This year D and I have been eating a lot less meat. There were several reasons for this but the best thing to come of it (apart from feeling so much better) was the opportunity to try a whole host of new recipes.
Considering D is not really much of a vegetable eater he actually enjoyed this recipe. Alongside having a great many health benefits, spinach is one of the most versatile vegetables. This is also a pretty easy thing to put together after work and packs a punch in terms of fruit and vegetable portions.
To make a pie to serve 4 you will need:
1 pack of lighter puff pastry
450g frozen spinach
50g Parmesan cheese
200g garlic and chive soft cheese (the lighter option)
Salt and pepper
Herbs de provence
4 large tomatoes cut into segments
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 onion, diced
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Lightly fry the onion and garlic on a medium heat until soft. Add the spinach, tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper and fry until the spinach has cooked down. Once the spinach is cooked; add the cream cheese, Parmesan and egg. Reduce the heat and make sure the cheese and egg is distributed through the mixture.
Place the spinach in a pie dish and top with the (rolled out) pastry. Glaze with the egg. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden.
This pie also makes excellent leftovers or vegetarian picnic food.
D and I are on a bit of a health kick at the moment and when we are eating healthier I tend to have smoothies a lot for breakfast. I broke my blender making smoothies and now I have a shiny new smoothie maker. I know they’re notorious for being sugary but you can make them less so but adding spinach and using fresh fruit instead of using ready made smoothies. Also in my defence I find that eating fruit earlier on in the day prevents me from craving sweet things made from refined sugars later in the day and it puts me in a happier, more energetic mood and my skin looks better. Generally we try and eat mostly vegetarian and pescatarian meals now so maybe it just fits in with these meals?
I nearly always thicken my smoothies by adding a banana. I also add oats or a nut butter to make it filling enough to see me through until lunch. Then I will add frozen fruit such as mango, blueberries or raspberries or the frozen fruit mixes designed to make smoothies with (like the banana and strawberry mix). Sometimes I use up fruit that isn’t quite at is best (minimise food waste when you can) and I also like to add frozen spinach. It is packed with all sort of nutrients and also because it has anti inflammatory properties so I find it really helpful with stomach pain or aching muscles. I switch between making smoothies with unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk or sometimes normal milk depending on what I have in. (Sometimes I have coconut water too).
I don’t think there is much of a recipe for what is essentially squashed fruit whizzed up in a blender, these are just some ideas to inspire. Maybe I’m just obsessed with fruit?
This post is a long time coming and I am surprised I have not written it sooner, especially given its a bit part of my weekly food shopping mantra. Healthy eating has an often unfair reputation as being expensive. It can be but then again I think its pretty expensive if you regularly eat takeaways or buy ready meals. Although from the outset cooking from scratch can feel expensive, once you have your store cupboard ingredients you’re pretty much good to go.
I am aware most people who like cooking are pretty good at these, but this post is for those wanting to change their lifestyle but feeling overwhelmed.
- Your freezer is your friend. I’ve been surprised by the frozen vegetables you can buy now (I keep thinking of growing up in the 90s when it was peas, carrots and corn). Frozen fish and fruit is also really useful to have in as it means you only have to defrost what you need and it tends to be cheaper to buy.
- You don’t have to completely steer clear of food trends but be aware that it does make your food shop more expensive. Be realistic. Can you justify spending the money on something you might not like, especially if you are prone to buying something, trying it once and then ignoring it while it takes up valuable cupboard space.
- Look at your protein alternatives and embrace vegetarian and vegan food. Quorn is our new household favourite. (Can I just say here the people who make Quorn should take a bow, it has improved so much). Not only is it generally lower in fat, it works out as less expensive too. Think about having beans and pulses and adding nuts or eggs to stir fries.
- Get your dried fruit from the baking aisle. Seriously, its cheaper buying the bigger packs from here than getting it from the fruit aisle.
- Buy your fruit and veg by weight where you can. Again, this stops you spending more than you need on vegetable that you might not finish and not only does it reduce food waste but you spend less.
- Plan your meals. Whether this is a vague plan of what you’ll eat or more detailed. Being aware of what you will eat on what night prevents you from buying more than necessary.
- Buy yourself some snacks. There will be some days where its just too long between meals. If you buy yourself stuff that you like it’ll prevent you overeating as you’ll feel satisfied. Plus buying more at once can work out cheaper unless you eat an entire multipack of crisps in one sitting (and that my friend is a lot of salt).
- Try new recipes. How are you going to enjoy your new healthy lifestyle if you don’t embrace the magic of variety?
Have you got any tips to enjoy healthy eating on a budget?
14 November may be a little late to start growing a moustache to raise money for Movember. Its also probably futile for approximately half of the population. However, Movember is an extremely worthy cause. The charity aims to prevent early death in younger males by 25% by 2030 by raising money for testicular cancer, prostate cancer and mental health and suicide prevention.
The lovely people at Heck Sausages contacted me to ask me to write a post about their Check campaign where proceeds from each pack of their Chicken Italia Chipolatas goes towards the charity. As well as tasting brilliant (and being low fat and gluten free to boot) the staff at Heck started to raise money as one of their staff members Jamie has recently undergone treatment for testicular cancer. Read the full story here. Heck have also renamed themselves Check for the entire month of November to raise awareness for self checking of men. They also aim to raise around £25000 for the charity so don’t forget that the more sausages you eat the more money that goes to charity (talk about win win).
Frankly, men are dreadful at self checking and even worse at speaking to the GP. Depending on where you live between a third and a half of men would not know what to look out for when checking their testicles and a similar proportion of women wouldn’t know how to check their partners testicles. Even more scarily 85% of men would be embarrassed to speak to their GP if they did notice a problem.
Information about checking yourself or somebody your partner can be found here. Its worth being mindful that early diagnosis and treatment increases survival rates of testicular cancer and also prevents loss of both testicles in males.
I actually have an MSc in Cancer Biology and Therapy and one of the facts that will always stick with me is that despite cancer being more diagnosed in women worldwide, the survival rate in men is so much poorer. Men often won’t see their doctor until its too late, which I suppose ties in with suicide rates also being higher in men. Movember is a charity that aims to raise awareness of such issues and on top of that helps fund research into male related cancers. More effective male cancer treatment increases the quality of life of men of your boyfriend’s age, or your brother’s age or one of your friends. On top of that attempting to reduce the stigma of men talking about their feelings and speaking up about mental health issues also improves lives and helps people who are truly suffering see a light at the end of the tunnel.
While I identify as a feminist and I can speak for days about women’s rights and political issues I am also extremely vocal about equality and men’s quality of life. We should all try to support Movember and encourage more men to check themselves and seek help when needed whether it be through raising money for the charity by cultivating a moustache, donating to the charity or even eating rather a lot of sausages for a worthy cause.
For more information about the work Movember is doing please browse their website. It is absolutely fascinating looking at all the causes they are contributing to.
For more information about Heck sausages including stockists please visit their website.
This culinary experiment was brought to you by the woman who saw a picture of a healthy butternut squash based macaroni recipe but did not want to trek to the supermarket for any specific ingredients.So basically a lazy but healthy recipe without much washing up. Winner.
Basically much as we all love creamy or cheesy pasta sauces, they are more something to be enjoyed once in a while. However, pasta is cheap and fills you up for a long time and unless you have dietary reasons for avoiding gluten isn’t a food you necessarily need to avoid. In addition, if you really are watching the calories you’ll be please to know, when cooked down the texture of butternut squash goes lovely and creamy. You’ll be pleased to also note that my very hungry 6ft3 caterpillar found this filling enough after a workout; so its great for those who are watching their weight but do have a larger appetite.
To make enough macaroni for 3 servings you will need:
250g dried macaroni pasta
1 vegetable stock cube
150g butternut squash (frozen chunks are our new mealtime saviour)
50g sweet potato
1 red onion
1 clove of garlic
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 large tomatoes or 7 cherry tomatoes (chopped)
25g smoked cheddar (if you follow a vegan diet you could substitute with vegalife, or even try topping with breadcrumbs or chopped nuts)
Slice the onion and crush the garlic. Heat until soft. Add your sweet potato and squash and heat until the edges have started to soften and come away. Add your stock cube, salt, pepper, marjoram and enough water to more than cover everything. Allow the stock cube to dissolve into the water then add the macaroni and tomatoes. Top up the water if it doesn’t cover the pasta by 1/2 an inch.
Boil the pasta in the stock, stirring to make sure that nothing sticks. Keep topping up the water as needed. Once the macaroni is cooked use your spoon/spatula to squash the squash (heh heh heh), tomatoes and sweet potato. Spoon the pasta into a heat proof dish. Grate over your cheese and put under the grill (or in the oven at 200°C) until the cheese begins to crisp. (If using nuts wait until the nuts brown nicely).
This can be served as a side dish or as a main meal. It is entirely up to you.
I feel like at the moment a lot of recipes I post are quick ones for people who are busy or don’t want to spend ages in the kitchen. What can I say, I’m really busy at the moment (both in my day job but also getting some pretty great opportunities on this blog) and yet I still want to eat balanced meals with D.
Anyway, I sent D and I both to work with these meatballs and cous cous salads for lunch and they were perfect. I think its safe to say we were both full until tea time (its all about those slow release carbs.
Anyway, this is a perfect lunch or teatime idea as it takes about 5 minutes to cobble together the meatball mix and shape and about 15-20 minutes in the oven. Good for when you’re desperate for some sofa time!
For 12 meatballs you will need:
4 pork and oregano sausages or similar
2 sliced spring onions
1/4 egg (optional, if you you have it left from some other cooking)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
80g crumbled feta
Salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Remove the sausages from the skin and add to a large bowl. Crumble over some feta and add the onion, egg, and seasonings. Use your hands to smush together the ingredients. Shape the meat filling into the meatballs about 3cm in diameter. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the sausages have browned.
If you’re cooking this to have in a salad allow to cool. If its to go into a sauce add it at this point. Serve with the sides of your choice. For us it was dukkah spiced cous cous. Just remember, fast food doesn’t always have to mean you compromise on flavour or nutritional value.
The other week we got sent some Seamore seaweed pasta to try. Although excited to try out a new recipe, I must admit I was a bit dubious to try this one. I am happy trying new ingredients but I was a little wary about how this one would taste and what the texture would be like (I think I had had a stressful week, it always makes me wary about my cooking skills). However, this was a dream to cook (I just followed the instructions on the pack), the texture was good, it had a slight bite to it and it wasn’t overpoweringly seasidey tasting. I think it would be a great alternative for people with coeliac disease as I am aware gluten free pasta can get quite soft.
Now the benefits of Seamore are so numerous they provided me with this helpful inforgraphic for you. After all a picture paints a thousand words.
Anyway, as a sea themed meal, I served my Seamore pasta up with baked seabass for a quick weeknight meal.
For baked sea bass and Seamore pasta you will need:
1 sea bass fillet per person
1 preserved lemon
1 handful cherry tomato halves per person
1 serving Seamore pasta per person
Preheat your oven to 200°C. Boil your kettle and start cooking the Seamore pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Place your sea bass skin side down on a baking tray. Sprinkle over the chilli, chop your preserved lemon and tomatoesand disperse evenly over the fish. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for approx. 15 minutes until the sea bass is opaque.
Serve the fish, lemon and tomatoes on a bed of your seaweed and enjoy!
We both really enjoyed this recipe and trying something new. Sometimes its good to get out of your comfort zone.
Seamore pasta is available to buy online and at Wholefoods stores. For more information click here.