5:2 recipes: Cactus Salad

I’ve a terrible habit of picking up bargains when I see them, especially more unusual items.  I came across this jar of cactus tips in Dobbies sale, and couldn’t resist.


It had a salad recipe on the side, which I decided to try out.


The other ingredients were a spoonful of salsa, and a chopped tomato and onion.

I’m not a big onion fan, but as long as it’s finely chopped and has had time to marinate a bit, it’s OK.


I nearly came unstuck (if you see what I mean….) by my failure to be able to twist off the lid.  But I discovered that this pokey device at the end of a tin opener


is not just for taking stones out of horses hooves, it can be used to prise under a lid and break the seal.  Voila!


The cactus tips were rather good, a nice crunch, not an overpowering flavour.


Calorie wise this was a total winner.  I omitted the oil from the recipe, and honestly it didn’t need it. The whole jar of drained cactus was about 10 calories. The tomato and onion added 30, and the most calorific element was the spoonful of salsa, at 40.  But the whole big satisfying bowlful was under 100.  It would make a great accompaniment for a slice of ham or chicken, for non-vegetarians.



I’ll definitely be looking out for bargain cactus in the future!


5:2 recipes – Red Veg

It’s January, and I’m back on the fast train.  I also have some leftover Christmas veg to use up, so I decided to make a rich red thick soup.  There was about 1/3 of a red cabbage, some aging carrots, and half a bag of wilting spinach.  I used a red onion to keep the colour theme, and for a bit of added protein and texture added a handful of earthy brown lentils.

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1 large red onion (170g)

2 stalks celery (100g)

1/3 red cabbage (220g)

2 carrots (100g)

100g spinach

500g passata or a tin of tomatoes

50g lentils

1 tablespoon oil


black pepper

smoked paprika

Lea and Perrins

Start by sautéing the chopped veg in 1 tablespoon oil and a splash of water.  I use rice bran oil as it has a fairly neutral flavour, but any would do. Put the onion and garlic in first, then the cabbage, the carrots and celery.  Stir well after each ingredient is added so that everything gets nicely covered in the oil.

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Add a good grind of black pepper, and a teaspoon of smoked paprika to intensify the warm winter flavours.

Add liquid – 1 pint stock.  I used lamb as I happened to have it, and thought the richness would work, but again, substitute for a stock cube of your choice.  Add 1 500g pack of passata, or a tin of tomatoes.  Stir everything well and let it simmer.  At this stage it should be rich glossy texture.  You could leave it at that, but I felt the need for some additional protein.

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I’d been looking for a reason to use these reddish brown lentils that I’d bought a while back, but they are high in calories.  So I carefully measured out 50g.  Over 4 portions this shouldn’t add too much to the calorie total, but if you left the lentils out the calorie amount will be lower.

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Add a dash of Lea and Perrins.

Let simmer for 30 minutes while you have a  cup of tea and a slice of Christmas cake, since we’re clearing the festive leftovers.

Check that the veg and lentils are soft, and stir in the spinach.  Let it wilt for a few minutes.

Serve with a sprinkle of some green parsley, snipped chives or coriander.

Makes 4 portions at 190 calories each (150 without the lentils).  Non fasters can have a slice of crusty bread to dunk in the rich juices! 2015-01-07 11.27.08

5:2 recipes – Chilli Crab Noodles

I find shiritake noodles an absolute saviour on fast days.  They divide opinion, some people find the texture just too rubbery, and they come packaged in an odd smelling liquid which has to be rinsed off first.  If you can find the ones with some added tofu (try an Asian grocery), they have a better texture and flavour, for marginally more calories.  They are sometimes known as konjac noodles.


Tinned seafood is another of my go-to foods when surviving on less than 500 calories. It has the added advantage of being high in protein, as well as darn tasty.  I have a 1 to 10 rule of thumb on protein foods – 10g protein for 100 calories is good going.  Crab packs in twice that rate, with a 100g of crab giving 12g protein for only 60 calories.


I decided to combine the 2 in a stir fry dish.  First I dry-fried the noodles, and then added pak-choi and chestnut mushrooms. For flavour, I added a cube each of frozen chilli and ginger, a squeeze of garlic paste, the juice of half a lime and a good slug of light soy sauce.


The result was a very flavoursome LARGE bowl of food for 150 cals, 10g carbs and 15g protein.


5:2 meals Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I’m always on the lookout for different ideas to have for evening meals on a 5:2 down day.  So while I was searching the Asian section in Tesco for miso soup and sushi ginger, my eye was caught by this kit for Vietnamese spring rolls.  They looked fresh and tasty for a summer evening, and the calorie counts were given as 95 for half the packet (3 rolls) – by my reckoning I could eat the lot with a prawn or chicken filling for around 250.


The kit contains rice vermicelli, 6 rice wrappers, and a sachet of peanut dipping sauce.  Ingredients to be added are suggested as shredded lettuce, cucumber strips, prawn, chicken or pork.  Mint leaves or corainder would also work well.


The vermicelli soaks in boiling water for 5 minutes until softened.


Each rice wrpper is dipped in warm water for a few seconds.  Then the filling is piled in the middle, and you do your best to roll into a tight cylinder.  This was the hardest bit, and I would need a bit more practice to make the rolls tighter.


They looked very attractive, but as I hadn’t rolled them tightly enough they were messy to eat – I ended up cutting them in half with a sharp knife, and then blobbing the peanut sauce onto the ends.


It was a substantial meal for well under 300 calories – I’m going to try to locate the rice wrappers on their own, and practice making some better rolls.  Anyone got a good peanut dipping sauce recipe?


Chicken pesto burgers

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I don’t like fasting on my day off, as there’s far too much temptation in the fridge and kitchen cupboards! But my husband was away at a work meeting today, and I had lots of activities to keep me busy (and out of the house). These included a photo-shoot with Mini for a run-with-your-dog event coming up soon!

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When we got back from the shoot in lovely Lady Dixon Park, I set about making my main meal of the day. There was some leftover roast chicken (100g – 140 cals), and the dregs of a jar of pesto (1/8th jar – 80 cals). I chopped these finely together, but thought it looked a bit bland. So to add some colour, sweetness, and mositure, I chopped in a roast red pepper at 10 cals. (note to self – get another jar of those, absolute store cupboard essentials!)

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I formed the mixture into 2 burger shapes, and baked in a 170 degree overn for 15-20 minutes until hot through.

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I served them with a mound of caulifower (was going to mash it, but couldn’t be bothered) 15 cals, and a spicy tomato salsa made from chopped cherry toamtoes, a splash of balsamic and a teeny bit of chillis from a jar (25 cals).

The whole lot looked huge on the plate, and came in at under 300 calories in total.

The burgers were very good – a great way to use up leftover chicken. On a non fast day I’d add some cheese, and maybe dredge them in panko breadcrumbs.

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5:2 Thai noodles and aubergine slices

I’m just about at the stage of enjoying fast days now – I look forward to them the day before, I have fun planning interesting menus, and I know enough strategies to help me cope with the hunger pangs.  These are rare now – the odd rumbly tum, but it soon passes.

I’m having a “clear out the cupboards” kind of month, and some of the items I found lurking at the back of the freezer and fridge were a tin of light coconut milk, and half a bag of frozen scallops.  I also had some scallions, some zero/ miracle noodles, asparagus, mushrooms, and a jar of tom-yum paste.

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Rinse the noodles well.
Dry fry them in a frying pan. Move them to one side of the pan and add 3 sliced mushrooms, a few asparagus spears chopped into pieces, and 2 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal. (50 cals for the veg) Squeeze half a lime over them and cook for a few minutes until the veg are soft. Add half a pack of defrosted scallops (80 cals)to another part of the pan, and sear them on all sides for a couple of minutes.

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Bring everything together and add 100 ml (about 1/4 can) of light coconut milk (70 cals), and a good blob of tom-yum paste (50 cals). Stir well until everything is coated in the sauce, and serve in bowls with a sprinkle of sesame seeds (15 cals)

Should be around 280 cals for one very generous portion, done quickly in one pan.  I’d definitely try this again – I forgot I had some lemongrass in a jar, which would have gone really well with those Thai inspired flavours.

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On Thursday, my husband was cooking, and he made the little vegetable rissotto kieves from Sainsburys.  I experimented with baking aubergine slices without any oil.  I sliced them into thick rounds, and laid them on a piece of kitchen roll.  I rubbed some smoked paprika and some sea salt into each slice, and then arranged them on a baking sheet, lined with tinfoil.  I cooked them at 200 degrees for 15-20 minutes, turning the slices half way through cooking.

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Aubergine is 26 calories for 100g, and a whole aubergine is around 300g.  So say 75 cals for 7 or 8 good slices, which would do 2 as an accompaniement, or one hungry person on a Fast Day!

I’ll be experimenting with these further too, very simple, the spongy flesh absorbs the spices, so it’ll be fun trying different flavour combinations.

5:2 Golden Girls

I only did one fast day last week, but as I’m so close to my target that’s OK. This was because on my usual fasting day of Thursday, I was instead taking part in the Opening Ceremony for the World Police and Fire Games! It was a fantastic day, and I’ll blog about it separately.

One of the highlights was meeting Norn Irn’s Golden Girl, 1972 Olympic gold medal winner Dame Mary Peters.  It’s hard to believe that this sprightly, smiling woman dancing to a samba band on stilits is in her 70s!  She’s truly a testament to a healthy lifestyle – and to a positive mental attitude.

Dame Mary Peters and DJ Alan Simpson with a samba band

This week I had 2 reasonably good fasts.  I’d ended up witha  glut of courgettes in the fridge at the weekend, so I turned them into a simple stew with a head of little gem lettuce, some spring onions, also nearing the end of their useful lives, and some good quality herb stock.  The resulting stew is ridiculously low in calories – about 20-30 for a cupful – and so when I returned from my zumba class and my husband had some leftover prawn ravioli and tomato sauce, I was able to add those to my courgettes and still come in under calorie budget.

Wednesday’s fast was difficult – I felt really hungry to the point of nausea mid-morning, and had to eat a mini babybel and a packet of mini ryvitas to keep me sane.  For dinner I had a whole tin of Baxter’s carrot and coriander soup for 150 cals – really tasty with a gingery kick to it.  My other saviours that day were my caramel flavoured coffee, and some Morrocan spiced mint tea.

moroccan tea, flavoured coffe, a tin of soup

Who’s your Golden Girl?

Chicky Leeky Soup

Over indulged a bit at Easter – I loooooove marzipan, so I treated myself to a pack of mini Simnel cake bites, which I’m spreading out over the days. Thursday was out this week as a fast day, since I’m going to my Scottish Dance Class’s end of term dinner. Wednesday was a good choice as husband would be away all day. I don’t know that I’m strong enough to do either 2 days back-to-back or a weekend day just yet, so Monday became the other fast day.

I started Monday with one of my favourite all time breakfasts – soft boiled egg with steamed asparagus to dip in.

For dinner, I stir-fried a load of veg – mushrooms, onion, red pepper – using some Big Tom spiced tomato juice as the liquid.  It was quite filling, but my digestive system complained about that amount of veg in one go.

One Wednesday, I had breakfast of smoked salmon.  I was at work, and had a meeting in the afternoon, so I didn’t want any tummy rumbles  and so spread my calories throughout the day.  I spread a Laughing Cow Light on 2 Ryvita Black pepper crackers (this flavour is really good with cheese) mid-morning, and had a Tesco Chicken Noodle Cupasoup for lunch, followed by a satsuma.  Had a 10 cal jelly mid afternoon, and a string cheese immediately before my meeting.

For dinner, I made what I’m calling Chicky Leeky Soup.  I cant call it Cock-a-leekie as it uses breast, but it made 3 decent portions, so I’ve got plenty of options now in my freezer.

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One large chicken breast, in bite sized pieces

100g leeks

100g mushrooms

2 stalks celery

200g turnip or swede

a chicken stock cube.

Add all the diced veg and the chicken to about a litre of stock, and simmer until the chicken is cooked and the vegetables tender.  Season with black pepper.  Divided in 3, each portion was about 120 cals.

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Eats Shoots And Crab…..

My Tuesday fast this week was tough. I was stuck at home with a poorly dog who needed constant supervision, and my usual evening distraction had been cancelled due to the snow and ice. So I did succumb to a bit of nibbling throughout the day, and finally the last 5 Haribos in the packet sent me over the 500 calorie limit. But not by much.

Thursday’s fast went brilliantly!  I decided to skip breakfast, which was scary, but actually once I got into it it was fine.  My tummy only started rumbling after I had my miso soup with celery sticks at lunchtime, and I had a satsuma mid afternoon.  I’d made a salad with my favourite low-cal ingredients, but I should have made it the night before – I didn’t want to taste it as I was making it at breakfast time, as I was trying to do without breakfast!  Anyway, I took a tin of crab meat (92 cals) with a tin of bamboo shoots (13 cals), and mixed them with a chopped spring onion, half a chilli, some fish sauce, lime juice  and a squeeze of ginger (around 50 cals for the dressing).  Topped with some fresh coriander leaves.

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I ate half before going to the leisure centre and doing 30 minutes on the treadmill.  Which reminded me how much I prefer running outdoors!  And how I’ll miss Max as my running companion – his poor foot means he won’t be running any time soon.

I’d been avoiding any strenuous exercise on a fast day, but I was able to keep going for the full 30 minutes at a good pace.  I finished the day with some soda water and a slice of lemon served in a wine glass, and even my husband remarked on what a good mood I was in.

5:2 Squash-tomatoes-n-stew

‘Appy birfday to you
Squashed tomatoes an’ stew
Bread’n’bu’er, innna gu’er
Appy Birfday to you!!!

I was reminded of this jingle that used to be heard on Ed Stewpot Stewart’s Radio show way back in the 1960s.  I was doing my usual “what needs used up from the veg drawer” concoction, and had half a punnet of cherry tomatoes and a half a butternut squash to play with.  I peeled and diced the squash, added a thinly sliced leek, and 2 celery sticks finely chopped.  I simmered all these in some vegetable stock until almost tender, and then added my tomatoes.  They mush down in about 5-10 minutes, and I added a good handful of spinach to wilt down just before serving.  This made 2 portions, each around 90 calories.  If I was doing it again, I’d add some chilli and garlic, and lots of black pepper.

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I only managed one fasting day this week, as Thursday was the last evening of my Scottish dance class, and hence party time!  I did manage to have a rather hearty fast breakfast though, of scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and some red pretend caviar form IKEA.  150 cals the lot.

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I’ve been feeling strangely down this week, and a bit headachey, which is not like me at all.  I’m not sure if that’s to do with fasting or not, but we shall see.