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Serves 4

Delicious, crunchy and packed with fibre, protein, iron and folate.

Delicious, crunchy and packed with fibre, protein, iron and folate.

With the weather starting to turn warmer, even if only sporadically and for 2-3 days out of every month in the UK, this weekend was so beautiful that it just wasn’t soupy weather!  I decided to make a nice salad instead – my staple lunch during the summer months being a plate of different mixed salads like those you might see in a health food/wholefood cafe.

You can use green or brown lentils in this salad and these types are especially good in salads and casseroles because they hold their shape well after cooking (yellow and red lentils or split peas have a tendency to go mushy making them better in soups and dahls). They also lend it a really nice crunchy texture and nutty flavour which goes beautifully with the crunchy fresh veggies and parsley.

 

I would eat this salad as a meal on its own, maybe with a tbsp. of low fat hummus, lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and ½ pitta bread. I have eaten it on the side of a main meal such as baked fish or chicken, lasagne, moussaka or as part of a salad plate with other salads in which case I would have 1-2 tbsps. of salad rather than a large plateful. I have included the nutritional information for the whole recipe here so that you can make your own calculations if you decide to portion the salad differently; e.g. if you were to eat it on the side of a main meal rather than as a salad meal in its own right.Lentils are high in fibre, protein and a multitude of vitamins and minerals including iron, folate and calcium. They are low in fat and, because of the high fibre and protein contents, they can really help your stomach to feel fuller for longer making them a great addition to a lunch time meal as this can curb those afternoon snack cravings.

Normally you would find lentils dried and sold in bags ready for cooking although some supermarkets and specialist food stores such as south Asian supermarkets sell them already cooked in cans. I have used dried lentils so I needed to cook them – if you used canned lentils just miss out the first step and be aware that the canning process probably added extra salt to the overall nutritional content as a preservative.

Ingredients
200g dried green lentils or 2 cans cooked, drained green lentils (480g)
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red onion, chopped (or equivalent amount of chopped spring onions)
1 garlic clove, finely diced
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

1 tbsp. olive oil
1.5 tbsp. white wine or cider vinegar
1 tsp. runny honey
2 tsp. lemon juice
Some grated lemon zest (optional)
Ground black pepper

Instructions
1.  Place the lentils in a saucepan with 3 times the amount of cold water as lentils. Bring the water to a boil then reduce the heat and boil gently for 35 – 45 minutes, or until the lentils are soft but retain a bit of crunch. Remove from heat, drain off the water and allow to cool for later.

2.  Finely chop the vegetables and parsley – these will stay raw so small is better unless you particularly like to eat large chunks of raw onion! Mix these together in a big bowl.

3.  In a small bowl, mix together the oil, vinegar, honey, lemon juice, lemon zest (if using) and black pepper. Make sure the honey is well blended with the rest of the ingredients.

4.  Pour the dressing over the vegetables and add the cooked lentils once they have cooled sufficiently.

5.  Stir everything together and put the salad in the fridge for an hour or two to allow the dressing to infuse the vegetables with flavour.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION
per whole recipe

Energy        870 kcal / 3645 kJ
Carbohydrate    132.4g
Fat            15.4g
Protein        54.4g
Total sugar    31.7g
Saturates        3.4g
Fibre            26.0g
Salt            0.1g (check canned lentils for added salt)

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION
per serving (if serving 4)

Energy        220 kcal / 911 kJ
Carbohydrate    33.1g
Fat            3.9g
Protein        13.6g
Total sugar    7.9g
Saturates        0.9g
Fibre            6.5g
Salt            Trace (check canned lentils for added salt)


Serves 6

I was once a resident, for a fabulous 18 months, of Framingham, Massachusetts.  If you don’t know Framingham, well, it’s ok as towns go – they conducted the Framingham Heart Studies there, people were super friendly, there are some lovely places to visit around there like the Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) in Dorchester, Conchord and Walden Pond and I seem to remember a story about the first arrest of a man for wearing a beard taking place in Framingham!  The Chicken Bone bar was fantastically welcoming and fun too but on the whole there wasn’t much of note to shout about, although I should mention that it was 11 years ago that I was forced back to the UK so I can’t speak for current day Framingham!

However, Framingham has excellent rail links to the wonderful Bean Town, or Boston to non-residents and residents alike! I hung out there…A LOT…and I miss it terribly.  Having recently been catching up on my U.S. TV series, namely ’30 Rock’ and ‘American Horror + Asylum’, I have been having a terrible lusting for ol’ Bean Town (there are some convincing and not so convincing Boston accents going on in both programmes!) and having found some black beans in the back of the cupboard – one of my favourite beans in the world – I had to make something in homage.

Bean Town is honoured in this north african inspired black bean, chicken and spinach stew- GO BRUINS!

Bean Town is honoured in this north african inspired black bean, chicken and spinach stew- GO BRUINS!

Serve with a delicious crusty roll or have as a main with rice or tortillas

Serve with a delicious crusty roll or have as a main with rice or tortillas

This is a non-vegetarian soup as I realise that I have posted an awful lot of veggie soups on the blog so far and, although I am a pescatarian (that’s not my religion – it means I eat fish but not meat!) I know that not everybody is and so….tada…concession!  To make it vegetarian just use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock and quorn chucks instead of chicken.  If you don’t like or have never heard of quorn – not sure how global its reach is – just leave it out. There’s plenty of protein in the beans and this soup is low fat and full of fibre too.

Ingredients

350g soaked, cooked and drained black beans

1 tbsp. vegetable/olive oil (10g)

1-2 x cloves garlic, peeled, finely diced (7g)

½ – 1 x green or red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped (6g)

 250g chicken breast, fat trimmed, cut into mouth-sized chunks

**or**

250g quorn chunks, defrosted

1 x white onion, peeled and diced (155g)

1 x red pepper, de-seeded, chopped into small pieces (125g)

2 small carrots, topped and tailed, peeled, cut into 1cm cubes (120g)

½ tsp. powdered cumin

½ tsp. smoked or regular powdered paprika

½ ground black pepper

800 ml chicken or vegetable stock (1 x 10g cube)

400g canned tomatoes, chopped

300g frozen spinach (about 10 balls)

1 tsp. powdered cumin

½ tsp. smoked or regular powdered paprika

Black pepper to taste

4 cloves (optional)

Instructions

  • Soak the black beans in cold water overnight – unless you are lucky enough to live somewhere where you can buy ready-cooked black beans in cans – I’m well jell of you do! Cook in boiling water for approximately 1 – 1.5 hours until soft. Drain and set aside for later.
  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the chilli and ginger and fry for 30-60 seconds to infuse the oil with their flavour.
  •  If using chicken, add to the pan with ½ tsp. cumin, ½ tsp. paprika and ½ tsp. ground black pepper. Stir regularly until browned on outside.
  •  Add the onion, red pepper and carrots and the quorn chunks, if you are using this instead of chicken.  Fry for approximately 6-8 minutes, until softened.
  •  Add the stock, tomatoes, spinach, cooked black beans and the rest of the cumin and paprika. Add more black pepper if desired.
  •  Add the cloves to the soup. I got creative and put them into one of those loose leaf tea strainer things so that I didn’t have to fish around for them or risk chomping down on one halfway through eating my stew!  If you don’t have one then you may just need to take this risk!
  •  Bring to the boil then reduce heat, cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes.
You haven't had beans til you've bean to Boston!

You haven’t had beans til you’ve bean to Boston!

Nutritional Information

Per Batch

Energy                 2000  kcal (8368 kJ)

Carbohydrate    138.8g

Total sugars        44.7g

Fat                          25.9g

Saturates             3.4g

Protein                 107.0g

Fibre                      47.0g

Salt                         6.1g

Per Serving (Serves 6)

Energy                   334 kcal (1398 kJ)

Carbohydrate     23.1g

Total sugars        7.5g

Fat                          4.3g

Saturates             0.6g

Protein                 17.8g

Fibre                      7.8g

Salt                         1.0g

Suggested Additions

1 x tbsp. of reduced fat fromage frais = 30 kcal/ 125 kJ

1 x tbsp. of soured cream = 62kcal/ 260 kJ

1 x white crusty bread roll (50g) = 130kcal / 545 kJ

150g of boiled white/brown rice = 210kcal / 880 kJ

30g nacho/tortilla chips = 140 kcal / 586 kJ

200g sweet potato chips or wedges (cooked in 1/2 tbsp. oil) =220 kcal / 921 kJ

–          Use butternut squash instead and it will be only 72kcal / 302 kJ

Suggested Ear Candy

So, with the promise of a delicious bean-laden dinner of stew on the horizon and thoughts of Boston, MA on my mind, I had to pay yet another visit down Memory Lane. 

Cake were a band I discovered whilst I was living in the U.S. thanks to the fandom of my particularly lovely friend, dancing buddy and housemate, Dan from Canada. Nostalgia is a passion of mine and part of the reason I started this blog was so I could make myself opportunities and excuses to listen to the old, forgotten CDs of my lesser years. 

Fashion Nugget by Cake is one that I get out on a fairly regular basis.  It’s fun, quirky, incredibly danceable and singalongable and has 2 of the best cover songs on it that I have ever heard – especially ‘Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps’, originally a Doris Day number I believe.

 

 Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps by Cake, with a hilarious video and English/Italian subtitles in case you want to do any wooing!

Cake – official band website

 

Here’s a wee something from Boston locals, The Dropkick Murphys too – some great views of the Charles River with the Pru’ and John Hancock towers in the background – *sigh*

 

The Dropkick Murphys – official band website


Serves 4

Stay with me, now….!  It may sound strange, and that is exactly what I thought when I found the recipe in the Hamlyn book of soups and that was exactly why I had to try it out!  I have an inquisitive tummy!

Also, having lived in Boston, Massachusetts for 1.5 years as a vegetarian I was anxious to try out a fishy chowder of any description as I had missed out on the Boston classic, clam chowder!  Smoked fish is much easier to come by when you’re slap-bang in the middle of the North of England!

Well, I tried and I liked very much!  I have since made it with 3 different types of smoked fish I had lurking in my freezer and all were equally as creamy, smoky, fragrant and delicious.

It tastes a lot like a fish pie, only the potatoes are not mashed but included in the soup so they soak up all the scrumptious smoky flavours. If you’re a fan of fish pie then I highly recommend you try this.

I have tweaked the recipe a bit, adding sweetcorn and prawns and missing out the butter which it used to fry the onion and potato to make it a little lower in saturated fat, although I imagine it does add a little something to the flavour.  Parsley might be a nice addition too. If you wanted this as a main meal you could cook the potatoes separately and mash for a topping, reduce the amount of milk to around half, add in some cornflour to thicken the sauce and double the amount of fish and prawns. Nom!

Taste of the sea - smoky and delicious!

Taste of the sea – smoky and delicious!

Ingredients

1 tbsp. vegetable/olive oil (10g)

2 x small-medium sized onions, peeled and chopped (220g)

350g potatoes, cut into 1cm cubes

800ml semi-skimmed milk

1 fish stock cube (10g cube)

2 bay leaves

¼ tsp. nutmeg

Black or white pepper to taste

250g smoked white fish (haddock, cod, river cobbler, etc.)

Fish Pie Soup - smoky fish, prawns, spinach and sweetcorn

Fish Pie Soup – smoky fish, prawns, spinach and sweetcorn

150g spinach (fresh or frozen)

100g sweetcorn, canned or frozen

100g large prawns, peeled and cut in half

Instructions

  • Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and fry for approximately 5 minutes, until softened but not browned.
  •  Add the diced potatoes and fry for 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the potatoes are browned slightly.
  •  Add the milk, bay leaves, nutmeg and pepper.
  •  Place the fish fillets whole in the milk. Bring to the boil then reduce heat, cover and simmer for approximately 10 minutes.
  •  Remove the fish fillets and set aside until cooled. Continue to allow the milk to simmer to cook the potatoes.
  •  When cooled, remove any skin and bones from the fish.  Flake the fish and stir it back into the milk.
  •  Add the spinach and sweetcorn, stirring it into the milk. If frozen simmer for 3-5 minutes until defrosted. 
  • Add the prawns and cook for a further 3-5 minutes.
Smoking Fish

Smoking Fish

Nutritional Information

Per Batch

Energy                  1337 kcal (5594 kJ)

Carbohydrate    145.4g

Total sugars        63.4g

Fat                          32.7g

Saturates             13.0g

Protein                 126.0g

Fibre                      12.1g

Salt                         12.3g

Per Serving (Serves 4)

Smoking Fish

Smoking Fish

Energy                  335 kcal (1402 kJ)

Carbohydrate    36.4g

Total sugars        15.9g

Fat                          8.2g

Saturates             3.3g

Protein                 31.5g

Fibre                      3.0g

Salt                         3.1g

Suggested Additions

A crusty roll (50g) = 130 kcal / 545 kJ

1 rasher of bacon, grilled and sliced = 80 kcal / 335 kJ

1 hard-boiled egg, peeled, chopped into 4-8 pieces = 80 kcal / 335 kJ

A moat of mashed potato, made with semi-skimmed milk (2 scoops or 120g) = 125kcal / 523 kJ

Suggested Ear Candy

I was feeling surprisingly nautical so had to stick on some Seasick Steve – gotta stick with the theme!

You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks by Seasick Steve


Seasick Steve – offical website

Of course, if you really wanted to stretch that sea-faring theme as far as possible there’s always Climie Fisher!

Love Changes Everything by ClimieFisher