RSS

Tag Archives: Healthy food

Skinny Saturday

Every time The Boyfriend goes away I make a decision that at the time feels like a brilliant idea but in the end turns out to be a completely idiotic one. And the decision is always the same one, every time he goes. I know, I’m an idiot. You’d think I would have learnt by now, after all The Boyfriend is regularly working away and has been for two years now. Yet still I think that by spending my first weekend sans Boyfriend all by myself doing solely what I want to do and being completely selfish is the best idea since sliced bread. It isn’t. Oh, it’s all good up until about 7pm on the Saturday, when a quick glance at Facebook reminds me of all the happy couples spending their evening together, or groups of friends getting ready for a night out and makes me go “huh, I probably should have made plans for this weekend”. Obviously, being apart from the person you’re crazy about isn’t tough in the way that cancer is tough, or your house being burnt down is tough, but it still has its challenges that at times make me feel pretty sorry for myself despite the fact that one of the things I dislike most on this Earth are people who feel sorry for themselves. If he’s only back for three weeks like he was very recently, we have an absolute whale of a time. We cram in trips to the cinema, meals out, our favourite foods, catch up with all the friends and family he hasn’t seen for months, have a ridiculous row that we always laugh at a few hours later (the last one of these was fuelled by me drinking a tad too much gin and turning into a huge drama queen), work on the house, plan holidays and spend a lot of time in fits of giggles. In short, it’s awesome. So obviously when he goes away its a pretty spectacular comedown and I think my reasoning behind spending time by myself is that while he’s home I haven’t had any time at all to bake, read, blog, watch Disney films or Sex and the City and I crave some downtime. Maybe next time I’ll just give myself a day of no plans.

My self inflicted misery however has done wonders for this blog though. Every cloud! Not content with just one recipe to try out yesterday, I decided to really test Gizzi’s Skinny Weeks and try three of them: breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m aware I should be using more neglected cookbooks and believe me this week I will be using them, but I wanted to have a virtuous Saturday without denying myself that vital component, flavour, and I knew that Gizzi could deliver. Breakfast consisted of what Gizzi likes to call Elvis toasts, which is a far more heart friendly version of The Kings 2000 calorie mammoth fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Gizzi’s come in at a much more reasonable 284 calories, although as it was Saturday I used normal white sliced bread instead of sourdough rye, and a whole banana instead of half so that must bump up the calories a little. Still, for a healthy breakfast it’s scrumptious and comes with the added bonus of half a square of dark chocolate grated over the banana. Half a square may not seem like a lot but it really does go a long way. Who can argue with a chocolate fix at 9am?

Lunch, which came along pretty late after a Primarni binge, was pancetta, farro and bean soup and like most recipes in this book, was completely delicious. I couldn’t find farro in Sainsburys so had to substitute it with farfalline, which are tiny pasta shapes designed to be added to soups. You might look at the pancetta and think this soup shouldn’t be billed as healthy, but in addition to the pancetta the soup also contains onion, carrot, celery, garlic, tomatoes and cannellini beans so you’re getting a considerate amount of goodness from the hefty amount of veg and beans. I didn’t add quite enough stock so my version turned out more like a stew than a soup but tasted no less divine for it. Pancetta is the star flavour shining through, but you also get the sweetness of the tomatoes and plenty of crunch from the mirepoix. To make this soup even better, you’re allowed to sprinkle a small amount of Parmesan over your bowl of soup and you don’t need me to tell you that this takes the soup to diet perfection. I’m very please that I have three portions to take to work with me for lunch this week.

Last but by absolute no means least, for dinner I went with yoghurt chicken curry bowl. Well, it’s just not the weekend in my book (which this sort of is) unless a curry is included somewhere. Looking at the ingredient list it’s impossible to find an ingredient that’s bad for you (normally an ominous sign in a recipe) and yet this curry was one of the best I’ve ever made. You make a paste out of spices, chillies, onion, ginger and garlic, mix it with fat free yoghurt then marinade the chicken in the spicy yoghurt before baking in the oven. Paired with some brown rice and topped with a zingy mango salsa, this was the perfect dish to lift me out of my lonely blues (self inflicted, I must add). The curry on its own packed in lots of flavour and would have been perfectly acceptable without the salsa, but boy is the salsa immense. Don’t make this curry without it! The pairing of sweet yet sharp mango with mint, alongside onion (I should have used red but only had white), tomato and lime juice is phenomenal and made my tongue do a little jig in my mouth. Gorgeous. I want to put it on everything.

The real strength of these recipes is that regardless of trying to lose weight or not, I would cook them all again. And not just for myself either, I see no reason why these dishes couldn’t be served to guests, they are that good. Healthy food has long had a reputation for being dull, uninspiring and bland but Gizzi has completely turned that upside down and filled a cookbook with mouthwatering food that just so happens to be good for you. I’ve barely ventured into the naughty side of the book, and for a woman who likes a good pig out, that’s no small feat.

20130623-164957.jpg

20130623-165004.jpg

20130623-165013.jpg

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Not On My Watch, Gwyneth

At first I thought that I didn’t like Gwyneth Paltrow. Its an easy conclusion to arrive at, after all she did sob all the way through her Oscar acceptance speech, is married to the most boring man in pop, has perfect hair/skin/figure and bleets on about her wonderful lifestyle on Goop.com. Spare me. But then two things struck me. One is that this woman is good friends with Beyonce and Jay Z. Jealous though I may be, anyone good enough for Miss Single Ladies is good enough for me. I can forgive the boring taste in men when I consider her wonderful taste in friends, especially as I know deep down that one day Beyonce and I will be best friends (humour me, ok?). The second was that I recalled seeing Gwyneth on The Graham Norton Show a couple of years ago where she did a pretty fine job of rapping her way through an NWA track. Best friends with Beyonce and a dab hand at rapping? Why, Gwyneth and I are cut from the very same cloth! How can I hold any sort of grudge against her for her perfect skin when in actual fact we are one and the same. It would be like hating myself and I’m all about self acceptance.

So when my lovely Aunty brought me a housewarming gift of two cookbooks, one being Gwyneth’s ‘Notes From My Kitchen Table’, I was intrigued to see what she could offer me in the way of discovering new dishes and tasty treats. Warning: if you don’t like name dropping then you’d do well to skip the acknowledgments page which reads like a who’s who of A-listers, including my future BFF’s The Carters. If you didn’t already know Gwynnie was well connected, this page would set you straight. One thing that really struck me about her attitude towards food from this book is that she seems slightly scared of it. I’m all for living a healthy lifestyle and an everything in moderation type attitude towards food, but I firmly believe food is to be enjoyed and that too much of a good thing can be bloody wonderful. Life’s too short to make a brownie healthy, which unfortunately Gwyneth seems to have had the time to do. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to eat a brownie or three I want it with side orders of guilt and sugar highs. Gwyneth gives a recipe for brownies that she says are as healthy as possible without sacrificing any of the flavour. When did it become socially acceptable to put agave syrup, soy milk and grain sweetened choc chips (that’s right, not sugar sweetened, grain sweetened) into the mighty brownie? I’ll tell you when: never. A brownie recipe with no sugar or butter is an abomination. If I didn’t want sugar or butter in my diet then well, I’d probably be hugely depressed and locked in a padded cell for my own safety, but that’s beside the point, I’d eat only quinoa and vegetables, not faff about with the brownie. It’s safe to say that I will not be making the brownies from this book. They offend me.

Aside from interfering with brownies, the cookbooks actually pretty good. The majority of recipes are fresh, nutritious and light so if you’re looking for low fat meals this wouldn’t be a bad investment. Crammed full of salads, soups, sandwiches and dinner options you’re bound to find something healthy to eat. To be fair to the author, her father died of cancer and she states in the book that she believes his diet had a part to play in him suffering from the disease so I can understand her caution and attitude towards food. While there aren’t really any properly unhealthy recipes in the book, naturally I gravitated towards the ‘worst’ one. Quellé surprise! This would be French toast made with brioche, that heavenly, buttery, soft, sweet bread which soaked up the egg and vanilla batter exceptionally well. Fried in butter and sprinkled with what Gwyneth states should be a tiny amount of sugar, instructions which I took the liberty of ignoring, the slices of brioche crisped up beautifully. I topped the vanilla absorbed slices with chopped banana, icing sugar and a good drizzle of maple syrup, and tucked right in. The toast itself is crisp on the outside, gooey and moist within and you don’t need me to tell you that the banana and syrup were perfect partners. As Sunday morning breakfasts go, it was up there with the best that bacon can offer. Gwyneth, you’re cookbook passes muster with me, just don’t mess with any other sweet baked goods again.

20130514-212812.jpg

 
 

Tags: , , , , , ,

A Beautiful Box Of Goodies

Getting a parcel in the post is a surefire way to put a smile on my face. It’s great when its a present from me to me (cookbook, obviously), fabulous when from a friend or relative, but nothing can top the feeling of getting a parcel full of unfamiliar foodie goodies from a complete and utter stranger. Especially when it’s sent by someone who went above and beyond the call of duty and delivered unto me an amazing Foodie Penpal Parcel. Christine (or @Dashinista on Twitter) did a fantastic job and really hit the nail on the head from the guidelines I gave her.

Wrapped up beautifully in a pastel pink box, black tissue paper and pink ribbons, I felt like some spoilt spawn of a multi millionaire on their birthday, itching to get beneath the layers and find out what delights this pretty little package contained. When Christine had asked what foods I liked and my eating habits, I was pretty specific in describing my love for spice and chocolate but that I was also trying to lose a bit of weight at the moment, so I was delighted to see all these in my parcel:

20130430-201116.jpg

First up were some great spice mixes: You Must Be Jerking, Magnifico Meatballs and A Toast Sensation, from the online shop The Spicery. The jerk seasoning was delicious with a real depth of flavour, and I can’t wait to try the other mixes, especially as I love meatballs and am always looking for new ways of flavouring them. There was also a sample packet of ground star anise which I’m very much hoping to use in a cake once I get hold of an oven ( less than two weeks to go!). Having never heard of The Spicery before, I now have a feeling I’ll be a regular customer of theirs.
I also got a balsamic and oil salad dressing which will come in very handy to dress salads while I’m trying to lose weight, some chocolate coated rice cakes (strangely addictive, must be the chocolate!) for healthy snacking, some white chocolate and raspberry chocolate bites (really tasty and from a Turkish coffee shop near to Christine) and some jasmine tea pearls from Teapigs. I was really looking forward to drinking this tea despite the fact I betray my country by not enjoying tea at all (England I can only apologise) as it smelt so good when stewing in hot water. I guess my tastebuds just don’t fully get tea, as to me it tasted bland but to The Boyfriend it tasted like sherbet. I can’t tell you how gutted I was that I was missing on what he described as healthy liquid sugar, but I guess me and tea just don’t get each other, no matter what shape, form or flavour. Christine also included a voucher for Graze which I’ve now cashed in and received a little box of snacks at work – another lovely little present in the post – and 4 weight watchers recipes that she regularly uses. Combine all this thoughtfulness with ribbons, heart shaped post its, gorgeous ‘eat me’ labels and a pink box and you have Foodie Penpal utopia. Being so overjoyed at this parcel upon receiving it has insured me to up my game on sending out parcels so I can spread the joy. Christine – thank you, a delicious and inspiring parcel that I’m fairly certain I’ll never be able to match, but it will certainly be a lot of fun trying!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 30, 2013 in Baking, Books, Cooking, Food

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Spice up your life… or at least your salmon

So the healthy eating continues. Its been three days now and there’s been no let up in my attempt to eat more wisely and get back to exercising. You may think “three days, is that it?” but for me, three days of avoiding junk and snacks is an achievement. In case you failed to notice, I love food, and my favourite foods are the ones that do my arteries and muffin top no good. Friends keep telling me to leave the bad food, walk away before I get hurt, but like any toxic relationship, this ones tough to give up. Not that I’m seriously comparing my love of food to a bad relationship, because that would be crazy (right?), but things that are bad for us are the hardest to abstain from. Luckily for me though, I’m allowing myself some indulgence at the weekend, because total abstinence would drive me nuts, and harsh, punishing dieting programmes are hard to keep up and hey, you only live once. I read a great article by Jay Rayner in the Observer Food Monthly yesterday, where he observes that all his favourite foods (sausages,bacon, BBQ food) are likely to give him all sorts of cancers. However, food is his only vice and what is the point of prolonging your life to the age of 120 if you’ve been miserable and not enjoyed the foods that you salivate over? Now neither of us are saying go out and binge on processed meats and sticky ribs, but I frankly would feel that I’d wasted a large portion of my life if I constantly denied myself delicious food, and all I had to show for it was a few extra years in a care home. I don’t smoke, or drink heavily, I exercise regularly and I try to eat sensibly most of the time. Therefore, if I want to eat a huge curry or bake brownies then I bloody well will. I realise that this little rant has completely ruined the moral of todays blog which is ‘eat healthily guys!’, but life is too short. Enjoy yourself.

I really should get back to the food and away from the lecturing. Last night I cooked harissa salmon with couscous and vegatables from the same magazine I used for the fennel salad. (Delicious, August 2012). The magazine had a section devoted to 2012 recipes, eg, 20 recipes that took 12 minutes to cook. Nothing at all to do with the London 2012 Olympics but everyone else has been cashing in on The Games so why not food magazines? Unlike Mr Oliver and his ridiculous 30 minute expectations, this 12 minute dinner genuinely only took that amount of time and was fairly tasty. Nothing surprising about it really though, the salmon tasted like salmon but with a bit more kick from the harissa paste, which I believe is from the Middle East and widely available in the shops. Couscous tasted like lemon and coriander which is funny, because I added lemon and coriander to the mix. The recipe didnt call for any vegetables but I felt it needed to be a bit more nutritious, so while cooking the salmon I chucked in some red pepper and red onion with the fish. It was filling and healthy and had a nice spicy edge to it, which for a mid week dinner is a pretty good result. Expect me to fall off the wagon hard at the weekend though, I’m just itching to get baking. I also had another mini Amazon binge this week thanks to payday, so I’m currently awaiting the arrival of 3 books, all about French cooking or eating in Paris. The low fat French cookbook I had clearly wasn’t cutting the mustard, so I’m now waiting for The Little Paris Kitchen, French Brasserie, and Lunch in Paris. It’s safe to say I have been thoroughly inspired by my recent trip to Paris and am dying to try to cook some amazing French meals. Hurry up please postman!

20120822-201048.jpg

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 22, 2012 in Cooking, Fish, Food, French

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Dream on, dreamer

Trying to lose weight when your a bit of a foodie is officially a bloody nightmare. And when you’re supposed to be writing a blog about unusual and/or delicious foods, you come unstuck. All the things I want to cook from my poor neglected cookbooks contain pretty much all the things that need to be avoided: butter, cheese, cream, chocolate, saturated fat, cholesterol… Damn that saturated fat tastes good. So I’ve been very healthy this week cooking boring healthy foods and doing boring healthy exercise, and now all I can think about is the complete opposite. All I can say is bring on the weekend, when I don’t have to even pretend to be good. After 5 pm on a Friday, there are no rules. With all of the above in mind, and rather than boring you senseless with what I actually ate, here’s what I wish I could have eaten for dinner this week.

Monday: A gigantic slice of chocolate cake. If this wouldn’t make you excited to see Monday arrive, then you must be dead inside. That’s all.
Tuesday: Homemade burgers with loads of cheese and bacon. While any food that when squeezed oozes out grease can’t possibly be healthy, you know for sure that it’s going to taste good. Add melted cheese, crisp bacon and crunchy gherkins and you’re in heaven.
Wednesday: Lasagne. Oh how I love lasagne. What’s not to love- rich meaty tomato sauce, smooth, creamy, bland white sauce (bland is good!), silky sheets of pasta, and a lot of strong melted cheese, with the cheesy edges gone all crunchy. Lasagne and I should really get a room.
Thursday: Thai green curry. When done right, this is so good. But it’s full of calorie laden coconut milk so not diet food. If you’re going to eat it, do it right: either make it from scratch, paste and all, or go to a good Thai restaurant. Spice and flavour paradise!
Friday: Nandos piri piri chicken, followed by chocolate fudge cake and clotted cream. Oh wait, that is what I’m having tomorrow. Thank goodness!

Sorry if any of you working on your summer body now want to roll around in a vat of chocolate cake. Just hold out until the weekend!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on May 17, 2012 in Books, Chocolate, Cooking, Food, Puddings, Thai

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,