The Diet Frenzy Begins… Resolutions Fail

I call it “diet frenzy” for good reason.   High calorie Christmas goods have now been moved to the sale aisles of supermarkets, to make way for an avalanche of celebrity fitness DVD’s, health foods and juicing machines.  People who are desperate to rekindle last year’s resolutions for fitness and weight loss, wander aimlessly looking for inspiration, with a new-found belief that this year will be different.  In their heads they are thinking “yes, this year will be the one, and I will not wander off my brutal regime of cabbage soup amongst other stupid schemes by February.”

Watching women mull over the celebrity DVD covers is another one of my favourite past times.  Most covers follow the same mantra, where shown is a very unflattering picture of the said celebrity in a bikini looking like a whale, along with their new  (so they say unphotoshopped) body.  What I find interesting is that many of these celebrities return to their pre-fitness state and even worse, months later.  You just know that many of the women wanting to buy into the concept of these DVD’s and regimes, are setting themselves up for a fall, right from the start.  You can tell from a person’s body frame and structure, that a size 8 is never going to happen, and nor should it, unless that is how you are naturally!

Another growing market is the fitness bunny websites/blogs/facebook pages.  Post after post seems to be the same…. “drink this juice and look like me…” No thanks.  Although many may have a great level of fitness and health, I do not want the botox, boob jobs and other extras that seem to come with the look of many of these women.  The males appear to be going in the same direction, with facial work and so many coats of fake tan that they look like they have smothered themselves in cupranol or marmite.

Stupid celebrity endorsements of fad diets is another laughable area.  If you want a body like such and such then just drink nothing but …blah blah blah.  Yeah right.  The word gullible springs to mind.  Then there is the juicing industry, which is growing at an alarming rate.  I have nothing against juicing in moderation, but for someone like me who loves food, I know I could not last for months on a shake or juice for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Something that often resembles baby food, being consumed once a day is more than enough for me.  Nor could I engage with those companies who deliver every meal ready weighed and calculated like a science experiment.  Surely it would be better for people to learn how to cook themselves in a balanced way, ensuring they get the correct nutrients and saving themselves a packet in the process?

What I see is that people have a superficial and lazy outlook to health and fitness plans.  They want a get fit quick option, rather than do things gradually and in a realistic manner.  Starting brutal and punishing regimes often leads to failure quickly.  How many people have started a diet and then found themselves fall into the diet misery abyss only a month later?  I will always advocate a sensible overhaul of your eating and exercise behaviours.  It is not rocket science to work out that if you sit munching food increasing calories and doing nothing, you are going to end up overweight and miserable. I also suggest that people do not get sucked in to clever marketing which inevitably leads to expense.  Doing exercise does not have to cost you and arm and a leg.  How about you make a start by power walking?  A sensible pair of trainers and a cheap pedometer or phone app, can tell you how many steps you do.  Aim for 10,000 and then build on it.  I have a dog which gets a long walk in the morning before work and a long walk in the evening after work.  Got children?  Go play some football or run around in the park with them.  Then look at your diet and be honest with yourself.  There is nothing worse than enrolling in a gym in your new lycra, and then wanting to quit after the first session.  This is all because you ache from head to toe, and look like a sweaty mess when comparing yourself with the gym addict next to you.  Breaking yourself in gently is key.

Ditch the sugars and refined pre-packed foods and snacks from your cupboards.  Eliminating these will make a difference to your health and bank balance.  Check out your portions as well.  Many of us are over generous on our plates, and so cutting back a bit would definitely be a step in the right direction.  When you succeed with doing these small steps, you will find that you can move on to the next level of health and fitness easier.  Smaller goals are easier to achieve and will hopefully mean that instead of breaking your resolutions, you will actually be successful.

Finally, ditch the scales and start to look to your body being strong, toned and healthy.  This leads to a more positive attitude towards your own body image.  Celebrities may look nice, but many are blessed with a team of stylists and the wonders of photo shop.  Make 2016 the year that the fads get binned, you focus on health and be successful with your fitness.  Most of all, make this year a happier year for you.  Be you and not someone else.  You were made unique for a reason!

Pasta with Mushrooms & Ham

After so much festive food, I fancied something a little different yet I still wanted to use some ingredients up that I had left over, such as a pile of mushrooms and ham.  A true test to whether or not a dish is successful, is if any is left over on the plate/bowl.  I can report not a scrap was left by my family, with requests from them to make it again.  It is simple to make, and perhaps that is what is nice.  Quick and easy is often the most pleasurable form of cookery!

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Ingredients

  • Spaghetti, weight according to how many are eating.
  • 2 Tbsp of Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion diced, or a bunch of spring onions chopped
  • 1 Garlic clove chopped
  • Half a punnet of mushrooms sliced
  • 250ml of Chicken stock
  • A good grating of parmesan
  • Chopped ham, according to how many are eating (a good handful per person)
  • Small pot of single cream.
  • Salt & pepper

Bring a pan of water to the boil, ready to cook your spaghetti to pack instructions, or guidelines if (like myself) you make pasta fresh.

In a pan place the olive oil, then heat through the onions, garlic, and mushrooms.  Stir for around 5 minutes until the onion has softened.  Then add the stock and cook for five minutes.  During this time if using dried pasta, you can place it in the boiling water.  Add the cream to the vegetable mix in the pan, along with the chopped ham. Then grate in the parmesan.  I add the parmesan bit by bit until I get the right level of cheese flavour.  Gently heat through for a few minutes and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed.

Drain the cooked pasta and add it to the pan, tossing it in the cream mixture, evenly coating the strands of spaghetti.

Serve in bowls with a little extra parmesan over the top.

 

Thai Chicken Soup

Light yet warming and filling, this soup has some great flavours and ingredients which are nutritious and super tasty.  It is a soup that I enjoy eating all year round.

There is a video (which I hasten to add) I did a few years back in my old cookery studio, if you want to see a visual version.  My new studio is now almost organised in the Lake District in Cumbria, and I shall be commencing new food and presenting filming in March of 2016.  I cannot wait!  The link to the video is here Thai Chicken Soup Video

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Ingredients:-

  • 4 Tbsp of Oil
  • 1 Large Onion, peeled chopped in half and sliced (not diced)
  • 2 Whole red chilli’s, deseeded and chopped (add more if you like extra heat)
  • 4 Chunky garlic cloves, diced.
  • 2.5cm of Ginger, diced
  • 1.5 Litres of chicken stock
  • 200g of New potatoes.  Each potato chopped into quarters
  • 1 Can of coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp of brown sugar
  • Juice of 1 lime (You may need extra lime juice at the end when you check to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp of fish sauce
  • 1 Medium aubergine sliced and cut into quarter pieces
  • Leftover cooked chicken (Cook a couple of chicken breasts if you have none)

Take 2 tbsp of the oil, and place in a large heavy bottomed pan.  Place on to the stove and heat, then add the onion and cook until the onion is translucent.  Then add the chilli’s, garlic and ginger and cook for a further 2 minutes.  Add the stock, and potatoes, bring it to the boil and then simmer for 12 minutes.

Then add the coconut milk, sugar, lime juice and fish sauce.  Continue to simmer for 12 minutes.  Whilst the soup is simmering, fry the aubergines in the remaining oil until they are golden brown.

After 12 minutes, add the aubergine and continue to simmer for 4 minutes, then add the chicken and cook for a further 2 minutes to heat through.  Taste the soup for seasoning, although I find it needs no salt and pepper, due to the fish sauce and the stock.  Occasionally, I find it needs a little extra fresh lime juice.

Serve.

Turkey Curry

Guess you still have a pile of turkey left and are looking for ways of getting rid of it, without throwing it away?  Well good on you!  I hate food waste, especially with something like Turkey, which you can pay a fortune for, so it is good to use it up wisely.  This curry is one of my favourites and is so simple to make.  I tend to use the darker leg meat (which is always the last to be eaten) which softens beautifully in the curry.  If you are vegetarian try this with butternut squash and mushrooms, along with the other fruits as it is really tasty.

This recipe is on the mild side, but please feel free to add more “heat” as you fancy. There are two members of my family who love heat, and two that only like curry mild, so I have to play the middle ground a bit. It also has fruit in it, which can be omitted if you do not like it.

spices

  
700g of Chopped/shredded cooked turkey (or if you have no left over chicken/turkey then chop up two or three uncooked chicken/turkey breasts depending on how many people you are feeding. Chicken and turkey thighs also works well and is cheaper.)
Splash of oil and a good knob of butter
1 Large onion chopped
2 Crushed garlic cloves
1 Inch piece of ginger grated
Around 500ml of chicken or turkey stock (you may need a little more)
1 Heaped tablespoon of flour
1 Heaped tablespoon (or more according to taste) of madras curry powder plus an extra teaspoon of ground coriander
A good handful of chopped apple and pineapple
A good handful of sultanas
1 Tbsp of mango chutney
Splash of single cream

Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy bottomed saucepan.  Add the onions and gently fry until translucent.  Only if you are using uncooked chicken/turkey, will you add this now and cook until all sides have been sealed and slightly browned. Then add the ginger and garlic.  Continue to cook for a minute then add the flour, curry powder, coriander and continue to stir to get the heat through, making sure everything is combined.  This helps to cook out the flour also. Keep stirring as otherwise it may catch on the bottom of your pan. Stirring for a good two minutes is what helps the spices release their flavour. Then add the apple, pineapple, sultanas, stock and the mango chutney and put the lid on for a few minutes.  If you are using left over cooked shredded chicken/turkey then add at this point and and mix well into the sauce. Continue to cook now with the lid off for a while, just a gentle simmer is what it needs.  If the sauce thickens too much just keep adding a splash of hot kettle water.  Check for seasoning and add some more salt and pepper according to taste.  Gently simmer until the curry sauce reaches it desired consistency.  Then at the end before you serve just add a splash of cream.  This just softens the sauce a little, but is not necessary. Serve with rice and naan breads to mop up the delicious sauce.

Pea & Mint Soup

I love this soup, in fact it is probably one of my favourites.  It is so simple and does not need a long list of ingredients as most of them are already in your home.

More recipes available at Midweek Meals Made Easy

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700g Peas – frozen can be used as well a fresh
1 large onion sliced
1 medium potato cut into cubes
2tbsp olive oil
Knob of butter
1 litre of vegetable stock
Good handful of mint leaves
Salt & pepper to taste

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large pan.
Add the onion and potato and gently cook for around 5 minutes.
Add the stock and cook with a lid on for  further 10 minutes so that the potato is cooked and soft.
Add the peas and mint and fast simmer for a further 3 minutes.
Blend the mixture until smooth.  For extra smoothness the soup can be passed through a sieve which will leave it ultra silky.  You can alter the texture and thickness of this soup to your liking by adding a little extra stock.

You can as an option, swirl some single cream or creme fraiche into it, with an extra mint sprig for decoration.