Best Spicy Butternut Squash

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Easy start of the week… Mondays have an awful fame for taking us all back to reality and to a world of obligations. What we have to do, our jobs, homes, groceries, children, families, noises. Lazy Sundays leave way to a feeling of having to be back on track. No more ice cream watching that movie and a bit of guilt. This is why I love cooking a bit pot of soup of Mondays that will last me until Friday. Today I would like to share with you an Autumn recipe that is hearty, filling and delicious and of course it’s been made with love and little fat to keep your hearts happy and your hips tight.

Stuffed-Butternut-Squash

Autumn is the season of falling leaves, of yellows and oranges, or warm cozy jumpers of blankets, of Halloween, and in the midst of all this, of Pumpkins!! Starbucks brings their inglorious Pumpkin Spice Latte and I bring the glorious Butternut squash Spice Soup, as they say, each to their own.

A bit on the nutrition side of things… Butternut squash is a pumpkin that has an elongated body and a big butt, a bit like most women 😉 pumpkin are very sweet, like carrots, when cooked they are perfect to bake pies and cakes due this high content of natural occurring sugars, so in principle I wouldn’t recommend having too much pumpkin if you are trying to lose weight, however, their glycemic charge, this is the total amount of carbohydrate that they contain, is relatively low so if the portions are controlled there is no reason to avoid it. This soup is still very low in fat, low in carbs and GI and perfect starter. Additionally it contains a fair amount of curcuma, which is highly antioxidant, helps digestion and it has been linked to Alzheimer prevention and glucose absorption reduction on people with diabetes.

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Personally from a taste point of view I find pumpkin soup a bit too sweet so I much prefer the curried version that has a bit of a spice kick and it is much nicer. This version is vegetarian but I have come across the exact same thing but including bacon and I will surely try it in the near future.

Ingredients (serves 4)

½ Butternut Squash

1 red pepper

2 Onions

1 vegetable stock cube in 1 liter of water

½ tsp Paprika

1 tsp curcuma

½ tsp ground pepper

½ tsp ground coriander

1 tsp cumin

¾ tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp Green Tabasco Sauce

Salt to taste

A few sesame seeds & coriander to decorate

Peel and chop the onions and cook them for a couple of minutes in olive oil. Add the butternut squash, mix well and add the spices. Let them soak for 1 or 2 minutes and add the stock. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and let simmer until the squash is soft and melty, around 15 to 20 minutes. Taste the sauce and season with salt to taste if needed. Since this recipe has so many spices you might as well skip the salt, it does wonders for water retention to eat lower sodium.

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If you are happy with the taste, blend together with a hand blender until the soup is a smooth silky consistency and there are no “boats” floating around.

These soups and anything that contains multiple spices will taste better after a few hours, but if you can’t wait it will still be delicious!

Follow me on Instagram for daily tips & recipes @cook_yourself_slim

 

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Bulimia & Other diets

Eating-Disorders

I haven’t posted for a few days because I have been travelling, specifically to Tokyo and the time difference and the workload haven’t allowed me to dedicate the time I wanted to my side activities like this blog, which I love to write. So sorry everyone!

Those of you who have ever flown long haul probably know that there are very few things to do on a plane, and one of them is watching movies. Since I don’t get much spare time to watch anything on my daily life, I always take this chances to catch-up with all the films I have missed in the last months.

One of the movies I watched on the way back was Amy, a documentary about the life and tragic death of the British Singer Amy Winehouse, you probably know the story as I did (unless you have watched the documentary) a young Jewish girl with a great talent for singing and song writing, out of a lower class suburb in north London made it to stardom only to fall into a deep hole of drug and alcohol abuse that lead to her dead at the age of 27. Sad story, not the first one of this kind, the 27 club is a highly populated one, filled with some unforgettable figures from the music scene since the 60s.

 

The reason why I am mentioning it, is that actually, Amy did not overdose, she died of alcohol poisoning on a very weakened body. This weakened body was in such state because she had been suffering from bulimia from the age of 15, a condition that went untreated and everybody in her environment overlooked as the least of her problems, but that did cause in the end her death. Looking for some information about this subject, I found one of the best articles I have read about eating disorders using this documentary and this particular case as an example. For those of you who might be interested, this is the link to it:untitled

http://pitchfork.com/thepitch/861-we-need-to-talk-about-amy-winehouses-eating-disorder-and-its-role-in-her-death

 

I will not go in depth into this issue because the article featured if you follow the link already said it all better than I ever could, I would like instead to talk about the part of the education and the family support of Amy Winehouse (or the lack of it) that led to her holding on to her eating disorder and how this situation is much more common that we think, with thousands of women and some men falling at a very young age into this trap.

 

Bulimia and Anorexia are the extreme psychological conditions, the end game that can start with any of the other diets that are out there that could actually also be considered eating disorders because they, well, “disorder” our eating. You name it, the intermittent fasting, the juice detox, the Atkins method, the paleo method, the Dukan diet, the zone, weight watchers, low carb, low fat, the cayenne pepper and syrup diet… the list is endless and all of them have something in common, they work when followed, they don’t when not.

The problem is that these are all based on extreme restrictions or suppressions of entire food groups leaving our bodies shaking.

 

Simples!!

It is amazing to read on press continuous claims saying things like “traditional diets” don’t work, we must find another way to tackle weight loss since obesity has become the new plague of our time. In this article in particular they were talking about genetically tailored diets, the new hive, trying to find a new personalised diet that will once and for all adjust our food intakes to keep us healthy and slim. Sounds like a miracle? Yet the problem is that genetically we will probably not be supposed to eat doughnuts all day long.

It is a great idea in principle to use our genetic imprint to achieve the best possible nutritional plan and use it to create our diet. A lot of people will be willing to spend a lot of money in something like this, and it might be really useful for us to get a diet profile from our childhoods to learn to eat according to our body’s specific needs but it will not give us a free pass to eat whatever we want, potentially chocolate will still be off limits for 98% of the people if your gold is trying to stay fit and healthy. It should be something to be consumed occasionally. Traditional diets say so, and genetically tailored made ones will say exactly the same thing. Though luck!!

 

What the media seems to fail to explain when they say “ Traditional Diets” fail, is that it is not the diet that actually fails, but the dieters. Let me explain this, if you are overweight buy a significant amount of kilos, let’s say 15 for the sake of discussion, how did you get there? Did they appear in your belly and hips overnight? Most probably not. They are the result a of a lifetime of nutritional errors and a bad diet (as in how you eat every day) and a lack of an active lifestyle (namely sports) that has taken you to this point. If you change your diet in order to lose weight, and you manage to lose 12 kilos, and then you go back to your sedentary pre diet eating habits, guess what, your 12 kilos will come back with them and probably will bring friends!! It is the law of nature, old habits, old body!!

The key to a successful weight loss, whichever diet you choose, is to make it a lifestyle, lifetime long sustainable change. It doesn’t make any sense to put your body in a state of deprivation, which could potentially compromise your metabolism not to mention your mental stability. Some of the well-known effects of a low carb diet sustained in time can be lack of energy apathy and depression, intermittent fasting can lead to drowsiness, but the worst is the feeling that you cannot eat something, because this is exactly what you will be longing for all day long.

So back to your diet, and the weight you have lost and the hunger you have developed for the things that you haven’t been eating… what happens? Well you start eating everything and bang, the dreaded yo yo effect will come and kick you in the ass. Metaphorically and physically.

The more restrictive your diet is the worse will be the bounce effect to normal. If you are not prepared to life on a low carb diet the rest of your life, simply do not start a low carb diet.

Each person is different, in this, the media and papers are correct, and there is not one correct nutritional approach that fits all. Each one of us needs to take a long honest look at one selves and make a commitment to our diet for the rest of our lives. Am I going to be a low carb? Am I going to be a low fat? Am I going to fast? Or am I going to eat less amount of food, try to keep the fat and carbs under control and increase my physical activity?? Whatever you think it will work for you in the LONG TERM is the answer to you.

Finally I would like to also put out there, that having some flesh over the bone is totally healthy and beautiful. As long as you have an active lifestyle and your BMI is between 20 and 25 you are a healthy individual. The rest is AESTHETICS, and they are not necessary. So if you think or think that you are a bit chubby, but you are healthy, and you struggle to diet and you start and finish a fad diet every week, please do yourself a favour and stop!! Accept who you are and accept the beauty of your body and enjoy the food you love, because if you want to lose weight you need to love being skinny more than you love chocolate ice cream.

And Chocolate ice cream is amazing 😉

Gluten Free Wholegrain Lemon Drizzle Cake

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Today post is a bonus post, just like the recipe that I am going to share is a bonus food. You might or might not be familiar with the concept “cheat meal” but this recipe falls under this category.

A cheat meal is one meal a week where you eat whatever you feel like. And I mean whatever, a treat of your choice, a cheeseburger with white bread and bacon and fries with mayo. A pint of Ben & jerry’s ice cream, a bit of both… doesn’t matter. The role of this meal is to “cheat” your body to avoid it from getting used to a) too low calories b) too low fat c) too controlled food intake (as in clean)

It is particularly important in the context of a body building or fitness diet, when the athlete or amateur has a strict calorie or macronutrient diet and eats clean and lean on a constant basis.

Fitness athletes and sports people that compete in body categories follow processes of “bulking” or “cutting” these are first a phase in which you over nourish your body so it creates lean muscle (with specific training for it) and then a “cutting” phase in which you reduce your calorie intake to be at a deficit and reduce your body fat percentage to the desired level (normally between 12 and 16% for women and 4 and 7% for men).

This principle also applies to people on a weight loss journey specially if they have been on a diet or on a calorie restriction for long period of time and their body could simply “adjust” and their weight loss could stop, what is called hitting a plateau.

Having one cheat meal a week will shock your metabolism giving your body the message that he will get big portions, high fat, simple carbs again, and therefore it is absolutely ok to burn some more fat, because there is more food where that came from! It will also impact your mentally, allowing you to have a social life a date, a celebratory meal and not feel like the journey doesn’t allow you to eat anything you crave. Also it can be a great way to replenish the glycogen (what fuels your muscles) on your body in low or extremely low carb diets, and you will work out with a lot of extra strength after it.

If I go out for my cheat meal, I will eat whatever I feel like in the menu, and it is fine, but if I am cooking it at home, I try to add something extra to it, in this case, I tried a new recipe for a Lemon Drizzle cake, which turned out to be delicious. It is a gluten free alternative, not because it is less fattening, because it’s not, but because I used wholegrain rice flour and almond flour, both full of fiber, which is great for your digestive system. The almonds bring a good amount of healthy fat to the mix as well, and I have observed that gluten free cakes usually have a moist and texture that makes them better than their traditional counterparts! I think it’s because of their higher fat content.

So please feel free to enjoy this cake but do it knowing that it is a treat.

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Ingredients:

200 gr. Butter (room temperature)

200 gr. Almond Flour

200 gr. Raw Moscovado Sugar (cane unrefined sugar)

100 gr. Wholegrain Rice Flour

½ tsp. Vanilla extract

1 tsp. Baking powder

3 Eggs

3 lemons

75 gr icing sugar (and 3 tbsp of water)

How to…

Heat up the over to 180C, beat up the sugar with the butter and add the vanilla extract and the eggs. Once this mixture is creamy and uniform, add the rice flour, the baking powder and the almond flour. Add the juice and the zest of one of the lemons and keep the zest and the juice of other two for the drizzle. Pour the mixture into a cake tin (18 to 13 cm diameter), mine is made of silicon so it doesn’t need to be greased but if your is metallic you will need to grease it to avoid it from sticking.

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Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. This cake takes a bit longer than others due to the consistency of the ingredients.

In the meantime, heat up the lemon juice in a saucepan with the water and the icing sugar and let it simmer for 3 to 5 minutes until it has the consistency of a light syrup.

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Once the cake is ready, let it cool down for 10 minutes and then pinch the surface with a toothpick all over the surface, pour the syrup on to the cake with the help of a spoon so it spreads out evenly. Let the cake sit for around 30 minutes to let the lemon drizzle set through the cake.

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So this cake is a reasonably healthier alternative than the classic version due to the higher fiber, higher protein and good fats (almond) and raw sugar, but it is still a cake, and it is still a treat, so enjoy in moderation as part of a healthy, well balanced diet.

90 Calorie Protein Punch Easy Egg Muffins

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How did I never think of this is a mystery, but we all have lots to learn, and I have learned about these beauties this weekend. I use an app called Fitocrazy to log my workouts, it provides support for fitness purposes and it’s full of people with very inspiring ideas, one of them was these egg muffins. Even though I seem to be the last one to find out about them, I thought I would give them a go.

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Before sharing the recipe, which is very very easy, I would like to stress the importance of snacking as part of a well balanced and sustainable way of eating. Most experts recommend doing 5 to 6 meals a day, smaller in size, the main advantages of these are two:

1. Keeps your metabolism active: when you eat every few hours your body keeps receiving fuel and so he keeps using it freely.

2. Avoids cravings and overeating at the main meal times. If you get to lunch starving, you will jump on literally anything, from crisps to sweets. If you eat something before hand, you will have better control over your appetite.

What should a good snack then have? Protein for starters, it is very important for satiety and muscle mass maintenance. Carbohydrate to make sure that protein is used best as possible, it should be a healthy source of carb to keep you fuller for longer and then some type of fat, ideally the least abundant component.

Between your lunch and dinner, one or two of these with a piece of fruit (an apple for example) will keep you energized and full until dinner. I have made these with full eggs, but I would recommend also to substitute a few eggs with egg whites for more protein and less fat depending on your goals.

Finally, I have made these vegetarian but they are awesome with bacon or chicken in them for additional flavor.

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Ingredients (for 6 muffins)

6 eggs

1 cube of frozen spinach

1 tomato

1/2 onion

2 tbsp. grated Grana-Padano or parmesan cheese

Salt & Pepper

How to…

In a frying pan, sauté the tomato and onion with salt & pepper for 3 to 5 minutes. In he meantime, boil the spinach until is loose and then remove all the water. In a bowl, beat up the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper again and add the vegetables and one tablespoon of grated cheese.

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Mix well and pour into muffin liners, the metallic are best to avoid the egg from sticking to the paper (it does stick a lot). Sprinkle the top with the rest of the cheese and bake for about 20 minutes at 150 C.

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They last in the fridge for around 4 to 5 days so it’s a great grab & go snack or breakfast if you are running late!

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Enjoy!

Low Carb Guilt Free Burger

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Since today is Friday   , and it is a wonderful thing to think of the weekend ahead.. I don’t know about you but I normally use these days to rest and I usually place my cheat meals or somehow less basic meals on these two days. It’s a way to enjoy them with my friends and family and makes it all more enjoyable. When you are trying to lose weight of reach a certain fitness goal however, the amount of “celebration” in this Celebratory meals is normally a bit more constrained, but this doesn’t mean that you do not deserve a bit of happiness.

Since for me, the low carb diet is the one that generally provides the best results, I would like to share with you this recipe of a low carb bacon cheese burger, which is also quite moderate in fat content.

I did mine with lean ground beef and reduced fat cheese, and you could even do it with turkey bacon, I used normal pork smoked bacon (British bacon) simply because I love it haha 😉

Of course, this recipe is not rocket science but hey, I thought it was worth sharing the idea!

Ingredients (serves one)

150/200 gr of lean ground beef

1 lettuce leaf

1 slice of tomato

1 slice of smoked British bacon

1 slice of reduced fat cheese (I prefer gruyere but cheddar works just as well)

½ tbsp. of mayonnaise

½ tbsp. of reduced sugar ketchup

2 slices of Aubergine (or Portobello mushrooms)

How to do it?

Pan fry the aubergine slices (don’t make them too thin or they will break) in the same pan and set aside, one minute on each side is enough.

Season the meat with salt, pepper and any spices that you like (I add garlic and onion powders normally) fry the burger pattie in a non-sticky pan without any added oil until it is cooked to your liking. My recommendation is to leave it slightly pink on the inside for better taste.

When you turn around the pattie to cook on the second side, put the cheese on top so it melts and in the meantime, just assemble the burger! My preference is: Aubergine, mayonnaise & ketchup, tomato meat with cheese and bacon, then aubergine again.

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Instead of Aubergine, you can use Portobello mushrooms if you prefer, they make grabbing the burger easier, more like a bread bun than the Aubergine, but I couldn’t get hold of them this time so I tried this other version!

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Enjoy!

Tone up!

 beauty-workout

Thank god the days of the heroin addict looking supermodels are past us. Today, a more healthy looking beauty standard has emerged, and even thanks to the (dis) likes of the K sisters (sorry cant say the name without cringing) Jennifer Lopez (who started the trend) and others, curves are a welcome improvement, in the search for the perfect body.

Today I would like about the importance of muscle tone and toning for everyone, but specially in people that are following a weight loss diet or are in a calorie deficit regime.

There is something some people don’t seem to understand and it is that certain fast working diets, such as juice fasting and intermittent fasting, even though they could offer you some quick pound dropping, they will do so by eating on your muscle mass.

If you do not maintain an appropriate level of protein intake in your diet, you will be compromising your muscles, which is, what ultimately, give your body a lovely shape.

I have seen people on diet feeding on some small lettuce platters, thinking that was doing wonders for them and then stuffing themselves later on with excessive or the type of carbs or highly fatty foods.

Muscle, my friends, is your biggest ally in the journey to a more active, healthier lifestyle and a better body and actually It burns more calories than fat tissue thus increasing your base metabolism, which is the amount of calories your body uses just to keep you going during a given day, which results in the following easy assumption:

More muscle = higher calorie consumption = less weight gain at the same calorie intake

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Some people wrongly assume that if they want to improve the way they look, they need to spend one hour a day on a treadmill, or an elliptical trainer, but toning exercises such as weight training, increase your fat burning for far longer than a cardio session would do. When you run (or are on an elliptical trainer) you are burning calories as a result of the exercise, on the spot and while you are at it,  but when you activate your muscles with strength training, they will be active and recovering up to 24H, increasing your far burn, improving circulation for far longer than the cardio alone.

What comes with improving circulation is a series of really interesting side effects that have to do with ageing. You only need to have a good look at Madonna for example, and other famous toning experts in the celebrity world. They possess the best defying gravity bodies. Chest, arm and glute muscles, which are the first to suffer with age can be easily recovered with some daily routine of toning moves such as squats & push ups.

Cardio is very important and it is definitely very helpful in fat loss/weight loss processes, but ensuring a correct muscular performance and increasing your muscle mass, will help you not only achieve your goals, but also to keep them in the long term.

My advice is not to be scared of the weights ladies, go to a gym and ask a cute personal trainer to give you an induction on weight training, you will see some stunning results you never thought you would!