Archives for the month of: October, 2012

It’s hard to believe, but today’s evening meal almost defeated me: by the time I’d eaten three quarters of it I was feeling very full and not sure I’d be able to finish. Not bad considering it was the first thing I’d eaten all day! If you’re looking for something that will fill you up at the end of a fasting day, look no further…

Aubergine/eggplant and butternut squash curry

Recipe for Aubergine/Eggplant and butternut squash curry (serves 2)

Butternut squash and eggplants1lb/450g aubergine/eggplant
1lb/450g butternut squash (cooked weight)
2 tsps coriander seeds
2 tsps cumin seeds
1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 onions, diced (100g)
Spices and onions2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
300g tomatoes, diced
½ tsp turmeric
1 cayenne pepper, finely chopped
salt and pepper
½ cup fresh cilantro/coriander, chopped
15g almonds, chopped and toasted
90g/½ cup brown rice

Total calories per serving: 500

Roasted squash and eggplantMethod: Heat oven to 350°F/180°C and roast the eggplants/aubergines and butternut squash for an hour or until soft. Allow to cool (you can do this step well in advance of the rest). When cold enough to handle, remove the seeds from the squash (I rinse these and use them to make pumpkin seed granola (for breakfast on non-fasting days, obviously!)) and dice the flesh. You can remove the skin if you want to, but you can also eat it for some extra texture and fibre. Slice the eggplants/aubergines, removing the peel if you prefer, although, again, it is perfectly edible so this isn’t vital.

Put the rice in a cup (250ml) of water and bring to the boil then simmer for around 20 minutes, until all the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Meanwhile, make the curry base by dry-roasting the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant. Grind them with a pestle and mortar. Heat the oil in a pan and stir in the onion. Fry gently until transparent and then add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, garlic, ginger, and cayenne pepper. Cook for a minute or two over a medium heat then stir in the tomatoes and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have fallen apart and released their juices. Then stir in the roasted eggplant and squash and cook for ten minutes.

Toast the chopped almonds in a dry pan over a medium heat. Remove the curry from the heat and stir in the cilantro/coriander and seasoning. Serve over the cooked rice and sprinkle the chopped almonds over the top.

I can’t tell you how great it is to be back at home and back in my own kitchen for a fasting day. Today I decided to go on an Eastern Mediterranean kick, with chickpeas (garbanzo beans) as my main ingredient for our evening meal. Falafel are usually deep fried but this recipe bakes them for a lighter-calorie alternative which still tastes good and fills you up effectively.

Falafel, tzatziki and tabbouleh in pita bread

Recipe for baked falafel (serves 4)

Falafel ingredients1 cup/200g dried chickpeas
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup cilantro/coriander
¼ cup parsley
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour (or oat flour)
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
salt and pepper
1 egg

Total calories per serving: 225

Method: Soak chickpeas overnight in cold water. The next day, drain them and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour, until soft. Peel and roughly chop the onion and garlic. Put the cooked chickpeas, onion, garlic and herbs into a food processor and blitz them until crumbly. At this point, mixture will look something like this:

Processed chickpeas, herbs and onions

Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry frying pan until they start to smell lovely, then grind the seeds with a pestle and mortar and add to the chickpea mix with the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and pepper. Add the egg to bind the dry ingredients together. You can do this in advance of baking the falafels: just put the mixture in a bowl, cover with wrap and put in the fridge until you’re ready to make them.

Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F. Form the falafel mixture into walnut-sized balls and place them on a baking tray, flattening them slightly. I got 20 in all.

Falafel prior to baking

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown in colour.

While they are baking, you can be making the tabbouleh and tzatziki.

Recipe for quinoa tabbouleh (serves 4)

Ingredients for quinoa tabbouleh3 tbsp quinoa (or the traditional bulgur wheat – I just happened to have quinoa and not bulgur)
⅔ cup flat-leaf parsley
½ cup fresh mint
350g/1 pint cherry tomatoes
juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Total calories per serving: 80

Method: Bring 90ml/¼cup water to the boil and add the quinoa seeds. Simmer for 12 minutes, until the water has all been absorbed. Allow to cool. Meanwhile, finely chop the parsley and mint and halve the cherry tomatoes. Combine all the ingredients together, with salt and pepper to taste. This can be made in advance and refrigerated until needed.

Quinoa tabbouleh

Recipe for tzatziki (serves 4)

175g/¾ cup  0% yoghurt
100g cucumber, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped dill or mint (my dill has died off now, so I used mint)
salt and pepper

Total calories per serving: 25

The method for making tzatziki doesn’t really deserve the heading ‘method’: just combine all the ingredients!

Tzatziki

I served all this inside shop-bought ‘Lebanese-style’ pita breads which were labelled as being 180 calories each. You could just serve the falafel with the other dishes as salads and leave out the bread if you wanted to keep the whole meal under 330 calories. With everything together, this meal totals 510 calories. I refuse to obsess about the extra 10.

A cancelled flight on Sunday disrupted my usual routine of fasting on a Monday, so I postponed it to yesterday instead. The only problem with doing that was that I had arranged to meet friends for dinner. It probably wasn’t going to be easy to find a meal of 500 calories in a restaurant, but I didn’t want to delay my fast for another day (as I’d mysteriously gained a kilo by flying across the Atlantic and back!), so I proceeded to eat nothing at all until I met them in the evening at the restaurant.

This was the longest I’ve ever fasted – a total of 22 hours without food. When I started the day I wasn’t at all sure that I would be able to make it through to the evening without eating, but actually it wasn’t too bad – as long as I kept busy and drank lots of warm drinks of black coffee and milkless teas of various kinds at regular intervals. Having a variety of different teas seems to help – green tea, spiced tea, regular tea. We might be spending less overall on food, but I’m sure I’m making up for it in buying new types of tea!

At the restaurant I ordered a small cup of vegetable soup (I didn’t eat the accompanying crackers) and a seafood salad. The salad was supposed to come with cheese, but I asked for none with mine. When it arrived, I was relieved to see that the dressing was served separately, so I was able to have a tiny amount of dressing rather than drowning the salad in it. I suspect that the total calories in the meal was still more than 500, but it shouldn’t have been much more and, even better, I didn’t feel as though I was eating so weirdly that I was freaking my friends out.

From now on I should be back to my more normal routine of making an evening meal myself for fast days.

Another fasting-away-from home day. A lie-in caused by jet lag took care of any cravings for breakfast, and then it was just lunch and supper to worry about. Keeping busy on a fast day is always a good thing. When I was last away and fasting I hopped onto tourist buses and spent a few hours enjoying a guided tour of the city I was in. Today I did a similar thing, but took the even healthier option of joining a tour by bicycle.

The tour included a stop for lunch at about 2pm, which I suspect may have been marginally over my fasting allowance of 500 calories (although not by much).

It was a really enjoyable way to see the city while also fully occupying my attention for five hours. And (a bonus) I must have burned off a few calories in the process! As a side benefit, I suspect exercising out in the sun for all that time will have sorted out the jet lag problem.

I will subdue any hunger pangs this evening with a few olives as a snack, but as it’s now nearly 9pm local time, I don’t think I’ll need many of them.

Definitely my strangest fasting day so far. We had visitors staying with us, so instead of skipping lunch as we have been doing, we made a tomato and vegetable soup from chopped-up tomatoes, carrots, an onion, a small Savoy cabbage, a courgette/zucchini and a litre of stock, along the lines of the soup we had on Day 13, but without pre-roasting the vegetables. Half a teaspoon of hot smoked paprika gives it a nice warming little kick.

Then I had to leave on a business trip, so I wasn’t able to do my usual thing of making a filling supper out of low-calorie ingredients. I grabbed an apple and weighed out a small bagful of blanched almonds. 60g of those comes to a massive 345 calories, so that was all I could have with the apple and the soup.

Spare almondsIt’s now 7.30pm and I’ve still got quite a few of the almonds left, without feeling hugely hungry. On a more normal fasting day I would have consumed all my calories by this time, so perhaps snacking on a handful of nuts all afternoon is just as effective at warding off hunger as dishing up a full plate of legumes and vegetables. It doesn’t feel quite as psychologically satisfying though, I will admit.

I feel as though the first two months of this way of eating have slowly been training us to get used to being hungry. We started off eating three small meals on fasting days, then went down to just lunch and supper and now we are coping well with having just one meal in the evening. We also find that we’re getting full up more quickly on non-fasting days and are therefore eating smaller portions on those days than we might have done before.

Vegan food, as it turns out, is great for filling you up without costing a lot of calories and without compromising on flavour. Tonight’s meal was a generous plateful for a miserly 400.

Vegan Shepherd's Pie

Recipe for Vegan Shepherd’s Pie with courgettes and tomatoes (serves 2)

100g green lentils, rinsed
150g carrots, diced
100g red peppers/chillis, sliced
1 tsp smoked paprika
100g spinach, coarsely shredded
450g butternut squash (cooked weight), seasoned with salt and pepper
1 tsp olive oil
200g zucchini/courgettes, sliced
300g fresh tomatoes, sliced

Total calories per serving: 400

Method: Put the lentils in a pan and add 2 cups (500ml) of water. Boil rapidly for ten minutes, then lower to a simmer and add the diced carrots and cook for 15 minutes, covered. Add the peppers and the paprika and cook for a further 5 minutes. Tip the lentils into a deep ovenproof dish (I used a small soufflé dish), then pile the spinach on top (or stir it into the lentils – I’ll do that next time) and pile the seasoned butternut squash on top of everything else. Toss the courgettes in the oil and put on a baking tray. Heat the oven to 400°F/200°C and bake the pie and the courgettes until they both starting to brown (around 25 minutes). Serve with the fresh tomatoes.

Feta, courgette and olive salad

Not a fasting day for us, today, but this lunch salad is suitable for a fasting day meal, as it contains only 230 calories. It’s very simple to make and full of robust flavours and mouth-pleasing textures.

Recipe for Feta, courgette and olive salad (serves 1)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small courgette/zucchini, sliced
1 slice of wholemeal bread, cubed
25g feta cheese, cubed
2 large olives, pitted and sliced

Total calories per serving: 230

Method: Warm the oil in a non-stick pan over a high heat. Fry the courgette slices and bread cubes until the bread is golden brown. Transfer them to a bowl and add the feta and olives.

We didn’t eat anything until 3.30pm today, and then had an apple each. By 5pm we were ready to eat our evening meal, which looked a lot like breakfast!

Eggs, beans and toast

We had the same low-calorie baked beans I made on Day 4 with one slice of my oat-laced bread and two eggs each (fried in a non-stick pan with a light spray of olive oil). 200g of the beans are around 200 calories, the bread about 150 for a thinnish slice and the eggs are approximately 60 calories each (my young hens have only just started laying and their eggs are pretty small!). So this meal comes in at about 470 calories, while the apple was 95, so a total of  565 calories for the day.

Once again we managed to hold off eating supper until 6pm, so it seems that an egg-based lunch is just as effective as soup for keeping us going in the afternoon of a fast day. Today I stuck with the legumes-and-veg-and-rice theme of recent weeks, this time using aubergines/eggplants and red kidney beans as the basis of a meatless chilli dish.

Chilli non carne

Recipe for Chilli non carne (serves 2)

Eggplants100g dry kidney beans
500g eggplant/aubergine (1 large or 2 medium eggplants)
1 spray oil
1 small onion, diced
1 sweet red pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 red chilli peppers, diced
1 tsp chilli powder
Chilli ingredients1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
300g tomatoes, blended to a purée
salt
fresh coriander/cilantro leaves, chopped
70g brown rice

Total calories per serving: 400

Method: If using dry kidney beans, soak them overnight. The next day, pour off the water and put them in a pan with fresh water. Bring them to the boil and then simmer for an hour until they are tender. Keep the cooking liquid. At the same time, roast the eggplant(s) whole in a 400°F/200°C oven for 40-60 minutes, depending on size. Once soft, let the eggplant(s) get cold enough to handle and then peel off the skin and cut the flesh into small pieces. At this point they will look something like this:

Diced eggplant/aubergine

Now, heat the spray of oil in a pan and stir in the onion, cooking until soft. Add the garlic, peppers, and ground coriander seeds and stir until fragrant. Then add the blended tomatoes, cooked eggplant, chilli powder and drained kidney beans, adding some of the beans’ cooking liquid, if needed, to get the dish to the right consistency. Cook for 30 minutes or so over a low heat. Season with salt to taste and serve in a bowl over brown rice, garnished with some fresh coriander/cilantro leaves.

An experiment today, to make a change from having soup for lunch on a fasting day.

Recipe for Spinach and parmesan omelette (serves 2)

Ingredients for spinach and parmesan omelette2 eggs
20g spinach, chopped
15g parmesan, grated
freshly ground pepper

Total calories per serving: 95

Method: Put a non-stick pan on a medium heat. Beat eggs together and pour into the pan. Pile the chopped fresh spinach, parmesan and pepper on top of the eggs. As the eggs cook, the spinach will wilt down and the cheese will melt into it. When the eggs have set, divide the cooked omelette into half with a spatula, then fold each half in two and serve.

Spinach and parmesan omelette

It tasted great – now we just have to see if it will keep us fuller for longer than soup does!