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Food Bite: Autumn Comfort Food Slimmed Down!

IMG_0097So following on from my rather long and self-indulgent rant, I’ve decided to post a couple of my absolute favourite recipes for Autumnal comfort food – with a twist. I’m forever searching for ways to make my favourite indulgences cleaner and leaner! I’m always experimenting and playing around with ingredients, as I believe in taking care of my body, nourishing it whilst keeping an eye on the old figure!

So today, I have two recipes for you! They’re both super super simple but satisfying and perfect for this time of year. it’s getting a bit colder, we’re all getting a little down in the post-summer slump and comfort food is in order!

A couple of my all-time favourites for a healthy diet and for keeping the calorie/fat content low in meals are Quinoa and Oatbran.

Quinoa is gorgeous, low in calories and really really high in protein so it’s great for veggies, vegans and a general healthy and balanced diet! Now avaiable at all health food stores and pretty much most supermarkets, it’s becoming a favourite in the dieting industry and I think it’s perfect for getting carbohydrates and protein in the diet whilst keeping the saturated fats and calories of a meal on the lower end of the scale.IMG_0165

Oatbran is another newbie, but I’ve been eating it for a good three years now. It’s sort of the outer ‘groat’ of oats and is often discarded in the milling process, but it’s super high in fibre, low in calories, has pretty much zero fat and is also proven to help lower cholesterol and remove toxins (and excess calories, so I’ve been told) from the body, by absorbing them in the intestines. As this is a food post, I’m not going to put anyone off by going into too much anatomical detail here!

Anyway, using these two ingredients I have come up with (As I’m sure many others have too) a couple of ways to slim-down some of my favourite Autumn comfort foods.

Recipe 1: Oatbran Morning Porridge For One

Simple as simple can be really;

  • Add 45g of Oatbran to a non-stick saucepan and add 2-3 tsp of Stevia sweetner and 300mls of water.
  • Place over a low heat on the hob for about 5 minutes.
  • Slice up a medium banana.
  • When the oatbran mixture is bubbling away and thickening, turn up the heat and stir gently.
  • Add 1tsp of cinnamon and some vanilla (I use a little bean paste, but essence or preferably extract work fine too) to taste and mix in.
    Let it bubble away and play with the heat so that all the liquid is absorbed and the mixture nice and rich and thick.
  • Pour into a bowl. Sprinkle the banana on top.
  • *Optional* Place under the grill for a couple of minuts to caremalize the bananas a bit. It’s lovely!

And there you have it. Tasty, filling, warming, comforting…all things an Autumnal breakfast should be! And only about 230 calories to boot!

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Recipe 2: Quinoa Mushroom Risotto (Serves 4)

Still about as easy as possible short of buying it ready made;

500g Chestnut Mushrooms, sliced150g Quinoa
150g Risotto Rice
1.5l Stock (I use chicken, but vegetable is fine)
200g Brocolli cut into small florets.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Fresh thyme, if you’re feeling fancy!

  • Sautee the mushrooms with a little water and some pepper in a non-stick pan for 2-3 minutes.
  • Stir in the Quinoa and brocolli.
  • Add a little stock and stir until absorbed.
  • Add the risotto rice and some more stock. Stir until absorbed.
  • Repeat until all the stock is absorbed and rice and quinoa are cooked and tender. OR, if you don’t want to wait around, I just dump all the stock in in one go and leave simmering for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and until the mixture is cooked and liquid absorbed!!
  • Stir in the salt, pepper and thyme to taste and serve piping hot!IMG_0092

There we go, my lovely and delicious alternative to a proper risotto. What’s mroe comforting and luxurious than a thick, steaming plate or mushroom risotto on a chilly Autumn evening? Divine! Oh, and about 380 cals per portion…and they’re generous portions!

So there we have it. Two super quick and super easy (and pretty darned cheap to make too…) but warm and luxurious Autumn comfort food meals. If you are watching your weight this October, or just want to eat cleaner and healthier, these are great recipes and I’m pretty much addicted…!

Finding new ingredients and alternatives to traditional, high-fat products is a great way to still enjoy the food you love, without having to demolish the diet! By experimenting with new ingredients and recipes, as well as alternative flavours is a great way of slimming down your favourite comfort foods without having to sacrifice tase or portion size! I eat massive portions…I just make sure that what I’m eating is clean and healthy!

Life Bite: A Dieting Rant Pre Autumn Slim-Down!

I’ve been seeing a disturbing amount of poor dieting advice and down-right unhealthy weight loss ideas flung about all over twitter and the general web-o-sphere recently, and it’s really getting on my nerves, so I’ve decided to do a short post on the ‘Autumn Slim Down’!

It’s not a traditional time of year to be embarking upon a new diet or trying to shed a few pounds, but after the holidays of the Summer months and ahead of the decadence of the Christmas period, I feel that now is the perfect time to get back in shape; even if only so that we can splurge all the more over Christmas!!

As I’ve repeatedly mentioned, for me October is the real beginning of Autumn and a fresh start and time for a new beginning. So a new Autumn diet? Why ever not!

I’m not about to post a whole bunch of recipes and build diet plans and calorie counts etc: I’m not offering a service or trying to sell something, all I’m going to do is give my advice and my own experiences on dieting and being healthy.

Even if you’re not looking to lose weight, eating healthy is important! It’s good for the skin, for the mind and for the heart and soul! You will have more energy, a clearer mind and will feel a whole lot better with a diet full of fresh, natural ingredients and a good balance of nutrients!

There are two things that really get me when it comes to health and dieting;

Firstly, all the fad-diets and solutions and products and pills and downright awful advice. Low carb – I tried it for a while a couple of years ago – the weight does come off, but guess what? When you try to start eating normally again, you put it all back on! High Protein – awful for the kidneys and gives you bad breath and is, once again, not a long term solution. Juicing, Low-Gi, Raw-Food…the list goes on and to be honest, they’re all a bunch of nonsense and they’re so damaging to your health and body in the long (and short) term!

Secondly, a poor diet really really irritates me. The obesity in the world, the constant stream of fast food and the overwhelming dependency on the cheap, quick, easy take-away food really gets to me and just makes my skin crawl and blood boil! I get overwhelmingly bewildered by my flatmate, who doesn’t appear to eat a fresh, home-cooked or remotely healthy thing EVER. Sugar-packed cereal in the morning, supermarket meal-deal for lunch and frozen Pizza/Battered Fish/Kebab/Burger/Battered Chicken etc. for dinner and then endless bags of cookies and doughnuts and sugar-coated baked goods throughout the day. He’s not fat, but he’s incredibly unhealthy and it’s going to catch up to him!

But I’m not preaching or anything…!

Honestly, I do eat sweets and chocolates and biscuits and eat a fair amount of ready meals (being as busy as I have been, sometimes you need something quick!) but I always add a whole load of fresh veg to the meals and try to choose ones that are less processed and have fewer artificial ingredients and preservatives in them. I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m saying do it less!

When it comes to dieting, the only formula you need to know is this: Reduced calories = Reduced Weight. Cut down on the calorie intake and you will lose weight, it’s fact, its science and it’s general common sense. The problem is, so many people are out for a quick fix (we are the instant gratification generation after all!) that they want instant results so cut their calories massively and then end up falling off the wagon after two weeks due to what is literally starvation and as a result of not having seen the completely unrealistic results they were hoping for.

So reduced calories. I could talk about TDEE and BMR and all the rest, but I don’t see the point, I’m no expert and you can find that info freely elsewhere. What I’m saying is, cut the calories, but NOT TOO MUCH!! The general consensus seems to be 1200, but I think even that is too low. 1300 at the least. The weight loss is slower, but the results will be more permanent and you will be able to actually stick to the diet effectively for a prolonged period of time!

By cutting out around 500 calories a day you are set to lose about 1lb. a week (or more depending on your stats) and although that doesn’t seem like much, the thing about weight loss is that it needs to be a lifestyle change. You need to set yourself up with habits that will last a lifetime, not just 2 months on the diet! If you take it slow and learn new habits and a new way of life then you will be able to MAINTAIN the weight loss and hopefully never have to diet again!

So what have I said…oh, that’s right, EAT LESS TO LOSE WEIGHT! Don’t rush into it and don’t expect a miracle, it won’t happen like that. I yo-yo dieted for years but it’s only in the last year that I really found out how to lose weight, keep it off and not go completely crazy thinking about weight/food/dieting etc all the time. A small cut makes a big difference in the long run.

When I say eat less, I also mean, eat less but balanced. Every meal should have carbs, protein and AT LEAST one portion of fresh fruit or vegetables. I will post a few meals and recipes at some point highlighting this, but what I’m saying here is, DO NOT DENY YOURSELF! Denying yourself things just creates an obsession. So I have chocolate, I have crisps, I have anything I want as long as I’m careful about what else I eat. And it works, it truly and honestly works.

The reason why the crazy diets such as no-carb, low-Gi, Raw-Food etc work for a while is because they cut out a huge food group and therefore force you to dramatically reduce your calorie intake, but the problem is that they don’t teach you a lifestyle – do you really want to never have a carb again? – and the minute you go off the diet and try to eat ‘normally’ again, you put all the weight back on (and often more!) That and you can do some irreparable damage to your body and metabolism and mental health. Look after your body for god’s sake, we don’t get to trade in every 24 months!

So don’t deny yourself, but don’t over-indulge every day. It’s fine to indulge on holidays, or at Christmas or for special events, but don’t make it an everyday habit! Everything in moderation!

Eating Healthily really requires these same rules, but without the calorie reduction. Eat something from every food group (those pyramids that they’e always showing us…) and make sure you have as much organic, clean, fresh, un-processed food as possible. But always allow yourself treats! Eat what you like, and find new ways to introduce the healthy foods into your diet – I love risotto, but it’s so stodgy and I’ve recently invented a quinoa based variation that I love! I will post the recipe some time. But finding ways to make your favourite ‘un-healthy’ meals more healthy and clean is the way to go!

Goodness, this was supposed to be a quick note, but it seems to have spiralled out of control! I just get very irritated with all the dieting advice that claims to be expert and healthy and effective etc. and it actually just an utter load of crap!

Basically, eat fresh stay fresh! If you eat less, then you will weigh less…it’s really as simple as that. A healthy diet is the best thing you can do for yourself, in every way. Your diet affects everything about you, from your sight, to sleep, to concentration, physical appearance, mental health and even IQ! So make sure that it’s a good one! Never deny yourself, but learn moderation! Eat as healthily as you can but allow yourself indulgences and you will be just fine. Whether you want to lose weight or not, eating a balanced, healthy diet is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.

Food Bite: Quinoa, Tuna and Tomato Stuffed Peppers

I cooked dinner for my flatmate and one of my girlfriends tonight. I adore cooking, but I never bother to cook anything extravagent or even that interesting when I’m just cooking for one. When I visit my parents, I always get to cook lavish dishes and I occasionally ‘cater’ dinner parties or lunch parties for my Grandma, but for the most part, I don’t get to cook that much. And it saddens me!

But we decided to have Emma round for dinner and I had a recipe already in mind that I wanted to play with; Roasted red peppers stuffed with a tomato, quinoa, tuna and mozarella filling. Never tried it before, but I thought I’d give it a shot!

IngredientsMy recipe to serve 4:

4 large red peppers
375g Chestnut mushrooms
2 tins tuna flakes (or 250g approx)
375g broccoli cut into small florets
120g Quinoa
1 tin chopped tomatoes (400-600g according to preference!)
125g Mozzarella
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 large Jalapeno Peppers, sliced (If you like spicy!)
Salt and pepper

  • Cut each of the peppers in half and cut out seeds and white flesh. Place each pepper (in two halves) on a large sheet of tinfoil, allowing enough foil to be able to fold over and completely cover the peppers.
  • Add the garlic and tomatoes to a pan and cook gently for 2 mintes. Add the quinoa and 350ml wate to the pan. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.Ready to go!
  • Add the mushrooms, broccoli, jalapenos and tuna to the pan and simmer for another 10 minutes until quinoa is tender and water is absorbed.
  • Stir in salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat.
  • Use a spoon to fill the pepper halves with the stuffing mixture, compact into the peppers tightly and pile as high as you wish!
  • Place any remaining filling around the peppers in the tin foil ‘cases’ and add a little extra water to stop it sticking to the foil.
  • Cover the peppers with foil and place in a preheated (200c) oven for 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Slice the mozzarella. remove peppers from over, remove foil covering and lay slices of mozzarella on top of the peppers.
  • Return to oven for 15-25 minutes.
  • Serve with a fresh rocket and tomato salad!

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Really enjoyed the finished result; it was an experiment and it really worked! So that’s a turn out for the books…

The other great thing about this recipe is that its super healthy! A portion of two halves (like the pic)  works out at under 400 calories!

Quinoa is also a great superfood: packed with protein so it’s great for vegetarians and you can really mix and match with the ingredients: chicken instead of tuna, or just add different varieties of muchrooms or veg to the stuffing!

Great versatile meal and so quick and easy to make; the most time spent was when it was in the oven, leaving me free to be a sociable host!!!

I think that the culture of cooking fresh, homemade food and sitting down with friends to really enjoy a meal has been lost somewhat. There’s no better way to spend an evening, in my opinion, than preparing a delicious meal, having a few close friends around and enjoying good food, a bottle of wine and some great conversation. And of course, no meal is complete without pudding…!

pud