Best Pea & Spinach Soup

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I promise you it is the best you will ever have. Well maybe you are very stubborn and will not be willing to admit it, but it will be at least top 3! What is special about this soup, is that is based on a traditional Finnish soup that I tried many years ago.

I had never been a massive fan of peas… I guess like most children, those mushy, green little balls were mainly something I had to patiently remove from paellas, rices, other foods that I liked…mainly an annoyance this is. Luckily for me, I developed a brain later on in life, and I became more adventurous with food, this paired with an excellent parental education that engraved in my brain the fact that “If you go to someone else’s house, you eat what you are given and you say how good it was” led me to trying for the first time the winning combination that makes this soup special. Mustard!

I know now you are still reading out of curiosity, so please know that Ham and Pea soup has been a traditional northern European speciality for centuries and traditionally, incorporates this seasoning into it, giving it a tart, vinagre like punch that is just so delicious! Since I don’t eat meat, I have developed a vegan alternative to this traditional soup, also incorporating spinach to make the traditional soup a bit lighter and removed the ham. If you are a meat eater, don’t hesitate to add a bit of ham in the cooking process and blending it together and you will get a smoky, delicious flavour.

Peas are also a very respectable source of many things. At only 74 calories per each 100 gr. of product, you get 5 to 6 gr. of fibre, 6 gr. of protein and very good levels of iron, calcium, vitamin C and magnesium along with multiple vitamins. It is also low in sugars and the carbohydrate content is of slow absorption making them perfect for weight loss diets, low carb diets, and diabetic patients (regardless of their medication of course).

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What else can I say… it is also very easy to make so totally worth trying and including this soup into your every day diets, without a doubt!

Ingredients (serves 5)

300 gr. frozen or fresh peas

300 gr. frozen spinach

1 Onion finely chopped

1 l. of vegetable stock (if doing the vegan option, if going for the traditional one, just add a 200gr. clean piece of smoked ham or a ham bone)

Dijon Mustard

Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper to taste

How to…

In a very small amount of olive oil, cook the onion finely chopped until transparent. Then add the frozen peas, the spinach and add the vegetable stock (or the ham and water), salt and pepper and let cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

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Remove one cup of the peas and set aside and blend the rest of the mixture correcting the level of water, it could be too dry or too liquid and therefore your soup would be too liquid or too chunky. We want the soup to be a little chunky though, kind of thick, but of course this is a personal choice! Once the soup is roughly blended is ready to be served.

In a bowl, serve the amount of soup you wish, add a teaspoon of dijon mustard on top and some drops as decoration. Garnish with some of the peas you had set aside and if you want, with a bit of mint and enjoy. img_9888

Lean Sunday Roast

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One of the most important barriers when taking control of one’s diet, is the excuses to one self that come from absolutely rightful issues. My favourite of all times is the lack of time one.

Lack of time is actually a fallacy, we all have 24h in the day, the only difference is how do we make our use of them, which is generally according to our priorities.

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When you have kids, the time seems to disappear between your fingers and the things that suffer the most are generally your own wellbeing and more and more in our society, the home cooking.

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There is simply no time for it. This is a mistake because our children are learning what we are teaching them as parents, if we do not cook at home and we don’t take care of our diets, they will learn the same patterns and they will grow up to be individuals with really bad habits.

 

Today I want to share a recipe that will allow you to both, home cook and teach your children some good nutrition basics, and also will enable you to get easy access to a healthy lunches during the week, even if you don’t have kids, this is the foundation of food prepping.

It is as simple as cooking extra. Are 2 at home? 4?? Then cook twice as much and simply pack away the extra portions in neat Tupperware in the fridge. On Sunday I generally cook my lunch and breakfast for Monday to Thursday and on Thursday eve, I cook extra and make another portion for Friday.

 

Today’s super easy recipe is a Lean Sunday Roast.

The particularities of this roast versus the one served at the pub is that this one doesn’t contain simple carbs, so we will not have the traditional gravy, but a lower fat and carb alternative, and we will also be skipping the potatoes in favour of some celeriac root. With regards to the Yorkshire pudding, I skip them altogether, but you can bake your own using wholegrain spelt flour, however, if you have enough veggies and roast, you won’t actually need it, it will just make your digestion heavier and you will end up feeling bloated!

 

Ingredients:

1 lean cut of beef to roast (1.5 kg would feed 4 and 4 portions would be leftovers)

3 peppers of different colours

4 onions peeled and cut in rings

1 courgette/zucchini

1 aubergine

2 carrots

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

½ a celeriac root

Fresh rosemary

½ a glass of white wine

Salt & pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

 

Pre heat the oven at 180C and in a big oven tray, set all the chopped vegetables. Chop them in medium chunks trying to end up with similar size pieces so they cook evenly. Season with salt, pepper and rosemary and sprinkle with a bit of olive oil and some water.

Rub the piece of meat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, set in a tray or directly on top of the vegetables and roast for about 45 minutes depending on the size of the piece.

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Bear in mind that all the juices of the vegetables and the meat will be in the tray so you can recover them from the parchment. In order to make the gravy, take a piece of the roasted courgette and a piece of the celeriac and mash them with the sauce so it becomes a bit thicker. Add more salt to it if needed and serve with the meat.

 

Serve a good portion of roasted vegetables and 2 or 3 thin slices of meat.

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For the rest of the week: boil some lentils and in a Tupperware divide the remaining meat and vegetables and complement with one or two tablespoons of boiled lentils and you will have a full size meal, with lots of protein, low in fat and in simple carbs that will keep you up all afternoon.

Happy week dieters.

190 Calorie Super Smoothie

FullSizeRender (2)I have been bad.. really bad, and Christmas hasn’t even started! I have been travelling a lot for work and this normally means total nutrition chaos.

I am sure it has happened to you, it is normal. The moment you step out of your routine, and you don’t get access to the food you normally eat, or a kitchen, it spirals out of control and from one little spoonful of chocolate pudding we end up ordering our own dessert at every meal.

The problem with these binge eating comes mainly when we are following a restrictive diet the rest of the time, a bit of cake is worse for someone on an Atkins or ketogenic diet that for someone that is just overeating but eats a varied diet, it leads to the yoyo effect, and worse than that, it leads to your metabolism becoming “reinforced” against such behaviour. This means that the more times you try and fail a restrictive diet, the less effect it will have, so all that suffering for nothing!!

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Unfortunately, that is life. You get social, you have friends, you have a celebratory meal… that is all well and good, the key is to practice balance!! If you know you are going to have a big dinner, I suggest a really healthy breakfast followed by a light lunch and light afternoon snack, it would be terrible to get to that dinner to hungry and eat enough to give you a tummy ache! Then the next morning, leave the leftovers for someone else and stick to some fat free yogurt and fruits!!

I have never too keen on social media but about a month ago, I opened an Instagram account, I am not 80 years old, I am just a bit too busy for that!! But since I do love photography and food I thought it could be fun (you can follow me if you want for daily foodinspiration and nutritional advice at cook_yourself_slim) Anyway so in Instagram, I found the smoothie bowl fever. All those pieces of art that look sooo pretty and sooo delicious!! I couldn’t just not do anything about it!

The problem I saw with many of them is that they were very calorie and carb heavy, full of “natural” goodness but not good for someone trying to shred some fat (like me) so I looked for the lightest, most nutritional alternative available, and I am LOVING the results.

I have to confess that I will have this breakfast for dinner tonight as part of my post Spanish food overload last week, as a detox.

 

This smoothies are dead easy to make and quick too.

Take note!!

 

Ingredients:

1 pot of fat free Greek yogurt (I use Fage, 170gr and the best protein profile out there)

½ a cup of frozen blueberries

½ cup of frozen strawberries

A pinch of non-caloric sweetener

100 ml of milk (I use soy milk but you take your pick)

½ banana

1 tbsp. sliced toasted almonds.

 

Literally put everything in a blender, blend, and pour in a bowl. Add ½ a banana and some toasted sliced almonds as decoration, some chia seeds for extra protein if you wish and enjoy.

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It tastes like ice cream!!!

And it has around 190 calories, which is pretty impressive for something that tastes sooo good.

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You can change the toppings according to your personal preferences and whatever fruit you have laying around.

 

I am on holidays from tomorrow, so I might leave you alone for a while, but I will come back with a post xmas exercise and detox diet for the new year resolutions.

Stay tuned!!

Bulimia & Other diets

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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 😉

Best Crustless Quiche

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In order to properly plan your meals, there are many different diet types out there, if someone is trying to lose weight, and slightly desperate to do so quickly, you can find a myriad of options that promise quick results all with a flat tummy as an advertising. Flat as in fitness model flat, not normal person on an empty stomach flat. This has been of some concern to me for a while, because I have been through many of these diets, recommended by friends, or advertised through a magazine, you name it, the choice is endless.

Now I am older, and I am wiser and I know better and I fight against these misconceptions on a daily basis, because some of this diets are just lies or stupid approaches to eating with minimum real impact on your body composition, but others, are straight harmful for your metabolism, your body and if sustained long term, some are life threatening.

The worst of these are the cleanser diets based on syrup and cayenne pepper. A combo that is meant to “activate your metabolism due some components on the cayenne pepper” and some other idiocies I have read. Our metabolism is not as naïve as we are, and the only thing that he is going to do in such case is slow down. All these juices, meal replacements, chemicals that people try to sell us with the promise of a beach body will certainly do something for you:

  1. Make you lose water (therefore the perceived weight loss)
  2. Muscle mass compromise: 90% of the time your body will consume your muscle mass for energy

So here is what happens: you don’t incorporate the nutrient x through your diet because you are master cleansing for a week for example, but your body needs it to keep normal bodily functions such as body temperature, structural cell maintenance, your heart beat… and it will start using the reserves that are available, this might be a bit of fat, but it will also be muscle tissue. Muscle in this case is not a priority for your body because muscle is a metabolically active tissue, this means that to sustain it, it requires additional energy to be sustained, whereas fat doesn’t. You see where I am going?

Your body will burn whatever is on hand to keep you warm and alive and when you are done with your diet you will have: a compromised metabolism that will literally jump over any calorie you give him, a few less pounds of water, a little less fat and a lot less muscle. The problem is that regaining muscle takes a lot longer that regaining the fat and the water, which will be restored within 1 or 2 weeks once the starvation period is over.

Basically, you are much better off eating a varied balanced and healthy diet, not only will respect your body, it will also keep you mentally on track without those dangerous feelings of deprivation that lead to binge eating.

Today, I would like to share with you a very easy recipe for a really tasty dish, a quiche but with no crust to make it a bit lighter. The carbohydrate content comes from the vegetables in the mixture and is literally packed with protein. It is also very pretty so if you have guests and you are trying to stay on track, it helps to cook things that even though are healthy, look like they aren’t.

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Ingredients (serves 6)

8 eggs (or 4 eggs and 12 egg whites for lower fat)

4 cubes of frozen spinach (fresh is better but I didn’t have any)

4/5 cherry tomatoes

1 small roulade of goat’s cheese

2 slices of smoked bacon

10 gr. of grated parmesan cheese to gratin

200 ml. light soy milk (or your milk of choice but low fat)

1/2 red onion cut in thin rings

Cut the bacon in strips and sauté them in a pan for a couple of minutes until the fat has dissolved. Add the spinach and stir well.

In a bowl, beat up the eggs and add the bacon and spinach and the milk. Mix well and pour into a quiche mold. Spread your onion rings over the surface then cut the goat’s cheese into thin-ish slices and place them nicely on over the surface of your quiche.

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Finally put the cherry tomatoes strategically to give it a bit of colour and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.

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Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes at 150C.

Enjoy!!

 

 

Diet Apple Crumble (but just as good)

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I have been toying lately with sweet recipes trying to find and fine tune healthy alternatives, I blame the weather, which makes me much more receptive to warm hearty dishes and baking than the summer. It is soup and baking season.

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For this recipe, I looked at one of my all time favourites, apple crumble and I tried a lowfat, low carb, low GI alternative to the traditional one, which is loaded with butter and sugar and a white flour crumble. Big task indeed and something had to give, so I kept some butter in the mix. However, I have to say that we don’t actually need nearly as much butter as we normally use. I only used 25 grams of butter for a two portion crumble which turns out to be very little when divided by two.

Because of the ingredients used, it is also paleo & gluten free. What else you can ask for?

Ingredients (serves 2)

2 apples

3/4 tbsp. of cinnamon

2 tbsp. granulated fructose

25 gr. butter

3 tbsp. whole oats or oat bran

For the 0% Fat Cream alternative

0% fat greek yourt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. liquid sucralose

100 ml. soy milk

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This is obviously a very simple recipe 🙂 Peel and chop the apple (no core or seeds) into 1 cm squares. place 10 grams of butter in a pan and heat up, when melted, all the apple, stir in and add 1/2 a tbsp. of cinnamon and 1 tbsp. of granulated fructose. Let it cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.

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In a bowl, mix the oat bran or oats with the rest of the granulated fructose and the rest of the butter with your fingers until you have a crumbly (Dr. Obvious) mixture. Fructose is a natural occurring sugar from fruits and has the advantage of having a lower glycemic index than regular sugar. It still has a significant calorie content and it’s high in carbohydrate, so it is meant to be consumed occasionally.

Once your apples have made your house smell like a bakery and they are nice and gooey, place them in an oven proof container and spread the crumble on top.

To finish it off, bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the oven and serve with the 0% fat cream alternative (which is a simple mix of all the mentioned ingredients).

Enjoy!

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