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.
Green Eggs & Fam from Two Chubby Cubs is essentially ‘creamy’ scrambled eggs and bacon on toast with a few snipped chives on top. Quirky recipe title aside, it might not look fancy, but it requires just five ingredients to conjure up a really satisfying brunch dish.
The ‘creamy’ eggs are created by folding through some ricotta cheese which gives them a gorgeous light texture. The Cubs recommend topping this with a few drops of brown sauce and a grind of black pepper. Amazing!
You can reduce the calorie count for this by using medium eggs and lean back bacon or bacon medallions. Or just say ‘sod it, it’s only 400 calories’ and tuck in ;-). For more brunch ideas, click here.
I’m short on time today so recipes like Honey and Mustard Salmon from Two Chubby Cubs are perfect when you need to rustle up a meal in minutes with a handful of ingredients. Grab some salmon fillets, coat them in a wholegrain mustard and honey marinade and bang them in the oven. Serve with some greens and/or a small portion of new potatoes or wedges. Job done.
Ploughman’s is a pub classic and if you follow Pinch of Nom’s Ploughman’s Platter with Homemade Chutney recipe you can have a lunchtime feast for under 400 calories, which includes a wholemeal roll for the carb fanatics out there.
Nom’s home-made chutney is delectable, but if you want to save yourself 20 minutes shop-bought chutney will suffice. There really is something in this platter for everyone – ham, salad, cheese, fruit, bread – just dig in and this is perfect if you’re someone who prefers buffet style food.
My wife has recently bought a couple of afternoon tea sets from local cafes comprising finger sandwiches and cakes. They’ve been fine, but apart from being dieting busting they’ve cost in the region of £15 a head! In contrast, this home-made platter costs around £2.65 per portion and is kinder to your waistline.
The Hairy Dieters reckon you can prep and cook Pork Stroganoff in 15 minutes. Really? Then I reckon I’m Gordon Ramsay. Well, obviously I’m not, as this took me about 30 minutes in total. Still pretty quick, but I wish cookery books would be more accurate with some of their timings!
Regular readers and fans of the Hairy Dieters might recall their beef stroganoff recipe from their second book (Eat Well for Life) which uses steak (or leftover beef from a Sunday roast dinner in my case). I think this stroganoff recipe suits beef better than pork, but it’s still an enjoyable, calorie-friendly midweek meal. Serve with some greens and/or a small portion of rice.
My shoddy photo really doesn’t do justice to Pulled Chicken Baked Sliders from Pinch of Nom. The BBQ chicken, melted cheese in a bun combo transports you into an American diner with the added bonus that this costs less than £1 per head to make. The only thing missing is the fries on the side!
The recipe below is for 9 people (yes, 9), but just scale down accordingly depending on how many you are feeding. There is a long list of ingredients and, although it tastes good, the effort required to make this recipe is disproportionate unless you’ve got copious amounts of time on your hands. From start to finish, this took me about 2 hours, which is way too long to knock together a leisurely weekend lunch.
There are some fabulous recipes in Pinch of Nom’s new book – Quick and Easy. But rather like crispy chili beef (which I featured on this blog last week), some of the prep times are way too ambitious. If you just want a no-faff sandwich or wrap, click here for some ideas.
I must confess to never knowing that Mongolian Beef is a popular fakeaway recipe amongst slimming club circles. This version from Two Chubby Cubs is a great weekend option when you want to rustle up a treat but don’t want to spend ages in the kitchen if you’ve had a long week at work, managing the kids, or both!
Two points of caution. You need a good non-stick frying pan otherwise you run the risk of your beef strips being welded to it. And make sure you use low-sodium soy sauce and not regular soy sauce otherwise, to quote the Cubs, “you’ll have a mouth saltier than a sailor’s ankle”. I used low-salt soy sauce and still found this a little salty for my liking.
Coronation chicken can be very high in calories but the Hairy Dieters have come up with a substantial low-fat salad version which is bursting with flavour. The sauce for the coronation chicken is made by combining low-fat Greek yoghurt, curry powder and mango chutney and tastes fantastic.
The portion size is more than generous, but you can bulk it out with some new potatoes or even put the ingredients in a wrap. For some more great salad suggestions, click here. Or if you just want a calorie friendly coronation chicken sandwich, see here.