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Monthly Archives: August 2012

A Quick Supper

Although I love spending time in the kitchen, there are nights when I’m short of time and need to cook up something quick and tasty with very little effort. We all have those nights in our week, late home from work or needing something quick and healthy for the kids following the after school activities.  A nice easy pasta dish that suits everyone is usually what I make and just because it’s quick to make it doesn’t mean that it’s any less tasty.

The supermarket shelves are laden with pasta sauces but it is so easy to make your own and at least you know it’s full of flavour and goodness. This is one of my favourites and all it needs to accompany is a green salad and bread
Creamy Chilli and Bacon Penne

500g Penne
560g bottle of Passatta ….I used Cirio Tuscan creamed tomatoes.
1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
2 red or green chillies – finely chopped
3 garlic cloves – crushed
2 180g packs of lardons. Use 1 packet if you prefer less bacon
2 heaped desert spoonfuls of Light Philadelphia cream cheese with garlic and herbs
A wee pinch of sugar!
Chopped flat leaf parsley or basil leaves and grated parmesan to serve.

Cook the lardons until the pieces start to brown, add the chilli and garlic and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes. Add the passata and cook for approx 10 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.

Stir the cream cheese in to the tomato sauce, do this one spoonful at a time, mixing each thoroughly through the sauce.

Add the pasta to the sauce and mix to combine. Sprinkle with parsley or basil and serve with parmesan cheese, a green salad and some nice crusty bread.

Make it veggie by omitting the bacon.
Use different Flavours of Philadelphia.
Serve with a crisp topping ….sprinkle with grated cheese and brown under the grill for a few minutes.


Monday Night is Leftover Night

Monday nights tend to be leftover night in our house and it’s usually reasonably easy to find sufficient ingredients from the fridge, freezer and store cupboard to cook up something quick and of course healthy.

The fridge revealed green beans, red chilli, yellow pepper, chorizo and
half a tin of chopped tomatoes ; the freezer had prawns and the store cupboards contribution was brown basmati and wild rice. You can change this recipe to suit whatever ingredients are to hand; make it veggie or meat free by leaving out the chorizo or substitute both prawns and chorizo with additional veg such as courgettes,aubergine and extra peppers. If leaving out the chorizo then think about adding some additional spices as the paprika in the chorizo does add a nice flavour to the dish.

This recipe fits in well with the household healthy eating plan and if you read the earlier blog post ‘The Cook has Gained Weight’ , although the calories haven’t been calculated it is reasonably low fat and probably under 500 calories.

Brown and Wild Rice with Prawns and Chorizo


Serves 2
1 tbsp oil- olive or rapeseed
1 Red onion -thinly sliced
1 red chilli – chopped
2 Large garlic cloves – chopped
1 Pepper – sliced
Handful,of green beans – halved
Handful,of frozen peas
200g tinned chopped tomatoes
5oz Brown basmati and wild rice
Approx 350 ml stock- Vegetable or chicken works well.
225 g bag of frozen cooked large prawns

Handful of chopped parsley for serving.

In a sauté pan heat the oil and cook the onion for a few minutes until it starts to soften, add the chilli and garlic and continue to cook for 1 minute. Add the chorizo and cook for a few minutes, then add tomatoes, rice, stock and stir well, cover and cook for approx 20 minutes. Add the green beans, frozen peas and continue cooking for approximately 5 minutes or until the rice is tender, adding more stock if needed. Stir in the prawns and cook for a few minutes until heated through.

Sprinkle with a good handful of parsley and serve.

The Cook Has Gained Weight

It’s inevitable and it’s happened again, my love of cooking and baking has meant that the pounds have once again piled on, despite my low fat, high fibre, low Gi, five plus a day of fruit and vegetables approach to health and cooking.

My love of great food has always meant that I was never a great fan of diets, which to meant being of being deprived of ingredients and foods that I enjoy. Yes, I would calculate the calories or points for food in my head and genuinely believe I knew exactly what I had eaten, it’s more likely I was eating twice the amount of calories. It’s been a bit like measuring time without a watch, nothing more than guesswork. Now on enforced rest following surgery and no exercise for 6 -8 weeks, it’s time for action, and it’s not only me that’s affected, the chunky Mr G badly needs to shed a few stones.

It’s a common problem I discovered when I listened to Dave Myers and Si King, the Hairy BIkers as their latest television series ‘The Hairy Dieters’ hit our screens last week accompanied by a new cook book, incidentally gifted to me as a post surgery present from my mother! These guys have been giving us great food for years and the new book like previous books is full of great recipes, each one includes the calorie content and all designed to ensure we eat the right amount of food to help with weight loss; it really doesn’t seem like a diet book.

Cooking healthy and filling dinners is something I’m passionate about; the 3 men in my life have huge appetites and love their food, especially meat, so dishes like hearty casseroles and curries are a regular part of my weekly cooking.The recipes in ‘the Hairy Dieters’ will fit well with my style of cooking and it’s easy to see how I can also adapt my own recipes to help us lose weight.

Apart from the recipes, there are some great tips in the book to help with weight loss. For instance, 1gram of fat has 9 calories, regardless of whether it’s a solid fat like butter or margarine, or healthy oils like olive or rapeseed, and it’s information like this that will help with making sensible choices about the type of food to eat and I’ve always been a great believer in ‘you are what you eat’

It is worth remembering that despite the calorie content of fat, our bodies do need a certain amount of fat and choosing oil over butter or lard is one of my choices. I would much rather a have small amount of good olive or rapeseed oil to dip a chunk of bread into than spread it with butter, although I’ll need to rethink the olives, Parma ham and Parmesan shavings I usually have along with it.

Having watched ‘The Hairy Dieters’ and read the book Its easy to see why I’ve gained weight and now with Dave and Si as my virtual diet partners and along with the other inspiring people who have joined them on the show, Mr G and I are giving it a go.

One of my favourites dishes is a Tagine and this recipe is one I make regularly and it’s my own take on a chicken tagine after trying various different recipe. All my recipes serve 5 …..I hope you enjoy….Bon Appetit.

Chicken Tagine
This can be cooked either in the traditional Morrocan Tagine or in a large casserole.

Heat oven to 190oC/fan170oC/Gas5
10 Chicken Thighs- Bone in and skin removed
2 tbsp Oil…Olive or rapeseed- Optional
1 Large onion – Finely chopped
Thumb size piece of ginger- finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves

Spices for roasting and grinding
1&1/2 tbsp Corriander Seed
1 tbsp Cumin seed
1 tbsp Black peppercorns

2 tsp Paprika
2 tsp Ras el Hanout
2 tsp turmeric
Jar of preserved lemons. Usually 4 -6 is enough although the sizes of the lemon can vary.
Handful of olives
500 -750 ml of chicken stock
Small bunch of Corriander and flat leaf parsley

My favourites for a Tagine are butternut squash, carrots, and sweet potato but use whatever you prefer. I usually use 4 medium sized carrots along with either a small butternut squash or a large sweet potato- cut into approximately 1 inch chunks.
In a large non stick Brown the chicken on both sides and set aside.
Reduce the heat slightly, add the onion and cook for a few minutes and then add ginger and garlic. Cook gently for a minute, being careful not to burn the garlic.
Add then remaining spices and continue cooking gently for a minute before adding the preserved lemons and vegetables.

At this stage I transfer the ingredients to a large heat proof casserole, add the stock and the chicken thighs and bring to a gentle simmer before covering and transferring to the oven.

Cook for 1 hour, remove from the oven and add the olives and continue cooking for approximately 20 mins.I like the chicken to falling off the bone.

To serve.
Sprinkle with the parsley and corriander and serve either with a simple flavoured couscous, rice or even crusty bread and a green salad. Depending on the choice of vegetables for the dish, steamed carrots with lemon and coriander works well with the tagine.

Although there is a good mix of spices in this recipe, I include Ras el Hanout which is a blend of spices used in Moroccan and North African cooking. Al’Fez is a nice blend as it includes rose petals and lavender flowers and enhances the flavour of the dish.