Tuesday, 28 February 2012 - 0 comments

USEFUL STUFF : Measuring Spoons


If you are serious about losing weight, or maintaining a healthy weight, it is imperative that you have a decent set of measuring spoons in your kitchen. Please don't think you can 'get by' with a regular teaspoon or dessertspoon....and do not venture into the 'guessing zone'.....
"That'll do" will definitely not do!

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It is so EASY to add propoints or calories unintentionally, really quickly, especially with ingredients like olive oil or sesame seeds.
For example;

1 teaspoon olive oil = 1pp (40 kcal)
2 teaspoons olive oil = 3pp (80 kcal)

1 teaspoon sesame seeds = 1pp (16 kcal)
3 teaspoons sesame seeds = 2pp (48kcal)

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Every day utensils do vary in size, but proper measuring spoons will give you an EXACT amount every time, and you can level the ingredient accurately too so that it is not a heaped portion.
This may sound really pedantic to you, but if you are guessing your ingredients on a daily basis, you can see how quickly those little extra propoints or calories can mount up. This can take you over your allowance without you realising....just a couple of extra daily propoints adds up to 14 extra per week!.... Then you will wonder why you are unsuccessful at the scales!
Please measure condiments like ketchup and mayonnaise too-then you don't have to go without because you can build them into your allocation.

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I particularly like this set of measuring spoons, as they have a 'slim' end for narrow spice jars and bottles etc., plus they go down to 1/4 of a teaspoon in size. These were around £5 from Lakeland. They are magnetic so do stack rather pleasingly and don't end up all over the drawer....good thinking!


Measure for measure = success!

RECIPE : Pink Smoked Salmon with Celeriac and Beetroot Salads


I find I am often inspired to create dishes I have eaten in a restaurant. Sometimes, one element of a dish might inspire me, or I might try to recreate a healthier version of something I have tasted.
This weekend, I ate beetroot-cured smoked salmon in my favourite local restaurant (Church Street Town House in Sratford-Upon-Avon). The colour was so fantastic, I had to have a go myself! I am not a chef and would not profess to have any clever cooking techniques to hand. I am a pretty confident 'every-day' home cook. I tend to look at recipe books and watch cookery programmes for inspiration, but I rarely follow recipes religiously as I like to invent my own dishes.

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So....I don't know how to cure salmon, but I know it involves salt, which we try to avoid in excessive amounts. I decided to experiment with the ingredients I already had. I had some cooked baby beetroots at home. I chopped one up into a bowl, poured some hot water onto it, let it cool, then put some smoked salmon into the pink juice. I popped it in the fridge, left it to marinade for a couple of hours and hey-presto! I had beautiful bright pink beetroot-stained salmon!

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I served it with some crispbread as a light, but very substantial lunch, with a celeriac 'coleslaw' and a beetroot and spring-onion salad.
The colours, flavours and textures work as an incredible trio. Creamy, white, lemony, crunchy celeriac. Magenta, soft, smoky salmon and dark burgundy, earthy, peppery beetroot with vibrant little spring onions.

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The following recipes are enough for 2 servings. Each serving is 3 propoints (approx 210 kcal). This is for 60g salmon plus BOTH salads. Add the propoints or calories for your choice of crispbread.
This dish is wonderful with Swedish-style crispbreads. (Ryvita is 1pp or 35 kcal per slice). You will probably need 2-3 crispbreads.

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You will need: (For 2 portions)

FOR THE PINK SALMON;
(3pp approx 70kcal per portion)
120g smoked salmon
1 small cooked beetroot
a bowl of boiled, hot water

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As I described above, marinade the salmon in the cooled, pink beetroot juice for a couple of hours, then lift the salmon out of the juice to serve. Throw the beetroot and juice away.

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FOR THE CELERIAC 'COLESLAW'
(0pp approx. 80kcal per portion)
half a small celeriac
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra light mayonnaise
black pepper

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Poor celeriac-it was not blessed with good looks! However, once peeled and prepared, it does redeem itself! Again, I tried it in a restaurant fairly recently and was inspired to buy some. This salad is now one of my favourites. The flavour and texture seems to work particularly well with smoked salmon.
Cut all the gnarly brown outside off until you are left with a clean, white vegetable.


Now it looks more attractive, grate coarsely.


Mix with the lemon juice, mayonnaise and black pepper.

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FOR THE BEETROOT SALAD;
(0pp approx. 60 kcal per portion)
4 cooked baby beetroot
2 spring-onions
balsamic vinegar
black pepper

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Cube the baby beetroots. Slice the spring-onions. Mix with a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and plenty of ground black pepper.

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Arrange all three elements to this dish carefully on the plate. It can't fail to look attractive and is a healthy, filling and nutritious light meal.

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Scrumliscious!
Sunday, 26 February 2012 - , , , , , , , 3 comments

SMASH & GRAB : Strawberry and Grape 'Fruitypops'




These look far too posh to be in the SMASH & GRAB section, but they are so easy to make I had to put them here!
These chocolate-dipped fruits are so pretty and vibrant, look very professional and are a lovely treat, especially for the weekend.

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If you have friends or family who are watching their weight or like to eat low fat food, this is a thoughtful, healthy treat and will be much appreciated.
They are also fun to make (and eat!) with kids.

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I often make them, wrap them in cellophane like a 'fruit bouquet' for little thank you gifts. 


They are an unexpected change from chocolates or wine and are much less propoints or calories!

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YOU WILL NEED:(For each 5 fruitypops)

5 strawberry 'fruitypops' are 2 pp/approx.100 kcal for the WHOLE LOT.

 5 large chilled strawberries
(Choose beautifully-shaped strawberries with healthy, pretty leaves on).
8g good quality plain chocolate
1-2 teaspoons sugar sprinkles
Bamboo skewers


Weigh out the ingredients and pop into small dishes.


Leave the green foliage on the strawberries but remove the spiky stalk using scissors.


Thread the strawberries onto the skewers carefully so that they 'sit' perfectly, like lollipops.


Melt the chocolate in a pan over hot water or in the microwave. If microwaving, go slowly, in short 10 second bursts on half power, so that it doesn't 'catch' and burn.
With a teaspoon, carefully coat the top third of each strawberry with chocolate, then dip the end into the sprinkles.
You only need a few, just to add a little colour. 


Pop into a glass or pretty jug to dry and display.

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Grapes work beautifully too - especially 3 skewered together like exotic flowers, or little stacked psychedelic acorns!


Have some fun with this idea-make mixed bouquets or leave a jugful on the table in the kitchen for people to help themselves to as they pass.


Pretty, funky, fruitypops!

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TIPS


Add a 'snow-capped' white chocolate top for Christmas fruitypops. Just remember to calculate the propoints/calories for the white chocolate.


Make little Christmas bundles for friends.


Fruitypops make a fantastic impact for a celebration. Make a base using florists' oasis. Arrange a huge display and wrap in spotty cellophane.


I also added some little elongated flags and miniature bunting made with skewers and washi tape to mine.

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Here's my little film on YouTube which shows you how to make these...
Click HERE to see.
Don't forget to subscribe to my channel so you don't miss out on any future recipe tutorials!

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Friday, 24 February 2012 - , , 0 comments

CUPBOARD LOVE : Perfect Shake PIRI PIRI


This is one of the most invaluable little pots of spices in my spice drawer. I've tried quite a few varieties and mixes, and this is definitely my favourite one. It's a fabulous  blend of dried chillies, onion and garlic, dried citrus fruits and herbs. It's available in all the major supermarkets.

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I use it in so many dishes -to add to soups, sprinkle over salads, mix with tinned tuna or prawns for a little spicy boost.
My favourite use for it is to sprinkle it quite generously on a piece of salmon before wrapping in foil and baking. It seems to cut through and balance the right amount of fiery kick without blowing your head off! So simple, yet so effective.

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It's a great way to add flavour without adding propoints!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012 - 0 comments

USEFUL STUFF : The Humble Lemon Squeezer


I watch a great deal of cookery programmes on T.V and I am a big fan of many of the famous chefs. There seems to be trend at the moment to squeeze lemons by hand (through the fingers of the other hand), so that the fingers 'sift' out the pips.

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The problem I have with this technique, is that I use lemons and limes in many of my recipes for strong, vibrant flavours. I find that the juice eventually makes my skin sore if I don't use a lemon squeezer, especially on my fingers if I haven't taken my rings off.
Also, there is no waste if you squeeze the fruits properly, and you are pretty much guaranteed to retrieve the pips efficiently with a squeezer. There's nothing worse than crunching down on a bitter little stray pip that has found its way into your delicious dish!

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Easy-peasy lemon squeezy!
Tuesday, 21 February 2012 - , , , , , , 4 comments

RECIPE : Pancake Pie


Well....I had to do a pancake post didn't I?...but this recipe is an unusual way to present such a humble little foodstuff. 

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I'm going to show you a really pretty and delicious crispy pancake 'pie' (shown above), with a salmon, dill, lemon and creme fraiche filling for 8 propoints (approx 330 kcal) per portion). 

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Before we do anything creative, let's master the basics of the pancakes . They are so quick, easy and fun to make and such a versatile base to many flavour combinations. They are pretty low in propoints too....preparing for this post has made me realise I should make them more often!


The Basic Pancake Recipe

You will need:
A small individual omelette pan
125g plain flour
1 medium egg
300ml skimmed or unsweetened light soya milk

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This recipe makes 12-13 small pancakes at 1 propoint (approx.50 kcal each). The propoints do not multiply in logical increments, so I have calculated the multiples for you...1 pancake=1pp, 2=2pp, 3=4pp, 4=5pp, 5=6pp, 6=7pp, 7=9pp, 8=10pp, 9=11pp, 10=12pp, 11=13pp, 12=15pp, 13=16pp). I'm sure you wouldn't eat all 13, but interesting to see the calculations!

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Start by sifting the flour into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and break the egg into it. Start to whisk the egg, bringing small amounts of flour from the edges of the well, mixing thoroughly. When it gets too hard to mix any further, gradually add the milk, whisking constantly, until you have a lovely smooth batter.


Put the batter in a jug with a measuring cup.


Spray the pan with Frylight sunflower oil and heat until really hot. The trick with pancakes is a very hot pan so that they cook very quickly. Once the pan is hot, ladle 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Swill the batter fast to cover the base of the pan. As soon as little holes start appearing,(above),flip over. They cook in a few seconds.


Spray a couple of sprays of Frylight oil in the pan between each pancake. Make the whole batch of pancakes, then the fun can begin!

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For the filling;

You will need:(per portion)
1 individual loose-bottomed metal flan dish
2 pancakes
100g smoked fillet of salmon
(not to be confused with smoked salmon)
30g Weightwatchers creme fraiche
a generous squeeze of lemon
a few small sprigs of fresh dill
ground black pepper
paprika to garnish

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Spray the base of the metal flan dish with frylight sunflower oil. Line with one pancake. Cook the fillet of salmon, either by poaching, cooking in foil in the oven for 10 minutes, or, if you are time-short, put in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and microwave for 2 minutes. Flake the cooked salmon with a fork, then mix together with the creme fraiche, dill and lemon juice. Season to taste with black pepper.
Pop the filling into the 'pie'.


Place the second pancake on the top, press down, especially around the edges of the filling. Spray with frylight oil. 


Bake in a hot oven (220 degrees) for 15-20 minutes until the pancake is crispy.

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Gently lift out of the flan dish to serve. Garnish with a small sprig of fresh dill and a shake of paprika. This is quite light, so would make a lovely starter or light meal served with a fresh salad, or on a bed of lightly wilted spinach.
The finished result is a frilly, crispy outside, contrasted with a smokey, lemony, fragrant and creamy filling. A perfect blend of flavours and textures.

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The beauty of this little 'pie', is that the filling variations are endless, both savoury and sweet.
Have some fun experimenting...

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HANDY TIP: Make some extra salmon filling and allow to cool. If you make the amount described in the recipe, it's 6pp .(approx.230 kcal). This makes a stunning pate. Just pop into a sandwich or on some crisp breads with a handful of rocket.


Fabulous!

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Sunday, 19 February 2012 - , , , , , , , , 3 comments

SOMETHING FOR NOTHING : Incredible Vegetable Soup 2 ways


Todays post brings you two recipes in one!
This stunning bowl of thick vegetable soup kind of invented itself the other day when I was making some vegetable stock. I was going to say that one was the 'by-product' of the other, but that would be denigrating them both, as they are equally delicious as starters or meals in their own right.

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So, having planned a blog post featuring clear, vegetable stock, the resulting 'happy accident' wins top spot and feature photo for its sheer beauty, flavour and inspiration!

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The soups work out to 4 propoints (or approx.670 kcal) for THE WHOLE 2 PANS.
(0pp per bowl).
I have worked out approximate calorie content according to the exact vegetables and quantity I made, but you will have to calculate accordingly if you choose to use alternative vegetables. It's quite hard for me to calculate the calories for an individual bowl of soup, as the clear broth will obviously have less than the thick soup, so I would charge a small amount for the clear soup, then divide the total calories left by the number of thick bowls of soup you finally produce).

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This recipe will make a clear but tasty, thin broth with a beautiful flavour not dissimilar to traditional clear chicken soup. This is a great base for other recipes, but also works well as a dish its own right. I will give you some serving suggestions later on.
The thicker, featured soup has a mild curry flavour and, when presented as shown in the photo, has a deep, full flavour and garnishes that will make your tastebuds sing and dance! I'm feeling that it has both Indian and Morroccan influences. All I can say is that these unusual combinations really work....and I hope that you love it as much as I do.

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You will need:

A large stockpot, plus a medium saucepan.
4 red onions
1 onion
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 sticks celery
3 leeks
8 medium carrots
8-10 teaspoons reduced salt vegetable bouillon powder
white pepper
black pepper
2-3 teaspoons medium curry powder

For serving the thin broth;

very finely sliced carrot
vermicelli (2pp/72kcal per 20g 'nest')


For serving the thick soup;

 reduced fat creme fraiche
fresh coriander
fresh pomegranate seeds

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Fill the stockpot about 3/4 with water and add all the vegetables, roughly sliced and chopped along with 4-5 teaspoons stock, white and black pepper to taste, and bring to the boil.


Put a lid on and allow to simmer for an hour or so, even longer if you have time. Switch off and allow to cool slightly (just so that you are not handling boiling hot stock).

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Strain all of the clear liquid into a medium saucepan, season to taste with a little more white pepper and stock powder if necessary. This is a clear stock, but should not have an insipid flavour.


It is lovely served simply, like this.
I allow 20g (one little 'nest') of vermicelli per person (2pp/72kcal). I cook a few fresh, thinly sliced carrots with the pasta which look beautiful floating about gently in the clear stock.


Another favourite in my house, is tofu and pasta cooked 'in brodo',
(Italian for broth),
whereby you actually boil the pasta with the cubed tofu in the broth so that it absorbs the flavours. Obviously, you serve the pasta and tofu in the cooking liquid rather than draining it off.

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You could also freeze the stock in portions, or even ice-cube trays, to add to recipes such as gravy or sauces where you would normally add a stock cube.

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Now, for the thick soup!
Add a little fresh water to the vegetables remaining in the pan and 'blitz' with a hand held blender until thick and smooth. If it's too thick, add a little more water until it's the consistency you like. Season with some vegetable bouillon and white and black pepper to taste. You could serve it like this, as a thick, tasty, robust vegetable soup.

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If you like curry, you will love this version! Just add 2-3 teaspoons of curry powder to the soup. I use medium which gives it a good but manageable kick. If you want it milder, or stronger, use which ever you prefer. Play around with the flavours until you are happy. You might want to add some low-salt soy sauce, some chilli flakes, or even some fresh chilli.

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Fanfare for the beautiful bit!
When you serve this soup, make sure it is thick enough so that the garnish can 'sit' on the surface. It actually reminds me of a dhal without the lentils, so I like it to be pretty thick in consistency.


Blend 1 teaspoon reduced fat creme fraiche with a little water so that it is the consistency of single cream. Drizzle it in a rough spiral on the soup. If it 'blobs' and 'drips' don't worry, this just adds to its rustic charm. Then take a skewer or sharp knife, and 'feather' the creme fraiche. Do this by drawing lines along the surface of the soup from the centre of the bowl to the outside of the bowl about 5 times, then back the other way from the outside of the bowl back to the centre of the bowl, in-between the first strokes you have made. The easiest way to describe it, is a spiders web design.


Roughly scatter some fresh coriander leaves, then sprinkle some fresh pomegranate seeds in the centre. This may sound like a strange addition, but think of serving mango chutney with curry -spicy with sweet just works! The fresh pomegranate 'croutons' seem to 'pop' on your tongue, releasing a sweet but earthy juice that compliments the thick, hot curry soup and the cooling, gentle creme fraiche.

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It's a match made in heaven!
(Well, my kitchen, actually).

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HANDY TIP: If you have the centres of courgette left over from julienning strips for courgette salad or 'courgetti-spaghetti',(see post;'BLOGGYNAISE UPDATE!:Courgetti-Spaghetti') you could put this in the soup, to save any wastage.

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