Delighted!

6 Aug

….to have been name checked as one of Living La Vida Low-Carb’s blogs for August!

Big welcome to all new visitors, and loving the global reach of this way of eating – very proud to be a part of it, and looking forward to sharing how this way of eating works on an international level.

Low carb eating in the UK can sometimes be a challenge (more because of low resource rather than low motivation!), which has been a driving factor in this blog coming into existence in the first place – but getting support from low-carb lovers all over the globe has been so motivating – so thanks to you all and looking forward to sharing experiences and supporting each other even more going forward.

Low carb diet - it's primal!

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!

Green Army!

8 Jul

Exciting news courgette lovers.  I, the girl who formally even managed to kill off a cactus, appear to be growing courgette on my balcony!  Myself and the OH are similarly black fingered when it comes to horticulture, but thanks to a kind benefactor (his brother with a HUGE secret garden-esque garden) we received the plant which had already been nurtured into some form of existence.  Now we come home from work each day, head straight out to the balcony to feed it gallons of water and check progress (yes! we are now balcony garden geeks!) and await further developments.  Check them out:

Growing courgettes - can't wait to get them in the kitchen!

All very exciting and will keep you updated because (if they survive long enough to harvest) as they are low carb staples, will definitely be posting some courgette and tomato (yes growing those too!) recipes on here as I try them.  Back in my pre-grower-status days I vaguely recall hearing about recipes including the flowers too.  Anyone got any good ideas now that I may be able to utilise them?

BG8EUAHBR8RS

Low Carb Lunchbox – its the ham and cheese ‘roll’

5 Jul

Rock and Roll with ham egg and cheese...

Lunch can be a tad tricky when you are on a low carb diet – and by tricky I mean… boring!  Yes salads have become a mainstay of my lunch hour and I have become the salad expert of Clerkenwell – I can actually tell colleagues the salad options of practically any close by sandwich shop they care to mention AND when their menu changes – which is starting to alarm me somewhat.  Anyway, having the chicken salad from Pret for the hundredth time in a row (and today – no joke – witnessing a FIGHT in there for the last one, not involving me fortunately) I decided things must change!

As much as you can jazz up salads, I do miss the feel of a sandwich – having something to hold the fillings together which you are allowed on a low carb diet.  But with bread effectively off the menu, I have just tried these egg ‘rolls’ and I must say they have impressed me with the ease and speed in which they are prepared (always a major concern for me in encouraging me to bring lunch to work) plus they look amazing with the feel of a wrap or sandwich.  The cheese inside also offsets to ‘egginess’ making these a must have for any low carb lunchbox and can be used with many more fillings – let me know of any good ones you try out!

You will need:

1 Egg per ‘roll’

Cream Cheese

1 Slice Ham (chopped)

Lettuce (chopped)

Method:

Heat a tiny amount of olive oil in a small NON STICK frying pan

Beat the egg and add content to pan, letting it coat the bottom in a circle like a pancake – very important not to play with it too much here, or you’ll simply end up with scrambled egg which is not the objective!

Turn the heat down to cook through and when slightly browned underneath, turn over to cook other side until golden.

Let you circle of egg cool completely

Spread on the cream cheese, making sure its spread right to the edges as this is what will stick your ‘roll’

Sprinkle chopped ham and chopped lettuce (and any other additions you care to add)

Roll into a tube and press down at edges (cheese should seal)

Chop in half and wrap in cling film – ready to take to work for lunch!

*SO important, I have a selection of lovely pans I use, but my small non stick frying pan (brought from Poundstretcher for just £2.99) wins every time when it comes to eggs – makes life, and washing up, so much easier!

Easiest low carb coconut macaroon recipe – ever!

27 Jun

I, am what you would call a ‘savoury person’.  While my other half craves all the sugar and sweet things there are available, I match him point for point in savoury salty alternatives.  However, as long term followers of this way of eating may agree, even those with the least tendancies towards being sweet toothed can break after the months roll by with continual denial of all things sugary.  Like the age old adage goes, the more you deny yourself something, the more you want it.

And so I found myself today, battling the urge to make a cake (for my boyfriend you understand.. if I happened to ‘taste’ some of the mixture along route, than that surely wouldn’t count?) – hmmm.  Anyway, in the nick of time I discovered this coconut macaroon recipe via pig2twig.  I amended it slightly because, lover of salt though I am, I have been burned before by persuading myself I will like a salty version of a cake and am being good to exclude the sweet element, only to experience crushing disspointment on tasting the final product, rather akin to how my four year old self felt when tasting food creations made out of play dough to find they are not the real thing : )

Anyway, these are great and alongside the salt I finished off by adding a TINY SPRINKLING of splenda on top of each biscuit pre-cooking.  I am not a fan of the splenda after taste, but a tiny bit here provides none of that, sets it off just nicely and provides the sugar hit you’re looking for.

I've gotta lurverly bunch of coconut (macaroons)

You will need:

  • One (large ) egg – separated to get the white only
  • Desiccated coconut (approx two handfuls)
  • Pinch of salt
  • TINY amount of Splenda

Method:

In a clean dry bowl, whisk egg white and salt until stiff peaks have formed

Gradually add in desiccated coconut until you have a mixture with  a thick consistency you can mould

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and fashion 5-6 rounds

sprinkle the tiny amount of Splenda on each

Bake at 200 degrees C for approx 10 mins

Enjoy!

These are relatively guilt free and are not so moreish you can’t stop at just one.  However, my mind has already started wandering to reflect on how these would also be good with some (70% cocoa or higher!) chocolate drizzled on top too… yum.

A cheesy Cornish wedding

24 Jun

A very good friend of mine got married this week – she is from Cornwall and the wedding, weather and all round love and joie de vivre surrounding the occasion was amazing.

General consensus around weddings from a dietary perspective seems to be they are good places for low carb eaters – that’s particularly true if, like my generous friends, you have a menu ahead of time for the wedding breakfast to choose and plan from.  But what of the iconic moment when you’re in-between the day and night do and the wedding cake cutting (and distribution!) is beckoning?

As a considerate couple (and the lucky recipients of an extra wedding cake as a wedding gift) there were no problems with that at this wedding.  While her actual cakey-cake was fantasic – with handcrafted sugar shells and starfish to fit in with the beach theme and everything – behold – the cake of cheese!

The cake of cheese

How brilliant is that!  And even more brilliant… all the tiers were Cornish cheeses. Expertly crafted by The Cornish Deli, the cake was the subject of much photography throughout the event (and much devouring after cutting it) and for all cake lovers, sweet or savoury, it was a must taste.  As I felt it my duty to sample it extensively for you dear readers, I can report that the Cornish Yarg cheese and Cornish Brie come particularly highly recommended!

If you’re not lucky enough to attend a Cornish wedding with cheese options and have some holiday time to take this year – get down to the Cornish Deli in St Ives and sample their big selection…. I’m a convert.

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