Archives for the month of: February, 2013

Processed breakfast cereals are something I just refuse to eat these days. I either have porridge/oatmeal or toast for breakfast, skip the meal entirely (on fasting days, for example), or tuck into this, my home-produced granola. If I’d known how easy it was to make, I’d have started doing it years ago. The quantity in this recipe makes enough for twelve 60-gram portions of granola, each providing a nutrient-rich, high-fibre and filling start to the day. It keeps very well in an airtight container. The ingredients below are very flexible: you can use maple syrup, honey, or sugar, while the nuts or seeds can be replaced with whatever you have to hand. Unsalted and unroasted nuts are best.

Nutty Granola
Recipe for Nutty granola (serves 12)

Ingredient Calories per serving
¼ cup of oil 40
¼ cup of water 0
¼ cup of maple syrup/honey/brown sugar 17
3 cups rolled oats 78
½ cup macadamia nuts 40
½ cup slivered almonds 23
¼ cup cashew nuts 16
3 tbsps flax seeds 8
3 tbsps sesame seeds 13
pinch of salt (optional) 0

Total calories per serving: 240

Method: Preheat your oven to 325°F/160°C. If you’re using thick honey or sugar, heat the oil, water and honey/sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar is melted. This step isn’t necessary if you’re using runny honey or maple syrup – just mix all the wet ingredients together. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir in the oil mixture until everything is lightly coated. Tip the mix onto a large baking sheet (preferably one with a lip around the edge) and spread it out evenly. Put the granola mix in the oven and leave it for 20 minutes. After that time, give the mixture a stir – it should be lightly steaming. Put it back in the oven for another ten minutes, then stir again. Check the granola every five minutes after this and when the oats and nuts are an even golden brown, remove the sheet from the oven and allow the granola to cool down. When it’s cold, transfer it to an airtight container, where it will happily sit for up to a month (mine never lasts that long, though…).

I like to have this with banana and yoghurt or with some dried fruit, but it’s also good just on its own (in smaller quantities!) as a fasting-day snack.


Black Bean Chilli con Carne with Tortilla ChipsRecipe for Black bean chilli con carne and tortilla chips (serves 5)

Ingredient Calories per serving
1 cup dried black beans 132
450g lean ground/minced beef 167
1 onion (100g), diced 8
1 tsp cumin seeds 2
½ tsp smoked paprika 1
1 red chilli, sliced (with or without the seeds, depending on how hot you want the dish) 1
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 2
500g tomatoes (fresh or canned), blended 18
5 small (6-inch) flour/corn tortillas* 130
1 tbsp butter 20
salt and pepper 0

Total calories per serving: 485

Method: Soak beans overnight in water. The next day, drain the beans, cover with fresh water and bring to the boil. Simmer for an hour or so, until the beans are tender. When they are cooked, drain them and reserve the cooking water. Fry the beef in a large pan over a high heat until browned. Tip the beef into a sieve/strainer over a bowl to drain off the fat. Using the same pan, turn the heat to low and add the diced onion, cooking for a few minutes until the onion has softened. Add the cumin, paprika (or chilli powder if you like it hot), chilli and garlic and cook for a minute or two. Stir in the tomatoes, beef, and the cooked black beans. Simmer the chilli for an hour and a half, adding some of the reserved bean cooking liquid if it looks like it’s getting too dry. Season to taste.

To make the tortilla chips, heat your oven to 400°F/200°C. Melt the butter and brush it over the tortillas, then cut the tortillas into evenly-sized segments and arrange on a baking sheet in one layer. Bake for around 10 minutes, or until golden. Serve the chilli in bowls with the chips on the side.

*I had a go at making these myself this time. Here’s how I did it:

Corn/flour tortillas
Recipe for corn and flour tortillas (makes 12 small tortillas)

150g/6oz yellow cornmeal
75g/3oz wholewheat flour
75g/3oz white bread flour
4 tbsp olive oil
150ml/6 fl oz warm water

Total calories per tortilla: 130

Method: Combine all the ingredients except the water in a food processor. Turn it on and slowly add the water until the dough forms a ball. Divide the dough into 12 even pieces and use a tortilla press or rolling pin to roll them into approximately 6-inch diameter tortillas. Heat a non-stick pan to a medium heat and cook each tortilla for about a minute on each side, until just beginning to brown. These will keep for a day or two in the fridge but are best used straight away.

In the depths of a Canadian winter, sprouting beans and seeds give a nutritional boost to the system when it’s hard to find fresh leafy local vegetables. They are cheap and easy to grow yourself, with nothing more complicated than a glass jar, an elastic band and a piece of nylon. I’ve had a series of pots of alfalfa sprouts on the go in recent weeks but this was my first try at growing mung beans.

Two-Bean Wrap

Recipe for Two-bean wrap (serves 1)

Ingredient Calories per serving
1 small wholewheat tortilla 90
55g refried beans 52
20g mung beansprouts 4

Total calories per serving: 145

You can buy tins of refried beans, but I had a go at making them myself at the weekend. I used dried black beans and followed a recipe I found here (I didn’t add the cheese at the end, though). The end result is a rather dark paste, which doesn’t look terribly appetising, but which tastes great and makes a nice textural contrast to the crunchiness of the sprouts.

Prawn/Shrimp and mushroom noodles

Recipe for Prawn/Shrimp and mushroom noodles (serves 3)

Ingredient Calories per serving
1 tbsp miso paste 11
1 tsp ginger (grated fresh or ground) 2
1 tsp chopped garlic 1
1 tbsp soy sauce 2
300g cooked prawns/shrimp 119
100g dry noodles 46
1 tsp sesame oil 10
1 tsp sunflower oil 10
150g onion, sliced 20
150g mushrooms, sliced 11

Total calories per serving: 240

Method: Mix together the miso paste, ginger, garlic and soy sauce with the prawns/shrimp. Cook the dry noodles according to the instructions on the packet, until they are tender.  Drain them and put to one side. Heat the oils in a wok or frying pan on a medium heat and add the onions, cooking for two minutes or so. Then add the mushrooms, raising the heat a little and cook for another two minutes. Raise the heat again and add the prawns/shrimp and the noodles, stir frying them until everything is thoroughly hot. Divide between three bowls and serve.

Caulflower and Penne Cheese

Recipe for Cauliflower and penne cheese with salad (serves 4)

Ingredient Calories per serving
260g cauliflower, cut into smallish pieces 16
250g wholewheat penne 208
25g butter 45
25g flour 23
200ml 2% milk 26
100ml water 0
110g mature Cheddar cheese 110
salt and pepper 0
90g lettuce 3
80g tomatoes 4
80g cucumber 3
20g alfalfa sprouts 1

Total calories per serving: 440

Method: Bring a pan of water to a simmer and add the pasta and cauliflower pieces. While they are cooking, make the cheese sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan and stirring in the flour. Cook over a low heat for a minute or two, then remove from the heat and gradually add the milk, stirring well after each addition until it is all incorporated. Then add the water and return the pan to a medium heat, stirring until the sauce thickens. Lower the heat and add the cheese and seasoning, stirring until the cheese has melted.

When the pasta and cauliflower are tender, drain them and add them to the cheese sauce. Serve with the salad.

P.S. I’m trying something new and breaking down the calories in each ingredient so that you can swap things out and know what effect it will have on the total. I’ll slowly go back through the earlier recipes and do the same with those. Although it might take a while – this blog is getting big!

Eggs are great for fasting days: they are more filling and satisfy you for longer than you might expect and they pack a hefty nutritional punch. Particularly if you can get eggs from hens that can roam outside on grass.

Mushroom and Ham omelette

Recipe for Mushroom and ham omelette (serves 2)

Ingredient Calories per serving
1 tsp butter 17
50g mushrooms, sliced 5
50g ham or lean bacon, sliced (optional) 40
4 free-range eggs, beaten 126
salt and pepper 0

Total calories per serving: 190 (150 without meat)

Method: Heat a frying pan on medium and melt the butter. Stir in the mushrooms and cook for a minute or two (if you’re using lean bacon, cook that at the same time). Add the ham (if using) and eggs to the pan and grind salt and pepper over them. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the eggs are almost completely set. Fold one half of the omelette over the other, then cut the omelette in half and serve.

Duck liver on toast

Where I live it’s hard to find chicken livers. They don’t come with the giblets of whole chickens like they do in the UK and it’s rare to find them available separately. For some reason, though, whole ducks do come with their livers. We had crispy duck to celebrate the Chinese New Year at the weekend (definitely not a fasting-day meal!) and I had the liver left over. It made an easy, luxurious, nutrient-rich and fairly low-calorie lunch. You could use a chicken liver in place of the duck.

Recipe for Duck liver on toast (serves 1)

Ingredient Calories per serving
1 tsp butter 34
30g duck liver 41
50g slice of wholemeal bread 105
1 tbsp alfalfa sprouts 1

Total calories per serving: 180

Method: Melt the butter over a medium heat and toast the bread. Cut the liver into even-sized pieces. When the butter is hot, add the liver and brown, turning often. Once the liver pieces are golden brown, push them to one side and put your slice of toast in the pan to soak up the last of the butter (it’s accounted for in the recipe, so you might as well eat it!). Transfer the toast to a plate and squish the liver on to it. The inside of the pieces should still be pink. Garnish with the alfalfa sprouts.

Quiche isn’t something I’d usually think of as diet food, but this one comes out at less than 500 calories per portion, so if you’re saving all or most of your fasting calories for one meal, this is something you could have, perhaps with some salad alongside. Wholemeal flour makes the pastry more filling, but I find all wholemeal to be a bit too chewy: experiment with the proportion of plain and wholemeal to see what suits you best. This is one advantage of making your own pastry!

Salmon and Kale quiche

Recipe for Salmon and kale quiche (serves 4)

Ingredient Calories per serving
140g plain flour 127
60g wholemeal flour 47
100g cold butter 179
75g cooked salmon 39
50g Tuscan kale 5
10g dill 6
3 eggs 47
100ml 2% milk 13

Total calories per serving: 465

Method: Make the pastry by blitzing the butter and flours togetherin a food processor for 30 seconds. Slowly add cold water until the pastry comes together in a ball. Take it out of the processor and let it rest in the fridge for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C and roll out the pastry. Use it to line an 8-inch flan or pie dish. Prick the pastry with a fork. (You can also put foil or parchment paper over the pastry and add a layer of dry beans to stop the pastry from rising too much.) Bake the pastry shell for 10-15 minutes, then remove from the oven while you prepare the filling. Remove the foil/paper and beans, if you used them and turn the oven down to 350°F/180°C.

Flake the salmon, chop the kale and dill and spread them evenly over the cooked pastry shell. Beat the eggs in a measuring jug and make the liquid up to 350ml with the milk. Mix the milk and egg together and season with salt and pepper, then put the flan dish onto a baking sheet (in case the filling spills over during cooking) and pour the egg mixture over the salmon, kale and dill. Carefully transfer the dish on its baking sheet to the oven and bake for around 40 minutes, until the egg mixture is set and lightly browned on top.

This is good hot or cold.

Apple and Cheddar

Fasting food doesn’t have to be complicated. This simple plate of 50g Cheddar and a sliced-up apple contains 180 calories and as a late lunch or afternoon snack will keep me going through to an evening meal on a fasting day. The trick is to eat the pieces slowly and savour every mouthful!

Miso-Maple Marinated SalmonRecipe for Miso-maple marinated salmon with broccoli and rice (serves 3)

Ingredient Calories per serving
1 tbsp miso paste 11
1 tbsp maple syrup 17
1 tbsp soy sauce 3
300g salmon fillet 206
¾ cup brown basmati rice 140
1 tbsp soy sauce 3
200g broccoli 19

Total calories per serving: 400

Method: Lay the salmon fillet on a baking sheet, mix the miso, soy and maple syrup together and brush over the salmon. Put the rice on to cook with 1½ cups of hot water (this will take around 20 minutes). About 10 minutes before the rice is done, heat your grill/broiler to high and cook the salmon fillet, basting it with the marinade every so often. Steam the broccoli. When the rice has cooked (it should have absorbed all the water), stir a spoonful of soy sauce into it, cut the salmon fillet into three and dish up the meal.