FRUGAL FOODIE: Some warming soups to get you through the worst of the winter

Frugal Food
Frugal Food

Happy new year everyone! I hope you all had a fabulous end to 2014 and are making strides to make 2015 amazing too. We had a lovely, overindulgent time.

As regular readers will know, I run two businesses and have two young children so getting back into work and school mode after the lovely long break has taken some getting used to. And trying to get back into healthy living after all the over indulgence has been tough.

Fortunately, my Arbonne business has a huge push on clean eating and healthy living in January so I’ve been able to go cold turkey on the sugar and cut out gluten and dairy with the support of lots of other ‘clean and leaners’ and, with the help of the added nutrition products, I am feeling amazing. Especially as I’ve lost 7lbs so far!

The biggest challenge is trying to do this frugally. But it can be done.

I am not just eating some lettuce leaves and a celery stick – this is a plan that I hope to continue after January (with added treats though!) so I need to make it tasty and exciting if I am to stick to it.

It’s never too early to think about the beach body and mine needs all the help it can get!

I also need to think about the rest of the family – the meals have to be fit for everyone. My favourites have included Thai green chicken curry with cauliflower rice and marinated chicken with linseed wraps and homemade dips.

As a Christmas present to myself, I bought a spiralizer which has been a great way of cutting out pasta. It was cheap as chips (no pun intended) at around £10 from Amazon and now I can make amazing vegetable spaghetti with it.

I’ve used it with courgettes, carrots and sweet potato but any solid vegetable that is firm enough can become spaghetti.

Use this as a bed for fish or meat or make a pasta style sauce and use it in place of pasta. Try courgette spaghetti with an avocado alfredo sauce – creamy and delicious. Just combine avocados, lots of fresh garlic, lemon zest and juice, olive oil and salt and pepper and whizz up or mash up.

Mix it through the ‘spaghetti’.

Mushrooms would be nice with this too. If you are not being as strict as I am, grate some hard cheese over it. There have been some great deals on avocados recently – I got loads from Lidl when they were on offer. Keep your peepers peeled.

Sweet potatoes have been my salvation in helping me cut out regular potatoes and my beloved chickpeas are allowed on the plan too, thank goodness. I’ve been using bags of dried chickpeas and soaking them myself.

It’s amazing how many meals you can make out of a bag of them.

They are fantastic for snacks and party nibbles. I dare you to have a party and feed your guests healthy and frugal nibbles. They’ll never know they are either! Here are a few good ideas for a drinks party:

Kale Crisps

Remove leaves from the stalks and cut into strips. Lightly coat with olive oil. Lay them on a baking tray and bake for about five minutes at 200c/ gas 7. Turn them over and sprinkle over a little sea salt or ground cumin and bake for a further 5 minutes.

Vegetable Crisps

Blanch very finely sliced vegetables (beetroot, sweet potato and carrots are great for this) in hot water for a couple of minutes. Mix up some dried mixed herbs, oil and balsamic vinegar in a bowl and toss the vegetables in the mixture while they are still hot. Season with salt and pepper. Lay the crisps out on a baking tray and cook at a very low temperature overnight.

Roasted Chickpeas

Soak dried chickpeas in water overnight. When they are plump and softened, dry them with a clean tea towel or kitchen roll, coat them in olive oil and roast them with fresh rosemary (you could use dried though) and sea salt for around 30-40 minutes at 200C/gas 6. They should be lovely and crispy.

Hummus

Blend together some chickpeas, lemon juice, lots of fresh garlic, ground cumin and olive oil. If you happen to have some tahini, add that too. When it’s a nice smooth, creamy consistency, serve it up with a sprinkling of smoked paprika on top and a drizzle of olive oil.

With the constant weather warnings threatening snow it’s been a time for stocking up the freezer in case we find ourselves in lock-down! Soups are souper (sorry!) for healthy January. Here are some fab options for speedy, frugal and nutritious soups.

Carrot, Coriander and Red Lentil Soup

Place five roughly chopped carrots, a cup of red lentils, a chopped onion, 2tbsp ground coriander and approx. 1 litre of stock in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil then leave to simmer for around 45 minutes.

Add a large handful of fresh coriander just before the end of the cooking time. Blend for a very short time so that there is still texture and the colour remains orange but with green specks from the coriander.

Spinach Soup

Quickly fry a chopped onion in a little oil. Add some chopped chorizo and let it colour the oil in the pan. Add a large bag of spinach to the pan along with a good grind of salt and pepper, and the juice of half a lemon. Add about 1 litre of chicken stock. Blend until smooth.

Roasted Vegetable Soup

Healthy and hearty, it’s a January winner!

Chop 2 onions, 2 sweet potatoes and about 5 carrots into equal sized chunks and coat them with olive oil. Arrange in 1 or 2 baking trays (give them space) and nestle loads of garlic cloves in among them. Season with lots of salt and pepper. Roast at around 220C/gas 7 for around 30 minutes, turning them half way. When they are nice and tender, transfer them to a large pan and cover with chicken stock. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer for around 10 minutes. Blend and serve.

RECIPE

Spicy Watercress and Broccoli Soup

Ingredients: 1tbs olive oil; 1 onion, chopped; 4 cloves of garlic, chopped; 2” ginger, chopped; ½ tsp cumin seeds; 1 tsp caraway seeds; 3 green chillies; 2 bags of watercress; half a head of broccoli; vegetable stock.

Method: Saute the onion in the oil and add the garlic, ginger and chilli. Stir and cook for a minute. Add the cumin seeds and caraway seeds and continue to cook for a further 2 mins until it releases the fragrance. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Add the watercress and the broccoli and cook for a few minutes until the broccoli is bright green. Remove from the heat and blend. Season and serve. I like to drink it from a mug! Uncouth, I’m sure, but good all the same!

December’s Frugal Foodie column

Follow Frugal Foodie Christine McAllister on Twitter @thefrugaldiary or read her blog at diaryofafoodie.co.uk