Friday, 20 March 2015

Lunchtime Inspiration - 11 Healthy Lunch Ideas & Recipes


Lunchtime Inspiration recipes, Mean Mother Cooker

I am guilty of having the same boring cheese sandwich everyday because I just can't think of anything else to eat. So if you're like me, you'll probably love all these healthy ideas for something that's a little different at lunchtime.

I find lunchtime is the ideal time to have something fresh, healthy and super tasty. Also, if you prepare the salads the night before, with the salad dressing separately, you can have a super lovely lunch ready to go in the morning.

I have been dabbling with the 5:2 diet too. Let me explain for those who aren't familiar with the 5:2 (fast) diet. The 5:2 diet is when you spend five days of the week eating the recommended daily calorie intake, and the other two days eating only 500 calories (600 for men) a day. 

When I am on a "two" day, I like to skip breakfast, then have a lovely salad for lunch. And it's surprising how many salad veg you can eat and hardly dent the calories counter!

For these lunch ideas, I've tried to stick to healthy eating, but please adapt if you feel you need to. 

So let's go forth and have some tasty little lunches!

SALAD LEAVES WITH EGG AND TOASTED SOY SEEDS

SALAD LEAVES WITH EGG AND TOASTED SOY SEEDS, Mean Mother Cooker

TOASTED SOY SEEDS:
You can make these ahead of time and store in a jar in the fridge. Keep for up to a week. These little seeds also make a great snack. And wouldn't be too bad with a cold beer either. Ahem!

20g sesame seeds
50g pumpkin seeds
50g sunflower seeds
2 tbsp soy sauce

In a large frying pan, dry fry the seeds until they start to lightly colour. At this stage, add the soy and mix quickly until coated. Take the pan off the heat so the seeds don't burn. Leave to cool before transferring to a jar or Tupperware. Or serve hot on your salad!

HARD BOILED EGG
1 egg
Pan of cold water

For a hard boiled egg, place your egg in a pan and submerge in cold water. Place on a medium heat and bring to the boil. Once the water is boiling, put a timer on for 8 minutes. As soon as the timer goes off, you need to get that egg cold! If you leave it lingering, it will get that black ring around the yolk and be more like a stink bomb than an tasty egg. Drain all the boiling water and keep under the cold tap. I like to replace the cold water in the pan several times to ensure it isn't warming up. Leave the egg in cold water for 5-10 minutes, then tap the shell all over and peel that shell off. MAKE SURE THERE IS NO SHELL LEFT ON! I give it a wash just to make sure! 

OLIVE OIL DRESSING
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper

In a small jar, get all you ingredients in there. Give it a big shake! 

TO MAKE THE SALAD:
I used a bag of baby leaves with some chicory, cucumber and tomato, topped with the chopped hard boiled egg, seeds and dressing. I also had half a slice of toasted seeded bread.


WHOLEMEAL WRAP WITH PRAWNS & COTTAGE CHEESE
WHOLEMEAL WRAP WITH PRAWNS & COTTAGE CHEESE, Mean Mother Cooker

For a healthy bread at lunchtime, wholemeal wraps are lovely. You will find the combination of low fat cottage cheese and prawns in a healthier Marie Rose sauce really tasty. Add the baby leaf salad too - and you're onto a lunchtime winner!

Prawns are a great low fat source of protein. A favourite on a 5:2 day because they are so low in calories, but you still get your protein in to keep you feeling full up.

Before using, I wash prawns and then leave them for 30 minutes in ice cold lemon water, then drain. I find this takes some of that overly 'fishy' flavour away and leaves them lovely and fresh.

PRAWN SAUCE 
Makes one wrap
1 tsp mayonnaise 
1 tsp Greek yoghurt
Squirt of tomato ketchup
Squeeze of lemon
Salt & pepper


CARROT SALAD WITH WHOLEMEAL PITTA

CARROT SALAD WITH WHOLEMEAL PITTA, Mean Mother Cooker

You can't beat this Carrot Salad. I know, you may be thinking "dull", but this Carrot Salad has the addition of feta and cottage cheese to bring things to a whole new level in the carrot stakes. It's not a coleslaw either. All that creamy gloop you buy from the supermarket is not the same. This salad is lively and fresh and make lunchtimes exciting!

CARROT SALAD
serves 4
4 carrots, grated
3 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp low fat cottage cheese
30 g feta, crumbled
1 tsp mayonnaise 

Mix everything together and serve with a toasted wholemeal pitta.


CHANNING TATUM (I don't have the recipe for him)


Healthy lunchtime inspiration.


WHOLEMEAL PITTA WITH MOZZARELLA & AVOCADO 

WHOLEMEAL PITTA WITH MOZZARELLA & AVOCADO, Mean Mother Cooker

I've heard that mozzarella is a low fat cheese. Probably not baked on a pizza with a shed load of pepperoni. But just look at this lunchtime bute - it's as fresh as Mr Tatum himself! 

Again, I've replaced the refined white carbs with a better wholemeal version. You won't get those instant sugar spikes and need to scoff a Mars Bar 30 minutes later. 

The combination of mozzarella, avocado and tomato is a classic. And with a bit of cucumber in there too - you've got the taste, the crunch and all that healthy stuff to make one super lunchtime classic

WHOLEMEAL PITTA WITH MOZZARELLA & AVOCADO
Makes 1
1 wholemeal pitta, warmed
Half mozzarella ball, sliced
Half avocado, sliced
2 tomatoes, slices
5 slices cucumber
1 tsp mayonnaise
Small amount of Dijon mustard

You know what to do! Slice your pitta down the centre and spread the mayonnaise and Dijon mustard inside the pitta pocket. Layer all your ingredients up and enjoy!


RAINBOW SALAD
RAINBOW SALAD, Mean Mother Cooker
This Rainbow Salad must be the king of all lunchtime salads. Forget your rabbit food, this is a taste explosion of fresh flavours and textures. Nothing is boring about this lunch!

The sweet potato only took 15 minutes in a 180C oven. 

RAINBOW SALAD
Serves 1
1 handful of baby leaf spinach
Half avocado, sliced
Half Braeburn apple, cubed
1 small sweet potato, cubed and roasted in olive oil
10 whole almonds, toasted
2 tbsp chickpeas
Half orange pepper, cubed
5 cherry tomatoes, quartered


HOW TO MAKE:
Whilst your sweet potato is roasting in the oven for 15 minutes, lightly toast the almonds in a small frying pan until slightly brown. 

Now make the Greek Yoghurt Salad Dressing and assemble the rest of the salad ingredients. As soon as the sweet potato is done, add to the salad and finish with a drizzle of the dressing.


JAPANESE 5:2 SALAD
JAPANESE 5:2 SALAD, Mean Mother Cooker
This is a total lunchtime saviour when you are having a fast day on the 5:2 diet. The Japanese element makes it so tasty and interesting. You could also have a sneaky miso soup with this lunch to make you feel really full.

JAPANESE DRESSING
Serves 2
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp light oil
Squeeze of lemon or lime

Put the sesame seeds in a small frying pan and lightly toast. Watch them carefully and keep them moving because they can easily burn. Let them cool slightly before adding to the rest of the ingredients. Mix and dress the salad.

JAPANESE 5:2 SALAD
Half iceberg lettuce, shredded
Half cucumber, cut into matchsticks
Handful of watercress
1 carrot, julienned 
5 radishes, julienned 
1 chicory heart, sliced
2 hard boiled eggs, quartered
+ Japanese dressing

Assemble the salad, starting with the lettuce and finishing with the hard boiled eggs and dressing. Enjoy straight away!


SMOKED SALMON DIP

smoked salmon dip, mean mother cooker

This is my go-to recipe when visitors are coming for lunch. You don't have to splash out on expensive cuts of smoked salmon (although you can if you want!), I just get a pack of salmon trimmings that look a bit nasty, but taste magnificent once whizzed up into this fine dip/pate/mousse! 

If you are short on time, make the smoked salmon dip the night before and keep it in the fridge to firm-up to more of a pate consistency. 

I like to decant the dip into two bowls so everyone can reach it at the table. I serve it with crudités and fresh bread.

smoked salmon dip, mean mother cooker

INGREDIENTS:
200g smoked salmon trimmings
Half a tub of creme fraiche 
2 tbsp french mayonnaise 
2 tbsp of cream cheese
Large squeeze of lemon
Black pepper

HOW TO MAKE:
Place all the ingredients in a small food processor. I use the chopper attachment of my hand held stick blender. Blend until smooth. Taste and season. You may need more lemon. Refrigerate until required.


MAPLE GLAZED NUT SALAD

maple glazed nut salad, mean mother cooker

These yummy Maple Glazed Nuts make any salad super. They are easy to make and store, so you can crack them out at lunchtime to make your salad special! I find the salty feta cheese in this salad and the creamy avocado make for a great balance of flavours and textures. This is far from rabbit food!

MAPLE GLAZED NUTS
60g almonds
60g cashews
60g walnuts
2 tbsp maple syrup

HOW TO MAKE:
Start by lightly toasting the nuts in a dry frying pan keeping them moving all the time. Once the nuts start to slightly colour, add the maple syrup. Once the maple syrup has glazed the nuts and there is no liquid left in the pan, remove from the heat. Serve hot or leave to cool. Store in an airtight container to keep fresh for up to a week.

FOR THE SALAD:
Take some baby salad leaves and add 5 cherry tomatoes, quartered, with cucumber, half an avocado and 20g of feta, crumbled. Add your glazed nuts and serve.


CHEESE & AVOCADO POWER WRAP
CHEESE & AVOCADO POWER WRAP, mean mother cooker
I love wraps, purely for the fact you can pack them tightly with lots of interesting salad. 

Makes 2
Ingredients:
2 wraps
25g of mature cheddar, grated
1 tsp mayonnaise
Half round lettuce, shredded
Half red pepper, diced
Half avocado, diced
Sprinkle of purple radish sprouts 
1 large tomato, diced
Sweet chilli dipping sauce

CHEESE & AVOCADO POWER WRAP, mean mother cooker

HOW TO MAKE:
Assemble your wraps, starting with a smear of mayonnaise, followed by the grated cheese. Next, add the salad ingredients topped with a dribble of sweet chilli dipping sauce. Roll and serve.


FRESH LUNCHTIME SALADS:
Lemon Guacamole 
Carrot salad
Couscous salad

couscous salad, mean mother cooker

These are great salads to make in advance so you can serve them to the whole family for lunch - no matter where they are. My son loves taking strange packed lunches (not the norm of a cheese sandwich). All the other kids are disgusted by the look of most of it (it's not a cheese sandwich). They can't believe a vegetable would even cross his lips (vegetables are not a cheese sandwich). The other day, he took beetroot dip for lunch. You should have seen those kids faces.... Yes my son eats his greens, reds, purples, oranges.....

The Carrot Salad is like above, but I've added shredded lettuce and diced red pepper.

LEMON GUACAMOLE 
1 large, ripe avocado, diced and mashed
Half a lemon, squeezed
2 tbsp Greek yoghurt
Salt and pepper

HOW TO MAKE:
Mash all the ingredients together in a bowl. Serve.

COUSCOUS SALAD
1 cup of dried couscous
1 cup boiling water
50g pine nuts, toasted
50g raisins
Half red onion, diced
Half cucumber, diced
3 tomatoes, diced
Squeeze of lemon
Salt and pepper

HOW TO MAKE:
Place the cup of couscous in a large bowl with a pinch of salt. Add the boiling water and cover with clingfilm for 5-10 minutes. Uncover and fork to separate the grains. It should be all fluffy now. Add the raisins whilst the couscous is still warm. Leave to cool before adding the rest of the ingredients.

MR MEAN'S LUNCHTIME SUSHI ROLLS
tuna mayo sushi, mean mother cooker
You can't beat a bit of sushi for lunch. Mr Mean loves to make a bit of sushi and the kids like to help too. 

This is a great store cupboard lunch too. We always tend to make the rolls using tuna mayonnaise - not totally authentic - but it works well.

Serves 4
Ingredients:
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 cup of sushi rice (cooked as per pack instructions)
Tin tuna
2 tbsp mayonnaise 
Sushi nori
Avocado, thinly sliced
Cucumber, thinly sliced
Red pepper, thinly sliced
Soy sauce for dipping
Wasabi
Pickled ginger

HOW TO MAKE:
You will need a rolling mat covered in clingfilm. Place half a sheet of sushi nori on the rolling mat, then spread the rice over the nori using a plastic kid's spoon (the rice doesn't stick to the spoon). Leave a small gap all the way along the top of the roll, so some of the nori is showing on the long side.

Sprinkle sesame seeds over the rice - pat down with spoon. Carefully turn the layers over so that the rice is now on the clingfilm. Make a long line in the middle of the nori of tuna mayo and add the vegetables around. Next is the tricky part - bring each side of the mat up and bring the rice together to make your roll. Make sure the rice is surrounding the nori and roll until firm.

This recipe makes approx four rolls. One roll is enough for an adult's lunch. Cut the rolls into bite size pieces with a very sharp knife. Serve with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger.



Sunday, 15 March 2015

Rhubarb & Custard Pudding

Rhubarb and Custard Pudding, Mean Mother Cooker

This is Annabel's Rhubarb & Custard pudding that's a true favourite in our household! Annabel is my sister and is our dessert guru. The kids love this dessert too, although they do like to mix everything together to make a pink fool! It has the texture of a creme brûlée without the sugar topping. This would be great with a crisp biscuit too.

You must try this out when Yorkshire rhubarb is in season. The pink appearance and tender stems are truly lovely in this pud. It's worth getting a lot and freezing it for use later on because you are bound to want this rhubarb all year round!

Custard:
500ml double cream
5 medium eggs
100g caster sugar

Rhubarb Compote:
750g of forced rhubarb, chopped into 4inch pieces
½ bottle of orange muscat
zest of one orange
1 vanilla pod
150g caster sugar

For the custard:
Preheat the oven to 170°C / 150°C fan.
Place the cream in a pan and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and let it rest for at least 5 minutes. Whisk together 5 egg yolks with the sugar and slowly add the cooled cream. Pass the mixture through a sieve. 


Rhubarb and Custard Pudding, Mean Mother Cooker

For the rhubarb compote:
Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180°C fan. Put all the ingredients in a shallow baking dish. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Cool in the fridge.

Place four ramekins in a roasting tray and fill 1/5 full with rhubarb and then carefully top up with custard. 

Pour a little cold water into the bottom of the roasting tray (to prevent the ramekins cracking) then place in the oven and pour boiling water into the tray to create a hot water bath. Bake the custards for 20 minutes. When done they should be slightly wobbly in the middle. Cool in the fridge for 1 hour. 

Rhubarb and Custard Pudding, Mean Mother Cooker

Monday, 2 March 2015

How To Make Nigella's Soft White Dinner Rolls


I've made Nigella Lawson's Soft White Dinner Rolls many times now and they are always lovely. The children adore these little rolls that are super hard to resist. They are a real treat with a bowl of hot soup or made into little sandwich rolls - perfect for packed lunches or picnics. I love these toasted with butter and jam. Yum!

Ingredients:
  • approx. 550-600plain flour
  • teaspoons rapid rise yeast or bread machine or other instant yeast
  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • tablespoon caster sugar
  • 375 ml milk
  • 25butter
+ 1 egg beaten for glaze

HOW TO MAKE:
  1. Combing 500g / 3½ cups of the flour with the instant yeast, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Put the 100ml of the milk and butter into a saucepan and heat until the milk is warm, and the butter is beginning to melt. Add the remaining 275ml of cold milk to bring the temperature of the liquid to 'hand hot'.
  3. Pour into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix with a fork or a wooden spoon to make a rough dough, adding more of the remaining flour if the dough is too wet. Then either using your hands or the dough hook on an electric mixer, knead the dough until it is smooth and silky. It's always better to have a slightly wet dough. Everything will start coming together after 5 minutes of kneading. I always try to knead dough for 10 minutes.
  4. Put the ball of dough into a greased bowl and cover the top with clingfilm, then leave in a warm place to rise for an hour by which time it should be double the size. Punch the air out of the dough with your fist and then turn it out on to a floured surface.
  5. Pull pieces of dough the size of walnuts off the dough and form them into small round rolls, like ping pong balls, placing them as you go on to a greased or lined baking sheet. The balls of dough should be about 5mm / ¼ inch apart so that once they have sat to prove they will be just about touching. Nigella gets 30 balls of dough, and arranges them in six lines of five. I made slightly less, but bigger balls. I usually weigh my dough before I roll them into balls. These balls weighed 80g each. I like weighing the dough too so there's no arguing over who's having the bigger rolls!
  6. Cover them with a tea-towel and leave to rise again in a warm place for about half an hour, preheating the oven to gas mark 7/220°C/425ºF, while they sit. When the buns have puffed up, beat together the egg and a pinch of salt and paint them with the glaze. Nigella likes to scatter alternate lines of buns with sesame and poppy seeds, leaving plain rows in between. (A teaspoon of seeds should decorate two rows.) I like mine plain!
  7. Bake the buns for 15 minutes by which time they should be golden brown and joined together in a little batch. Remove them to a cooling rack or serve immediately.
  8. These rolls are great served straight away when they have cooled slightly, and really need eating fresh, but they are lovely the next day toasted too. Whatever you do, you'll love these rolls!

Here's all the steps in pictures to help you with how the dough should look at different stages.


























Friday, 13 February 2015

Vegetable Korma



I love to make a good curry, and I never really use meat any more. Curries are a great vegetarian option because there are just so many flavours in them. I promise - you will never miss meat in a curry!

This Vegetable Korma is also a great budget saving recipe. No meat = cheap! Korma is a great vegetarian dish, because it has nuts in it to make it creamy, but they are a super source of protein too.

The kids love this dish. Korma's are pretty inoffensive as far as curries go, so this one is bound to be a kiddy hit. And it means they are eating a load of veg too. Of course, if you just can't go without meat, feel free to add some chicken thighs before you add the carrots.

Ingredients:
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 heaped teaspoon of black mustard seeds
1 heaped teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 knob of ginger, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground corriander 
1 tsp turmeric 
600ml chicken stock
2 large carrots, cut into large chunks
1 large potato, cubed 
Half a cauliflower
50g frozen peas
50g whole cashew nuts
50g cashew nuts, ground
30g desicatted coconut
2 tbsp natural yogurt
2 tbsp creme fraiche
Salt & pepper




HOW TO MAKE:
Have the oil ready in your pan with the cumin seeds and black mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds start to pop, add the onion. Fry for 3 minutes until the onions start to soften. Add the ginger and the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Now add the dry spices and fry for 30 seconds making sure they don't burn. Add the stock. 

You can now add the carrots and potato. Time for 8 minutes. Now is a good time to start cooking the rice (which takes around 20 minutes with the absorption technique). You need to add the cauliflower for about ten minutes before the rice is ready. When the cauliflower has been in 5 minutes, add the peas and cashew nuts. If it's looking a little dry, add some more water. Two minutes before the rice is done, add the ground cashew nuts, coconut, yoghurt and creme fraiche. Season and serve.





Sunday, 8 February 2015

Carrot Cake Tray Bake Recipe



I thought I might try a bit of a healthy cake this week for the kids to have as a snack, although I'm not sure carrot cake is overly healthy! But it is mightily light, moist and tasty! I'm sure it's better than a chocolate biscuit? Anyway, I'll stop worrying about health benefits this week, maybe next week, I'll try a healthy version and I'll let you know how it goes. But so far, this Carrot Bake Tray Bake is a hit!

I haven't used a cream cheese topping, just a simple orange icing. I thought it can be used sparingly, so the kids still think they are getting icing - just not too much.

This cake is super easy to make. You don't have to mess about creaming butter and sugar together - just a bit of gentle mix and your away. 

You can substitute the cherries and cranberries for raisins if you like. These were the only dried fruit I had left in the cupboard, but they give the cake little bursts of tangy sharpness. Also, if you're not a nut fan - just leave them out, but I think the walnuts make this cake.

Ingredients:
  • 175g light muscovado sugar
  • 175ml sunflower oil
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 140g grated carrots (about 3 medium)
  • 50g dried cherries & cranberries
  • 50g walnuts, broken up
  • grated zest of 1 large orange
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg (freshly grated will give you the best flavour)

For the frosting

  • 175g icing sugar
  • 1½-2 tbsp orange juice



HOW TO MAKE:

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/fan 160C. Butter and line the base and sides of an 24cm square cake tin with baking parchment. 





Mix the sugar into a large mixing bowl, with the oil and eggs. Lightly mix with a wooden spoon.

Stir in the grated carrots, cherries, cranberries, walnuts and orange rind.
Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices, then sift into the bowl. Lightly mix all the ingredients – when everything is evenly amalgamated stop mixing. The mixture will be fairly soft and almost runny.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40- 45 minutes, until it feels firm and springy when you press it in the centre. 
Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn it out, peel off the paper and cool on a wire rack. (You can freeze the cake at this point too.)
Beat together the frosting ingredients in a small bowl until smooth – you want the icing about as runny as single cream. Drizzle over the cake letting it drip down the sides.
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