Healthy Dinner Idea #5 Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

Warming, spicy soup...delicious
Warming, spicy soup…delicious

I needed soup. Usually, I want soup but today it was definitely a need. Yesterday was food heaven but food heaven in the naughtiest way possible. Let me begin. Breakfast was granola topped with a banana…so far so good, right? Then lunch was at a top restaurant in Lincoln. Yes, a full three courses with butter laden sauces and a dessert. What a dessert though! A moussey-cake chocolate thing with almond cream. Heaven! This is exactly the reason that I don’t diet as such: I couldn’t live without food like this as a treat.

Stuffed to the brim by 1:30pm, dinner seemed like a mere dot on the horizon. It soon rolled around though and just as soon as I had got over the decadent lunch, I was eating pasta. The pasta was delicious though, with roast chicken and a lettuce, pea and mushroom sauce, finished with a drizzle of truffle oil and sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. I also believe that the mushrooms were fried-off in some porcini and truffle butter that we had picked up at the market in Lincoln.

The problem that I find though, is after a couple of indulgent days, it is very hard to reset your buttons and get back into the healthy regime. It makes me more ravenous, more desperate for fat and sugar and more willing to shun salads and healthy things. This is where soup comes in. Soup seems to cure this for me. A bowl of warm, vegetable-filled goodness makes me forget the mousey-cake chocolate thingys of the world and shun the mushrooms fried in porcini truffle butter.

At the back end of this week, I made roasted butternut squash chunks for salads at work and found after one helping that I was a little bit fed up of them. The remaining chunks had lingered in the fridge on Friday and Saturday and came dangerously close to being bin-food when I got my soup craving. I have included the recipe below and it made two portions…one is going in the freezer for the next time I have an over-indulgence emergency.


1 medium onion, finely sliced

1 red chilli, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1/2 roast butternut squash

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped into chunks

500 ml chicken stock

a good grind of pepper

In a saucepan, heat some olive oil and gently fry the onions until they start getting soft and translucent. Add the garlic and chilli. Stir around for about 5 minutes. Add the butternut squash chunks, sweet potato chunks and stock. Simmer for around 20 minutes, or until the sweet potato is cooked. Grind over plenty of pepper and blend until smooth.

Healthy Dinner #4 Sushi

Raw tuna...
Raw tuna…

On Friday night, I broke through the 3 mile barrier for a run…ok, I’ll stop exaggerating, it was more like a leisurely jog but hey I made it round the circuit. I was hot, sweaty and pink when I collapsed through the door and remembered reading about having lots of protein after exercise to help rebuild your muscles. The usual Friday night takeaway wasn’t going to cut it, so I made a Korean style beef salad with rice and an egg. Steak and egg. Continue reading

Healthy Dinner Idea #3 Salady Bits

A smorgasbord of delicious and healthy(isn) treats...
A smorgasbord of delicious and healthy(isn) treats…

I feel like a fraud writing the words ‘healthy dinner’ today, so I’m just going to be honest. I have eaten a lot of Easter egg in the past few days. Perhaps not as much as I used to (as a kid, I remember getting something like 11 chocolate eggs and eating most of them before going back to school), however, perhaps a little more than I should. Chocolate just tastes so good with a cup of tea. I’m also desperately trying to claw my way through series 1-4 of Game of Thrones before going back to work next week and it is so easy to just keep dipping your hand into those foil-wrapped fragments of chocolate whilst absorbed in the happenings in Westeros. Watching all 40 or so hours might be a slightly tall order, if I’m to enjoy any of this spring sunshine. And have a life. To assuage some of the guilt, I’m going to an exercise class in an hour so when I’m practically on my hands and knees crawling back down my street, I can tell myself that I earned my Easter eggs. Oh, and I did a 2.4 mile jog on Tuesday and a 4.6 mile walk. So there.

One of my favourite summer dinners, is when we have what are affectionately known in our house as “picky bits”, this is usually assisted by having a wonderful delicatessan and bakery in the village, which sells olives, Parma ham, cheeses and this oil-soaked deliciousness called olive bread. You basically just assemble lots of different flavours and textures on your plate and dig in. Not everything on my plate was totally healthy – I could have just eaten a bag of rocket and called it a day. But this blog is all about the more healthy, not the I’m never going to enjoy my food again. 

My plate started with two slices of Parma ham – from the bakery and therefore cheaper and better quality than supermarket-bought and some grilled halloumi cheese with a chilli and garlic dressing. I just love halloumi cheese with its squeaky texture. Then, I made a sweetcorn salsa with sweetcorn, tomatoes, spring onions, chilli, coriander, lime juice and olive oil and placed this next to a simple rocket and sun-dried tomato salad. I plonked a few sweet potato wedges that were roasted in olive oil with a dusting of cinnamon in a bowl in the middle and the final touch was some homemade coleslaw.

Whilst not everything on the plate fulfilled the tick sheet for a completely healthy dinner, I had only had a bowl of broccoli and spinach soup for lunch so felt this was a good way to balance my day without being too ‘naughty’.

Still to come are sweet potato brownies and I’m going to have a crack at some butternut squash gnocchi…as in, make the gnocchi from the squash instead of potato. Fingers crossed!


Healthy Snack Idea #3 Banana Loaf

Banana Loaf and Almond Buter

I watched a programme recently about what type of eater you are. You know, if you’re stressed, you dip your hand absent-mindlessly into the biscuit tin; if you’re angry, you chomp through an entire cake in one sitting; if you’re tired, you crave sweets and sugary snacks etc. I decided that I was all of them. But perhaps the worst culprit was the boredom eater. The clock ticks by and you think “Oh, I know…I’ll have a tea and a slice of cake and that’ll pass half an hour.” Or, if you’re sitting around at home, your mind starts to wander to the fridge and that chocolate bar you’ve been saving for a “special occasion”. Or the crisps that are left over from the last “special occasion” (otherwise known as it’s Friday night goddamit and I need something savoury to go with my wine!). Without even being remotely hungry, you can polish off huge amounts of empty calories if you aren’t careful.

Well, forearmed with the knowledge that I tend to eat more whilst on holiday – well, lounging around and reading/watching Game of Thrones is quite tiring and requires lots of snacks – I armed myself with some healthy snack recipes and have decided to share the banana bread one here with you. It has ground almonds, which help keep it soft and moist – no doubt also helped by the four mashed, ripe bananas. It isn’t cakey at all. There’s no white flour, or butter, or sugar to help give it that light airy lift that we expect from a cake, so the result is rather dense. I like to think of this as a ‘nutrient dense’ snack. But it is delicious, especially when topped with crunchy almond butter.

You’d also be amazed at just how little maple syrup is needed to add the sweetness, but again, the bananas certainly earn their money in this little loaf. The cinnamon also gives a slightly, spicy sweetness to the mix and is an excellent spice for digestion and anti-bacterial to boot.

I hope you enjoy it if you make it. I have a healthy dinner planned for tonight, so will hopefully have a chance to share that…oh and my next kitchen adventure is Sweet Potato Brownies. Fingers crossed!

Here’s my recipe:

4 ripe bananas, mashed

1 cup ground almonds

1.5 cup wholemeal flour

3 tbsp chia seeds (I used milled chia seeds here because I bought them and they don’t taste nice on porridge)

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 egg

1 tsp baking powder

Mash the bananas in a bowl, add the egg and beat gently. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Tip the bananas in to the flour mix and add the maple syrup. Mix until combined and pour – ok, spoon, into a greased loaf tin. I used olive oil to grease mine. Bake in the oven 200C/Gas mark 6 for 35-40 minutes. Until the top is nice and golden and a cocktail stick comes out clean.

When eating, spread with almond butter and enjoy!