Tomato & Bean Soup

This is such a lovely hearty soup, that almost verges on being a vegetable stew.  We eat this most weeks throughout the year.  It warms you up in the winter, and is somehow refreshing in the summer months.  You can add some croutons if you like, which gives a lovely crunch.

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Ingredients

Olive oil, for frying

1 Large onion, chopped

1 Large carrot diced small

2 Sticks celery, diced small

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 Tin of cannellini beans

1 x 400g can of good quality chopped tomatoes

Good pinch of sugar

4 Leaves of Cavolo Nero cut into thick shreds

Good handful of Parmesan Cheese

400ml of Vegetable stock

Pinch of dried chilli flakes

Salt and pepper

Fry off the onion, carrot and celery for 5 minutes gently in a little olive oil.   Then add the garlic cloves, tomatoes and simmer for a further five minutes.  Then add a generous pinch of sugar (this helps to stop the tomatoes tasting too sharp) then add the chilli flakes, cannellini beans, parmesan, cavolo nero, vegetable stock, plus seasoning of salt and pepper. If I have a rind of parmesan then I will add that too, making sure that I remove it before serving.  Gently cook for around 20 minutes or so with a lid, until the carrot is tender.  If you need more stock then just add it.  Taste for seasoning.  Then serve.

 

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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!

Cauliflower – How good is it?

I led the health and food club today and listed all the good things that are in cauliflower.. A few people were shocked!

Rich in vitamins and minerals

Vitamin B1 – Assists in production of new cells and the immune system.

Vitamin B2 – Antioxidant – helps against ageing, heart disease, red blood cell production which gets oxygen going through the body, possible help with migraines (there are ongoing studies).

Vitamin B3 – Boosts HDL cholesterol (the good one) possibility it can help with acne.

Vitamin B5 – Helps hormones and healthy skin.

Vitamin B9 – Good to help depression, memory loss and especially helps pregnant women with their babies growth and development.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids – For fighting blood pressure, cholesterol, asthma, depression, arthritis, crohns, strokes, heart attacks. Slightly lower levels needed for diabetes sufferers or those on blood thinners.

Vitamin K – To help against heart protection, osteoporosis, cancer especially prostate cancer lung cancer, liver cancer and leukaemia. There are studies to say it helps those with insulin sensitivity and people who get the most of vitamin K2 are 20% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Also thought to help Alzheimers and tooth decay. Pregnant women do have to be careful with the amount of vitamin K and that they get no more than 65 micrograms.

Vitamin C – For the immune system, heart and cardio system, eye disease, skin and cancer.

Manganese – For assistance with bones, skin, some research to say that it can help blood sugar control, helps thyroid, and metabolism of fats and carbs.

Glucoraphanin – For digestive support, lining of the stomach and prevents bacterial overgrowth.

Lentil Bake

You do not have to be a vegan or vegetarian to enjoy this dish.  Lentils are a great staple food which we should all think to put into our diets, as a way of reducing excessive meat consumption.

Lentils have had tough press over the years, with people wrongly assuming that only a ‘hippy’ would eat them.  Well, I am glad to report that I know plenty of people (including myself) that eat lentils in bakes, soups and stews… and we are not sat crossed legged, with joss sticks and dread-locks!

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Swapping meat for this lentil bake may take a little getting used to.  It has a different texture and may not be a delight to the palate for a hardened carnivore.  Although for those who want to make healthier changes to their diet, the humble lentil may be a cheap food but is certainly not cheap when it comes to being packed with good nutrition. They are a good source of iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, niacin and vitamin K, dietary fibre, and protein.  Lentils help to lower cholesterol, reduce heart related diseases, aids digestion, increase energy levels, stabilise blood sugar levels (ideal for those with diabetes) and as they are low in calories, they can be of benefit to those who are wanting to lose weight.  What I like about this lentil bake in particular, is that it is filling.  So if you are watching what you eat, then there is no need to feel that horrid feeling of hunger.

I enjoy this lentil bake with a crisp salad and jacket potato.  Please try it carnivores, as you may just like it.

Ingredients
• 300g pre-soaked red lentils (Tinned are ideal)
• 400g of chopped onions
• A slice of butter (you can substitute if vegan)
• 1 crushed garlic clove
• 10floz hot water
• 2 tsp of yeast extract
• 200g grated strong mature cheddar  (substitute if vegan)
• 1 tsp of mixed herbs
• Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 180 degrees centigrade and grease a good-sized dish.  I use a pie dish.  Heat the butter gently and add the garlic and onions.  Continue cooking until translucent and golden.  Then add the lentils and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the yeast extract and herbs to the hot water and stir until melted.  In a large bowl place all ingredients together and mix well.  Turn into the dish, cover with foil and then cook for approximately 45 minutes.  If you like your lentil bake to have a crunchy top, then you could sprinkle some breadcrumbs near to the end of cooking and place under the grill until toasted.  Or you could remove the foil ten minutes from the end of cooking, to let the top of the bake have more texture.

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!