Cheese Savoury Sandwich Filling


This tastes great but get some decent bread, unlike me

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.

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Chilli Cheese Jacket Potatoes


If you love loaded potato skins, you’ll love this slightly healthier option

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.

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Shakshouka


Another Turkish eggs recipe to try. I can’t get enough of them!

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.

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Mexican Street Corn Soup


This soup has a proper kick to it!

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).

If you like this, I’d recommend Spicy Sweetcorn Soup (with bacon or tofu) which equally packs some welly and can be adapted for vegetarians. Alternatively, click here to check out some more super soup recipes!

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Cheesy Meaty Parcels


Steak and cheese in a wrap. Divine!

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!

You don’t need to buy expensive steak for this – thin cut, flank or frying steaks are perfect as you want them to cook quickly when you pan-fry them on a high heat. If you love this, have a go at smoky steak fajitas, fast chicken fajitas and philly cheesesteak.

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Lamb, Rosemary and Sweet Potato Pie


Use normal potatoes for the topping if you like, but sweet potatoes give this pie a distinctive taste

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).

If pies / casserole-based dishes are your thing, check out lean lamb hotpot, mince and vegetable pie with tumbled spuds, cottage pie or tortilla chilli pie.

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Spinach, Mushroom & Chorizo Frittata


For those who think fruit is overrated

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!

For alternative suggestions, check out full English wraps, breakfast omelette burritos and full English breakfast quiche (also from Two Chubby Cubs) which are all weekend wonder dishes. Not sure what to do with any leftover chorizo? Try baked eggs with chorizo filling, baked fish with chorizo crust, chicken and chorizo risnotto, chorizo with butter beans, Southern-style jambalaya and/or all-in-one spicy pork and rice. That’s your lot, now be off with you!

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Creamy Chicken and Parmesan Fettucine


This needs lots of seasoning to bring out the taste and don’t forget the parsley!

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.

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Full English Wraps


Be sure to cook the egg slowly and be careful when flipping it over to avoid a calamity!

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.

If you like this, you’ll probably love breakfast omelette burritos which is based on a similar theme but higher in calories.

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Green Eggs & Fam


Wait… you didn’t think the eggs were really green, did you?

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.

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Ploughman’s Platter with Homemade Chutney


All this for less than 400 calories

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.

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Pulled Chicken Baked Sliders


Less than £1 a head and under 300 calories!

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.

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(Lighter) French Onion Soup


If you don’t like onions, this soup probably isn’t for you

Justine Pattison has provided a slimming friendly version of the classic French Onion Soup recipe which will feed 6 people for less than 50p a head! There is something really comforting about this soup and the extra cooking time to slowly cook the onions (don’t let them burn!) is worth the wait.

Justine recommends using the nuttiness of Gruyere cheese to put on the thin baguette slices, but any hard cheese will do. And if you can’t get your mits on a baguette as I couldn’t, then thin slices of garlic bread are a good substitute but do factor in the extra calories.

For more healthy soup ideas, click here.

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Creamy Chicken Pasta Bake


Chicken & pasta, topped with a creamy cheese sauce. What’s not to like?

Who doesn’t love a pasta bake? Well, me actually, but my teenage son Will can eat pasta by the bucket load so I knew Creamy Chicken Pasta Bake from Pinch of Nom would be right up his street. Pasta bakes are a genius way of getting children to sample vegetables without them really noticing – in this case it’s sliced leeks and mushrooms, which go brilliantly with the chicken and the creamy, cheesy sauce.

The calorie count for this dish is just over 500, but you can always reduce it by having less pasta. 300g between 4 people is quite a lot and I find that 50g of pasta per person is sufficient. It’s up to you.

If you love this ingredient combination, then I’d urge you to try smashed-up chicken which is one of my all-time favourites, the equally sublime creamy chicken and tarragon pots with rosemary potato wedges or chicken tetrazzini.

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Bacon, potato and spring onion frittata


Providing you’ve got eggs literally anything goes in a frittata

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.

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Pizza Pronto


Home-made pizzas are a great cure for lockdown boredom. They taste brilliant, too

Its never been more tempting to order in pizza for a treat during lockdown. But the cost, not to mention the calories, can be damaging to your bank balance and waistline. Justine Pattison’s Pizza Pronto is a brilliant home-made pizza option when you’re looking to cut back but still want something that tastes ‘naughty’.

Tortilla wraps are key to keeping the calories down, and while they clearly taste different to traditional thin / thick crust pizzas, providing you load them with your favourite toppings I bet you won’t even care! As for the toppings, in moderation anything goes here – wafer thin ham / prosciutto, chorizo / salami, pitted green olives / pitted black olives. Hell, you could even swap chopped tomatoes for passata and mozzarella for reduced-fat mature cheddar cheese. Whatever ingredients you’ve got in, chuck them on.

If you want a more ‘no-frills’ home-made pizza option, then go for five-minute pizza which literally does take 5 minutes to prep. And who knows, If you get your family / loved ones involved in making them it might even help to alleviate lockdown boredom. Win-win!!

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Dill Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon Bagel


I could easily eat two of these!

Dill Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon Bagel from Pinch of Nom’s new book (Quick and Easy) is just divine. The flavours are a match made in heaven and these bagels can be enjoyed any time of day – breakfast, brunch or lunch, or even as a snack if you’ve got the munchies! Make sure you get bagel thins though to keep the calories down, alternatively just use half a standard bagel if you can discipline yourself to be good. Personally, I couldn’t!

For other brilliant brunch ideas, you must try scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and the breakfast of kings – poached egg, smoked salmon and spinach. If you’re procrastinating over what to do about any spare dill (it’s ok if you’re not, I’m just sad), then fusion tandoori chicken, Swedish meatballs in gravy and broad bean / chicken and broad bean pilaf are for you!

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Spinach and Paneer Curry


This recipe calls for frozen spinach which needs defrosting and draining

I found Spinach and Paneer Curry from Tom Kerridge faffy to make and the taste a tad overbearing. But it’s certainly a substantial and distinctive meat-free curry, which you can have with or without rice.

If you like paneer, which is a lower fat cheese that holds its texture well, I’d recommend paneer and pea curry and cauliflower, paneer and pea curry. Guess how the two recipes differ? ;-).

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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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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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