my family, especially with foods such as rice and pasta. I have always associated food with nurture and love, and it makes me happy to see people enjoying the food I have prepared. Well- I can still get that kick by creating beautiful low-fat food, but I'm very careful to weigh everything now. We're not doing ourselves, or the people we love any favours by over-feeding them.

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Here's a problem you may or may not struggle with, but one I have encountered many times. I am gradually finding creative solutions for this one......

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More often than not, I am cooking for more than one person. I take great care in weighing out all my raw ingredients and working out portion sizes. When the dish is something like the pizza in my first recipe, or a chicken breast, serving an individual portion is easy. However, if you have made a large pot of bolognaise, beef bourguinon, casserole, or even pasta or rice, this is much more difficult, as you have to find a way of re-allocating those weighed portions evenly when you serve up the meal. I have found myself having to re-weigh cooked pasta or rice as the cooked weights have changed due to absorption of water, then  divide the cooked weight evenly between portions. I'm a bit of a maths-phobe, so too much weighing and calculating is no good for me!

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Rice is the easy one. I only use Uncle Ben's Boil-in-the-bag rice now, because it is pre-portioned AND you can keep the portions separate whilst cooking, then snip open and serve. No temptation to have seconds either. Easy peasy.
 I'm waiting for someone to invent boil-in-the-bag pasta but I haven't spotted it yet.


Actually, I've come up with a fantastic idea for perfect pasta portions-click HERE for the link to my EUREKA moment.

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As for Bolognaise Sauce...
(or Bloggynaise in my case)
...Basically, my solution is to make my sauce, let it cool, weigh it, then weigh and bag up individual portions of the sauce calculated to 3 propoints each,(or apply the same principle for calories) which I can then freeze and use as needed.
Click HERE for the recipe and detailed portion-weighing instructions.

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As for my beef bourguinon.....well, I love this solution!


This is a gorgeous recipe. It's from the Weightwatchers 'Simply Enjoy' book, p122. I can highly recommend it.
Now, the first time I made this, I found myself fishing around in the pan, having to guess how much meat to allocate each person when I served it, even though I had weighed it before I made the dish. The second time, I gave it some more thought....I had been lusting after some tiny individual
Le Creuset casseroles (in the photo at the top of this post), and had spotted them at the Bicester Village outlet shop! So....I treated myself to 4 of them. Choosing the colours was agony! There are loads to choose from and I couldn't decide whether to be all co-ordinated and matchy matchy with my kitchen, or to go for 4 total mismatches..... well you can see what I went for and I LOVE and ADORE my little mismatched pots and I know I will use them for so many different dishes, both savoury and sweet......It's also a very interesting conversation starter because people are intrigued as to why you have picked a certain colour for them!
I had special guests coming, so I used fillet steak so I could guarantee soft, melt-in-the-mouth tenderness, and then I could afford to keep the beef in chunkier pieces as it wouldn't be tough. I weighed the meat and cut it as accurately as I could into 4 even, chunky pieces per person. I cooked it altogether in one pot, but when I served it, I could easily find those 4 pieces of beef per person again, put them in the individual casseroles, then spooned the sauce over the top. Simple! Obviously, you don't have to go to the expense of the little casseroles but it is such a fun and attractive way to serve this dish and many others too.

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As my recipes come up, I'll share with you the best ways to apportion them out if I have had tricky times with them. Another dish like that is my Tuscan fish stew, but as I'm giving you that recipe this week , I'll explain how to do it then.

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Hopefully there's another problem solved! 

Friday, 20 January 2012 - , 10 comments

FRIDAY FIND : Happy Snacking!


I've just discovered this "guilt free snacking" range in Marks and Spencer. I can't rave about it enough, and I couldn't wait until next week to mention it, so have sneaked in a little extra bonus post today.

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There are loads of varieties of snack within the range, both savoury and sweet. M&S have been really innovative and creative - these treats make a fabulous change from all the regular snacks I use. 
They are all packaged in individual portion sizes within a multipack.


Snacking is a very important part of the day and there is absolutely no point in depriving yourself, as you will just crave snacks even more. Just build them into your day and enjoy them within your chosen limits. If you are going to follow the plan for the rest of your life (which I intend to do), you have to change your mindset from "diet" to "healthy eating". Let's face it, you are not going to go through the rest of your life without treats and snacks, so find ones you love that minimise the damage.
I am going to reveal that I often have a NORMAL bag of Malteasers with a cup of coffee. They are 5 propoints or 187kcal per bag, and that is my choice. To me, they are worth those treat points. That's the same as a glass of wine and I would always rather have the chocolate! What I am saying is : You will go insane if you deprive yourself of the things you love for ever, so enjoy them in moderation then they're not such a novelty!
(Ok, I'll get off my soapbox now).

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One of the habits I've adopted on my weightloss (and maintenance of weightloss) journey, is to work out the propoints when I get home and write them on the packaging (see picture above), then I don't have to recalculate every time I want something. Please note that I also calculate how many propoints two bags would add up to because I know I'm likely to want another! AND more often than not, the propoints do not naturally double up to a logical number- it's OFTEN a point more, or a point less than you might think for two or more portions. This is very true for many of the Weightwatchers products too.... so PLEASE CHECK!!!!!!Sometimes it works in your favour and at other times it doesn't-don't leave it to guesswork as you could get into trouble with the propoints police!

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Most of the M&S snacks seem to come out to 3pp (around 95kcal)for the first bag, then 2pp for the second one. However,the chocolatey ones are mostly 3pp or 4pp (around 125-135kcal) per bag, then 7pp for two.
Please do your own checks.... I'm just drawing your attention to the product.

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Yumsville!