Category Archives: Recipes

Courgetti bolognese

courgetti

Hankering for spaghetti but want to keep the carbs down? Try this courgetti bolognese with Turkey mince for a super low-cal option.

Like most men, I absolutely adore a new gadget – and my new favourite just came through the post this week… it’s called a sprializer and allows you to make spaghetti-style strips from vegetables.

Courgetti (courgette spaghetti) is all the rage at the moment in veggie, low-carb, low-fat and low-calorie circles. You can make it with a Julienne peeler, but that takes ages and can get a bit messy… enter the spiralizer.

They require no electricity and are quite fun to use – a bit like a cross between a Playdoh contraption and a medieval torture chamber!

spiralizer

You attach one of the funky blades to the front, stick your vegetable (in this case courgette) on the rack and then turn the handle to create long thin strips. The watery heart of the veg, is left behind!

It took me a while to find the best way to cook the courgetti. I tried blanching in a bowl of boiling water and steaming – but even without the core, courgette can still be watery, and the last thing you want is a spaghetti dish drowning in water.

Sautéing in the wok produced the best results – a tablespoon of olive oil, a dash of garlic paste, some salt and pepper, and it was delicious before I even added the sauce.

For extra protein points and low-calorie results, I used turkey mince instead of lean beaf in my bolognese sauce.

The result was better than I expected all round – even getting our daughters’s approval. Martha and Gracie loved the extra long strips, and it didn’t even cross their mind it wasn’t real spaghetti!

Protein-wise, a portion packs a whopping 17 g and there’s just 246 calories a portion.

If you like cheese on your spaghetti, you can add a few shavings of parmesan. I stayed on the low-calorie kick my substituting nutritional yeast flakes – deactivated yeast with a cheesy taste that is a staple of many vegan dishes. It’s packed with vitamin B and Folic acid and 10g adds about 38 calories to the dish.

Recipe serves 6

Ingredients

400g turkey mince
1 onion
1 bell pepper
2 cups stock or bone broth
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp agave nectas
2 tbsp olive oil
100g tomato paste
6 black peppercorns (or 1 tsp ground black pepper)
8 medium courgettes

Method

Finely chop the onions and peppers and sauté in 1 tbsp olive oil with the garlic paste.

In a separate pan, fry the turkey mince until browned (the browner it is, the more flavour you will get).

Add the turkey mince to the onion mix and deglaze the frying pan with a couple of spoons of the stock. Add this and the rest of the stock to the mix and stir in the tomato paste.

Crush all the spices in a pestle and mortar and also add to the mix.

Add the agave nectar if you like a slightly sweeter sauce, and a tsp of instant coffee if you want the sauce to be browner, like a more traditional beef bolognese.

Leave to simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes until the liquid thickens.

In the meantime, spiralize the courgettes.

When the sauce is ready, quickly sauté the courgetti (about 3 mins) in 1 tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper and a squeeze of garlic paste.

Add the bolognese sauce 1 ladle at a time to the courgettes and stir through to a desired mix of courgetti and sauce. Reserve any leftover sauce for another meal (it’s delicious with baked sweet potatoes).

Serve piping hot and top with parmesan or nutritional yeast.

If you use myfitnesspal, you can see the recipe here (you need to be logged in to view)

Scott Jurek Xocolatl Energy Balls

 

jurekballs2

Sometimes you just need a pick me up – and when you do, it pays to learn from the best. So try these Scott Jurek Xocolatl Energy Balls for a sweet treat.

Scott Jurek is one of my sporting heroes – the world’s best and most consistent ultramarathon runner, who knocked up three victories in a row at the 153-mile Spartathlon running race I’m undertaking in September.

He’s also a super-cool guy and super-supportive runner. His Spartathlon record is something like 22.5 hours. When he finishes a race (usually first), he wraps himself in a sleeping bag and stays at the finish line until everyone has come through.

With a 36-hour cut off for Spartathlon, that’s a 14-hour wait before going for a shower and to relax, just to show support to those not as gifted as he is.

Scott’s a vegan runner. Despite growing up on a meat-heavy diet in Minnesota, he turned to veganism when he realised it helped him recover quicker from running. You can read his story in the excellent book Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness.

In most chapters he offers another vegan recipe that’s helped him in his career – they range from spicy chilli to these energy balls that give a super energy kick and help sate sweet cravings – a great, healthy alternative to crappy processed chocolate.

It’s also a great use of that flat-bladed nut and seed grinder you got with your Nutribullet and might not have used!

Make sure you use cacao nibs too – unprocessed cocoa beans that are broken into tiny bits. They give a little caffeine kick to the sweets.

Try them, they take 15 minutes to make and you’ll soon be knocking up batch after batch – each ball is only 50 calories too!

Ingredients

0.50 cups almonds
0.5 tsp cinnamon
0.5 tsp sea salt
0.5 tsp vanilla extract
0.5 cup organic cacao nibs
0.25 tsp dried chilli flakes
8 dates, stone out

0.5 tbsp  organic coconut oil
1 tbsp organic cacao powder (unsweetened)

Method 

Place all ingredients bar the cacao powder and coconut oil into a Nutribullet or blender and blend into a fine powder.

Melt the coconut oil and add to the mix, stirring well so it goes through the whole powder.

Divide into 16 balls and roll in the cacao powder to look like truffles.

Stick in the fridge for 10 minutes to set.

Enjoy!

If you want to link to them on Myfitnesspal, click here (you must be logged in to view)

jurekballs

What’s the fuss about bone broth?

bonebroth

From food bloggers to health professionals and Michelin-starred chefs, it seems everyone is talking about bone broth – both for the flavour it can add to dishes from soups to scrambled eggs, and for it’s health-giving properties which are supposed to range from helping with arthritis to helping with cellulite.

One thing’s for sure, while it might be the latest elixir on everyone’s lips, it’s not a new fad: if your mum didn’t make it, your grandmother certainly did…  The word restaurant even comes from the 19th century practice of French inns offering travellers a cup of their restoratifs – a thin soup made from boiled bones.

So what goes into bone broth? Well basically that: some animal bones, veg, herbs and water. Boil and let it simmer for a number of hours before drinking.

Isn’t that simply stock? Well yes, in the old-fashioned sense (and stock is probably what your grandmother knew it as). You might also know it as brodo or bouillon – but bone broth seems to have stuck as a phrase to distinguish it from the kind of cubes made by a certain Mr Knorr.

Is there anything in the talk of it being healthy?

Well there are few studies so far (though one did almost discredit it, see below), but advocates such as my wife’s nutritionist claim it helps aid digestion. She swears by a cup each morning.

It’s high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, glucosamine and chondroiton, meaning it should support joints, hair, skin, and nails – and packed with amino acids which help the body repair muscle.

At the very least, it’s a nice soothing drink, an alternative to tea and coffee, and costs pennies to make over the course of a week.

The recipe

The recipe we use is an adapted one from The Nutrition Coach. We took her base idea and have been playing around with it.

Ingredients

2-3kg of bones
2 bay leaves
a few black peppercorns
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
vegetable scraps
water to cover the bones

Method

Heat an oven to 200c and brown the bones for 45 minutes. Place them with the remainder of the ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, it’s ready to drink. You should leave the slow cooker on a warm setting and let it continue to cook through the week. Drink a cup of broth a day, and replace any liquid you take out with the same amount of fresh water.

At the end of the week, discard any that’s left, compost or discard the bones and veg and start again!

A couple of points worth noting are:

About the bones

We get most of our meat these days from a local butcher in Otley called Weegmans who are famed for their pork pies, but also do some lovely cuts of meat from farms in the surrounding Yorkshire Dales.

Supporting a local butcher is a great way to make sure you get decent cuts of meat. Even if they are a little more expensive than a supermarket, once you get to know them and they know what you want, nothing is usually too much trouble – plus you can ask for unusual cuts of meat and they’ll always accommodate.

I went in this weekend to get a lamb shoulder for the Sunday roast and asked if they had any spare lamb bones going. Despite the fact they do all the boning on Thursdays, one of the lads went in the back and hacked off the knuckles of a few hocks – and didn’t charge me a penny for them!

You don’t have to use lamb either – beef, chicken (try chucking the whole carcass in after a roast) and even fish will do if you’re a pescetarian.

Another thing worth noting is that by buying from a butcher where you can trace the origin of the meat, you can reduce the amount of lead that will be in your final broth.

The closer animals live to major roads and motorways, the more likely it is that they have been exposed to lead which gets in their system and, by extension, their bones.

A study in the journal Medical Hypotheses looked into broth made:

  • using chicken bones;
  • using cooked chicken meat without bones
  • using chicken skin and cartilage without the bones after the whole chicken had been cooked
  • using just water

The chickens were all the same organic breed and everything else remained the same.

The resultant lead levels were:

  • 9.5 µgL for broth made with skin and cartilage
  • 7.01 µgL for broth made with bones
  • 2.3 µgL for broth made with meat
  • 0.89 µgL for the lead found in tap water cooked alone.

While the broths made with skin and cartilage and bones alone admittedly had higher levels of lead, this doesn’t mean they are dangerous: they both fell within US Environmental Protection Agency recommended levels which are below 15 µgL.

Still, it can’t hurt to get the best bones you can to make your broth – which is why supporting a local butcher is important.

What else can go in?

We’ve been using the recipe for a couple of weeks now, trying out different bones and throwing in any old scraps of fruit and vegetables: apple cores (minus the pips), onion peel and whole cloves of garlic.

Literally, anything organic you would normally throw away can go in – but we make ours on Sunday morning after peeling the Sunday lunch veg. All the peel goes in – and by lunch time, we can also use the broth as a stock for gravy.

Protein-packed tricolour scrambled egg

tricolour omelette

Eggs used to get such a bad wrap but are now considered a health-conscious dream. Try this protein-packed tricolour scrambled egg for breakfast or elevenses. 

I absolutely love eggs – they’re such a great way of getting protein in your diet, which is essential for people who are exercising and want to lose weight.

Protein not only helps keep you full for longer but is also essential for rebuilding muscle that breaks down with exercise, meaning you come back fitter and stronger.

On the West Coast of the USA, it’s all about the egg white – it have most of the protein and less of the fat that’s in a yolk. But I can find whites only a little on the bland side, which is why I make this scrambled egg with four egg whites and one whole egg. There’s a whopping 12g of protein in a serving.

The addition of peppers, onions and spinach adds vital antioxidants and ups the vitamin C and A count giving more than your recommended daily allowance – and at 207 calories, it won’t be too consuming if you’re calorie counting either.

Ingredients 

5 large eggs
1 clove garlic
1/2 medium red pepper
1/2 medium yellow pepper
1 onion
1 cup spinach
1 tbsp olive oil

Method

Finely chop your onion, garlic and peppers and add to a  frying pan with the olive oil. Put on a medium heat and allow to sweat until the onions become see-through.

In the meantime, separate the yolks from four of the eggs. To do this, get two bowls,  take one of the and crack it in half. Pour the white from one half, catching the yolk in the other, allowing the white to drop into one bowl. Keep tipping the egg yolk from one half to the other until all the white has been removed. Put the egg yolk in the other bowl.

Repeat the above for four eggs and put the separated yolks to one side (they can be used in an egg custard or a carbonara).

Add the final egg to the mix along with its yolk and whisk all together.

Remove the veg mix from the pan and turn the heat up slightly. After a minute, pour in the egg mix and swirl around with a wooden spoon.

Leave until almost set, then use the wooden spoon to chop up and add in the vegetable mix and stir to mix it all up.

Add the spinach and stir in until it wilts. Serve while still hot.

If you’re using My Fitness Pal, you can link to the recipe here (you need to be logged in to view)

Dairy-free vegan tzatziki

vegan taztiki

Lactose intolerant or vegan and love Greek food? Try this dairy-free vegan tzatziki.

You don’t really need me to tell you how to make tzatziki, the Greek dip do you?

It’s so simple, you should never  buy the supermarket stuff. Just get some Greek yoghurt and grate some cucumber and garlic into it and let it sit for a while.

When we went lactose-free for a month in January, I was trying to come up with one that didn’t use milk yogurt. One of my most successful attempts was blending almonds and almond milk into a paste in the Nutribullet, then adding the other ingredients. It tasted good … but it was a calorie bomb and super filling. Tzatziki is meant to be a light dip, not a main course.

My next effort fared better – I used soya yoghurt, straining it first by using a muslin to make it thicker.

Of course,  if you want normal tzatziki, replace the soya yoghurt with Greek-style pre-strained yoghurt and remove the straining step.

Ingredients
500g plain soya yoghurt (sugar free)
1/3 cucumber
1-2 garlic cloves or 1 tsp garlic paste
1tsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Method
Take a fine sieve, put a muslin in it and place over a bowl. Leave overnight in the fridge

When ready, grate the cucumber on a coarse grater and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then squeeze the water out and add to the yogurt.

Crush the garlic and add along with the olive oil. Mix and leave to stand for 30 minutes for the flavours to kick in.

If you’re using My Fitness Pal, you can link to the recipe here (you need to be logged in to view)

Light Greek meatballs with sweet potatoes

meatballs

Great for kids and adults alike, try out these light Greek meatballs

With  family in Greece, one of the first things I usually do when I return is head straight to a taverna for all the food I’ve missed.

One of my favourite dishes since I was a kid was Greek meatballs – there are two types: biftekia and keftedes.

The latter are usually smaller, rolled in flour and flash fried – great for picnics and the like – but biftekia are my favourite.  Made simply using great minced beaf with a couple of binding agents and simple seasoning and then charcoal grilled.

Some tavernas grate some hard cheese like kefalotyri into the mix. It adds more calories than it does flavour though. I tried my version of them with cottage cheese for a while, but that added little flavour at all, so I went back to basics.

In lieu of a grill, I oven-bake mine – and instead of roast potatoes, I use sweet potatoes as a substitute. They provide less calories, more Vitamin A and C, more fibre and less carbs.

Make sure you get the leanest beef possible too – 5 per cent. And get it from a local butcher using regional meat for more flavour and to reduce food miles.

Ingredients
1 onion
10g Gluten Free Breadcrumbs
1 tsp Oregano, dried
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh rosemary
2 tbsp fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic
5 large sweet potatoes
500g lean beef
1 egg

Method

Pre-heat your oven to 220C.

Bind the meat, breadcrumbs (you can use normal ones if you don’t want to be gluten-free), egg, oregano and salt and pepper for taste. You could add a tsp of mustard powder for a bit more zing.

Separate in half, half again and half again to get eight equally sized meatballs.

Peel and cube the sweet potatoes.

Drizzle the olive oil onto a baking tray and place the potatoes, crushed garlic (just skin it and give it a bash with a pestle), thyme and rosemary on the tray. Roll it around so the potatoes get a light covering of oil.

Push the potatoes outwards to make enough room in the middle for the meat balls – add them to the space. Make sure the potatoes are not touching each other – sweet potatoes contain a lot of moisture and if it transfers from one to another, they won’t crisp up.

Place in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes or until the potatoes are soft in the middle with a light crisp. Turn the meatballs half way and, every so often, open the oven door to release moisture (to keep the spuds crispier).

Serve with Greek salad, tzatziki and Greek-style spinach.

If you’re using My Fitness Pal, you can link to the recipe here (you need to be logged in to view)

Cauliflower faux fried rice

caulirice

Pining for a Chinese-style meal but don’t want the added calories of a takeaway? This cauliflower faux fried rice is ideal and works really well as a side with my Mediterranean garlic chicken and Greek-style spinach.

There’s no reason why you should sacrifice flavour if you are eating healthily. This faux fried rice using cauliflower is a superb low-calorie option with tonnes of goodness and the oriental flavours so many of us love. It’s less than a tenth of the price of a takeaway to make too.

Buy the best quality, fresh vegetables you can. I prefer to shop in this order: local market, local grocers, supermarket unpacked stuff, supermarket packed stuff, and I go organic where possible.

Ingredients
1 cauliflower
2 medium carrots
2 sticks celery
1 large onion
15ml soy sauce
1 clove garlic
0.5 cups peas (fresh or frozen)
15ml sesame oil
1/4 cup diced ginger root

Method
Get a grater and use the course side to grate the cauliflower. Don’t grate the thick stalk in the middle.
Dice all your other vegetables.
Put the sesame oil into a wok and put on a high to medium heat.
Lightly sauté the onions and garlic, then add all the other veg bar the cauli.
After 5 minutes add the cauliflower and soy sauce and sauté for another 5 minutes, stirring every so often so it cooks right through.
Serve while hot

If you’re using My Fitness Pal, you can link to the recipe here (you need to be logged in to view)

Mediterranean garlic and lemon chicken

chicken

This Mediterranean garlic and lemon chicken is nice, simple and low-fat way to cook a great protein source. Serve with my Greek-style spinach and Cauliflower rice.

Chicken breast is one of the best ways to get protein: relatively low-fat, low calorie and packed with the p-word.

Avoid the pre-packed rubbish from the supermarket that’s full of water and look for free-range and corn fed to get some real flavour. Better still, support your local butcher by buying from him.

If you’re on a weight-loss programme, most will advocate you steam it. But that just makes it rubbery and tasteless. This Mediterranean-style dish takes seconds to knock up, is ready in 20 minutes, is packed with flavour and keeps the chicken moist.

Our kids love it too…

Ingredients
500g chicken breast (or four fillets)
Zest of one lemon
1 clove of garlic
1tsp oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil.

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 200c
Grate the lemon zest into a baking tray
Crush the garlic and add to the tray along with the olive oil and spices. Stir to form a paste
Cut the chicken into strips and roll in the paste. Make sure they get good and covered. Add a little extra olive oil if needed.
Put in the oven for 15-20 minutes, turning half way.

If you’re using My Fitness Pal, you can link to the recipe here (you need to be logged in to view)

Greek-style spinach

spinach

Greek-style spinach… simple, tasty and ready in seconds. Boom! 

Some of you may know that I have some Greek roots. Not that I was born there or had Greeke parents, but I did grow up there.

We still visit a couple of times a year to see my mum and sister – and one of the first things we do is go to a Greek taverna and order a typical Greek meal. For me, it always has to include a side-dish or horta. 

What is it? Wild mountain greens (the literal translation is grass or weeds, but try getting the kids to eat that). What horta are available depends on the season but it can be dandelion leaves, poppy, nettles or beetroot leaves. All taste great and are packed with iron but when they get wild spinach, it’s the best.

In Greece, this is not cultivated stuff either. You’ll see black-clad giagiathes mourning grandmothers out in the fields or on mountains with a plastic bag routing around for them.

In England, spring cabbage (or spring greens) is the only thing you’ll find that’s close. But they can often be quite tough and take ages to cook, baby-leafy spinach is a good alternative but it tends to wilt quickly and retain no crunch at all, so I go for just regular, old spinach.

I’m almost embarrassed to list this as a recipe, but as a quick side, low on calories, full of fibre to fill you up and high in protein (yes, spinach is packed with the p-word), you can’t beat it. It goes well with my Mediterranean garlic and lemon chicken too.

Ingredients
A 500g bag of spinach
1 glove of garlic
2 tbsps olive oil
Squeeze of lemon juice

Method
Get a wide-based frying pan and pour in  half of the oil, put on a low-medium heat
Empty the bag of spinach into the pan, don’t worry if it piles high, it will soon wilt
Stir every so often for a couple of minutes
When wilted pour into a bowl, pour on the remainder of the olive oil and squeeze on the lemon

Serves 4, eat hot immediately or leave to cool. It will keep for a couple of days in the fridge.

If you’re using My Fitness Pal, you can link to the recipe here (you need to be logged in to view)

One-pot Mediterranean-style haddock and colourful vegetables

haddock in oven

This haddock dish is not only simple to make but full of good, colourful vegetables.

I love a one-pot dish, like my take on this Mediterranean-style fish dish with lots of colourful veggies. It’s something so simple to make, you can just bung everything in the oven at the same time and let the food do its work.

The key is not to overspice, but let the natural flavours kick in. I’ve done this when I’ve been skint using frozen fish and veg and it still tastes great. But if you can afford a nice piece of fish from a proper fishmongers and orgnic veg, so much the better.

When it comes to the fish, it needs something meaty and a relatively thick piece – here I’ve used haddock, which I prefer to cod, but you could equally use salmon or another sustainable fish such as hake or pollock or sustainably fished swordfish (check packaging for a blue-tick ecolabel. Tuna, I think, needs to be cooked more delicately and hence is not a good choice, unless you’re happy for it to be on the dry side.

From a vegetable point of view, I love to traffic-light or rainbow my food. That is, get a good selection of different colours in – as they all have different health benefits.

Red foods  are packed with lycopene that helps your body rid itself of damaging free radicals, and protect against prostate cancer, as well as heart and lung disease. They’re also loaded with antioxidants.

Orange and yellow foods contain beta-carotene which is good for night vision and the skin, as well as alpha carotene, which also protects against cancer.

Green foods help inhibit carcinogens and the high chlorophyll content helps purify the body.

Another key to this dish, is to cut your cloth according to size! It takes about 45 minutes to cook once in the oven, so you need to chop your veg sizes accordingly so everything is ready at the same time.

Mushrooms, for instance, that cook relatively quickly should be whole, harved or quartered – not sliced.  Sweet potatoes and carrots can be cubed or cut into rings. Onions and peppers can just be sliced – again they cook quickly.

I’ve used sweet potatoes here, but if you were using normal potatoes that take longer to cook, I’d pre-boil them for about 10-15 minutes to soften them up, or cut them into tiny cubes.

Which veg you use is up to you. I wouldn’t recommend spinach as it wilts so quickly, but aside from those here, you could add cauliflower, butternut squash, swede, turnip or whatever… just try and mix up the colours and make sure you cube and cut sizes according to cooking times: the longer the cooking time of the veg, the smaller the piece.

The good thing is that the dish is pretty forgiving… 45 minutes is the ideal time but if some veg are not quite done, you could add another 10-15 minutes easily to that.

Other good nutritional info? It packs 20g of protein per serving – and each serving is just 315 calories.

Ingredients
300g, haddock
300g, mushrooms
2 sticks celery
1 large onion
3 carrots
4 cloves garlic
4 sweet potatoes
160g broccoli
1 yellow pepper
2 tbsps olive oil
1 lemon
A couple of sprigs of thyme and rosemary
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Method

Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper (recommended) or foil. Leave enough overhang at either edge so you can pull together at the top to create an envelope.

Lay the fish out flat in one corner.

Cut/cube all the veg and lay it around the fish. Drizzle with olive oil.

Spread the garlic around the tray, slice the lemons and place on the fish to help keep it moist, and lay the rosemary and thyme around the tray. Sprinkle with the oregano.

Fold the edges of the paper/foil over to create an envelope and bake at 200C for 45 minutes.

If you’re using My Fitness Pal, you can link to the recipe here (you need to be logged in to view)