Friday, 21 December 2012

The Two-Pound Diet Rule at Christmas!

For anyone keeping an eye on the scales all year, here's a reminder of ten ways to help ensure that you don't put on more than two pounds over the holiday. This is a very manageable amount for sorting out later, and it's a bit of a mantra of mine.

At Parties

 1  Don't stand close to the food table. Looking at the food stimulates the appetite, and
          watching others helping themselves encourages you to do the same. 'Foodology'.

 2  Alternate alcoholic drinks with soft, a favourite being sparkling mineral water with a dash
          of fruit juice. Or a clear fruit juice such as cranberry.

 3  Don't fill a wine glass more than two-thirds, and don't top up until the glass is empty.

 4  Put a limit on canapes based on puff pastry. Usually great, but very calorific and don't
           fill you up.
by D.L.
The Great Christmas Lunch (vegetarian type)

 5  Nut roasts are back in favour, as their fat is apparently 'good fat', but it's filling so a
          small helping goes a long way.

 6  Rather than a cream-based sauce, consider onion gravy - fry finely chopped onion in
          just a little olive oil for a few minutes, add a little soft brown sugar and continue to
          cook for another few minutes to caramelise, then add stock (e.g. from Marigold
          low-salt bouillon powder) and a shake of soy sauce and simmer 10 minutes. Mix
          a dessertspoon of cornflour with a little water to a paste, add to pan, and continue
          to heat gently, while stirring, until the gravy thickens.

 7  Instead of pure cream for desserts like pavlova, creme fraiche mixed with thick plain
          yoghurt does well. Same goes for serving with Christmas pudding instead of
          brandy butter.

 8  As a rough guide, 3 chocs from the Quality Street/Roses tin contain 100-130 cals.
          Rather than take one, then another, and so on, take your three favourites straight
          away and eat them slowly. Or four.

 9  If your group takes liqueurs after the lunch, a brandy - or other clear spirit with diet
          mixer - is lighter than one of those gorgeous cream liqueurs. Sadly.

10 Best to avoid the 'Could I manage one more potato?', no matter how others might
          encourage it. A good mantra is, 'Could I manage without it?'.

Of course this isn't meant to be kill-joy - there's plenty of joy around for most of us at Christmas. But so many people weigh themselves after the holiday and feel despondent about the extra weight. Aiming to stick to a max of two pounds extra avoids this without being too much of a wet blanket. It also means that it won't take much effort to lose it afterwards.

Happy Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Christmas Celebration Pasties

There are lots of ideas around this year for a 'festive' lunch for vegetarians, and I've tried plenty of them. Still, this is my own recipe for my favourite, and I'll be making it - or versions of it - throughout the year.

The recipe makes 2 pasties, but of course it can be adapted for any number. Ready-prepared but uncooked, they can be frozen without brushing with milk. I've not tried freezing the cooked version, as they just get eaten straight away.

I usually use ready-rolled puff pastry, and after the pasty circles have been cut out, the trimmings could be gathered together and rolled out more thinly than before to make, for example, mince pies or jam tarts. Or spread thinly with Marmite, rolled up, thinly sliced then baked to make Marmite pinwheels. The pastry can be worked on the non-stick paper in which it is already rolled. For the chestnuts, a vacuum-packed type such as Merchant Gourmet, or a tin of whole chestnuts, is a short cut, but if raw, slash the skins and boil in water for 20 minutes or so before removing shell and fuzzy skin.

Preparation takes about half an hour, and baking 20 minutes, so should be about an hour from start to serving.

For neat, uniform pasties it's good to use a pasty maker like this:
In December 2011 Lidl were selling sets of 3 in different sizes. This is the largest; I have the smallest size as well, and it makes lovely two-bite-sized pasties. Helpful - but not vital - are a pastry brush and, for decoration, a suitable biscuit cutter such as Christmas tree, holly leaf or star. Lining the baking sheet with baking parchment ensures the pasties won't stick, otherwise it should be greased.

Christmas Celebration Pasties
1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry, thawed
1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled & finely chopped
Half a small stick of celery, finely chopped (optional)
2 medium mushrooms, trimmed & coarsely chopped
5 cooked chestnuts, coarsely chopped
2 tsp cranberry sauce (optional)
Scant half tsp ground black pepper
3 tsp double cream or soya cream
Half an eggcupful of milk

Oven should be heated to 180C, shelf above the middle.

1  Unroll the pastry and keep flat on the wrapping from around it. Using the underside
       edge of the pasty maker, cut out 2 circles, otherwise use an upturned saucer about
      15cm diameter and cut around it. Leave in the fridge while preparing the filling.
2  Heat the oil in a small pan, then add the onion and celery and fry gently for 5 mins,
       stirring occasionally.  
3  Add the mushrooms and fry for a further 5 mins, again stirring occasionally. Place in
       a small bowl.
4  Add the chestnuts, cranberry sauce and pepper to the bowl, mix well and leave to cool
       for a few mins. Stir in the cream.
5  Place one pastry circle on the opened pasty maker. Brush round the edges with water  
       or milk so that they'll stick together. Spoon half the mixture onto the centre - here's
       how they'll look:
    Then firmly close up the pasty maker. Ease it 
    open and place onto the lined (otherwise 
    greased) baking sheet. Prepare the second 
    pasty in the same way.

6  Pierce the tops of the pasties several times with a knife to allow steam to escape, then
       brush them thinly with milk. Cut out any decorations you want from the pastry
       trimmings, press on the top of the pasties and brush them with milk.
7  Bake for about 20 mins until golden and very puffed up. 

Here are mine, still in their baking tin, with one of the mince pies made with the trimmings and baked with them.
If you make these, I hope you'll love them as much as we do. There are endless variations of course, and if making for adults then a tablespoon of brandy in the filling would be good. Other versions are cheese/onion/potato (verging on the Cornish), or mixed veg such as peas, sweetcorn, chopped broccoli or French beans. Happy baking!