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Serves 4

I ate a lovely, warming, filling brunch of huevos rancheros (or mexican ranch-style beans) in a Chiquitos restaurant near the O2 in London recently. This was in preparation for my ascent to the top of the O2 – that’s right, you can climb it to a viewing

Delicious, spicy mexican style ranch eggs.  Guaranteed to perk you up in the morning

Delicious, spicy mexican style ranch eggs. Guaranteed to perk you up in the morning

 platform mountaineering style and get fab views of London City and the river on a clear day (we got lucky with the weather)! Awesome fun, and the breakfast set me up a treat!

I digress!  This is my own home-cooked version that I have only just got round to making 2 weeks later because I’ve not had time to soak and boil my beans!

This is a well-balanced brekkie plate with plenty of fresh anti-oxidant-rich veggies for fibre and vitamins, black beans for muscle-building protein and a bit of a kick to wake you up for the day.  Who said hot breakfasts had to be bland, unhealthy, stodgy and full of saturated fat?! Black beans are high in fibre (aids weight loss because it fills you up, and boosts the health of the gut), low in fat, and contain a decent amount of iron (important for building red blood cells and preventing anaemia), folate (important for red blood cells and transport of oxygen to the muscles and prevents spina bifida in unborn children), magnesium and potassium.

If you have to get the dried black beans that need soaking I would recommend preparing more than you need as you can always freeze them once cooked for easy use at a later date.

INGREDIENTS:

BLACK BEANS

400g black beans, cooked (use canned pinto beans, drained, if you cannot find black beans)

200ml vegetable or chicken broth, made with ½ a 10g stock cube

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp. jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

 

THE SALSA

Black (turtle) beans. High in fibre and carbohydrate but low in fat.  Contain iron, folate, magnesium and potassium.

Black (turtle) beans. High in fibre and carbohydrate but low in fat. Contain iron, folate, magnesium and potassium.

1 large red onion, chopped (185g)

1 large red pepper, chopped (145g)

1 clove garlic, minced (4g)

1 can chopped tomatoes or 4 fresh tomatoes, finely chopped (400g)

1 can of sweetcorn kernels (160g)

1 tbsp. jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

2 tbsp. fresh coriander or cilantro, chopped

2 tbsp. fresh lime juice

salt, to taste

 

4 tortillas (40g each)

4 eggs

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Soak the black beans in cold water overnight (24 hours). Place in a large saucepan, cover with double the amount of water, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and leave to cook for at least 2 hours or until the beans are softened but not breaking apart. Add more water if it starts to dry out. Drain and leave to cool.
  • To make the salsa, stir the tomatoes, red onions, red pepper, sweetcorn, coriander or cilantro, lime juice, jalapeno pepper, minced garlic, and salt to taste, together in a bowl until well blended. Cover, and refrigerate until needed (at least 1 hour).
  • Place the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Stir in the garlic, and cook 1 minute until light brown. Mix in the black beans or drained pinto beans if using these instead, the broth and 1 tbsp. jalapeno pepper. Simmer until beans are heated through (about 5 minutes). Turn off heat, and keep warm.
  • Preheat oven to 190°C / 375°F / gas mark 5. Place tortillas on a baking sheet with greaseproof paper underneath. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until warmed through and softened.  Alternatively, heat in microwave on full power for 30 – 45 seconds.
  • Poach or scramble the eggs and cook to desired firmness.
  • To assemble huevos rancheros, place a tortilla on each plate. Top each tortilla with black bean mixture, a layer of salsa, and an egg (or ¼ of the scrambled eggs). Serve immediately.

 

Healthy, nutritious and perfect for brunch

Healthy, nutritious and perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch or tea

SUGGESTIONS

– Add 1 inch of chorizo, chopped into small squares = additional 68 kcal / 285 kJ

 For a main meal, per portion:

–       Add 20g of grated cheddar cheese = additional 83kcal / 347 kJ

and/or

– 50g of shredded roast chicken (instead of the eggs) = 89 kcal / 372 kJ

– 50g of shredded roast pork (instead of the eggs) = 91 kcal / 381 kJ

– 50g of shredded roast beef (instead of the eggs) = additional 110 kcal / 460 kJ

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION

per whole recipe

 Energy                         1495 kcal / 6255 kJ

Carbohydrate              229.7g

Fat                               38.2g

Protein                         64.2g

Total sugar                  53.3g

Saturates                    12.0g

Fibre                            48.4g

Salt                              8.4g (check canned beans for added salt)

 

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION

per serving (if serving 4)

 Energy                         374kcal / 1565 kJ

Carbohydrate              57.4g

Fat                               9.6g

Protein                         16.1g

Total sugar                  13.3g

Saturates                    3.0g

Fibre                            12.1g

Salt                              2.1g (check canned beans for added salt)

 

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Dates: high in fibre and rich in B vitamins and iron

Dates: high in fibre and rich in B vitamins and iron

The humble date often makes an appearance at Christmas – about the only time of year that you seem to be able to buy the gorgeous, sticky, squidgy Medjool style date, as opposed to the small, shrivelled, dry ones you are forced to be content with the rest of the year round!
Dates are a fruit in their own right, not the dried version of something else.  Although higher in calories than most fresh fruits, they do also contain a fantastic range of nutritional benefits and so are definitely a good alternative to chocolate if you are craving something sweet this Christmas.

NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS
Fibre: dates are high in fibre which helps our digestive systems to function smoothly (pardon the pun!), prevents constipation, promotes gut health and also can help to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood.

B Vitamins: Dates contain a good amount of niacin, riboflavin and folate. These are all part of the B Vitamin family which help to support a range of bodily functions.

Riboflavin (B2): supports the health of the nervous system and can help promote skin and eye health as well as helping our bodies to release the energy from carbohydrate.

Niacin (B3): helps to promote the health of the digestive and nervous systems

Folate: helps to support Vitamin B12 to promote the production and health of red blood cells, therefore supporting the transport of oxygen to the muscles and preventing fatigue. It is also a vital vitamin during pregnancy as it prevents conditions such as spina bifida from developing in newborns.

Iron: Dates contain a decent amount of iron; any foods containing iron are good to eat as this is one of the minerals that we can so easily become deficient in, especially if we do not eat meat. Iron helps to build red blood cells which carry oxygen to muscles as a source of energy. If we are deficient in iron we can develop anaemia, a symptom of which is extreme fatigue and lack of energy.

Calcium: Dates contain a small amount of calcium, which promotes bone health, growth and development and is involved in cardiac function, so can help to keep the heart strong and healthy.

HOW TO STUFF A DATE!

Tasty and a more nutritious Xmas snack than chocolate!

Tasty and a more nutritious Xmas snack than chocolate!

Easy!  
1. Slice the date down one side, being careful not to cut all the way through as you want to keep it whole.  

2. Carefully remove the stone.  A good treat here, as there is often some date flesh still on the stone – it’s chef’s perogative to suck the stones!  Just as satisfying as licking the spoon!

3. Take one whole almond, pistachio, walnut half, cashew or a nut of your choosing and place this where the stone used to be.  Alternatively, stuff the cavity with chopped nuts.

4. Roll the stuffed date in grated coconut or sprinkle some on top for a delicious treat and a beautiful festive, snowy look

5. Alternative stuffings are: 
*  cream cheese (low fat, if you want to keep it healthy)
*  blue cheese
*  thick, lowfat greek style yogurt and honey
*  bacon, wrapped around the date like pigs-in-blankets (obviously the bacon needs to be cooked first)

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION
per one date, stuffed with an almond and rolled in coconut (per one date stuffed with blue cheese)

Energy                    93kcal / 389kJ (86kcal / 360 kJ)
Carbohydrate      8.1g (7.8g)
Fat                            2.5g (1.5g)
Protein                   1.0g (1.4g)
Sugars                     8.0g (7.8g)
Saturates               1.2g (1.0g)
Fibre                        1.0g (0.5g)
Salt                          Trace (Trace)


Serves 2 (just double ingredients and use a larger baking dish to feed 4)

A high fibre and high protein post exercise meal

A high fibre and high protein post exercise meal

This is a real humdinger of a leftovers dish. It allows you to use up your roasted chicken meat leftovers (or omit the chicken for a vegetarian dish) and any odds and ends of Mediterranean vegetables that you might have (courgettes, aubergine and mushrooms would work just as well in this dish).

 The real beauty of this lasagne is that you can pack in as many vegetables as you like and, because you are roasting them, they don’t need to be in perfect form – you can catch them as they’re starting to wilt or shrivel a tad and they’ll still taste delicious roasted in oil and covered in pesto. No need for food wastage and, even better than that, one portion packs in half of your daily fibre requirements and is low in salt and saturated fats. It would make a great post exercise meal as it is high in protein to help repair muscle.  Serve with a salad or some steamed green beans or mange tout.

INGREDIENTS

110g lasagne sheets (approximately 6 sheets)

1 tbsp. olive oil (10g)

½ butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1.5cm cubes (700g)

1 medium red or yellow pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped (160g)

1 medium red onion, peeled and roughly chopped (150g)

100g pre-roasted chicken, shredded

25g pine-nuts

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine

1 small red chilli, deseeded and chopped fine

125g fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped

1 tbsp. green pesto (25g)

2 tbsp. reduced fat crème fraiche (30g)

30g grated parmesan cheese (you could use a mature cheddar if you prefer)

Pinch nutmeg

Freshly ground black pepper

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
  •  Boil a kettle of water. Place the lasagne sheets (separated from each other) in a large deep flat dish and cover with the boiled water. Place in the bottom of the oven to allow them to soften and par-cook in the hot water. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t overcook and break apart (they shouldn’t do).
  •  Heat the olive oil in a large, deep roasting tray in the oven for 3-5 minutes. Add the butternut squash cubes and stir to coat them in oil.  Roast for 20-25 minutes.
  • Add the chunks of onion and pepper to the roasting butternut squash. Stir all the veg round to coat in oil and replace in the oven.  Roast for a further 20 minutes, until all are softened and starting to brown slightly.
  •  Add the chicken, pine-nuts, garlic and chilli to the roasted veg and stir round to coat in oil.  Place the shredded spinach leaves on top of the veg and replace in the oven. Roast for a further 5-10 minutes to wilt the spinach and allow the vegetables to become infused with the chilli and garlic flavours.
  • Remove the roasted chicken and vegetables from the oven (leave the oven on though cos the lasagne is going back in!) and stir the pesto through until they are all coated.
  • Remove the lasagne sheets from the oven and drain off the water carefully, making sure the sheets don’t stick to each other.  Hopefully they are par-cooked at this point. 
  •  Start to assemble the lasagne. Place half of the roasted ingredients in a square or rectangular glass dish (one roughly 7” x 7” / 18cm x 18cm). Place half of the lasagne sheets on top – you can cut them to make them fit.
  • Add the rest of the roasted ingredients on top and then another layer of lasagne sheets. Squash it all down as much as possible to allow the juices in the veg to cook the pasta through.
  • In a separate bowl mix the low fat crème fraiche, half of the grated parmesan and nutmeg together and add black pepper to your own taste.
  • Spoon this mixture on top of the lasagne and spread out smoothly to the edges.  Sprinkle the rest of the parmesan evenly over the top.
  •  Return to the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned.

 

Delicious Mediterranean flavours

Delicious Mediterranean flavours

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION

Per whole lasagne

 Energy                          1132 kcal / 4737 kJ

Carbohydrate              81.9g

Fat                                   61.7g

Protein                           62.1g

Total sugar                    62.5g

Saturates                      17.2g

Fibre                               18.0g

Salt                                  1.3g

 

Nutritional Information

Great for using up leftover roast chicken and veg

Great for using up leftover roast chicken and veg

Per portion (serves 2)

 Energy                           566 kcal / 2369 kJ

Carbohydrate              41.0g

Fat                                   30.9g

Protein                           31.1g

Total sugar                    31.3g

Saturates                       8.6g

Fibre                                9.0g

Salt                                   0.7g


Serves 4-6

I call this Spanish Omelette because that’s what my Mum always called it when we were kids!  It’s similar to a Spanish tortilla omelette but they don’t tend to have all of the extra vegetables in, just potatoes.

High in protein and packed full of vegetables - an excellent post-exercise meal

High in protein and packed full of vegetables – an excellent post-exercise meal

 

This is a brilliant, tasty and healthy meal that you can eat either hot or cold, for lunch or for an evening meal.  It’s packed full of protein so, with the addition of the potatoes, it is very filling.  It also manages to cram plenty of your 5 a day veggies in there too so there’s lots of fibre and vitamins.

 If eating as an evening meal, I would have a quarter of the omelette with some side salad.  If you are having it for lunch then just have a sixth but with more salad.  It’s great for packed lunches too as it holds together well in Tupperware! If you want to make a vegetarian version, just leave out the bacon or you could just as easily use the Quorn veggie bacon strips. An alternative to bacon might be grilled chicken pieces / Quorn chicken pieces.

 

 

INGREDIENTS

380g potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes

Brilliant for lunch or an evening meal

Brilliant for lunch or an evening meal

6 rashers of lean bacon, parma ham or chorizo

1.5 tbsp. vegetable or olive oil (15ml)

1 medium-sized onion, peeled and diced (100g)

½ red pepper, deseeded and diced (80g)

½ green pepper, deseeded and diced (80g)

1 courgette, cut into 1cm cubes (100g)

120g mushrooms, sliced

1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced finely

½ red chilli, deseeded and sliced finely

100g frozen sweetcorn

A vegetarian treat too - Spanish omelette without bacon

A vegetarian treat too – Spanish omelette without bacon

100g frozen peas

2 tbsp. fresh or dried thyme

8 eggs

100ml semi-skimmed milk

1 tbsp. dried mixed herbs

½ tsp. paprika

Fresh ground black pepper

50g grated cheese

 

INSTRUCTIONS

1. The dish you need to fit all of these ingredients in needs to be 10.5 inches (26cm) in diameter and at least 1.5 inch (4 cm) deep. For less washing up the ideal would be to cook the omelette all in one frying pan.  If you don’t have a frying pan large enough then you can use a ceramic flan/pie/tart dish with these dimensions.

 2. In a saucepan, cover the cubed potatoes with boiling water.  Cook for 10 minutes until softened but still firm. Drain well.

 3. Grill the bacon until done, but not too crispy.  Cut into strips and set aside on a plate for later.

 4. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, preferably the one you’ll use to finish cooking the omelette in, over a medium heat. Fry the potatoes for 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.

 5. Add the rest of the vegetables and fry for 8-10 minutes further until all are softened. Turn heat off or just keep it over a low flame.

 6. Stir in the fresh or dried thyme.

 7. In a jug prepare the omelette mix. Beat the 8 eggs together with the milk. Add the dried herbs, paprika and black pepper. Beat again until the herbs and spices are mixed through with the eggs.

 FRYING PAN METHOD

  • Heat the grill on full, allowing enough space for the frying pan to fit comfortably under the grill with the handle (especially if plastic or wooden) pointing outwards so that it does not burn.
  •  If you are using the frying pan to cook the omelette, return the vegetables to a medium/high heat. Stir in the bacon, if using. Spread the vegetables as evenly as possible over the base of the pan. Pour the omelette mixture over the vegetables and allow it to settle down into the spaces.
  •  Cook the base of the omelette until you can see the edges browning – approximately 5-8 minutes. Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the top of the omelette.
  •  Place the frying pan under the grill. Leave to cook for 10-15 minutes, checking occasionally to ensure it doesn’t burn.
  •  Stick a knife into the centre of the omelette. If it comes out without raw egg on it, it’s done!

 FLAN/PIE DISH METHOD

  • Heat the oven to 180°C.  Use just a little oil to grease the flan dish.
  •  If you are using a flan or pie dish, stir the bacon into the vegetables. Spread the vegetables as evenly as possible over the base of the pan. Pour the omelette mixture over the vegetables and allow it to settle down into the spaces.
  •  Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the top of the omelette. Place the dish in the oven and cook for 40-50 minutes, until the omelette is firm on top.
  •  Stick a knife into the centre of the omelette. If it comes out without raw egg on it, it’s done!

 

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION

(Per whole omelette)

 Energy                                  1877 kcal / 7854 kJ

Carbohydrate                    125.5g

Total Sugars                        33.3g

Fat                                          104.1g

Saturated Fat                     35.2g

Protein                                 112.0g

Fibre                                      17.2g

Salt                                         7.6g

 

(Per serving, serves 4 (6))

 Energy                                  470 kcal / 1963 kJ (313 kcal / 1309 kJ)

Carbohydrate                    31.4g (20.9g)

Total Sugars                        8.3g (5.6g)

Fat                                          26.0g (17.4g)

Saturated Fat                     8.8g (5.9g)

Protein                                 28.0g (18.7g)

Fibre                                      4.3g (2.9g)

Salt                                         1.9g (1.3g)


butternut-squash

Ingredients

1 x small-medium sized butternut squash, peeled and de-seeded, chopped into 2cm cubes (800g)

1 x red pepper, de-seeded and diced (100g)

2 x red onions, peeled and diced (190g)

2 x cloves garlic, finely chopped (7g)

½ – 1 x red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped (4g)

1 inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped (8g)

250g sweetcorn, frozen or canned

1 litre vegetable stock (1 x 10g cube)

1.5 tbsp. vegetable/olive oil (15g)

300ml semi-skimmed milk

20g dessicated coconut

½ tsp. ground cinnamon

Pinch ground nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Heat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4
  • Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a deep baking tray. Add the cubes of butternut squash, sprinkle with a little salt and roast for 25-35 minutes, until soft and slightly browned.
  • Scatter the sweetcorn on an ungreased flat baking tray and toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until slightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside for later.
  • Heat the rest of the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger and fry for approximately 30 seconds, just to infuse the oil with some flavour.
  • Add the chopped onion and pepper and fry for 5 minutes or until softened and browned slightly.
  • Add the roasted butternut squash to the vegetables with the stock. Cover with a lid, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes.
  • In a separate frying pan, toast the coconut for 2-3 minutes without adding any oil, stirring constantly to prevent it from burning. When browned lightly remove from the heat and put coconut into a bowl. Set aside for later.
  • Add the milk to the saucepan of soup and then use a blender (I use a Billy-whizz hand-blender) to blend the soup until creamy.
  • Stir the cinnamon and nutmeg into the soup. Stir in the toasted sweetcorn and coconut.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes to thicken it up.

Nutritional Information

Per Batch

Energy                   1000 kcal (4187 kJ)

Carbohydrate         123g

Total sugars           70g

Fat                         40g

Saturates               18g

Protein                   29.4g

Fibre                      19.4g

Salt                         7.7g

Per Serving (Serves 4)

Energy                   250kcal (1047 kJ)

Carbohydrate        31g

Total sugars          17.5g

Fat                        10g

Saturates              4.5g

Protein                  7.4g

Fibre                     4.9g

Salt                       1.9g

Suggested Additions

1 x tbsp. of reduced fat crème fraiche = 70kcal/ 293 kJ

1 x tbsp. of low fat natural yogurt = 25 kcal / 105 kJ

A crusty roll = 130 kcal / 545 kJ

½ x naan bread (80g), toasted = 225 kcal / 942 kJ

A poppy/sesame seed bagel, toasted – 275kcal / 1151 kJ

Suggested Ear-Candy

I had a proper good jig about to  Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (first album) and  The Go Team – Thunder Lightning Strike

A hilarious alternative might be this….