Low-calorie eating can be boring if you’re living off ready meals, but cooking from scratch every evening can be a bind. Here are my recipes using some fresh ingredients as well as some convenient packets from the supermarket shelves. Semi-home-made (to quote a phrase coined by Antoni off of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy 🙌) is a fantastic way to reduce your guilt about buying completely ready-made, add a bit of flair to shop-bought, or try out some cookery skills for the first time!
But before those, one last indulgence…
Stepping off the scales last Sunday at the same weight I was seven-months pregnant- the heaviest I’ve ever weighed not pregnant- I almost felt ashamed making a maxed-out mac ‘n’ cheese. But it was going to be the last indulgence for a long time…or at least until next weekend 🥂🍔🍕, I told myself. My recipe is 500 calories a portion. That night I ate two portions 😳. You do the maths. But it was worth it!
- 1 packet Homepride Classic Mac ‘n’ Cheese Pasta Bake
- 100g of smoked bacon lardons
- 250g dried macaroni pasta
- 75ml milk
- 100g grated cheddar
- 10g fresh Parmesan
- 2 or 3 cloves of garlic
- A drizzle of olive oil
- 1 slice of white bread
- Fry the bacon for 5-6 minutes on a medium heat, until the fat has rendered down and turned brown.
- Meanwhile, took the macaroni in boiling water for 10-11 minutes.
- Tear up the bread into a food processor (that was long ago bought with the intention of making healthy smoothies and shakes…), add a drizzle of oil and crush in the cloves of garlic. Alternatively, use garlic flavoured oil instead of fresh garlic and olive oil.
- Whizz yo the bread to form breadcrumbs.
- Once the pasta is cooked, drain and return to the pan.
- Add the packet of pasta bake, the milk, bacon and 50g of the grated cheddar.
- Give it a good mix before transferring into an oven-proof dish.
- Scatter over the garlicky breadcrumbs and sprinkle on the remaining cheddar.
- Finish with the grated Parmesan.
- Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
- Serve the mac ‘n’ cheese into four equal portions…or don’t and eat as much of it as you can, saving the last bit for the next day (it’s great hangover food!).
A cheap way to watch your calories and have an almost-tailor made calorie/food group regime, is to use a free app, like My Fitness Pal. It works as a pedometer, a calculator for your calorie allowance and even posts recipes and reminds you what you should be doing. You can update your weight loss (or in my case, gain 😳😬🐷- bloody school holidays 🤯) and scan the barcodes of the food you’re eating, for ease and speed. I couldn’t cope with Brenda from Slimming World checking my ‘food diary’ and chastising me for not having eaten enough veg. Or paying Weight Watchers for the privilege of stepping on some scales. So this works for me.
As well as getting a free app, I also invested in some digital weighing scales from Argos for the bargain price of £4.99 🙌, so that I actually know how much of something I’m eating. Portion control can be a big revelation- I reckon that alone would shave a few pounds off me…were I to hold myself to it 😬 (see above 🤦♀️). My prize gadget is my multi-sided cheese grater. But even better than that, I got a mini grater in a Christmas cracker that’s ace for finely slicing/grating garlic, a bit of lemon zest or for finishing off your hot chocolate with a bit of grated Dairy Milk. **Pro-tip: when buying you Xmas crackers this year, look what’s in the free gifts, e.g mini graters. And when everyone’s glowing on the vino and Baileys, sweep around and collect up all the good stuff off the table 👌😉.**
I’ve also had to hit the 5:2 diet (Google it- basically two days a week you only have 500 cals 😰). To cut a long story short: for my tea I get 300 calories for two days a week, so have had to get inventive. I started with shop-bought ‘diet’ meals that only cost a quid from the freezers of the shop’s own-food section. But they got a bit bland after a few weeks…so here are my semi-home-made go-tos:
Crab and Chilli Spaghetti
- 150g dry spaghetti
- 120g tin of lump crab meat
- A red chilli
- 1 calorie cooking spray
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed. Or, a dessert spoon of pre-diced garlic like Lazy Garlic
- Zest of one lemon
- Two handfuls of cherry or plum tomatoes
- Boil the kettle and pour over the dry spaghetti in a saucepan.
- Bring the pan to the boil and cook the spaghetti for 11 minutes.
- With 7 minutes to go, lightly fry the tomatoes, chillies, garlic and lemon zest in a non-stick pan.
- Add the crab meat to the chilli pan after five minutes.
- When the spaghetti is cooked, use tongs or a pasta spork (??? Don’t know the actual name…) to add the spaghetti to the chilli and crab mix.
- Season with salt and pepper and give everything a good stir
- Add some of the cooking water from the spaghetti, gradually, until you’ve got a nice silky texture.
‘Lo-Dough’ makes a sort of pizza base (that’s a loose term…) that is gluten and low carb. They’re pricey at £2 a base (sold in pa is of two, so £4 a pack) plus p&p (I tend to buy a few at a time to save on p&p).
But at only 39 calories each (🎉🎉🎉🎉) compared to around ten-times that amount in an ordinary pizza base (😱) , they’re great if you want a ‘ Fake Away’ 🍕 and still cheaper than the local pizza shop. The whole pizza is just 331 calories 🤩.
- ‘Lo-Dough’ pizza base
- Half a jar of tomato and herb pizza topping.
- 100g grated mozzarella, or mozzarella and cheddar mixed.
- Optional: 2 slices of wafer thin ham torn into chunks; half a red onion thinly sliced; a few white mushrooms, sliced; garlic-flavoured 1 cal cooking spray
- Heat up some 1 calorie cooking spray in a non-stick pan, on a medium high heat.
- Lightly toast the ‘Lo-Dough’ base for a minute or so on each side for a crispy texture.
- Generously cover the base in the pizza topping sauce.
- Sprinkle a little of the cheese on top of the sauce.
- Cover with the ham etc. or the toppings of your choice.
- Sprinkle over the remaining cheese.
- Spray with a little garlic cooking spray, if you like.
- Bake the pizza in a pre-heated oven on 200 degrees for 12-14 minutes.
‘Lo-Dough’ ‘open’ burrito
This sneaks up to 385 calories per serving, and if you want to use a plain white tortilla wrap, you need to add another 150 calories 😬.
Who knew, too, that a packet of microwave rice is supposed to serve two 😰. The thing is, The OH (Other Half) would wonder where the other half of his dinner has gone if I only gave him half a pack, and I wouldn’t be able to justify buying another pack for myself to throw half of it away…so I’d end up troughing it 🐷😭. I know I could cook my own and measure out just the right amount, but there’s times I can’t be bothered. And washing the pan after cooking rice is the worst 👎. But Veetee have come up with the solution: snap pots of just one serving! So I can microwave him a big packet, and myself a little pot, then save the other one for next time 🙌.
Apologies if the pic makes it look a bit messy; it’s an ‘open’ burrito- so not a burrito at all, just its ingredients 🤦♀️– because the Lo-Doug bases aren’t as big or flexible as a standard tortilla wrap.
There’s no real skill here- but lots of flavour and fullness with fewer calories!
- 1 ‘Lo-Dough’ base
- 1/3 of a bag of Aldi’s frozen ‘Simply Bistro’ Vegetable and Chicken Fajita Mix (says serves two, but cut the portion down a little).
- 1 Veetee Basmati rice snap pot
- 1 tomato, finely diced
- A little sliced iceberg lettuce
- 2 spring/salad onions, finely sliced
- 1 tablespoon of your favourite jar of salsa
- 1 tablespoon of soured cream or reduced fat creme fraiche
- Optional: jalapeños; a little grated cheddar (don’t forget to add the calories for this)
- Lightly toast the ‘Lo-Dough’ base in a non-stick pan with a spritz of 1 calorie cooking spray, for 30 seconds or so each side.
- Take out the base and pour in the frozen fajita mix.
- Turn the heat up to medium- high and cook for around 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Meanwhile, prep the salad ingredients.
- Just before the fajita mix is cooked, microwave the rice on high for a minute.
- Assemble the ‘open’ burrito: smear a little salsa in a line down the centre of the base; scatter a little lettuce and then pour half the rice down the line; spoon on the fajita mix, before topping with much of the onions or tomatoes as you like.
- Finish with salsa and sour cream, and any grated cheese or jalapenos.
- Serve with the last half of the rice 👌.