Saturday, 20 November 2010

Another note on WW and ProPoints values

I should just say that at the moment my ProPoints allowance is 36 daily, and Chris's (because he's 6ft huge as well as being young and juicy) is 51; that's why my WW recipes, for now, are not particularly low in ProPoints. As we go along they will be tweaked and reworked to make them lower.

Festive mincemeat

Well, Christmas is 30-odd days away, and although we made our Christmas cake three or four weeks ago (on Halloween, actually), I thought today we'd make some mincemeat (sugar free, of course) for mince pies, to go with ice cream, over bananas, etc :) Now, my mom makes lovely mincemeat so after a bit of a pep talk I have made it roughly to her method but kind of made the recipe up as we went along. I'm not even going to try and work out the ProPoints for this, because, well. In reality you'd take what, a generous spoonful? It's not going to kill you. So. In the spirit of "writing everything down so I don't forget it", here is what I put in this year's batch; I'm sure it'll get fiddled with for next year.

500g sultanas
500g raisins
1 small carton mixed peel (about 200g)
1 small carton glace cherries (about 200g), rinsed well and quartered
375g soft dates, chopped (1 pack)
375g dried figs, chopped (1 pack)
6 tbsp brandy
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 scant tsp nutmeg
grated zest of 1 orange
grated zest of 1 lemon

This needs to be left overnight for the brandy to penetrate the fruit.

Next morning, the dried fruit mix is mixed with apple sauce, which is homemade; just cook down sliced and peeled Bramleys with a couple of tbsp PerfectSweet, and allow to cool. When everything's ready, combine the dried fruit mix with the apple, a bit at a time, until you get the consistency you want, and then put it into sterilised jars/tupperware etc.

Here's a (slightly blurry, taken with my Blackberry) shot of the finished product!!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Wintry Sausage Pie

Okay so not really a pie since there's no pastry, but in the "cottage pie" sense of the word. Following the success of both the sausage casserole last week (with reduced fat sausages, which turned out to be surprisingly good), and the squash and turkey bake, I was inspired (well, forced, since all we had was root veg and sausages) to make....THIS.

The whole thing is 32 ProPoints, so if you have three generous portions (I'm looking at you Mom) that'd be 11 ProPoints each. Now, this is what I made it with since this was what was in the fridge/cupboards, but just go with what you've got lurking.

1 pack of ASDA reduced-fat sausages
3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
3-4 smallish leeks
1 small bulb of fennel
3-4 sticks of celery
Small pack of mushrooms
Yellow pepper, diced
2 courgettes, diced
1 small onion

...seriously, whatever you've got.

For flavouring...okay, brace yourselves.
1 tsp Marmite, dropped in with some boiling water
1 Bramley apple (or a nice eating apple), peeled, chunked, dropped in with a tsp sweetener (yes, with the Marmite, yes, it tastes nice, just do it)
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
Generous shake of black pepper
Finally, to thicken it all - you need 2 tbsp cornflour mixed to a paste with a little cold water.
For the mash...
4-5 cloves garlic, whole, peeled

1 whole celeriac, peeled and diced
400g potatoes, old, floury, peeled and chopped
About half a tsp vegetable bouillion powder
It is so easy it's stupid. First of all brown off the chopped up sausages in a pan. Then, add the aromatics (celery, fennel, carrot, onion), and sweat off til they're softened and golden. Add all the other veg and give it a few minutes to soften, and then the flavourings. Turn it down, stick the lid on, and get on with the mash.
Sling all the potato, garlic and celeriac into a saucepan with cold water, to which you've added the stock powder, and bring up to the boil as usual. Try and chop the potato and celeriac to more or less the same size.
When it's ready, drain, mash it all together, season well, and if it is looking a bit stiff try mixing a tbsp of Philadelphia XL through it.
Meanwhile thicken your sausagey mixture with the cornflour, and then just assemble it with the sausages on the bottom and the mash on top. Can go in the oven straight away, or to cook from cooled it needs about 45-50 minutes (depending on the size of your pie) in the middle of the oven on 180.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Turkey and squash bake (borrowed from Nigel Slater)

So, this was one of the recipes from the first episode of the esteemed Mr Slater's new series of Simple Suppers, which I have fiddled slightly (I am sure he won't mind), and worked out the ProPoints; I reckon that for three big appetites it comes in at 10 ProPoints per serving. Serve it with some 0-ProPoint fine green beans, blanched lightly and then tossed with wholegrain mustard. Delishos, even if I do say so myself. The Husband Type Creature proclaimed it to be "better than any cottage pie with potato", so I'm happy with that assessment. I suppose it is supposed to be a bit like a cottage pie, with a minced meat base and a mash top.

I should just say that if you don't live with a 6'4 beardy eating machine this would probably feed four people (if you had plenty of veg on the side, or a 0-ProPoint soup starter), so don't be put off.

500 extra lean turkey breast mince (try Sainsbury's or ASDA)
4 rashers of streaky smoked bacon, chopped finely
2 punnets of chestnut (or any tasty variety!) mushrooms, or equivalent, quartered
3 big carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
4 sticks of celery, sliced thinly
1 yellow pepper, diced finely
2 red onions, diced finely
Splash of Worcestershire sauce
1 small bottle of red wine (I mean a mini-bottle, 187ml)
2 tbsp cornflour, made up into a paste with a dash of tapwater
generous seasoning with thyme and sage, to taste
black pepper
1 chicken stock cube
1 large butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and hacked into big lumps. There needs to be enough to make the topping so don't be stingy. Go by what size your dish is.

So...the method is thus.

Heat the oven up to HIGH. You're not going for elegant chewy roasted butternut squash, you're going for "nuked until it's soft enough to mash". So aim for that. Peel, deseed and hack it up, and then put it into a roasting tray with a few sprays of oil, sea salt and black pepper (to taste; I like mine quite well seasoned. Another tasty tip is to add the tip of a teaspoon of Marigold vegetable bouillon powder when you're actually mashing it). When the oven is up to speed, throw it in and give it fifteen minutes. Check it then, turn it and make sure it's not catching too much, and give it another ten. That should be enough. It needs to be soft enough to mash easily so use your judgement and if in doubt, try and cut a piece in half with the edge of your spoon. :)

For the rest, it's dead easy. Start by browning the bacon off and then add the turkey. Once they are browned, add the aromatics - the celery, carrot and onion - and saute gently til they are softened. Add the wine and let the alcohol cook off, then put the stock cube, Lea and Perrins, sage and thyme in. Finally add the mushrooms and pepper. Let everything cook through and then at the end add the cornflour paste to thicken it and make it all glossy and lovely.

Assemble it "cottage pie" style, with the meaty filling packed in nice and tight and covered by forked peaks of mashed squash. Nigel Slater suggested adding orange zest to the squash, which I didn't do - I went for a peppery finish, but I am sure both are equally delicious. It needs to go into the oven at around 180 degrees for about 40 minutes, and will sit happily in the fridge if you wanted to make it ahead and come home to it after a nice morning out or whatever (as we did). Ace!

This made a fabulous Sunday lunch and since there's only two of us there's a portion of the meat filling in the freezer for next time Chris's shifts are so awkward we miss each other completely, so it's a win all round!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Initial thoughts on the new WW ProPoints plan

As those of you following Weight Watchers may have heard, yesterday saw the launch of their new ProPoints plan. It's a little more complicated and I don't think they've done themselves many favours with the new website or indeed some of the explanations, but I'm going to post here the email that I sent to my dad (who is also doing WW, and is also a type-2 diabetic like me), which is basically my annotation on the promo blurb.

Here we go. WW's words from their website (copyright to WW, of course!)are in bold and my notes are in italics; these are my first impressions (which I believe are correct), and in no way shape or form represent the good folks of Weight Watchers. DID YOU HEAR THAT WEIGHT WATCHERS? DON'T SUE ME. Righty ho then.

A New System that Takes into Account How Food is Processed by the Body
Every food and drink is assigned a ProPoints value. This takes into account the way your body processes the nutrients in food, to give you a more accurate measurement of the calories available to your body, after you've eaten it.

Introducing the New Plan
The new ProPoints plan uses the latest nutritional science that reflects how your body processes food. You'll discover foods that'll keep you satisfied and that are healthy, and foods that'll make life enjoyable as you're getting to the weight you want to be.

The ProPoints plan is about your food, your life - your weight loss.
ProPoints plan is based on the latest nutritional science which is more accurate for weight loss than traditional calorie counting approaches. Most diets are dominated by calorie counting, but the new plan is different. It takes into account how protein, carbohydrates, fat and fibre are processed by your body.

This bit was really interesting - Julie (our leader) showed us a picture of two "breakfasts" that were 300 calories each but were very different values on the new plan. The "good" one (ie, most filling, lowest GI, lowest sugar, most nutritionally sound), was three pieces of lean bacon, two poached eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes, followed by a strawberry and banana home made smoothie with 0% yogurt. The "bad" one was a single English muffin with a scrape of jam and a small skimmed capuccino from Costa/Starbucks or similar. I was really surprised they were the same calories but according to the ProPoints, the muffiny one would have been nearly twice as many Points as it would have released loads more...wait for it...SUGARS (hooray! Finally there's a bit more acknowledgement!) into the blood. So, despite it being fiddly, it DOES seem to fit better with the diabetes management.

A New System that Takes into Account How Food is Processed by the Body
Every food and drink is assigned a ProPoints value. This takes into account the way your body processes the nutrients in food, to give you a more accurate measurement of the calories available to your body, after you've eaten it.

A New Freedom for You to Enjoy Life as it Happens and Still Lose Weight
There's more room for real life with the weekly ProPoints allowance. This is in addition to a personal daily ProPoints allowance. So alongside your day-to-day eating you know you have the capacity to fit in unplanned events and surprises and still lose weight.

So, with the new plan, you get your daily Points allowance as before but you CAN'T save any to carry over, like you used to before if you were going out for dinner or whatever. Either you use them all every day or you don't. What you DO get though - and everyone gets exactly the same amount - is 49 allocated Points per WEEK to use for if you want a treat, a bigger portion, etc. You don't have to use them all at once (or even at all) but the idea is that you've always got this little fallback in your pocket as it were in case you were out and wanted to have, say, a dessert or popcorn at the pictures or whatever. The intentions are that a: you don't end up playing catch-up if you do have a blow-out and b: that everyone eats about the same amount of "treats" per week - it's based on the healthy amount, rather than your (old) Points allowance, where if you were on 40 Points a day and only ate vegetable soup for lunch and porridge for breakfast you COULD have a MacDonalds every day. It does also mean that if you work out what 49 Points relates to, you can probably only really go for one meal out a week sensibly, and it will stop you from having five courses of breaded deep fried cheese with a 72oz steak smothered in clarified butter...haha. Anyway the big news is that our leaders and helpers have been doing it for four weeks with an average weightloss of around 9lb each in the last four weeks, so...apparently it is working.

A New Focus on Foods that'll Help to Keep You Feeling Satisfied and Healthy
Filling & Healthy foods take the guesswork out of finding foods that'll keep you feeling fuller for longer. The added benefit is Filling & Healthy foods are also healthy choices. For each food group we've carefully selected choices that are higher in fibre and/or lower in salt, sugar and saturated fat.

It does really pick up on which foods are actually nutritionally better for you - so although the calorific value might be the same, going back to the "grill-up and the smoothie" vs the "skinny latte and muffin", you can clearly see which would be better for you, with more lean proteins and fruits. I think we might actually get on really well with this because I think once we've got our heads around it it will combine the benefits of Slimming World's core plan approach (ie, encouraging you to eat the right foods nutritionally) with the traditional WW guidance to portions (which I think you can have problems with long term on something like Slimming World, if you don't address your eating issues*).

A New Way to S-T-R-E-T-C-H Your ProPoints Budget Further with Zero ProPoints Value Fruit and Veg
Eating 5-a-day has never been easier. All fresh and frozen fruits - and most vegetables - won't cost you any ProPoints values at all, so you can fill up, and enjoy healthy choices as you lose weight.

This has made a difference - bananas for example are now 0 Points; this makes a big difference, well for me anyway - I have one with my porridge. Obviously you can't eat five pineapples a day because it will mess up your blood sugar but it will be nice to have a bit extra. The only vegetables that I can see you have to Point are the same as before - potatoes and sweet potatoes, parsnips, peas, avocados. I think we'll be grand.

Initially things will look really high with ProPoints. For example I worked out that three slices of the bread that Chris
[my husband type] likes for his sandwiches - without the spread, sandwich filing etc - are NINE ProPoints, but - BUT - Chris's Points allowance is (get this) 51!!! So actually he CAN have that if he wants, or a really big portion of pasta or rice or whatever. My main concern with the bread in my case is that it's not as good for the blood sugars, but if yours are looking good then, you know, there we go.

Things to be careful of:

- Yes fruit is zero points, but we can't literally eat as much as we want becuase of the blood sugar
- Things do look high in ProPoints value, but it's because the actual amount a "Point" (or "ProPoint") is worth is smaller, hence you've got more of them. They are much more precise. So, as a guide, you've got 49 Points per week for treats; a standard bar of Cadbury's (not that we would, but as a guide) is about 19 Points. So in a week you'd be able to have maybe two standard chocolate bars as extras to your healthy diet. Which is how thin folks eat innit. It does make sense, it's just a bit kerfuffly. I think you will get on well with it when you've seen the books with the "pick and mix" menus in them.

*I should just say that this is an issue that I have had with SW. I appreciate that many people have great success with it. PLEASE DON'T SUE ME SLIMMING WORLD okay thanks.

Monday, 8 November 2010

New Weight Watchers points

Well, WW have had the biggest overhaul of their system in about 15 years, and it's been released today. From what I can gather it takes into consideration all the fibre and protein, as well as fats and carbs, in our food and should make things a bit more comprehensive; I shall investigate further after our meeting tonight. It seems to make sense and I'm hoping that as a diabetic it will improve how my needs fit in with the plan. We shall see - more details as I find out about them.

Spicy root vegetable soup

This makes about 5 servings, which work out at 4 ProPoints each (more of ProPoints shortly).

300g potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 leeks, chopped
2 rashers bacon, chopped
3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
500g parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 head of celeriac, peeled and chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
Approximately 1400ml chicken (or vegetable, but I liked chicken) stock - made with cubes or concentrate, for this soup, is fine
1 tbsp medium curry powder
half a tsp smoked paprika
half a tsp cumin
1 small tub of Total 0% yogurt

It's so eeeeeeeeeeasy - just stick all your vegetables and the bacon in and sweat down, then add all the stock and spices and bring it up to the boil. Turn it down to a simmer, cook through til tender and blend. Add the yogurt, stir in well, and enjoy!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Husband soup

So...okay, not actually containing any real husband, but Chris came home from work the other day and said, do you know, your soups stop conversations in the hospital staffroom? I gave him the Eyebrow, but apparently, there is a standard pause in conversation when he removes his reheated lunch from the microwave, followed by someone asking what it is today. So far he's been happy enough with whatever I've whipped up with what we've got in the fridge, but yesterday he had a specific request: something really tomatoey. So, without further ado, here it is: tomato and lentil soup for Chris, aka Husband Soup. I reckon there's about five portions here, so it'd be 3.5 Points per serving.

2 medium onions, roughly chopped
4 sticks celery, roughly chopped
1-2 red bell peppers (depending on size), chopped roughly
3-4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 x 400g-ish cartons sieved tomatoes/passata
1 tube tomato puree
approx 1400ml water (cold, from the tap!)
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp italian seasoning
2 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated (optional, but it makes SUCH a difference)
1 tsp sugar
BIG pinch salt
generous seasoning with black pepper
300g red lentils

Very simple, this; soften the onion, garlic, celery and bell pepper well in your pan, and then add everything else except the lentils. Cook it all down together and then blend it smooth. All you do then is add the lentils and cook them through, and behold! Husband soup. Alternatively, as I am doing at the moment, you can transfer it to the slow cooker at the point of adding the lentils, and leave it for however long you need to :)