Category Archives: Diet/Healthy Eating

Rhubarb Loaf Cake

I made this yummy cake last night and following requests for the recipe; here it is….

I have loads of Rhubarb chopped up in bags in my freezer and as we are not “regular” pudding eaters (trying not terribly successfully to control our weight) I thought I had better try and use some before the next crop starts appearing.  We only have one plant but it seems to be extremely happy where it is and grows like a mad thing (great for our Rhubarb Chutney) so when I was sorting the freezer yesterday I took a bag out to use and decided to try and make a cake.

The first thing I did was tip the already chopped and frozen rhubarb into a saucepan and cooked it until all the liquid had boiled off and I had a nice thick puree.

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Yes I know it does not look terribly appetising but this bag of rhubarb was fairly green so not a great colour.  I added a bit of ginger powder and about a teaspoon of the sugar we had saved from some crystallised ginger.

I then set this aside to cool.

When it had cooled I made a basic cake mix – I used a 2 egg mix but I think if I make this again I will use a 3 egg  mix.

For my cake mix method see:

Anyone for cakes????

Oh – you want to know how much rhubarb? truth is I forgot to weigh it before I started but I think it would have been about 2 good size sticks.

Anyway, I added the cake mix to the pureed rhubarb and mixed it all together

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Oh – and for this cake to make it a little “healthier” I used wholemeal self raising flour (because it was next to the caster sugar in the cupboard)

I lined a 2lb loaf tin with paper and popped it in the oven at 160 degrees

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Again this is something I was learning as I went along… After 45 minutes it looked like this..

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but I decided it needed a little longer as when I took it out it was quite floppy so in total it took just over an hour.

I would therefore put it in at slightly higher temperature – but no higher than 180 when making this again, but eventually it looked like this…

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We were a bit impatient to try it with our cup of tea so I cut a couple of slices and we had it warm (would have been very nice with a dollop of ice cream if we had any…)

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Very yummy!   I’m going to have to make this again very soon to try the variations I have thought of – that is, use a 3 egg mix and bake at a slightly higher temperature.  Now I mixed the rhubarb in well but you could always “marble” it or perhaps layer it by putting in half of the cake mix, then the puree and the rest of the cake mix on top,  go on… experiment, its fun!! If you don’t like Rhubarb then try raspberries or whatever fruit you fancy.

 

 

Diet Tip; Read the Small Print!!!

There are many, many different “diets” to choose from and follow if you are trying to shed a few pounds in weight, but at the end of the day the basic formula is that you need to consume less calories than you burn off and be careful of your portion sizes.

While following a recipe earlier in the week, I wanted to adapt it slightly so that I could make it a little “healthier” in that I wanted to use less pasta to reduce the calorie content slightly.

Now I have an app which will scan the bar-code of a product and then you enter the quantity and it works out all the nutritional content for you, but this day I was writing down the ingredients and working it out as I went along and I made a discovery……

Nutritional labels can be misleading if you don’t read them carefully….

I was looking at a packet of Cannelloni pasta and trying to work out how many calories were in each tube, how many were supposed to be in a portion etc.  and I was struggling – it wasn’t making sense… then I realised what was going on.

When I look at nutritional labels I always go by the “per 100g” table and would normally think that this was correct.  On my pack of Cannelloni it says that there are 155kcal per 100g, so you would think that a standard 75g portion would be 116kcals.. WRONG!!!!!

Next to the 100g table, is another which says “per 180g cooked pasta (approx 75g dry pasta) which says that it is 280kcal.  So I checked the maths and yes this did work back correctly to 155kcal per 100g but nowhere did it state that this was the calorie content of COOKED pasta.

So I began to check a few other labels and discovered that there is quite a variation in how they are presented.

  • A packet of Fusilli pasta said “per 100g (as consumed)” 124kcal but a 75g portion was 224kcal – therefore 100g COOKED pasta was the stated 124kcal
  • a pack of Cous Cous again says “per 100g (as consumed) 107kcal with a note saying that 35g uncooked cous cous weighs approximately 80g when cooked, and on the front of the packet it says “an 80g serving (boiled) provides 86kcal”.  Now I wouldn’t be surprised if most people looked at the information on the front and saw that a serving size was 80g, weighed out 80g for their meal missing the bit in small print which says that 35g yields a cooked weight of 80g, and Whoops! have now consumed something like 250kcal when they thought they were only having 86 – THREE TIMES AS MUCH! (I actually had to resort to searching on the internet to confirm the calorie content of dry cous cous as being over 300kcal per 100g)
  • Quinoa; per 100g (cooked as directed) 111kcal – per 1/10 pack 34kcal.  Right, the packet has 300g so 1/10 equals 30g quinoa is 34kcal, Again, a hunt on the internet discovers that 100g dry weight Quinoa is approximately 300 calories so actually, so not only is this misleading – this label is incorrect as a 30g portion which makes about 70-80g cooked would be about 80 – 90 calories.  (I will be sending them an e-mail)
  • Rice: again “as consumed per 100g = 114kcals” but a 75g dry weight portion yields 185g cooked making it 210kcals – the dry weight therefore is approximately 280kcal per 100g.

I’ve noticed a similar thing with some Pearl Barley I have, some lasagna appears to have the same issue.  All of these are coming up at around 3 times the number of calories than shown.  Now most of these packs came from the same supermarket so other producers may have their labels differently – but the one that came from a different (leading) supermarket was completely wrong.

So if you are trying to monitor your calorie intake – be very careful with reading the labels, check the recommended portion size in the small print and use the lower weight which yields the correct cooked weight portion and number of calories..

This discovery has actually made me a bit cross as I do not consider myself stupid, yet I was falling for this – I spent 30 years working as an Accountant/Analyst so this sort of stuff is easy for me to work out, but what happens to those who are shall we say a little more challenged when it comes to numbers??  and are struggling to work out why they are carefully counting the calories and sticking to it diligently and not getting the results they should… I feel a campaign coming on….

Who’s with me?

Mackerel & Yellow Tomato Rice Bake

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Last year we managed to grow some tomatoes and I made some soups and passattas with some of the glut that we had.  (I still have some tomatoes in the freezer.)

One of the varieties we grew was called “Citronella” – they are a tomato which look like a lemon in shape and size and have a hint of a lemon flavour to them.  They are a bit quirky but make an interesting contrast if you are having mixed tomatoes or fancy something a little different.  I had made some soup with these and still had a couple of containers lurking in the freezer.

The soup was very simple to make by just frying an onion and adding all the chopped tomatoes and cooking until they were softened.  I added a stock cube for seasoning and then blitzed to make a nice smooth soup.  Don’t bother with all the cheffy trying to peel the skin and de-seed, that’s where the colour comes from and you don’t need to add any more liquid unless you want a thinner soup.

Anyway…. for dinner tonight I decided to experiment and get one of these out and make a rice bake dish.

I used (for the two of us):

  • 100g wholegrain brown rice (or whatever you have)
  • 1 tub Yellow tomato soup (I will discuss alternatives later)
  • 1 tin smoked mackerel (you could use fresh if you have it)
  • A generous handful of frozen peas

Because I was using wholegrain rice which takes a lot longer to cook I part cooked the rice first.  Rinsed well and drained and then added the soup.  I used a hob to oven casserole dish so I heated it up before popping in the oven at about 180 for about 30 minutes.  Checking occasionally to give it a stir and make sure that it did not dry out too soon.

Now if you don’t happen to have some yellow tomato soup in your freezer, you can get a similar flavour by adding a small preserved lemon (you can buy them in jars) to plain rice and when the rice is almost cooked it will have softened enough to break down and mix up with the rice.  As I was using a pre-made soup I did not need to add any more seasoning but if you taste it and want some more then add as desired.

Alternatively you could use a tin of standard tomato soup or passatta which will also work well with mackerel.

Once the rice had fluffed up and there was not much moisture left, I broke up the mackerel and mixed in with the rice along with the frozen peas.

I put this back into the oven for about 5-10 minutes to heat the mackerel and the peas.  If you are using fresh or uncooked mackerel then you will need to leave this in for longer.

Now I’m sure that if you wanted to you could probably add some parmesan cheese on top but I resisted this time as I wanted to keep this dish reasonably healthy.  Mackerel is quite high in calories although very good for you.

If you don’t want to use your oven then you could continue to cook on the hob as it is quite similar to a risotto.

Once everything is piping hot, serve and enjoy – I did and I’m not that keen on fish.

Apple Juice – bet you didn’t know this….

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About 10 years ago I was having some problems with my health and after numerous visits to different A&E’s, Doctors and hospital appointments and tests, with various “diagnosis”  I was not getting any better.   Awful pains, feeling sick and bloated and unable to get comfortable and sleep.  I had to go and prop myself on the sofa with a load of cushions in a particular position to be able to sleep.  Over the the course of 6 months or so I was doing this several times a week, not good when you needed to go to work the next morning.

One day I felt particularly bad and asked my boss to take me home from work (again!!) Usually catching up with some sleep would make me feel better, not this time. I seemed to get worse and found that I needed to stay in bed.  After about 2 – 3 days of this hubby said that he thought I looked a bit yellow (probably the light as that is the colour we had decorated our bedroom).  So when I felt able to get up we looked and sure enough. I looked like I had jaundice so a call to the doctor was made and the “penny finally dropped”.  Yes I had jaundice and I had gallstones.  She wanted to do some more tests but over the course of the weekend I got worse and was admitted to hospital and spent a week in there recovering after having the diagnosis confirmed and the offending gallstones removed.  Surgery was booked for a few weeks later to remove the gall bladder with strict dietary instructions for the meantime.

The frustrating thing with this was not just the length of time it took the medical profession to get the right diagnosis (there are several things which have identical symptoms) and how rough I felt for all this time, I knew how it could have been controlled in the meantime if I had received the correct diagnosis at the start.  I had several years earlier embarked on a Rosemary Conley diet which had the primary emphasis of eating very low fat.  She had discovered the benefits of eating this way herself having been advised that she had gallstones and this was her only hope of avoiding surgery.

Anyway, after my surgery I felt great and enjoyed feeling well again.  I was advised by my surgeon that I may suffer more indigestion but I should be able to eat what I wanted (Which I did)

As time went on, work became more demanding and my eating habits deteriorated.  Poor hubby was cooking meals for me and I was getting in so late I didn’t want to eat them as I was finding I was feeling sick in the night (and often was) and basically suffered from indigestion, but didn’t really make the connection.

You see the gall bladder releases bile which aids digestion and helps to break down any fat in your food and as I no longer had a gall bladder this was not happening.  This was because without the gall bladder, I was not able to digest food as quickly and therefore would get indigestion at night, but I wasn’t connecting all this information together.

When hubby started having similar problems a few years later, we went into action, got all the low fat cook books out  and by the time his tests came through they were clear. (we also lost a lot of weight)

Somewhere along the way I began having a glass of diluted apple juice with my dinner in the evening.  I made several changes to my habits around this time;

  1. Portion size – I kept the size of my evening meal to a smallish portion using a childs plate (which is a trick to make your mind think you have had a bigger meal as the plate looks fuller)
  2. Trying not to eat too late – I would try not to eat any later than 7pm as I found that I needed time to allow anything I had eaten to be digested before I went to bed or would have to stay up late.
  3. Drinking a glass of apple juice – I would usually dilute this so I probably would only have about 100-150ml  with sparkling water added as there is a lot of sugar in juice.

I began to notice that I was no longer suffering from indigestion.  My “cough” disappeared and I was not having my sleep disturbed, but then I began to notice that if I ate elsewhere, even though I ate healthily, I would sometimes suffer a little bit of indigestion.  I began to connect these times with not having the apple juice so when we stayed at my parents for example, I would pack some small apple juice cartons and drink one after dinner.  Sure enough it seemed to help.

More recently I’ve for whatever reason, either we’ve eaten out or done something different on a few occasions found that I have suffered a bit of indigestion – why? because I have not had any apple juice.  So sometimes I’ve got up at say 1 or 2 am and had a small glass of apple juice and guess what?… the indigestion settles almost immediately, back to bed and sleep with no problem.

Now I am not a medical person or scientific in any way so I am not able to explain why this happens scientifically or medically.  But it seems to work for me.

I had a hunt on the internet to see if I could find an explanation and although there does not appear to be any conclusive evidence, it does appear that many “natural remedies” for indigestion involve eating an apple or drinking apple vinegar (no thanks) to aid indigestion and that many other people seem to think that it helps too.

Apples it seems;  contain a substance which helps to neutralise stomach acid  As well as other health benefits of vitamins and lowering cholesterol it looks like there is some truth in the old “apple a day, keeps the Doctor away” proverb.

So, if you are a sufferer, it might be worth trying instead of reaching for the medicine cupboard.  It seems to work for me, you could of course eat an apple for your “desert” and get all the additional benefits of the fruit fibres as well.

Remember though there is a lot of sugar in Apple juice, so don’t have too much and make sure you clean your teeth afterwards

Offcuts Pie

Yesterday I was planning on making a Cottage Pie for our dinner with some mince from the freezer but with a cauliflower mash topping for a change (using frozen cauliflower)

I wandered into my local supermarket and there were some nice looking small fresh cauliflowers on the reduced shelf for 55p so I decided to get one and use it for the topping for our dinner later.

I was hungry as I had not yet had any lunch and decided to buy a single roll and go to the Deli counter and buy a slice of chicken/ham or cheese, or whatever was a good price,

As I got to the counter, the assistant was marking down some packs of offcuts to 49p, so  I asked her what they were and she explained that they were just a random mix of all the little bits that were left after slicing  so it was “pot luck” what was in there.

As it was only 49p for 260g of meat I decided to risk it and have some in my roll and then hubby could have some in his wraps for his lunch the next day.

On opening the pack there was a good selection of Ham, bacon, Chicken, Turkey, peppered beef.

During my walk home I wondered if I could use this to make the “Pie” instead and so the “Offcuts Pie” was created.

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So here’s what I did;

I had about 200g of meat left after my sandwich so I chopped this up into smaller pieces and popped them into a frying pan – no need to add any oil or fat as there was a little on some of the ham and heated this up.

I added some water and made a gravy using my usual gravy granules.  I add a little bit of hoisin sauce left in a bottle so I put this into the gravy for some extra flavour and poured all this into my baking dish.

To make the topping I chopped up the cauliflower and boiled in some seasoned water for a few minutes until it started to soften.

I then drained the water off (realising that I should have done this first and used the water for the gravy to keep all the nutrients in the dish).

I then mashed the cauliflower up with a little mustard, butter and a small amount of cheese (I had some cheddar but you can use whatever you have – a cream cheese would be nice) and then spread the mix on the top of the meat & gravy.

This went into the oven at 180degrees for about 30 minutes until the cauliflower had browned an the gravy was bubbling.

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I served this with some carrots.

We really enjoyed this and it was also fun to eat as you were never sure what the next mouthful would contain.

You can of course vary this in many ways by making a more traditional base using onions and tomatoes to make a rich gravy and add extra vegetables.

The topping of course can be made with potatoes, swede, any vegetable you choose really.  On of the advantages of using the cauliflower is that the calorie content is greatly reduced (as long as you only use a tiny amount of butter and cheese – just enough to help give a bit of colour and hold it together) and also good if you want to watch your carbohydrates.

Try it – its fun and very tasty and cheap!!

Beetroot, Feta and Pesto Pizza

On my last visit to my parents, my Mum and I were discussing how we had both “gone off” pizza – particularly those from one of the “fast pizza” chains.  I told her how a couple of years ago when I was following a strict low fat diet that I had some pizza along with some friends and thoroughly enjoyed it, however an hour later when I was walking home I was feeling sick and really regretting eating it and she had had a similar experience.  Our bodies were protesting at the heavy processed white starch and the greasy oily cheese on top.  She then said that she had relented recently to eating one from one of the restaurant chains and loved it – it was a Goats cheese and Beetroot one – so I made a mental note to try something like it some day.

I have my own recipe now that I use for pizza which is a little bit healthier and very quick and easy that came originally from “A Girl Called Jack”

http://agirlcalledjack.com/2013/09/02/easy-peasy-garlic-bread/

On Friday I had decided I was going to make pizza for tea and had half a block of economy “Salad” cheese and half an economy jar of Beetroot so decided that I would do Beetroot and “Feta” (the Salad cheese was a feta style cheese and only 75p for a 200g pack)

In the morning I had decided to make some Pesto as my Basil and Parsley plants on the kitchen windowsill needed trimming back so again “Jack” came up trumps with a recipe in her book for “Best-o Pesto.

I modified it slightly to fit in with what I had in the cupboard to;

  • a fistful of fresh basil
  • a fistful of fresh parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 40g parmesan (or any hard cheese)
  • 100ml olive oil (recipe says sunflower or vegetable oil).

I put all these ingredients in my mini blender and blitzed it all together adding a little salt and pepper and popped this in a jam jar into the fridge ready for the evening.

The Pizza

When I came to make the pizza later I thought it would be nice to have a bit of flavour in the base so I weighed out 125g wholemeal self raising flour, about 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and then mixed in about 1/3 of the pesto I had made earlier.  I then added milk (probably about 100ml) until I had a dough consistency (but not too wet)

I spread the dough out into a lightly oiled baking tray (no need to bother with rolling – just spread the mix gently to about 1cm thick)

Then I squeezed some tomato puree over the base and spread this out.

I then carefully arranged the half jar of beetroot slices over the base (forgot to say that I drained the beetroot first)

Then I crumbled the half pack of Salad Cheese over the top and drizzled some more pesto over this.

This went into a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees for about 15 minutes  (may need longer depending on the thickness of your base and the consistency)

I’m afraid it was eaten too quickly to get a photograph but the interesting thing was that by using the pesto in the base as well, not only did it add a good flavour but the base had a slight pastry/biscuit texture to it which we really liked – so hubby will be asking for this again.

Heres the list of ingredients again (serves 2)

125g wholemeal self raising flour (you can of course use white)

1/2 teaspoon of baking power

50ml (approx) pesto (1/2 recipe above but probably most of a small shop bought jar)

1/2 small jar sliced beetroot (drained – or fresh cooked if you have it)

1/2 pack (100g) Salad Cheese or Feta, or Goats (any similar cheese really)

Note:

most of my “recipe” quantities give a small portion for me and a “MANsize” portion for hungry outdoor working hubby so feel free to adjust quantities to suit your appetites.

Kippurry

Kippurry

 

Yesterday I was trying to decided what to cook for dinner in the evening.  I had re-sorted the freezer and listed the contents and yet I was still lacking inspiration.  I only knew that it was about time we had something with rice so it was probably going to be some form of risotto.

Later on during a text conversation with hubby I asked him if he had any “requests” for dinner, to which the reply was “something with rice” “curry?”.  Curry was fine by me as I did have some Chicken curry in the freezer, but I didn’t really want to use this as we have already had chicken this week.  He then suggested something like a Kedgeree, “Yes” I said, we have a tin of tuna.

At that point I was in the food section of a well know High Street store getting some bits for Mother-in-Law so I decided to have a look at their fish section to see if they had any reductions.  Well there were no reductions but I did spot a 200g pack of Kippers for £1.35 which also had the freezable logo on it.  “Great” I thought, ” I only need half of that and I can freeze the rest for another time and the total meal will only cost around £1″.  This was greeted with an enthusiastic response from hubby who always enjoys my “creations”

So, here’s what I did;

I already had about 2/3 of a red onion partially chopped in the fridge, so I chopped up half of it some more and popped the rest in the freezer for another day.

In my casserole dish (that can be used on the hob) i put about a tablespoon of oil and started to fry the onion lightly.

I added half a teaspoon each of ground cumin, dried coriander leaf, and ground ginger along with 1/4 teaspoon each of paprika, chilli powder and turmeric and let all this fry together for a couple of minutes.

I then added 1/2 cup of rice (about 100g) and 1 cup of water plus a bit more water and let this all simmer for a couple of minutes.

I then laid about 100g of the kippers on the top (I removed the skin first) and placed the casserole dish in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees.  (You can continue this on the hob if you prefer)

When the rice had swollen to absorb most of the water, I broke up the kipper with a fork and mixed it in – it needed a little more water added too.  I also added about 1/2 cup of frozen peas and mixed them in.

I broke 2 eggs on top and placed the dish back in the oven.  After about 5 minutes the eggs had cooked enough so that the whites were set but the yolk were still runny.

I sprinkled some fresh chopped parsley over the top and served up.

Yum Yum (and I’m not a fish lover and had never had kippers before!!!)

This made a fairly generous portion for hubby and a small portion for me.

Hubby approved and will probably be requesting this again in not too distant future.

Here’s the list of ingredients (makes 2 “light” portions)

  • 1 tbls Oil
  • 1/2 Red onion
  • 1/2 tsp Ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Coriander leaf (dried)
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1/4 tsp Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Chilli Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Turmeric
  • 1/2 Cup Rice (approx 100g)
  • 1  Cup water (plus a bit more as required)
  • 100g Kippers
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 2 eggs
  • Chopped Parsley to garnish.