How I Lost Weight

It’s been a while since I last updated my blog. The last you’d heard from me, I was trying to lose weight. Well, I did! I lost 4 1/2 stone over a 14 month period, and have now maintained the weight loss for coming up to 1 year. I went from a BMI of 36 (obese) to 24 (upper end of healthy). It’s quite a big change and though I’m not skinny (and don’t think I ever will be!) my body is much healthier, fitter and stronger. I’m contented with where I am now.

Someone sent me a message on Twitter asking how I’d lost weight and if I had any top tips for losing weight. I knew it would take more than 140 characters to explain, so here is my response to her question…

then-and-now-water

‘Before and After’ (though I prefer ‘Then and Now’) – scroll for more photos


What’s made you decide to lose weight? The key thing to getting started is to be in the right frame of mind and by seeking out some hints and tips, you’re priming yourself to be in the best possible place to start.

For me, the catalyst was seeing a photo of myself in a trade publication. I was wearing a lovely blue dress but all I could see were multiple chins, an expanse of arm chub and pudgy knees. I’m ashamed to admit that I actually cried when I saw the picture. More than that, I knew I was the heaviest I’d ever been and I was genuinely worried about giving myself unnecessary health problems. But I turned that upset and worry into determination (the right frame of mind) and looked for blogs like this for inspiration.

Some of what I have to say may not be what you want to hear, but this is a true account of what has worked for me.

Be realistic (and patient)

People talk about 1lb a week being a healthy rate of weight loss. Let’s break it down… it’s noted (and disputed – the human body does nothing strictly by formula) that 1lb of fat roughly equates to 3500 calories. That 3500 calories would be a deficit of around 500 calories a day. A deficit can only be achieved by burning more calories through exercise or not consuming the calories in the first place – and 500 calories are easy to eat and difficult to burn. So even making a 500 calorie a day deficit, it’ll take you over 3 months to lose 1 stone! No wonder people give up quickly when they don’t see results.

I found losing weight to be long and slow and boring – very, very, very boring. I don’t want to put you off, but this is the truth. It’s a bit of a watershed moment when you realise you are going to have to be in this for the long haul (especially if you have quite a bit to lose) and you have no choice but to commit to a long-term change in lifestyle. That means making healthy decisions, consistently, over an extended period of time. Like I said – long, slow, boring. But so, so, worthwhile and the results will creep up on you.

Remember that photo of the blue dress I mentioned? That’s it below left, and below right I’m at the same event exactly 1 year later. Not a magical year, or an extreme diet – just a year of making healthy decisions day in, day out.

Left: THAT photo. Right: the same event 1 year on (I am centre in both)

Left: THAT photo. Right: the same event 1 year on (I am centre in both)

Be prepared

You know the saying about fail to prepare and prepare to fail… ugh, it’s right. I bet you’re a planner? Great! Now follow through, as planning and preparation can only get you so far. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to plan your meals and then stick to the plan.

Making healthy food choices, consistently is key to your success – and being prepared makes succeeding easier. The thing I found helpful was to think about how calorie dense food was. If I wanted to eat larger portions to feel fuller, I needed to choose a lower calorie density food (I am still known to eat a whole cucumbers like you would a banana!). If I wanted to eat a higher calorie density food, I needed to eat less of it. More often than not, I tried to have a little bit of high calorie density food, padded out with a lot of lower calorie density food. In essence, this seems to be how the Slimming World model works and I found their recipes – in their magazines, books and online – to be satisfying and inspiring.

Plan in advance – I always planned out my week’s food, working in at least 2 new recipes that I knew I would be excited to cook. In fact, I still do this! Getting into a dull routine will only lead to boredom/temptation and losing weight is boring/tempting enough as it is.

Plan to avoid temptation – Are you really going to be satisfied with a salad on a Friday night? If you are, you are a better person than I am. I would plan for a healthy curry or one of my excited-to-try new means, so I didn’t feel deprived and with an excuse to reach for the takeaway menu.

Plan for difficult situations – For me, a lunch on the move and parties were my difficult situations. So if I knew I’d be on-the-go over lunchtime, I’d take supplies with me (carrots, chicken breast, banana etc) so I wouldn’t be famished and resort to something unhealthy. Alcohol is the wrecker of many a healthy eating plan, so if I was going to a party, I’d take soda water if I suspected the host wouldn’t have it and water down every single drink I had.

So be prepared, but…

Be flexible

Will power is finite. Sometimes you will simply have none left. Besides, if you are building a healthy new lifestyle that you intend to maintain for the rest of your life then total abstinence is not going to be a part of it. Correct? I tried to think of each meal as part of my day, and each day as part of my week. So while my whole week didn’t depend on having or not having one treat, I was careful to think about how it factored in to everything else I was eating and doing. Did I really want that treat more than getting to my end goal faster? Sometimes, the answer was yes. And when it truly, genuinely was a yes – I would have my treat and enjoy it.

Someone told me an analogy, which is incredibly cringeworthy but it helped give me some perspective during a particularly difficult time. Imagine a week as a bunch of 7 flowers you’re going to give someone. Now imagine you ‘throw away’ one of the flowers. You can still make a nice bouquet out of 6 flowers. Even with 5 it’ll just about pass. Don’t throw the whole lot away for the sake of 1 or 2 flowers! (The idea being that if you slip up one day, right royally, so badly that you want to pack it all in – don’t, there’s still plenty to hold on to.)

Bristol 10k run

A smile on my face, with only 500 metres to go!

Be active

Always aim to be the same colour as your t-shirt

My second 10k! Always aim to be the same colour as your t-shirt

You have to make being active a regular part of your life and keep doing it (and here’s that word again) consistently. Being motivated and doing something challenging – but manageable – is key. You don’t have to go to the gym, or even take up running to be more active and feel (and see) the benefits. My aim was simply to be active more days of the week than I wasn’t. I made promises to myself that I had to keep (“I’ll walk into town on Saturday”). Then I started to make more challenging promises (“I’ll walk into town and back on Saturday”). Making promises, being stubborn, being motivated – it’s all the same thing and it actually makes exercise easier.

People who are motivated tend to see the finish line as closer, whatever their weight- as Emily Balcetis: Why some people find exercise harder than others TED Talk explains. “People who had committed to a manageable goal, that they could accomplish in the near future and who believed that they were capable of meeting that goal, actually saw the exercise as easier.”

Bear in mind it will take you a while to build up a level of fitness, so make sure your initial goals are manageable for you. It took me a full year to build up to being able to run 5k, which I did in 40 minutes. I can honestly say that getting to that point was incredibly difficult, but there were many mini goals along the way to keep me going. And I’ve kept going, making myself new and more challenging promises.

In 2014 my resolution was to run my first 10k – which I did in 56 minutes! I was astonished – twice the distance in just another 16 minutes?! Sometimes I’m not motivated and the finish line feels far away, but I tell myself those are the days that count the most and sometimes just doing it because you said you would it is all that matters.

No one can give you fitness. That is what makes me even prouder to have achieved it, even if it has taken a long time.

Be accountable

This is a bit of a controversial topic. I found that apps to help you log your food, log your exercise and log your weight really helped me to be accountable. It helped me focus on the impact of what I was eating and doing. I really needed to re-educate myself on this front and the apps gave me objective figures and feedback. I weighed myself and measured my waist, hips and arms. I even logged it in a spreadsheet. BUT I didn’t worry too much about fluctuations from week-to-week and this is why I don’t necessarily get on with slimming clubs. The focus of a club is always week-to-week, as though what you did in the past week is directly reflected on the scales. I found a slimming club could be just as demoralising as motivating because of this. It turns out that for me, being accountable to myself was good enough. I still keep up the spreadsheet and weigh myself weekly (not obsessively – I sometimes forget so it’s often a day or two out!). However, this has stood me in good stead to keep the weight off for a year as I get an early indicator if I’m slipping. I see it as no more than an objective measure that usually confirms things when I know I’ve been overindulgent… I no longer log my food (now THAT is really boring), but I do continue to log my exercise to keep an eye on my progress and to formulate new challenges. I’m keeping the white skirt, but not because I want to be able to wear it again.

Yep, same skirt!

Yep, same skirt!

And finally…

When you start, you will likely have been accustomed to certain eating or activity habits. At the beginning, making healthy food and activity choices is about 80% will power and 20% habit. It’s really, really difficult. As you progress, this balance will shift and soon your tastebuds and habits will change. The conscious and consistent decisions you take to help you lose weight will then become second nature.

And before you know it, 2 1/2 years have passed and you have an entirely new lifestyle and are stood in good stead to keep the weight off. So, dig your heels in and prepare for some difficult times ahead but stay motivated wherever possible. Believe me that it gets easier, but you simply cannot get to the end without the boring bit in between. Good luck!

Baked Arancini & Tomato Sauce | Low Fat Recipes

As part of my 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge (where I’m aiming to cook every recipe from The 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes by Carolyn Humphries) I’m creating my own lower fat versions of my favourite dishes. I’ve used the internet to research calorie content, so please bear in mind it’s not 100% accurate but hopefully a good guide.

So when I said I was making lower fat versions of my favourite recipes, I lied. I’m also making lower fat versions of recipes I’ve never tried in their full-fat glory. This is likely a highly inauthentic recipe, but I’ve never tried a true Silician deep-fried version of arancini. This is, in fact, the only arancini I’ve ever tried. It’s tasty, fulfilling and gives you real satisfaction without leaving you feeling greasy and remorseful.

Be warned: this recipe is a bit of a faff, but it’s mainly because it has numerous stages. It can scale easily and, if the balls were rolled smaller, would make lovely warm buffet nibbles.

Baked Arancini Recipe

Baked Arancini Recipe

Baked Arancini & Tomato Sauce | 500-600 calories per serving | Serves 2 (5 balls each)


Ingredients

For the arancini

  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 75g mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 75g arborio rice
  • 350ml stock
  • 65g grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 2 slices bread (white, wholemeal, it’s up to you – recipe is based on worst-case-scenario, scurmmy white bread)

For the sauce

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt & pepper
  • dried mixed herbs
  • 1 can tinned tomatoes

How to make Baked Arancini

  1. Gently fry the onion, mushrooms and garlic over a gentle heat for a few minutes until softened. (I use water to moisten ever so slightly and dry fry)
  2. Add the rice, salt, pepper and herbs.
  3. Pour in the stock and cook over a gentle heat for about 20 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. Stir in half the cheddar cheese.
  6. Spread the arancini mixture onto a cling film-lined tray and leave to cool. (I usually go to work at this point…)
  7. Once the arancini mix is chilled and firm, tip into a bowl and stir in the remaining cheddar cheese. The mix should be sticky and fairly easy to handle.
  8. Pre-heat your oven to 210 Celsius.
  9. Whizz the bread in a food processor to make bread crumbs, and turn out onto a plate
  10. Whisk the egg in a separate bowl
  11. Make the mixture into 10 balls – about the size of golf balls.
  12. Roll first in the egg, then roll in the bread crumbs.
  13. Place the balls on a baking tray (lined with baking paper for safety).
  14. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the balls are golden on the outside and hot all the way through.

Meanwhile…

How to make the Tomato Sauce

  1. Tip tinned tomatoes into pan.
  2. Add garlic, salt, pepper, mixed herbs.
  3. Cook over a medium heat for the time it takes to cook the arancini balls – sauce should be thickened, reduced and rich.

Serve the balls warm and delicious on the tomato sauce and serve with a big green salad. Or, make smaller balls for warm buffet nibbles.


The Verdict

Flavour: 4
(1= flavourless, 5= delicious)

Satisfaction: 5 – gives you a feeling of fullness and satiety, without grease or remorse
(1= unsatisfying, 5= satisfying considering low cal!)

Ease of Preparation: 1 – not difficult, but lots of stages to go through
(1= difficult, 5= easy)

Aftermath Factor: 4
(1= tons of washing up, 5= one pot wonder)

Oh yes, it’s a bit fiddly but it’s worth it and I often have the ingredients in the cupboard/fridge. This is a recipe I cook when my not-very-tolerant-of-vegetarian-food husband is away. I use the leftovers to go with plain tomato soup for lunches at work (only a ball or two at a time at lunch). Or, indeed, if I’ve injudiciously tweeted the recipe and everyone wants to sample a leftover ball…

I served this with a really flavourful rocket salad, dressed with balsamic vinegar and a teeny bit of grated Parmesan cheese and a sliced avocado. I feel it makes me happy and full without feeling stuffed, and leaves me with plenty of energy the next morning.

low-fat-baked-arancini-whole

Neato Robotics – Neato XV Signature Pro Review – Vacuum Robot

Vaccuming. My most-hated chore and yet, in my view, the most worthwhile as it makes the house feel the cleanest. We’ve never been able to keep up with it and with two fluffy cats, full-time jobs and more interesting pursuits to occupy our time with, we’ve been considering a robotic vaccum cleaner for a while.

I’d been set on a Roomba, for no particular reason other than it’s the most synonymous with robotic vacuum cleaners. I’d scoped one out at John Lewis and was (finally) prepared to part with a substantial wedge of dosh to get one, but the John Lewis store I visited didn’t have the model I wanted in stock.

A few days later, my husband was talking about the Roomba excursion when a friend told him about the Neato Robotics vacuum they had. It ticked all the boxes and to my mind was a better proposition in terms of price and functionality. After some research, the Neato was clearly the machine for us.

Household

  • 2 humans
  • 2 cats
  • 2 bedroom flat across 3 levels – mostly carpet

Neato model purchased

I should say that I’ve never owned a Roomba, but I’ve gleaned the following pros and cons of a the Neato vs Roomba we were comparing before we bought the Neato.

Neato vs Roomba Vaccuming Robot Comparison

Neato

Neato XV Signature Pro

Roomba

iRobot Roomba 770

Uses laser-guidance to systematically cover all areas of a room Uses random pattern and bumpers to cover all areas of a room
Uses laser-guidance to minimise bumping into furniture (also has a sprung bumper) Uses bumpers to bump into furniture and walls to guide itself
Squared front edge to get into corners for better edge cleaning Completely round
RRP £449.99 RRP £479.99
1 year warranty included 1 year warranty included

It’s worth noting that the Neato claims to be the most powerful robotic vacuum cleaner on the market. While I can’t do a direct comparison, I was astounded by the power of this little machine.

First Impressions

Within 5 minutes of the Neato arriving (when we’d finally pried Giles off the box) it was plugged in and charging. We had to leave the house to stop ourselves playing with it before it was ready. I advise you to do the same as the temptation will be too great.

On our return, the Neato was flashing green and ready to go. We simply pressed the start button twice and off it went. No difficult setting up process, no long manual to read or programming required. Incredible. As it did the first tour of our home we noticed it was:

Quiet – You can still have a normal-volume conversation when the vacuum is working. It’s barely audible when you’re in another room.

Powerful - More powerful than any other vacuum cleaner we’ve owned. As the pro pet model, we’re astounded at how much fluff and dust it picks up. The dirt tray was full after just one room (oh, the shame).

Purposeful - I love the way it works methodically and predictably, using its laser guidance. You can see its progress and know when it’s going to declare the job done and head off back to its charging deck to sleep recharge.

Quick – Probably related to the above, but it takes no longer than 20 minutes to clean an entire room (our living room is quite large and oddly shaped).

The cats were a little unsure and skittish at first, but now they just stay out of its way and sleep as it trundles beneath them while they snooze.

How the Neato works

Neato has a few functions, allowing it to clean on a schedule, or as required.

Clean house – Manually starts the Neato cleaning an area. Takes 2 clicks of a button.

Scheduled cleaning - Neato automatically cleans an area at a pre-selected time. Very easy to set up.

Spot cleaning - Manually starts the Neato cleaning an area a few metres square. Takes 2 clicks of a button.

Whichever mode it’s in, Neato uses lasers to locate itself and ‘decide’ how to clean the area. It rotates, scanning the area and then appears to work methodically in squares. It cleans the outside edge of a square, then cleans everything within that square. It then locates the next area to clean and repeats the process until it has covered the entire area – whatever its shape. When it’s finished, it returns to its charging station (or its starting location if you started it away from its charging station).

It does not have lighthouses like the Roomba, but the Neato comes with a length of magentic strip that will prevent it entering an area. Our flat has a main thoroughfare with the kitchen, bathroom and spare room on one level. We then have the master bedroom and living room on two separate levels. We’ve put magnetic strip across the bedroom and living room thresholds so Neato is scheduled to clean the main area every day (which gets the most travel and muck). We then put the Neato to clean the bedroom and living room as we want it – for example, when we’re preparing dinner (bedroom) or washing up after dinner (living/diving room) as its barely audible from the kitchen.

Neato-proofing the house

I would not trust any robot vacuum without first watching how it handles the obstacles unique to your own home. Here are some of the challenges our Neato faced, and how we’ve Neato-proofed the flat to ensure efficient cleaning and no amber-lit pleas for assistance:

– The Neato does not like the IKEA Poang chair. The Neato can clamber over the base and eventually figures it out, but it really does make a meal of it and it’s painful to watch it rearing up and down over the base. We’re looking in to modifying the chair slightly.

– The Neato got wedged under a blanket box which was exactly the same height as the Neato, where it had just enough room to get underneath it but not enough to manoeuvre once under it. To remedy this, we’ve propped the blanket box up, so it’s taller and no longer a problem. Funnily enough, this box was also from IKEA… (not all our furniture is ;-)

– The Neato got upset when confronted with two long coats hung in the spare room. It managed to sit between them, panicking and looking left and right. Its lasers thought it was trapped. To remedy this, we’ve put all the long coats together (rather than long coat, short coat, jacket, long coat) so it doesn’t attempt to get itself into a tight spot.

– The Neato tried to eat the carpet in one place at a threshold (admittedly it’s an old and frayed carpet). We’ve now properly secured the edge of the carpet and glued the fraying parts. It was, ahem, quite amusing to see the carpet unravelling row by row into the Neato – I managed to intervene before it did much damage to the carpet or itself, but this is why I would recommend watching it during the first run or two. Just in case…

1 Week On

It’s hard not to personify the Neato and ours has been named Romeo, as he’s impossible not to fall in love with as he roams around making our home more pleasant.

It’s amazing to be able to kneel and crawl on the floor without being covered in fur. We can tell it’s already making an enormous amount of difference to the fluff levels in our home. While we’re proud to be crazy cat people, it’s nice to have clothes not entirely smothered in the evidence.

Now, there are a few cons.

  • Obviously, we had to Neato-proof the flat so it doesn’t immediately work perfectly.
  • The dirt tray is a little fiddly to remove, and I always fear I’m going to snap it.
  • The magnetic strips are a bit low-tech and annoying to install, but worth the compromise for the lower cost.
  • We haven’t yet had to replace any filters or brushes, so not sure how easy/difficult they will be to get hold of

So far we adore Romeo, but it remains to be seen how long the relationship is going to last… hopefully a very long time!

Update: still not bored saying it.

Any questions?

Do feel free to leave any questions about the Neato in the comments below, or tweet me @frolickingfood. I’ll do my best to reply!

French Onion Soup: 1000 Calorie Counted Recipe Challenge

This part of my 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge, where I’m aiming to cook every recipe from The 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes by Carolyn Humphries. It’s an amazing book… but there are no pictures!

1000-calorie-french-onion-soup-portion

French Onion Soup| 100 calories per serving | Serves 2


Ingredients

  • 300g onions, thinly sliced*
  • 15g low fat spread
  • 300ml beef stock (made with 1 Oxo cube)
  • 2 very thin slices bread**
  • 15g grated cheese

*I felt this was too much, so would suggest cutting down to 200g
** I cut a circle of bread about 10cm in diameter, and I only had brown, but white would have been more authentic


How to Make French Onion Soup

  1. Melt the low fat spread, then fry the onions VERY gently for about 15 minutes – ideally with a lid on
  2. Uncover the onions, turn up the heat and cook for about 20 minutes
  3. Stir throughout, and cook till the onions are a deep, golden colour
  4. Add the stock
  5. Simmer the soup for about 15 minutes
  6. Season to taste
  7. Cut rounds of bread big enough to fit your soup bowls (ours are little rice bowls)
  8. Toast the bread on one side
  9. Flip the bread, sprinkle the cheese on and then toast the other side
  10. Serve the soup into the bowls, then pop the toasted cheesy bread on top

The Verdict

Flavour: 5
(1= flavourless, 5= delicious)

Satisfaction: 4
(1= unsatisfying, 5= satisfying considering low cal!)

Ease of Preparation: 4
(1= difficult, 5= easy)

Aftermath Factor: 4
(1= tons of washing up, 5= one pot wonder)

Oh yes, I liked this! It was a wonderful starter and felt quite naughty even though the portion size was controlled (we used small rice bowls and teaspoons). I love cheese, so this was a good way to get the flavour without having huge amounts.

I did feel the recipe called for way too many onions and so I’d reduce those next time so the onion to stock ratio was a bit more in favour of stock.

Quick, inexpensive, could probably be knocked together out of the cupboard and tastes very much like a treat. Definitely recommended.

Do you use smaller crockery and cutlery to control portion sizes? Do you think it fools the brain into thinking you’ve eaten more?


This part of my 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge <- click the link if you want to find out what it’s all about and see the recipes I’ve already tried. Please note that I tinker with recipe ingredients and meander from the method – the recipe above will deviate slightly from the original book and the method is just the way I happened to cook it this time!

Salmon in Filo Pastry: 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge

This part of my 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge, where I’m aiming to cook every recipe from The 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes by Carolyn Humphries. It’s an amazing book… but there are no pictures!

1000-calorie-salmon-filo-pastry-whole

Salmon in Filo Pastry | 550 calories per serving | Serves 2


Ingredients*

  • 2 small salmon fillets
  • 2 sheets filo pastry
  • 7.5 g low fat spread
  • 1/2 tsp chopped basil

*this is quite a deviation from the book, but only in removing elements rather than anything else! The recipe called for there to be chopped mushrooms and tomatoes within the pastry parcel, and to be set on seasoned passata. That didn’t really appeal to me – I didn’t want a soggy bottom and I wasn’t feeling very tomato-y! 


How to Make Salmon in Filo Pastry

  1. Remove any skin (or bones!) from your fillets of salmon
  2. Melt the low fat spread
  3. Lay out your filo pastry, paint a little spread onto half of the pastry, then fold it in half
  4. Paint a little more spread onto the pastry, then place the salmon in the centre
  5. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp of basil onto each fillet
  6. Fold up the parcel so it’s sealed
  7. Paint on any remaining spread
  8. Bake in an oven at 200 C for 15 minutes, or until golden brown

The Verdict

Flavour: 4
(1= flavourless, 5= delicious)

Satisfaction: 5
(1= unsatisfying, 5= satisfying considering low cal!)

Ease of Preparation: 3
(1= difficult, 5= easy)

Aftermath Factor: 2
(1= tons of washing up, 5= one pot wonder)

As a pastry fiend, this recipe appealed to me and I was not disappointed at all. At the time of writing, filo pastry is on offer in Sainsbury’s at £1 for 6 sheets. I bought two packets, portioned them out to two sheets each and froze them in the hopes that this recipe would be delicious.

I was going to use fresh basil within the parcel, but stuck to the recipe using dried chopped basil and I was very pleased with the result. I served the parcels on pea puree (no added butter, just whizzed up peas!) with asparagus and crushed boiled potatoes with loads of pepper and chives.

I’ll definitely be cooking this again where there’s a need for a bit of a treat, but without all the calories.

1000-calorie-salmon-filo-pastry-portion


This part of my 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge <- click the link if you want to find out what it’s all about and see the recipes I’ve already tried. Please note that I tinker with recipe ingredients and meander from the method – the recipe above will deviate slightly from the original book and the method is just the way I happened to cook it this time!

Indonesian Supper: 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge

This part of my 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge, where I’m aiming to cook every recipe from The 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes by Carolyn Humphries. It’s an amazing book… but there are no pictures!

1000-calorie-indonesian-supper-whole

Indonesian Supper | 450 calories per serving | Serves 2


Ingredients

  • 120g rice
  • 25g low-fat spread
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 100g chicken breast, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 25 g cooked ham, diced
  • 1 egg + 30ml water
  • big handful coriander to serve

How to Make Indonesian Supper

  1. Start by cooking the rice and then setting to one side. (I use 1.5 times water to rice, bring it to the boil, then immediately turn it down to simmer and pop a lid on and cook till the water has all been absorbed.)
  2. Take half the low fat spread and put it in a wok.
  3. Talk the other half of the low fat spread and put it in a small frying pan.
  4. Heat the wok and quickly fry the onion.
  5. Add the chicken breast, curry powder and cinnamon and gently cook till the chicken is cooked through.
  6. Whisk up the egg and water together.
  7. In the other, little frying pan cook cook an omelette from the egg and water mixture.
  8. Tip the omelette onto the side and quickly chop up.
  9. Next, add the rice, peas and ham to the wok.
  10. Cook through till it’s all incorporated and the peas are defrosted.
  11. At the last second, add the chopped up omelette and the coriander.

The Verdict

Flavour: 5
(1= flavourless, 5= delicious)

Satisfaction: 5
(1= unsatisfying, 5= satisfying considering low cal!)

Ease of Preparation: 3
(1= difficult, 5= easy)

Aftermath Factor: 3
(1= tons of washing up, 5= one pot wonder)

Best. Calorie-Counted. Dinner. Yet.

It looked great, tasted amazing, had loads of different flavours and textures. There was also SO MUCH of it!

It was a tiny bit fiddly, and I did wonder whether the cinnamon would work but it totally did. The omelette fell to pieces (I’m hopeless at the best of times, let alone with a pan losing its nonstickiness, not a low of fat and a water egg!) but it made no impact on the flavour.

I will definitely be cooking this again, and I’m sure it’ll be much quicker next time without having to keep referring to the recipe.

I served this with a sliced red pepper and a big handful of bean sprouts that had been cooked in a hot, dry pan with a splash of soy sauce and Shoaxing rice wine (you can use dry sherry as week). It definitely needed this as a side, for some extra sweetness and moisture.

Highly recommended. Cook it, cook it now (and let me know if you do)!

1000-calorie-indonesian-supper-portion


This part of my 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge <- click the link if you want to find out what it’s all about and see the recipes I’ve already tried. Please note that I tinker with recipe ingredients and meander from the method – the recipe above will deviate slightly from the original book and the method is just the way I happened to cook it this time!

Fruit Jelly Pots | Low Fat Recipe

As part of my 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge (where I’m aiming to cook every recipe from The 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes by Carolyn Humphries) I’m creating my own low fat dishes. I’ve used the internet to research calorie content, so please bear in mind it’s not 100% accurate but hopefully a good guide.

This came about to stave off sweet cravings after dinner and is more an idea than a recipe. I found that I wanted something after my main course, and a lot of people had mentioned low calorie jelly. Now, I’m sure low calorie jelly is all very nice, but I need 1) something to aim for to make the jelly exciting 2) to have a measured and pretty portion (not scooping flabby jelly out of a big bowl).

I know the jelly is full of artificial ingredients, but I’m not suggesting you have it all the time. It’s a useful tool to have in your armoury and you can just keep the two things in your kitchen and know you can have a tasty, low-fat pudding at short notice.

low-fat-jellies-tip

Fruit Jelly Pots | <50 calories per serving | Serves 6


Ingredients

  • Frozen fruit of your choice
  • Low calorie instant jelly

Easy to keep in the freezer and store cupboard.

low-fat-jellies-tip-ingredients


How to Make Fruit Jelly Pots

  1. Locate 6 little pots. The little glass Gu ones are ideal.
  2. Spoon one tablespoon of frozen fruit into each pot.
  3. Make up your insta-jelly according to the ingredients.
  4. Pour the jelly over the fruit. I’ve found that 1 pint of insta-jelly poured over a tablespoon of frozen fruit PERFECTLY fills 6 of those glass Gu ramekins that everyone seems to have.
  5. Leave to set in the fridge. As the volume is small and the fruit is frozen, it doesn’t take more than a couple of hours.

low-fat-jellies-tip-prep

 I usually make these up when I get home from work and they’re ready by dinner time. Obviously these last us 3 days, but the ramekins stack in the fridge so there’s no space issue.

These taste great and the first person I served them to asked me if I’d bought them in Waitrose, so there you have it!

Perfect on their own, but you could add a little dollop of yoghurt on the top if you felt the need.

Marinated Lamb Kebabs: 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge

This part of my 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge, where I’m aiming to cook every recipe from The 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes by Carolyn Humphries. It’s an amazing book… but there are no pictures!

1000-calorie-lamb-kebabs-whole

Marinated Lamb Kebabs | 350* calories per serving | Serves 2

*Please note, this is from the 350 calories per portion section, but I used 100g lamb per portion rather than 87g so my version will be a bit more


Ingredients

  • 200g lamb, trimmed of all fat (this took me about 15-20 minutes!)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped herbs (I used oregano and mint)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 red pepper
  • button mushrooms

How to Make Recipe

  1. Trim any fat from the lamb and slice into, sort of, squares. The recipe calls for dicing but I was unsure of cooking times, so diced them and then cut them in half again (as you can see above).
  2. Put the meat in a bowl and add the lemon juice, herbs and salt and pepper.
  3. Leave to marinate for about an hour.
  4. Thread the lamb, peppers and button mushrooms onto skewers.
  5. Grill for about 10 minutes, turning at regular intervals.
  6. Serve with your chosen sides.

The Verdict

Flavour: 4
(1= flavourless, 5= delicious)

Satisfaction: 4
(1= unsatisfying, 5= satisfying considering low cal!)

Ease of Preparation: 2 – the trimming took a long time, and all kebab skewering is fiddly.
(1= difficult, 5= easy)

Aftermath Factor: 3
(1= tons of washing up, 5= one pot wonder)

I sensed that this dinner had the potential to be a bit dry, so to avoid the temptation of fatty sauces I also grilled some cherry tomatoes for the side. I served the dish with a sort-of low fat coleslaw (shredded white cabbage, carrot spring and spring onion with squeezed lemon – it’s so versatile, we had it with the Butterless Butter Chicken Curry yesterday) and wholemeal pitta.

This dinner had a lot of flavour, but I had to resist the urge to brush olive oil on the skewers or have a big dollop of houmous on the side. I bet that would have tasted awesome…

What bad-for-you things do you find hard to resist adding to recipes, or on the side of finished dishes?

1000-calorie-lamb-kebabs-portion


This part of my 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge <- click the link if you want to find out what it’s all about and see the recipes I’ve already tried. Please note that I tinker with recipe ingredients and meander from the method – the recipe above will deviate slightly from the original book and the method is just the way I happened to cook it this time!

No Butter Butter Chicken Curry | Low Fat Recipes

As part of my 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge (where I’m aiming to cook every recipe from The 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes by Carolyn Humphries) I’m creating my own lower fat versions of my favourite dishes. I’ve used the internet to research calorie content, so please bear in mind it’s not 100% accurate but hopefully a good guide.

My favourite curry is butter chicken, a fairly mild, aromatic and creamy curry that packs an insane amount of fat. This is a drastically reduced fat version that I’ve been working on for some time, to try and recreate the flavour without all of the cream and butter. Please note that I love sauce for curry – so this is a very saucy butter chicken!

no-butter-butter-chicken

No Butter Butter Chicken Curry | 350-400 calories per serving | Serves 2


Ingredients

For the marinade

  • 2 chicken breasts, diced (weighing approx 325g in total)
  • 200ml low fat natural yoghurt
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 cm fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp paprika

For the sauce

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fenugreek
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves, ground
  • 5 cardamom pods (if you don’t like crunching on them, treat them like a surgical device: count them going in, count them as you pick them out)
  • 1 can tinned tomatoes

How to Make No Butter Butter Chicken Curry

  1. Prepare the marinade and marinade the chicken breasts, ideally for at least 30 minutes.
  2. In a pan, add the oil, onion, garlic, salt and spices and cook for 5 minutes or so till the onions for are softened. Add a little dash of water (rather than more oil) if it needs it.
  3. Add the tomatoes and sugar and simmer gently for 10 minutes to reduce down the watery-ness of the tomatoes.
  4. Retrieve the cardamom pods.
  5. This stage is optional – you can blend the sauce at this stage if you want to.
  6. Add the marinated chicken and all the marinade to the sauce.
  7. You could add chick peas, peppers or other veg at this stage if you fancied it.
  8. Cook, covered with a lid, for 20 minutes or so or until the chicken is completely cooked.

Serve with heaps of shredded white cabbage, carrot, spring onion and cucumber dressed with coriander and lemon juice. Serve with either chapatis or rice. Or poppadoms if you’re feeling naughty… yum yum yum (approx 2g fat per poppadom)!


The Verdict

Flavour: 5
(1= flavourless, 5= delicious)

Satisfaction: 5 – give you that lovely, greedy, full-up curry feeling with a lot less guilt!
(1= unsatisfying, 5= satisfying considering low cal!)

Ease of Preparation: 3
(1= difficult, 5= easy)

Aftermath Factor: 4
(1= tons of washing up, 5= one pot wonder)

This is a lot spicier than a standard butter chicken, but I feel it needs it. With the ginger, cloves and cardamom it’s also very aromatic. I really do love this recipe, but it will never had the same greasy-lipped satiety of the full fat version. It does, however, tick all the boxes of having a filling curry but without that horrible over-stuffed feeling.

Splitting is a bit of an unfortunate compromise with this recipe. I don’t believe it does anything bad to you, but it does detract from what would (in full fat butter chicken!) be a glossy, thick appearance. To counteract this, and because it’s DELICIOUS, I throw coriander and sliced red onion on top.

You really need to serve this with a delicious side. I’m one of those people who nabs the bag of salad that comes with curries, so I usually go with shredded white cabbage/iceberg lettuce, carrot, cucumber, spring onion and coriander salad. I sometimes serve it with homemade, low fat chana masala or cauliflower bhaji (no, alas, it’s not deep fried!) for extra veg. 

Bacon and Mushroom Souffle Pie: 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge

This part of my 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge, where I’m aiming to cook every recipe from The 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes by Carolyn Humphries. It’s an amazing book… but there are no pictures!

1000-calorie-bacon-and-mushroom-souffle-pie-whole

Bacon and Mushroom Souffle Pie | 450 calories per serving | Serves 2


Ingredients

The original recipe given in the book is to serve 4, but as a souffle won’t freeze I had to trim it in half (not easy splitting 3 eggs into 2!). It did seem to work though and these are the ingredients I used.

  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, scrubbed (they both fit in my open hand, as an idea of size)
  • 25g low fat spread
  • 4 lean bacon medallions, diced
  • 50g button mushrooms, diced
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 10g plain flour
  • 75ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 15g mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 eggs, separated – with egg whites whipped to stiff peaks

How to Make Bacon and Mushroom Souffle Pie

  1. Boil the potatoes, whole, until cooked through. Leave to cool and then slice them. Line a medium-sized oven proof dish with the potatoes and set aside (the one I used, pictured, could have done with being a bit bigger!)
  2. Preheat the oven to 190 Celsius.
  3. Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks.
  4. Melt the low fat spread and gently cook the mushrooms and bacon pieces.
  5. Add the thyme and salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Add the plain flour and stir through.
  7. Add the milk and mix till it becomes a thick, incorporated sauce.
  8. Quickly beat in the egg yolks and cheese.
  9. Gently fold in the whipped egg whites.
  10. Spoon the souffle mix over the potatoes.
  11. Put the souffle pie into the middle of the preheated oven and cook for around 25 minutes.

The Verdict

Flavour: 5
(1= flavourless, 5= delicious)

Satisfaction: 5 – great comfort food
(1= unsatisfying, 5= satisfying considering low cal!)

Ease of Preparation: 1 – took a long time, very fiddly
(1= difficult, 5= easy)

Aftermath Factor: 1 – bowls, pots, pans, jugs… the list goes on
(1= tons of washing up, 5= one pot wonder)

I’d never cooked a souffle before so was not sure entirely what to expect. As I was weighing out the ingredients for this, it felt meagre and the directions only said to use a “large ovenproof dish”. I kept looking at the ingredients and at the dish I’d selected. I was beginning to relish dread the thought of having to nip to the pub for their Tuesday Pint & Pie.

Unfortunately, it turned out well and had great flavour. The souffle acted a bit like a sauce and the whole dish had a scrummy, comfort-food feeling to it. I’ll definitely be cooking this again – though probably more in the winter months!

The downside is that this one took a lot of weighing and used a lot of bowls, so definitely not one to turn out in a hurry or if you hate lots of washing up.

I hate showing photographs with frozen veg on my blog – it feels like someone seeing your underwear drying on the washing line. It’s a bit embarrassing, you worry it looks bad, but you know everyone has to do it. So if you could overlook that, I’d be very pleased.

I’m also feeling self conscious about my souffle (a sentence I never thought I’d say). Too wobbly? Too brown? What do you think? Any tips?

1000-calorie-bacon-and-mushroom-souffle-pie-portion


This part of my 1000 Calorie Counted Recipes Challenge <- click the link if you want to find out what it’s all about and see the recipes I’ve already tried. Please note that I tinker with recipe ingredients and meander from the method – the recipe above will deviate slightly from the original book and the method is just the way I happened to cook it this time!

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