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.
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.
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.
A cooked breakfast for less than 150 calories per serving? You better believe it thanks to Justine Pattison’s All-in-One Breakfast, which is conveniently cooked in the oven to save on the washing up afterwards!
The concept of this recipe is great, but getting the execution right can be faffy when it comes to prising the egg from the baking tray. Low-calorie cooking spray by definition might save calories compared to using oil, but I still find it irritatingly inadequate at preventing ingredients from sticking. One tip Justine advises is to use really fresh eggs as they won’t spread so far across the pan when broken.
If you’ve got some eggs and odds and sods in your fridge that need using up, shove them in a frittata. Pinch of Nom’s thrifty version uses bacon, potato and spring onions which are a great combo, but chuck in what you like. If you’re after a vege version, check out vegetable frittata. Ideal for brunch or a light lunch with a green salad on the side.
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…..
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 ;-).
I didn’t find Speedy Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pies from the Hairy Dieters particularly speedy. Nor did they remind me of pies. But apart from that, this chicken and vege recipe is a decent feed and just 267 calories per portion.
The filo pastry topping is a clever, lighter way to create a pie-like crunch when you bite into it, but let’s not get carried away, this definitely isn’t a pie in the conventional sense. I couldn’t be arsed to divide the filling into 4 individual pie dishes – that might have accounted for why it took much longer than the suggested 24 minutes of cooking time to ensure the 500ml of chicken stock had sufficiently reduced down.
Sometimes meals containing the simplest of ingredients can turn out to be the best ones. Bacon, Onion and Potato Bake from Pinch of Nom requires only five base ingredients and is brilliant for using up items in your fridge that may have been hanging around.
Do make sure the foil is fitted tightly around your ovenproof dish and get some decent potatoes, such as Maris Piper, which are better at absorbing liquid – you don’t want this meal to be swimming in stock. Also, note that this recipe uses bacon medallions – if you’ve only got regular bacon rashers, make sure all the fat and rind is removed to keep the calorie count down.
If you love this meal you’ll probably also like pan haggerty lite, which is a similar comfort food classic.
At 498 calories per serving and taking an hour to make, Full English Breakfast Quiche from Two Chubby Cubs is a tad heavy and labour intensive to work as a weekday brekky. But as a lazy weekend brunch….. now you’re talking. The beauty about quiches is that as long as you’ve got eggs pretty much everything else goes. And pretty much everything goes into this – cherry tomatoes, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, spring onions and cheese.
I was slightly nervous about flipping my quiche over at the end, but thankfully everything went to plan and the quiche finished up on my plate and not the kitchen floor! I used a large, glass pyrex quiche dish and it was fine, but the Cubs recommend that you use a 23cm ( 9 inch) deep-dish silicone cake tin for this to make it easier to get the quiche out when you come to portion it up.
I’m sure there’s a decent recipe within Spicy Sausage Pasta from Justine Pattison, but I royally screwed it up by not having the correct ingredients in to make it. I couldn’t get hold of any spicy pork sausages (can anyone, from supermarkets?) and used regular pork ones sprinkled with a generous helping of chilli flakes. My back bacon substitute for smoked lardons was also an epic fail, and although a tin of chopped tomatoes in preference to using 3 large ripe tomatoes was more excusable, fresh is always better than tinned equivalents.
The end result, through every fault of my own, was bland and disappointing and it tasted way too tomatoery, if that’s a ‘thing’? I tried to rescue it by dolloping parmesan on top but I wasn’t fooling anyone. Not least my teenage son who charitably said, “It’s nice Dad but I’m full, so I’ll put it in the microwave and eat it later”, where it remained untouched.
The moral of the story here is that while you can get away with some simple substitutes in many recipes, this isn’t one of them, particularly when bolder flavours such as chilli and smoked lardons are required. If you have a go at making this and it turns out well, do let me know :-).
I’d forgotten how good Spicy Bacon and Tomato Pasta is from the Hairy Dieters. It’s great hot or cold, so invariably I used to prep it the night before and take it into work for lunch the next day. Since I’ve been working from home for the last seven months some of my lunchtime meals have been more extravagant, but it’s good to go back to basics and save some time in the kitchen!
Check the packaging (or review the nutritional information online) to make sure your tomato and basil sauce has no more than 6g of fat per 100g – I buy the little stir-in pots from Dolmio (150g) which are a rip-off, but they taste good and some are low-fat. If you’re on a budget, use regular broccoli cut into small florets rather than tenderstem. This is a good meal to introduce kids to vege. My teenage son is too pre-occupied with the pasta, sauce and bacon to notice that I’ve included some diced yellow pepper in there ;-).
Mexican Caesar Salad from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Save with Jamie’ book is a sumptuous treat for lunch or a light evening meal which has got a little bit of everything in it. Containing 17 ingredients and at over £2 a head I’m not sure how this can be classed as a budget meal though, Jamie.
But aside from the cost, this salad tastes great and will satisfy your hunger cravings that you’ll work up whilst prepping it! If you want a slightly cheaper and lighter version, check out chicken caesar salad from the Hairy Dieters. Or, if neither of these appeal, then have a gander at cobb salad from Justine Pattison which has become a favourite of mine.
Spicy Sweetcorn Soup is a slightly misleading title from the Hairy Dieters as it includes bacon. But don’t despair if you’re vegetarian. The bacon is cooked separately and only added to the soup at the end. For a vegetarian version, use veggie stock and add firm smoked tofu which you can crisp up, as per the Hairy Dieters’ suggestion.
Whether you include the bacon or not, this is a cracking ‘meal in a bowl’ containing onion, red pepper, sweet potato, sweetcorn and coriander, spiced up by the chipotle paste. This soup can be enjoyed anytime of year, but it really comes into its own when the cold weather sets in. If you’re a fan of home-made soups, check out some other suggestions here.
Cobb Salad from Justine Pattison is an amazing, belly-busting US salad which will provide a filling lunch as well as a main evening meal. It’s great with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, or a blue cheese dressing which you can make in a couple of minutes using light mayo, buttermilk or fat-free natural yoghurt, white wine vinegar, Roquefort cheese (or any blue cheese will do) and a dash of salt and pepper.
Struggling to remember the ingredients? As Justine says, just think ‘Eat Cobb’ – egg, avocado, tomato, chicken, onion, bacon and beetroot. My mouth is watering just typing this! One of the most satisfying, healthy salads you’re likely to have.
Grapefruit, Avocado and Bacon Salad from the Hairy Dieters is best enjoyed immediately after you’ve made it, as the ingredients can go soggy if you leave them in a lunch box. The tangy flavours and the contrast in textures make this really interesting but be warned, prepping the grapefruit and avocado can be a messy job!
You can buy pre-prepped grapefruit segments in cans or cartons, which I might opt for if making this again. It’s not that I’m bone idle (honest), my knife skills are just crap and the grapefruit was butchered by the time I’d finished with it.
I love the concept behind Justine Pattison’s One-Pan Cooked Breakfast. A traditional ‘fry-up’, made healthier by cooking the ingredients in the oven, for less than a quid per portion with minimal washing up.
But in reality this recipe is a bit of a faff to make, and I nearly made Will late for school and me late for work by not reading the cooking method properly. When I put food in the oven I don’t want to worry about it until it’s ready to bring out. However, my patience was tested with this meal because it involves about 5 different stages – stir this, turn that, do the hokey cokey and you turn around….
Oh dear, where do I begin? Creamy Scallops with Bacon from Justine Pattison turned into a ‘date night’ disaster for me recently. The first red flag was that my brilliant local fishmonger was temporarily closed due to COVID-19, prompting a rush of blood as I naively ordered frozen scallops from a supermarket. The difference ibetween fresh, quality scallops and frozen supermarket ones is night and day.
My second, even bigger faux pas, was buying a larger cauliflower to make the creamy puree. In doing so, the sauce completely overwhelmed any chance of tasting, let alone finding, the bacon and the scallops. But they were in there, even if the photo suggests I’m lieing.
When I’ve calmed down I’ll give this another bash using a much smaller cauli (500-700g only). But if this was a ‘first date’ I’m not sure Ann-Marie would have been inclined to grant me a second one ha ha!
I’d become a little bored of my favourite healthy eating recipes and was in need of some inspiration. The Pinch of Nom series of books (Pinch of Nom and Pinch of Nom Everyday Light) have been a breath of fresh air and contain some novel recipes that I haven’t come across in other ‘diet’ books.
One of ‘Nom’s’ most celebrated dishes within their huge online community is Cajun Dirty Rice. Now I can see why. This amazing meal packs so much variety of different ingredients, all for less than 300 calories. Phenomenal. Who doesn’t love meat, vege and rice in one belly-busting bowl?
Hot as a fever, rattle of bones. I could just taste it, taste it. Yooooouuuuu. Your Spaghetti is on FIRE. Ok, so I doubt Kings of Leon will be adapting the lyrics of ‘Sex on Fire’, but I did chuckle to myself while prepping Spaghetti on Fire from Justine Pattison.
This is a belter of a pasta dish, packed with good stuff (vege), and full of flavour from the smoked bacon and chilli flakes. Adding Parmesan and basil leaves is optional but I’d wholeheartedly recommend doing so toenhance the taste. This frugal recipe is right up there with my favourite pasta dishes, but numero uno for me remains Pasta Puttanesca. Which one is yours?