Category Archives: Healthier Recipes

Tomatoes – such simple pleasure!

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It’s been a while people – gently reminded to me by my lovely friend (this one’s for you Bondy).  Life is a touch chaotic and whilst I will never fail to find the time to enjoy cooking, I’m not always getting time to photograph or post – promise that this will change soonest!

So today is all about the very humble tomato following the above pictured superb result of a speedy 5 minute harvest of my parents greenhouse.  I barely scratched the surface of what’s going on in there such is the abundance they have to steal away.  My 4 year old daughter grabs the biggest of the bunch and scoffs them like apples – thank god for stain removal agents for the washing machine, these juicy babies splatter everywhere!

In honesty I could eat these glorious things in any format, raw as they come, sliced into a salad with mozzarella or goats cheese or with good old cheddar on granary toast.  But this little discovery came from a recipe I saw months ago that I promptly forgot and so tried to recreate.  After a few false starts this simplest and most divine concoction is the result.  I love these warm on toast with avocado for brunch, once again with grilled goats cheese as a substantial antipasti starter, cold as part of a salad, or stirred through really nice pasta with a bit of balsamic, parmesan and torn basil – nothing else needed.

It’s really not a recipe as such so here’s the detail.  Take your toms – any size will do but I like the larger ones – cut them in half any way you fancy and lay them cut side up in a single layer in your slow cooker – this would also work in a conventional oven, in a large baking dish at a super low, foil covered 130 or so degrees for 2 – 3 hours.  The single layer bit is important so that they don’t get smooshed up and keep their shape a bit, not essential but pretty.

Sprinkle over some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, a splash of balsamic – you won’t need much at all – and about half a teaspoon of dried thyme.  Lid on, crock pot on low for 4 hours.  You’ll be amazed at how sweet and delicious these are, and how much yummy juice is created.  Keep perfectly well in the fridge for a couple of days but I do admit to scooping them straight from the pot with a spoon – burnt roof of mouth anyone….

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Poached eggs….

….and other yumminess!

So I woke up this morning (earlier than I’d hoped on my day off due to the 3 year old) but with the most amazing food combo idea already in my head for lunch.  I knew I had everything in the fridge or about to be delivered with my shopping, husband working at home so I could go ahead.

And ahead I went.  The result a plateful of maybe a bit odd but the most delicious and utterly nutritious food imaginable, just what my tastebuds seemed to be screaming out for and whilst not 100% Slimming World friendly without a doubt better than a fat laden sandwich!

Barely even a recipe so I’ll just tell you what it is:

A slice of wholegrain toast spread thickly with avocado, squeeze of lemon juice, thinly sliced red onion, a sprinkle of salt (remind me to tell you my fascination with salt, this was my current fave Fleur du sel), topped with a roasted salmon fillet, perfectly poached eggs and generous grind of fresh black pepper.

I cannot describe the pleasure, a reasonably simple lunch really, 10 mins to prepare and hardly hard work, but so tasty.

Going to try versions in the coming weeks, watch this space….

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Another January, another….

….need to get rid of some of the holiday weight!!

I love Christmas.  No, I adore it, cherish it, celebrate it – and EAT IT!  From around 19th December, the approx date our tree (real and huge) goes up and the hamper (from parents, generous and extremely indulgent) arrives, it’s an ‘all bets are off’ situation for me.  I don’t so much as fall off the wagon, more I fall off, chop the wagon into tiny pieces and set fire to it whilst stuffing stilton in my gob and doing a happy dance!

Now I realise the error of this plan after a year of trying to be reasonably good and seeing some success in the battle of the bulge, but I can’t – no I won’t change.  It’s just too much fun!

Anyway.  It’s now 3rd January.  I’ve had my first couple of coffees made with milk instead of baileys (bleugh), finished the last of the cheese in the fridge, just polishing off the rest of a rather nice bottle of Zinfandel and it’s time to crack on with the health kick.  I don’t do starvation, I simply can’t which is why the principles of Slimming World appeal to me so much.  It’s just basic common sense.  I’m not however a rep, nor am I an expert – self proclaimed or otherwise – so I won’t add a syn value to any of my recipes.  All I’ll assure you of is that I’ve done my very best to make the ones I claim to be SW friendly as close as possible to that as I can, removed as much fat content as I can and tried to keep flavour and satisfaction high on the agenda.

Case in point my roasted veg and tomato pasta sauce.  This has become such a staple in my house.  I make it in huge batches in my beloved slow cooker and freeze in 2 person portions.  It’s great as a sauce on it’s own but even better with a protein added.

Hope you love it, here’s to a happy, healthy 2016!

Ingredients – makes enough to feed 8 hungry adults

6 peppers – mix of colours but not green

4 large onions (peeled)

6 cloves garlic

4 stalks celery

4 carrots (peeled)

2 leeks (cleaned)

2 tins chopped tomatoes

2 bay leaves

Large bunch basil

Light oil spray

Salt and black pepper

Method

Chop onion and peppers into very large pieces, you really want them quartered unless they’re massive in which case a bit smaller.  Chuck in a large roasting dish with the whole peeled garlic cloves, lots of pepper (no salt) and some light oil spray.

Roast at 180 for approx 40 mins.  My oven is like napalm so I check after 25 and stir around if necessary, you want the veg really soft and starting to colour quite black and charred around the edges, great flavour.

Meanwhile celery carrots and leeks can be chopped very big and chucked in the slow cooker with tomatoes, plenty of seasoning and the bay leaves. This 20 mins of gentle chopping effort really is the most you’ll have to do I promise.

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Once the veg are roasted add them to the slow cooker mix.

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Bung the basil on top, I don’t chop it, just throw the whole bunch, stalks and all in.  Isn’t that just beautiful, you know it’s going to taste amazing!  It needs no stock cube, no water.  Cook on high for 3 hours or if you’ve got time 5 on low.

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Let it cool and blitz in a processor or with a stick blender.  I like it left a little chunky but it you go really smooth you could make it into a soup.

And that’s it, a beautiful pot of deliciousness that you just know will be doing you good.  Below some extra things I add at oven roasting stage if I’ve got them knocking around, and a few ways to use the sauce:

To add:

Courgette, sweet potato, cauliflower (roasted cauli is truly gorgeous)

Uses:

As a pasta sauce on it’s own or with added chicken, white fish or prawns

As a bruschetta topping with some crumbled feta and a few olives on top

Blended a bit smoother with a drop of water if needed and dated as a delicious soup with some seeds or croutons on top

 

 

 

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Good ‘ole Spag Bol my way!

In so many ways it feels odd to even post this as a recipe because it really is super easy.  And yet the results provide a meal of such complex flavour, depth of character and sheer comfort factor we’ve probably all – vegetarians aside – eaten, cooked and ordered this dish in restaurants across the world.

This is my favourite version.  I’ve been cooking spag bol my whole adult life and have veered across about 137 different recipes, some from books by proper actual chefs, some from family and friends, but mostly just my own tweaks from the previous try.  I kinda think I’ve nailed it for my own and my families tastes and also managed to adhere to Slimming World guidelines which makes me happy 🙂

Note: I tend to always do my sauce in a slow cooker now, mainly because I just damn well love that machine but also for time and effort saving – once the chopping is done you’re really free to crack on with whatever else your day has in store.  However, it would work just as well in a big pot on the cooker top too, just brown off all the veg in a splash of olive oil before adding the mince and doing the same, then chuck in all other ingredients and simmer for anything up to 4 hours.

Serves 4 very hungry adults (or in my home 2 adults, 1 child and 2 portions for the freezer)

Ingredients

1 large onion

1 large leek

2 stalks celery

2 carrots

3 fat cloves garlic (I’m in the camp of you can never have too much garlic, feel free to adjust to taste)

500g minced beef, I use 5% fat

1 – 2 beef stock cubes

1 tin chopped tomatoes

good squeeze tomato puree

Balsalmic vinegar

Dried oregano

Red wine

Worcestershire sauce

200g your choice of pasta (for my family, you use whatever quantity suits your situation)

Method (for slow cooker):

  1.    Chop all veg and throw in slow cooker.  I’m not a big fan of ‘hidden’ veg for kiddies but if necessary these ingredients can be prepped seriously finely so they kind of melt in a gorgeous sweet mush within the sauce and end up toddler friendly invisible.

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2.    Add minced beef, stock, tomatoes, puree, oregano, a small glass of wine, good splash of balsamic and worcestershire sauce, season, give it a quick stir mainly to break the mince up a bit and bung lid on.

3.  Here’s the beauty of a slow cooker.  High heat for 2 hours then switch to low for 3 – 4 hours more, however long you’ve got really.  If I’m at home I generally can’t resist a quick stir occasionally but you could happily leave this alone altogether.

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4.    Towards the end of cooking time or on the warming stage if using a slow cooker, cook pasta according to instructions, drain and put back into the pasta saucepan.  Add however much of the sauce you like and mix lightly.

5.    You can adorn delightedly with oodles of freshly grated parmesan and torn basil but to be honest there’s no need.  This is simplicity itself but utterly delicious.

Enjoy!

Serves 4 very hungry people

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