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

Advertisements

Healthy Lunch Idea #4 Broccoli and Spinach Soup

Packed full of green goodness
Packed full of green goodness

Just a few short weeks ago, it felt like spring had heralded its arrival. There were lighter mornings, warmer temperatures and less rain than usual. Then came the cold snap. For some reason, we seem to have gone back to having to scrape sheets of ice from the car windscreen again and getting the gloves out of a morning. With this inclement weather though, came the opportunity to revert back to soup. I dusted off the old trusty microwave soup pot and whipped up something nutritious and delicious.

Making enough soup to last for a few lunches is always a good idea. The only problem that I have is making the trek down to the microwave. Ok – it really isn’t that far but, on a busy day, it is far enough to resort to a few biscuits or sweets or cereal bars or something instead of sticking to my healthy eating. This time though, I really made the effort and I’m pleased I did. This soup does have some spring like qualities – the vibrant green certainly acts as a glorious pick me up and it isn’t a heavy pearl barley broth by any stretch of the imagination. Yet it still provides some key warmth on a chilly afternoon.

I think the real key here is the butter beans. They are a great source of protein and so really help to fill you up and they also give the soup a lovely creaminess. Without cream. When you incorporate the fresh zing from some lemon and coriander, it gives the soup a cleansing, vibrant kick: you can almost trick yourself that you’re eating a real summery dish. The broccoli, spinach and coriander also create this wonderful vibrant colour and I was pleased to read the other day that spinach packs a harder nutritional punch when it cooked, compared to when it is raw. Who’d have thought it?

Here’s the recipe:

700ml chicken stock (or vegetable stock, or water)

1 head of broccoli, chopped into florets

1 bag of spinach (200g)

1 handful coriander

1 white onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 lemon, halved

1 tsp cumin

Fry off the onion and garlic in a large pan until soft and translucent but not coloured – I use olive oil. Add the cumin and stir well. Once incorporated into the onion and garlic mix, add the stock and broccoli. Place the lemon halves in the pan and cover, simmering for approximately 8 minutes. Add the coriander and spinach and leave to steam down with the lid on until wilted. Once it is cooked, removed the lemon halves and blend with a stick blender.

I enjoyed this soup for dinner with some feta cheese and fresh pea shoots; sticking to just plain old soup (but not quite!) for lunch. It freezes well.

Healthy-ish Dinner Idea #1 Aubergine Bake

Crispy topped aubergine bake with homemade tomato sauce...
Crispy topped aubergine bake with homemade tomato sauce…

I love carbs. There I’ve said it. In the world today many people seem to be obsessed with Atkins or Paleo diets, many a time have I seen on forums, websites etc. “Oh but I’m Paleo, how can you make the recipe Paleo…?”. You can be regarded as some kind of food-criminal if you suggest that you enjoy nothing more than a large bowl of steaming spaghetti carbonara. Made with white pasta, natch.

This recipe did not stem from a desire to have a carb-free tea or to avoid the sluggish, bloated feeling you get from eating pasta. Rather, I wanted to approach it with the meat-free attitude in exploration of alternatives to our staple dinner ingredient: chicken. I found the recipe online and tweaked and meddled with it to suit the cupboard, local supermarket and refined foodie palates(!) it was going to be serving.

It is at heart a vegetable bake, mere mention of this to my partner would normally lead to him sprinting to the butchers or supermarket or stuffing handfuls of ham in his mouth. Quite often, we’ve tried vegetarian meals only to find ourselves commenting, “that would have been nice with a bit of beef.” This one was different though.

You essentially make a spinach and ricotta filling, stuff it inside thin slices of pre-grilled aubergine, roll the whole thing up and shove it a bakeware dish with a smothering of tomato sauce before baking. For the people out there who need a more defined recipe, see below:

1 large aubergine

1 pot of ricotta cheese

1 large bag spinach

nutmeg

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 small white onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic (I’m a huge fan, 1 would probably suffice), finely chopped or crushed

1 tbsp tomato puree

2 tbsps balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp oregano

1 tsp mixed herbs

1 handful breadcrumbs

3 tbsp Parmesan cheese (or veggie alternative)

Preheat your oven, it will need to be on a medium-high heat. Slice your aubergine reasonably thinly lengthways and drizzle with olive oil and seasoning before grilling. Turn over when lightly coloured on one side. Lightly steam the spinach and when cooked, squeeze as much of the excess water out of it as possible. Mix this with ricotta cheese and a sprinkling of nutmeg and seasoning. Drizzle some olive oil into a saucepan and sweat the onions and garlic until cooked but not brown and crunchy. When translucent and soft, tip in the chopped tomatoes and add the puree, vinegar and dried herbs. Let this simmer together for about 5 minutes – or longer if you want an extra-rich sauce. I find that balsamic vinegar is an excellent addition to tomato-based sauces and now never leave it out. Whilst your sauce is simmering, take a piece of aubergine and plop a generous spoonful of ricotta in the middle, roll it up and place seal side down in an ovenproof dish. Cover with your homemade tomato sauce and top with a handful of fresh breadcrumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven until heated through, approximately 20 minutes.

Serve with a side salad and if you want to be extra-naughty some pasta or crusty bread. We both found the side salad to be sufficient as the bake is deceptively filling. Enjoy!

Healthy Snack Ideas #1

I believe the jury is still out on whether snacking between meals is actually beneficial for weight loss but there are times when you just need to stave off the hunger demons in-between meals. There’s nothing worse than feeling a little peckish and being faced with sugar-laden flapjacks masquerading as the ‘healthy option’, or the office biscuit tin, brimming with fatty, buttery biscuits or worse: the chocolate bar. Oh the guilt when you give in and satiate your starvation with unhealthy, nutritionally-decrepit foods! You might as well just have takeaway tonight and a fry-up tomorrow for breakfast: those are the thoughts that soon swim into your head as soon as you have banquished hunger pangs with bad foods.

I have found an answer. Not the answer but an answer. The holy grail of healthy but satisfying snacks destined to fuel the engine for a few more hours until your next meal. The banana muffin. This is not a banana muffin as we know it with butter and refined sugar and white flour. This is that banana muffin’s slightly healthier cousin.

These have gone down to roaring applause at school – ok not quite but they were well-received- and were even enjoyed by my cake-loving partner. Of course, it’s not like a delicate slice of Victoria sponge with afternoon tea (fresh leaves not bagged), but this is a snack you could enjoy everyday without being consumed with food guilt.

Here goes:

3 large ripe bananas (lovely burst of natural sugar and easy to digest)

1/4 cup of honey or maple syrup or agave syrup

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 and 3/4 cup of wholemeal flour

1/2 cup light olive oil

1 tbsp milk

1 large egg beaten

Mash the bananas until smooth and relatively lump-free. Mix in the beaten egg. In a separate bowl, lightly mix the flour and bicarb and baking powder and add the banana-egg mixture. To this, add the olive oil, milk and honey and mix all ingredients together. Do be careful not to over mix.

Bake in the oven Gas Mark 5 or 175C for approximately 25 minutes – to be honest, I always just check with a toothpick – if it comes out clean when inserted in to the centre of a muffin, then you’re good to go.

This is a very forgiving recipe. I have mixed in dark chocolate chips when needing to knock chocolate cravings on the head and also added a tbsp of chia and/or mixed seeds to the recipe for extra nutritional benefits. You could always experiment with blueberries, raspberries or other fruit, dried or fresh. Please feel free to leave comments about your cooking endeavours on my blog.

The top of the muffin on my image looks a little darker than it did in real-life but hey-ho, I love a good crunchy muffin top.

Hot cup of tea and warm banana muffin...the perfect afternoon snack
Hot cup of tea and warm banana muffin…the perfect afternoon snack