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Healthier Carbonara

carbonaraI have always loved a big bowl of spaghetti carbonara, but it has to be said…not the healthiest of meals. I know all Italians will read this and protest that it isn’t an authentic carbonara, but I have made a few swaps and additions to make one of my favourites a much less guilty pleasure, that’s lower in fat and higher in fibre.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1tsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
  • 140g dried whole wheat spaghetti
  • 150ml white wine
  • 90g peas
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5oml half fat crème fraiche
  • 50g pecorino
  • 1tsp black pepper
  • 1tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

Method:

Cook the spaghetti as per the packet instructions.

Cook the bacon under the grill or on a George Foreman until cooked to your preference (I like it really crispy!)

Whilst the pasta and bacon is cooking, fry the onion and garlic in the oil over a medium heat.

When the onions and garlic have softened add the frozen peas. cook for 3 minutes and add the wine.

Leaving the wine to bubble away, mix the egg, crème fraiche, pecorino and black pepper in a bowl.

When the wine has reduced so that only a small amount remains in the pan, turn off the heat.

By this time the pasta should be cooked; add this to the onion and pea mix and stir through the egg mix.

The residual heat of the pan should cook the sauce causing it to thicken and coat the pasta. If needed, turn the heat back on but keep it low because if its too high the egg in the sauce will scramble. Patience is the key here, it will take around 5 minutes before the sauce is of the right consistency.

Once you’re happy with the sauce texture, serve into pasta bowls and top with the crispy bacon and parsley. Enjoy!

 

Tomato & Roasted Veg Quinoa Risotto

img_9498If you have a bit of time to spend in the kitchen, this meal is a great choice! Its cheap to make, and can be easily adapted to suit the preferences of the family. Plus, it makes for a healthy leftover lunch the next day. This meat free meal provides two of your 5 a day, with ingredients such as the quinoa and asparagus offering a great a source of protein and iron. The asparagus, along with the tomatoes and squash are also packed with fibre and vitamins B and C.

Recipe Serves 4 adults

Ingredients:

  • 175g Risotto rice
  • 75g Quinoa
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • Couple of fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1litre of stock, I make my own but you could also use 2 veg stock pots in a litre of boiling water
  • 500g passata
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 200g cherry tomatoes
  • 2 courgette, cut into chunky slices
  • 250g asparagus
  • 150ml red wine
  • Small handful of fresh basil, roughly torn
  • 50g parmesan, grated (Use vegetarian option if you want the meal to be fully veggie)
  • black pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (Fan).

Toss together the cherry tomatoes, squash, courgette, rosemary, some black pepper and ½ tbsp of the oil, then spread the veg across a baking tray. Leave to roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes.

Place the stock in a saucepan and heat until almost boiling, then reduce the heat and keep on a low heat.

Tip: Keep the stock hot! Adding cold stock to a hot risotto pan will reduce the temperature and cook the risotto rice much slower.

Whilst the veg is roasting in the oven, fry the garlic and onions in the remaining oil over a medium heat. When the onions are soft and translucent, add the risotto rice and stir until the grains have also turn translucent round the edges.

Add the wine, passata and quinoa, and stir until the liquids have been absorbed by the rice. Add 3 large ladles of the stock and stir to mix through. At this point I usually put the lid on the pan and leave it for 5-10 minutes, but some people may prefer to stand and stir it – your choice! Continue to add stock 1 ladle at a time until the rice has softened and the risotto is at a creamy consistency, this should take between 30-45 minutes. You will most likely have some stock leftover which is normal.

Tip: I use a large flat paella pan when I cook risottos, but a large saucepan can also work – ensure that the rice is stirred regularly to guarantee an even cook. 

Steam the asparagus for a few minutes – I use a microwave steamer for 2½ minutes but an oven top steamer will take a little longer.

When you are happy with the consistency of the risotto, stir through the roasted veg, parmesan, some black pepper and serve topped with the asparagus.

Enjoy!

 

 

Pesto Roast Chicken with green veggies 

2 of your 5 a day, a source of healthy polyunsaturated fats and high in lean protein 💚

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients:

  • Large bunch of basil
  • 150ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 50ml garlic infused olive oil or 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 25g pine nuts
  • 25g Parmesan or pecorino, grated
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1.6-1.8kg Whole chicken
  • 500g new potatoes, chopped in half
  • 1 courgette, use veg peeler to make ribbons
  • 200g green beans
  • 200g asparagus
  • 100g broad beans
  • 100g peas
  • 1tbsp plain flour

Method:

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees (fan)

Blitz the basil, oils, cheese, lemon juice and pine nuts in a blender until it forms a smooth sauce. You may need to add some more oil to get this consistency.
Place the chicken in a roasting tin and rub just under half of the pesto under the skin of the chicken. Put the used half of lemon in the chicken cavity, and place the tin in the middle of the oven.


After 45 minutes, add the potatoes to the roasting tin and cover the chicken in another tablespoon of the pesto. Put back in the oven for another 45 minutes.


Removing the chicken from the oven, check the juices of the chicken are clear and the meat is no longer pink in the middle, then leave to rest under tin foil.

Steam the green beans and asparagus for 3 minutes (in a microwave steamer – will take longer on the hob) then add the peas and broad beans for a further 2 minutes. Tip these into a bowl and add the courgette to the steamer and leave in the microwave for 1 minute, then add to the bowl with the rest of the veg.


Mix the flour with some cold water to make a paste.

Stir the remaining pesto into the chicken juices in the roasting tin, heat this on the hob and add the flour paste to thicken the sauce.


Add a tbsp of the pesto sauce to the vegetables and toss to cover.

Carve the chicken and serve with the potatoes and veggies, adding a spoonful of the pesto sauce to finish! Enjoy! 

What counts as 5-a-day?

Eating a balanced diet, full of a variety of fruits and vegetables ensures that we get the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to stay fighting fit. The vitamins we get from fruits and veggies play an important role in every function of the body, from maintaining a healthy immune system and a strong heart, to clear skin, strong hair and nails, good eyesight and a healthy brain.

Despite the importance of including this food group in our diets, less than 10% of children aged between 11 and 18 years old achieve 5 portions a day (1). However, with a bit of savvy meal planning it is easy to hit that 5 a day without breaking the bank.

How much is a portion?

The government recommendation is that adults should eat 400g of fruit and vegetables as a minimum every day (2). This works out to be 80g per portion, however there are some exceptions.

For Fresh, frozen or tinned (try and avoid those in syrup) fruit, 80g is roughly equivalent to…

  • 1 medium apple
  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 medium tomato or 7 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 orange
  • 2 Satsumas
  • 2 plums
  • 2 pineapple rings
  • 2 handfuls of raspberries/blueberries/strawberries

150ml fruit juice = 1 portion – BUT no matter how much you drink this will only ever provide 1 portion because when fruit is blended it releases the natural sugars which are bad for our teeth,  and blending also breaks down some of the fibre in fruit meaning some of the nutritional value is lost.

30g of Dried fruit (roughly the equivalent to 80g of fresh) also contributes 1 portion of your 5 a day. For example:

  • 1 heaped tbsp. raisins/cranberries
  • 2 dried figs
  • 3 dried dates

For fresh, tinned and frozen vegetables, 80g looks something like…

  •  7 asparagus spears
  • 3 heaped tbsp. peas/sweetcorn
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 8 florets of broccoli
  • 3 heaped tbsp. carrot slices/butternut squash chunks
  • 1 breakfast bowl full of fresh spinach
  • Half an avocado

3 tbsp of beans (tinned & drained, or cooked from dry) will also provide 1 portion of your 5 a day. However, beans can only contribute 1 portion because although they are high in fibre, they don’t contain as many vitamins as fruits and vegetables.

For more examples of what a portion looks like visit: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/5ADAY/Documents/Downloads/5ADAY_portion_guide.pdf

In practical terms, how do we fit this into our daily diets?

Below is just one example of a million ways that we can incorporate fruits and veg into our diets everyday…

Breakfast – A small glass of orange juice (1 portion), scrambled egg on brown toast with a handful of cherry tomatoes (1 portion)

Morning Snack – A banana (1 portion), small handful of nuts and a cup of tea

Lunch – Greek style chicken salad with feta cheese, olives, cucumber, tomatoes (1-2 portions) and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Dinner – Spicy Mexican Bean Burgers with avocado salsa (2 portions). Check this out in the recipes section!

For more advice, have a look on the links below, and check out the recipe section on this blog, where all recipes provide at least one of your 5 a day – without a single sad looking piece of lettuce in sight!

(1) http://www.foodafactoflife.co.uk

(2) http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/5ADAY/Pages/5ADAYhome.aspx

Healthy Eating Week 2017

BNF healthy eating week logo

Today sees the start of the British Nutrition Foundation Healthy Eating Week 2017. The aim of this week is to get schools, Universities and Businesses really thinking about healthy eating and physical activity, and the benefits that this has for our physical and mental wellbeing.

For each day this week, the BNF has set a different challenge to get the nation on their feet and chowing down on healthy food.

BNF 5 challenge logos

Don’t worry if you missed today’s challenge to “Eat a Healthy Breakfast”, why not give it a go for the rest of the week, and for a bigger challenge aim for a different healthy choice each day.

Tomorrow’s challenge is to eat the recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables. Why not get some inspiration from the recipes section of this blog; each recipe provides one or two portions. With two sorted for your evening meal why not add a piece of fruit to your breakfast, have a salad with your lunch and a healthy afternoon snack… that’s your 5 portions done!

If you are unsure as to what makes “A portion” Keep an eye out for my next blog post where I will be giving a bit more advice on how to get the most out of your fruits and veggies.

For more information on Health Eating Week, the 5 challenges or for school resources, check out: http://www.foodafactoflife.org.uk/site.aspx?siteId=20&t=5

 

Huevos Rancheros

This recipe is my version of a traditional Mexican breakfast. With beans, chorizo, avocado, tomatoes and topped with a fried egg, this breakfast is hearty, tasty and full of goodness!

This meal provides you with 2 of your 5 a day whilst being low in fat and high in protein AND its also a great source of folate, B vitamins and fibre.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 wholegrain tortilla wraps
  • 75g chorizo, diced
  • 1 avocado, peeled and diced
  • 150g cooked Borlotti beans (Kidney beans or black beans would work just as well. I buy dried and cook them, but you can buy tinned that just need draining and rinsing)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp jalapeños, roughly chopped
  • 20g Low fat mature cheddar, grated
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Handful of tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • Small handful of coriander, roughly chopped
  • Sriracha to serve

Method:

Add the chorizo, onion and garlic powder to a frying pan and cook on a medium heat until the onions have softened and the chorizo is releasing its oil. Then add the coriander and beans to the pan for a few minutes.

Leave the mix to heat through in the pan and put the tortilla wraps under the grill to lightly toast.

Once toasted, put the tortillas on a plate and top with the bean and chorizo mix and the jalapeños, avocado and tomatoes.

Fry two eggs in the pan that you cooked the bean mix in, and once cooked to your preference place these on top of everything else on the plate.

Serve with a sprinkling of cheese and the sriracha sauce.

Enjoy!

Healthier choice: Ingredient swaps

All too often healthy eating is associated with boring salads and plain grilled chicken, but life is far to short to compromise on the eating experience for the sake of a “healthy” meal. In this post I have written about the food swaps I make when cooking to allow me to indulge in the food, I love whilst ensuring the meals are nutritionally balanced and full of flavour.

Dairy

It is important to include dairy in our diets (especially for children) because it provides a brilliant source of calcium; vital for healthy bones and supple joints, and B vitamins which are important for keeping eyes, skin and the nervous system healthy.

Cream  →→→  Reduced fat crème fraiche, quark or plain natural yoghurt Where a savoury recipe calls for cream, making a simple swap to any of the above will keep the creaminess of the recipe much with a much lower fat content. Note: I wouldn’t recommend swapping to a fat free crème fraiche or yoghurt as this is more likely to split when heated. Go for reduced fat crème fraiche or plain natural yoghurt.   

Fruit yoghurts  →→→ Plain yoghurt and add your own fruit  Fruit flavoured yoghurts tend to have added sugar as well as the natural sugars from the fruit flavouring. By swapping to plain natural or Greek yoghurt and adding your own fruit you’ll be eating no artificial sugar and be closer to getting your 5 a day.

Full fat cheese →→→ Reduced fat mature cheddar or hard cheese (eg. parmesan) The stronger the cheese the less you need, so by using less, you will automatically be adding less fat to your meal. Following the same principle, grating the cheese often means you will use less than if it is sliced.

Starchy carbohydrates

Starchy carbohydrates get a bit of a bad rap, however they can contribute valuable fibre to the diet as well as helping to keep hunger at bay…when the right type of carbohydrate is included.

White bread →→→ wholegrain, rye or sourdough Wholegrain alternatives have a lower Glycaemic Index (GI) than their white counterparts, meaning that they offer a slow release source of energy, keeping you fuller. For those who aren’t coeliac but struggle with eating bread, sourdough can be easier to digest because the natural acids produced in the long fermentation process help to make the gluten more digestible.

White pasta →→→ wholegrain pasta, spelt pasta  Making the change from refined white to wholegrain or spelt offers the same benefits as mentioned with above with bread. Spelt pasta is also a good high fibre and gluten free alternative to traditional pasta, making it a great alternative for those seeking a gluten free diet.

White rice →→→  Wholegrain brown rice, Quinoa, wholegrain cous cous Alternative grains to the highly processed white rice can offer a greater range of vitamins and nutrients. For example quinoa contains all 9 essential amino acids and provides the protein content of white rice.

Meat

This food group offers a huge variety of nutritional benefits including; protein, vitamin B12, but can also be high in saturated fat depending on what you choose.

Chicken – Avoid the skin. Although the crispy skin of a roast chicken is delicious and helps to keep the meat juicy, it is very high in fat. In contrast, the white and dark meat of a chicken is a lean source of protein, iron and low in fat.

Mince – Choose 5% fat mince, or as low a fat content as possible. Yes, it does cost a little bit more, but from a health perspective it is definitely a worthy swap that means you can continue to enjoy spag bol and chilli, but this one small change immediately reduces fat content of the meal.

Mince – Substitute some or all of the meat for lentils or beans. This again, reduces the fat content of the meal whilst offering a wider variety of vitamins and fibre. Lentils and beans are considerably cheaper than meat, so replacing the meat or adding lentils alongside is a cost effective way to make a meal go further!  Asda sell “Lean and bean” mince which is a blend of haricot beans and low fat beef mince, give it a try.

Look out for my healthier spaghetti carbonara recipe that uses some of these swaps!

For more advice on food to include in a healthy diet, have a look at the Eat Well guide – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/551502/Eatwell_Guide_booklet.pdf

 

 

Mexican bean burgers

2 of your 5 a day, high in fibre and a great source of protein… and vegetarian!

Makes approx 6 burgers

Ingredients for the burgers:

  • 2x 400g tins of kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 red chilli, diced
  • 3 spring onions, sliced
  • 2tsp garlic powder
  • 100g natural breadcrumbs (not golden or panko)
  • Black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp rapeseed oil

For the avocado salsa:

  • 1 avocado, peeled and diced
  • 200g tomatoes, diced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Black pepper

For the yoghurt dressing:

  • 150g plain natural yoghurt
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Small handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Method:

Throw all of the burger ingredients into a food processor and blend until all ingredients are mixed together. Alternatively you can mix using your hands. If you do it this way, mash down the kidney beans a bit first.

Tip: The recipe makes about 6 burgers but any you don’t want to use can be put in the freezer for another day!

Add the oil to a pan and fry the burgers over a medium heat for approximately 10 minutes; flipping them midway through.

While the burgers are cooking you can make the salsa and dressing. Chop everything as per the recommendations in the ingredients list, mix them together and the accompaniments are ready!

Serve the burgers on their own or in wholemeal Pitta breads stuffed full of the salsa, lettuce (optional) and the dressing.

Enjoy!

Prawn, Beetroot & Quinoa salad

prawn-and-quinoa

Serves 2

Dressing:

  • Juice 1/2 lemon
  • 4tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fresh dill
  • 1tbsp Dijon mustard

Salad:

  • 90g White/red quinoa (cooked as per packet instructions)
  • 165g raw king prawns
  • 1 shallot, finely sliced
  • Handful baby plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 70g olives, roughly chopped
  • 100g cooked beetroot (not pickled)
  • small bunch of parsley, finely chopped

prawn-and-quinoa-ingredients

Method:

Put all of the dressing ingredients into an old jar and shake to mix. This can keep in the fridge for 3 days.

In a large bowl mix together the cooked quinoa, tomatoes, olives, beetroot and parsley.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic.

When the shallots and garlic have softened, add the prawns and cook for 3-5 minutes until pink and just cooked through.

Plate up the quinoa mix and top with the prawns and a drizzle of the dressing. Enjoy!