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.
With a clever topping you can transform a plain piece of fish into something rather more exciting. Sticky Mango Roasted Salmon from Justine Pattison is a great example. Just a teaspoon of mango chutney and a sprinkling of cumin seeds gave this fish an exotic makeover and the oven takes care of the rest.
I don’t think having this with cherry tomatoes is sufficient for a main meal on its own. I added new potatoes to mine, but you could serve it with mash, green vege or even some couscous. Just factor in the extra calories and don’t go daft on the carbs and this quick meal is an ideal midweek dinner option to complement your healthy eating plan.
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.
I’ve blogged previously about how lockdown has made me attempt strange things in the kitchen. From making my own muesli (which had some merit) to my car-crash attempt at trying home-made baked beans, which cost me two hours of my life and reputation to my son that I won’t get back.
So when I saw Pinch of Nom’sGiant Baked Beans recipe which could be ready in 15 minutes, I was ready to dust myself down and try again. Unlike the Hairy Dieters’ version, ‘Nom doesn’t require you to piss about soaking dried beans overnight. Just two tins of butter beans (between 4) will do the trick and then all you need to do is douse them in passata, Worcester sauce, balsamic vinegar, paprika, onion granules, mustard powder, granulated sweetener and, finally, salt and pepper.
This wasn’t any hardship for me because I have more spices than pairs of socks in my house. However, based on the end result I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to get them just to make this, when you could just crack open a tin of baked beans and be done with it. I find passata quite overpowering so the taste didn’t float my boat, although I did put them on top of a crap piece of bread. This is the last time I try and be a smart arse when it comes to baked beans. Now where did I put my tins of Branston?
Smoky Steak Fajitas from Justine Pattison is a good choice for a fast midweek meal, or especially on a Friday evening after a week at work when you don’t have the energy to cook something which requires any effort. Key to getting this recipe right is heat. Make sure your griddle pan is piping hot before cooking your steak, and it only needs about 1 ½ minutes on each side.
Again, with heat in mind, make sure you cover the cooked steak with a piece of foil, wrapped in a clean towel to keep it warm while you stir-fry the peppers and spring onions. Finally, don’t forget to warm your tortillas through – cold tortillas are yukky!!
Personally, I would have been a bit more brazen with this recipe and chucked in some jalapenos and a spicier variety of salsa, but it’s easy to switch a few ingredients around to meet your preferences! If you like the idea of this, check out fast chicken fajitas which is also a super-quick meal to throw together.
I once saw a recipe by Jamie Oliver called ‘tasty fish tacos with game-changing kiwi, lime and chill salsa’. It looked great in his book, but too great though to suggest I could pull it off and be arsed to slave away with the mass of ingredients required for the recipe. I liked the concept though, and when I saw Soft Fish Tacos from Pinch of Nom, I was eager to try this much simpler version.
Sadly, this is one PON recipe that I won’t be in a hurry to make again. It just seemed to be lacking in flavour and a tad bland, and for me adding a ¼ tsp of various spices seems pointless. You may think differently though, so give it a whirl if it takes your fancy.
Omelettes are brilliant for a quick meal and this version from the Hairy Dieters with minted peas and feta cheese is surprisingly tasty with a salad on the side. Prepped and ready in under 10 minutes, under a quid per portion and 382 calories per serving. Job done.
Satay Burger from Two Chubby Cubs is, quite possibly, the best burger I’ve ever tasted – and that includes the unhealthy ones I’ve demolished from takeaways and pubs over the years. But this home-made burger is only 390 calories and will cost approx £1.36 per portion to send you into food heaven / porn – delete as appropriate.
Normally you associate satay with chicken, so having this with beef made for a welcome surprise. And it tasted even nicer because my wife made it :-). This is proof that you can still enjoy a burger on a diet, but if you’re going to have a treat I recommend you get top-quality beef mince from a butcher instead of from a supermarket.
Most low-fat burgers require you to bulk out the filling with onions andcourgettes, and while they taste good, I love the fact that this amazing burger from ‘the Cubs’ requires zero pissing about. Just mix together the soy sauces, peanut butter and lime juice with the beef mince, form into a burger and pop them in a frying pan or griddle pan. From start to finish, you can be savouring this in less than 20 minutes. Why are you still here? Go, go, go!!!
Monte Cristo Sandwich is Pinch of Nom’s lower-calorie take on the French classic, croque monsieur. Or, in my attempt, a crap cheese and ham toastie with a few extra ingredients. I like the fact that sandwiches don’t have to be off limits when you’re on a ‘diet’, but I don’t like the potential food wastage making this involves – 3 spinach leaves, 1 cherry tomato, ½ a spring onion. It was enough to get my knickers in a twist wondering about what to do with the leftovers!
I don’t think it helped that I burnt it and singed my hand when trying to flip the sandwich over, but then again I am clumsy personified at times in the kitchen. Pinch of Nom suggest having this for breakfast, I think it’s better suited to brunch or lunch.
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 ;-).
Smoky Pancetta Cod from Jamie Oliver might not be cheap, but it only uses 5 base ingredients and is one of the best midweek dinners I’ve made that can be ready in just 15 minutes. Seriously, when’s the last time you rustled up a meal as quick and as good as this, for less than350calories per portion?
I used prosciutto instead of pancetta based on what I had in my fridge, but you could also use smoked bacon or parma ham. Any white fish will also do, so just use whatever you can get your hands on. If you like the concept of cod being wrapped in something, check out roasted cod with parma ham and peppers which takes a bit longer to cook but is equally a brilliant evening meal.
“Can I have Prawn Foo Yung?” said no one, ever, when ordering from a Chinese takeaway. But this low-calorie version from the Hairy Dieters is one of thehealthiest ‘fakeaways’ you can have at just 264 calories per serving. I can’t vouch for its authenticity, but nor can anyone else because no one chooses prawn foo yung, right?
I apologise if I’ve offended any “foo yungers” reading this. What is this recipe like and how did it find itself on my table? Well, it was Friday evening, there wasn’t a lot in my fridge and I was fancying something quick and easy to rustle up. I had some leftover cabbage after making home-made coleslaw to accompany Sticky Chicken earlier in the week, and as part of my ‘no food waste’ crusade I was determined to make it go further. I’ve usually got some eggs, carrots and prawns in the fridge and hey presto, possibly the dullest Chinese fakeaway was created in less than 20 minutes.
On the positive side, this takes less than 5 minutes to cook once you’ve done the required bit of prep work. It tastes pretty ok as prawn and eggs go, and you can have it on the table in a flash. An imperfectly perfect Friday night meal so you can stay on track with your diet and not resort to calling Just Eat.
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.
Turkish Turkey Flatbreads from the Hairy Dieters is a quirky anddeceptively filling snack / lunch. It’s a bit like a spicy Turkish slice of pizza, not that I’ve ever tried Turkish pizza before but hopefully you know what I mean! Even if you don’t, give this a go because it’s really scrumptious and ready in a flash.
Even Ray Charles would be able to spot my deliberate mistake when making Tuna Nicoise Wrap from the Hairy Dieters – I left out the wrap and just had this as a salad. I know, what a rebel. Not because I was having a “I’m being good” day, I’m just not a fan of bread and didn’t feel up to messing about trying to cram the ingredients into a wrap – for me, they never hold together or look as neat and tidy as the cookbooks show.
But as a salad, I absolutely love this. It’s really tasty, the ingredients will stretch to two people as a light lunch, or you could add another tin of tuna and spring water and it would still be a lighter alternative to having a wrap. So, that’s a wrap.
Coconut Prawn Curry from the Hairy Dieters is a such a simple dish and perfect for a weeknight meal when you’re tired and just want something good to eat that’s quick to cook. From start to finish, you can be tucking into this in less than 20 minutes. Perfect.
The photo doesn’t do the flavours in this recipe justice, and despite using two teaspoons of cornflour the sauce was a little runny, so don’t be tempted to use more than the recommended 200ml of half-fat coconut milk. But all that matters is that it tastes great, and for just 254 calories it will satisfy your hunger cravings so that you don’t need to add any rice to go with it.
If you’re in need of a curry fix, check out the ‘Fakeaways’ section on this blog.
Five-Minute Pizza from the Hairy Dieters really does only take five minutes to make, and by using a large flour tortilla wrap instead of a pizza base it comes in at only 250 calories per portion. Pizza traditionalists might turn their noses up at this, but let’s face it, if you’re regularly ordering from Dominos or Papa Johns you’re less likely to be watching your weight.
My teenage son loves this recipe and it makes for a quick weekend lunch – I definitely recommend garnishing it with some rocket, a drizzle of balsamic and/or a few olives for additional flavour. My wife had the audacity to claim that my pizza in the picture above was ‘burnt’. I politely told her it was ‘rustic’ ;-). Although she did correctly label my attempts to cut the pizza as ‘shite’. “Why didn’t you use the pizza cutter?” she said. “I did” was my reply.Continue reading “Five-Minute Pizza – it only takes 5 minutes!”→
There’s something luxurious about having smoked salmon for breakfast or brunch, it’s super quick to prepare and won’t set you back £10 or more from a café if you make it at home. Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon from the Hairy Dieters recommends serving it with half an English muffin to keep the calories to 354 per portion. Personally, I can’t see the point and think the eggs and smoked salmon are sufficient on their own for less calories.
My son Will loves pasta but supermarket varieties with sauce can come in at over 500 calories for just half a pack. So, I embarked on a mission to find healthier, yummier alternatives and Pea and Prosciutto Pasta from Justine Pattison has become his favourite.
The calorie count for this recipe is 329 per serving, however the addition of the butter and a splash of single cream still makes it feel sufficiently naughty and Will regards this as a proper treat. If you’re a big pasta fan, Justine’s book Without the Calories – pasta and rice, will be right up your street. You can also find more pasta dishes on this blog here.Continue reading “Pea and Prosciutto Pasta – forget unhealthy supermarket versions”→
Aside from feeling obligated to eat it at Christmas, I never used to bother with turkey except for using the leftovers from the joint to make a pissed-up turkey curry on Boxing Day. But I’ve come to appreciate that this super-healthy meat (often containing just 2% fat) is a fantastic alternative to chicken and should be a regular fixture in my diet.
Speedy Turkey Chilli from the Hairy Dieters’ Make it Easy book is both speedy and easy to throw together, and just 252 calories per serving (without rice, I used a small portion here). This recipe only requires 300g of turkey mince as you get plenty of additional protein and fibre from the black beans and sweetcorn. Surprisingly, it doesn’t actually contain any chilli – instead you get the heat from the chipotle paste which I absolutely love!