Goodbye Jan… Hello Feb!

For years, I avoided alcohol, interesting food and fun in January. In the annual effort to punish myself for my mince pie addiction and my month long quest to stuff as many Christmas treats down my throat as possible, I would stick to the most boring protein and veg diet (not washed down with any alcohol whatsoever). Then I realised I was just making January longer and duller than it needed to be.

But this year, with a bit more experience on my side, instead of wallowing in misery, I wanted something to replace the Christmas lights in my heart and my belly – while being a little bit good to myself and not over spending! Luckily I’m quite ‘Ready Steady Cook about he way I cook and I can always throw something together with a random bag of ingredients or stuff that I find on the shelf.

Midnight on 3rd January was the end of festive excess. Monday 4th marked the beginning of the rest of the year with Alan being strict with his food intake (Along with absolutely no alcohol). So throughout the month I’ve been getting creative in the kitchen with healthy ingredients and a focus on flavour – Something I want to carry on now that February has decided to join us.

The best thing to do at any time of year is to keep it interesting and to embrace taste. As long as the meal puts a smile on your face, that’s a good thing! So I’ve been spicing things up to make dinners as interesting as they can ever be without too many carbs.

Capsaicin – the ingredient that gives chili peppers their heat has been my best friend in the kitchen. I’ve been adding it all over the place in the hope that it could help burn off fat in the body and increase our metabolisms! Here are some of my easy midweek dinners:

imageHome roasted chicken, boiled ham, crushed carrot and swede with broccoli: It might not sound interesting I hear you cry but you’re wrong! Roasting a whole chicken with some garlic and thyme inside and boiling a joint of ham with a bay leaf, peppercorns, carrots and onions is a great way to guarantee you have a healthy, tasty dinner and plenty of high protein tasty snacks in the fridge to nibble on if you need. Simply boiling carrot and sweede in a little of the fragrant ham water is a really tasty way to cook root veg. by mashing it with as much dried chili and five spice as you can handle, makes it really interesting. And the addition of green veg I hear helps fat burning, so bring on the broccoli!

imageOven roasted salmon en papillote with hot peppers and tomatoes: When on our travels, we often buy rubs and marinades to make mealtimes a bit more fun. One of my favourites from travelling across the Atlantic is a spicy Mexican chipotle chili rub. Smothering the rub onto a salmon fillet before adding a generous squeeze of lemon and a dash of white wine (or even water) is the perfect way to prepare the fish before sealing in tin foil and putting in the oven. Rather than reaching for the mayo or adding hollandaise, getting firey with red peppers and tomatoes is a great accompaniment. I love to pan fry a spring onions, tomatoes and red & yellow peppers in olive oil until reduced, then I add fresh basil, a couple of fresh red chilies and paprika. Once the fish is cooked, serve with the tomatoey firebomb and some wilted spinach.

imageMy take on a traditional Chicken/Turkey Broth: Whether using up the frozen turkey meat from Christmas or stripping the bones of a roast chicken, you can’t go wrong with a lovely filling broth. I boil carrot and sweede in chicken stock, then I add leeks and kale. Once the broth has texture from the root veg, I add chicken or turkey meat as well as white pepper. To add a little extra kick, it’s time for a generous shake of dried chili and five spice. I never get bored of this and it’s a brilliant way to fill yourself up with goodness and plenty of veg!

In short – If you can keep your tastebuds interested, you don’t get bored of being a bit healthy…. And let’s not forget that you don’t have to feel too guilty if you’re a little naughty on the weekend! It’s just about keeping yourself happy during the dullest, wettest of months! And now January is over, these habits are going to last.

Keep smiling!