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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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!!
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!
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.
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…..
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.
Sausage Hash is the first recipe I’ve tried from Lorna Cooper’sFeed 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!
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.
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.