New Year Diet Buddies

5 Kitchen Essentials for the Would-Be Calorie Cheating Cook

If you’re serious about low-calorie or low-fat cooking, there are some things you simply cannot do without…

1.    DIGITAL PROBE THERMOMETER

diet essential

Everyone ought to have one of these anyway – they’re the only way you can be sure when roasting, for example, that you’re not serving undercooked – or more likely, OVER-cooked meat.  But when you’re cooking low calorie food, a digital probe thermometer becomes absolutely essential, because the cuts of meat are so lean, they’re much more susceptible to being dried out by being left too long on the cooker.  It’s hard to overcook chicken thighs or pork shoulder, with their lengthy cooking times and all that fat to keep them moist, but it’s quite the reverse with chicken breast or pork tenderloin. Trust me, the digital thermometer is the thing that’s standing between you and a plateful of sawdust, and if you want to eat tasty food whilst dieting, you’re going to need one.

TIP: Click HERE for a useful list of internal ‘cooked’ temperatures which you must NEVER exceed!

2.   DIGITAL KITCHEN SCALES

dietwine

If you’re going to take this diet business seriously, everything needs to be weighed – accurately. ‘Sort of’,  ‘roughly’ and ‘roundabout’ won’t cut the mustard.  Get some decent scales, weigh absolutely everything out, even that glass of wine you’ve allowed yourself – and of course make sure you meticulously log the number of calories you’re consuming too.  It’s frightening how it all adds up, so unless you’re relentlessly anal about it all, you’ll end up kidding yourself about the true extent of your calorie intake.

TIP: I’d also recommend signing-up with something like Weight Loss Resources or My Fitness Pal…   don’t forget, as the pounds come off, your calorie intake needs to reduce accordingly, and sites like these have calculators that work that all out for you.

3.   A MINI-CHOPPER

My Magimix Micro has proved to be one of my favourite ever buys.  I don’t dislike chopping onions and I can put up with the finger injuries, but it’s simply a joy the way it makes mincemeat (so to speak) of pretty much everything you bung its way – and can even knock out a fantastic mayonnaise too! The key thing is that if you’re frying with very little oil, you really need to get your bits nice and small. The lower your ingredients’ surface area the simpler they’ll be to sweat, so ‘finely chopped’ is de rigueur for any calorie cheating cook.  Of course, you can do all this with a knife. But it’ll take you considerably longer – and you need to make sure you’ve got a decent Chef’s Knife (not one of those semi-serrated monstrosities in a 5-pack from Ikea) – and it must be properly sharp..

TIP: If a knife slices easily through a tomato skin, it’s sharp enough. Any resistance whatsoever, and you need to sharpen it – sharpish!

 4.   OIL MISTER

oil misterWhether it’s healthily dressing a salad, greasing a frying pan with the minimum amount of oil, or adding a light spray of olive oil to a piece of toasted sourdough, at some point you’re going to need an oil mister.

TIP: Don’t be tempted to buy any of those horrible cooking sprays, which not only taste nasty but are also blessed with the relatively unpublicised attribute of wrecking non-stick pans. Pretty much all such sprays contain lecithin, an emulsifier which leaves a residue on cookware with disastrous consequences for non-stick surfaces – as I know to my own (considerable) cost, having recently had to chuck out an extremely expensive SKK job. You have been warned!

5.    A REALLY GOOD NON-STICK FRYING PAN

Now’s the time to invest in a brand new pan with an unsullied non-stick surface, not put up with the one that’s been knocking around your kitchen for the past six years.  No non-stick surface lasts forever, and you need it at its tippest top if you’re to get away with frying things like spices with the barest amount of fat to lubricate them.  It’s a small outlay that will make a huge difference. Personally I like anodised aluminium pans, but don’t spend too much – as I say, no non-stick pan lasts forever.

diet tip

TIP:  A miniature frying pan from the hardware store (I mean the ones with a diameter of just a few inches) is also really handy to have around, for one-egg omelettes and the like. One-egg omelettes? Yeah, sorry – you’re on a diet, remember?

Diet Buddies: Zero Calorie Shirataki Noodles

They’re noodles. They’re filling. Good for you, too. And no calories whatsoever. What’s not to love about Shirataki Noodles?

Zero Calorie Noodles

Now this is proper cheating.  So much of a cheat in fact that I did wonder whether shirataki noodles actually qualified for this blog. After all, there’s nothing remotely clever or ingenious about substituting a notoriously calorific ingredient with one that has literally no calories. Nevertheless, such an intriguing and, let’s face it, downright excellent proposition couldn’t be ignored – so spurred on by media coverage,  I got out the wok and ordered a big box from Amazon….

Basically, instead of wheat or rice, Shiritaki noodles are made from flour made from the roots of the Konjac plant which grows in Japan and China. This mostly consists of a dietary fibre called glucomannan – yep, they’re high-fibre too – and as a result they’re both good for you AND completely calorie-free.

Now you might have been put off by reports that they’re a bit slimy, or that they have a fishy smell.  Don’t worry about all that. There is a slight odour on opening the packet – apparently not from the noodles themselves but from the water they’re preserved in –  but it disappears as soon as they’re rinsed.  And as for the texture – well it seems the thing to do is boil them for a couple of minutes before adding them to your stir-fry or whatever.  Do that, and I’d go so far as to say that they’re bloody delicious.

Shirataki noodles are essentially glass noodles – so you won’t want to be shoving Bolognese sauce on them.  Not unnaturally, it’s with Asian cuisine that you’re going to get the tastiest results here.

A quick rummage around my kitchen store cupboard – and the internet – and I threw together a pretty respectable and very filling stir-fry which, despite a large portion of chicken and a realistic slug of olive oil (you might manage with less) – and, lest we forget – a huge portion of noodles, came in at under 300 calories.  Make the same thing with ordinary noodles, and you’d be adding a good 250 calories to that.

Even better was Miến Gà  – Vietnamese chicken glass noodle soup – here – and best of all a Vietnamese beef and glass noodle salad – an excellent recipe here – again both these recipes setting you back no more than 300 calories. (And of course, you could muck around with them to get them lower – but why bother?)

Note that with the salad, sweetness is an essential quality of the dipping sauce, so be sure to substitute something like Truvia for all that sugar.  And go easy with the peanuts.

At £2.50 for a 200g portion, shirataki noodles aren’t cheap, so you won’t want to eat them every night of the week.  But they are delicious and extremely filling, and a real godsend for all of us who’ve pretty much had to give up pasta for the duration of our diets.

Shirataki Noodle Recipe

This Blog Could Save Your Bacon!

Weight Watchers BaconIt’s hard enough dieting, without people blatantly taking the p**s.  For every diet buddy, there’s a diet devil – so let’s name and shame ‘em….starting with Weight Watchers, and their “delicious…extra trimmed” bacon (from Asda and Morrisons in the UK).

Yes bacon. A thing so utterly marvelous it’s famously responsible for bringing vegetarians back to their meat-eating senses. We all know someone like that, don’t we – and indeed I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love bacon. But like cheese, it’s a definite no-no if you’re on a diet.  No question about it – too much fat, as simple as that. I haven’t eaten either since I started losing weight.

Weight Watchers Bacon
Now,  I’ve been impressed with several low fat sausages and even black pudding, so imagine my delight in coming across this packet of low calorie bacon. How could they do it at 35 calories per slice? – I mean, that’s a no-brainer for sure….

But open the packet and this is what you find

Weight watchers bacon
Yes that’s right – the pieces are exactly 50% of what you’re led to believe they are. No wonder they’re so calorie-efficient.  It’s a bit like Nimble bread in the 1970’s – which promised “real bread – but lighter”. And it was exactly that – on account of being half the size of an ordinary loaf…

Guys – these people must not be allowed to get away with their poisonous attempts to derail our diets.  Here’s my tip – griddle a bit of ham. You’ll definitely have a bigger portion than the pathetic water-bolstered piece of tasteless dry bacon you’re forcing down here. Better still – catch my forthcoming blog – a delicious low calorie, low fat cooked breakfast you could eat every day if you wanted to.

Diet Buddies

I primarily set up this site to pass on my low calorie recipes to like-minded diet victims but I also want to share something important I’ve learned about weight loss – you need some diet buddies. By this I mean there are a number of things that are really helping me through the process on the food front – be they ingredients, gadgets or products, and so from time to time I’m going to blog about them. I should make it clear that in the case of commercial brands, I have absolutely no connection to them – I’m simply a guy on a diet, who likes nice things….

Rossisky Sourdough Rye Bread

Rossisky Actually I’ve been eating Rossisky for about 10 years now – and not for any health or diet reason, just because my wife got me eating it and I absolutely love the stuff. Yes you buy it from the health food store, and yes, you probably have to pass the mung bean section to get to it, so I know what you’re thinking – I’ll stick with the 50/50 bread, thanks very much. But you’d be wholly mistaken – this stuff’s a revelation.

Now apparently you can it eat as it comes, but I always toast it, ¼ inch thick (not too thin please) until it’s good and brown and crunchy on the outside, but soft and chewy inside. It’s great for breakfast – it will even stand up to scrambled egg on top whilst maintaining its crunch. Or just drizzle it with olive oil. Or rub it with garlic. Or spread it generously with Marmite. Or carelessly shove big slabs of pâté or rillettes on it, topped-off with a sliced up cornichon….

But the thing is, for the reluctant dieter, Rossisky really comes into its own. Being wheat-free and made from Rye, it has a low GI – which basically means it releases its energy slowly and will keep you going longer than ordinary bread. Perhaps more importantly, substituted for that one measly piece of toast you’re allowed, you get so much more bang for your buck – I’m talking taste – and crunch – and fillingness, if that’s a word. As it’s quite a compact loaf, you need to be slightly careful how much you eat – I always cut myself a 65g portion, which is about 120 calories.

If you’re too embarrassed to go into health shops, you can get it from Waitrose in the UK (which I regularly raid, to fill my freezer), and the manufacturers also sell it online at their website, here.

Seriously, folks – much as I love a piece of white toast smothered in marmalade, this stuff is bloody marvellous – a true diet buddy.diet bread