Meat has become frightfully expensive but Beef Ragu Fettucine from Pinch of Nom makes 300g of stewing beef stretch a long way. It’s bulked out by a plethora of vegetables which are masked by the generous quantity of sauce and pasta. This recipe can therefore trick the most obstinate of anti-veg people to tuck in, my teenage son being proof. I love it when he asks if I’ll make it again considering he would have pulled his face when seeing the initial mound of ingredients.
Pinch of Nom include three ways to cook this dish in their book (hob, pressure cooker and slow cooker). I opted for the hob because I’m not cool enough to own a pressure cooker, and slow cookers just piss me off (no matter what I do, the sauce always seems watery, is it just me?!?). Do watch your heat if cooking on a hob – it may need less than the recommended 2 ½ hours’ time.
I swapped fettucine for tagliatelle (Tesco isn’t posh enough to stock it), and while the pearl barley will add some additional texture, don’t fret if you can’t get any. I like to make this on a quiet Sunday while I’m pottering about and warm it through for Monday’s tea.
This is my first blog in over a year, but I can’t promise it’s a good one. I’ve really struggled since my dad’s passing and coping with the modern day challenges of ‘real life’. But mentally this is probably the best I’ve felt for 18 months. I’m settled in my new job and I’ve booked a holiday to go to the Dominican Republic in November which means…. I better start shedding some lbs!! :-).
At 518 calories per serving, I’m not sure Maple and Bacon French Toast with Fruit from Pinch of Nom is a recipe to help get me back on track. But cut me (and yourself) some slack and why not enjoy this on a lazy Sunday for an indulgent brunch? I’d inhale maple syrup given the chance, but I’m unsure whether I want to smother it over bacon, and even more unsure that I want to top my bacon with fruit (blueberries in this case).
This recipe was ok, however I prefer French Toast from the Hairy Dieters which looks and IS better for your waistline! Try them yourself and let me know your thoughts!
Sometimes the choices you make when ‘on a diet’ is about damage limitation. Two Chubby Cubs’ Cheese Savoury Sandwich Filling fell into that category for me on a Saturday night when I’d had one beer too many.
I was craving something to eat but wanted to avoid getting a “I want to order everything on the menu” takeaway which I’d regret the following morning. This surprisingly tasty sandwich satisfied my cravings, even though I only had a crap loaf of bread in. I’m not suggesting you should only make this sandwich when pissed up – it’s also ideal for work lunch boxes or a pack-up if you’re out and about walking (but not with a hangover, eh).
The Cubs estimate this sandwich comes in at 366 calories. How they determine this is beyond me as they don’t state which type of bread or grated cheese to use and also suggest chopping up onions and peppers (plural). I don’t know how big your gob is but just one pepper and onion did the job for me on two slices of brown bread. What is indisputable is that this filling is better for you than shop-bought sandwiches with relatively minimal effort required.
For other sandwiches and wraps ideas, which you can enjoy sober or intoxicated, click here.
Apparently, variety is the spice of life. If you’ve become bored of your regular lunchtime sandwiches, then try the Hairy Dieters’ Tuna and Caper Wrap for some new inspiration. This will only take you about 15 minutes to make, so do try and make on the morning you intend to eat it so your wrap tastes nice and fresh.
The light mayo and low-fat crème fraiche give this a bit of a ‘naughty’ feel, but at only 236 calories per wrap you can tuck-in without any guilt. For other sandwiches and wraps ideas, click here.
Life’s too short to scoop out the insides of a jacket potato and put a mixture of ingredients back in. So in a startling show of sexism I got my wife to make Chilli Cheese Jacket Potatoes from Two Chubby Cubs instead. Wait, wait….. I can explain. I tend to do most of the cooking during the week in our home. That, combined with my heavy-handed nature around the kitchen, called for her dulcet culinary skills on this occasion.
This recipe isn’t a messy job per se, but it does require a more delicate touch, so you don’t destroy your jackets when scooping out the potato and putting the mixture of bacon, grated cheese, soft cheese and chillies back in to finish off in the oven. Unsurprisingly, the addition of the siracha sauce into the potato mixture gives this meal quite a punch!
Personally, I loved it. But the high calorie count (500 per serving), length of cooking time (although you could do the jackets in the microwave) and faff means this is unlikely to be a regular on our menu. However, if I was served this in a café it’s something I’d definitely enjoy.
I promised myself that I’d try and eat more fruit in 2022, however I remain rebellious towards the ‘good stuff’. Finding a sensible substitute for a bacon or sausage butty is a tough gig, but it’s got to be done if you want to cut out unnecessary calories, or sheer greed in my case.
Shakshouka or Shakshuka, depending on which spelling you go with, is an egg-based recipe originating from Turkey. There are many variations of it, but I decided to try this version from Two Chubby Cubs having tried a previous adaption from Pinch of Nom. You certainly won’t go hungry or skint after eating it at a cost of about 85p per serving.
I found including two tins of peeled plum tomatoes was a little rich for my liking, so if you’re of a similar disposition maybe just try one tin and see how you get on? Even with using full-fat feta, there’s only 200 calories per serving if splitting it between four people, or 400 cals between two if you kid yourself that you’re ‘going to skip lunch’.
And if this floats your boat, make sure you have a bash at making Menemen – a similar Turkish eggs related dish in the Hairy Dieters’ series of books which remains my personal favourite.
From chalk and cheese to me on a treadmill, some things in life are not meant to go together. I’d also argue that putting fruit and yoghurt on top of a crumpet instead of butter also falls into this category. Of course butter is full of calories, and if you melt a load of cheese on top of your crumpets (heaven!) then all of a sudden… you’re probably reading this blog looking to lose weight ;-).
Toasted crumpets and warm spiced berries with yoghurt and honey was the very first recipe in the Hairy Dieters’ six series of books first published in 2012. They optimistically claim: “Top your crumpets with this mixture of gooey fruit, honey and yoghurt and you’ll never miss the butter”. Hmm, the jury is out for me but at only 257 calories per portion this is considerably better for your waistline. Slimming World dieters take note though – this comes in at a whopping 12 syns per portion due to the crumpets and the composition of the fruit being changed in the frying pan.
If you want to save money use frozen fruit rather than fresh, as I started doing at the beginning of the pandemic due to the short dates of fresh fruit I was receiving from supermarket deliveries. If fruit and ‘sunshine in a bowl’ goodness is your thing, I’d recommend Breakfast Banana Split, Fresh Fruit Compote with Home-Made Granola and (Lighter) French Toast. I’ll be defiantly sticking to coating my crumpets with butter for the forseeable future, in moderation of course!
I haven’t posted for a while. A combination of doing volunteering work, my Dad passing away and securing a new job has zapped my energy and enthusiasm. But as if I didn’t know already, the scales confirmed that I need to get back with it and maybe in doing so life will become more enjoyable.
I rarely get excited about a soup recipe – home-made versions are better for you and lower in calories compared to saltier tinned equivalents, but can still lack taste. However, Mexican Street Corn Soup from Pinch of Nom did capture my imagination and I was thrilled with the end result. The chopped green chilli and chilli powder give it plenty of ooomph and there’s a nice balance of flavours along with the red pepper, sweetcorn, potato and feta. This is one soup dish that I’ll return to again and again, plus it’s only approx 70p per serving to make and 199 calories (not 99 as printed by the Sun newspaper when plugging PON’s latest book earlier this year).
Two Chubby Cubs are masters at devising quick recipes that are surprisingly yummy despite their simplicity. Cheesy Meaty Parcels is the Cubs’ take on steak fajitas with a smear of refried beans over your wrap, which might not look overly appetising, but the flavour is cracking so don’t miss them off!
Due to the cost and length of cooking time, I’m quite selective over which lamb dishes I make but Lamb, Rosemary and Sweet Potato Pie from Pinch of Nom’s latest book was a no-brainer. This really is a beautifully tasting pie which contains a great balance of protein, vegetables and carbs, all for just 340 calories per serving (based on serving 6 people).
Summertime is around the corner and the warmer weather normally leads to lighter, fruiter-based breakfasts. But old habits die hard and if you can’t survive without having eggs in the morning, Spinach, Mushroom & Chorizo Frittata from Two Chubby Cubs is a great solution.
This recipe is 411 calories, so why not make it for a weekend brunch and stick to more ‘grab and go’ breakfasts during the week? I must say, I really enjoyed this indulgent, filling meal. Eggs, chorizo, mushrooms & spinach, sprinkled with parmesan and finished off under the grill. Oh yes!
Pasta is a great Friday night option when you’ve come to the end of a working week and can’t summon up much brain power to make a quick, healthy meal. Creamy Chicken and Parmesan Fettucine from Justine Pattison may look ‘naughty’, but the sauce is made from a combination of butter, plain flour and semi-skimmed milk rather than cream to keep the calories low.
While I was impressed with the calorie content (just 374 per serving), the taste was a tad bland for my liking, despite me lashing it with grinds of black pepper. Nevertheless, this is a good example of how you can make two chicken breasts comfortably stretch to feeding four people. For other budget-friendly chicken dishes, check out chicken and mushroom risotto and pollo pasta with pesto.
Cock and Bull from Pinch of Nom is a meat eater’s paradise as it combines chicken breast and steak (either sirloin or rump) in one pan with a creamy sauce. I served this with some peas as I felt the meat needed something else to accompany it, beyond the handful of sliced onion and mushrooms which don’t go far between four people. You could add some new potatoes too, but bare in mind that the calorie count is already 436 per serving.
I would make this again but next time would reduce down the sauce as mine was far too runny (user error!). Pinch of Nom just love a creamy sauce and use low-fat cream cheese to make their dishes diet friendly. If you like this, you’ll love creamy garlic chicken and poulet au vinaigre.
A few staple ingredients is all it takes to rustle up Pea, Mint and Ham Soup from the Hairy Dieters in less half an hour. The ham garnish made with a hint of honey and wholegrain mustard is the star of the show here, lifting plain old soup into something more memorable. For more soup ideas, click here.
With some healthier tweaks, you can still enjoy the ‘naughty’ things you love when on a diet. Full English Wraps by Pinch of Nom may not be a traditional breakfast ‘fry-up’, but as it contains bacon, eggs, sausage, mushrooms and/or beans and tomatoes it’s not a bad substitute.
As ever, moderation is key and to keep the calories to a modest 220 per serving the ‘wrap’ in this recipe is made by cooking an egg on a very low heat. Nom suggest using a medium egg, but as supermarket sizes can vary, for the extra calories you might be better off using a large egg so it fully covers the base of your frying pan and can hold the contents of the wrap without the risk of falling apart.
The Hairy Dieters has an ‘Awesome Oats’ section in their second book and after enjoying banana and pecan porridge from it I decided to try Porridge with Spiced Plums. This recipe was similarly delightful – the creamy, warm soothing oats topped with fruit and a hint of spice from the star anise, cinnamon and nutmeg (optional). Wonderful.
When I used to commute to Birmingham (prior to the pandemic), grumpy office workers would queue to pay £2.50 for a bang average bowl of porridge from a café. This infinitely better version from the Hairy Dieters works out at roughly 60p per portion. That’s proper awesome oats!
Cooking with tinned ingredients has become more popular since the pandemic due to supermarket shortages and people needing to eat more frugally after sadly losing their jobs or livelihoods. Thankfully, you can still eat healthily and imaginatively with tinned goods and Three-Bean Cowboy Stew from Two Chubby Cubs is a belly-busting vegetable stew which you can make for less than £1 per head.
You’ll need a few fresh ingredients and dried herbs (see below) to make the tins sing, but nothing out of the ordinary. This dish might not look particularly appetising, however it’s tasty and will provide 6 generous portions which those with big appetites can serve with a small portion of rice.
Cowboy stew is best known to contain meat, so if you’re looking for a meat-based alternative check out campfire stew which uses gammon.
You might think Easy Sun-dried Tomato Pasta from Two Chubby Cubs isn’t up to much from my photo, but think again. This flavoursome, quick vege pasta recipe is one of my favourite dishes of 2021 so far. It’s so simple, yet so tasty despite requiring just seven ingredients, and costs just 40p per serving. Superb!
Breakfast Potatoes from Pinch of Nom is a lighter version of an American brunch dish which you can top with a fried egg (as I did) or some avocado. It’s not the quickest to make, so is probably better suited for a weekend.
When purchasing a new cook book I always familiarise myself with the recipes and any particular ingredients that the authors frequent. In Pinch of Nom’s case, they’re big fans of pork, mushrooms and low-fat cream cheese, so I regularly keep these items in my fridge in case I need a ‘plan B’ recipe in the event of ‘plan A’ going out of the window.
Dijon Pork was indeed a ‘plan B’ recipe when I discovered that the vege stew I’d originally earmarked was going to take 2 hours. Our survey said, “Uh-uhh!”. But in the end I’m so pleased I tried this recipe as pork and mustard in a low-fat cream cheese sauce are a top combination! Although the cooking time is 50 minutes, over the half the time is taken up by just simmering the ingredients in a pan until the sauce thickens. Serve with a small portion of rice.