Saturday, 31 March 2012 - , , , , , , 2 comments

SMASH & GRAB : Quick Homemade 'Grissini'


Another use for a Warburton's Square-ish wrap! It never ceases to amaze me that the same food, presented in a variety of ways can be so appealing! 

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These take a couple of minutes to prepare, 10 minutes to bake and are delicious with a small pot of houmous, or some homemade soup.(See posts; Magical Mushroom Soup, or Incredible Vegetable Soup 2 ways).
They are also a great accompaniment to a little pot of Philadelphia-either the extra light variety or the chocolate one,
or just a yummy 4pp (159kcal) snack that lasts a while!


Take 1 wrap (4pp or 159kcal).
With kitchen scissors you use for food prep, cut into strips about 1cm wide. I cut across the short side, then I get more 'grissini', as the wraps are slightly oblong. 
Put a sheet of greaseproof paper on a baking tray. Spray both sides of the 'grissini' with Frylight Sunflower oil.
Bake for 10-15 minutes at about 200 degrees centigrade until light golden and crisp.
Once baked, they become rigid so will stand beautifully in a glass or ceramic container for serving.


The picture above shows the amount made from one wrap- about 20 individual 'grissini'.

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HANDY TIP

Make batches of these and store them in an airtight container. They will keep for a few days.

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Crunchy sticks of yumminess.

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Friday, 30 March 2012 - 0 comments

USEFUL STUFF : Palm Peeler


I've just discovered this fabulous range of products on sale in Sainsburys. They are designed by an inventor called David.A.Holcomb and the range is called Chef'n.
The first product I'm reviewing is a vegetable peeler. It cost £4. It's a standard peeler blade that we are all used to, but the gadget fits comfortably on the index finger, so makes peeling an absolute cynch.


Using the peeler is very intuitive and it feels safer than a standard peeler as your fingers are more protected by the plastic cover.


The blade is really sharp, so peeling is speedy and the best thing about this gadget is that is can be cleaned in the dishwasher.
I also bought a dinky palm-held zester which I'll review next week.

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Happy peeling!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012 - , , , , 0 comments

CARPE DIEM-Seize the Day!


We are having unusually warm and glorious weather at the moment....so here is a little bonus post for you this week as I had a moment of serendipity I had to share with you!
I was driving home today, planning some boring chores for the afternoon, when my son called me. "Why don't you pick up a disposable barbecue on your way?" he suggested. Within 30 minutes of my return, we had prepared the most delicious, low-fat, low point/calorie feast and ate lunch in the sunshine together.

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Just because you want to shift some excess pounds, or maintain a healthy weight, please don't feel like you have to miss out on fabulous food, or spontaneous moments. It is so easy to eat beautiful, tasty meals within your allocated points or calories- especially if you see it as a challenge rather than a chore!
I'll show you what we had, but use your imagination and create your own feasts.

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We had:


Vegetable and pineapple kebabs; (2 each) red onion, white onion, red pepper and pineapple threaded onto bamboo skewers. 
0 propoints/approx 30kcal each


Giant Portobello mushrooms, seasoned with crushed garlic, chilli flakes and black pepper (rubbed into the underside of the mushroom with a teaspoon).
0 propoints/ approx 20kcal each.


Half fat Halloumi cheese cut into chunky slices for barbecueing.
The whole 125g pack was 14 propoints or approx 600 kcal.  It cut into 12 slices. So it's roughly 1 propoint( approx. 50kcal) per slice. If you have more than 4 slices, then it goes up to 6pp for 5 slices. Four slices should be ample per person, it's creamy, rich and salty. Think of it as an accompaniment to the other dishes. It works incredibly well with the soft, earthy, peppery, garlic mushrooms.

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We also had vegetarian sausages which worked out to 2 propoints (70kcal) each. We had 2 each which was 4 propoints. After that, the propoints don't multiply logically, so please work out points carefully if you have more than 2. Do your own careful calculations for meat sausages, chicken, or whatever else you may wish to eat from your barbecue.

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So....that whole main course was 8 propoints (aprox. 450 kcal) each.

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The Cooking Bit.....


The trick with barbecues is patience. Do not start cooking your food until the flames have died down completely, and all you are left with is smoke and white coals.


We lightly sprayed all the food with Frylight sunflower oil. We cooked half the food to start with as it was a small barbie. Then, we cooked the second round whilst we were eating. All the foods we cooked needed roughly the same cooking time, so we just fitted everything on together.


The smoke just lapped and curled its way around the food, cooking it to absolute perfection.


The halloumi won't let you flip it over until its ready. You think it is going to stick, then all of a sudden, it forms a chargrilled crust and hey presto-a little easing with a metal fish slice and over it goes!


At one point, we were a little short of space, so we put the mushrooms garlic-side down on top of the kebabs. The mushrooms then 'steamed' and their garlic favours infused with the kebabs- a happy little genius moment! (We still chargrilled the base of the mushrooms).

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Onto pudding!

There is something about eating 'alfresco' that seems to increase the appetite, but that's fine!
Here is a 1 propoint dessert...
(Approx. 130 kcal)


We slit the skin of two bananas. (Allowing  1 banana per person). We wrapped them individually in foil and put them on the barbie as we ate our main course. We flipped them over once so both sides cooked. Then we placed them on plates in the foil.


Using the very last of the heat from the coals, we threaded sugar-free marshmallows onto bamboo skewers and held them carefully over the heat until the edges browned. These are 5 kcal each. You can have up to 6 sugar-free marshmallows for 1 propoint.


We opened up the foil, revealing a warm, creamy banana and ate it with the toasted marshmallows....heaven!

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That whole 2 course meal was 9 propoints (under 600kcal) per person. We felt happy, full up and more than satisfied with our delicious feast.

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Let's hope this weather continues long enough for you to enjoy your own barbie-liscious moments!

Monday, 26 March 2012 - , , , 0 comments

RECIPE : Simple Squid Spaghetti


This little dish is absolutely delicious, and is extremely simple to make. If you close your eyes and taste it, you will be transported to the Italian sunshine, by the sea! The simplicity of the ingredients in the sauce are the key to the beauty of this dish; fresh tomatoes, crushed garlic, dried chilli, torn basil and chargrilled squid. That's it.
Five ingredients with distinctive flavours which, when combined, offer a little taste of heaven.

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This recipe works out to 8 propoints (approx.370kcal) per portion. That's 2 propoints (approx.130kcal) per serving for the sauce and 6 propoints (240kcal) per serving of pasta. I have used 60g pasta per person, but you can use the quantity of pasta you wish. Just remember to calculate the propoints or calories if you use more.
Each 10g pasta is 1pp (40kcal).

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You will need:(serves 2)

1 200g pack chargrilled squid
Most supermarkets have this, M&S do a lovely version.(You can buy raw squid rings if you prefer and chargrill yourself)
2 cloves crushed garlic
Pinch dried chilli flakes
1 small punnet baby plum/cherry tomatoes
Fresh basil leaves
2-4 tablespoons water

Two 60g portions angel hair spaghetti
(Vermicelli nests work well too-three 20g nests per portion)

Black pepper

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Pop the tomatoes, garlic, dried chilli flakes  in a frying pan with a little frylight oil. Fry on a medium heat until the tomatoes soften. Gently 'burst' the tomatoes by squashing with a wooden spoon, so that the sweet juices release and mix with the fragrant crushed garlic and pungent chilli.


Add the cooked squid, torn basil leaves and 2-4 tablespoons water.


While the sauce cooks and bubbles gently, cook the angel hair spaghetti or vermicelli nests. (Click HERE to see post on how to cook pre- weighed portions). This takes 4 minutes.
 Divide the sauce evenly between two serving dishes. Add the portioned pasta to the sauce and mix thoroughly. The sauce should be quite loose so that, when you add the cooked pasta to the dish, it absorbs some of the garlicky liquid.


Top with a couple of basil leaves and some freshly ground black pepper.

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Inhale, eat and enjoy!

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UPDATE!

This is also absolutely delicious served cold for 2pp/130kcal per portion.
I served it with my Julienned courgette salad. You can find the recipe for the salad by clicking HERE. It will come up as part of the Chicken Kebab recipe.

SMASH & GRAB : Noodles with Vibrant Vegetables


I featured straight-to-wok noodles this week in my CUPBOARD LOVE section. This dish literally takes a few minutes to prepare. You could potentially be eating within 5-10 minutes of walking in the door.

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If you take a look at the post; CUPBOARD LOVE: Straight-to-Wok Noodles, ( Click HERE to view) it explains the various types of noodles you can buy, plus calculated propoints and calories for each variant. They seem to range between 4-6 propoints per packet,(or 190-250 calories), depending on which type you choose.
Personally, I find one individual portion of noodles sufficient because I pack this dish full of vegetables, but you may want two if you are really hungry. Please make a note of my calculations for two bags as the propoints don't 'double up' logically. If you are using a different brand or type of noodle, please calculate carefully.
With your chosen selection of vegetables, you can see this is a pretty low point/calorie meal.


You will need:(per portion)

1 pack Straight-to-Wok noodles of your choice
Frylight Sunflower oil
Reduced salt soy sauce
A selection of brightly coloured vegetables, eg;
red onion
red/yellow pepper
spring onions
courgette
broccoli
mushrooms
garlic

Black pepper 


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 Start by spraying the pan with Frylight Sunflower oil, then stir-fry the noodles with 1 tablespoon reduced salt soy sauce. Cook the noodles on their own in the pan for a few minutes so that they absorb the soy sauce and start to 'catch' and go a little crispy.


 Add the chopped vegetables and a little more soy sauce. I like to keep the veggies fairly chunky and I don't cook them for too long- just a few minutes, so that they retain their bright colours and don't go soggy.


I've also found that spring onions are MUCH sweeter and tastier if cut into long sections, about 4-5 cms long rather than finely sliced....absolutely delicious.



After a few minutes of stir-frying the combined ingredients, put the noodles and the vegetables in the serving dish and eat with chopsticks. This will slow your pace of consumption down and you should fill up more efficiently.


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This is one of those dishes that is so adaptable-there are infinite variations,
depending on the vegetables you have available, and whether you wish to add chicken, prawns, beef or even a sauce.(Remember to calculate the propoints or calories for any fish or meat or sauce you add).
You can also play around with herbs and spices according to your personal taste.

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HANDY TIPS:


If I have enough points, I sometimes mix 20g reduced-fat peanut butter with a little boiled water and some chilli flakes then add it to this dish just before I serve it. This is an extra 3pp or 109 kcal but makes a rich, creamy satay sauce and takes this dish from a simple, everyday snack to a meal made in heaven!


Another idea is to mix 2 different types of noodles together, stir-frying one type until they are crispy, then adding rice noodles and leaving them soft. I call this "crispy/soggy noodles". This is a lovely accompaniment to salmon or chicken, or delicious on its own as a meal, perhaps with a few mushrooms thrown in.

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A really simple, speedy bowl of yumminess.

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Friday, 23 March 2012 - , 2 comments

CUPBOARD LOVE : Straight to Wok Noodles


Pre-cooked noodles are an absolute must for the larder! I always keep some of these in stock. They are individually packaged into single portions, so make life really easy if you are tired or short of time but want something filling and yummy.


They are great for quick stir-fries and are very low fat too. There are loads of varieties and they all have different characteristics,  which I will describe later in this post. 

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When I stir-fry noodles, I always use Frylight Sunflower oil and low-salt soy sauce.
Here are my propoint calculations for a selection of the noodles I use most frequently. Please note my calculations are based on the AMOY brand, and other brands may vary. Please check the propoints and calories very carefully if you use something I haven't mentioned below, particularly if you eat more than one packet.
(The points don't double up logically).
Some varieties also come in a gluten-free option. 

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The MEDIUM noodles (featured above)are;
6pp/240kcal for 1 packet and 13pp/480kcal for 2 packets.
These are great for stir-frying. They go crispy  if you cook them for long enough, but are also delicious soft.

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The UDON noodles are;
5pp/207 kcal for 1 packet and 11pp/414kcal for 2 packets.
These also stir-fry well but won't go crispy as they are thick.

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The RICE RIBBON noodles are;
5pp/194kcal for 1 packet and 10pp/388kcal for 2 packets.
These stir-fry well and will crisp to a certain extent, but are also lovely soft.

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The RICE noodles are;
4pp/162kcal for 1 packet and 9pp/324 for 2 packets.
These do not stir-fry successfully as they go sticky and clog together if cooked for too long. They are wonderful in clear soups. (I just put them, cold, into the bottom of my serving dish, then pour hot soup on top. The heat of the soup warms up the noodles).

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Obviously, there is a huge variety of ingredients which can be added to noodles to make some fabulous dishes. I'll be featuring some of my favourite stir-fry ideas in the SMASH & GRAB section as they only take a few minutes to make.

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Oodles of noodles!
  

Wednesday, 21 March 2012 - 0 comments

USEFUL STUFF : Handheld Blender


If you don't already have one of these, it is an absolute must for the kitchen. I use my handheld blender most days-for blitzing homemade soups, sauces etc.

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The beauty of this gadget, is that you can pop it straight into the cooking pot you are using so there is no need to transfer hot food and liquids between containers. I am quite a klutz, so if I can avoid spillages and burns I'm on a roll!

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I have recommended this one before. It's only £5 from the Sainsbury's basics range. I would suggest that you allow food to cool slightly and take the pan off the hob before blitzing, as I have melted and bent one of these out of shape by being a little over-enthusiastic.
As I use mine so much, I may invest in a slightly more expensive one with a metal end on it in the future, as it's a false economy to keep buying cheap ones!

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Happy blitzday!

Monday, 19 March 2012 - , , , , , , 2 comments

SOMETHING FOR NOTHING : Ratatouille Stacks


Before I even say anything, just look at the colours and the vibrancy of this dish! How anyone can say that healthy food is boring, or that eating a low-fat diet is a life sentence never ceases to amaze me! Since I have been on my weight loss journey, I think that I am more inspired than ever to make the food I prepare really exciting, colourful and tasty. I hope that if you make some of my recipes, that you will start to feel the same.

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Pixar Animation®/Disney®
The inspiration for these ratatouille stacks originally came from my love of the kids' film, 'Ratatouille' (Pixar Animation®/Disney®). The piece-de-resistance dish in the film (cooked and served by a cartoon chef rat!)is a rather amazing layered version of this well-known dish.

Pixar Animation®/Disney®
When the harsh restaurant critic, Anton Ego, sits down to try the ratatouille, he is transported on a nostalgic journey through his childhood with each mouthful he takes...the food evoking wonderful, emotional memories for him.

Pixar Animation®/Disney®
This scene sums up, for me, exactly what good food is really about. I think that anyone with a love (or obsession) for food is looking for these warm associations of love and comfort, flavour and satisfaction and maybe a little nostalgia-that feeling of "coming home", thrown in. I believe it is one of the triggers for comfort eating, as we are constantly seeking that 'fix'.
(The true meaning of nostalgia is...'a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations').
So, if we can try and evoke those feelings with delicious, nutritious, filling food we've cracked it-right?

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This dish makes a wonderful accompaniment to main courses such as chicken kebabs, salmon etc. It is 0 propoints (around 50 kcal per stack). It is very easy to prepare.

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You will need:(for 2 portions)
Frylight Sunflower oil
6 slices aubergine
6 slices courgette
6 baby plum tomatoes
fresh basil

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For the sauce:
 Remainder of pack of baby plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon granular sweetener
sprig fresh basil
black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato puree

(Alternative lazy version for the sauce;
passata mixed with sweetener, tomato puree and seasoned with black pepper)

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Start by slicing the aubergine and courgette into chunky, but thin slices (about 1/2 cm thick). This is important as you want the vegetables to cook thoroughly, but not go floppy so that they will stack and hold their shape beautifully.


 Spray a griddle pan with Frylight sunflower oil and griddle the aubergine, courgette and tomatoes until well-browned on both sides.
While the veggies are cooking, make the tomato sauce. You can make this sauce two ways. If you are time short, just combine some thick passata with a little tomato puree, artificial sweetener and black pepper to taste, then heat gently. If you have a little more time, the version using fresh tomatoes is sublime.


Pop the fresh tomatoes in a large mug or tall container with a sprig of fresh basil. Using a hand-held blender, blitz the tomatoes until liquid.


At this stage, it is quite an unfamiliar pale peachy red. Place the mixture into a small saucepan. Add the tomato puree, artificial sweetener, and black pepper to taste.
Bring to the boil and cook for a few minutes. Sieve to remove the lumps and skin of the tomatoes.
You are left with the most incredibly vibrant, smooth red sauce, which tastes amazing.


To serve, spoon a generous tablespoon of the tomato sauce onto the serving dish. Swirl it slightly.


Layer the griddled vegetables; aubergine followed by courgette, then baby tomato. Pierce the tomato and squash it slightly so that you can add the next layer of vegetables. Make one stack per person using 3 slices of aubergine, 3 slices of courgette and 3 tomatoes. 
Add a tiny sprig of basil to finish.


Try to make the stack secure, but not too perfect. It has a certain charm about it if it's slightly wonky.

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Little stacks of happy memories.

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