Thursday, 28 February 2013 - , , , , , 2 comments

CUPBOARD LOVE : Freeze-Dried Fruits


I found these in the baking section in Waitrose the other day and thought I'd try them. They're quite a speciality food and at £2 a tube to be used sparingly, but I thought they looked so attractive I'd give them a whirl.
You can have up to 5g for 0pp/15kcal. They barely register on the kitchen scales as they have no volume to them, so 5g would be plenty to sprinkle over 4 desserts. They have a concentrated tangy flavour - a gorgeous strong version of whichever fruit you are trying. 



The strawberry is quite sour, zingy and does a little dance on your tongue...



...The mango is vibrant, much sweeter.

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I've had a quick look and you can also buy a similar product on Amazon.
With Easter coming up, I've devised a really cute idea which use these freeze-dried fruits, so I thought I'd give you some advance warning so you can have them at the ready. I feel that if we are going for low-fat options, we still need a little treat thrown in and these make a gorgeous contribution to my Easter idea.
Don't worry if they don't appeal to you, or you can't get hold of any, the idea will still work well without them.

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Fabulously Fruity Fripperies!

Wednesday, 27 February 2013 - , , , 2 comments

RECIPE : Hot Cinnamon Fruits with Sweet Vanilla Cream


Rather than snacking on fruit throughout the day, I have a ritual of making a delicious fruit salad most evenings for my dessert after a main meal. As I have a sweet tooth, I always top mine with a WeightWatchers yoghurt (The Dessert Range 1p/59kcal each) or a Fromage Frais (The red berry range 1pp/49kcal each). 
This time of year it's so cold and bleak. Sometimes the thought of a bowl of cold fruit just doesn't have the same appeal, so I've come up with this comforting alternative which is still only 1pp/approx.250kcal.
These fragrant, hot cinnamon fruits bubbling with warmth are complimented by the cool, sweet vanilla creamy topping to make a filling and satisfying dessert, a real treat.

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You Will Need: (Per Serving)

150g Blueberries
1 Apple
(Varieties such as Braeburn, Jazz, Pink Lady work best)
1/2-1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
35g Extra Light/Lightest Philadelphia
1 teaspoon Granular Sweetener
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

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Tip the washed blueberries into the bottom of your serving dish.
(I prefer to make these in individual portions).


Leave the peel on the apple and slice into thin but chunky slices. Arrange on top of the blueberries.


Sprinkle with cinnamon.


Microwave for 3-4 minutes or bake for 30 minutes, until the apples are softened and the blueberries are bubbling up through and around the apple.


While the fruit is cooking, blend together the cream cheese, sweetener and vanilla to make the sweet vanilla topping.


Dollop on the top to serve.


You could use a skewer or chopstick to 'swirl' and marble the creamy topping through the red berry juices.

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Hot Cinnamon, Cool Vanilla.

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TIP

Try making the topping using 0% fat Greek yoghurt, half fat creme fraiche or ricotta to ring the changes.
You could also use frozen berries for this recipe as they are cheaper out of season.
Monday, 25 February 2013 - , , , , , 0 comments

RECIPE : Cheesy Parma Ham- Wrapped Mushrooms


These lovely little self-contained feasts make the most delicious appetisers or accompaniment to a breakfast or light meal. With stalks removed, the mushrooms are filled to the brim with light, soft blue cheese. They are then wrapped tightly in Parma Ham before being gently fried in light oil and baked for a few minutes. This results in a tasty, crispy shell which opens to reveal a soft, succulent mushroom with its rich, creamy interior.

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The mushrooms are 1pp/approx.60kcal each.
You can have two for 2pp/approx.120kcal
They do multiply up to 5pp/approx.300kcal for 4 mushrooms

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You Will Need : (Per 2 Mushrooms)

2 Medium/Large Mushrooms


1 Laughing Cow Light Triangle
(I used the Blue Cheese Variety)
2 Slices Parma Ham

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Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade.


Snap the stalks out of the mushrooms and fill with the cheese. Use half a triangle of cheese per mushroom, spreading with a knife to fill the hole right to the top.


Cut or tear each slice of Parma Ham in half lengthways. Take one strip and wrap around the mushroom.


Take the second strip of ham and wrap across in the other direction to cover as much of the mushroom as possible. 


Repeat with the other mushroom. Mist a pan with Frylight oil. Pop the mushrooms into the hot pan rounded side first. This prevents the cheese from melting.


After a couple of minutes, flip the mushrooms over and brown the top side for about 2 minutes.


Tip the mushrooms onto their sides to brown the ham on the edges.


Repeat until they are brown all over.
Pop onto a baking tray and bake for 5 minutes in a hot oven. Don't let them overcook as they will go wet and soggy. The mushrooms need to remain quite firm, so you are just warming them through.


When you cut into it, you should have firm flesh, warm creamy cheese and a crisp, delicious outer shell.

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Delicious Morsels of Yumminess.

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TIP


These delectable treats remind me of shiny conkers! They make a fabulous accompaniment to a simple fried or poached egg as a rich and filling breakfast dish.
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They also work well with grilled chicken or fish such as smoked haddock.
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You could make small ones and serve them as little canap├ęs on sticks.
Saturday, 23 February 2013 - , , 2 comments

RECIPE: Strawberry 'Cheesecake' Dessert


This is a really simple little dessert, quick to make and just hits the spot if you are having a rich, cheesecake craving. It has all the right flavours and textures for the creamy, biscuity taste adventure we all love about traditional cheesecakes, without doing any of the damage to our waistlines.
My little Strawberry 'cheesecake' desserts are only 4pp/approx.220kcal each.

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If you want a crunchy base, you will need to prepare these and eat them straight away. If you are happy with a creamier, chewy base, they can be made in advance. 

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You Will Need: (Per serving)

1 packet of 2 WeightWatchers Cookies
(Ginger/Lemon or Cinnamon/Sultana work best for me. You could use Choc Chip ones or digestives if you prefer)
1 small or 1/2 a large Banana
1-2 Strawberries
35g Lightest/Extra Light Philadelphia
1-2 Teaspoons Candarel Granular Sweetener
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract/Essence
1 tablespoon Total 0% Fat Free Greek Yoghurt
Lemon Zest

***


Leave the cookies sealed in their packaging. Break them up a little, then crush with the back of a spoon until you have various sizes of biscuit crumbs.


Mash half a banana.


Tip the biscuit crumbs on top of the banana and mix together. The banana acts as a binder to bring the 'cheesecake' base together, making a fantastic alternative to high fat butter, which is traditionally used.


Once mixed, dollop into an individual ramekin dish. Flatten to make the base of the dessert.


Slice the strawberries and arrange in circle on top of the banana/biscuit base. Overlap to give some height to the dessert.


Mix the Philadelphia with the artificial sweetener.


Add the vanilla extract.


I use this brand because it's syrupy and has authentic vanilla pod seeds floating in it, so adds a natural, pungent vanilla flavour.


Blend together. Add a tablespoon of 0% fat Greek yoghurt. This 'bulks' out the topping but keeps the ingredients as low fat as possible.


Pop the creamy, cheesy, vanilla topping onto the dessert. Spread evenly with a knife, being careful not to dislodge the strawberries.


I like to see a glimpse of 'what lies beneath'...in this case, beautiful, fresh strawberries...a hint of what's to come.
Finally, sprinkle with a few strands of fragrant, freshly-zested lemon rind.
If not devouring immediately, chill in the fridge until needed.

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A low-fat cheesecake experience...making the impossible possible!

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TIP



If you don't like banana, try crumbling an Alpen Light bar into the bottom of the ramekin to form a base. Compress it with a fork to make it level before adding fruit.



Try alternative fruits, such as grapes or blueberries, then top with the vanilla cream cheese mixture as normal.
Thursday, 21 February 2013 - , , , , 4 comments

CUPBOARD LOVE : Melba Toast


I always keep melba toast in my larder. It's one of my staple snacking saviours - prepacked into handy 6 slice portions,
low in propoints/calories and extremely delicious. I would find it hard to live without them.


When it comes to crackers and biscuits, I love pre-portioned, individually wrapped packets. It appeals to the greedy girl still trapped inside me and helps me to remember when enough is enough. It also keeps them fresh and snappy, again reducing the temptation to have to finish an open packet of biscuits before they go stale.


Each individual packet of melba toast contains 6 crackers.
They are 2pp/72kcal for the whole packet.


 All the brands I have tried are pretty identical in flavour, which is rich and toasted. I particularly like the Sainsbury's ones as they also offer a multigrain variety which have a slight sesame seed flavour, and are really delicious. 
Both lend themselves to sweet or savoury toppings. They are great for snacking or for a light breakfast or lunch.

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Some of my favourite toppings:


Spread with 30g Extra Light Philadelphia and halved, red grapes. This makes a fabulously refreshing savoury and sweet combination for 3pp/approx.120kcal for all 6 crackers with toppings.


Again, spread with 30g Extra Light Philadelphia, then topped with halved cherry tomatoes, tiny chunks of cucumber and some snipped spring onion. Finally, drizzled with up to a teaspoon of Thai Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce.
This is also 3pp/approx.110kcal for all 6 crackers with toppings.

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They are delicious with 30g Chocolate Philadelphia and topped with sliced fruits such as banana or strawberry, grapes or blueberries.
This is 4pp/approx.188kcal for all 6 crackers and fruit toppings.

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20g of Low Fat Peanut Butter makes a fabulous topping with sliced cucumber or banana. This adds 3pp/109kcal. (For calorie counters, add kcal for your chosen fruit/veg)
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 - , , , , , , , 2 comments

SMASH & GRAB : Cauliflower & Broccoli Mash-Up


I was having one of those insatiably hungry days the other day...but was not propoint rich, so I had to think of a satisfying zero pp way to get myself to dinner time.
I scoured my fridge drawer and found a pack of mixed Cauliflower and Broccoli (such a great combo!). With a few extra flavours, this really hit the spot.



Zap in the microwave or steam for 3-4 minutes until easily 'mashable' with a fork.



Squeeze fresh lime juice into the veggies as you mash away.
(I like mine really zingy).



Drizzle with hot chilli sauce for a dose of POW!



I use this M&S one. You can have up to 15ml for 0pp which is loads. Check the pp/kcal of whichever brand you use as they vary enormously, especially the sweeter varieties.



I particularly like this one as it has an ultra-controllable nozzle. 
This reminds me of the Spike Milligan poem about Ketchup...

"When you shake the ketchup bottle,
None'll come and then the lot'll."

Best avoided with chilli sauce!

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This yummy little dish kept me beautifully full up all afternoon.

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Chilli Lime Divine.

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TIP

This would be a fabulous accompaniment to some grilled or baked salmon.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013 - 4 comments

FOOD FOR THOUGHT : 'Calorie Free' Noodles, Pasta & Rice


I was really excited when I heard about this product last week. However, having experimented with it and done some research, I'm having mixed feelings about it, which is why it isn't in my 'Cupboard Love' section.
You can always trust me to present an honest and genuine view, so I'm going to share my experiences with you.
I need you to promise me that you will not see this as a 'Miracle' product and that, if you decide to try it, you will use it responsibly and not too often. This is primarily sold in health food shops as a 'Slimming Product'. Those of us on the WeightWatchers plan or following a low-fat eating regime, know that we can lose or maintain our weight by eating really well using regular, everyday foods. Please don't see this product as an excuse to cut your daily propoint/calorie allowance below the minimum you should be eating. Try to think of it as a first aid kit for your larder...if you are having a tricky week, this could be your occasional sticking plaster.
I bought the ones I reviewed from two health food shops. You can also buy it online. It is quite expensive at approx.£1.99-£2.55 per 200g bag. 

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There are a few different brands of Moyu (also known as Konjac or Shirataki) pastas and rice out there. I tried two different varieties;



Eat Water 'Slim' range



and Zero Noodles.

These are both made from a vegetable fibre called konjac. This has been eaten in Asia for centuries, although only recently introduced to the UK.
The product seems incredible in that it contains 0pp/15kcal per 200g and is highly absorbent so helps you to feel full up for longer. This is why it is so important, if you use it, that you drink plenty of water with it.
It is suitable for coeliacs and diabetics as it contains no carbohydrate or sugar. It contains no nutritional values, apart from minimal calories. It is also Vegetarian, Vegan and Kosher.

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I tried it over the past few days in various recipes. The product is preserved in an unpleasant 'fishy' smelling preserving liquid. You have to rinse it under warm water for quite a few minutes to wash away the smell. Then it is easy to prepare by microwaving, stir-frying or popping into hot soup for a few minutes to heat through.



I tried the Slim Rice first. I rinsed the 'rice', microwaved it for 2 minutes and served it with my Mushroom Stroganoff Sauce.
(Click HERE for recipe)



Although it looks like rice in my photo, the 'grains' were round and very rubbery. It was completely tasteless so literally acted as a carrier for the sauce. Once I got it into my head that it reminded me of a packing material, I really disliked it.



I tried mixing it like a risotto but it didn't work for me.

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Then, I made a stir-fry for my daughter using the Zero Noodles. 



After rinsing thoroughly, I mixed them with some regular Udon noodles to 'pad' them out.


I stir-fried them in soy sauce. They took on the flavours quite well and looked like proper noodles. The texture of the konjac noodles is quite rubbery, but pretty authentic. My daughter really enjoyed them, but was thirsty afterwards. Obviously, you could add lots of vegetables and a protein such as meat, seafood or fish to this dish to make it nutritious and tasty.
(Click HERE for recipe)

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Lastly, I tried the Slim Noodles.
I rinsed them thoroughly, then popped them into my Vietnamese Noodle soup (Pho).
(Click HERE for the recipe)


The texture was rubbery but worked much better than any of the other varieties I had tried. Obviously, this soup is zinging with flavour, so the noodles can afford to be quite bland. I enjoyed the dish and found it filling, however I did find that I was extremely thirsty all evening and when I woke up the following morning, despite drinking plenty. I was also quite windy afterwards -(sorry, but I always tell the truth)! My husband felt a little nauseous an hour after eating them.
It is recommended to start with small portions until you get used to it, so perhaps we had too much.

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So, my conclusion is....do your own research-there are some interesting articles on the internet. It's your body, so think about what you are putting into it. Experiment, treat with caution and try not to use it as a staple part of your diet, but in a propoint/calorie emergency! I feel they're going to be one of those 'Marmite'-type products; people seem to love them or hate them. I'm interested to hear your views so let me know what you think.

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Beware those things in life that seem 'too good to be true' because they probably are!