Winter salad

On Thursday, Tom and I went to see the legend that is David Gray at a small, intimate gig at The Emmanual Centre in Pimlico. Before the gig we stopped off at one of the pubs on Tom’s list of must-visit drinking establishments. Along with our drinks, we succumbed to their awesome looking burgers.

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I had no regrets, it was delicious, but Friday came and I felt the need for a healthy dinner. And yet, I still wanted a meal that was filling and full of flavour. I decided to make a warming winter salad of spinach leaves, crispy bacon, roasted butternut squash, crumbled feta and toasted pine nuts.

I love this salad and I’m definitely going to be making it again – you get the saltiness of the bacon, the crunch from the pine nuts, the freshness of the spinach leaves and the creaminess of the squash and feta. It also looks wonderful, with the bright rich orange against the deep green of the spinach: wonderfully inviting on a miserable, rainy night.

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Italian Beef Stew

From BBC GoodFood, this Italian beef stew is perfect for a quick hearty dinner when the weather is still so miserable. I probably could have cooked it for longer but Tom and I were getting too hungry!

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Braising steak, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs come together to make a rich flavoursome stew that can be served with rice, bread, broccoli or, as we had it, with couscous. I topped our dinner with some half fat creme fraiche to add a touch of creaminess to the dish – yum! Also, this dish comes in at 328 calories including the couscous and creme fraiche, so it’s perfect for all you healthy eaters out there!

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Malteser Fridge Cake

Whatever your preference when it comes to tea, whether you like it black, with a splash of milk, with three spoonfuls of sugar, or, as pale and weak as my mum used to have hers: “just wave the tea bag in the general area of the mug, that’ll be fine”; and whatever your preference when it comes to your choice of biscuit, be it a ginger nut, custard cream, Jammy dodger, or a choccy bourbon, there’s nothing nicer than a cup of tea with a biscuit ready for the dunking.

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Over the years there have been debates and experiments about which biscuit is best for dunking. What is the biscuit’s durability? How many dunks can it survive before it gives way and collapses into your cup of tea? You know, those all important life questions. I seem to recall that the hobnob is often nominated for the Best Dunker Award when these biscuit debates come about. But, for me, it’s always the humble digestive that I reach for when I get that tea and biscuit craving.

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As early as 1851, if not earlier, there are records of recipes for digestive biscuits, recipes about how to make that semi-sweet, malty biscuit that we’ve all come to know and love. Now, the digestive might not be the best dunker in the world, but it’s got many hidden talents. I’m aware that the title of this post is Malteser Fridge Cake, and I promise I haven’t forgotten about it, but I wanted to pay a quick homage to the digestive, it may be plain and simple in the biscuit world, but its comforting taste, and its multi-purpose makes it a firm favourite for me. Not only is it a great biscuit for tea time, but whizz it up and you’ve got a perfect cheesecake base, serve it with your Stilton and cheddar and you’ve got a great cracker for the cheeseboard, and mix it with melted butter and chocolate and you’ve got today’s fridge cake.

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The recipe for today’s blog entry is one of Nigella’s, and can be found here. This is another speedy recipe for a tasty treat that will always go down well and is great for me while I wait for the oven to get fixed!

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Blitz your digestive biscuits and add slightly bashed maltesers. In a bowl melt butter, chocolate and golden syrup together and then add this to the dry ingredients. Combine until everything is coated in the chocolate mix. Squish into a lined baking tray and pop in the fridge to start setting. Melt more chocolate and pour this over the tray bake. To make the white chocolate pattern, simply space out dollops of melted white chocolate in a row on top of the melted milk chocolate and drag a knife through the dollops. Pop the tray back in the fridge to set, a few hours should do and then cut into squares to serve.

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The Greenest Pea & Ham Soup You’ve Ever Seen

We’re nineteen days into this dieting malarkey and the pounds we gained over Christmas are slowly making a retreat. I’ve been running every week and even invested in some proper running trainers – they are bright raspberry and pink so that helps!

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As you know each week I’ve been making soup to take in to work for lunches and it’s been so good – I’ve spent so much less on food and I’m not snacking anywhere near as much. This week, it is the turn of pea and ham soup. This is one of my favourite soups but quite often, especially if you buy the tinned kind, it’s a weak, grey-green colour and the flavour doesn’t hit you the way a good pea and ham soup should. Peas have such a sweet fresh flavour, when this comes through in a soup, along with the saltiness of the ham, it’s wonderful.

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This recipe is from Good Food and can be found here. I’ve found lots of good, low-cal recipes on the Good Food site, I’d definitely recommend having a search on there next time you’re looking for a new recipe. The recipes are often rated and commented on too so you know they’re tried and tested!

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I checked the packaging for the split peas and it said to soak overnight, as did the recipe but having not realised this and needing to make the soup today I checked it out online. There seem to be differing opinions on this but as long as you rinse the split peas first, it only really affects the cooking time. If you soak them overnight the peas will cook quicker. I soaked mine for a couple of hours and didn’t have any issues with the cooking time.

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I love the contrast of the pink ham and the bright vibrant green of the thick smooth soup, it just looks so good! I’m really looking forward to this week’s lunches!

The comfort of chicken soup

There is something so calming about making a delicious batch of soup. As well as the fact that it’s super easy to whip up, you know it’s going to be good for you and taste delicious. It’s a comforting, homely sort of process too. And chicken soup, well, a properly thick, creamy, flavoursome chicken soup is right up there with the best of recipes. You just know it’s going to warm you right through and give you a pep, especially if you’re feeling under the weather, so it’s perfect for this time of year.

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Last week I had root vegetable soup for lunch at work and this week I’m making chicken soup. When I’m sitting at my desk looking at the winter weather outside, it’s going to feel so nice at lunchtime knowing that I already have my tasty soup, and don’t need to brave the wind and the rain to fetch it!

I sweated down potatoes, carrots, onions, celery and smoked garlic with some thyme and chicken stock until it was soft enough to blend. I thought I would bulk it out with some more potatoes but turns out, that can make your soup quite starchy and gelatinous! I thinned mine out with more water and it tastes ok – something to remember for next time!

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While the veg was cooking, I poached four chicken thighs in some water. I find that you get more flavour from thighs and wings and they’re a lot cheaper than chicken breast. When the chicken was cooked through, I shredded it ready to be added to the soup.

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When you’ve blended the veg, stir in your shredded chicken and add some creme fraiche or single cream, depending on how healthy you’re feeling! Season with salt and pepper and you’re good to go!
Approx. 292 calories per serving

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Skinny pizza, skinny me

Pizza. Delicious, cheesy, herby, tomato sauce covered pizza. Pepperoni pizza, tuna and anchovy pizza, margherita, roasted veggie pizza. Pizza Express, ASK, Franca Manca, Fire & Stone, Pizza East, wood-fired pizza ovens – delicious crispy-based and deep-pan pizzas with all manner of toppings are everywhere and seem even more delicious and appealing when you’re on a diet. But never fear, there is a skinny pizza cheat recipe out there for you.

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Yes, the Hairy Dieters have done it again – a tasty, quick cheat’s way to eating pizza while on a diet. Ok, so it’s technically not pizza pizza as the base uses a tortilla rather than dough, but you still get that crispy crunch to the base, as if you really were eating a Roman style pizza.

Each tortilla gets a layer of passata:

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Followed by a slice of ham:

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10g of light cheddar crumbled over the tortilla:

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Sprinkle with herb de Provence and put under the grill at a high temp for 1-2 minutes until the cheese has melted.

Top with olives and salad leaves – job done! Great recipe to have on hand when you’re pushed for time but want to stay healthy!

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Paprika crumb fishcakes

Traditionally made to use up leftover potatoes, the little ole fishcake has been seriously pimped up over the years!

20140107-212145.jpgThe Hairy Dieters’ recipe I used calls for paprika to be mixed through with the breadcrumbs which gives the cakes a delicious, smokey flavour. Along with the potato and the fish, spring onions and lemon juice are added which give the filling a really nice fragrance.

20140107-212231.jpgThese fishcakes are easy to prep in advance if needs be, and can be kept in the fridge until you need to bake them. I used pollock but you could use salmon or haddock instead. Serve with wedges, salad, couscous, peas, or beans. Quick, tasty & healthy (coming in at just 187 cals/cake), these fishcakes are perfect for a mid-week dinner!

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Apple, Pear and Raspberry Compote

Following on from my post yesterday, I wanted to share the fruit compote I have just whipped up which will go so nicely with the granola.

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I based my compote on this recipe on BBC Good Food which comes in at 199 calories per serving. I used more pears than stated as I had a few left and wanted to make a big batch to last the week for breakfasts at work. I also swapped in raspberries for the cherries as I couldn’t get hold of any, and I love the combo of apple and raspberry. I reduced the amount of sugar in the recipe as I don’t think you need it as the fruit is so sweet and tasty already.

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This is another useful quick recipe which you can adjust based on what fruit you have in the fridge. It took about 20 minutes for the fruit to simmer and soften to the right consistency and it smelled so good!

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Fruity Homemade Granola

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It’s that time of year again, Christmas is over for another year and we’ve all eaten that little bit too much turkey, stuffing, mince pies, Christmas cake, chocolates and drunk a few too many beers, glasses of fizz and wine, and the need to get fit and lose weight rears its head again. New year, new me we always think. Last year Tom and I stuck to the Hairy Dieters plan for about 3 months or so along with circuit training and badminton and the results were really good. Inevitably though, we got a bit bored of the recipes, work got busy and there were late nights and boozy nights so the weight crept on a bit again by the end of the year.

We got the new Hairy Dieters cookbook for Christmas and it has helped to inspire us to get back on the diet horse and try again. The food looks and sounds great and I’m really excited to eat healthy delicious meals and cook new dishes. I’ll also be attempting to run regularly to get my fitness up to scratch as well.

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The part of healthy eating I find hardest is breakfast and lunch at work – I struggle to fit in breakfast before I get to work and once there I often get distracted or forget to sort breakfast out, meaning I start to snack later on in the day. If I don’t prep lunch the night before, I end up buying lunch everyday and that can get expensive and unhealthy. This year, I’m going to be on the ball and prep my meals before hand so I know I’m eating well. I’m not a huge fan of cereal or muesli but it’s such a quick, easy and filling breakfast that I’ve decided I need to try and so this weekend I am making my own granola. I’ve adapted a couple of recipes, the Hairy Dieters and this one from completely delicious blog. Served with the Hairy Dieters fruit compote, this brekkie comes out as 243 calories or 252 served with yoghurt.

Ingredients:

I didn’t measure anything out as I just used what was in the cupboard to make a big batch – it’s easy enough to judge how much you need

Oats
Sesame seeds
Honey
Sunflower oil
Fruit
mix (I used a tropical mix of dried fruits and a mix of raisins and cranberries, finely chopped but you could use dried apricots, dried banana etc)
Cinnamon
Nutmeg

This granola is really easy to make – all I did was combine the ingredients in a big mixing bowl until the oats started to come together slightly. Once mixed, I spread the granola in a baking parchment lined tray and baked until golden brown. Now I can use it on top of yoghurt or with fruit compote and I can always make new batches with different fruit and nut combinations – yum!

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Festive Yuletide Choc

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Christmas without an oven is proving a trying time for me! Everywhere I look there are gorgeous recipes for mince pies, gingerbread men, Christmas pudding cheesecake, festive sausage rolls…the list goes on and on. I have had to resort to finding no-bake recipes so I can join in the Christmas-time cooking!

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On a recent buzzfeed post specifically for no-bake Christmas recipes I saw one for Christmasy chocolate bark.

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It’s such a simple, easy recipe and looks so tasty, festive and impressive – a steal of a recipe! Great for a quick treat or wrapped up in cellophane and tied with ribbon for a cute gift.

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It took no time and tastes so yummy! Hopefully my work colleagues will enjoy this end of term Christmas treat before we all head home for the holidays.

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Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!