Tuna Crunch Sandwich Filling


Nowt fancy but does the job when you’re pushed for time

January is always a tough month. But add a new national lockdown and home-schooling a teenager into the mix and lunchtimes are somewhat fraught in my household, as they are for many people who currently work from home.  So Tuna Crunch sandwich filling from Two Chubby Cubs is a good option if you want a quick, no-frills dinnertime option on the table which will appease the whole family.

The Cubs are a bit loose on the exact quantities of ingredients, so their estimate that this sarnie equates to 322 calories per serving will vary depending on what bread and fillings you opt for. I had two slices of basic white bread and my filling comprised of a tin of tuna in spring water, a chopped green pepper and some finely diced red onion, sprinkled with a dash of balsamic vinegar. But really, anything goes so just use whatever decent salad ingredients you happen to have.

For more fast sandwich and wraps ideas, check out the relevant section on this blog here.

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Mega-Eggybread Club Sandwich Stacks


You’ll need to cut this in half, or even in quarter, if you want to get your chops around this

Mega-Eggybread Club Sandwich Stacks from Two Chubby Cubs feels like a proper naughty treat, but it still comes in at under 500 calories so it’s just the ticket for a lazy weekend brunch / lunch.

To ensure your toastie doesn’t disintegrate when you come to fry it, the Cubs recommend that you make it up the night before, tightly wrap it in clingfilm and then chill in the fridge so the ingredients remain pressed together. This ‘sarnie’ is so tasty with the Dijon mustard and smoked cheese and you could even sprinkle over some chilli flakes if you’re feeling brave. I challenge anyone to still be feeling hungry after scoffing this!

If you want an alternative toastie suggestion, then have a look at monte cristo sandwich which is lower in calories but does require more ingredients.

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Pork Medallions with a Chimichurri Sauce


Chimichurri sauce also goes well with steak

I’m so pleased I purchased the Homgeek Mini Chopper & Food Processor. It set me back just £22, takes up minimal space on my working top and I no longer have to haul my large food processor out from the back of the cupboard and try and assemble it. The Homgeek is brilliant for blending sauces in the blink of an eye and proved perfect for this Pork Medallions with a Chimichurri Sauce recipe from Two Chubby Cubs.

The Cubs do wonderfully simple meals, which might not seem all that upon first reading, but many of their recipes are brilliant and, above all, are easy to make. Make sure you use fresh herbs, good quality garlic and olive oil to make the best chimichurri sauce – a little goes a long way to make your pork medallions sing. In the interests of transparency, I used pork loin steaks for this but pork medallions contain less fat. It’s up to you.

For other simple ways to ‘pimp up’ your pork, check out sticky pork ‘ribs’ in barbecue sauce, crispy pork schnitzel, mustard pork, pork medallions in BBQ sauce and sticky pork steaks with coleslaw.

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Hunter’s Risotto


Just use 100ml of red wine which will be cheaper than Marsala or Madeira wine

Hunter’s Risotto is Justine Pattison’s take on the well-known French dish, chicken chasseur, which I’ve already featured on this blog from the Hairy Dieters. Personally, I prefer this version from Justine because it includes smoked bacon and mushrooms – two personal fave ingredients of mine.

The recipe calls for the addition of Marsala or Madeira wine, but Justine suggests you could also add sweet sherry, Martini Rosso or even red wine if you prefer. I opted for the latter because invariably we’ve always got red wine in the house, and once the bottle is open…..

If risotto is your thang, have a bash at these less prep-heavy recipes: sea bass and miso risotto, chicken and mushroom risotto or chicken & chorizo risnotto (that isn’t a typo, view the recipe to learn more!). Or, if you want a more conventional pub-meal style dish then hunter’s chicken is for you.

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Pork Cassoulet


Most of the work is done in the oven, but you’ll need to allow about 1 hour 30 mins in total for prep / cooking time

Cassoulet is a classic French dish and Pinch of Nom include a budget-friendly version in their second book using diced pork and beans. Don’t be fooled by my photo – I made this for 3 people and hence my portion size was huge (but still only 444 calories). But if making this for 6,  as Pinch of Nom suggest, then you’ll still be full up if you have it with some healthy mash on the side.

Do try and use vegetable and red wine stock pots to enhance the taste (rather than cheap stock cubes), along with fresh thyme leaves if you can get them, otherwise this Pork Cassoulet dish could taste a tad bland. The Hairy Dieters do an all-singing, all-dancing cassoulet recipe in their first book which includes chicken, gammon and sausages, along with some orange zest and parsley. It’s a beast of a dish, but my son loves it ,so I’ll try and feature it on the blog next month.

If you love French classics, check out other suggestions here.

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Creamy Mustard Mushrooms on Toast with Orange Juice


Mushrooms, wholegrain mustard, cream cheese, chives. Heaven.

Mushrooms on toast by Jamie Oliver is one of the most popular breakfasts on this blog. But this alternative BBC Good Food version using light cream cheese sauce tastes even better, in my opinion.

Avoiding butter keeps the calorie count down and the Beeb suggest serving Creamy Mustard Mushrooms on Toast with a small glass of orange juice. A quick and healthy vegetarian brekky which tastes divine.

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Paprika Chicken


This recipe hails from Romania

Trying to avoid eating peppers on a ‘healthy eating plan’ is a bit like trying to avoid getting wet when you’re outside and it’s raining – it ain’t gonna happen. And it is for that reason that I bypassed making Paprika Chicken from the Hairy Dieters for so long. My teenage son hates peppers, even when I cut them into miniscule pieces, we still have ‘pepper gate’ when he huffs and puffs when shuffling them around his plate at the dinner table.

However, when all I had in my fridge was some peppers and chicken thighs, it was time to bite the bullet. And….. both my wife and my son really enjoyed this meal, despite ‘pepper gate’. So, the moral of the story is…… actually, I don’t know, but perhaps it’s something along the lines of don’t always assume that your kids are going to hate a meal and it’s good to try them with different recipes. I think I’ve just had my Jamie Oliver ‘turkey twizzler’ moment ;-).

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Hit ‘n’ Run Traybaked Chicken


15 mins of prep and then literally just bang everything into the oven and put your feet up

I’m not keen on the naming given to Jamie Oliver’s Hit ‘n’ Run Traybaked Chicken recipe, but both the flavours and the concept (that you can bang the ingredients together in the oven for an hour and put your feet up) is appealing. The flavours from the tomatoes, peppers, balsamic vinegar and olive oil in this come together really well.

You can serve with some crusty bread to mop up the juices, or if you don’t trust yourself to be ‘good’, maybe a side salad or a small portion of rice or couscous (as I used) would fit the bill, but factor in the extra calories.

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Sausage Hash


This looks and feels naughty, but is less than 250 calories per portion if serving between 4 people

Sausage Hash is the first recipe I’ve tried from Lorna Cooper’s Feed your Family for £20 a week book and she also runs a very popular Facebook group based around the same concept. Although I’ve not put Lorna’s budget-saving ideas to the test yet, this particular breakfast dish can be made for less than 50p per portion.

But 2 sausages, 2 tomatoes, an onion and a tin of diced new potatoes (or 4 cooked potatoes) doesn’t stretch particularly far between four people, and I’ll confess that I ended up making this for just me and my teenage son Will when I was feeling hungover one morning! The addition of the grated cheese on top totally hit the spot and I’d have no hesitation in making this again, whether I was feeling delicate or not!

For other comfort-food related breakfasts, check out biker breakfast muffins, breakfast omelette burritos and full english breakfast quiche.

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Creamy Garlic Chicken


Low-fat cream cheese and chicken is a wonderful combination

After my car crash attempt at making Asian pork meatballs, I needed to bring my ‘A game’ back to the kitchen and Creamy Garlic Chicken from Pinch of Nom was just the tonic. This is so easy to make and tastes amazing with a few new potatoes and/or some veg to go with it.

Low-fat cream cheese is a dieter’s best friend and can give otherwise bland tasting dishes a more luxurious feel. For other ideas, check out chicken and leeks in blue cheese sauce, one-pot creamy leek & sausage bake, chicken & chorizo risnotto and poulet au vinaigre.

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Asian Pork Meatballs (with char siu ketchup)


These meatballs tasted far better than they looked, honest

As the photo shows, I made a right balls-up of making Asian Pork Meatballs from Pinch of Nom. But I’m sharing with you the error of my ways as there’s a really interesting recipe here which could be brilliant providing you give it some TLC.

My biggest faux pas was that I used a large courgette rather than a small /medium one and then failed to get rid of the excess moisture / liquid – you can do this by ringing out the grated courgette using a clean tea-towel. It’s really important you do this, otherwise your meatballs will turn to mush when you come to form them and will be too fragile to cook in a frying pan. I tried to rescue mine by cooking them in the oven which kind of worked…. just, but the end result would have been so much better had I followed the recipe properly.

As the method states, try not to touch the meatballs for 5 minutes when cooking them through or they’ll easily disintegrate in the pan. You can serve them as a light lunch / starter with the char siu ketchup, or have them with a small bed of fine egg noodles or spaghetti for a main meal. But don’t forget to factor in the extra calories, a small nest of noodles will add about 170.

For other meatball recipes, check out chipotle turkey meatballs, Swedish meatballs in gravy, beef kofta curry and Transylvanian meatballs with garlic sauce.

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Pan-Fried Firecracker Salmon


Great with a few spuds and/or vege / salad

I don’t think I could ever go back to just eating plain fish, spuds and vege. Thankfully, with scrumptious marinades like Pan-fried Firecracker Salmon from Two Chubby Cubs you don’t have to. The ginger, chilli powder and siracha give this recipe plenty of ‘attitude’, but my normally heat averse teenage son accepted the challenge and duly cleaned his plate, so do give this a try even if you don’t like it hot.

For some other brilliant ways to give salmon an exciting makeover, check out sticky mango roasted salmon, tandoori salmon with mango salsa and salmon with chilli ginger sauce. All three taste amazing and are a doddle to cook.

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Cajun Spiced Chicken with Potato Wedges and Chive Dip


You could use this recipe for a BBQ when the weather is nice

It’s really easy to bring plain chicken to life with some spices or a marinade. Cajun Spiced Chicken with Potato Wedges and Chive Dip from the Hairy Dieters is a healthy, flavoursome twist on boring chicken and chips.

Don’t worry if you don’t have / or don’t want to buy cumin, paprika, thyme, oregano and cayenne pepper to make the spice rub – just use some regular cajun spice / seasoning which will create roughly the same effect. You can then use the cajun seasoning to make cajun dirty rice, cajun sweet potatoes, cajun prawn and kale salad or scrambled cajun eggs with spinach and kale. Basically, your cajun spice won’t go to waste! ;-).

Note, you can have this dish with a few home-made chips, the emphasis being here on a few to keep the calorie count low. The suggested portion size isn’t the biggest (boooooo!), so I’d recommend serving this with a green salad on the side, or some home-made coleslaw as I did – see sticky pork ‘ribs’ in barbecue sauce for the recipe.

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Sticky Pork ‘Ribs’ in Barbecue Sauce


Na na naaa na na, na na naaa na, getting sticky with it, na na naaa na na, na na naaa na

Justine Pattison’s Sticky Pork ‘Ribs’ in Barbecue Sauce recipe uses pork loin steaks rather than conventional spare ribs to keep the calories low. And while it’s a pale imitation of the real thing, kids and adults will still end up with messy fingers and faces when tucking into this!

The barbecue glaze comprising ketchup, clear honey, Worcester sauce and chilli powder wasn’t particularly ‘sticky’, so I suggest maybe marinating the pork steaks in a bowl (covered) for a few hours if you have time. With some home-made coleslaw and a corn on the cob on the side, this US diner classic still comes in at less than 400 calories per serving.

If you love getting sticky with it, check out sticky chicken with coleslaw, sticky mango roasted salmon, sticky chicken drumsticks or sticky pork steaks with coleslaw. As 2020 draws to a close, personally I’m sick of sticky now :-).

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Cauliflower Cheese Soup


If you think cauliflower is ‘boring’, try this soup and be prepared to change your mind

With the temperatures falling below zero in many parts of the UK, it’s high time I included more soup recipes on this blog. And I can’t think of a better one to start with than Cauliflower Cheese Soup from the Hairy Dieters.

Cauliflower is such a versatile vegetable and it tastes exquisite here when blended with cheese, milk and wholegrain mustard for a smooth and creamy finish. The recipe quantities will serve 4 people generously for 233 calories and at just 68p per portion. Forget tinned soup when you can conjure up home-made varieties as good as this. Superb.

For more exotic soup ideas, check out the soup section on this blog here.

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Salt and Pepper Squid with Yuzu Mayo


Try and use fresh squid from a fishmonger if you can

Squid dishes on a diet tend to be off-limits because they are typically deep fried, but this Salt and Pepper Squid with Yuzu Mayo recipe from Tom Kerridge cleverly uses breadcrumbs to create a similar effect for only a fraction of the calories.

Due to my local fishmonger being closed because of the Covid tier restrictions, I had to make do with frozen squid rings from a supermarket, but as a seafood fan I still enjoyed this with the kick of the vibrant yuzu mayo to go with it. Speaking of yuzu, unless you live near a Waitrose or a specialist Chinese supermarket you might struggle to get hold of yuzu juice, however it’s easy to buy online if you don’t mind waiting.

If you love light seafood lunches, check out cajun prawn and kale salad (also from Tom Kerridge) and quinoa, prawn and mango salad which are wonderful too.

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Vegetable Frittata


Don’t fret over a frittata, use any spare veg you have

A turning courgette was my motivation for trying Vegetable Frittata from the Hairy Dieters, but it had already gone off when I finally got round to making it. Now for someone who has to follow every recipe to the letter this represented a major crisis. One glass of wine later, I came to my senses and realised that this was a frittata after all, and the whole premise of a frittata is that basically anything goes when you’re throwing it together.

In the Hairy Dieters’ version, they suggest using courgette, red pepper, red onions, butternut squash, broccoli and green beans, but honestly, just use whatever spare vege you have that needs using up. This is a cheap fall-back option when you’ve got some eggs and vegetables in your fridge but don’t know what to do with them.

Don’t let my appalling cutting skills deter you (by this time I’d had two glasses of wine), this will comfortably serve 4 people with a salad on the side, if you like.

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Mushroom and Leek Pasta


This definitely won’t flatten your curves

As the old saying goes looks can be deceiving, and when it comes to Mushroom and Leek Pasta from Gordon Ramsay it’s definitely a case of the calories being deceiving. There is no nutritional information listed in Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course book and I made the mistake in thinking that any dish containing mushrooms and leeks must be good for you, right? Wrong.

The addition of the fresh lasagne sheets, double cream and ciabatta sent the fat content spiralling to, I estimate, approximately 839 calories per serving. Fuck me, as Gordon would say. If this recipe appeals to you but you’re worried about messing up your diet, ditch the bread and use only 4 fresh lasagne sheets between 2 people which will bring the calorie count down to about 627 per serving. Alternatively, using dried lasagne sheets will bring the calories down further if you’re willing to compromise on flavour.

This actually tastes really good but there are more diet friendly pasta recipes out there which include leeks, mushrooms and tarragon, such as smashed-up chicken, which uses low-fat crème fraiche instead of cream and only a small portion of pasta instead of lasagne sheets.

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Black Bean and Butternut Chilli


Loads of ingredients, loads of flavour

A fair amount of effort goes into Black Bean and Butternut Chilli from Tom Kerridge, but what an imaginative and substantial vegetarian chilli this is. Cutting out the tortilla chips topped with the sour cream, spring onions and avocado (as I did) takes this meal down to a more palatable 406 calories, however if you’re serving this to guests you might want to keep them in for a proper vege feast.

If you’ve got any spare butternut squash, have a pop at butternut squash pilaf or home-made butternut squash tortellini if you’ve got plenty of time to yourself, or your Christmas visiting relatives are annoying you.

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Hunter’s Chicken


Why is Hunter’s Chicken called Hunter’s Chicken?

Hunter’s Chicken is a British pub classic – chicken wrapped in bacon, cooked in a tomato-based sauce and finished off with melted cheese on top. Mmmmm. Pinch of Nom have created a lighter version using bacon medallions and reduced-fat cheddar and it tastes as good as anything you’ll enjoy in your local boozer.

PON’s recipe comes in at 343 calories, but this doesn’t include any accompaniments. So, in the interests of following UK government advice and turning this into a ‘substantial meal’ (I shouldn’t even joke), I served mine with a few peas and naughty chips. But to keep the calories down, I suggest having it with some green veg and/or a very small portion of healthy mash (using low-fat crème fraiche).

If you’re currently stuck in a tier 3 or tier 4 area and are missing some classic British home-cooked food, check out the pub classics section on this blog here. The only downside is you’ll have to cook them yourself ;-).

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