Posts Tagged 'Healthy'

Pumpkin, chard & chickpea soup

sweet potato chard & chickpea soup

I sprained my ankle. It was not graceful (are they ever?), I was not drunk (contrary to popular opinon) and it was not a dramatic fall (kind of boring actually). I slipped on some leaves I was kicking- and no the leaves were not soaked in tequilla. It was just a cold Sunday evening and I was out for a walk with the food team and the next thing I knew I was grabbing my ankle in a dizzy sweat by the side of the road. I knew the instant swelling was not a good sign.

Working in a kitchen on one leg is not an activity I recommend doing at home. But this was a big filming week for us, so I knew I had to pull weight, quite literally. I spent the first day sat with one leg on the counter, julienning ginger and chillis. It was not graceful nor elegant- I’m beginning to think these two qualities are not applicable to my nature. So on day two I adopted a different approach- with the bad leg kneeled on a wheelie office chair I wheeled and wove around the kitchen, using my good leg to power me along. Effective, if not slightly luny. But lets just emphasize the effective part. Watch out people the bossy one is now on wheels!

sweet potato chard & chickpea soup

Making dinner after long days of high intensity wheeling is never going to be creative. Filling a bowl with soup I’d made a few days ago and heating it in the hotel microwave is frankly as good at it gets. But this soup is a pretty welcome tummy-filler after a long day working. It’s comforting for the belly and soul if not for the swollen bruised mass that I once referred to as my left ankle.

It’s full of veggies and a little bit of bacon- for uh, protein and flavour. You can leave it out if you wish, but I love the smokyness it brings to the soup. This is one of those soups that I think is best left sort of chunky. Actually, in all honesty the fact that the chard stems turned the liquid pinkish made me quite hesitant to blend it. What colour would it turn out? Plus, I find if I’m having soup for dinner it feels like more of a complete meal if it has some texture to it. So I puree’d a little, just to thicken then stirred through the chard leaves until wilted to serve.

So now that I’m sorted on the working and making dinner thing I’d really appreciate it if someone could provide me with ways to get me back running! The Director down here has been trying to convince me that eating potato chips will mend it nicely….now wouldn’t I love to believe that one!

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Carrot, avocado & cumin salad

carrot avocado & cumin salad

When I fancy a bowl full of health this is my go-to-salad. I can toss it together in a matter of seconds and know that soon enough I’ll be plopped on the sofa giving myself a hefty dose of internal TLC. With all that colour, you know that you’re on to a good thing. If I’m feeling energetic I might tuck some up in a sheet of toasted nori with a layer of hummus. But mostly I just like to sit back on the sofa, pull my cashmere blanket up under my arms and eat it straight from the bowl I made it in. I like the way that the carrots crunch between my teeth, the way the avocado is silky smooth on my tongue and how the mint leaves me feeling refreshed. Don’t forget the toasted cumin seeds, lemon and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for an extra dose of flavour and health. Be warned though, you may just find yourself bouncing off the sofa after a bowl of this.

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Crepecake roll-ups

crepecake roll ups

I seem to have a thing with rolled-up food at the moment. My mouth clearly thinks knives and forks are overrated-hands are the perfect shovel-it-in accessory.  Or perhaps it’s just that I eat far too many meals when I’m working. I’m not and advocate for working whilst you eat- but we all know sometimes it just, well, it’s unavoidable. And at other times- eating with your hands is just way more cool. Talk about being in touch with your food.

I’ve called these crepecakes because they are a cross between a pancake and a crepe. One of my oldest and dearest friends Robin introduced me to them and call me cheesy but it was love at first bite. I’ve invited myself over to her house on countless occasions since for crepes- and as a true friend she’s happy to oblige, even putting the coffee on too. Robin, you’ll note still calls them crepes but I think that’s deceptive. Not that you’ll find yourself unpleasantly deceived- but deceived nevertheless. They are based on a crepe recipe, though- from the Joy of Cooking, so I’m led to believe. Robin’s father took it upon his gifted self to alter the recipe and they morphed magnificently into crepecakes. I love how that happens.

They are thicker than a crepe but thinner than a pancake and I think they’re just divine. You can serve these anyway you like- my favourite is  to spread them with a layer of peanut butter, top with apples cut into matchsticks and rolled up. Don likes to fill his with crispy bacon, sharp cheddar and a drizzle of honey. Either way- you’re on to a good thing!  More recently Robin’s been making them gluten and dairy free and I think they’ve become something even better. She never actually gave me the recipe- I’ve been hassling her for about two years now- but never-you-mind, this is pretty darn close. Although I have to admit, they taste so much better when an old friend makes them for you.

I’m back off to West Virginia tonight for 3 1/2 weeks so please bare with me I will try to post as often as possible!

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no recipe- just nori wraps

nori rolls

Lunch doesn’t really do it for me. Don’t get me wrong- my tummy gets its growl going but I just don’t get enthused for lunches offerings. I know that it doesn’t have to be that way but lunch is usually at work- and often it’s eaten standing at the stove. On the rare (but totally decadent) occasion that I do get to sit and prop my clogs up I’m faced with a crew lunch, which is a far cry, wail and a few stomping fists away from the glamour one would expect on a TV set.

If it comes to ordering out the absolute last thing I will choose for lunch is a sandwich. It’s not that I don’t love a good sandwich, tuna and salad, extra banana peppers, hold the mayo they just don’t love me. If I go the devil route and eat that sandwich I will find myself suddenly slipping off into a peaceful snooze. And it’s hard to enjoy a post lunch snooze when you have someone screaming for a reset down the walkie. So, I stay away from sandwiches- they are my rainy day lunch at home when I know all I have to comply with is a 6ft 3 husband who also wants the couch.

This is something slightly different though- it’s not a wrap with a tortilla but with a toasted sheet of nori. It’s my kind of make-at-home sushi- which doesn’t involve a bamboo mat or a Japanese name. Just toasted nori stuffed with well, whatever your little heart desires. It’s the perfect lunch when you’re pottering around the kitchen all day with lots of little bits of tasters or leftovers that you can stuff inside.

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Lemon & thyme roast chicken with asparagus & chickpea salad

roast chicken

I’m well aware that asparagus are no longer in season but I’m hoping that you’ll forgive me. I’ve been working so hard at eating in season but a couple of weeks ago I was overtaken by an overwhelming desire for asparagus. They were talking to me loud and clearly and I felt uneasy turning down what they had to offer. I mean who says no to a bunch of glistening green asparagus claiming they would do mind-blowing things in your mouth if you roasted them in a pan or roast chicken drippings with chickpeas. I think you would have picked up a bunch too.
roast chicken Continue reading ‘Lemon & thyme roast chicken with asparagus & chickpea salad’

Steam-baked lemon & chili chicken

steam-baked lemon chili chicken

To say I learnt nothing at University would not be entirely true. The fact that my paper qualification has been of little benefit to me now is beside the point.

University was the time when I discovered the skill of pairing flavours. I learnt for instance that natural Peanut butter on a crispy-skinned baked potato is perfectly delicious on its own, but add some Marmite and wahey! Now, there is a happy little trio. And that alone, my friends, was quite a feat; considering the kebab-loving, mircrowave-dependent company I kept.

Not discouraged by their lack of culinary prowess, I cooked myself an intricate tasting menu almost every night. (One night a week was reserved for peanuts and a bottle of wine at the pub.) On nights at home I would, for instance take a chicken breast, cut it in three pieces and cook each part in a different way. And of course, if the chicken was unique then so should be its accompaniments.

Making dinner was quite the ordeal. Anything that disrupted this indulgent ritual of mine, such as late running play rehearsals or lectures were sorely frowned upon. I’d spend two to three joyous hours a night preparing dinner for one and on occasion a few uncivilised guests.  It was my personal Yoga, complete with deep breathing and some interesting poses as I danced around the kitchen and my apathetic housemates.

They of course, thought I was nuts and didn’t see the necessity in hogging every flame on the stove and pan in the cupboard.  I ignored it all- I was at peace. Ohmmmmmm.

I didn’t have many cookbooks and at the time the Internet wasn’t the bounty of information that it is now but I picked up magazines and supermarket recipe cards- anything that I could get my hands on- for free, mind.

One of my housemates was on Weight Watchers, (a rather extreme self-monitored version) but she had a couple of cookbooks that I occasionally trawled through. One such recipe I came across was Marmite roast potatoes- which, before you judge I must top you and let you know were divine. Crispy potatoes with a reassuringly salty glaze- rather like Twiglets only with a soft, floury centre beneath the crisp outer shell. Rest assured, one of these days I plan to replicate them.

Somewhere along the line I acquired one of these books and one pre-wedding evening Don cooked from it. He carried with him the smug knowledge that if I questioned how much oil he used or complained about my dress not fitting he could whip out the evidence in book-form to support his healthy meal claim.

It’s the only thing we’ve cooked from the book since- adapting it a little each time to find the perfect balance. It’s what I refer to as a Don-approved meal- one that I can feel at ease about when he’s offered to cook dinner. No surprises.

Steam baked chili chicken

I don’t really know what the technical term is for the way this chicken is cooked, which is why I’ve called it steam-baked. It literally steams in its foil package whilst it bakes in the oven. The result of which I now believe is the one of the best ways to cook a too often dry or bland boneless, skinless chicken breast.  Being that two uninterrupted hours to make dinner are now a rarity, I particular like the fact that you don’t have to wait for the chicken to marinate. It does that all by itself in it’s the oven- whilst also providing a magnificent sauce. I love when food does the works for me- talk about delegation.

This recipe is part of the ‘In the bag’ competition run by the blog A Slice of Cherry Pie. It was the first thing I thought of when I saw the list of ingredients – chicken, garlic and red chillies. You certainly won’t think you’re dieting when you’re eating it. But you may well find you loose a little weight- if you’re counting your points, that is.

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A RECIPE: Light tuna salad with lemon & tarragon dressing

Iight tuna salad

I’m still on a salad kick. I can’t help it, there just so easy. No sweating in a hot kitchen, no pans to scrub, no stove tops to wipe off. It’s just a little bit of whisking and small amount of chopping and then dumped into a bowl, toss, toss and serve. Who doesn’t want to make salad for dinner when it sounds as easy as that? Effortless cooking, if ever there was such a thing.

But besides salads being just about the simplest thing there is to make, they can also be pretty darn good for you too- so long as you don’t douse them in dressing, that is. And most importantly, being a salad need not imply ice burg, cucumber and tomatoes.

Cannelloni beans and tuna are no strangers to one another in the world of culinary companions but mostly I find these salads to be heavy and a little bland or oily. I’ve tried to lighten this one up a bit so that it’s not just a mouthful of tuna and beans. Plus I’ve added a bit of cheese, because I think all salads can do with a bit of cheese in their leaves. You can of course use the dressing of your choice but tarragon goes remarkably well with tuna and of course the fennel, should you decide to use it. I added the peas for a touch of sweetness but you could just as easily slice up some mangetout or sugar snaps and have the added bonus of crunch. The favourite feature of this salad though, is that it tastes great the next day- which is more than can be said for your average mixed green salad.

So, enjoy the lack of sweating at the stove top tonight, revel in the fact that you will only have a couple of things to wash up and feel openly smug about the fact that not only did you eat a healthy dinner- but that lunch for tomorrow is already made. Ahh, the joys of salad.

light tuna & bean salad

Light tuna salad with lemon & tarragon dressing

Serves 2 generously
Diet facts: Gluten free, Vegetarian without the tuna

for the salad:
100g/heaping 1/2 cup frozen peas
2 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced (red onion is fine, use 1/4 small)
1/2 fennel bulb, outer layer removed and very finely sliced (or use 2 celery stalks)
1 can tuna (best quality you can find) drained
50g/ 2 oz feta cheese
100g/ 4 oz cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 can cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp chopped tarragon
bibb lettuce to serve

for the dressing:
1 spring onion, finely diced
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp honey
1 Tbsp finely chopped tarragon
salt and pepper to taste

1/ Pour some boiling water over the peas and let sit for a minute before draining. Toss together with the remaining salad ingredients, except for the lettuce leaves

2/ To make the dressing, whisk together the spring onion, dijon and lemon juice until combined. Keep whisking as you gradually add the olive oil so that the liquid emulsifies. Stir through the tarragon and honey and taste for seasoning.


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