Garlic Chicken & Mushroom Pasta

This is a real tasty dish which is surprisingly good on the calories at approx 540 calories per person.  This may be because it’s not swimming in cream like I often find so many pasta dishes!  This recipe serves two adults.

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Ingredients:-

150g Wholewheat Spaghetti
1 tsp Fresh lemon zest plus half a lemon juice.
1 tbsp of Olive Oil
200g Chestnut Mushrooms sliced
4 Spring Onions sliced
2 Cloves of Garlic sliced
30g Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese grated
6 Sprigs of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
150g cooked chicken breast
Optional (2 tbsp) of single cream

Begin to cook your spaghetti as per the instructions.  In a large wok or frying pan place the olive oil, mushrooms, onions, garlic and cook for about 5 minutes on a low-medium heat.  Add in the cooked chicken breast, lemon zest and juice, 2/3rds of the Parmigiano cheese, a ladle full of water from the spaghetti which is cooking, and stir round to heat through and combine.  If using the cream add this now too.  Taste to see if you want to add any salt and pepper.

You can either add the spaghetti to the pan once it has cooked, or place the spaghetti in the dish and add the chicken and mushroom mixture on top.  I like to do the latter, as then you get more equal amounts of the chicken and mushroom mix.  I then combine the spaghetti and chicken and mushroom mix whilst in the bowl.  Then sprinkle over the remaining 1/3rd Parmigiano cheese over both bowls along with the flat leaf parsley.

 

 

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Portion Control

A major issue (in my eyes) concerning weight loss and health, is the subject of portion control. Once upon a time I was guilty of this. I mean why have a slice of cake, when you can have a dirty big wedge? Why have a scoop of mashed potato, when you can have something resembling a volcano on your plate? And why have a grating of cheese, when a slab is better on a cracker? When it came to portion control, I was ridiculously off the scale. Not only was I generous to myself, but to others including my family who were lured to my food. The problem was, that once I started my healthy eating regime and actually weighing stuff, my stomach and brain had some serious shrinkage to do.

As I discovered more on my journey, I realised I was not the only one with a warped sense of portion control. I would ask random people, what they thought a portion was, and they too were guilty as charged. In fact they were so shocked that one woman immediately went out and bought a set of scales. Like many others, she just went along with what her parents had put on her plate, and carried on the way she was brought up. Another startling fact was that many people felt they had to clear their dinner plates. This is another habit from their childhood. Phrases from their parents like  “don’t you leave any food on your plate or it will block my sink” and “you won’t get any after’s (dessert) unless you finish every mouthful.” It appears that many people were influenced by their parents.  The notion of stopping when they were full, did not come to mind.

One group of people who spring to my mind was the school dinner ladies.  My goodness, they were cracking cooks, and I shall fondly remember the Manchester Tart and custard, which was definitely adult sized portions than that for a child.  Was I going to complain? Was I heck as like! School dinners especially in primary school (before they were stopped) were so delicious.  I’ve always had a healthy appetite, and will pretty much eat anything.  So the generous school dinner lady portions of dinner were given a big thumbs up from me.  In fact, one lady was so wonderful that she would always give me a little bit more.  I liked her a lot!  The only time I wasn’t keen on the dinner ladies, was when we were given bottles of milk to drink with straws at morning break time.  It was full cream milk, and when the bottles were warm in the summer, I could positively feel my stomach lurching.  It is one food memory I would have happily had no portion of!

So what is a portion?  How do you know what amounts you should eat?  Most foods have a guideline on the packaging.  This gives you all the details such as what qualifies as a portion, along with calories, fats, sugars etc.  Not enough people pay attention to this.  However turning to portion control, I wanted to do an experiment.  Below is a photo of two bowls of shreddies.  The one on the left is how many people fill the bowl at 80g.  The one on the right is the correct 40g portion.IMG_1302.jpg

The next photo shows a 75g uncooked portion of whole-wheat pasta.  Most people eat double this amount.  Taking calories from what should be around 257 calories (75g) to 514 calories (150g).

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You can begin to see, that if we keep doubling up portions at each meal, how we can be overeating and soon have weight issues.  When on my “Health Is Your Wealth” eating regime, the first thing I suggest to people is to actually weigh out what they are eating.  This can be a real shock at first, but a real benefit as to how weight has been added without much thought.

I remember the first time I decided to weigh out guideline amounts of for food myself.  I must have spent ten minutes shaking the scales, hoping and praying that there was some mistake and fault with them.  There wasn’t.  The scales were accurate, it was my head not wanting to accept what a correct portion amount was, that was wrong.  Interestingly,  once my body adjusted to the proper portion amount, I no longer felt hungry.  Although at the beginning of my regime and exercising portion control, I could have easily snapped.  Willpower is vital, but if you crack it, you will feel the benefits.  It is all about removing the previous habits of portion size, and replacing those habits with your new lifestyle.  It isn’t easy, because over generous amounts seem to be woven into us.  I can only encourage you by saying that once you do get used to it, your body feels less burdened with the digestion of food, and you end up feeling more comfortable.

Most people are not good with portion control, when it comes to healthy stuff either.  They think 3 peas on a plate is a portion, and one sprig of broccoli is another.  I shall be looking at getting more than your 5 a day later on in this journey, but what is noted, is that we are more generous with naughty food than the truly good stuff.

Making sure you eat enough and don’t starve yourself is another subject.  People crash diet and this sends the body into chaos.  It doesn’t work long-term ladies and gents.  This is a whole subject of its own, which again, I shall be writing about very soon.  Your first goal at present, is to modify your current amounts of food you are eating.  So if say your cereal bowl is overflowing, start with altering that.  Slow and steady wins the race.  Win over small changes, and you are more likely to continue the plan and make other positive steps.

The information that you should look out for on the packaging is similar to below.  Some food companies are extremely good, and give even greater detail.  Make yourself familiar with these boxes of information.  Check the calorie content.  Even some healthy foods have a high calorie content, so it is then that you need to check how much saturated fats, and everything else there is.  Not all fats are bad, but this is another subject which will be covered in future.  It is about striking balances and making better choices for you and your body.

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Pesto Pasta

This is a pasta dish that hits the spot and is ready in next to no time.  You can use any pasta you like, but I like the fusilli twirled pasta for this, as the sauce gets stuck into the grooves with it.

This dish is reasonably healthy too and is cost effective, especially if you grow lots of basil like myself.  I also like the fact that most of this is store cupboard ingredients, and so is great for making when you are stuck with knowing what to cook.

 

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Ingredients

  • 2 Bunches of Basil – remove the leaves from the stalks
  • 100ml of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Seasalt – a couple of good pinches
  • 1 Large Garlic Clove
  • 50g Pine Nuts
  • 3 Large Tablespoons of Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Pasta of your choice (80g per person)
  • Vine cherry tomatoes on top to decorate (optional).

Boil your pasta to the packet instructions.  Whilst it is cooking you can make the pesto sauce.  In a food processor place all the ingredients except the tomatoes and blitz until fairly smooth.  You may need to stop a couple of times and go around the edge of the bowl with a spatula.  Leave the pesto to rest a few minutes, you will see that it will thicken slightly.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain and return it to the warm pan.  Do not put the saucepan back on the stove.  Place the pesto in with the pasta and mix well, ensuring it is all fully coated in the pesto mix.

Serve in bowls and add some vine tomatoes on top.

 

 

 

 

 

Low Calorie Section

I have added a new section that I am adding to my site called ‘Low Calorie,’ as I am being asked by people almost on a daily basis, to give them recipes and ideas to eat healthier.

I would like to stress at this point, that although the recipes are ‘low calorie’ I do this with health, rather than weight loss in mind.  Many will enjoy a loss of weight naturally when they eat well and ditch the junk.  Just testing some of my recipes over the last week, I have lost well over half a stone in weight, yet I do not feel deprived.  It is important to eat well and make sure that you get the right calories in your body for your height/sex/age/weight and activity level.  With that in mind, I have a few useful suggestions for you.

 

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First I purchased a pedometer quite cheaply from Argos for around £14.00.  It simply straps to your waist and you can forget about it and get on with your day.  I always aim for 10,000 steps per day but often it will end up being 12,000.

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Second, I placed the nutracheck app on my phone, which enables me to find out what my calories should be.  It also allows me to check food calorie/fat levels and I can add the food either from a bar code scan or manual input.  I also get control over how much weight I may wish to lose, whether I wish to stay at my weight or if I want to gain some weight.  It gives me lots of useful data and some of which has been surprising.  Simply swapping dairy yoghurt to a soya alternative reduced my calories by quite a substantial margin.  The biggest shock was that I really enjoyed the soya version, and do not find it in any way a sacrifice.  The next myth I wish to dispel is that fruit and veg are ‘free food’.  I need to be clear that they DO contain calories.  For instance 1 large banana is around 92 calories, whereas a nectarine is 36 calories.  Little swaps and changes can make a huge difference.  The app also gives you information on how many of your 5 a day you are eating, plus how much water you have drunk and still need to drink!

Third, I purchased a good set of digital scales as portion control is the biggest issue many people have.  Weigh out 30g the recommended amount of Special K cereal, and be truthful as to whether or not that is the amount you usually place into your bowl?

To be healthy and to lose weight is not rocket science.  What it does require is discipline and commitment.  Exercise (even brisk walking) and eating well, will not just help you shift a few pounds but will make you feel more alive and well.

Over time, I shall be giving you some recipes for low-calorie foods to help you.  These will be rough calorie guides and of course depends on your portion sizes.

Here is to health for 2016!

Tomato Soup

This went down a storm in my cookery demo this morning, and is a favourite soup in our house.  Quick to make and utterly delicious as well as not costing you much, so you cannot go wrong.  Always try to buy premium canned tomatoes where possible.  You can also substitute a couple of items should you wish.

 

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Ingredients

1 Can of tomatoes ( I use a real good quality brand)
Glug of olive oil
1 Onion finely chopped
1 Garlic clove crushed
Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp Sugar
400 mls of vegetable or chicken stock
200 mls of milk
Handful of fresh basil leaves
(Optional) Good dollop of creme fraiche or a swirl of cream

In a medium saucepan add the olive oil, onion and garlic and sweat gently until the onions go translucent looking. Add the tomatoes, sugar, stock and pepper then cook gently with a lid on for ten minutes. Then add the milk and basil leaves and continue to simmer for five minutes. Then use a food processor or hand blender and whizz until you have the consistency you like. If too thick for you, just add a little hot water from your kettle to loosen it. You can also put it through a sieve to get an extra silky smooth soup. Eat this as it is, or add some creme fraiche or cream.