Spiced tuna and Tomato Pasta

Tuna pasta dishes are wonderful. They are effortless to make, require very little preparation, and rich in protein. Also all of the ingredients (apart from the fresh tomatoes) were kitchen cupboard essentials  – in my kitchen at least (!) I came up with this particular recipe on Saturday after losing track of time painting and realising that as it was 9.55pm, there was no way I could get to a shop to buy some dinner  before the closing time of 10pm. The problems of being an artist and getting lost in art!

Anyway, with an empty fridge, a broken oven, and a hungry stomach, I needed to come up with something quickly. So, to the cupboard I went! Canned tuna and tomatoes are perfect in situations like that. The recipe for the pasta dish is below. If you have fresh carrots you could add them too for some additional goodness. Also, if unlike me, you’re not waiting for an oven to be fixed, you could bake in the oven for 20mins rather than on the hob. You could even top with a little cheese for additional tastiness.

This recipe makes a generous portion for 1 but could also be split into two smaller meals for lunch etc. The tuna contains about 27g protein so this is a great post-work out dish especially after a muscle focussed session.

Ingredients

Pasta 

1 portion dried Fusilli pasta (wholewheat is healthiest but I used white as it cooks slightly quicker)

Sauce

1 small can tuna chunks
1/2 can sweet corn
1 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tin good quality tomatoes
Handful cherry tomatoes
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp hot paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp oregano
Pinch ground turmeric
Ground black pepper

Method:

For the pasta:

  • Cook pasta according to packaging instructions.
  • Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 12.04.24

For the sauce:

  • Add everything except the tuna, sweetcorn and black pepper
  • Cook for 10 mins
  • Drain tuna and stir in
  • Leave to summer for 20minutes on a low heat
  • Add in sweetcorn
  • Leave for another few minutes
  • Taste and season with black pepper if desired
  • Toss in the drained pasta and stir
  • Serve

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Finished pasta

Optional: Top with fresh parsley to serve

Healthy Salad Dressing Ingredients

As we’re into summer now – though Scotland seems to have failed to get the memo so far – I thought I’d put together a little list of ideas for salad dressings. Salad dressings often get bad rep. and it’s often assumed that all dressings are high calorie and high in saturated fats. This is not wholly true though. There are a number of ways you can have a salad dressed with a proper healthy option. The fats in these dressings are ones which are good for you and which you do need, rather than a lot of saturated fats of which you don’t want a lot. It is more the acidic content you want to be wary of when it comes to vinegar-based or lemon based dressings (and that’s regarding your teeth not your body as a whole!) But as long as you don’t go overboard with dressing you’ll be fine. As always, it’s about balance, moderation, and common sense.

Here is my suggestions of dressing ingredients:

OILS

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • The standard minimal dressing if used on its own – plain but still flavoursome. Go for as high quality as you can as the better quality the nicer it is as a dressing. You want a full, rich, taste.
  • The history of this oil is immense – stretching way back to Ancient times, favoured by the Meditteranean for centuries and one reason for the area being renowned for having a healthy diet.
  • It is high in mono and polyunsaturated fats – the good fats.
  • Mixed with vinegars it makes lovely dressings.
  • It can also be infused with fresh herbs such as sprigs of rosemary (just pop the rosemary into the bottle in which it is stored and leave it until the hints of the flavour can be tasted in the oil)
  • You can also buy oils pre-infused with not only herbs, but also chilli, or other things like red peppers, or tomatoes.

Rapeseed Oil

  • A cheaper alternative to olive oil, it doesn’t have the distinctive flavour and is made from the seeds of flowers but if looking for a milder alternative to olive oil, then this may be a good oil to try.
  • Like olive oil it is high in the good fats.
  • If you’re in Scotland, like I am, you’ll know that at this time of year many fields are bright yellow due to the growth of Rapeseed, so if you like supporting local produce rather than imported, then that could be another reason for opting to use this.
  • Alternatively use some parts olive oil with some parts rape in dressings. You’d be in good company as if you check the labels of a lot of pre-packed salads at the moment, you’ll find that’s what supermarkets are doing too! (Cost effective)

Cold-pressed Coconut Oil

  • Coconut oil is one of the new ‘superfood’ craze foods and if were it not for the fact I’m über obsessed with coconut in all forms (fresh, desiccated, milk, water), I may not have tried it because as with all new ‘super foods’ it comes with a ‘nice’ price tag! Not too extreme, but I still would only buy it when its on offer.
  • This oil is solid at room temperature so if using as a dressing it will need to be warmed up (just leave some out in a small cup and it will melt if it is a warm day)
  • Unlike, traditional ‘healthy oils’ coconut oil does have saturated fats but from my reading on the subject, the form in which the fats take, are not as bad as other saturated fats in the way our body deals with them. (A quick search on a search engine will let you see my sources so go give them a read if you’re interested. As I make clear, I’m no nutritionist just a passionate healthy foodie who wants to keep her body as healthy as possible!)
  • The taste of the oil is gorgeous as it gives everything a coconut taste – hardly unsurprising (!) I use it a lot for cooking chicken.

There are more oils but these are my top 3.

VINEGARS

Balsamic

  • This includes standard balsamic vinegar, balsamic glazes, and infused balsamic vinegars (e.g. raspberry, orange, strawberry, or garlic)
  • Balsamic is a wonderful dressing on its own, combined with other condiments to map dressings, while it is also a great dip for freshly baked rustic Italian bread too.

White Wine Vinegar

  • This is a great base for a number of dressings – French, mustard, or simple vinaigrettes.

Cider Vinegar

  • Made from apples this is a traditional British vinegar
  • Although I personally don’t like this, I’m including it as comes with numerous benefits (There are even books devoted to the goodness of it.)
  • In dressings it is often used with salads containing radishes, walnuts, apples etc.

HEAT

Mustard

  • Mustard seeds or powder can both be used
  • Adds distinctive spiciness

Chilli

  • Adds a fiery heat
  • Cook first then chop finely or use dried chilli flakes

Horseradish

  • Great using for salads containing oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel)
  • Also great with thinly sliced beef in salads
  • It add an undeniable hotness

Garlic

  • Can use in a variety of ways – roasted, bought in an oil suspension, garlic paste
  • All of the above ways make great additions to salad dressings

SWEETNESS

Honey

  • Adds sweetness to dressings to counteract and complement the acidity / flavour of other ingredients e.g. lemon / mustard seeds
  • Goes great in mustard seed dressings

Maple Syrup

  • Similar to honey but with its distinctive flavour and less sweet (nutritionally lower in sugar too)

Dried Fruit

  • Dates (standard or the currently Medjool dates)
  • Finely chop or blend to a paste

Orange juice / Pureed Raspberries / Strawberries

  • All add sweetness and go lovely with balsamic based dressings

SOURNESS 

Lemon

  • The juice of lemon is a wonderful contrast to the flavour of salmon but equally goes with a variety of salads

Lime

  • Lime juice adds sourness again but with a less bitter taste

HERBS (just a selection)

Mint

  • A classic
  • Finely chop it in the dressing and also leave some to sprinkle over at the end too for a nice final touch

Fresh Basil

  • The basis of the tasty thing that is pesto!
  • Can be used blended (in oil / vinegar etc.), finely chopped, or whole

Oregano

  • My second favourite herb after basil
  • Use in a similar fashion to basil

Parsley

  • Can be used in dressings for many different salads
  • Looks great finely chopped sprinkled over the top too

NOT FORGETTING…

Sea Salt

Black Pepper

Add these to taste and I also seem to finish with a twist of freshly ground black pepper over everything savoury I cook. You just need to check my previous posts to see!


Hope you found this useful,

Helen x

Find me on Twitter (@HLDCblog), Facebook (/HLDCblog), and Instagram (@HCRinstacam)


Copyright HLDCblog // Helen Redman 2014-2015.

Warm Cajun Chicken Salad

Header Graphic by HCRHere in Scotland, there has been a remarkable run of sunny days since around Easter Weekend. This has made me more in the mood for salads and maintaining a good, clean, diet. Clear blue skies and sun from sunrise to sunset have been making me feel like it’s summer already! It is mainly during summer that I have loads of salads and less hot, cooked, meals as I seem to go off hot food and also don’t require so many calories to keep me warm due to the warmer climate. This salad is served warm so is perfect as an evening meal at this time of year when, despite the sun, there is a distinctive drop in temperature by early evening from moderately warm to noticeably cool. Serving a warm salad is thus in the middle, not too hot and not too cold! (Writing that sentence has just reminded me of the children’s story, Goldilocks and The Three Bears)

Warm Cajun Salad image 1

Recipe for my ‘Warm Cajun Chicken Salad’

Ingredients

To make 1 portion:

  • 1 chicken breast (cut into chunks or diced)
  • 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Turmeric
  • 1 tsp Coconut oil
  • Two mini sweet peppers (try and go for two different colours) A plateful of mixed salad leaves (spinach, watercress, lambs lettuce, and radaccio is great)
  • Black pepper
  • Balsamic glaze

Method:

In a frying pan, heat the coconut oil and add the seasoning. Add the chicken and cook until piping hot throughout and no pink remains. Spread the salad leaves on a plate. Cut the peppers lengthways, remove the middle, and quarter. Arrange on salad leaves. Top with the cooked chicken and glaze with the balsamic.

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Image 2 Warm Cajun Salad

Warm Cajun Salad image 1

Serve with garlic pitta bread or on its own.

Tip: For extra protein, add mixed beans or cooked lentils.

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Enjoy,

Helen x


©Copyright HLDCblog // Helen Redman 2015.

Absence from blogging

Hello!

Just thought I’d touch base to say I haven’t forgotten about this blog but I have recently been tied up with other projects and commitments so haven’t been able to post very regularly. I’ll hopefully be able to get back to blogging more regularly soon and am continually developing recipes just not having time to type them up properly. I doubt anyone wants to see photos uploaded of scrawly, rushed, hand-written recipes with water splashes on them etc!

Anyway, in the meantime, I am still posting my daily Tip of the Day on Twitter and also trying to continue posting my ‘meal diary’ on Instagram.

You can also find me on Facebook here

Bye for now,

Helen x

Clean Pizza (Omelette Pizza)

Who likes pizza?! Ok, so this may not be traditional pizza but then this blog is a healthy living blog, and unfortunately, pizzas are not the healthiest of things! This, however, is a recipe for a pizza-type dish that you can enjoy as often as you like without feeling in the slightest bit guilty about eating. (Not that you need feel guilty for eating pizza but if you’re eating it regularly, especially take-away ones, then it’s not going to be doing your body much good.) I made this last night for a quick, late dinner as I realised it had gotten to 10pm and I hadn’t eaten anything proper all evening. The clocks went forward this weekend in the UK so I blame that for messing me up with regards to an evening meal routine! Still, it’s nice to think it’s British Summer Time now. Unfortunately, the message doesn’t seem to have reached the sun itself yet…

Anyway, back to food. This pizza omelette is really easy and versatile to make. You can add whatever toppings you like and it is naturally gluten free as the base is made from eggs rather than flour like a traditional pizza. I made mine vegetarian but you could easily top with cooked lean meat, omega-3 rich fish, or even meat-free substitutes like tofu. It’s clean and lean and can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner and is packed with protein and also has chia seeds which are surprisingly filling and high in fibre.


 Recipe for Clean Pizza

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Base:

  • 3 large free range organic eggs
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Thyme
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric

To cook:

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil or other healthy oil

Suggested topping:Photo

  • Quartered cherry tomatoes
  • Chopped green pepper
  • Feta cheese (optional)

NOTE: If you are using meat or fish as a topping, then to make sure they are re-heated to being piping hot, it would be best to use an oven-proof or grill-proof pan and pop into the oven / grill once you add the topping and heat until the meat / fish is hot throughout.


Method:

Beat the eggs and add the rest of the ingredients               Photo

Place the oil in a pan and heat until hot

Pour the egg mixture into the pan and cook slowly – it should be about 3/4 cm thick

Once the top is beginning to set add your toppings and continue to cook making sure the bottom of the base is not getting overcooked (keep the gas low)

Once the topping is cooked, serve.

TIP: Once the top is just about set, flip the omelette in the pan and top with tomato puree. Then add your toppings on top.

(Optional: Add some feta cheese to make it more pizza-ey!)

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Serve on it’s own or with a baby kale and rocket salad.

Other topping ideas:

  • Olives, anchovies, and sundried tomatoes
  • Cooked chicken breast pieces, red onions, feta, and finely chopped fresh sage
  • Feta, tomatoes, basil, and spinach
  • Baby kale, avocado, and tomato
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Apologies for all the low-lighting in the photos – I took them at night and the lights in my kitchen are atrocious at the minute!!

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Copyright©HLDCblog // Helen Redman 2015.

 

 

Tasty Side Dish

This is a quick post passing on a recipe I have just discovered saved in the ‘notes’  in my phone from a while ago. I clearly forgot to ever actually upload this recipe of mine! Anyway, thought I would share this now before I forget again or delete the note by mistake.

Ingredients (serves 2)

A couple of handfuls of:

  • Mushrooms
  • Sliced courgettes
  • Red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • Black pepper

Optional:

  • Rocket, to serve

Method:

Saute sliced mushrooms and courgettes in olive oil. Add rosemary and thyme and a generous twist of ground black pepper. Continue to cook until the mushrooms and courgettes are beginning to soften. Add in some chopped red pepper and stir for a little longer until the rest of the vegetables are cooked through.

Serve while the red pepper is still quite crisp.

Serving tip:

This is a great accompaniment for turkey.

It can be plated with rocket added too.

Enjoy,

Helen x

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Copyright©HLDCblog // Helen Redman 2015.

 

Herb Chicken and Puy Lentil Salad

It is now officially the season of spring and what better lunch to have on a sunny day than a tasty salad? (I may be a bit biased, of course, as this is my own recipe…) This salad is packed full of protein and will leave you feeling like you have had a proper lunch not just some leaves as some people seem to think is the sole constituent of a salad! Chicken breast provides lovely lean protein and Puy lentils provide plenty of fibre as well as plant-based protein. The salad also has baby kale which is my new addiction. I love traditional kale, too, but the baby variety is perfect for salads. The addition of pepper adds some sweet crunch to the salad. The salad is quick to assemble but the chicken will have to be cooked in advance. I had chicken curry on Sunday and while I was cooking the curry on the hob, the chicken for the salad was cooking in the oven. This made it perfect for knocking up this quick salad for lunch on Monday. You could easily have this salad for dinner too.

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Recipe (serves 1):

For the chicken:

  • 1 chicken breast
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Olive Oil

Sprinkle the seasoning over the chicken, drizzle with oil and wrap the chicken in foil.

Bake the chicken in the foil for 25-35mins at 200C. (Make sure it is white throughout and piping hot in the centre.)

Leave to cool and then refrigerate

For the salad:

1 serving of baby kale

1/4 of an orange pepper (cubed)

80g Puy Lentils (I often use pre-cooked lentils for quickness but the dried lentils are cheaper and can easily be cooked up and used to make a salad for a couple of days, just store it in the fridge.)

Herb chicken breast (sliced)

Dressing:

Extra Virgin Oil

Balsamic Vinegar

Assemble the salad on a plate loosely layering the baby kale and lentils before topping with the chicken and pepper.

For the dressing, simply combine equal amounts of the oil and vinegar to make a simple vinaigrette. You can omit the dressing if you wish.

TIP: If cooking lentils from scratch, cook the lentils in vegetable stock rather than plain water to add extra flavour. Add a bay leaf too as it adds great flavour.

Hopefully the sun is out when you make it so you can enjoy it with the sun streaming down on you as you eat it like I did

image_zpski7kzxmkHave a great day,

Helen x


For more of my foodie-adventures, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


Copyright©HLDCblog // Helen Redman 2015.

5 healthy breakfast food swaps

Header graphic by HCRart


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1.

Original:

Smoked salmon and standard cream cheese on a white bagel

Swap for:

Smoked salmon and Quark (a naturally fat free soft cheese) in a wholemeal tortilla wrap or, if you really want a bagel, have a nice wholemeal one.

Why?

Standard cream cheese has saturated fat and is often processed with long ‘sell buy’ dates. Quark offers a fat free alternative that is fresher, natural, and wholesome. White bagels are made from flour which has been stripped of its natural goodness through processing and they also often have higher sugar content than wholemeal alternatives. Wholemeal is much more natural as the wheat grains are left as is and not altered. It also means you get much more fibre key for keeping your digestive system nice and healthy.


 2.

Original:

Fried eggs, bacon rashers, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, and hash browns

Swap for:

A poached egg, grilled turkey bacon, meat-free sausages, grilled large mushroom and tomatoes. Skip the hash browns.

Why?

Grilling is a much more healthy-concious option compared to frying. It removes the need for oil to be added when cooking. Turkey bacon is leaner than bacon from pork. Meat-free sausages have higher protein content than a lot of standard sausages due to them having less fat. The meat in standard sausages is often the cheapest cuts padded out with pork or beef fat – doesn’t sound very appetising, does it? Hash browns are fine as a treat but if you are aiming to be healthy then leave them out as they are fried extensively and often bought readymade meaning with the addition of chemicals.


 3.

Original:

Porridge/Hot oatmeal made with cream and topped with golden syrup, and jam

Swap for:

Porridge/Hot oatmeal made with water or semi-skimmed milk or half n’ half and topped with maple syrup and homemade fruit compote such as this one

Why?

By swapping you lower the amount of saturated fat and sugar. Golden syrup is made from refined sugar and jam is full of naturally sweet fruit but with the added addition of lots of sugar (the ratio of fruit:sugar is often shockingly low especially on cheaper ones). Homemade fruit compote, on the other hand, has only naturally occurring sugars or a little natural added sweetener such as honey or maple syrup. Maple syrup is used instead of golden syrup as it is less processed and much lower in sugar (and free of refined sugar).


 4.

Original:

A bowl of cereal

Swap for:

A bowl of custom (aka make your own) muesli or granola

Why?

Some cereal is reasonably healthy but despite the big claims on boxes of them being ‘fortified’ with ‘added vitamins and calcium’ etc., they are frequently full of sugar, and also often have quite a lot of salt. Maize-based cereals can also be found to be made from GM (genetically modified) maize crops.

If you buy, organic, low sugar and salt cereal then that is probably ok as part of a healthy lifestyle but if you buy the super-processed, sweet, cereal, then by switching to homemade muesli you can be fully in the know entirely what you are eating. It’s super simple to make and you can either make up a serving each time or to save time make up a larger quantity and store it as you would bought cereal.

Here’s a basic muesli recipe:

Oats, wheat flakes

Seeds (e.g. sunflower, pumpkin, flaxseed, chia)

Nuts (e.g. Almond, hazelnut, pecans, walnuts, macadamia, brazil)

Dried fruit (e.g. raisins, sultanas, cranberries, banana, pineapple (watch out for sugar content though))

Serve dry or with dairy milk, coconut milk, or almond milk.

Optional:

Use fresh fruit (e.g. berries, sliced banana, mango, grapes) instead of dried fruit or have some of both


 5.

Original:

White toast and butter / chocolate spread / jam / marmalade

Swap for:

Wholewheat toast and spread with mashed ripe avocado seasoned with pepper and a little sea salt or home-made healthier chocolate spread

• Recipe: Homemade clean chocolate spread •

Basic method:

Blend some mashed ripe avocado and cocoa powder together and/or a little maple syrup or mashed ripe banana to sweeten. Approx. ratios 1/2 avocado: 1tsp cocoa powder: quarter mashed banana or 1 tsp to a tbsp maple syrup

This can be stored in the fridge until the next day in an airtight jar.

Enjoy!

Helen x

P.S For more foodie goodness, find me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!


 Copyright©HLDCblog//Helen Redman 2015.

5 Herbs You Need in Your Kitchen

Header graphic by HCRart

In my kitchen I have a multiplicity of herbs, I love them. There hardly a dish I make without adding at least one herb. I also use a lot of spices but I’ll save that for another post later this week. My love of herbs and spices means I don’t only have one herb and spice rack but in fact have a carousel, a rack, another rack, and some cupboard shelf space for the overflow. I think I’ve made my point about how important they are to me in cooking now, haven’t I! The below list of herbs are the ones I probably use most often as they’re the ones I have to replenish stock of the most. Pretty much all of them are versatile in their uses and that is why I have included them in this list. I might publish a longer list of herbs and their uses if anyone would find that useful. (Just comment in the comments below, or pop me a Tweet if you’d like that!) Here’s the list:

Herbs

1. Oregano – I think I read somewhere at some point that this was really good for you and perhaps that’s why the contents of my container of oregano seems to disappear at an astonishing rate… It is a great herb to use and goes great with tomatoes, ground beef, and pork. I always use it in spaghetti bologna and any other Italian-style tomato-based sauce. This is a herb I always use dried.

2. Basil – A key constituent of Italian cooking, basil is a wonderfully versatile herb that works well with a variety of foods. This ranges from the obvious one, tomatoes, to the perhaps not-so-obvious strawberries. It can be used to successfully jazz up a simple sandwich or wrap because of its distinctive flavour. Or it can be used with equal amounts of mozzarella and tomato for the classic Italian starter or salad of ‘Insalata Caprese’ dressed simply with extra virgin olive oil and seasoned with black pepper. This must be one of the greatest salads ever devised due to it being exceptionally simple but exquisite in its combination of flavours – sweet, creamy, fragrant, acidic, and salty – and contrasting textures. If you want to be more experimental try using basil in a strawberry and basil sorbet or a basil, strawberry, spinach, and feta salad dressed with a balsamic and olive oil vinaigrette.

3. Rosemary – A wonderfully fragrant herb, great for adding to the skin of a roast – especially chicken. It can also be used in homemade focaccia, as an infuser in extra virgin olive oil to dip freshly baked bread in, or as a way of adding flavour to potato wedges. Try some rosemary seasoned wedges and roast Mediterranean veg. with a steak for a tasty meal for the senses! One quick mid-week meat I like to cook is turkey steak and I often season it with rosemary, pepper, and sage. This is sprinkled on just before cooking, no marinading necessary, making it a super speedy way of adding some flavour to the turkey.

4. Dill – The perfect match for salmon. Use either fresh or dried but using fresh dill will give the best results and it also makes a nice garnish for the finished dish. It also makes a great sauce to accompany salmon or to use as a dip for raw pepper, carrot, and celery batons. The sauce / dip is super easy to make, simply blend about 1 tbsp chopped dill, a few tablespoons of natural yoghurt, some lemon juice, and season with freshly ground black pepper and a dash of sea salt.

5. Parsley – This is so much more than just a garnish. It is best used from fresh. Parsley adds distinctive complimentary flavour to a white fish sauce and combined with breadcrumbs makes a great herby topping for baked cod. Finely chopped parsley is also lovely added to a variety of pasta dishes just before serving.

So, that’s my top 5 herbs!

What herbs do you like? Comment below or, alternatively, pop me a Tweet, write on my wall on Facebook, or send me a message. You can also follow me on Instagram where I frequently post snaps of my food!


Copyright©HLDCblog//Helen Redman 2015.

 

My Top 5 Vegetables

It surprises me how much of a fan I am of vegetables now compared to how I used to be. Back in my childhood I remember clearly saying I didn’t want to eat all the vegetables on my plate and being a bit fussy about which ones I would eat and which ones I would not. Yet, reflecting back on it now I think it has a lot to do with limited variety. Since my childhood, healthy eating and living has had a big boost in the country with great efforts taken by the government, the school curriculum, and the NHS to promote healthier lifestyles. With this has also come an increase in year-round availability of foods from all around the world as well as seasonal produce from the UK being present in more shops. Health food shops are also being used by probably the greatest demographic that they ever have been.

My point is, that with all of this, there is a much greater variety of vegetables to choose from and prices have been lowered as supermarkets compete to be seen to be promoting healthy eating. Consuming vegetables is arguably a vital component of eating healthily. They are great as they contain many nutrients and compared to fruit, also key, have much lower sugar content. In this post, I’m going to discuss my current top 5 vegetables – why I like them and how I cook them.

1. Kale

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This is a leafy green that is currently ‘in vogue’ but it is actually one I have eaten for years as it is something that can easily be grown in the UK and is also often good value because the hard stalks can put some people off eating it and thus the price is lower. There is both curly kale and smooth kale, it is curly kale with which I am more familiar and is the more popular of the two varieties. Recently, in an effort to get around this problem, there has been the emergence of baby kale which has smaller leaves and no hard stalks to remove as well as being more tender in texture. Whichever one you go for, I am quite happy with the standard kale, it is a remarkable green in that it provides so much positive nutritional value. Super high in vitamin K, it is a great source of vitamins A and C also, and a surprisingly great source of calcium as well as fibre. Additionally, a standard portion of kale (80g) is very low calorie.

Serving

Kale can be eaten either raw or cooked. It is more traditional to cook it, although with the rise of green juices and smoothies, it is quite common now to use kale as the ‘green base’ of a green drink and thus consume it raw. Kale can be steamed or boiled to cook it. I sometimes have a half n’ half way of cooking it, by placing it in boiling water and leaving it to sit for a few minutes. This breaks down the fibres a bit and makes it less tender but also prevents it from the possibility of it being overcooked. To complete this blanching method, place it in a sieve to drain the water, and run cold water over it to prevent it from continuing to cook. Alternatively, just drain it and allow it to keep its heat and serve immediately.C

Suggestions of how to use kale:

Cooked:

  • As an addition to a stir-fry
  • An omelette filling
  • As a side vegetable
  • In soup

Raw:

  • In a green juice or smoothie

 2. Broccoli

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Broccoli is that odd ‘tree-looking’ green vegetable. There are also less tree-like tender stem and purple sprouting varieties. The traditional large broccoli florets are well suited to being used in soups while the smaller varieties can be more convenient for cooking and serving as is. When buying green broccoli make sure the florets are all green and not beginning to go yellow as that indicates they are past their best. As for nutritional value, similar to kale, they have high vitamin K and E content. They are also a source of calcium and a source of thiamin among others.

Serving

Broccoli is best steamed or boiled. Both the stalk and top is edible. It should be bright green with a bit of bite when cooked. If it is very dark or mushy, it is over-cooked resulting in much of the goodness being lost in the water in which it was cooked. (This is, however, ok if you are intending making soup as you’ll be using both the vegetable and the water it is cooked in as stock.

Suggestions on how to use broccoli:

  • Steamed as a side served with salmon and asparagus
  • Used to make a delicious broccoli soup (add some stilton / soft goat’s cheese for the best result)
  • Tender-stem broccoli is good in stir-fries

3. Spinach

Spinach is great. I grew up only having cooked spinach as my father grew it in our back garden yet I now much prefer it raw as it’s a great go-to vegetable to serve with a dish or as the basis for a healthy salad. If ever beginning adding green smoothies to your diet spinach the ideal ‘green’ element to start with as it is much more tender and milder than other greens, notably kale. Cooked, spinach is also a nice addition to homemade tomato-based pasta sauces and the Italian al forno pasta dish cannelloni. As a general rule, baby leaf spinach is nicest to eat raw whereas standard, larger leaf, spinach is better cooked. As with kale and broccoli, spinach is packed with goodness. It is a great source of iron, particularly useful for those who maintain a vegetarian diet, and a number of other nutrients.

Serving:

To cook spinach you can either steam or blanch it. Alternatively, it can be added, near the end of cooking, to a stir-fry or a pasta sauce where it will wilt down until nice and soft. If using spinach raw it can be left as is or blended in a blender with other ingredients to make a smoothie.

TIP: If you buy a large bag of spinach it is a good idea to freeze some of it, as spinach is better the fresher it is.

Suggestions of how to use it:

Cooked

  • As a bed on which to serve cod or chicken breast
  • In Eggs Florentine
  • In dishes such as cannelloni
  • As an addition to a fish pie

Raw

  • In a smoothie like this one
  • As a leafy green in a salad (here are some of my salad ideas)
  • As a side

4. Sweet PotatoPhotoFinally, something that’s not green you may be thinking! Sweet potatoes are wonderfully versatile. They can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes and can be cooked in virtually every way you can think of. They are a powerhouse of goodness and completely different in taste and texture to anything else.

Serving:

Sweet potato has to be cooked. It can be cut and baked to make wedges, boiled and mashed, fried, or boiled, mashed and baked in brownies or cake.

Suggestions of how to use it:

Savoury:

  • It can be used to make healthy ‘baked fries’
  • In sweet potato soup (add some chorizo for some smoky Spanish heat)
  • Cut into wedges, seasoned with herbs, brushed with oil and baked
  • Mashed as a side dish
  • Bake and fill it, jacket potato style

Sweet:

  • As an ingredient in clean brownies or cakes
  • mashed with maple syrup, nutmeg, and cinnamon

5. Onions

Onions are a fantastic addition to an array of dishes. They add wonderful flavour as well as helping to bring out the flavour of other ingredients in a recipe. Onions can be either red or white. If eaten raw white onions are much milder and with less of an intense kick than raw onions. Red onions add a lovely purple-red hue to dishes when added and finely chopped red onions make a great garnish. Onions go great with all meats and complement the taste of the meat. They are good as the base of a sauce, soup, and also as a base of gravy. Equally, they can be a nice side on their own, especially if seasoned and roasted with other root vegetables. As for why onions are good for you, history shows their benefits have been known for hundreds of years. They, among other things, are an antioxidant, help reduce inflammation, and are high in vitamin C.

Serving:

Both types can be eaten raw or cooked. They can be cooked in a variety of ways, sauteed, roasted, boiled, and battered and deep fried in onion rings (but the latter is certainly not a ‘healthy living’ option!). I have to admit, I have enjoyed them the few times I’ve had them though… I live in Scotland, home of deep fried everything so what can I say!

Raw:

  • Homemade salsa
  • Finely chopped as a garnish
  • In a light, homemade coleslaw
  • Finely sliced rings in salad (I often use red onion but white if I want a milder taste – depends what mood I’m in and what dressing I’m making) – find some of my salad ideas here

Cooked:

  • In soups or French onion soup
  • Sauteed with mushrooms and served with grilled tomato as a side for a juicy steak
  • As a base for pasta sauce, sauteed with crushed garlic
  • Boiled in white sauce (I think this might be a Scottish side but I really like it, it goes great with chicken!)
  • Roasted with other vegetables and served as a side (just drizzle with olive oil, season with freshly ground black pepper, add some dried chilli flakes if you like things hot, and roast in a hot oven until suitably done)

So, that’s my 5 top veg. of the moment, hope it has been of interest to you and encouraged you to go eat some veg!

If you’d like to follow more of my foodie exploits, you can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Happy stalking 😉

Helen x


DISCLAIMER: All nutritional content is from my personal study and I am a graduate of a non-nutrition or science based course. Consult professionals for further information.
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