Staying Lean For the Holidays & An Awesome Salad!

December 14, 2010 § 8 Comments

It’s that time of year again when gym sessions become victim to Christmas parties and healthy eating becomes victim to Christmas parties and Christmas parties become victim to Christmas parties (whatever that means!) But you know what I’m talking about?? December is the one month when we say, oh just one cocktail (when we normally don’t drink during the week), just one blini, just one mini meat-pie. But suddenly you found that ‘just one’ is happening Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, (fortunately I work Mondays) and then one day you wake up with a food hangover and roll over to see that you’re lying next to some overweight, greasy, ash-faced rager – oh wait, that’s just the mirror! This is when you remember that in the last week you have probably consumed two family meat pies, 1kg of creme fraiche and enough vodka to knock out Lindsay Lohan.

You might not want to hear this (I certainly didn’t) but it’s my duty to play the grinch.

The average slice of bacon and leek quiche is 30% fat

Each party-sized sausage roll is over 120 calories (please ignore this if you are coming to my Christmas party on Saturday where I intend to serve homemade party sized sausage rolls!)

A single spring roll has 103 calories – and let’s be honest, not that much flavour

Vegetable samosas might be moreish but at 377 calories per serve…

Just 10 potato chips is 111 calories or 30 minutes of fast walking


Pretty dreadful stuff huh?!!?! And then we get in an alcohol haze that creates a magnetic pull between our mouths and the chocolate fondue fountain, not to mention the caloric-density of alcohol itself (1 glass of champagne – 107 calories, 1 Cosmopolitan – 146 calories, an average 170 calories in beer…)

But I’m not suggesting you be a dieting bore! There are just a few tips to help you out, like the Elves help Santa:

Say no to the first round of hors d’oeuvres, they nearly always come around again

Check out what’s on offer first. If you would normally never order a spring roll but love your cheese then treat yourself with the latter instead of acting like a kid in a candy store and taking one of everything.

Share a dessert with someone

Have a healthy snack before heading off to these functions as chances are there won’t be any real sense of dinner so you will get confused about your state of hunger and continue to graze all night.


On this last point, you’ll often read suggestions about a protein rich bite before a canape party, for example snacking on some turkey or having a hard boiled egg…riiiight, sounds delicious! So yeah, if I did this i would be eating a meaty, eggy snack FOLLOWED by delicious party food! Woops! Instead, I find that a small meal, which I can sit down and enjoy, works a treat. A cup of vegetable soup for example (I like to have single serve portions in the freezer) or this yummy Barley & Roast Vegetable Salad. And if all else fails, stick your toothbrush in your bag and when you become tempted with seconds duck into the bathroom for a peppermint dessert.

Happy Festive Eating Blushers!!!


Barley and Roast Vegetable Salad

Serves 2

Preheat oven to 200°C. Cut 200g pumpkin into generous chunks (it’s Christmas after all, not the time of year to be stingy). Toss pumpkin with olive oil, pepper and a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes. Transfer to roasting tray with 1/4 bunch of basil and roast for 10-15 minutes. When pumpkin is 2/3 cooked, add 1 large chopped zucchini and 1 large lebanese (finger) eggplant and return to oven for 8-10 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked.

Meanwhile, bring 1 cup of stock to the boil, add 1/2 cup barley and reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes or until cooked. Drain and set aside.

Finely slice 1/4 red cabbage and 1/2 spanish onion. Steam in a saucepan with a lid, with a dash of white wine vinegar and a pinch of brown sugar. Towards the end of cooking toss in a large handful of spinach/rocket mix.

In a large bowl combine barley, cabbage mixture and roast vegetables. Drizzle with one tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or to taste). Serve with crumbled fetta, a sprinkling of salt and pepper and freshly chopped basil and chives – or whatever Italian style herbs you may have on hand.





Green Minestrone

September 22, 2010 § 2 Comments

Blushing Strawberries and I are moving to America next January to take on the North Carolina food scene (fried chicken anyone?!). As the cost of excess baggage for all my cookbooks would be cause for bankruptcy,  I’ve come to the distressing understanding that only 3 (or maybe 4) of my babies can come with me… Admittedly, parting with the other volumes will be like

Sophie’s Choice so I’m trying to spend some quality time with my recipes before we go our separate ways and will find great pleasure in paying homage to them here at the Strawberry patch!



Serves 4-6

This soup is from Tana Ramsey’s cookbook – Homemade, it’s a really hearty minestrone without the predictable tomato offering, which keeps it looking fresh. I sometimes like to add some shredded poached chicken just before serving.

  1. Heat 2 tbs olive oil in a large pan on a low-medium heat, then gently fry 2 medium onions (peeled and chopped), 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped) and 120g prosciutto or pancetta (cut into chunks) for 8-10 minutes, until softened. Add 2 sticks of celery (sliced) along with a little salt and a good helping of pepper. Add 400g tin of cannellini beans (drained and rinsed), 3 bay leaves and 750ml chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.


This is the base of the soup and can be kept at this stage for a day or two. Add the remaining ingredients only when ready to serve as the soup is much nicer with slightly crunchy veges and al dente pasta.

Place 125g dried spaghetti rolled up in a teatowel, push it against the edge of a table and break into uneven pieces,  perfect for a rustic pasta look.

Add the pasta, 3 baby zucchini (sliced) and 100g green beans and simmer for about 8 minutes. Finally add 1 large handful of spinach and cook for 1 minute or so. Adjust the seasoning and top with a handful of basil.

Serve in warm bowls and sprinkle with parmigiano reggiano.



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