Thursday, 28 February 2013

Chicken in White wine.............

Monday evening's tea and post workout meal was Chicken in white wine and mushrooms, served with couscous and broccoli.  Chicken ( I removed the skin) is low in fat, high in protein, and loaded with essential B vitamins.  Cooked chicken also provides us with minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium and potassium.  Broccoli, green and lovely and full of everything good for us, enough said.  I decided to serve it with couscous, which is closely related to pasta.  As it is made from tiny particles of coarsely ground durum wheat the same as many pastas. 

Artistically dressed the cous cous tower with the broccoli!
The jury is out on whether cous cous is healthy for you.  While doing extra research on the subject, many see couscous as a pasta and not a wholegrain and because of that it is has a higher GI therefore giving a quicker response in blood sugar and greater insulin levels.  But as this meal was post exercise (intense spinning) quicker release of starches (sugars) is just what the body needs.  And I like the taste, so as long as I've either had couscous for lunch, perhaps 2 hours pre workout with a salad for example or within an hour post exercise I see no problem (unless of course you are wheat intolerant then obviously its a no-no).  You could also serve with brown rice, mashed potato (or sweet poato), a couple of new potatoes or omit altogether and add another green or other coloured veg.
2 oz butter ( I used 2 x tablespoon coconut oil)
2 rindless rashers of streaky bacon ( I used organic back bacon), chopped into bits
4 oz baby onions, peeled
1 garlic clove, chopped (I used 3, cos we love garlic:)
4 x chicken breasts
400ml dry white wine
300ml chicken stock
4 oz button mushrooms
1oz plain flour
salt and pepper for seasoning
fresh mixed herbs to garnish
Preheat the oven to 160C / 325F / Gas Mark 3.  Add butter (or oil) to a casserole or heavy bottomed pan.  Melt before adding the garlic, bacon bits and onions.  Cook for around 4 - 6 minutes.  Add the mushrooms for the last minute.  Remove ingredients on to a warm plate. 
Flour the chicken breasts then add to the casserole and brown.  Cook for 10 minutes or until golden brown each side.  Remove to the warm plate.  Add the wine and stock to the casserole and bring to the boil.  Feel free to adjust the wine to stock, if you want it more chickeny add more stock to less wine.  Return the ingredients back into the casserole and season to taste.  Cover and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Serve immediately with fresh mixed herbs such as sage, marjoram or parsley.  A pinch of dried herbs would also suffice if you don't have fresh.
Over to you, get in that kitchen and give it a go :)
Till next time, stay well and healthy

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Here's the Home made Red Cabbage Recipe......

Okay so here's the main course of Gammon, broccoli and a home made red cabbage.

Gammon is similar to ham, which is taken from the body of the pig while gammon is taken from the hind leg.  Now Gammon is quite high in salt and saturated fat BUT it is also high in protein.  Extra positives for gammon is that it provides you with minerals such as Copper (production of red blood cells, enzyme functions), Magnesium (healthy bones and teeth, nerve impulses), Iron (production of haemoglobin, energy metabolism, immune function) and Zinc (bone health, cell development and growth, reproduction). And also B-vitamins, B1 Thiamin, B2 Riboflavin, B3 Niacin, B-6 Pyridoxine, B-12 and Biotin.  Most of these vitamins support almost every system in our bodies, including the immune system, the brain and nervous system and helping convert food into energy.

So I think the benefits outweigh the negatives so I have no problems having a gammon joint once in a while :)
As this was an evening meal and it followed the soup I decided to use broccoli and red cabbage as the carbohydrates rather than potatoes or grains.  I love broccoli (can never have too much of the green stuff!)  If you want to know about this fabulous vegetable and its benefits click on  The red cabbage was a home made version, I have bought an already one before which is very nice, but also is made with 'glucose-fructose syrup' which is a nightmare (don't get me started on that) and when you make homemade you know exactly what your putting in it.  This particularly recipe that came from one of them extra magazines you get in your weekend paper has just 7 ingredients compared to 15 ingredients I found in one particular brand.  The recipe called for half a red cabbage but we went for a whole one, as I knew it would last in the fridge.  This made enough for 2 meals for 4 people, the other meal was Roast Beef .
half a red cabbage
15g butter
half red onion, very finely sliced
quarter teaspoon mixed spice
2 tablespoons soft light brown sugar (although I used Muscovado sugar)
50ml cider vinegar
1 teaspoon redcurrant jelly (I used Ocean Spray Cranberry & Redcurrant Jelly)
Remove the cabbages softer outer leaves and hard central core.  Half and shred the cabbage (this was the laborious part, use a slicer or mandolin to quicken the process).  Heat the butter in a heavy bottomed pan and gently saute the onion until it softens and colours.  Add the cabbage and spice and turn everything over in the butter, gently cooking for about 3 minutes.  Add the sugar and the cider vinegar.  Bring to the boil, season, then turn the heat right down.  Cover the pan and cook very gently for one to one and a half hours.  Keep an eye and turn the cabbage over every so often.  A couple of minutes before the end add the jelly.  Turn up the heat, remove the lid to reduce the cooking juices and melt the jelly. 
The cabbage should start to look more glossy.  Taste for the sweet-sour balance.  You may need some more vinegar.  Keep the heat medium to high, turn the cabbage it should be glossy and not too watery.  Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary. 
Serve with gammon or beef, would also work well with duck and venison.
Enjoy, till next time, stay well and healthy.


Sweet Potato & Red Pepper Soup followed by Gammon, Broccoli and home made Red Cabbage

Okay two courses, no surprises with the first, yep its soup!  This time we have Sweet potato and Red pepper soup followed by Roast gammon joint, broccoli and homemade red cabbage.

This super soup contains the low GI Sweet Potato which is high in the antioxidant beta carotene (which is converted by the body into Vitamin A).  Vitamin A is important for vision, fighting off infections and reproduction.  This soup is also high in Vitamin C, B3, B5, B6, and minerals Manganese, Copper and Potassium, its high in dietary fibre (especially if you keep the skin on the sweet potato) and is very low in sodium, cholesterol, saturated fat and calories.  What's not to love!

The other main ingredient in this soup is red peppers, again bursting with wonderful antioxidants and phytochemicals.  All peppers are high in Vitamins A, C and K although red varieties seem to contain more.  Red peppers also contain high amounts of the carotenoid lycopene, which may help ward off some cancers.

1 tbsp olive oil (I've been experimenting with oil, love coconut oil but this occasion used Rice Bran Oil which is low in saturated fat and high in heart healthy monounsaturated fat with a high smoking point)
1 large onion, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
500g sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 medium red peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped
700ml vegetable stock
1 - 2 chillies, chopped (optional)  I didn't use on this occasion
Salt and pepper to taste

So the trusty soup maker comes out.  First I add the oil, heat, then add the onion and garlic.  Next goes the sweet potato (there was quite a lot so I par boiled it first), red peppers and stock.  Blend, cook and blitz till I'm happy with the consistency.  Season and taste. 

As always, lovely rich warming flavour.  This made 4 bowls.  We followed with a Gammon joint, broccoli and homemade red cabbage.  Stay tuned for that recipe next.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Exercise & Productivity

Everyone knows that exercise can improve your healthExercise is of course a key part of managing your weight and maintaining healthy hearts, lungs and other bodily systems.  But did you know that exercise can make you more productive? 
If you are a desk jockey for more than 8 hours a day research shows that regular exercise either before work or at lunch time can show significant improvements in concentration, performance, tolerance and energy levels and at the same time decrease stress, repetitive task injuries and low back pain.  Now what employer wouldn't be happy with that scenario!
Adding a regular exercise regime into your day will help keep you mentally sharper throughout your entire life.  As we age, unfortunately are body generates fewer brain cells, a process known as 'neurogenesis'.  However some early research on mice suggested that exercise helps to slow down this process.  In other words, people who exercise in their 50's, 60's and 70's may have more brain cells than their sedentary counterparts thus giving them a major advantage in the workplace.
An article published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management is the first of its kind to prove that exercise during work hours has both mental and physical benefits.  
Jo Coulson, Research Associate in the University's Department of Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences said:  'Our statistical results were very important.  On exercise days people's mood significantly improved after exercising.  Mood stayed the same on days they didn't, with the exception of people's sense of calm which deteriorated'. 
'Critically workers performed significantly better on exercise days and across all three areas we measured, known as mental-interpersonal, output and time demands'.  
The study group was made up of 200 university staff and employees from a Pensions firm and an IT firm.  Each employee completed a questionnaire about their mood, workload and performance on days when they exercised.  The data was compared to answers from days participants opted not to do exercise.  The workers who were already in the habit of exercising, chose their own mode, frequency and intensity of workout.  Most used a gym and did classes, weight training or team sports. 
The key findings were:
  • 72% reported improvements in time management on exercise days compared to non exercise days.
  • 79% said mental and interpersonal performance was better on the days they exercised.
  • 74% said they managed their workload better.

The questionnaire scores were 27% higher on exercise days in categories such as dealing calmly with stress and 41% higher for feeling motivated to work.

Those who exercised were also 21% higher for concentration on work, 25% for working without unscheduled breaks and 22% higher for finishing work on time. 

The study also begs the question whether employers can afford not to be encouraging active breaks.  The suggestion is that employers who are ahead of the game in offering relevant on-site facilities actually get less from their employees on days that they don't exercise. 

The evidence is compelling.  If you are an employer out there reading this and want to get more productivity out of your workforce, then a 30 - 45 minute circuit based training during a lunch hour may well be worth considering.  Please use the link to make contact to talk about specifics or leave me a comment.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Legs & Lungs Workout at the Gym (4)

Here's the 4th instalment in this series, of short sharpe intense workouts that can easily be performed when time is of the essence.  These workouts are based on HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) which are proven to be very beneficial for long term fat burning, and overall conditioning much better than longer slow duration cardio.  If you missed them, here's the previous ones;

This particular one could be performed both at the gym or home, as their both body weight exercises, so no excuses :)

The first exercise is known as 'Russian Soldiers', although I liken it to John Cleese's funny walk in 'Fawlty Towers'.  Now I've said this is a body weight exercise, which it is, but if you want to make it harder you can use a medicine ball (if in the gym) or a football, basketball or what ever you have lying around if you are at home.  The second is one of the many moves from 'Insanity', it's the 'Basket ball Drills'.  Again like the first exercise it could be made harder with the addition of a ball.

As always before attempting remember your 5 - 10 minutes of mobility and warm up.  Have plenty of water on hand and plenty of space.  Your aiming for 4 - 5 circuits of up to 20 reps each exercise (10 per side on the Russian Soldiers).  The more advanced user can go for 20 reps, beginners aim for 10 - 12 reps each exercise and progress this so you can eventually manage the whole 20 reps.

Russian Soldiers - Teaching Points

Stand with feet hip width apart, core engaged with hands above head (holding your ball or not).  Action - bring your arms forward and down as you simultaneously kick your legs out in front.  Keep a soft bend at your knees.  Think 'Russian Soldiers' exaggerated marching or indeed 'John Cleese'.  This is a dynamic exercise that works both upper, lower and front and back so will definitely have an effect on your heart rate.  Perhaps try first without weight, then once you've found your stride (excuse the pun) you can increase intensity with a weighted ball.

Basketball Drills - Teaching Points

So do what it says really, think bouncing the ball on the floor then shooting the hoop like in Basketball or Netball.  Remember you do not need a ball, in fact this exercise will still work you as you include a small jump to replicate the 'shooting' bit.  Action - (I'll write it like your using a ball), start with feet hip to shoulder width apart, core engaged, holding onto your ball.  Soft knees, go into a squat position, bum out behind as you tap the ball to the floor.  Jump from the bottom as you push the ball up overhead, land softly on the balls of your feet and repeat. 

A progression if using the ball would be to push the ball upwards out of your hands in the jump part then catch and repeat.  Please be careful, don't throw it to high, its not necessary plus you don't want a bang on the head when you miss it!

So give them both a go and let me know your thoughts.


Sunday, 3 February 2013

More Glorious Soup Recipes............

Yep, soup is on the menu again, don't think I'll ever get bored of soup, so warming especially during these chilly days!  Hopefully I'll keep on inspiring you :)  But not just one soup but two, on the left we have Golden Vegetable Soup from the Hairy Dieters Cookbook and Tomato & Red Pepper Soup from yours truly.  Double yum:)

Ingredients for Golden Vegetable Soup

1 small butternut squash (about 850g) chopped
4 medium carrots (about 375g) chopped
2 medium parsnips (about 325g) chopped
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves (we used 4!)
2 tablespoons sunflower oil (I used 2 tablespoons coconut oil)
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock (I used vegetable)
Seasoning to taste
Low fat natural yoghurt (I used low fat creme fraiche)
Chives to garnish (optional) I couldn't find any so didn't use or I would have!

Ingredients for Tomato & Red Pepper Soup

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
500g pack Italian Chopped Tomatoes with Basil
4 fresh vine ripened plum tomatoes, chopped roughly
2 medium red bell peppers, chopped
500ml vegetable stock
Seasoning to taste
2 tablespoons Total 0% fat free plain yoghurt

Method for Tomato & Pepper Soup

Melted the oil in the soup maker then sauteed the onions for a couple of minutes.  Added the peppers and fresh tomatoes, cooked / blended for several minutes.  Next added the chopped tomatoes and seasoning.  Blitzed before adding the stock.  Cooked for a further 8 minutes till I was happy with the consistency.  Blended the yoghurt through the soup before serving, delicious!

As the vegetables in the Golden Vegetable Soup were more bulky to start with I sweated them down in a pan first, then slowly added it to the Soup Maker to blend and continue the recipe which you'll find in their book.  This soup was definitely thicker, bit like eating puree and was very filling and satisfying.  Like having a big hug! 

What's some of your favourite soup recipes, share in the comments box below.

Till my next blog, stay well and healthy
Amanda :)