Rich Red Wine Meatballs with Vegetable Pasta

There is nothing better on a chilly day that a warming rich bowl of something tasty and satisfying. Try this low carb version of meatballs and pasta. I use ready made meatballs from a reputable source.

Serves 4

16 large meatballs (4 per serving) baked for about 30 minutes (180 fan oven)

Rich Red Wine Sauce

1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. of garlic flavoured oil

1 red onion sliced

2 small glasses of red wine

1/2 small glass of port

1 tsp italien herbs or bouquet garni

1 beef oxo cube

salt and pepper

Fry the onion in the oil and butter until starting to caramelise, add herbs. Pour in red wine and port, oxo cube and seasoning. allow to reduce until it is starting to thicken. this will take about 30 minutes, but is well worth the wait!

Vegetable Pasta

1 good sized butternut squash peeled and spirallized

4-5 large carrots peeled and spirallized

1/2 savoy cabbage finely sliced

1 Pack of Pepperoni (or you could use bacon if you prefer)

1/3 pint of vegetable stock

salt and pepper

Place the spirallized butternut squash and carrots in the lidded wok and pour over the vegetable stock, put the lid on and allow to steam for 10 minutes. Meanwhile fry the pepperoni until beginning to crisp and add the finely sliced cabbage stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, but do not allow it to burn. Tip the cabbage into the spirallized vegetables, remove the lid and allow the remaining stock to evaporate off.

Assembly

Divide the vegetable pasta between 4 serving bowls with 4 meatballs per person. Pour over the red wine sauce and serve.

 

 

 

‘Healthy’ British Fry-Up

A healthy fry-up? Despite the apparent oxymoron for low-carbers this one works pretty well. For me it covers all the areas that a good fry-up requires. It is very satisfying and it is my ultimate savory comfort food – so much so that occasionally we have it for tea (evening meal/dinner). I guess that would almost make it a mixed grill in theory? Either way it is one of my favourites – quick and satisfying, but impressive enough to serve to non-carbing breakfast/brunch guests.

Obviously the quantities depend on how many you are feeding…

Irish sausages (Clonakilty ones are the best, but Richmond are good too)

Rashers of bacon (for a traditional English/Irish breakfast this has to be back bacon)

Chestnut mushrooms (fried in butter)

Tinned Plum Tomatoes

Fresh free range eggs (I like Duck eggs for a treat)

Gallettes (makes 4 large gallettes) – 4 heaped tablespoons of oat bran; 3 tablespoons ground linseed; 1 beaten egg; 2-3 oz grated cheddar cheese; 1-2 tablespoons cream; salt and pepper.

Mix together all the ingredients for the gallettes– you should get quite a solid looking mixture. Fry tablespoon sized dollops of the mixture in some butter or coconut oil – both work well – for about 5 minutes until lightly browned then filp them to brown the other side.

While you wait for the gallettes to brown you can start to grill the bacon. I like it cooked until it’s nice and crispy (this takes about 20 minutes – I use the grill on my combi microwave, but you could easily use a conventional grill). Then put the sausages into a baking tin (use a deep tin if you have one) and bake them in a pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes – 200°C.

Once the gallettes are lightly browned you can pop them in the oven (on a low shelf) to finish off – give them about 10 minutes so they are completely cooked in the middle. I find these can be kept in the oven until you need them as the cheese just gets crispier, but I wouldn’t leave them more than 20 minutes without turning the heat down!

Tip the tinned plum tomatoes into a saucepan and heat them up.

Quarter the mushrooms and fry in butter and oil – it is essential to combine the butter with some oil to prevent the butter burning – I use rapeseed oil for this (for an even healthier option you can simmer them in a little vegetable stock if you prefer – the result is just as good).

Once all the elements are ready it is time to fry the eggs – I like them flipped (is that ‘over-easy’ in the States?), but cook them however you like them. If you prefer you could poach or scramble them.

With the gallettes at the bottom,  to soak up all those amazing flavours, pile up all those delicious cooked ingredients and tuck in!

Variations/additions: Try adding some slices of black or white pudding; pork chops or pork loin; fillet steak; or if you are feeling adventurous try lambs kidneys.

 

 

 

 

 

French Problems

I have reached the point where I am feeling less motivated about healthy eating –this is reflected in the large takeaway pizza box that has been hidden in the recycling box…

After Easter we went to a lovely little spa resort in Normandy, France. I knew that food-wise this would be, shall we say, problematic. Once I go into holiday mode it’s as though my logical brain switches off and the indulgence methodology sets firmly in. I had an amazing time and consumed croissants, French patisserie, baguettes, cheese and wine galore. I can’t say I regret it, but I do feel guilty that my immoderation caused me to gain half a stone (7lbs). I did have a wonderful time though.

So, two weeks later and the children are back at University, we’ve adjusted to being back in Ol’ Blighty and I’m back racing around school. In that time, I have almost managed to lose my French weight. I’m getting back into the fasting routine and because work is so busy I don’t have time to think about food; I start work at 7.30 and leave work at 4.30 – I usually work through break and lunch so I have less work to take home in the evenings; weekdays are working well. However, the thing I am having an issue with is the desire to treat myself at the weekend, which in my book starts the minute I leave work on Friday. I need to find healthy treats that feel indulgent, but that don’t damage all the hard work I am doing during the week, we’ll see how that goes.

This weekend – aside from the moment of pizza madness on Friday night – I’ve been pretty good, actually I’ve been very good overall, despite the urges to be more than a bit naughty. Next weekend we are celebrating my parent’s 50th Wedding Anniversary, so I will need to be extra good this week to compensate. After that I should be in a fairly safe zone until the summer – fingers crossed!

 

What low carb/paleo treats work for you?

Fajita Chicken

This is a really quick and tasty dish for those evenings where you just want something fast, simple and scrummy.

Fry chicken and bacon in coconut oil until cooked through and then smother with fajita seasoning. While the chicken is cooking, slice some onion and asparagus and fry in a little coconut oil. When the onion is just beginning to brown add a handful of button mushroom for the last few minutes of cooking and season. Use the last few minutes of cooking time to throw together a quick salad of iceberg lettuce, beef tomato, avocado, cucumber, red pepper and jalapeños and you’re ready to go. I like to serve it with a little houmous and some sour cream.

Mega-Omelette

We started ‘meatless Fridays’ to avoid the temptation of the evil Friday night takeaway that had become our mainstay. After a long week teaching, I resent having to cook when I get home on a Friday night and I needed something that was effortless, quick and very tasty as well as being speedy to prepare and cook. This Mega-Omelette is my ultimate fast food and can be prepared and ready to eat in about 10 minutes.

6 large eggs

1 packet asparagus (chopped)

1 medium onion (sliced)

4-5 chestnut mushrooms (sliced)

1 pointy red pepper (sliced)

2-3oz grated cheddar cheese (goat’s cheese also works well)

salt and pepper

1 tsp coconut oil

Serves 2-3

Preheat the grill on the highest setting. Using a frying pan that you can put under the grill safely, fry the onion, asparagus and pepper in the coconut oil. After 2-3 minutes add the mushrooms and fry for another couple of minutes while you beat the eggs. Season the vegetable and pour over the egg mixture. Keep the omelette on a high heat and use a spatula to slowly scrape the setting egg mixture into the middle to aid cooking. When the egg is still runny on top leave the omelette to set (or you’ll end up with scrambled egg – which would be just as tasty!). Once the bottom has started to brown (when the edges of the omelette will be beginning to brown the bottom will be too. Pop the omelette under the grill to finish off cooking the top. Then sprinkling over the grated cheese and allow it melt under the grill for a minute or two.

I like to sprinkle Sumac over the omelette to add an interesting twist and my husband likes to drizzle Balsamic Glaze over his.

This can be eaten on its own or you could serve it with a simple salad.

 

 

Moving forward

So, my fears of plateauing were fairly short lived – let’s just say the past month has been slow progress, but there has been movement. I’m now only 1lb away from my end of month target, which I didn’t think I’d manage to reach. That means that I am only 2lbs from having lost 2 stone (28lbs), admittedly about a stone of that came off in the first few weeks, but I’m pleased with the progress and for those of you who are undergoing a similar progress please don’t rely on the scales – I find that weekly measuring is key to not losing heart when the scales seem to be against you.

I found that when I was ‘stuck’ a few weeks back that I was still losing inches (it might only be 1/4 or 1/2 an inch but that is enough to help keep you motivated) and after a bit of research I discovered that your body can go through adjustment periods when it apparently holds onto water replace the lost fat, which it later expels when it realises it doesn’t need it. I don’t know if this is actually true but the idea really helped me get through those weeks of no movement on the scales. In addition, I found that a little bit of naughtiness can help you get back on the straight and narrow. I had a take away Balti with some rice and a chapati. I really enjoyed eating it, but I didn’t enjoy how I felt afterwards!! Within about an hour I felt sluggish, bloated and tired. I started overheating (this is something that I don’t get so much when I’m low-carbing) despite the weather being decidedly chilly. I decided then that eating carbs just wasn’t worth the awful feeling afterwards.

I’ve managed all this so far without adding exercise to the mix. I know this is something I need to make time for. I did think of giving you a list of excuses – I’m a genius at finding reasons for not doing it, but if I’m being entirely honest – I’m just too lazy. Eventually I will find the motivation and then I will be exercising everyday with a tendency to be just a little bit obsessive, but until then I’ll just stick to the lifestyle change/diet. (I’m trying really hard to see this way of eating as a lifestyle choice rather than a diet!)

It’s difficult to know for sure the full range of benefits healthier living will bring, but I definitely feel more energetic, much less uncomfortable, bloated and tired, and generally happier overall. Whether I reach my target weight by the end of the year will remain to be seen, but as long as I feel more confident, healthier and happier it will be worth the inevitable bumps and falls during the journey!

What about you? How do you keep yourself motivated and moving forward?

Slightly Spicy Cabbage

½ sweetheart cabbage (sliced thinly)

2 shallots (chopped finely)

1 pointed red pepper (sliced)

6 baby plum tomatoes (halved)

2 large field mushrooms (chopped)

1 clove garlic (minced)

1 tbsp. coconut oil

Ground Sumac (a good alternative for this would be ground paprika)

Serves 2-3

  • Brown the shallots in the coconut oil, then add the sliced red pepper and the minced garlic
  • Once the pepper is starting to soften add the plum tomatoes and mushrooms.
  • When the mushrooms are starting to cook add the cabbage and fry off for about 5 minutes or until the cabbage is just starting to turn translucent.
  • Tip into a warmed dish and sprinkle over the ground Sumac (or paprika).
  • You can keep this warm in the oven for 10 -15 minutes until your protein dish is ready if you need to.

I used Bart’s Ground Sumac. It adds a lovely flavour which is slightly spicy and gives a delicious warmness to the dish. It’s a good flavour to try if you fancy experimenting, but you don’t want to try anything too outrageous.