Smoked Cod Loin & Leek Risotto – Oven bake method

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This was delicious, very filling and extremely easy to make! I have never made a risotto as my husband is the risotto king in this house… but I do know that they are very time consuming.  You can’t hurry a good risotto, and he has to stand there for ever, stirring and adding stock.

Slightly higher in calories than I would usually have for a main meal, but I had just a bowl of home made “Mexican Bean” soup today at lunchtime (less than 100 calories).

I made the risotto with smoked cod loin (as that was what I had in the freezer) but you could also make it with smoked haddock – just ensure you check the calories. The cod is higher in calories by about 20 per 100g (cod is 100 cals per 100g and haddock is 84 per 100g).

I am definitely planning to adapt and use this easy method again in the future!

Preparation Time: 25 mins

Cooking Time: 30 mins

Serves: 2

Calories per serving: 602.4

Ingredients

Butter-10g

Leeks-150g

Rice, Arborio (dry weight)-150g

Milk, Semi Skimmed-125ml

Cod, Loins, Smoked-300g

Spinach, Baby Leaf-100g

Stock Pot (vegetable or fish)-1 Pot/28g

Tap Water (for stock)-350ml

Creme Fraiche, Full Fat-60g

Method

Preparation: Finely slice leek and wash thoroughly. Cut the cod into large chunks.

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

Heat the butter in a large ovenproof dish over a medium heat. Cook the leek for 4-5 mins, stirring regularly, until just tender. Add the rice and stir for a further 2 mins.

Add the stock (mix the stock pot with 350ml of boiling water) and the milk, bring to the boil and bubble for 5 mins before sitting the haddock on top. Cover with a lid or foil and bake in the oven for 18 mins until the rice is tender.

Fold in the creme fraiche and spinach, season with plenty of black pepper, then cover the pan again and leave to rest out of the oven for 3 mins before serving – the steam will soften the spinach.

Nutrition Data Per Serving

Calories (kcal) 602.4

Carbohydrate (g) 71.2

Fat (g) 17.8

Fibre (g) 3.7

Fruit & Veg 1.7

Protein (g) 39.1

A lifestyle change

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I’m writing this piece based on my own experiences around losing weight successfully.  I know it’s helped a number of people on weight loss forums I use who I have shared it with and thought it’s about time I shared it a little more publicly.

To succeed at weight loss and to keep the weight off once you’ve lost it, it’s crucial to think about your weight loss journey as a lifestyle change rather than a diet.

It’s about embracing the changes you are choosing to make rather than resenting them.

That lifestyle change will need to happen a bit at a time and will involve many things : changing your behaviour around food, portion control, identifying emotional eating triggers, increasing your activity levels, trying new foods, making healthy food swaps, etc.

Commitment to diet/lifestyle change and resistance to temptation doesn’t just happen! It has to be worked at.

The only way I have succeeded this time is to change how I approach food and eating it. I have learned to resist temptation! BUT please believe that this has taken a LOT of hard work and practice!

It’s about “normalising” or “modifying” behaviour around food…  with enough “practice” it becomes easier until you get to the point where a behaviour is modified permanently.  You’ve reprogrammed yourself with a new way of approaching food.

I am certain that even some people who are not over weight do sometimes over indulge – but the fact is they don’t do it very often!

Those of us who are over weight have been used to “treating” ourselves, eating portions that are too large, eating the things that we know are calorific because we can.

It’s been a combination of changing all of those aspects of how I behave around food that has meant I have been successful this time.

I have developed a respect for the food I eat. Not everyone can eat as well as we in the western world do. We should not abuse the privilege!

I rarely eat “on the hoof” any more, I rarely eat between meals. I take time to sit at a table and present my meals nicely. I take a moment or two to study my plate of food before I pick up my knife and fork.

Almost daily I say to hubbie “Aren’t we lucky to be able to enjoy such lovely food”. I really mean that too, I am not saying it for anyones benefit but his and mine. We should never take for granted having easy access to delicious food stuffs and our ability and love of cooking as well as the fact we have the time to plan, prepare and cook it.

By logging your food – keeping track of how many calories some of those “treats” contain, after a while they remain in your head (medium egg = 70 cals, slice of white bread 100 cals, meringue nest 57 cals, 30g (matchbox size) of cheddar, 122 cals).

I do have sweet treats, but I buy my own choice, so things like 2 finger Kitkat, single finger Twix, Club biscuit… these are all around 100 calories. I keep them in a tin and I can have one whenever I want to, but I limit it to no more than one a day and usually with my afternoon cup of tea. That’s not to say I eat one on a daily basis (perhaps about 2-3 times a week). They are always logged into my diary.

If you don’t keep a log of what you are eating and the calories foods contain, then it’s a bit like trying to travel from one place to another without a map. You may get there eventually BUT it’s likely to take you much longer than if you planned the route and used a map PLUS you might find yourself a few wrong turnings or even end up doubling back on yourself.

I have also learned not to plan each trip out of the house to include food. Once upon a time, I’d have included lunch with a trip into town, coffee and cake with a visit to the garden centre.

I now plan or even prepare a meal BEFORE I go out (usually a salad) so that I know exactly what I can eat as soon as I walk into the door… and don’t turn to “what I fancy” or “something quick” (usually high calorie carbs that don’t keep you full for very long…)

Make a list of the reasons WHY you want to lose weight. Keep it somewhere safe (stuck to the inside of a kitchen cupboard door?) and look at it from time to time, especially when you are raiding the kitchen for treats.

I always ask myself before eating something really calorific “Do I really want to eat this more than I want to lose weight this week?”. It’s called “mindful eating” – being aware of why you are considering eating – real hunger? Boredom? Temptation? Feeling fed up?

Have a glass of water, wait 5 minutes and consider whether you still want the food. Once it’s been snaffled down, it’s too late and you may end up feeling cross and angry with yourself….

….and that feeling (guilt, failure) lasts for a long time, much longer than the temporary enjoyment of whatever treat you ate….

Finally, I continually remind myself how good the feeling is of seeing a loss on the scales at my weekly weigh in.  That wonderful feeling lasts for days. 

Don’t forget how that feels – you need to remind yourself of that feeling next time temptation strikes!

Curry, Butternut and Sweet Potato (241 calories)

IMG_1067Second night of eating vegetarian here!  Tomorrow is a meat night (something with pork loin steaks).

The rice and Greek yogurt are not included in the calorie count above, but really take this lovely meal up a notch!

I don’t usually bother making a curry paste, but as this was so easy, perhaps it’s something I’ll repeat.


Preparation Time: 20 mins

Cooking Time: 1 hr

Serves: 6

Calories per serving: 241.1


Ingredients

Butternut Squash – 660g

Sweet Potato – 500g

Coconut Milk, Light – 1 Can/400ml

Red Onions – 100g

Red Chilli Peppers – 3 peppers (3g)

Ginger, Puree – 15g

Garlic, Raw – 2 Cloves/6g

Turmeric, Ground – 1 Tsp/2.2g

Coriander, Ground – 1 Tsp/5g

Cinnamon, Ground – 1 Tsp/3g

Salt – ½ Tsp/2.5g

Coconut Oil – 2 Tbsps/30ml

Tinned Chopped Tomatoes – 1 Can/400g

Coriander, Leaves – 30g

Lime, Fresh cut into quarters – 1 (cut into wedges)

Vegetable Stock Cubes – 2 Cubes/12g

Baby Spinach – 90g

Method:

Peel and dice red onion into chunks. Peel, deseed and cut butternut squash into large bite sized pieces. Take the stalks off the chilli peppers. Peel, and cut sweet potato into large bite sized pieces.   Roughly chop the fresh coriander and cut the lime into wedges.  Rinse the spinach leaves.

Put the onion, chillies, ginger, garlic, turmeric, ground coriander, cinnamon and salt into a food processor and blend to a paste, or use a stick blender and a bowl.

Heat the coconut oil in a wide lidded heavy-based casserole, then fry the paste for about 1 minute, stirring well.

Add the tin of coconut milk, followed by the stock cubes, 1 400ml tin of water, the tinned tomatoes, then the sweet potato and butternut squash.

Stir well, bring to the boil and, once bubbling, turn down the heat, put the lid on and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes (though start checking at 30) until the sweet potatoes are soft and the squash cooked through. Add the spinach 10 minutes before the end of cooking time and stir through until wilted.

Check for seasoning, then leave to stand off the heat for 10 minutes or so before serving.

Serve with rice and put chopped coriander and lime wedges on the table alongside, for sprinkling and spritzing.

Nutrition Data Per Serving

Calories (kcal) 241.1

Carbohydrate (g) 33.1

Fat (g) 10.7

Fibre (g) 5.6

Fruit & Veg 3.8

Protein (g) 4.7

Costa Rica Adventure Part 6 – El Mangroove and snorkelling

Soon we were headed out to the ocean, spotting pelicans, frigate birds and large tuna fish breaking the surface of the water.

After about an hour exploring the coast, we anchored in a bay and were given the opportunity to don snorkel, face mask and fins and dip beneath the surface of the water into an altogether different world.

Coral, brightly coloured tropical fish, sea urchins, sea horses and a large turtle were spotted.  I got quite carried away in my underwater world, and by the time boatman Andy called to me to tell me I should head back to the boat, I was somewhat surprised to see just how far I had travelled.  Thank goodness for flippers.  It took a good ten minutes of thrashing to get back.

Here I got the opportunity to try out our sports/underwater camera for the first time.  I have to say I was fairly impressed with the results, even if the filming was a bit naff and I didn’t have the sound on (or maybe I did, but the camera was in a waterproof case).

When viewing the underwater film, be patient – there are fish!

After more sea bass ceviche and fresh fruit, we headed out to Monkey Rock.  Not difficult to see how it got its name!

One downside of a boat trip is that you don’t realise just how hot it is.  We reached the dingy (much easier to get down onto a dingy than to climb of it it).  At shore, we walked over the wet sand…. Onto the dry black sand and then…. “Oooowww!!!  Hot, hot!”.  The sand was  burning hot.  Andy ran ahead into the shade of the palms whilst I tried to put my flip-flops on!  I was fortunate not to have blisters, but most definitely my feet were tender for several hours afterwards.

Day 15 and our homewards trip to San Jose Airport.  We had discovered that the snow we had left behind had returned in our absence!  The flight was delayed by 3 ½ hours….  and the journey to the airport took less time than expected so it was a 7 hour wait to take off.  How on earth (we wondered) would we cope with a temperature of -1 degrees which awaited us after the scorching 35 degree temperatures we had grown used to?

Costa Rica is a truly stunning country.  Small, diverse and very beautiful.   It’s people are kind, considerate and helpful.  Nothing is too much for them and people will help you however they are able to.  The people may not have huge monetary wealth, but they are some of the happiest and most content people I have ever had the pleasure to meet.  Their wealth is in their beautiful countryside, abundance of tropical fruit and warm sunshine.  In fact the Costa Ricans have one of the best life expectancies.  When you ask local people about this, they believe it’s because many people work in fairly physically demanding jobs (most of the agriculture / harvesting we saw was manual), enjoy fantastic family and community support and don’t have to deal with high levels of stress.

We were lucky to see so much of this lovely place and its varied wildlife, plants and trees.  We got the feeling that there was so much more that we hadn’t had the time to see.

So who knows….. one day we may return.  That’s a real incentive to maintain my fitness and weight loss!

Talking of weight, the scales told me I had GAINED about a stone when I stood on them on our return.  I am pleased to report that with a concerted effort and lots of healthy eating, I have managed to drop that to just 4lbs in time for my first weigh in.

But MAN those cocktails were good!

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Four Seasons Resort – stunning views I should imagine!
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Snorkeling beach

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Our own boat!
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Monkey Head Rock
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Our (very hot) beach
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Our (very hot) beach
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Waiting for the dingy, the two Andys
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Our (very hot) beach
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Sunset
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Sunset
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The Papagayo Peninsula was lacking in…. green
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Toucan
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Our beach
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Every hotel room should have one
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Beach hut
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Our beach
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Our sunbathing spot

Costa Rica Adventure Part 5 – Papagayo Gulf

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The Papagayo Peninsula was lacking in…. green

Day 11, and we were collected by our driver Oscar, who spoke just a few words of English and who (thankfully) turned out to be a more considerate drive than Christian.

After a trip lasting about three hours westwards heading across country we spotted the Pacific Ocean.  Our destination was the Papagayo Gulf and the El Mangroove Hotel.

This was very, very different to previous hotels – modern, large and very square.  I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about this initially.  Inside the room, we could have been anywhere – very unlike previous places where we’d been in the midst of nature.  Once we had explored a little, the public areas of the hotel had a far more relaxed feel about them and once we spotted the beach – well, the hotel grew in my estimation.

We found our way to the open and thatched Matiss beach bar where we enjoyed lunch and an Imperial beer (a local Costa Rican beer which we really liked).  We were rather shocked by the lack of reaction from other guests when a 3ft long iguana strolled across the sandy floor the bar.  No, this isn’t the start of a joke and there is no punch line….  Once we had been at the hotel longer, we realised that the local iguana are plentiful, quite tame and enjoy human contact (or at least, seem unpeturbed by it).

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Watermelon Mojito in Matiss Beach Bar

The final four days of our holiday involved plenty of relaxation and a boat trip.  We hired a twin engine boat and crew to take us on a morning trip out of the cove and to try snorkelling.  Getting into the boat proved somewhat of a challenge – we were taken out to the boat which was anchored about 20 metres off shore in a dingy.  Getting from the dingy (which was about 4ft lower than the boat) involved Andy lifting me to stand on top of the bouncy rubber side.  The dingy was safely tied to the boat, but this did not prevent a sideways movement, causing me to slide sideways and Andy to almost topple into the bottom of the dingy.  I was caught just in time by a member of the crew who hauled me aboard.  I only wish I could have seen the expression on his face, as I am sure he was somewhat shocked at how such a little person could be quite as heavy!  But I made been making the most of the lovely Costa Rican cuisine and had managed to work my way through most of the cocktail menu.

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Mr Iguana – posing for the camera
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Our peaceful sunbathing spot
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The (very hot) beach
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Coati paw prints on the beach
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Great Egret
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The (very hot) beach
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Sunset
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Sunset
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Every hotel room should have one!

Costa Rica Adventure Part 4 – La Campesina Organic Farm

Day 9 we visited Vida Campesina (Country Life) – an family run organic farm and coffee plantation. The tour allowed us to experience life in the Costa Rican countryside with a farming family that grow typical crops in a traditional way without using sustainable agricultural techniques.

Erasmo Gonzales operates his organic farm with his four children Greivin, José, Andrea and Noyleen. We visited various cultivated sections of the farm where we learned about Costa Rican crops such as coffee, bananas, plantains, sugar cane, red taro, white taro, medicinal plants, ñampi, tropical fruits, yuca, Chinese “potato”, papaya, corn, rice, ñame, annatto, and more.   The farms various animals including cattle, chickens, sheep, and rabbits, whose organic waste is converted to biogas and an organic foliar fertilizer.  We were educated about the coffee production process and shown how the beans are roasted.  So here is a short guide to the common coffee roasts from light to dark…. Lighter roasts have more acidity than darker roasts. Light roasted beans are dry, while darker roasts develop oil on the bean surface. The caffeine level decreases as the roast gets darker.

We enjoyed a cup of fresh coffee, brewed in the traditional way with a “sock” alongside roasted plantains and homemade tortilla.

At the end of the farm tour, we had a go at making tortilla, which we enjoyed alongside a traditional lunch with freshly harvested vegetables.  We then sat and enjoyed the stunning views into a tree lined valley from high up in the restaurant, spotting several beautiful birds and large iguana sunning themselves in the tops of the neighbouring trees.

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Our knowledgeable guide for the visit to the Gonzalez Organic Farm
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Vida Campesina Restaurant
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Iguana sunning itself
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A cocoa pod
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Inside the cocoa pod.  The beans are coated in a sweet white furry pulp
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Pineapples!
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Crops in the Vida Campesina
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These are pepper corns
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Our own homemade tortilla with chicken, black beans, rice and vegetables, plus beef stew
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Fried Plantain and spicy tortilla.  Anything goes together on a plate in Costa Rica at each and every meal!

Day 10 was a day of relaxation, which was welcomed as it was so hot and extremely humid.  In fact, we were forced into the comfort of our air-conditioned room for a few hours.

We did briefly consider visiting one of the many natural hot springs in the area, but it was so hot and so humid that sitting in hot water was probably the last thing we wanted to do, so we tried the swimming pool instead!

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Cooling off in the pool

 

 

Costa Rica Adventure Part 3 – Arenal Volcano

Day 8, we were back on the boat to the local dock and then the long bumpy coach journey which returned us to Guapiles – this time for lunch ahead of the next leg of our journey to Arenal – a national park which is home to the highly active Arenal volcano.

Our driver, Christian, picked us up in a Toyota Hilux 4×4 and I was instructed to sit in the front.  This was to prove to be an exciting experience – for all of the wrong reasons.

As we left Guapiles, we were lucky to see a wake of vultures enjoying a feeding frenzy on a python – which appeared to have succumbed to a trucks wheels judging by its flattened appearance.  Python Pizza!  It was HUGE, around 6ft in length and quite meaty.  The vultures were not complaining at their feast.

Christian was either a frustrated rally driver, or he needed to get back home for dinner by a certain time.  The Costa Rican roads are variable, but one thing they have in common is lots of bends, lots of VERY large trucks (no railways to transport goods), many potholes, domestic dogs and other wildlife which decide to cross over at any point, people stood in the middle of busy roads selling goods… and Costa Rican drivers who don’t believe in using indication of any sort.  Throw into the mixture motorcycles, bicycles VERY large trucks and pedestrians (who are confined to a narrow unmade strip to use right at the end of the tarmac) and it makes for a very exhilarating drive.

Some may consider it exhilarating, but I spent most of the time completely terrified, as Christian also frequently checked his mobile phone, and used both of his hands to take a certificate from an envelope to show us his recent English exam results!  This bought a whole new meaning to the phrase “hands free”!

We arrived at Arenal before sunset and to our hotel Lomas del Volcan.  Here we had an amazing view as our hotel stood at the foot of the volcano.  Our bungalow was luxurious compared to previous accommodation – it also had glass in the windows and air conditioning, which proved crucial in the humidity.

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Arenal Volcano
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View of the volcano from the hotel, Lomas del Volcan
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Pool with a stunning view
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View into the valley from our bungalow

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