Mediterranean Vegetable bake

2016-09-25-16-23-25I’m presently doing a free four-week course on Future Learn called “Nutrition and Wellbeing”.  I thought I knew all about healthy eating, but the course has provided me with an education on matters that I wasn’t aware of or knew little about.

Today I have been listening and learning about diet choices: fish oils and sustainable fishing, the impact of the diet on cardiovascular disease and food and cancer prevention.

I am keen – not just because of the course, to include more grain, pulses and legumes into my meals and to cut down on weekly meat consumption.  We are presently enjoying our home grown courgette and tomato harvest.  This isn’t a big deal for me, as I rarely eat meat and enjoy experimenting with recipes – so this is todays “experiment” which was lovely!

Mediterranean Vegetable & Quinoa Bake

Preparation Time:              45 mins
Cooking Time:                    40 mins
Serves:                                     2
Calories per serving:        437.8


Red onion                                                                             –    50g
Garlic, raw                                                                            –    2 Cloves/6g
Cherry tomatoes on the vine                                          –    450g
Extra virgin olive oil                                                          –    3 Tsps/15ml
Aubergine, medium                                                           –    1 Med/375g
Courgette                                                                               –    316g
Mixed Herbs                                                                          –    2 Tsps/10g
Quinoa, red & white, with bulgar wheat (Tesco)       –    100g
Panko Breadcrumbs                                                           –    40g
Mozzarella cheese, grated                                                –    60g
Coriander leaves, fresh                                                      –  20g

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees. Cut the aubergine into 5cm slices lengthwise. Cut the courgettes into diagonal or lengthwise sides. Peel and finely dice the red onion and garlic. Grate the cheese and mix with the breadcrumbs.  Roughly chop the coriander leaves.

Cook the quinoa mixture (100g) as directed on the packet and set aside to cool.

Lay aubergine and courgette slices on a baking tray and drizzle with 2tsp of the olive oil and half the herbs.

Halve the tomatoes and place on a baking sheet cut side uppermost, drizzle with 1 tsp of the olive oil and sprinkle the remainder of the herbs over the top.

Place both baking sheets into the oven for about 25 – 30 minutes (aubergine tray) and 15 mins (tomatoes).

In the meantime, heat 1tsp of oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat and fry the onions. Do not allow to brown. Once they are translucent, add the garlic and continue to cook for about 2 – 3 minutes.

In a shallow medium sized oven proof dish, layer first the slices of aubergine, then the slices of courgette. Then sprinkle the onion and garlic mixture over and finally the cooked tomatoes.

Once the quinoa mixture is cooled, fluff up the grains with a fork and place in a layer of the vegetables, ensuring it is evenly spread.  Sprinkle the chopped coriander leaves evenly on the top.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and grated cheese mixture over the top of the quinoa and place the dish into the oven, reducing the heat to 180 degrees, for about 20 – 25 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbling.

Nutrition Data Per Serving
Calories (kcal)                       437.8
Protein (g)                             20.8
Sugars (g)                             15.9
Fibre (g)                                10.9
Fruit & Veg                           7.9
Carbohydrate (g)                   47.0
Fat (g)                                   18.8

Lentil meatballs with burst tomato pasta

lentil-meatballsIt’s that time of year when you are eating tomatoes as fast as you can pick them.  I’m not complaining!  I ate them twice today – once for breakfast – roasted plum tomatoes with olive oil and herbs with mushrooms on toast.

This breakfast just wouldn’t work as well with supermarket tomatoes!

Roasted plum tomatoes and mushrooms on toast – supermarket bought tomatoes just won’t work!

Dinner tonight was a new recipe – lentil meatballs with burst tomato pasta.  I prepared the meatballs in the morning, and made enough for four servings… half of them have been popped into the freezer once they were cooked to enjoy on another occasion.  They would make perfect vegetarian snacks, as they are light and crispy when cooked.  Very filling too, especially when served with wholewheat pasta.

I’ve entered these as two separate recipes, so that you can enjoy the meatballs with other sauces.  In case you are wondering why some of the quantities are so “odd” it’s because I was converting an on-line recipe from US “cups”!

Lentil mixture after pulsing
Lentil meatballs formed and ready to go into the oven

Lentil Meatballs

Preparation Time:             25 mins
Cooking Time:                    25 mins

Serves:                                  4
Calories per serving:      306.0


Dried Lentils, Green or Brown    –         136g
Water, Mineral Or Tap                   –   100ml
Olive Oil, Extra Virgin                    –   2 Tsps/10ml
Red onions                                         –   42g
Garlic clove                                        –   1 Clove/3g
Raw carrots, grated                         –   42g
Pecan Nuts                                         –   38g
Walnuts                                               –   38g
Panko Breadcrumbs                         –   27g
Mixed Herbs                                        –   1 Tsp/5g
Salt                                                         –   ½ Tsp/2.5g
Freshly ground black pepper         –   ½ Tsp/1g
1 x medium free range egg              –   1 Egg/58g


Preparation: Peel and finely dice the onion and the garlic clove. Peel and coarsely grate the carrot. Crush the walnuts and the pecans. Combine lentils and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until lentils are tender, 23 to 25 minutes. If lentils are not tender and water has been absorbed, add more water and continue to cook. Drain off any excess water.

Heat 1 tsp of the olive oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat and add the red onion. Cook until onion is translucent and fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the chopped garlic clove and the grated carrots, cooking for another 2 to 3 minutes.

In a food processor, combine the cooked and drained lentils, onion mixture, nuts, panko breadcrumbs, herbs, salt, and pepper.

Pulse a few times to start combining the mixture…

Crack the egg in and pulse a few more times until the mixture is combined but the lentils are still holding shape. Set aside and let rest while the oven preheats to 200 degrees.

Take the lentil mixture and roll into 12 balls, roughly the size of a golfball. Place on a baking tray covered with parchment paper and brush with 2 tsps of olive oil.

Bake meatballs until browning and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes.

Makes 12 meatballs, 3 per serving (they are VERY filling!) They have a lovely crisp bite, so could be eaten as a vegetarian snack.

Perfect served with another of my recipes – burst tomatoes and basil pasta. Toss everything together to serve.

Nutrition Data Per Serving
Calories (kcal)                  306.0
Protein (g)                        13.4
Sugars (g)                         1.7
Fibre (g)                           4.8
Fruit & Veg                       0.7
Carbohydrate (g)              25.4
Fat (g)                              17.2

Burst tomato pasta

Preparation Time:          5 mins
Cooking Time:                20 mins
Serves:                               2
Calories per serving:     289.3


Olive Oil, Olive                                                                         –  2 Tsps/10ml
Garlic Raw                                                                                  –  2 Cloves/6g
Whole Wheat Spaghetti, Whole Wheat, Dry Weight   –  100g
Cheese, Edam                                                                           –  30g
Basil, Fresh                                                                                –  1 Tbsp/5g
Tomatoes, Cherry                                                                    –  400g


Preparation: Heat oven to 200 degrees. Peel and finely dice the garlic cloves. Grate the Edam cheese and shred the basil leaves.

Combine cherry tomatoes with olive oil and 2 cloves of chopped garlic. Place in the oven and let cook until tomatoes have released their juices and ‘burst’, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Cook pasta according to package and drain. When ready to assemble, combine the pasta with the burst tomatoes, grated cheese, and basil and serve.

Nutrition Data Per Serving
Calories (kcal)           289.3
Protein (g)                   11.9
Sugars (g)                  8.1
Fibre (g)                      6.1
Fruit & Veg                  2.7
Carbohydrate (g)       37.7
Fat (g)                          10.1

Mind over matter and the value of support

After my last blog post about life getting in the way, in the last week or two I’ve suddenly found more “me” time.

I haven’t posted about it yet, but in April 2016 I was a key part in organising a weekend for Thalidomiders called “Fit for the Future” which was aimed at people with varying disabilities coming together to hear and learn about different aspects of getting fitter for their future.

Whilst everyone may become more aware of their health as they enter their 40’s and 50′, for those like myself who are impaired as a result of Thalidomide and have physical limitations – especially in terms of reach and mobility, it is much more than that.  Loss of function or weight gain can have a massive knock on effect.

Weight gain and loss of fitness – for me – may impact on my being able to control my car safely or being able to use the toilet without support from another person.  Especially for the latter, this then can impact massively upon my independence and my emotional health.

Back to the Fit for the Future weekend…  I was reminded during the course of the weekend at just how much my life has been changed as a result of losing weight and improving my fitness.  I strangely wish I could sometimes return to “life before” just for an hour to be reminded at just what a strain I was placing on my tiny frame.  I was basically carrying around the equivalent of 9 new born babies (4.5 stone).  All day, every day.  It can be no wonder that I am able to move much more easily.

Fit for the Future – maintaining independence, mobility and fitness

I find the winter months much easier for my weight loss and fitness regime.  I have recently started one-to-one pilates and this week enjoyed a 1.4lb loss.

Following on from that success, this coming week I’m making an effort not to eat high calorie treats. I have planned my future meals (healthy), but ideally I need to stick to 1300 calories each day (shortie 4ft 9″, less mobile “older” woman!)

So as I type this, my hubbie is eating a salted caramel ice lolly next door (Tesco version of a Magnum)!

I don’t find it difficult to resist – I told him earlier today of my intention to cut out the snacks over the weekend and asked for his help and support.

My husband is my biggest support in this – he is a massive tower of support – happy to eat whatever I eat / cook / prepare and when he cooks he weighs and logs everything down for me.  Others may compliment me on my efforts and achievements, but it is he, and he alone, who lives with me 24/7 and sees precisely how hard I work to lose weight.

I enjoy knowing that there are high calorie treats in the house, but I am able to resist them. I don’t need to worry if hubbie eats “more than his share” or even if he eats all of them! Actually, he’d be doing me a favour!

When you realise you’ve achieved this mindset, you know that you’re winning the battle.

NB. It’s taken almost 5 years to achieve this level of control and there have been plenty of little slips along the way and there will undoubtedly be more in the future!