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Hallouminize! Low Carb Cheese Love

21 Jul

What started as a chaste taste in a local Greek restaurant quickly became an obsession.  Worryingly, after a while I became the single white female… of Halloumi cheese!  After the first time I tried this cheese, I loved and purchased it so much that after a point there was just always some in my fridge and I worried when I came close to running out.  And like many of the worlds relationships, familiarity bred contempt and we simply lost touch.

But on reflection of the good times and what I might be missing, am back in love again.  Halloumi, a traditional Cypriot cheese, is a really great cheese, especially for low carb – especially handy if you are including a ‘guest cheese’ in your weekly fridge line up – try it! This from its Wikipedia entry:

Halloumi cheese originated in Cyprusand was initially made during the Medieval Byzantine period, subsequently gaining popularity throughout the rest of the Middle East region. Industrial halloumi contains more cow’s milk than goat and sheep milk. This reduces the cost but changes the taste and the grilling properties.  The cheese is white, with a distinctive layered texture, similar to mozzarella, and has a salty flavour. It is stored in its natural juices with salt-water, and can keep for up to a year if frozen below −18 °C (0 °F) and defrosted to +4 °C (39 °F) for sale at supermarkets. It is often garnished with mint to add to the taste. Traditionally, the mint leaves were used as a preservative, the use serendipitously discovered when the fresh Halloumi was kept wrapped for freshness and flavour from the mint leaves. Hence, if you look closely, many packaged Halloumi will have bits of mint leaf on the surface of the cheese.

As  I have said before, I do love savoury foods and am not averse to the pretty salty flavour of this cheese from the sat water in which it is stored.  But its an amazingly versatile cheese choice in my opinion because: 1) It doesn’t melt when cooking like most cheeses, 2) you don’t get the cheese overload you might anticipate if you’re not normally a lover of cheese on its own as a snack and 3) eating it in its ‘raw’ and ‘cooked’ state provide very different eating experiences – and as a result provide an element of variety often much missed in low carb eating.  Some doubters will tell you that a major downside is the way it feels ‘squeaky’ on your teeth (don’t panic! you need to taste it just to see what that means!) – but take it from me, the girl whose friends laugh at her because of her aversion to the squeak sound of cotton wool rubbing together (urrgghh) – this is not a problem.

You will buy a pack, such as this (mine purchased at my local supermarket, but know it’s widely available (NOTE you can usually buy both ‘normal’ and ‘light versions’.  A search on mysupermarket revealed that in a comparison between the two versions I find at my local Sainsburys, the light version (1g per 100g) beats the normal version (2.4g per 100g) for carbs. But as have said before, I don’t believe in obsessively counting and with a negligible difference, you might as well choose the normal version!

So here are two ways of incorporating this into your low carb lifestyle, both are hardly recipes because they require so little prep.  Let me know if you become as much of a fan as I am! A great low carb addition to your fridge…

1) The ‘raw’ way:

  • Open pack (seems a bit banal to state this as is clearly obvious, but Halloumi is usually vacuum packed with salted water  to keep the cheese fresh. Top tip, is to open pack while in a bowl or even better a tupperware tub, because otherwise you may well have a leaking packet emergency).  In my experience, if you are not planning to eat the pack in one go (though tempting, a tad too much in one sitting if it’s just you!) the liquid is beneficial when storing in fridge, so slicing in tupperware box enables everything to be kept in best way for next use.
  • Slice into small cubes, to be served as canapes alongside other low carb snacks, or as a quick low carb snack fix when hunger strikes!

2) Cooked version:

Cooking this cheese provides a totally different taste.  While it doesn’t melt, the cheese is softer and the salty taste is much reduced.  I have fried off some slices in a small amount of butter here especially due to the visual cooked presentation but it can also be grilled more healthily and suspect its only the capabilities of my oven which don’t enable the same effects when I do this – let me know what you find!

Tomatoes and Halloumi totally compliment eachother and provide a fast snack or indeed a satisfying meal perhaps when accompanied by a salad or some low carb bread? But as ever there are a plethora of ways to enjoy this alongside other low carb dishes.

  • Open pack (with advice as above)
  • Slice cheese in approx 1cm slices (NOTE best not too small a width, as you want to keep them firm enough for cooking).
  • Heat amount of butter in pan and distribute so all pan covered, keep heat fairly high.
  • Add slices and cook for approx 30 seconds on each side. Keep turning until a ‘browned’ effect is visible.
  • Add cherry/plum tomatoes sliced in half and cook with cheese for a further minute (keep turning so as not to get the cheese burnt) or until browned nicely on both sides.

Enjoy!

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Is a tasty low carb bread possible?

27 Jan

When I first started this way of eating I remember sourcing a low carb ‘bread’ recipe from the internet. “You SEE” I remember shouting to my boyfriend as I raced to the kitchen, “you don’t have to give ANYTHING up for this diet! There are SUBSTITUTES!!!!”.  The recipe called for all kinds of things, ground almonds, about a million eggs and even garlic – and me? I was in a dream land of freshly baked loaves and serving sandwiches lovingly made by my own fair hands to my friends – “Oh this? Yes! Its Low Carb! I know, you can’t even tell!”…  Well as I’m sure you’ve guessed the results of that particular experiment were not a success and  learnt a hard lesson about falling for the hype and about being realistic about the limitations (and opportunities) of this way of eating.  While still woefully remembering this experience, this recipe for Flax Bread from About caught my eye.  Could there actually be a tasty low carb bread?  I didn’t think so until making some this weekend following a desire to use some of my ingredients from my visit to the health food shop.

I did fall somewhat at the first hurdle (tip – if you are looking for the milled version of flaxseed, possibly best to ask for it – or not buy one in a box as I did, to later get it home and find it is whole!). Anyway, a (good) few blitzes in the food processor sorted this out and I was ready to go.  As I said, I used the About recipe, which I amended slightly as below, but you may find it easier to watch their – very good – video, either on the VodPod section on the bottom left of this blog where I’ve included it, or here.

Please note the below has been amended and commented on by me, I also took the American cup measurements from the About recipe and approximated them – so no hard numbers here! If you need these, check out the video, or have a go without measuring – it is surprisingly liberating! And frankly this recipe is so quick and easy to do that even if the first attempt goes wrong it’s no problem…

FLAX SEED BREAD

  • Flax seed (milled if you’re sensible, but have since heard it doesn’t keep as well) – I used about a third of the box you can see in this picture.
  • Salt – couple of pinches of
  • 4 Eggs (beaten) – recipe called for five, I used four just because that’s all I had and it worked fine.
  • Olive Oil – I used three tablespoons, but you could adjust to taste I’m sure
  • Baking Powder – I used a couple of tablespoons, but admittedly it didn’t rise dramatically, perhaps it could use more? Experiment!
  • Tablespoon water
  • (Recipe also called for sweetener, but I hate the idea of it in bread – but your call to include as per your taste!)

Method:

Pour flax-seed into food processor and blitz until fine, mix in the rest of the dry ingredients (salt, baking powder)

Blitz with mixer.

Add in oil and beaten egg mixture.

Blitz with mixer.

Add in water (use in incremental tiny amounts, you don’t want this getting too gloopy) and by adding these after I find you stay in control.

By the end, your mixture should be looking like this:

Take out mixture and add onto a lined or greased pan. Now the About recipe says to flatten it out on a baking sheet, which I did – but was surprised it did not rise more.  If I tried again, I would either make a bit bigger or shape into rolls I think (they would be fairly heavy though, so don’t make them too big). Your mixture should be doughy and such that you can take it and shape it without being too sticky.

Pop into the oven at approx 200c for about 20 mins.   This is mine when it came out (my oven was uncooperative and did not seem to like cooking on top, but you get the idea – yours would hopefully be browned on top!):

Voila – enjoy!

Why did I not know about this sooner!!  OK so let’s be clear and manage expectations, this is not going to taste like a farmhouse loaf, so no reason to pretend otherwise, but I would liken it to Soda Bread – which I am particularly fond of anyway.  After munching through in amazement, one slice really fills you up and gets rid of any bread cravings!  I thought it was especially good toasted with Marmite or on its own with cream cheese and can’t wait to try it with soup – what are your experiences with flax bread?

Use your loaf and make this yummy low carb bread if the cravings hit!

New dawn, new day, new low carb year! Crustless Quiche for a low carb lunchbox

9 Jan

Happy new year everyone! And as a new year begins, I start with an apology for being away for so long.  My absence results not from any desire not to be in touch, but conversely because of my love of being in touch from a digital space… Since my last entry I have been submerged in a digital marketing diploma course to learn and understand all about communicating digitally – what I didn’t anticipate was that it would take me so far out of all the things I would be doing normally!  It has been brilliant and a massive learning curve, but for a novice (as opposed to all the true experts on my course who do this in their day-to-day careers!) a real slog to get myself up to speed alongside my working life, meaning my hours in front of the computer have been dedicated to learning, researching and coursework rather than communicating.  So for being quiet for a bit I apologise, but what I can confirm is that feeling on top of things now, I am so ready and can’t wait to get back in touch and continue the low carb experience with you!

Anyway – a new year begins!  And with it comes a new resolve for low carb living and sharing the experience.  What is different – and great! – for me at this time of year is that there are many more people I meet who are open to talking about the low carb experience and way of eating.  In my office environment nearly everyone is on a diet or detox right now and eager to hear about other ways of eating, so there is a lot of room to explain why low carb works well!

And like many others I’m sure, I have started the new year with an eagerness to save money (do I *really* need that pret salad for lunch every day?! – well maybe not in January…), so lots of packed lunches.  I have been no different and have been diligent in packing my salad in a Tupperware box every day.  Except for me, salad just doesn’t quite cut it.  No matter how many lovely additions I pack into the salad, I still feel a bit like I’m being robbed of a ‘proper’ lunch.  So enter the Crustless Quiche – I can not emphasise how much of a bonus this addition is to your working lunch – it makes a salad extra special, if you make a big dish to ration throughout the week it is economical and the added protein from the eggs ensures you’re kept full until dinner.  And add an extra Tupperware box of coleslaw to the mix and you might not even want/need a salad dressing – brilliant!

Crustless Quiche – (I’m giving you my measures here, but the beauty is, you can add as much – or little – as you want.. experiment!)

  • 6 Eggs (yes it does seem like a lot, but remember this is going to last you a few lunches!)
  • Slug of double cream / creme fraiche
  • 2 Rashers bacon(chopped)
  • Chopped mushrooms
  • Handful chopped Leeks and leafy veg
  • 1 Onion (chopped finely)
  • 2 blocks of frozen Spinach
  • Handful of your favourite type of grated cheese (I used Cheddar on this occasion, because it was all I had, but does tend to influence the overall flavour – I find Emmental great as more delicate)
  • .. any other leftover ingredients which might work well – they all work well here!

Method:

Add the chopped onion into a pan with a small blog of butter, soften for a couple of minutes

Add the chopped bacon rashers, and stir so they start to cook, keep stirring for around a minute

Add the frozen spinach and leafy veg, stir in then turn heat down low and leave (stirring occasionally) for about 5 mins – if you have a cover for the pan, use this as will allow to steam.

Turn off the heat and add the mix to a largish dish – perspex works well here.

Beat eggs and cream in bowl – I find it makes a big difference if you used a hand mixer to do this. Pour the egg and cream mixture on top of the other ingredients in the dish.

Sprinkle in your grated cheese of choice and move the mixture with a spoon for space as opposed to stirring it to allow everything to get coated.

Leave in oven for 15-20 mins, or until golden and risen on top.

Try to resist eating a spoonful as it come out of the oven – this is very tempting and great if you need some food on the run, but ruins your portion control if you’re planning for lunchbox action later in the week! W

low carb crustless quiche

Low carb crustless quiche - try to save it for the lunchbox!

Carb v Low Carb – a Salmon Supper

10 Aug

I, like many others I’m sure, have got a repertoire of fail-safe dishes which I have honed over the years to become my staple dishes for dinner which would suit my every mood. When I moved in with my OH, we had a period of confusion where these dishes battled for supremacy, but ultimately settled down into a pattern so that we now have a joint set of favourites – but sharing the cooking on alternate days, which has seemed to work!

Was talking with my lovely OH tonight about the low carb way of eating in general and while lots of our favourite dinners pre this WOE were carb heavy (due in no small part my desire to have them that way!) both he and myself have been surprised how my adaptation of low carb and him not wanting (or needing) to have not really impacted our routine – in fact had I not been spurred on to for diet purposes I think I would have enjoyed the way I eat them now just as much. And furthermore, it doesn’t even require an extra length of time to do two versions.

So thought it might be interesting/useful to post some dinners as they are round our place to demonstrate. Tonight’s is not a particularly innovative version (hard day at the office!), but stay tuned for more for ideas on the same theme..

Firstly, news from the courgette camp is that we have our first big courgette from the tiny north London balcony outside our flat:

Our newest courgette addition to the family - fork to show scale (yes I was pretty excited and yes, no expense spared on LCNNC!)

We’ve actually grown a fair few, but due to either my excitement about harvesting, the OH’s determination to grow them as big as we’d get in the supermarket or local birds spying their dinner (well, think that’s the case – otherwise we have some pretty big insects demanding food on the balcony there), this is the first that’s made it though. Despite the excitement, it was always going to get eaten for dinner!

So dinner (in the yellow v blue corner for demonstration purposes below), as I said fairly simple, but swapping the potatoes for cauli-mash, makes the meal as, if not more, filling for low carb eaters – perfect on a rainy Tuesday:

Low hassle dinner a deux chez LCNNC

Completely hassle free dinner for two, with two different diet options.

You will need:

2 salmon fillets

Spoon of pesto sauce (mine from a jar, but you could of course make your own!)

Spoon of Creme Fraiche

1 Courgette

New Potatoes

Cauliflower 1/4 or half a head for this recipe, but I find you may as well use it all and save some mash for the next evening)

Method – for both

Salomon fillets: Remove from packaging and sit on two squares of tin foil.  Drizzle a small amount of olive oil and lemon juice and spread over pesto sauce on top of each. Fold foil over into parcels, pop on an oven tray and cook for 15/20 mins on 200 deg c.

Mix the small amount of Creme Fraiche with tiny amount of pesto for a sauce to drizzle on top of the fish.

Courgetti Spaghetti – Create courgette strands using method here, then add to a frying pan with 3 tablespoons water and squeeze lemon juice, cook until water absorbed, for approx 5 mins – sprinkle of tarragon with this is also delicious.

Method – for carb v low-carb options

1) New potatoes – add to pan of boiling water for about 15 mins (if you do this same time as the fish, should hopefully coincide), add sauce or dressing, or as i’m requested to – let the recipient handle that bit!

2) Cauli-mash, using the recipe here, or even simpler – chop cauliflower florets and add to microwave steam bag.  Cook on high for approx 5-6 mins.  When soft empty into food processor and blend with tiny amount butter/cream/cheese as desired and salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy a harmonious carb/low carb dinner for two!

Anyone else have any tips for sharing this WOE with family and friends?  Would love to hear about your experiences.

A longing for low carb Gnocchi or pasta? Try Gnudi!

8 Aug

Just before I started this way of eating I had a real ‘foodie’ friend come to visit. Quite frankly any of the usual dishes in my repertoire were not going to cut it, so I decided to up the anti and make my own pasta for dinner.  It took ages.  All the faffing around making the dough and getting it to the right consistency and rolling it to the right amount, never mind the fillings which I decided were the easy bit.

As I proudly served up my labour of love and watched my friend and OH chew.. and chew..  and chew.. I realised I had been so obsessed about making the pasta what I has actually served them was a boiled piece of dough with a TINY pocket of filling… good job I had made a good dessert!  Bad as that was it motivated me to 1) Kick-start the low carb as I had no desire to even look at pasta for a good long while and 2) gave me proof that fillings were definitely the important bit, and that I wouldn’t miss the pasta part anyway in my low-carb dieting.

And by and large I haven’t.   Having the courgette gadget to create courgetti spaghetti has certainly made it possible to have pasta-esque meals  using the sauces which were the main bit I missed, but after a long time eating this way, my thoughts have now and again turned to pasta (though not making it!) and how easy it is if you are entertaining or want an easy night of cooking, but short of picking off the outside of a Raviloi I was bemused as to how I could do this low-carb style.

So it was coincidental then, that it was while having one of these easy nights and having a night off in front of the TV that the answer came through, rather incongruously given the expertise hinted at in the title, Masterchef.  Myself and OH, like much of Britain, like to sit in front of this programme where contestants compete to cook restaurant standard dishes to please a couple of shouty men from the food profession.  There is not often much cause for low carb celebration (though was amazed to see a contestant once rewarded for their up-to-the-minute skills in cooking cauliflower mash –  which low carb fans have been enjoying for ages).  But in this episode, one recipe made me sit up straight and start thinking about dinner… Gnudi.

Gnudi is kind of a cross between Ravioli and Gnocchi.  Ravioli because it is essentially a way of cooking it without the pasta shell (naked, or nude hence the name) and Gnocchi because of the manner in which it is cooked like dumplings and boiled until they rise to the top.  I believe there are lots of ways of cooking this and I have deviated from the recipe I saw to ensure it is low carb – notably removing the flour from the recipe when making it and using ground almonds to roll the dumplings in before cooking (though as such a small amount of flour would be used for this, I suppose it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you were to keep that in).

What is great about these is even one is really filling, so might be a good option to have alongside a salad or a meal, OR you can really go to town in serving them in a dish as something that both carb and no-carb eaters can enjoy.  It would also make a great serving dish alongside a nice crisp salad.  Now that we are growing salad leaves on our balcony, I may just have to invite that friend back round and try again!

Step one.. mix all ingredients...

Low Carb Gnudi

3 Eggs

250 g Ricotta Cheese

120g Grated Parmesan Cheese

Frozen Chopped Spinach (approx 5 bundles, thawed)

Ground Almonds (approx two tablespoons) – or flour

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Step two... bring to the boil

Method:

Separate eggs and add the yolks to a bowl, mixing in the Ricotta Cheese and Parmesan.

Thaw the spinach and (importantly!) squeeze out any excess water.

Combine the spinach with the rest of the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste.

Sprinkle ground almonds over a small plate.

Scoop out small amounts and roll into a ball, then roll in the ground almonds or flour until coated.

Add to a pan of boiling water and boil for about 5 mins – Gnudi will have floated to the top of the water.

Remove with slotted spoon and serve straight away with sauce, or add to oven proof dish coat with a sauce and bake in oven for a further 5-10 mins and serve.

Step three - Low Carb Gnudi pasta/dumplings ready for the sauce or style of your choosing!

Low carb breakfast? A cracking Frittata Primavera

2 Aug

As I’ve said before on this blog, and many other low carb followers have confirmed, preparation is key on this diet.

One area it’s often quite hard to prepare for is breakfast – I’m not a breakfast early in the morning kind of girl (often leaving me in a dangerous hunger space mid-morning at the office!) and have honed the time between waking up and leaving for work to the bare minimum to maximise all important sleeping time…

You can of course enjoy things like bacon and eggs or scrambled eggs on this diet, but if you’ve got to be in the office early, this isn’t really an option during the week.  So, to alleviate these problems, plus the problem of what to cook when you haven’t got many ingredients – this Fritatta Primavera dish is brilliant.  Make it on a Sunday when you’ve got some time, cut into eights and wrap up in foil. Store in the fridge and grab on your way to work and it makes a perfect low carb breakfast, or in addition to a salad the perfect low carb lunch box.   And even better it works both hot and cold, uses up any leftover ingredients you have hanging around – and provides a vitamin boost from the included vegetables.

Only trouble with making this ahead of time for the week is that it is so good at bringing together all the healthy green things in a delicious way that my (vegetable dodging) boyfriend discovered it in the fridge on a late night snack mission – leaving me considerably less to be prepared with!

Frittata Primavera

You will need…

Metal frying pan (this is going to go under grill at end, so ensure it’s a sturdy one!)

6 Eggs

Half an onion, chopped

Half a courgette, diced

Handful of chopped spinach

3 Tablespoons frozen Peas

I slice bacon, chopped

3 tablespoons cream cheese

Tablespoon of pesto sauce

Method:

Beat the eggs together in a bowl and set aside

Heat a blob of butter in a pan, add the onions and turn heat down low until cooked through.

Add bacon and cook on same low heat with onions until done

Add in frozen peas (these will defrost as you cook), courgettes and spinach and cook (stirring continuously) for another 3/4 mins,

Add in the eggs, pushing in sides of mixture and ensuring remaining mixture fills in the gaps (but careful not to do this too much or you’ll end up with scrambled egg and vegetables as a dish instead)

When mixture looks like it is setting at side (not on top) take off heat (n.b it is tempting to leave this longer for the top to be done, but err on the side of caution as next step will cook the Frittata through, and a burnt underside is not nice!)

Add dollops of the cream cheese all over the pan

Place under grill until nearly set

Add small dollops of pesto sauce all over and return to grill for another 2 mins approx until cooked

Wait (if you can resist the temptation!) to cool and cut into eights, if not serve warm with salad.

Enjoy!

Serve and enjoy!

The simple life…

26 Jul

I have just got back from seeing an old school friend this weekend, and despite not having seen her for years.. upon seeing eachother again we immediately reverted to type (i.e. sat down giggled inanely about any-and-everything, confused our menfolk, drank bucketloads of white wine) and it was brilliant.

However, as you may have guessed from the wine bucket reference, my low carb living kind of went out of the window.  I’ve never understood people who claim that their need to stick to this way of eating is such that they feel comfortable in ordering their friends around in terms of what food to provide for them.  If your life consists of dinner soiree after dinner soiree then fair enough, but faced with a choice of embararassing my friends by bringing my own food along or forcing them to serve food they would never have planned to versus shutting up and going with the flow and enjoying the time together, I know which one I will always choose.

It was only a couple of days but have really felt bad about falling off the wagon today, and have therefore pushed myself back into a pensive phase-1-esque diet for today – really aware that once you slip up like this its really easy to think ‘to hell with it’ and run to the high street and buy yourself three baguettes and a portion of chips (or nearly!) but was determined not to let that happen!

So therefore, a simple supper was in mind for this evening.  As I said on my last post I had a brilliant ‘guest cheese’ I was keen to try out (this time Taleggio cheese, which I had heard great things about from both Nigel Slater and my lovely Italian colleague).  I had been inspired to use it ever since seeing Nigel’s recipe, Green Beans, Ham and Cheese recently – its simplicity is brilliant, so adapted it for my own ends with a craving for some much-needed steamed veg:

A simple supper...

You will need:

Taleggio cheese

Broccoli – cut into florets

2 Tomatoes cut into eighths

Courgettes, cut into batons

Half an onion

Slice of bacon, chopped.

Method:

Steam/cook Courgettes & Broccoli as preferred

Heat a blob of olive oil in a frying pan and add the onions, turning down to a low heat until softened.

Add the bacon until cooked through – so onion absorbs flavour of bacon

Add steamed vegetables to pan, along with the tomatoes

place the strips of cheese on top and turn carefully until all coated and cheese has melted into a sauce.

Enjoy!

Ever so slightly decadent with the cheese element – but felt virtuous enough with the vegetable consumption (and thus vitamin injection) to feel positive and upbeat about the week ahead, confident that it was a slip rather than a setback  – not bad for a Monday!

Top 10 Low Carb Supermarket Essentials

20 Jul

When making trips to the supermarket on a low carb way of eating it is vital to be prepared.  The more low carb options you have at your disposal, the less likely you are to fall off the wagon!  Here are my top 10 essential items which are always on my shopping list:

1.  Babybel Cheese – These are such an essential for me, and for eating low carb.  Easy and portable, perfect for a quick breakfast item you can chuck in your bag for work or a quick fix afternoon snack to see you through to dinner!

2. Soy Milk – Lower carb than traditional milk, I was surprised when I tried this under duress for the diet and found I really liked it. Another perfect on the go breakfast as a protein shake too – Alpro do a great light version with even fewer carbs.

3. Eggs – Can be used in such a wide variety of ways with low carb cooking, from scrambled eggs for breakfast, egg wraps for lunch or frittata for dinner – and relatively cheap too! Make sure they are free range though.

4. Decaf Coffee or Herbal Tea – Decaf coffee is definitely a good purchase for this way of eating, particularly if you are cutting out caffeine at the start.  Meanwhile there are so many lovely herbal teas you can buy now, it feels like an indulgent treat (and takes your mind off snacking!).  I like Detox Tea from Birt&Tang and Dragonfly Vanilla Rooibos.

5. Cream – It does take your head a while to get around that cream is ok on this way of eating.  But once you do, you find its a great asset for cooking (crustless Quiche in particuar – will post on this soon), or to lower your carb count even more by adding it to coffee.

6. ‘Guest cheese’ – No not some weird cheese brand!  But as your supermarket shop now effectively banishes you from what you previously considered the ‘treat’ aisles, a substitute may be in order. I have discovered the cheese counter and now buy a (small amount of!) a new and exciting cheese when I go.  How about eating your way around Britain’s Cheese board with a new piece each week?

7. Lettuce – Salads definitely feature a lot on my low carb menu, and with the inclusion of cheese/cream et its frankly quite nice to balance this with some crisp, fresh light meals!  Again I try to ensure  I vary the type I am buying to ensure boredom doesn’t set in.

8. Peanut Butter – Important that this is a no added sugar variety (Whole Earth do a particularly nice version and are my brand of choice) – invaluable to me as I will eat a teaspoon to offset a sugar craving and have in the fridge for emergencies

9. Ham / Bacon – invaluable for inclusion in salads, or wider cooking. Bacon is great with eggs for brekkie and ham and cream cheese roll ups an ideal low carb snack!

10. 80% (or above) Chocolate – If it’s just got to be chocolate, make sure its dark with a high cocoa content – store in fridge and make sure a square in emergencies goes a long way!

What are your essential low carb shopping items?

If you can’t make the heat, get out of the kitchen?

19 Jul

Disaster has struck in our house – the oven has broken.  This is really more of a disaster for me as I’m keen on trying out more recipes involving the oven.  As the weather in London recently has been really lovely, we are finding ourselves wanting to get out and bask in the niceness that sunshine brings out in London and it’s people.   So outside of work we’ve been living a life of BBQs, dinner at restaurants with outside areas and a LOT of lazing around on Hampstead Heath.. and not quite as much cooking as I planned to be doing at the start of each week!

But I had the idea for this dish because in our last shopping trip I had found a really good deal on a large packet of courgettes and had wide eyed-ly insisted to the OH that I had to have them, they would of course be used up in a myriad of recipes I had planned for this week and would definitely be all gone by this time next week.  So we got to this weekend and I guiltily realised many of said bargain courgettes were indeed still sitting there unloved and unused because of us being out so much.  Clearly an emergency “use loads of courgettes in one dish” recipe was called for – so I opted for this pasta-esque courgette bake.  It is a really nice dish to make alongside a ‘proper’ pasta one perhaps if you’re cooking for a few people, as feels like you are all sharing in the same meal – carb/less or not – and in the warmer weather its nice hot or cold with a salad.  Plus I’m sure its all good training for when we finally get to harvest our own lovely courgettes which are still doing well out on the balcony.

Only problem was that I made the realisation of the oven not working well into the start of this recipe – not ideal for a recipe with ‘bake’ in its title!  Our grill however, is working – and using a combination this, cooking the ingredients on the perspex dish as I went along and steaming the courgettes before they went in meant that I think I got away with it – but would be interested to hear if those of you lucky enough to have ovens find  that way best!

Tomato and Mozzarella Courgette Bake

Olive Oil

1 Medium onion

3 Slices Bacon, chopped

5 Small Courgettes – chopped into batons

1 packet fresh Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese, sliced

Approx 2 handfuls Grated Mozzarella Cheese

1 Tin Chopped Tomatoes

Tomato Puree (approx 3 tablespoons)

Chicken/Vegetable Stock Cube

Water

Herbs to taste (I used dried Herbs de Provence plus fresh Basil)

Method:

Heat small amount of oil in perspex dish on hob and add chopped onions, turn heat down and cook slowly until onions are translucent

Add chopped bacon and cook through, so that the onions absorb some of the flavour

Add the water and a crumbled stock cube, stirring together until a slightly thick consistency

Add the tin of chopped tomatoes and stir in, along with whichever hers you decide to use

Add in the tomato puree and cook until mixture thickens up – remember courgettes carry a lot of water, so the thicker the better as this will thin out while cooking!

Take the steamed/boiled courgettes and drain, then stir through into the sauce

dot the fresh mozzarella throughout and cover with the grated mozzarella

Grill for approx 10 mins – or until top bubbling and golden

Serve with a side salad or enjoy on its own!

Quick low carb cooking – easy as 123!

14 Jul

Cooking for the time pressed - easy as 123!

I live in London, and a problem that many (non car owning Londoners such as myself) find when it comes to cooking is that 1) you are often time pressed as London life is so hectic and 2) you are not always in close proximity to a large supermarket.  You are therefore often dependent on the ‘local’ or ‘metro’ versions of big supermarket chains specially designed for people like me where ostensibly it is claimed they provide a selection of easy access products for you to ‘top up’ your main shop with – but what it actually means is that there are limited options which have somehow incurred a massive price mark up – the ‘top up’ tax if you will…

Anyway, I digress (and breathe!). Our nearest large supermarket is in Camden which we visit religiously each Sunday, the mundaneness of the task often offset by the entertainment value of the larger than life characters wandering the aisles, still dazed and confused and sleep deprived from not having returned from their night out before!  But inevitably I will often need a few things locally as the week goes on as I make my way from the tube to home on the way back from work, and this is where the local versions of supermarkets come in handy.

So, the point of all this is that on the nights where I drop by our Sainsburys Local in need of a Low Carb menu idea (and while this way of eating has certainly upped my desire about and knowledge around cooking, sometimes I just need food… fast) it’s not always the easiest to buy quick LC options.  BUT – step in the ‘whats cooking’ range!  It’s basically designed along the principle of basic food groups, vegetables, meat/fish, sauce and carbohydrates and has a selection of products within each sector.  Low carb lovers can simply drop the carbohydrate option and have a range of quick and easy menus.

This from the Sainsburys launch press release about the range:

There are no rules – every component is specially developed to taste great with whatever you chose to match it with. It really is as easy as 1,2,3,4…

Choose between:

  1. Meat/fish – chicken with coriander & chilli; chicken with parsley; beef with parsley; pork with parsley; prawns – we only use British chicken, beef and pork
  2. Vegetables – classic green vegetable medley; oriental stir fry vegetable mix; Indian vegetable mix; Mediterranean vegetable mix – all of our vegetables are fresh
  3. Sauce – tomato & basil; cheese & bacon; tikka masala; tandoori sizzler; sweet chilli; red pepper & chilli; coconut & chilli, black bean; creamy mushroom; Mexican fajita – all of our fresh sauces are based on authentic recipes and flavours
  4. Carbs – penne pasta; rice; baby potatoes; noodles; tortilla wraps

So as you can see, cooking with these menu options is indeed as easy as 123 (not 1234 you’ll note – a sign about the corruptive carbs?!).  But actually should I be doing something like this I would certainly throw in a carb option for my oft carb deprived OH, poor lamb.

I certainly recommend if you are UK-based checking this range out – definitely gets you out of a tight spot and away from the temptation of the pizza/pasta aisle if you need to be cooking a fast LC evening meal.  Good work Sainsburys!

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