Courgette gratin

Courgette and tomato bake

Gratin is a French term for a dish that is baked and has a browned crust on top. This dish is usually made with aubergines but I think it is also very nice with courgettes and if like us at this time of year you are looking for recipes which use the courgettes and tomatoes from the garden, this dish is perfect.

Courgettes are not very nutrient dense but do contain some immune-boosting vitamin C and blood pressure regulating potassium and of course fibre. Tomatoes contain good amounts of vitamin A for eye health and immunity and lycopene which has cancer-protective properties, as well as fibre. If you are using fresh tomatoes, the nutrient level can be increased by storing them at room temperature rather than in the fridge.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 large courgettes, sliced

Butter and olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and sliced thinly

350g/ ¾ lb tomatoes, skinned and chopped

1 tablespoon fresh parsley

1 teaspoon dried basil

sea salt and ground pepper

175g/6 oz cream cheese softened with 2 tablespoons of milk

4 tablespoons grated cheddar

4 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs *

1 tablespoon butter

 

*the breadcrumbs can be made by grinding up a stale piece of bread in the food processor after first cutting the crusts off.

Method:

Heat a little butter and a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan.

Add the courgette slices, enough to cover the bottom of the pan, and fry until browned on both sides.

Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper.

Fry the rest of the courgette this way, and set them aside on kitchen paper.

In the same pan, fry the onion until golden brown. Stir in the tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Cook gently for 5 to 10 minutes until the mixture begins to soften.

Remove from the heat and season to taste.

Take a baking dish and put one third of the courgette and tomato mixture in the bottom.

Spoon half of the cream cheese on top.

Repeat these layers finishing with the cream cheese on top.

Mix the cheese and breadcrumbs together and sprinkle over the top of the dish.

Cook at 180°C for 30 minutes.

This can be served with meat and a potato dish, or on its own with potatoes to make a meal.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Healthy snacks

 

Mixed nuts

Most of the energy and nutrients we get in our diet comes from meals but sometimes you find you need something to keep you going until the next meal. This is where a snack is needed.

Before the 1970s snacks were unheard of but that changed when chocolate manufacturers identified a gap in the market. Now there are many types of chocolate bars, crisps, snack bars etc. to tempt us in between meals. These types of snack are best eaten occasionally as they contain a lot of sugar or processed fats.

So what is a healthy snack and how do you ensure you always have one to hand?

It goes without saying snacks should be a small part of the diet. If you are relying on snacks for a lot of your nutrition, then you aren’t getting enough energy in your meals, so first of all check you are getting a good balance of each of the food groups in your meals and enough of each: carb-rich foods, protein-rich foods and veg.

If you are satisfied your meals are adequate, but you still get a little hungry in between meals and need something to keep you going, then here is my list of my common sense healthy snacks:

  1. Nuts

Nuts make an excellent snack. They contain fibre so it is difficult to overeat them and a host of nutrients such as good fats, iron, vitamin E and B-vitamins. Most supermarkets sell a re-sealable bag of mixed nuts.

  1. Dark chocolate

Sometimes a bit of a treat is needed and dark chocolate is a good choice for this. It also has some nutritious qualities with antioxidants, magnesium and theobromines amongst them.

  1. Fruit

Any kind of fruit is good but if you can get hold of it seasonal fruit is even better as it will contain more of the beneficial nutrients and more taste. At this time of year look out for raspberries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, and apricots. Fruit is a great snack to have in-between meals as the slow release sugars will help to bridge the gap until the next meal.

  1. Fruit scone

For those really hungry times I find a fruit scone is really useful to get you to the next meal. It is a kind of a cake but not too sweet or fatty. The bakery section of some supermarkets sell these singly so you can buy just one, when you need it.

  1. Plain yoghurt

Having a yoghurt is a good way to get one of your three dairy portions of the day. Fruit yoghurts contain a lot of sugar so I would recommend a plain one and just add your own fruit.

  1. Cheese and crackers

This also contributes to one of your dairy portions and can be a good substitute for a sugary snack. An ideal portion size for cheese is 50g.

The best types of snacks are as in the rest of the diet, whole foods such as fruit, cheese, yoghurt or nuts. These foods can supplement the diet with extra nutrients rather than providing so called ‘empty’ calories.

Keep these snacks to hand and you will be able to avoid more easily the temptation of milk chocolate bars, crisps and so-called ‘healthy’ snack bars.

 

Summer is nearly here, are you ready?

I wrote this post last year just after the Brexit vote. Now instead of Brexit we have the Brexit negotiations and the general election! So if you need a distraction from both of these, and want to prepare for a healthy, happy summer…without the need for a crash diet, its a good time to revisit this blog:

Summer ready – the long-term approach

Here’s to a long, sunny and healthy summer!

Lemon cake

Lemon cake

This is a simple loaf cake, easy to make, lemony and delicious. Perfect for Mother’s Day or any occasion (Saint Patrick’s Day?). There is something spring-like about lemons. They are refreshing and cleansing. They are the colour of daffodils. What’s not to love? I have reduced the sugar a bit in this recipe but it will still taste sweet and you can increase the fibre by using half wholemeal flour. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

8 oz (225g) butter or margarine

6 oz (175g) caster sugar

juice and zest of 1 lemon

3 eggs

8 oz (225g) plain flour (variations: use half wholemeal and half plain for more fibre, or substitute 2 oz, 50g with ground almonds)

3 teaspoons of baking powder

Method:

  1. Line a 8 x 21 cm loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4.
  3. Beat together the butter or margarine and the sugar until light and fluffy. This is the most important step.
  4. Beat in the eggs one at a time and if the mixture curdles add a tablespoon of the flour, with each egg.
  5. Then add the lemon zest and lemon juice and beat again.
  6. Fold in the rest of the flour.
  7. Put the mixture into the loaf tin and spread out with a pallet knife. Sprinkle the top with 2 tablespoons of sugar.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a knife comes out clean from the middle.
  9. Cool in the tin on a wire rack before turning it out.

New year: new you: new diet?

New Year

So we are well into the New Year. So did you start a new diet? How is it going?

At this time of year many of us feel motivated to change our diet for the better. A new year feels like turning a corner, where you can say goodbye to old habits and practice and re-inforce new ones.

But why is it so hard to keep going after the first week of January?

We may say it’s the cold, or the dark, or we have a cold, or we are too tired, or the wrong diet, or the wrong exercise plan or whatever excuse we use.

Could it be that we forgot the most important part of changing? That is actually wanting to do it for yourself and not for someone else, or because you think you should, or you’d quite like to have the body of Rihanna, but actually really, really wanting it.

Preparation for change is often overlooked, and that is why changing your diet suddenly and dramatically can do more harm than good.

Often people tell me they don’t have the willpower to make changes to their diet, but if you generate a strong sense of why you want to do it, and feel good about that, then you will have generated the ‘willpower’.

If you have found it difficult to keep going with your new diet this year, try looking at your motivation. Is this something you really want?

Write a list of the benefits of doing it and feel how good it will feel to achieve all of them. It is important to generate the positive feeling.

Once you have generated the feel good excitement about making this change, keep going back to it, daily if possible.

Once you have focused on the benefits and generated that feel good energy for some time, then make the change. I find this approach helps me to make positive changes.

If your New Year’s resolutions have now come and gone, don’t give up. Start again once you have generated the positivity for the changes that you want and see how much easier it is.

Happy eating!