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!
Pretty food is not always healthy food, but Breakfast Banana Split from Pinch of Nom is goodness personified. The mix of bananas, blueberries, strawberries and cherries is a perfect morning wake-up call, topped with yoghurt and a hint of vanilla and the flaked almonds, which I opted to lightly toast beforehand.
If you’re worried about food wastage / supermarket sell-by dates / cost and don’t want to use fresh fruit just for 10 blueberries, 4 strawberries and 2 cherries, then just buy frozen. That’s exactly what I do and I just take out the quantities of fruit that I need. No stress, no wastage and little difference in overall quality.
I recently had to return to the office for a day and with all kitchen facilities out of bounds due to Covid, I was a bit stumped as to what I could eat. I then had the brainwave of making Lemon and Blueberry Baked Oats from Pinch of Nom. Oats slowly release energy which help to keep hunger at bay for longer, and as the calorie count for this is on the high side at 440 per serving, I figured I might skip lunch rather than have to go out and buy something from a shop.
My masterplan involved getting up at the crack of dawn to bake the oats in the oven, wrap them in foil and then drive to the office where they would still be warm for when I arrived. Genius (ish). But what about the taste? Well….. it was very lemony, as you’d expect, which is fine if you like lemon (I prefer subtle hints of lemon). It also tasted more like a dessert, which is fine if you like desserts, but I’m indifferent towards them and certainly don’t want a pudding for breakfast! So my cunning plan was a bit of a bust.
There are many variations of French Toast but some can be particularly high in calories. This awesome lighter version from the Hairy Dieters is under 300 calories and less than a £1 per serving! But best of all, this tastes unbelievable and so indulgent with the apple compote, cinnamon, maple syrup, Greek yoghurt and blackberries dolloped over a slice of eggy bread. Pure heaven!
I thought I’d tried most Indian-based dishes, but Chicken and Banana Curry from Pinch of Nom is a new one for me. This mild, fruity recipe tastes a bit like a Kashmiri which sometimes contain mango and lychee. Or if you’re ordering from my dodgy local curry house a tin of supermarket fruit cocktail, much to my wife’s annoyance as she expects them to use fresh fruit, which always amuses me. In fairness, her gripe is valid when you’re paying over £7 for a main course per person!
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.
We’re unofficially entering ‘porridge season’ where freezing cold mornings mean that you can barely feel your toes and fingers after scraping the ice off your car. The Hairy Dieters include a handy ‘Awesome Oats’ section in their second book and I had a bash at trying Banana and Pecan Porridge to warm me up!
I reached four conclusions. 1. This is a lovely, comforting start to your day. 2. Pecan nuts are ridiculously expensive. 3. It’s cheaper to buy sachets of Oat So Simple porridge which actually contain fewer calories than this recipe. 4. Why would you mess about prepping this when you can just pour the contents of an Oat So Simple sachet into a microwavable bowl and ping-ding, a minute later you can be tucking in?
I’m all for advocating the use of fresh ingredients. But practicality, affordability and saving money / time is just as important when sticking to a diet.
Spicy Black Beans with Feta and Avocado is Gordon Ramsay’s take on Mexican street food. He recommends that you serve this with ‘tostadas’ (see below), which is tortilla wraps shallow-fried in vegetable oil. I decided I was going to be good and refrained, which in hindsight was probably a mistake as I felt the recipe needed something else to bring it all together. Not that I’d tell Gordon this to his face, otherwise it would be a recipe for disaster!
Although more graft and ingredients are involved, I personally prefer veggie tacos from the Hairy Dieters which also uses black beans.
When I kid myself that I’m going to be ‘good’, I often buy fresh fruit which sits in my fridge until it goes off. Thankfully, pineapple keeps very well so when I have a crisis of conscience I can rustle up Pineapple Fried Rice from Two Chubby Cubs which has lots of flavour from the soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, chilli flakes and lime.
A word of warning. The recipe calls for 700g of cooked rice. That equates to about 250g of uncooked rice. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of serving this with 700g of uncooked, otherwise your daily calorie count will be well and truly screwed. Personally, I think about 40g of uncooked rice per person is more than sufficient.
There are few things more dangerous in life than incurring the wrath of your mother-in-law. Fortunately I get on with mine very well, however she can be known for her ‘persistence’. To keep herself occupied during lockdown, she started growing her own cucumber, rhubarb and potatoes and would proudly leave her hoards on our doorstep. Which is great, except I hate cucumber and have no interest in making puddings which also makes the rhubarb somewhat redundant. But pointing this out was always going to leave me on a sticky wicket.
“Have you done anything with that cucumber yet???” became one of our regular lockdown conversations. I was running out of excuses. In mad panic upon realising she was coming round, I furiously fanned my recipe books until I stumbled across Cooling Cucumber and Avocado Soup from Justine Pattison. A recipe more suited for a blazingly hot summer’s afternoon than a wet and wild autumn day, but fuck it, this would have to do in a crisis.
As for the end result…. we absolutely hated it and could only manage about four spoonfulls between us. But this was about ‘taking one for the team’ and making others feel appreciated, which is perhaps no bad thing right now. My supply of cucumbers has also stopped, too.
Pick up a copy of any healthy eating cookbook and the chances are it will contain an overnight oats recipe. So with the weather turning chilly I decided to finally give one a go, despite porridge not particularly floating my boat and that for a fraction more calories I can enjoy bacon and egg instead ;-).
Overnight Porridge with Juicy Berries from Justine Pattison seemed as good as any. You don’t have to soak the oats overnight if you can’t be arsed, however if you do it will taste creamier. I’m fed up of supermarket deliveries sending me fresh fruit with one-day use by dates so have started buying packs of frozen fruit. It’s obviously not as good as fresh but more practical and cheaper – I just take out of the freezer what I need.
I thought my 200th blog post would be more imaginative than Skinny Potato Salad from Justine Pattison. But this is a wonderful, simplistic meal in its own right and costs less than 75p per serving to put on your table despite being packed with new potatoes, celery, apple and spring onion with a low-fat mayo dressing.
And when I think about it, that’s what this blog is all about. Giving people access to straightforward, tasty recipes that they can make easily and cheaply at home to keep on track with their diet. Enjoy and thanks to everyone who drops by.
True but pointless story. In my younger student days, I was once removed from a public house establishment over a row about an ‘all-day breakfast’. It was 8pm, I’d had a couple of beverages and fancied a good old-fashioned ‘fry-up’. “We stopped selling the all-day breakfast sir at 12pm,” said a patronising waiter. He may not have been, I was pissed. “An all-day breakfast should be all day, it’s 8 o’clock, I want an all-day breakfast,” I insisted. It didn’t end well.
Anyway, I digress, but the point of this pointless story is that you can enjoy this All-Day Mexican Breakfast from Jamie Oliver whenever you like, and you only need 5 base ingredients to rustle it up. Eggs and avocado together can be a messy job, as the photo below indicates. My wife likes soft eggs, I like hard, as I was making this I got my wish but I do think this recipe lends itself better to soft / medium cooked eggs. We opted for 2 chillies which made this really hot! So, if you’re not a heat freak, maybe opt for 1 chilli instead.
I had some gammon leftover after making campfire stew and was scratching my head as to what to do with it. After doing some digging online, I stumbled across Gammon and Pineapple Stir Fry on the Diabetes UK website.
I wouldn’t associate gammon with a stir-fry, or being suitable for people with diabetes, but at only 174 calories per serving, and 6.4g of fat, 8.3g of sugars and 1.80g of salt, this fits the brief for a quick and healthy meal that is suitable for all. As for the taste, I loved it, mainly because I’m OCD about food waste and we had all of the ingredients to hand. On the other hand my wife was non-plussed, which I guess means we’re not having it again ;-).
Ok, so there’s a few ingredients and a fair bit of prep work to do in advance, but Fresh Fruit Compote with Home-Made Granola from the Hairy Dieters offers such a healthy and brilliant start to the day. As most people know by now, granola and muesli supermarket cereals are loaded with sugar, but this home-made version topped with fresh fruit and a dollop of yoghurt is infinitely more satisfying.
It will easily provide 6 servings and the cost, at £1.43 per portion, would be considerably more expensive if you bought this from a coffee / café outlet. If you’re going to embark on a healthy eating plan, why deprive yourself when you can enjoy fresh food as luxurious as this?
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.
Tandoori Salmon with Mango Salsa from Pinch of Nom is just perfect for summer evenings when you want to tuck into something healthy and fresh without stuffing your face. You only have to look at your plate to know that this is a well balanced meal, bursting with flavour from the spices which coat the salmon and the tangy salsa.
I had some broccoli leftover in my fridge which I used to bulk this out, but you can use any small serving of steamed veg if you’re feeling peckish. This is a great salmon-based dish but my personal favourite is still Salmon with Chilli Ginger Sauce. Both would make excellent additions to your healthy eating plan.
Good-quality chipolatas, made from unspiced pork, are cheap but pack in loads of flavour so are a handy option to keep in your fridge or freezer. Sausage and Apple Bake, from Jamie Oliver’s 5 ingredients book, utilises chipolatas brilliantly in this one-pan dish with honeyed parsnips and caramelised onions. It will seem like a LOT of parsnipsbut the strips do reduce down.
I recently had this with gin on a balmy spring evening outside, and while it might be better suited to a cold autumn evening, I love recipes that I can just bang in the oven to do their thing while I sit back and relax. The fat content in this recipe is quite high if you’re watching your weight but still comes in at under 500 calories.
From re-creating your favourite curry to making lower calorie burgers, healthy cookbooks are awash with ‘fakeaways’ these days. And don’t get me wrong, these recipes are welcome and have their place. But try as they might, some of them still don’t hit the ‘spot’, particularly with curries which omit staple restaurant ingredients like ghee to keep the fat content to a minimum. My philosophy is if you’re in need of a blow-out and want to be naughty, then treat yourself to a takeaway, PROVIDING you get back on your diet the next day.
But there are ‘fakeaway’ exceptions which do genuinely (in my opinion) taste like the ‘real thing’. Sweet and Sour Chicken from the Hairy Dieters is one of the more authentic fakeaways I’ve made – I think Chinese takeaways in general are easier to recreate at home based on the required ingredients. This recipe requires only two chicken breasts and will comfortably serve 4 people for less than £2 a head, without rice. The sweet and sour sauce with the pineapple and ginger is to die for!
Serve this in a takeaway carton to your nearest and dearest and see if they notice the difference. Or just serve it them anyway. If you’re interested in fakeways, check out the relevant section on this blog here, and if Chinese floats your boat, Yeung Chow Fried Rice, is another excellent recipe to try, courtesy of Pinch of Nom.
Ham & Pineapple Pasta Bake from Two Chubby Cubs is a proper feast – pasta, bacon, ham, pineapple, mozzarella and (optional) cheddar cheese in one-pot! It’s a cinch to throw together and will comfortably make 6 portions – perfect for feeding the kids over a couple of days or so.
Speaking of kids, this recipe threw up one of my life’s little mysteries. My son Will, who loves Hawaiian pizzas, curiously wouldn’t entertain having pineapple in this pasta bake. Go figure. The Cubs, whose fab debut book is wonderfully entertaining, suggest serving this with a light salad on the side to ‘pointedly ignore’, which I did :-).