Monthly Archives: January 2014

Red Lentil Daal

Over the last year surely everyone has heard of the 5:2 Fast Diet?  Well, I am one of the latest people to give it a try.  I haven’t been doing it for long enough to really pass judgement yet.  Suffice to say, it’s not hard, you just have to have some will power, and perhaps a little creativity too!   Whether or not you’re interested in fasting, this is a delicious, low fat, low calorie dish that can be enjoyed any day you like!

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Serves 2 (~170 calories each)

1 / 2 squirts olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp nigella seeds
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
75g red lentils
salt and pepper to taste
fresh coriander to serve

– Heat the oil in a medium saucepan.  You really want to be using as little as physically possible here, it really is to just stop the onion sticking.
– Add the onion and garlic and cook until just turning translucent.
– Add the herbs and spices and cook for another minute.
– Add the chopped tomatoes and about half a can of water.  (Swish it around to get the last tomato bits out.)
– Add the lentils and bring to the boil.
– Simmer for 30 minutes over a low heat.
– Season to taste and serve scattered with fresh coriander.
– A grilled chicken breast makes an excellent addition too!

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Filed under Dairy Free, Easy, Fast Day Food, Gluten Free, Low Fat, Mains, Sides

Spicy Asian Butternut Squash Soup

As a part of my recent transformation into a healthy eater I have become a huge soup convert! I have soup for lunch every day at work and most of the time it’s home made. I discovered that bread really doesn’t sit right with me day in, day out. Now it’s more of a weekend treat. But this meant that sandwiches were off the menu. I will never, ever, be a salad loving girl… Or at least, the kinda of salads I will eat will never be considered healthy! (Bacon, avocado, DRESSING!)

Soup was my salvation. It’s hot, a life saver for those of us with body temperature issues, filling, especially for a liquid, and most of all healthy! I like to eat my soup with 2 rice cakes for a little bit of crunch. (There’s another dieting secret, rice cakes are freakin’ delicious! No one ever told me that!) There really is no end to the tricks you can play with a basic combination of vegetables and stock.

This soup started life as a plain old Butternut Squash Soup. It was good but when I tasted it I thought “This could do with some zing!” So I added some lime juice. Then I thought “This needs a little punch” so the fish sauce came out. And then the coconut milk was just a natural progression and while I was at it why not add some chilli and spices and really give it some pep? And so, Spicy Asian Butternut Soup was born. Enjoy!

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Serves ~6

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chunked
Olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 chicken stock cube (vegetable if vegetarian soup is desired)
1/2 tsp chilli flakes or 1 fresh chilli, chopped
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp fish sauce
100ml coconut milk (or cream, or powder, whatever you have is fine!)
1/2 tsp dried ginger (2cm fresh grated ginger would be better but I didn’t have any)
1/2 tsp dried coriander

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6/ 200C while you prep your butternut squash.
– Toss the chunks of butternut with the olive oil on a large baking dish or tray and scatter with a pinch of sea salt.
– Roast the squash for 30 minutes until just starting to colour and crisp up a little bit.
– Heat a splash of olive oil in a large heavy pan.
– Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until just turning translucent.
– Add the butternut squash, the stock cube the chilli and ~1.5l of boiling water.
– Bring to a boil then turn off the heat.
– Use a handheld stick blended to blend the soup until smooth. (Dependent upon your squash you may find you have quite a thick soup at this point. Just add more water if you prefer a runnier consistency.)
– Add the lime juice, fish sauce, coconut milk, ginger and coriander and give a good stir to circulate everything properly.
– Make sure you taste it as you go! If you feel it needs a little something extra, go for it! This is your soup, tailor it to your preferences!

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Filed under Dairy Free, Easy, Gluten Free, Low Fat, Starters

B52 Cake

If I haven’t mentioned the Clandestine Cake Club recently let me refresh your memories!  Basically, you bake a cake, turn up at a clandestine venue and chat with fellow baking enthusiasts while digging into everyone’s cake.  Sounds good, huh?  I happen to have taken over organisation of the York Central CCC  and I really enjoy the opportunity to meet new people and have a good old chat about cakes, baking and everything else going on in our lives at the time! There are clubs all over the UK, and indeed, all over the globe, so check out the website for a club near you if this sounds like your kind of thing!

This B52 cake was for the ‘The Sun Is Over The Yardarm’ event, calling for boozy cakes.  I went for one of my favourite shots, the gorgeous B52: a combination of a layer of Baileys, a layer of Kahlua and a layer of Cointreau.  YUM! To translate this into a cake I decided to go for a layer of Kahlua soaked sponge, a layer of Cointreau soaked sponge and all topped with a Baileys and marscapone icing.  This was a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself!

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Serves 12

200g unsalted butter
200g golden caster sugar
4 eggs
200g self raising flour
3 tbsp milk
zest of 1 orange
3 tbsp espresso
3 tbsp Kahlua
3 tbsp Cointreau
200g granulated sugar
375ml water
500g full fat mascapone ( DO NOT buy low fat, it will be runny!)
100g icing sugar
3 tbsp Baileys

– Heat the oven to gas mark 4 / 180C and grease and line 2 sandwich tins.
– Cream together the butter and sugar.
– Beat in the eggs.
– Fold in the flour.
– Add the milk and mix until combined.
– Divide your mixture between two bowls.
– Into one bowl add the orange zest, into the  other add the espresso and mix well.
– Pour one batter into one sandwich tin, and one into the other.
– Bake for 25-30 minutes, testing with a toothpic to check for doneness.
– In the meantime combine the sugar and the water in a small pan and heat until all of the sugar is dissolved.
– Divide the sugar syrup in two.
– To one syrup add the Cointreau, to the other the Kahlua.
– If they’re watertight keep the cakes in their tins, if you think your tin will leak, turn out the cakes onto separate plates.
– Prick the cakes all over with a toothpick.
– Gently spoon the Kahlua mixture over the coffee cake and the Cointreau mixture over the orange cake and leave to soak for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
– Once the cake has absorbed all of the liquid turn out and press the two layers together.  (They should be moist enough to stick slightly to each other without any need for icing.)
– In a new bowl mix the marscapone, the icing sugar and the Baileys together.
– Spoon this on top of the cake and swirl around until pleasing.
– Enjoy!

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Filed under Cakes, Easy

Breakfast Omelettes To Go

I have a complicated relationship with breakfast.  I am NOT a morning person.  I am about as far from the concept of a morning person as it is possible to get.  If given the option to choose more sleep over almost anything else I will do it.  I am the queen of “5 more minutes”.  Which leaves me with a problem: Breakfast.  Because I will always, always, choose to stay in bed for those fabulous “5 more minutes” over getting up and getting breakfast.

For years I just skipped breakfast.  I would grab something mid morning when I was more up to thinking and eating, usually something sweet and sticky!  Or I’d grab some pop tarts or a croissant and run out of the house.  And that’s where my second problem happened.  Sugary breakfasts do not agree with me.  I’ve been working through some health issues this year and one thing I’ve been paying much more attention to is the food I’m eating and the effect it has on me.  Sugary breakfasts are great, I mean, it’s sugar, yum! But I find that if I’ve had a sweet, carby breakfast I am slower to wake up, I feel sluggish all day and generally down in the dumps.   I also run out of energy by the time I get home after work and often succumb to a nap.  All in all not ideal.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! I found a solution;  Sugar wasn’t working for me but I needed to eat something to get me through the day.  Eggs.  Eggs are a classic for a very good reason: They’re awesome! But mornings were still an issue for me.  So I needed to find a way to have something egg based that I could prepare in advance and then just grab and go.  Breakfast Omelettes To Go were born!  Not only do they give me energy, I feel full until lunchtime, no need for a sugary morning snack, I feel bright and clean and energised throughout the day.  They are easy to eat on the go, or to wolf down while the kettle boils and they also help me get my veggie portions in.  They also come in at around 100cal each, so ditching the sugar and turning to these has also helped me lose weight I desperately needed to lose without feeling like I’m missing out on anything at all.  All in all these are a total winner for me!

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Makes 6 mini omelettes (I either eat 2 for a perfectly filling, under 200cal breakfast!*)

12 baby plum or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped
2 handfuls spinach
6 large, free range eggs
splash of semi-skimmed or skimmed milk
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tsp corriander
salt and pepper to taste

– Heat a very small splash of olive oil in a frying pan.
– Add the tomatoes and pepper.  Cook, stiring, until the tomato skins are starting to burst and colour.
– Add the spinach and stir occasionally until wilted and any excess water has evaporated.  Get a nice char on the veg if you can.  (Beware the smoke alarm!)
– Divide the vegetables equally between the holes of a 6 hole silicone muffin tray.  **
– In a jug mix the 6 eggs, splash of milk, chilli flakes, corriander and salt and pepper.  Beat with a form to combine.
– Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables equally between the 6 holes.  This should come up to just the top of the holes.
– I cook mine for 15 minutes in my toaster oven at 220C.  You could use a grill or cook them in a regular oven at 200C.  You could even microwave them for 2-3 minutes if your muffin tin will fit in and turn round cleanly.  You want to cook them until they are just set in the middle.
– Once they are cooked and cooled put them in easy to grab tupperware in the fridge.
– In the morning bung them in the microwave for 2 minutes and enjoy!

* Variations: Why not switch out one omlette for a turkey sausage (tasty and low fat!) or add some closed cup mushrooms to the box too (virtually calorie free and full of flavour!).  If you’re adding mushrooms cook everything for 2 1/2 minutes to ensure the mushroom is cooked.  You can also play around with the vegetables to your heart’s content!
** I generally don’t recommend using a silicone mould for muffins and cupcakes, you just don’t get as good a rise.  For this, however, a silicone mould is perfect.  The eggs just pop right out, no need to grease.

 

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Filed under Breakfasts, Easy, Gluten Free, Low Fat