Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Loaded Sweet Potato Skins

 I love sweet potatoes! I think they are such a versatile veg, you can do so much to them. I have two particular favourites however, one of them is sweet potato mash and the other is loaded sweet potato skins. I am actually going to give you both recipe here today because they both start the same and the skins just take it that step further. Before we get into the lovely world of baking a sweet tattie though let's just have a look at the actual root veg itself. This sweet little root contains 283% of your daily Vitamin A allowance in only 100gm, it also has Vitamin B6, Magnesium, a little bit of Iron and some Vitamin C, dietary fiber and some sugar - it is called a sweet potato after all.  

Ingredients for the Mash - serves 2

2 medium sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons of full fat cream cheese
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste 

Ingredients for the loaded skins
This serves 4 people is served with salad or as part of a meal or 2 hungry people

2 medium sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons of full fat cream cheese
250gm beef / soya mince
200gm chorizo
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 medium red onion
2 large cloves of garlic
1 tsp olive oil
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
100-150 Grated manchego or parmigiano cheese - depends on how cheesy you want it!

  1. Turn your oven to 200c’ fan and 210C’ non fan. Take a baking tray and line it with foil
  2. Gently oil the sweet potatoes or alternatively you can use a tiny bit of melted butter and season them with salt. This makes the skin crispy. Bake until a knife goes through them easily. That is usually about 40 minutes for me.
  3. Take the cook potatoes out of the oven and split in two, scoop out the lovely orange flesh in a bowl, add the cream cheese salt and pepper and mash with a form. At this stage you have your sweet potato mash. You may need to warm it through in a pot, just please don’t microwave it! It’s blasphemy, serve it properly!  
  4. If you are making the loaded skins you can put the mash to one side, put the skins back on the tray. And give them 5 minutes in the over on their own if they want them even crispier. Be careful they burn fast. Also be sure to have shaped them into nice little boats before you crisp them up.
  5. In a pan soften your onions in a teaspoon of olive oil, add the chorizo and crisp it up.
  6. Add the mince, make sure it is in nice little chunks, there is nothing worse that giant lumps of mince. Add the garlic and smoked paprika. Season to taste with salt and pepper. And saute until the mince is cooked through. Drain any excess fat that you do not want.
  7. Dish out the mash in equal amounts back into the skins. Top with the cooked mince and chorizo mix, top with the grated cheese and put under the grill for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden.
  8. Service with a nice green salad!

Bon Appetit!  

Saturday, 9 April 2016

A Week in Salads - The Tuna Medley

My last salad and it is a stunner! This came about as a “oh dear what have I got in the fridge that needs eating”.  Turns out I had quite a lot actually. Initially I had something very different planned but as I was looking through my veggie crisper on Thursday night I was inspired. I am sticking to my need for protein as I have started running and I don’t want to give myself the excuse or option to stop. I won’t lie I was a little uncertain about what I was putting together at first but it turned out to be super delicious and very refreshing. What you need for the tuna medley is:


1 can of dolphin safe tuna in brine - not oil
½ gemme lettuce
½ avocado
Two tomatoes or a handful of cherry ones
⅓ of a cucumber
150gm asparagus blanched  
150 cooked broccoli
1 teaspoon mayo
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 hard boiled egg, optional

You may have  gathered from the previous posts that making the salads is essentially a toss all in a bowl and mix. I miss the mayo and tuna together and add it on top along with the egg once i had mixed and seasoned all the veggies. It makes it look very pretty. Really it is up to you how you will arrange your salad.

Try not to deny your cravings. Cravings is the undoing of all healthy food plans, they make your efforts unpleasant and eventually you crack. We have already talked about cheat days, and this is essentially what the cheat day is for.  If you want to have a piece of chocolate or a cake then then do. If you can make it be a healthier version of your original craving and feel satisfied then you are a genious and a better person than me. BE CAREFUL though! Do not eat a whole cheesecake (in one day…) or a box of 12 Krispy Kremes like I did. If you are having a low sugar diet having your cheat day be filled with sugary treats will just set you back to the beginning. Try and think things through and find healthy alternatives to the foods you crave such as: 

    • Avocado chocolate mousse
    • Dark chocolate instead of milk or chocolate covered nuts
    • Raisins and dried fruit instead of sweets
    • Roast your own nuts with spices instead of crisps   

I know that all of this seems “easy to say hard to do” but I am only sharing what I have already experienced myself. It is not easy that is true but it is not easy to begin with when you are figuring out the balance of it all, what works and what doesn’t what you like and what you don’t. Let us all be honest and  admit that it is a part of life, you do it with every other aspect of existence, we spend days trying to figure out the best mobile phone to get and research smartwatches for weeks before we buy one. Why not be as careful with our food, we are what we eat at the end and I for one want to be a lovely seasonal salad!

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, 7 April 2016

A Week in Salads - Prawn Cocktail with a zing!

 Oh the famous prawn cocktail, it has gone through so many permutations, so why not put it through one more. I love prawns and I just had to do this because I love the combination of sweet prawns and creamy avocado. Prawns are also a great source of protein as is most seafood, they are also quite high on cholesterol however and 100gm of prawn contains 63% of your daily allowance. I know not all cholesterol is bad, and I tried to see if there was a further nutritional breakdown of this but I couldn’t find one. Here is what you need for this lovely salad. I found that this was just a little on the large side when I made this


150gm of cooked King Prawns
1 gemme lettuce or ½ Cos lettuce
½ bell pepper
⅓ cucumber
½ avocado
2 hard boiled eggs
Salt to taste
Sriracha Sauce for that Zing!

For the dressing
3 tablespoons greek yogurt
1 ½ tablespoons Tomato ketchup


In a large bowl put all the veggies and the prawns together. Mix the yogurt and the tomato ketchup well and add to the salad. Cut the eggs into quarters. Transfer the salad to your serving plate, put the eggs on top and drizzle with the Sriracha sauce. If you don’t want that little bit of heat then skip this step. Eat!

Tips and Ideas: One of my biggest failures over the years when dieting was that I had built it around a reward system. I ate too little, I ate the wrong things, I was permanently hungry, fatigued and irritable. I love food, cooking and the experience of a delicious meal. My diets were not allowing me to enjoy any of that. It felt like the only way of motivating myself was giving myself little treats for goals reached. The problem is that you spoil some if not all of the hard work that you had done so far. It is a one step forward two step back method of slimming down, and it is in no way healthy or sustainable.  
Dinner becomes your reward for doing well through the day, you had an apple for breakfast, two almonds as a snack and a stick of carrot and celery for lunch so it is ok to have a pot of pasta with 4 cheese sauce bacon and a whole garlic bread to yourself, and yes I have actually had that exact day! If you like me were dieting wrong and denying yourself too much food, then you like me would latch on to the first opportunity to find an excuse and eat something sweet, rich and/or extremely decadent.

If you feel the need to be constantly rewarding yourself with naughty treats then you have to re-evaluate how you are eating. The best way for me was to build in a cheat day. One day a week when I eat whatever I want. No guilt! And no don’t be nuts and say “Wednesday is my cheat day” move it around to suit your life, birthdays, weddings, work outings, that awesome cheese festival in town. Being too regimented can set you up to fail. What surprised me is how often I was not actually interested in changing my diet on the cheat day, and my cheat days are predominantly used for events. I can say though that is easily due to the fact that I am not dieting, I am not on a regime aimed at losing weight. I am on a lifestyle change aimed at a healthier me. Therefore I changed my diet, I think about what I eat, I plan meals, I cook at home, which gives me greater control over fat, sugar, carbs and salt. I do falter, Easter was a MASSIVE 3 day binge of sugar and fat, but I don’t feel bad because that is not the norm. I believe the concept of dieting is dangerous, useless and unsustainable and I hope these posts inspire you to think about your eating habits on a long term basis.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

A week in Salads - Italian Inspired Chicken, Avocado and Mozzarella

Day 3 of the Week of Salads, I don’t know about you guys but I am feeling pretty good, I am not bloated, I am not tired, I am not hungry and I am excited about my next salad.

I picked this salad so that we have a good amount of protein intake, the chicken avocado and mozzarella are all good protein foods, but they also combine to have a nice balance in other minerals and vitamins. The mozzarella is high in calcium, the avocado has Vitamin C, A, B-6, Iron and Magnesium, it also has a good amount of dietary fiber and potassium, and the chicken is the big protein hitter although you also have some in the avocado and mozzarella.

Ingredients for one portion
½ Mixed salad bag
½ chicken breast cooked
½ bell pepper
½ avocado
½ a ball of mozzarella cheese
Handful of cherry tomatoes
Bit of olive oil
Salt to taste
Balsamic Glaze (optional but I love it)


This is another really easy one, chop the veggies and chicken, put in a bowl, mix with olive oil and season with salt. Tear up the mozzarella and add to the salad. If like me you are in love with the Balsamic Glaze add a little on top and eat!  

Tips and Ideas - Snacks I don’t know about you but I love snacking, especially on a weekend or in the evening. I also snack when I am bored. I found that so many of what I considered to be healthy snacks however were again crammed full of sugar, or salt or fat or a combination of these. I also found that because snacks are so little it is easy to make excuses and have two or three portions and tell yourself it’s ok it’s just a small snack. When you start paying attention however and start calculating the extra calories, fat and sugar you are consuming through your “healthy” snacks you realise that you are actually just transferring calories from your main meals into this smaller in between meals. I am not going to tell you  NOT to snack, in the contrary. I will actually suggest that you do. However I would like to also suggest that you seriously alter what you snack on, and try and be aware of how often, how much and what you snack on. Going back to yesterday’s post, it is actually better for your metabolism and digestion to eat less and a bit more often. Here is a list of snacks and quantities that I found work well for me to keep me happy and satiated and keep cravings away:

Morning Snacks: I do get nibbly at about 10:30-11 it is such a silly time, not late enough for lunch too late for breakfast. It is a dangerous time for me, I can reach for the chocolate, crisps or cake, instead I have one of these:
  • A banana or
  • A couple of spoonfuls of natural yogurt with a handful of berries, or
  • An apple or pear

Afternoon and Evening snacks: Same scenario happens at 3pm and sometimes at 8pm. Ideally you should try and avoid eating too late as it can affect your sleep but if you feel the need to snack again here are my go to favourites:
  • A medium carrot and 1 large tablespoon of unsweetened nut butter - peanut or almond usually. I know it sounds weird but carrots and peanut butter are awesome! I sometimes have celery instead.
  • A handful of nuts and raisins or dried apricots.
  • Stripps of red or yellow pepper and 20-30gm of feta cheese
  • Cottage cheese and avocado or cottage cheese on half a slice of rye bread and a teaspoon of jam.
  • A boiled egg with avocado
  • A small bowl of popcorn - minimum salt/butter absolutely no sugar
  • 2 squares dark chocolate when having giant chocolate eclair dream cravings - I can’t eat just one eclair so this is the one food I avoid like the plague because I eat a box or two at a go.

There are a million other snacks you can have, you just need to remember to be smart about it and not use it as a reward but as an addition to all the good yummy things you are are already having. This is the other thing, if you go into this with a negative attitude of “Oh I am dieting” then just don’t bother, you will be back on the deep fat fried shit and wondering why your jeans don’t fit in a month. You need to embrace this and realise just how good it can be and just how much choice you have, you need to realise you are not giving anything up because you aren’t.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

A week in Salads - Beetroot, Sweetcorn and Feta

Day two of my Salad adventure sees is paying homage to the humble beetroot. When I was planning this week I wanted to make sure that the salads weren’t just low calories, that is easily done. I wanted them to be highly nutritional using ingredients that gave your body the minerals and vitamins it needs to function healthily. Beetroot is an amazing little root vegetable, it can be eaten raw or cooked and really shouldn’t be treated any different to carrots. A 100gm of beetroot has only 43 calories and contains 11% of your RDA of fiber, 4% iron; it also have vitamin C, B-6 and Magnesium.

This beetroot salad does need a little bit of preparation the night before mainly for the onions. The rest can be put together in 5 minutes at work. I actually have two different versions and will give you both recipes as one is with sweetcorn and the other with lentils and mushrooms.

Ingredients for Beetroot & Sweetcorn

  • 2 medium beetroots - cooked & cubed
  • ½ can of sweetcorn - try and get the one without salt
  • 100gm fresh garden peas or ½ can - the fresh ones are sweeter and nicer
  • 1 small red onion
  • 50gm Feta Cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Cooked Broccoli - Optional
  • Balsamic glaze/dressing - optional
Method 1:
  1. Slice the onion in half and then into very fine half crescents. Put in a container with the balsamic vinegar.This macerates the onions taking away the raw bite of them and leaving behind their sweetness.

  1. Add the beetroot to the container after 20 minutes and leave overnight in the fridge

  1. Pre-cook your broccoli leave it to cool and leave to the side, do not add it to the beets and onion mix until you want to put the salad together

  1. Put the salad together by mixing all the vegetables in a bowl, dress with the olive oil and salt to taste.

  1. Crumble the feta on top

  1. If you like me love a bit of balsamic glaze/dressing drizzle it over. DOnt forget that adds to the calories as does any dressing  
Ingredients - Beetroot and Lentils

  • 2 medium beetroots - cooked and cubed
  • ½ can green lentils - drained and washed
  • 100 gm cooked mushrooms
  • 1 small red onion
  • 50gm Feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Cooked Broccoli - Optional
Method 2:

  1. Slice the onion in half and then into very fine half crescents. Put in a container with the balsamic vinegar.This macerates the onions taking away the raw bite of them and leaving behind their sweetness.

  1. Add the beetroot to the container after 20 minutes.

  1. Pre-cook your mushrooms and add them to the beets. Leave in the fridge overnight to marry the flavours.

  1. Pre-cook your broccoli leave it to cool and leave to the side, do not add it to the beets and onion mix until you want to put the salad together

  1. Put the salad together by mixing all the vegetables in a bowl, dress with the olive oil and salt to taste.

  1. Crumble the feta on top

  1. If you like me love a bit of balsamic glaze/dressing drizzle it over. DOnt forget that adds to the calories as does any dressing  

This salad may need a bit of prep before hand but it is truly delicious, it has lovely sweetness from the sweetcorn and broccoli, or a deep rich earthy flavour if you got for the mushroom and lentil option. 

Tips and Ideas: I have already had a few people worry that a salad is not enough for lunch that they will be hungry, and want to snack all the way through, it will make them grumpy. Over the next two days I hope to share with you how I overcome this.

Make sure that you have breakfast.Breakfast is key to any healthy diet. Having a good breakfast will mean that you won’t be hungry at 11, you will have energy to carry you through to lunch and you won’t have as many cravings. It also helps with maintaining a healthy and faster metabolism. Skipping meals actually slows your metabolism down as your body goes into hunger mode and starts to store all food as fat.   

A good breakfast can be a couple of eggs, they are full of protein, vitamin D and calcium and actually make you full despite their small size, you can add some healthy fat with half an avocado. Alternatively an avocado on rye bread with some cottage cheese is delicious. Porridge is also good but do be careful what you flavour it with, you can easily slip here and go over the top on the sugar by adding too much honey or jam or other such things. Beware the pre-prepared flavoured porridge packets, some or full of sugar and additives.   

Bon Apettite!

Monday, 4 April 2016

A week in Salads - The Shopska

Summer is coming! Or so we here in the UK are hoping. We have holidays planned, beaches we want to go to and we are already stressing about our beach bodies! Training regimes and diets forgotten after January have been picked up again in the hope that we can look presentable in our swimwear.

So many of my friends - girl friends mostly - are going on crazy diets, which have them eating too little or has them eating the wrong things. As someone that has seriously struggled with weight and has yoyo dieted many times, I know how hard it is to feel in control. 

In light of this I thought I would do a series of salads for lunch that are both healthy, low in calories but also filling. They can be prepared beforehand and simply dressed once you are at work or you can make them at work if you have a kitchen that allows you to do that. The idea is that you have a healthy meal for lunch that makes you feel good about what you are eating, gives you the nutrition that you need and helps in your goal towards that beach ready body.  

The first salad I am starting with is my favourite and one eaten a lot through Eastern Europe. It is called a Shopska Salad, it is named after a region and its peoples in Bulgaria. It is simple, fresh and extremely delicious.

Ingredients for a single serving:

This does make a large salad but as this will be your main meal for the middle of the day that is ok. The quantities really are quite individual if you like more tomatoes and less pepper or onion then change it to suit your taste. The below is simply a guideline.

50gm Feta cheese
2 large tomatoes, or a hand full of cherry tomatoes
2 spring onions
⅓ of a large cucumber
1 fresh bell pepper of 2 roast peppers*  
1 tsp olive oil
Salt to taste - be careful don’t forget the feta is already very salty.

*You can buy Jars of roasted peppers at the foreign section of most supermarkets - Lidl and Aldi have big jars.  


This couldn’t be simpler, chop all the vegetables season with the oil and salt, crumble the feta and enjoy!  

Some tips and ideas: Along with the salads I thought I would give some tips and ideas on how to make the change of diet a pleasant and successful one. This is all based on my own personal experience. I have trial and errored a lot of things but once I got the hang of it I can happily say that this way of healthy eating becomes part of everyday life rather than a 4 week exercise that you attempt because you need to drop some kilos. You can enjoy everything that you love and maintain a healthy body and mind. I am a huge glutton so if I can do it anyone can, trust me! Todays tip is:

Give up Sugar. If you want to slim down and do it healthy you will have to give up the majority of sugar that you eat. It is that simple. This does not mean ALL sugar. Sugars occur in some form or other in most of our foods. What I mean is give up the added sugar. I still have a level teaspoon in my morning coffee and eat the occasional cake, I see nothing wrong with that. The first two weeks will be hard as your body adjusts to less sugar but after that you will find that too much sugar makes you really unhappy, so it is worth the discomfort!! 

An important thing to know it is that "sugar" is the overall term for several different chemical substances; fructose, glucose and sucrose - all types of "sugar" - are absorbed by the body in the same way. Therefore fruit sugars, honey, agave and all the rest of the natural sweeteners that we are told are healthy alternatives to sugar are also technically “sugar”, your body does not distinguish. The key to eating those foods is the strength of sweetness and the quantity you use. Let me explain. A spoonful of honey has 22 calories compared to 16 in a spoonful of sugar. So why is honey considered a healthier alternative? Honey is much much sweeter and denser than sugar so you need a lot less of it to achieve the same effect, therefore having less of the fructose and glucose, which are the two sugars that predominantly make up honey. Honey is also rich on minerals and nutrients and has some antibiotic properties, processed sugar has none of that. 

I hope that you find this helpful. Too many young people these days go through drastic measures to slim down because they either have no inspiration, or too little information, both things that are easily fixed. 

Bon Apettite!