Lifestyle change

Haven’t written on here for ages. Things have changed just a tad for me health wise over the last 2-3 months and I have been forced to make drastic changes to my diet and exercise (lack of).

In earlier posts I was experimenting with low calorie cooking for the 5:2 diet and that has stood me in good stead for a wider change to my cooking and eating. I am having to eat low cal, low carb and low cholesterol foods which is a bit of a challenge!

However, I am determined to make this lifestyle change as painless as possible and for those struggling with the same situation I hope that perhaps some of the recipes, experiments and ideas will inspire and motivate you to do the same.


Getting ready for Spring – Novice Gardener

I recently bought a heated propagator and last week I decided to give it a go. It’s a bit early to be starting off plants for outdoor planting but I just wanted to experiment a bit. I planted 4 garlic cloves in some small pots and put them in the propagator. Yesterday one began to sprout and this is what it looked like:

First sprouting of garlic - yesterday 23/2/15
First sprouting of garlic – yesterday 23/2/15

Today the sprout looked like this:

Garlic sprout today 24/2/15
Garlic sprout today 24/2/15

The propagator certainly doing its thing! The other three garlic cloves have not sprouted which is a shame but I have parsley and marjoram sprouting away happily too.

Cant’t wait for March when I can get into the new little plastic greenhouse.

Gieing It Laldy With The Flavours!

I have been scouring the supermarkets for low calorie flavourings to coat, baste, marinade and basically pep-up my 5:2 staples of prawns, pork loin chops and chicken. Something different, something interesting, something flavoursome and not loaded with calories. Believe or not there are actually some very tasty and extremely low cal options out there and martyr that I am I just had to try some out! The combinations and variations of these marinade/sauce flavourings are endless and limited only by your imagination.

* I find some of these pastes used neat on prawns or chicken just too strong and I always dilute them with a little yoghurt or water.

1. Harissa Paste

Harissa Paste 15cals in 1 tbsp
Harissa Paste 15cals in 1 tbsp

This wonderful smoky, spicy paste includes red peppers, smoked paprika, chilli and rose petals. It can be added to soups, stews and sauces to give a lovely Middle Eastern flavour. I also like adding a small amount to a couple of tablespoons of 0% fat yoghurt as a marinade for any fish or meat.

2. Preserved Lemon Paste

Preserved Lemon Paste 14cals in 25g
Preserved Lemon Paste 14cals in 25g

I adore this paste. I add it to my harissa yoghurt marinade to give it a wonderful lemony kick and it is also great mixed through rice or couscous. A couple of teaspoons whisked together with yoghurt and mint makes a wonderful dip to accompany many Indian, Mediterranean and Middle eastern food and so low in calories its crazy!

3. Chipotle Chilli and Smoked Paprika Paste

Chipotle and Smoked Paprika Paste  9Cals in 1 tspn
Chipotle and Smoked Paprika Paste
9Cals in 1 tsp

This is a great little Tex Mex style flavouring and a few grammes or teaspoons of this added to sauces or marinades is very tasty. Again I add a teaspoon or two to some yoghurt and use as a marinade. I really enjoy this with pork but it goes well with anything.

Try out this very easy dip recipe.

Harissa and Preserved Lemon Yoghurt Dip (Serves 2)

200g 0% Greek style Yoghurt (110cals)

2tsp harissa paste (30cals)

2tsp preserved lemon paste (<10cals)

Handful chopped mint leaves (as many or as few as you like)

salt and pepper

Dried rose petals (optional)

Add the lemon paste to the yoghurt first and lightly whisk together – the lemon paste is quite thick. Then add the other ingredients and mix together. Season to taste. Sprinkle the top with a few dried rose petals for a real Middle Eastern taste experience.

75cals per serving

Use half the amount of yoghurt and this can be used as a marinade for chicken or prawns.

Cheap and Cheerful – Carrot and Coriander Soup

A few years ago a good friend of mine went on one of those powdered shake/soup diets that you have to be on for weeks and which cost a fortune. Everyone was being very supportive and telling her how well she was doing. I couldn’t hold my tongue. I told her I thought she was wasting her money and that she needed a longer term strategy. She agreed with me but she was ‘desperate’ to lose weight and the quick fix that these proprietary diet foods can achieve was all too appealing. She lost the weight she wanted to (for a holiday) but after a few weeks she was back to her original (and not unhealthy I may add!) weight.

I really hate all those ‘lose weight quickly’ diets on the market and think they are very unhealthy. We all know what we need to do to lose weight – eat a calorie controlled diet and exercise more. Not easy sometimes, I know, but people want to believe in the magical powers of the quick fix diet but it all comes down to calorie intake and expenditure in the end. There is no quick fix.

That’s why I really like the 5:2 diet (and its variants) as I think it is a much healthier way to lose and then control your weight. You are in complete control and I believe it helps to focus the mind on what good healthy eating is all about without the absolute denial required from other diets. It is not a quick way to lose weight but for me it is the healthiest.

Soups are a mainstay of my diet at anytime but I have been experimenting with different low calorie recipes. Here is my Carrot and Coriander Soup recipe:

This is a really simple, cheap, warming and filling soup and only 96 calories per 500ml serving. Now that is a pretty big bowl of soup and some might want to cut that by even up to half but when I’m on the 5:2 a big bowl of this at lunchtime is just what I need. I like to add 1/2 a teaspoon of roasted cumin seeds and a pinch of roasted crushed dried chilli – especially in the winter – when I’m making it as it gives the soup a very pleasant kick. I sometimes use parsley instead of coriander – not everyone likes coriander and parsley makes a lovely alternative.

Carrot and Coriander Soup


1 onion (45)
600g carrots (250)
10g parsley (neg)
2 veg stock cubes (90)
1/2tsp oregano
2 pints water
pinch roasted cumin seeds
pinch roasted crushed dried chilli


Chop the onion. Peel and chop the carrots. Place in a pan with the water and bring to the boil. Add the oregano and the stock pots. Cover and lower heat to a good simmer.

Put a small frying pan or pot on a medium high heat. Add the cumin and dried chilli. Heat, shaking the pan ocassionally, for 2-3 mins until the seeds are warmed through. Take care not to burn them or they become bitter tasting.

Add the cumin and chilli to the soup pot and continue to simmer, covered, for about 35 – 45 mins or until the carrots are soft. Remove from the heat and mash the carrots and blend with a stick blender until smooth. (You can of course use any processing equiptment you have).

When smooth add the coriander. Taste and adjust seasoning. Then serve, eat and enjoy. This yields about 2L of soup and it freezes well.

385 cals in 2L
96 cals in 500ml serving


My mother, who is now 75, often says “I just never know what I want to eat.” I know what she means. We have such a variety of cheap food to choose from that it can seem quite overwhelming. My mum was never much of a fancy cook and, although we were never poor, we never had much money either.   She would make Scottish classics like lentil soup, mince and tatties and stovies that still have no rivals as far as I am concerned.

I love food and could be described as a bit of a foodie. That of course could explain the fact that I am now overweight. A desire to eat more simply, eat less processed food and also lose weight led me to the 5:2 diet. I tried this diet a couple of years ago for a few weeks and it was working, if slowly, and I felt great. Then my working hours were cut and without a regular routine my diet went out the window. However, I have recently started it again and what I find is it really concentrates the mind on getting the tastiest food with the minimum calories that are not only good for the diet’s fasting days but are really just a part of a healthy diet. So…

I have been putting together some low cal recipes for my diet which I thought I might publish here. I need to do a bit more accurate weighing and working out of calories and trying out of the recipes before I publish them but watch this space.