Thursday, 31 May 2012 - 0 comments

USEFUL STUFF : Apple Corer


This is not the most exciting of kitchen tools and certainly not something I use every day, but really useful when you want whole slices of apple or pear for a recipe as it's a really neat and tidy way to dispose of the core and pips.
The corer is also wonderful for quick, neat fruit preparation for pies, crumbles or
fruit salads.
You literally push the serrated edge through the fruit and the core is removed
in one fell swoop!


I used mine for an exciting little recipe I have coming up in the next week or so which requires very thin, whole slices of fruit. It would make the preparation much easier for this dish if you possess both an apple corer and a mandolin, so I thought I would give you a little advance warning because once you see these little low-fat delicacies you are going to want to make them immediately!

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Tuesday, 29 May 2012 - , , , , , , 0 comments

SMASH & GRAB : Cheese & Biscuits


On a weight loss plan you would expect cheese and biscuits to be off the agenda, but this is a delicious savoury snack for only 3pp/approx.135kcal.

The plate above has 3 of my favourite crackers (Ryvita Thins-the sweet chilli variety) for 2pp/93kcal, and a mini pot of Extra-Light Philadelphia for 1pp/38kcal. The sliced tomatoes and basil enhance the flavour, give it more 'bite' and make it a filling little snack.


Here's another cute one using 2 Weight Watcher's Cheese biscuits for 1pp/37kcal and a traditional Ryvita for 1pp/35kcal plus the extra light Philadelphia for 1pp/38kcal. The little tomatoes left on the vine are an attractive, tasty and filling addition to the plate.

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I could just come into the kitchen and literally 'grab' those same ingredients, scoff them, and that snack is gone in a flash. For a couple of extra minutes arranging my plate, I have the anticipation of a delicious and beautiful savoury nibble and I've taken care to prepare it. It also helps me to eat consciously and be truly aware of everything I am eating.


I always think of making food presentable and attractive for other people, but I have found that if I really put thought into everything I eat and take better care when preparing it for myself, everything tastes better. Then, it's an even more enjoyable experience.

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This in turn, reminds me to take good care of myself and be my own best friend - one who is far less likely to sabotage my weight loss or maintenance efforts.

Sunday, 27 May 2012 - , , 0 comments

JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS!:Idea no.3 The Crowning Glory Pavlova


Here is the last of my Jubilee Celebration ideas....it's a good old classic pavlova piled high with fresh fruits and cinnamon creme fraiche.....but in the shape of the Coronation crown. (Well, almost)!


I think if you're going to get into the spirit of the British street party, even if you're celebrating at home, you have to delve deep into the world of slightly kitsch memorabilia. There is something so charming, yet a bit tacky going on with all this stuff...so that's where I'm heading with my 'Crowning Glory Pavlova'. The centre-piece for your table...obviously home-made, a bit wonky, over-the-top patriotic and absolutely delicious!


I love this photo. It's the archetypal picture of our young Queen in her Coronation crown looking proud and full of expectation...just like your guests will be when you walk into the room with your pavlova crown!

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My WHOLE finished pavlova worked out to
33 propoints/approx.1400kcal;

Divided by 8 people, 4pp/175kcal
per portion.
Divided by 7 people, 5pp/200kcal
per portion.
Divided by 6 people, 5pp/233kcal
per portion.
Divided by 5 people, 6pp/280kcal
per portion.
Divided by 4 people, 8pp/350kcal
per portion.

***

You will need:

4 Egg whites
(Or 8 tablespoons of liquid egg white) 
See post:CUPBOARD LOVE:Liquid Egg White
240g caster sugar
20 plain chocolate chips
*
1 pot Weight Watchers Creme Fraiche
1 tablespoon Cinnamon
1 tablespoon granular sweetener
(sweeten to taste)
*
Selection of fruits;
Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries,
bananas, green grapes
*
Baking parchment
pen/pencil
Florists wire
1 mini pot extra light Philadelphia
Edible Gold Lustre spray (optional)

***

How to make the Crowning Glory Pavlova


This is the reference I used to recreate my crown. You could use your own interpretation, but I'll show you the processes I went through.


First of all, I made a sketch of my 'vision' on paper so that I could work out all the parts I would need.



Next, I chose my finished serving plate. This determined the finished size of the crown.


Then I found a plate that sat comfortably on my serving plate. This became my template for the main circular bases.
This is one of my side plates. It's not too large as I wanted it to be quite a realistic crown size.


I drew around the smaller plate twice onto baking parchment, making 2 separate circles. Then I flipped the parchment over so that the meringue wouldn't be touching the pencil.



Next, I drew some simplified Maltese Cross and Fleur de Lis shapes on baking parchment. I kept the shapes chunky as they were going to be made of meringue. I flipped the paper over so that the meringue mixture wouldn't touch the pencil.


I made up the meringue mixture by whisking the egg whites to stiff peaks, then adding the sugar one tablespoon at a time, whisking in-between each addition.



Then, I spread some of the mixture to fit right to the edge of my first circular template. This is the very base of the crown, so is quite thin - approx 1-2 cms deep.
I dotted chocolate drops evenly around the very edge. This emulates the fur base of the crown.



Then I spread more meringue mixture onto the next circular template. This time I made the meringue quite a bit thicker and left a good margin inside the template. I piled the meringue higher in the centre as I wanted this to be the main 'body' of the crown. I left enough mixture to make the decorative shapes.


This shows the proportions between the two circles; one thin and flat, the other smaller, and thicker.


To make the decorative shapes, I filled a freezer bag with the remaining meringue mixture. I found it easier to do this by placing the bag into a glass.


I 'squished' the mixture right down into the bag, then snipped off the corner, making a disposable icing bag.
(I hate washing out icing bags!)


I piped the shapes quite roughly - don't worry if they look messy like this...


...then with a knife, I just 'eased' the meringue mixture to fit the shapes.


I popped all the prepared meringues into the oven 150 degrees centigrade for about 1 hour. Then I turned the oven off and left the meringues to dry out for as long as possible.
(A few hours, or ideally overnight).

***

Making up the finished Crowning Glory Pavlova

It is best to assemble the finished crown as close as possible to the event as the meringue will go soggy if left too long.
So, this is how I prepared all the elements I would need before the final 'build'.


I made the top, decorative part of my crown out of florists' wire. I threaded fruit onto it, but wouldn't recommend eating the fruit afterwards, as I'm not sure how safe the coating is on the wire. If you don't want to waste any fruit, you could use decorative beads, (maybe plastic or polystyrene) for this part, as long as you don't make it too heavy.


I used 2 strands of wire for each 'arm' to give added strength. I bent it in the middle to find the centre, then opened it out again.


So you can see I put the wire at right angles to each other, and twisted it together in the middle to form a cross shape. I left about 2cm sticking up at the top and cut the wires so that I could push a decorative meringue shape on at the final assembly.
I put my 'template' plate on my serving plate so that I could gauge the finished size.


Then I bent the wire to form the top of the crown shape.


Next, I threaded blueberries and grapes alternately like jewels onto each of the 4 strands of wire. I left a good 3 cms wire at the end to push into the assembled meringue base.


I left this to one side.


Because I really wanted to go kitsch and crazy, I sprayed all the meringue elements with edible gold lustre spray.


Of course, this is optional but does add to the effect.
Make sure you cover your work top and surrounding areas as, with any spray, this can get a little messy!


 I mixed the cinnamon and sweetener into the Weight Watchers creme fraiche.

The Final 'Build'


First, I put the thin meringue base with the chocolate drops onto my serving plate. I dolloped a couple of tablespoons of the creme fraiche mixture, then scattered some banana, strawberries and blueberries in a flat layer. I left a large gap around the edge as I didn't want this fruit to be visible.
(These will be covered, so no need to be artistic here).


I added the second, chunky meringue layer. Then, I put the rest of the creme fraiche and started building the sliced fruits into a pattern. I used red, white and blue fruits but also added green grapes as I thought they looked jewel-like and vibrant. I layered the fruit quite high into the centre as I wanted it to look like a high, curved crown.


Then, I took the wired fruits and pushed the exposed wire at the base of each strand, into the pavlova base. 
This is why it's important to leave a length of wire the depth of the finished base.


Then, using extra light Philadelphia as my 'glue', I spread tiny blobs onto the back of the decorative meringues and stuck them around the sides of the base.


I alternated the Maltese crosses with the Fleur de Lis, saving one cross for the very top of the crown.


Finally, I pushed a Maltese cross onto the top wires and embellished the crosses with slices of strawberry. These were stuck on with philadelphia. To bring it all to life, I tied Union Jack ribbons to the wires.

***

This was great fun to make and I love its amateur quirkiness.
If yours turns out a bit bonkers and you're not sure people will realise it's meant to be a crown, there is only one way to take this to your party...


Happy Jubilations! x

Thursday, 24 May 2012 - , , , 7 comments

JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS!:Idea no.2 Chocolate & Fruit Union Jack Pizza


Here's a bright, jolly, effective
and tasty dish for your
Jubilee Celebrations....infact this is delicious any time of the year!
The Union Jack style pizza is a little bit fiddly to make, but well worth the effort.

***


You will need:(Per Pizza)

1 Warburtons Squareish Wrap
1 mini pot Chocolate Philadelphia
Fresh strawberries, sliced and halved
Fresh raspberries
Fresh blueberries, halved

*

It's 6pp/approx.300kcal for the whole thing.


Take 1 Warburtons Square-ish Wrap.


Using this image as reference for a Union Jack flag, cut the wrap using scissors into the right shapes. It's much easier if you can serve this on a white plate, so that the white areas of the flag are, infact, the plate showing through your design. 


The reason I cut it first is because the base will be baked and crispy. It would be very difficult to cut and serve attractively as a whole, finished piece. So, although it's fiddly to arrange the fruit on the cut shapes, it's much easier to serve like this. The small triangles and stripes are easy to pick up with fingers. The large cross shape in the middle can be 'snapped' or cut without any problems.

***

Spray some greaseproof paper with a little Frylight Sunflower oil, then place the shapes onto the paper and bake on a baking tray for 10-15 minutes at 200 degrees centigrade.


Allow to cool.
Working methodically, spread each baked shape carefully with Chocolate Philadelphia. This acts as a 'glue' to hold the cut slices of fruit. Arrange the fruit so that it completely covers the chocolate and 'fills' each shape. Look how the cut edges of the strawberries fit right against the edge of the baked base.
Top the central cross with raspberries for a wonderful 3-D jewel effect.



Imagine how effective two or three of these would look on a themed buffet table alongside other celebratory foods.


***

Of course, this idea would translate beautifully for other celebrations such as birthdays - you could make someone's initials or name out of fruit.
For a yummy dessert any time of the year, just bake a rectangular base, spread with chocolate Philadelphia, then arrange slices of banana,strawberries, grapes, melon etc.
into stripes for a beautifully
vibrant and delicious dish.
This could serve 2-4 people for a very propoint/calorie - friendly pudding!

***

Who says pizza has to be savoury?
Tuesday, 22 May 2012 - 0 comments

USEFUL STUFF : Mandolin Slicer


This is not an essential piece of kitchen equipment, but one I have recently started experimenting with. It's great for slicing fruits and vegetables into even, thin, whole slices.
Once you 'get the knack' of it, it's very fast and efficient, although a little scary for a klutz like me!


 Mine came as part of another gadget I bought which turned out to be a bit disappointing....but I love the mandolin! I've been having great fun in my kitchen creating some sweet and savoury dishes with this....so you may want to have one ready and waiting, or wait and see if I inspire you enough to invest in one... 

***

I've done a little research and the cheapest plastic mandolins are all around £11 or £12.....so I realise it may be a little indulgent to just go out and buy one...but I think, once you see the results, you may wish to purchase one. Argos, Lakeland and Amazon all seem to have a good selection.
Please make sure yours comes with the little safety holder like mine as you don't want any nasty accidents....

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I'll be sharing my ideas with you shortly.
I am one happy and excited Slicer-of-Slim!
Monday, 21 May 2012 - , , , , , 0 comments

SMASH & GRAB : 1 Minute Chocolate & Fruit Dessert


Here is the simplest, quickest dessert on the planet! It helps if you have some fun dishes- these are funky plastic ones from Sainsbury's with matching little icecream-style spoons.

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For each portion you make, take a 170g pot of 0% Fat TOTAL Greek Yoghurt.
Peel off the lid and add 1 sachet Highlights or Weightwatchers drinking chocolate.
Stir well before putting into an individual serving dish.
Decorate with fresh fruit.
3pp/approx.200kcal

***

If you have time, freeze for 1 hour- no longer as it will crystallize, otherwise enjoy as soon as you've made it for a creamy, delicious and filling dessert or snack.


Try other varieties- this has pureed raspberries mixed with some granular sweetener. It's only 2pp/160kcal.
You could make a mashed banana or blitzed strawberries version - or combine both!

***


If you have a Propoint to spare, drizzle 8g  melted chocolate on the top for an extra 1pp/40kcal.

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Dessert Heaven without any guilt!