Monthly Archives: October 2013

Spooky, Healthy Halloween Treats For Every Meal!

Halloween doesn’t need to lack that special spooky factor for you and your family just because you are following a more healthy lifestyle. There are spooky, healthy foods that you can still eat, along with not so healthy but still calorie controlled foods that you can have alongside them.

In fact there are foods that you can serve for every meal of the day with these healthier recipes.


Ghostly Toast Breakfast

Even breakfast can have a spooky twist with these Ghostly cream cheese toasts. Easy and quick to make, they are sure to be a hit with tiny diners.

  • Enough bread to satisfy your diners.
  • A ghost cookie cutter.
  • Philadelphia light or another light cream cheese.

Use the cookie cutter to cut ghost shapes from the bread. Toast the ghost shapes, then spread with the cream cheese. Add tiny dots of marmite, chocolate spread, or small raisins or other dried fruit to make eyes and a mouth. Save the off cuts from the bread for making a savoury bread pudding to cut down on waste.

The calories for this will unfortunately vary depending on how big your cutter is, and so it’s not possible to give an exact count. However if should be possible to weigh the bread, and then the cream cheese in order to give you a good idea.


Spooky Sandwiches

Lunch too can have a Halloween twist. Prepared in the same way as your ghostly toast, make your sandwiches tomorrow out of ghost shaped bread. Serve with ham or another meat, peanut butter, or cream cheese like your toast.

Again, calories will need to be worked out depending on fillings and cutter size.


Ghost Pops 

Give your kids these ghost pops for a spooky Halloween, afternoon treat.

  • Two bananas.
  • Four lolly sticks.
  • One large pot of fat free Greek yogurt with honey, well stirred.

Peel bananas and make sure they’re clean of stringy bits. Cut in half and push a stick into the cut end. Freeze bananas.

Once frozen, dip the Halloween banana treats in the yoghurt so they are well coated. Freeze again standing up. You’ll need to push the sticks into something that will keep them upright. My suggestion is a large lump of Plasticine, stuck to a tray. The kids can then play with it later.

When the yoghurt has frozen, add dots of chocolate spread to make eyes and a mouth. Tasty and spooky, and yet low in calories! If you aren’t bothered about the calories, you can make this Halloween treat with white chocolate instead!


Ogre’s Fingers in Blood, Serves 4

These ogres fingers make a satisfying and spooky dinner, especially when combined with a spooky story about how you chopped them off the ogre by shutting his hand in your front door.

You can use normal, jumbo sausages, or can substitute with hot dog sausages. These are often lower in calorie than the equivalent sized normal sausage, but are less healthy in other ways (such as the additives and salt in them). However for a one off treat, the higher additive content isn’t likely to be too big a problem.

  • 4 jumbo or hot dog sausages.
  • 1 pack of streaky bacon.
  • 2 cans of tomato soup.
  • 4 finger rolls.
  • Black or green olives.
  • Tomato puree.
  • 6g finely grated light cheddar.
  • 400g (peeled weight) carrots.
  • 300g chopped broccoli.

Wrap the bacon around the sausages, fatter in two places (about a third and two thirds along). giving the appearance of knuckles. Place in the middle of a preheated oven until thoroughly cooked (if a raw sausage) or till the bacon is cooked and the sausage is hot (if a hot dog sausage). Heat the soup through and place in a bowl that is smaller than the sausages are long (so that they will stick out).

Place a blob of tomato puree on the one end of the sausage, and use it to stick half an olive to it to look like a finger nail. Serve on the table in the bowl of soup ‘blood’, putting into the split finger rolls when ready to eat. Serve the soup in a bowl, of course!


The veggies for the dinner are steamed in the normal way for 30-45 minutes depending on preference. Once cooked, sprinkle with a little grated cheese and tomato soup on top.  Again, spin a Halloween dinner tale of how the veggies were a little mouldy when you got them out today, but you didn’t have anything else for dinner so you thought it wouldn’t mind. You couldn’t help that the ogre’s fingers bled on them, you just didn’t realise that they were still dripping! Halloween dinner will never be the same again!

A serving of a bowl of soup, and ogre’s finger in a roll with veggies is 670 calories and cost £1.26 per serving.



Orange Pumpkin Fruit Salad Cups 

  • Four large oranges
  • One large container of fresh fruit salad

I’m using a prepared fruit salad for convenience here, but you can probably do it cheaper by making your own fruit salad with a couple of apples, bananas and the innards of the oranges. There is nothing at all unhealthy about this Halloween fruit salad, the treat is in the presentation.

Cut the top off each orange, and use a sharp knife to help to cut away the flesh from the skin. Remove it with a spoon and chop it up. Carve your best pumpkin face into the front of it and fill with a little fruit salad. Top with the ‘lid’ of the orange and serve with a spoon.

The Halloween fruit salad is around 40 calories, and cost 93p per serving.


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Halloween Treats

When you’re watching your weight, this time of year can be difficult. Anyone who has children in the house is likely to have more sweets than usual around, and that can mean an increase in the temptation to eat things you normally wouldn’t. How is best to handle it?

Moderation is the best option, as with anything else. To deny yourself a treat is to risk bingeing, and also to miss out on the fun. But by saving the treats for just Halloween itself, instead of say, the week leading up to Halloween, you cut down on the damage that could be done.

One day over your calorie allowance isn’t going to hurt you too much, as you won’t be able to overeat enough to regain much weight. What you do see as an increase on the scales is likely to be water weight-and it should be gone again with a few days more of healthy eating.

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Chicken and Leek Bread Pudding

Tonight is day two of our whole chicken, that was roasted yesterday. It’s also a bit of a use it up night, so will help to clear the fridge of food before it goes to waste. I would love to have the time to make a quiche from scratch, but today being a busier day I don’t have time to make the pastry. And so, we’re having cheese and leak bread pudding.

For egg lovers this is a fantastically tasty dish, and one that is easy to vary by adding different fillings to it. It certainly won’t leave you hungry, being a very satisfying dish, and easy to pair with vegetables of your choice.

Chicken and Leek Bread Pudding-Serves 4

  • 7 slices of Hovis Wholemeal bread, torn into chunks.
  • 9 medium Lidl eggs (these are on the small side of medium).
  • 2 medium leeks.
  • 2 cloves of garlic.
  • 200g of roast chicken (leftovers from a roast dinner).
  • 120g Light mature cheddar, grated (Lidl was used, Cathedral City is the same calories).
  • 200ml skimmed milk.
  • 400g Cauliflower.
  • 400g carrots (peeled weight).
  • 15ml olive oil.
  • Seasoning to taste.

Carrots were peeled and chopped and put into the steamer for 45 minutes, and the cauliflower cleaned and chopped and added on top of the carrots. The oven was put on to preheat and two rectangular Pyrex baking dishes lined with grease-proof paper.

Roughly tear the bread and split between the two dishes. Remove the outer leaves from the leeks and discard the root end. Thinly slice and fry in the olive oil with the garlic cloves (crushed) for about five minutes, or until soft. Remove from the heat and add to the baking dish with the bread.

Chop the roast chicken into small pieces and sprinkle over the bread and leek mixture. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top.


Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk together with the milk and salt or the seasoning of your choice. Pour the egg slowly over the bread mix in the baking pan, remembering to try and split it evenly between the two bowls.

Place in the middle of the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top has gone golden brown. Lift from the baking dish using the grease-proof paper and place upside down on a plate to allow you to peel away the paper. Turn onto a cutting board to cut into portions, and serve with the veggies of your choice.



When made as described this comes in at approximately 650 calories per adult serving. The cost was £1.25 per person.

To adapt for baby-led weaning, save the salt for those who want it after serving.

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Photo Challenge!

I’m fully aware of the fact that the photos on this blog, well they aren’t so great. The food itself looks delicious, and yet when I take the photos of it, it all looks yellow. I can assure you that it does not look like that in person!

So my first real challenge with regards to improving this blog, is to improve the photos that I take. If anyone who reads this has any suggestions then they would be greatly appreciated. I have a Galaxy S3 which is my preferred method of taking them (as it cuts out the need to download them) but I also have a proper, Canon sx20 that I will use if I cannot figure a way to improve the white balance and lighting on my phone camera.

Watch this space for improvements coming!

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The Importance of Portion Control

Weight loss is far easier when you are eating the right amount of calories, but unfortunately too many people today are unable to accurately judge a proper portion size. Instead they use a larger plate or bowl than needed and they fill it up. The result is that they are eating far too many calories even with healthy foods and so are gaining weight. A properly measured portion would

Breakfast cereal is a good example. An average portion size is 30g with 125ml of milk. This is a small portion, but adequate for the first meal of the day (especially when you don’t habitually overeat). The problem is that most cereal bowls will hold twice that easily, and so you double your calories without realising.

The same principle holds true for almost anything. If it doesn’t come in a portion sized packet, then the only way to be sure that you are getting the right amount of calories is to measure it using a very accurate digital scale. Scales like this are available for less than £20 these days.

So go ahead and enjoy your cereal this morning. As long as you make sure you are having a proper size portion, you can have almost any cereal you want (including the naughtier, children’s cereals!).

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One Chicken, Three Meals

When it comes to many foods, buying in bulk makes the portion prices cheaper. That often goes for buying chicken too, with larger joints costing less per kilo than smaller joints do. So it makes sense where this is true to buy the biggest whole chicken that you can afford, within the limits of being able to cook it.

The leftovers after the initial dinner are easy to store as they can be refrigerated for up to two days, or can be frozen. Using them up is easy too, as they can be added to many meals, with popular choices including curry and pasta dishes. As the meat is already cooked it can make for a quick and easy dinner.

Where there isn’t quite enough for a full meal, it can be used for sandwiches, or frozen until the next roast and used up along with the new leftovers. Alternatively, you can stretch the leftovers by adding lentils, eggs, beans or cheese, any of which provide high quality, tasty protein.

A whole chicken is, for meat lovers at least, a great way to feed a family while watching your budget.

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Roast Chicken Dinner, Under 500 Calories!

There’s nothing as comforting as a lovely Sunday roast dinner, but it is possibly improved by it being less than 500 calories per serving. Even the most restricted calorie diet can make room for this comfort food.

With 100g of chicken per portion, a good serving of mashed potato and steamed broccoli and carrots to boot, there’s no need to go hungry.

Roast Chicken Dinner

  • 1 large whole chicken, without giblets. I used a 2.23kg chicken from Aldi, giving us enough meat for three meals from the one joint.
  • 950g potatoes (peeled weight).
  • 400g carrots (peeled weight).
  • 400g fresh broccoli.
  • 20g I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light.
  • 4 heaped tsp Bisto original.
  • 280ml boiling water.

Unwrap the chicken and rinse. Pat dry with paper towels and throw them away. Place the chicken in a roasting tray in the middle of a preheated oven at 190 degrees. My preference is to start the cooking with the chicken upside down, standing on the breast. I turn it to breast up half way through the cooking, as this helps to stop the breast from drying out too much, and so keeps the breast nice and moist.

The roasting time will differ depending on the size of the chicken. It needs 20 minutes per pound of weight, plus an extra 20 minutes. Chickens are normally sold by the kilogram these days so you’ll need to work out the cooking time. There are approximately 450g per pound, so a 1.6kg chicken will take about 95 minutes to cook.

Peel and chop your carrots, and chop the broccoli into florets. Peel and chop the potatoes into small chunks for boiling. About 20 minutes before the chicken is due to come out you need to start steaming both veggies-they will need 30-45 minutes cooking time. Start the potatoes boiling once the vegetables are on.

When the chicken is roasted take it out and allow it to rest for about five minutes in a warm place. Carve or pull the meat from the carcass as you prefer and place on a serving plate. Add the boiling water to the Bisto granules in a jug and stir well. We personally like to use less water for a thicker gravy. We also enjoy making the gravy from the meat juices in the roasting pan, however this pushes up the calorie count for the meal so we don’t often do it.


Mash the potatoes once cooked, with the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light and serve with the cooked vegetables. Serve 50g of breast meat and 50g of dark to each person, and 50ml of gravy.

When made and served as directed, each portion has a tiny 479 calories per portion. Good enough for a Sunday roast every day! The entire meal costs less than £3.50 (assuming three meals from a 2.2kg chicken), which is 88p per serving.

To adapt for baby-led weaning, simply mash baby’s potatoes with unsalted butter instead, and don’t serve them any gravy.


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So, How Many Calories Can I Eat?

When you are trying to lose weight by calorie counting, you need to eat less calories in a day than you are burning. For every 1lb that you wish to lose, you have to burn 3500 calories more than you eat. To lose 1lb a week, you need to burn 500 calories more per day than you eat, and to lose 2lb you need to burn 1000 calories a day more than you eat. This (the extra that you burn) is known as your deficit.

The amount of calories you burn in a day depends upon two things. The first is quite simply how big you are, because calories are needed to maintain every cell of your body, through every function, all day long. A person who weighs 18 stone has a lot more body to maintain than someone who weighs 10 stone, so they will burn more calories.

You burn calories even when sleeping. If you slept for 24 hours, the calories you burn just to maintain your body without doing anything, would be what is known as your basal metabolic rate.

The second factor is how active you are. A person who walks all day for a living will burn a lot more calories than someone who works at a computer all day.

Your basal metabolic rate, plus the calories burned during activity are the calories needed to maintain your current weight. When aiming to lose weight you must eat less than this amount. As complicated as it may sound, you do not need to do the maths, just know how to use the number. There are calculators available online to work this out for you (a Google search will give you a number of options). My Fitness Pal will also do it, telling you how many calories you have remaining each time you add a new food to your diary.

It is important to note that as you lose weight your basal metabolic rate will fall (as there is less of you to maintain). This means that your calorie needs fall and you will need to eat progressively less to continue to lose weight. The amount of calories that you burn during activity will also fall, as it takes less energy to move a 10 stone body than it does a 15 stone body, over the same amount of distance.

It isn’t easy to calculate the amount of calories you burn through activity-at least not to do it accurately. Many things can cause it to vary, including how hard you were working. There are devices available (such as FitBit) that will measure your heart rate and use it to estimate your calorie burn, that you wear all day long. Without one the best that you can do is estimate your calorie burn.

For this reason, it isn’t a good idea to eat back all of the calories you burn through exercise. With how inaccurate it tends to be, you risk eating too many and hampering your weight loss efforts. The safest approach is to eat only a small portion back, if any at all.

Once you know how many calories you can eat per day, and you are ready with a calorie diary in hand, you can get started on your weight loss journey.

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Melt in the Mouth Slow Cooker Lamb

Lamb is a fabulous meat with a really lovely flavour, but is comparatively expensive. That makes it all the more important to do it right when you do it.

This joint cost £6.50 on special offer, for enough to serve the four of us for one meal. This is a lot more expensive than most roasts that I would do, that would average two servings (and maybe three) for the four of us for under £5. It was bought alongside two large pork joints, each on sale at half price, so the savings from the pork made it possible to buy the lamb.

This was another slow cooker meal because Sundays are another busy day for mum’s taxi. That thankfully let me enjoy my time out with the kids, and come home to the most fantastic smells throughout the house from the lamb cooking! This is to serve four, but can be adjusted to suit more or less people.

Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder

  • 1kg lamb shoulder.
  • 400g (peeled weight) carrots.
  • 400g chopped fresh broccoli.
  • 1.1kg (peeled weight) potatoes.
  • 2 lamb OXO cubes.
  • 5 tsp Colemans mint sauce.
  • 1 tsp honey.
  • 20g Flora Light.
  • 600ml boiling water.
  • 1.5 tbsp cornflour.

Preheat slow cooker on high for ten minutes, while you peel and chop the carrots. Place them into your warmed cooker and place the lamb on top. Dissolve your stock cubes and honey in the boiling water and pour slowly over the lamb

Lamb shoulder is a particularly greasy meat, so it is important to skim the fat off the top of the water a couple of times during cooking if you can, but at the end before serving at the very least. Cook on high for one hour before switching to low and leaving for six to eight hours more. The lamb should be falling off the bone.


Cook the broccoli in the steamer for 30-45 minutes, starting before the lamb is removed from the cooker, until it is tender as you like it. We like it to retain a little bite. The potatoes should be put on to boil when the lamb comes out of the slow cooker.

The stock from this joint makes the most incredible, simple mint gravy. Once the lamb and the carrots have been removed from the slow cooker, turn the cooker back onto high. Make a paste from one and a half tablespoons of cornflour,

with a few tablespoons of the stock from the pot. Thin the paste with some more stock, before slowly stirring it into the pot. Leave to thicken, stirring every couple of minutes, while you carve the lamb, or tear it into chunks for serving. Allow around 100g per person.

Mash potatoes with the Flora and serve straight away with the steamed veggies and lamb. Add mint gravy where you fancy it, it was particularly tasty on the mash! Made as described, this comes in at approximately 640 calories per adult serving.

Adapt this recipe for baby-led weaning by using a low salt stock such as Kalo Organic, don’t add the mint sauce until the lamb has been removed, and use an unsalted butter to make your mashed potatoes.

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Peanut Butter and Chocolate Porridge

I have a new addiction. It’s not the most healthy of breakfast foods, I’ll admit, and yet it fits in my calorie plan and it keeps me full for a long time, so it can’t be all bad.

There’s no need for a recipe for this one-this is more a confession than a how-to. I simply add 14g of smooth peanut butter, and 14g of chocolate hazelnut spread (both Asda brand) to my morning Quaker porridge single serving sachet.

This not so healthy breakfast comes in at 365 calories, but goes to show that there is plenty of room for treats in a balanced diet.

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