Friday, March 13, 2009

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I'm now blogging at please come and have a look!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Recipe Review - Apricot Chicken

I have no idea where this recipe came from, but I've always loved it!

Serves 4
  • 1 410g can of Apricot Nectar (for non-Aussies, that's a syrupy sweet type of apricot juice. you may not be able to buy it in your supermarkets, but I know the Australian store in Acton, London has it. aaahhh, memories!)
  • 1 Packet of powdered french onion soup mix
  • 8 Chicken thighs. Take the skin off if you must but it will taste so much better if you leave it on. I make this as a small indulgence, not as 'diet' food so I leave it on :)
  • 1Tblsp Olive Oil


  • Brown the chicken briefly in the olive oil to seal in the juices.
  • Place the Chicken in a deepcasserole dish
  • Dissolve the powdered soup mix in the Apricot Nectar, and pour over the chicken
  • Bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees) for an hour, turning after half an hour.

Note: This recipe freezes well. Allow to cool in the fridge overnight, skim off the fat that will rise to the top, then pack into 500ml square Decor containers - one serve per container and freeze.


This is not a low calorie meal, so some people might think it doesn't have a place in a diet plan. But when you're coming home on a friday night exhausted from your week's work, having this in the freezer as a little treat may be enough to stop you heading out for chicken treat. And calorie wise it sure as hell beats Chicken Treat!

For me having these little treats in the freezer is an important part of my strategy. Adding a half a corn on the cob or baked potato, and a cup of your favourite steamed veggies makes this a balanced meal. And covering the veggies with that Apricot sauce makes them even more yummy!


P.S - the one thing that bothers me about this recipe is that it's not 'from scratch' - it involves processed ingredients which I generally try to avoid. Can you think of substitutes to get the same flavour from fresh ingredients?

What the Nutritionist said.. And my Diet Plan

Last year I went to see a nutritionist to see if she could give me some tips about my weight loss diet.

I didn't really expect to learn much to be honest. You see, I've been overweight to some degree for all my life, or at least I thought I was. And the reason that I didn't think I'd learn much is that I'm a big researcher. When I'm interested in something, I read about it, I research it, I follow pretty much every avenue of investigation I can. And I'm REALLY interested in losing weight!

As far as I'm concerned, I know as much about the THEORY of weight loss as anyone out there. I never get sidetracked by fad diets, and I can tell you a million ways to track calories points, food groups or kilojoules. I know that it all comes down to energy in vs energy out, maintaining your metabolism by eating enough each day, focusing on fresh food and getting all the food groups.

But, like I said, I like to explore every avenue. So off I trotted to my nutritionist appointment. I shamefacedly showed her my eating logs for the past 9 weeks and explained toer, her my plan - how each week I make a menu plan, making sure that my calories average 1400 a day with less calories during the week and more on the weekend... and how every week I utterly fail and end up binging all weekend. That 9 weeks of food data had a whole lot of Smith's crisps, Chicken Treat and chocolate in it!

To my relief she said she 'didn't mind' my meal plans and my method of printing out my weekly plan to follow. However, she did think that I could be a lot 'smarter' in how I plan my meals and snacks. Here's a summary of the advice she gave me which I think might be helpful for most people, although of course everyone's different and you should always get advice personalised to yourself.
  • Eat more veggies. (Duh!) At least two serves at lunch and two at dinner. Which leads into the next point -
  • Balance every meal. That means 1/4 protein, (Chicken, Ham, Beef) 1/4 carbs (potato, corn, bread) and 1/2 veggies. She said that my favourite standby meal, Sketti, could be balanced by adding a salad.
  • Eat more protein. That one surprised me as I am a huge meat eater. But she said protein is important to stop the binging cycle because it's so satisfying. I should eat two serves at dinner, and two serves during the day, at lunch or breakfast or split between the two. A serve of protein is pretty tiny though - 100g of cooked beef or chicken is two serves (!) so I only have to add some to lunch.
  • Eat more dairy. This was the real surprise! I thought dairy was a bit of a grey area and too calorie dense to include much of it in my daily diet. But she said because dairy has such low GI it can keep you full for longer, and it could be used strategically as snacks to prevent overeating. She suggested a glass of milk with Milo as a good 'stop-gap' snack for the times when I come home from work too hungry even to wait until I can cook dinner. I LOVE that idea!
  • This is the important bit - are you listening carefully? Include "sometimes" foods in your food plan 3-4 times a week! That means small serves of crisps, chocolates, lollies and alcohol. Including them through the week makes you less likely to binge at the end of the week. (I was really starting to like the lady at this point :) )
  • Takeaway and rich desserts are 'occasional foods and you should aim to have them no more than once a week.

So, this weekend, I plan to make four weeks worth of meal plans in advance. I intend to follow the above guidelines plus these ones of my own;

  • Plan to average 1600 calories a day, spread evenly over the week, with only a little extra on the weekend. I'll be back at the gym next week and from prior experience should be able to easily manage at least 200 cals exercise a day, bringing me to my ideal goal of 1400 cals a day net.
  • The weekly plans will be printed and put on the fridge. On a "normal" day (get up, catch the train, gym, work, catch the train, home, bed) or on weekend days when I'm at home, the plan will be LAW. On a non-normal day, (dinner or lunch with a friend, sleepover with the girls, BBQ on the weekend, night at the pub etc) I will follow the plan as closely as I can, and when I can't, I will make the best choices available to me. For example, choosing appropriate sized portions at BBQ's, choosing the best options I know how off menus, and having small portions of 'sometimes' foods when in company, enjoying it, and then not having any more. Also I will choose vodka with diet coke instead of cocktails with cream :)
  • Going off the plan at one meal WILL NOT be an excuse to give up and binge untill the start of the next week.

Hope some of this info has been usefull or at least interesting! What's your diet plan for the New Year?

P.S - I plan my meals using an excellent peice of recipe organisation and nutrition software called DietPro by Radium Technologies. It's excellent value for money and the developer provides great technical support.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Freezer Cooking for single gals (and guys)

Freezer cooking is possibly the most useful tool for any one living alone that I have ever found on my way to developing healthy eating habits. The following info will cause many readers to go - well, duh! But it took me a while to figure all this out, and some of you who may have moved out of family homes lately might appreciate it :)

A search on the net for freezer cooking will lead you to many excellent sites with recipes and methods for storing an entire months worth of food in the freezer in one weekend. This is not exactly practical for your average singleton. The recipes can come in handy though.

You can freeze a LOT of stuff. Any meat or chicken will freeze just fine raw, and most casseroles, stews and a bunch of other dishes will freeze in portions for fast and easy meals. The key is having the right storage containers. Many of my friends swear by Tupperware, and who could blame them? Tupperware is awesome! I have a heap of fridgesmarts myself which I love. But let's face it, the stuff is hideously expensive.

For everyday freezing and lunch-packing, I use Decor. You can buy them everywhere - Woolworth's, Kmart and Howard's Storage World spring to mind. I use the 500ml square containers to freeze individual portions of most meals..I have 16 of them at last count. but you can also get away with containers like your Chinese takeaway comes in - you can buy packs of 10 for only a couple of dollars at most supermarkets.

Here's some of the things I freeze...
  • Raw meat and chicken in single serves (divide them up into 120g portions as soon as you get home from the shops, pop them into ziplock bags and store in a large container.
  • Single portions of Spaghetti Bolognaise, soup, casseroles, stews, Apricot chicken, steak in white sauce, fried rice, anything else you can cook in a slow cooker.
  • Beef, vegetable and chicken stock frozen in icecube trays, then stored in medium sized containers
  • White wine frozen in icecube trays, then stored in medium sized containers
  • Quiches and frittatas in single portions, but only if I really have to... They defrost OK but you wouldn't serve then to a guest. Wrap each portion in alfoil prior to freezing.
  • Frozen veg - for nights when I can't be bothered chopping up the fresh ones.
  • Bread, Hamburger buns, foccacias (without fillings) pizza bases, ciabatta rolls, turkish bread etc.

The average singleton can't really justify going out and buying a massive freezer to house a month's worth of food. But anyone can use their freezer to the best of their ability to avoid food wastage, get some variety into their diet and save money. Here's how it works.

  1. Make a meal plan for the next week. Include all your favourite meals that you haven't been making because you couldn't eat a whole batch before it went off. You may want to include one 'extra' meal just to freeze for later. Don't fret if you can't follow your meal plan for the week - it's just a guideline.
  2. Make a shopping list with all the ingredients you'll need for the week and go shopping. Don't forget to put ziploc bags and freezer containers on the list!
  3. While you're shopping, don't stress about how much you're buying and whether it will be wasted - except for fruit and fresh veg that won't keep. Try to buy those in the precise amounts needed.
  4. When you get home from the shops, freeze unneeded portions straight away. If you bought 500g of chicken, but you only need 125g this week, freeze the rest in 125g portions in the ziploc bags. same for unneeded bread rolls etc.
  5. Throughout the week, every time you cook something, freeze the uneaten portions. One night after dinner, you might want to take some time to cook a batch of pasta or whatever your 'standby' meal is to freeze.
  6. The next week, before you make your meal plan, check the freezer. Plan to use a few of your frozen meals during the week, or portions of meat that you've frozen.

So there it is. Some weeks you will have to do big shops, some weeks you may only need to buy fruit and veg. Some weeks you might actually not have to shop at all. Experiment and play around with it, eventually you will have a larger and larger repertoire to call on when making your meal plans.


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Recipe Review - Old Faithful Sketti

The keystone of my freezer cooking regime is this recipe for Spaghetti Bolognaise, which I learnt from my Mum, who I think may have gotten it from my Dad's Mum.

I tend to make this recipe up in double batches, and freeze portions in 500ml square containers (the decor ones you can buy everywhere - Woolworths, Kmart etc) I used to use the containers you get chinese takeaway in - but they leak a bit in your lunchbox.


1Tblsp Olive Oil
500g lean beef mince
1 Large Onion
1 Large Green Capsicum (that's a green pepper for my US readers)
110g tin of tomato paste (I think that's called puree in non-aussie countries)
410g tin crushed or diced tomatoes
410g tin tomato soup
1 clove diced garlic OR 1 Tblsp Garlic granules
1Tblsp Oregano
Other herbs to taste (basil, mixed herbs etc)
2 Tblsp sugar (seriously, trust me on the sugar)

Around 2/3 of a 500g pack of dried spaghetti pasta. If you're feeling really virtuous, use the wholemeal stuff.


In a big pot or saucepan, brown the mince in the olive oil, and the garlic if you're using the fresh stuff.

Add the chopped onions and roughly chopped capsicum.

Dump the tomato paste in and stir so it coats the mince and veggies

Now do the same with the diced tomatoes and the toato soup.

Add the garlic granules, herbs and sugar, give it a good stir.

Simmer on a low heat for anywhere between 45 minutes and an hour. Use some judgement.

cook the pasta according to the instructions on the pack.

divide into portions and freeze. I make 9 small portions out of this size recipe and it comes to around 275 calories per serving. But please don't trust me on that one, work the numbers out for yourself if you're calorie counting!


This recipe is my lifesaver! I always enjoy eating it, especially in winter, and so it's become my standby. Anytime I get home in too foul a mood to cook, out comes a serve of sketti. Into the microwave to defrost and heat, 10 minutes later I'm eating.

If I can't be bothered packing lunch for the next day, a container in my lunchbox along with a couple of snacks takes 5 minutes. By the time I get to eat it the next day it's defrosted slowly in the fridge overnight and takes only 1 1/2 minutes to heat in the microwave at work.

I reckon I eat this at least once a week. when there's none left in the freezer, I set aside an hour to make some one night after dinner and pack it all away in the freezer.

I ran this recipe past my nutritionist, she said she didn't mind it at all. But in order to be a balanced meal (1/4 plate protein, 1/4 plate carbs, 1/2 plate veggies) you have to serve it with a salad. If you have a plain salad with no creamy dressing or cheese, this is an awesome "value for calories" meal.


P.S - What's your "Old Faithful"? let me know and maybe I'll add it to my repertoire!

The Raison D'etre

Raison D'Etre (french) A basic, essential purpose; a reason to exist......

So, why, you are asking, do I feel it is necessary to cook every single night? to organise my kithchen with such ruthless efficiency and force myself to spend my precious time slaving away over hot appliances? I mean, I have a good job, I can afford to eat out right?

Of course, the reason is the same as more than 80% of the population right now. I'm overweight.
Yes, I am a 30-something, single, fat chick. How sad. Bridget Jones has nothing on me. I wish to be thin. I wish it with all my heart. I wish to be one of those sexy, glowing-with-health women you see running along the beach in the Kellogg's ads. I wish to look in the mirror every morning and smile, then wink at that sexy woman and walk out the door with a spring in my step.

Most of all, I wish to go to next years family Christmas party and NOT walk out with the knowledge that behind me everyone in the room is whispering "Gee, Ness's put on a bit of weight!"

Generally, I am a happy person. I have a great job, I have a few, very close and very good friends. I have a loving family and a nice house near the beach, and plenty of time for myself.

So, this is my goal for 2008. I will lose 20kgs this year. As one of the lovely ladies at calorie king said just recently, "This is my last summer as a fat person!"

A Table for One

Welcome to the very first post of my new blog!

I have decided to start this blog because... well, because it's the first day at work after the New Year and I'm seriously unmotivated.

But aside from that, how many times have you heard your friends moan about how hard it is to cook interesting, healthy meals for one? Come to think about it, how many times have you moaned about it yourself?

It sometimes seems that if you live alone, you can either waste massive amounts of food cooking new stuff each day, eat the same meal for days on end, or subsist on a never-ending line of takeout and junk food snacks.

Well, there are alternatives. They take a bit of work and organisation, but I promise, if you put in the initial hard yards, eventually you will be cruising along and enjoying fresh, home cooked and healthy food every night with an absolute minimum of fuss, waste and time.

How do I know? well, I'm almost there. Note the ALMOST! :) I have slip ups and bad days. well, bad weeks actually. And last month wasn't so hot but who eats well in December? But like I said, I'm almost there. I just need to fine tune the plan a little.

So, here's a blog to pass on the tips I've learned, gather a few new ones from all my lovely readers, and document my journey towards the perfect single diet.

So, Welcome, Dear Reader. My kitchen is always open, pull up a chair, get comfy and make yourself at home.