Breakfast is important. The body will not have had any nourishment for hours and if it and you are to work efficiently until lunchtime, the body needs to receive some fuel.
Research has shown that people who do not have any breakfast, experience more difficulty in concentration and find it more difficult to think quickly and clearly than those who have eaten something. That ‘something* does not mean what the British traditionally consider a ‘good breakfast’ – fried sausage, bacon and eggs, toast, butter and marmalade. Such a meal is high in saturated fat, contains refined sugar and is difficult to digest.
A far more nutritious breakfast will provide sufficient energy to keep you going until lunchtime. It need not be cooked, can be prepared in seconds (or the night before), can be easy to eat and it can even be drinkable!
Some people really cannot face anything in the morning. To save them from flagging by lunchtime, pop a handful of dried fruits and nuts into a bag to be slipped into a pocket or handbag ready for a mid-morning snack. Alternatively, pack some home-made biscuits or cakes to eat at the mid-morning coffee or milk break.
• Instead of marmalade and jam, serve cooked, dried fruits, dried fruit compote or thick dried fruit puree,
• spread toast with a home-made nut butter,
• in place of toast, serve home-made oat biscuits,
• serve home-made biscuits containing oats, dried fruits and nuts,
• make your own muesli mixture,
• mix chopped, dried fruits with all breakfast cereals and porridge,
• sprinkle nuts over “the top of breakfast cereals and porridge,
• fold dried fruits, nuts or oats into yoghurt,
• blend dried fruits and nuts with yoghurt or milk for a quick breakfast drink,
• put scrambled or poached eggs on flat cakes made from pureed red split lentils or yellow split peas. These flat cakes can also be used as an accompaniment to grilled bacon or tomatoes,
• sprinkle chopped nuts or toasted oats over scrambled eggs.
Toppings for Toast
• Spread with home-made peanut butter and top with chopped, cooked, no-need-to-soak apricots,
• cover with sliced banana, then chopped dates mixed with chopped walnuts and sprinkle ground cinnamon over the top, if liked,
• gently heat some chopped dates with sufficient unsweetened orange juice to make a spreadable consistency. Spread on toast and sprinkle toasted flaked almonds over the top,
• cover the toast with lightly cooked, no-need-to-soak prunes which have been cut in half and stoned. Sprinkle desiccated coconut over the surface and put under a hot grill for a few minutes.
VEGETABLES AND SALADS
Many people see vegetables and salads as mere accompaniments to the main course and give little thought to their preparation, cooking or nutritional value. Vegetables and salads can become main courses in their own right. For example, if red split lentils are added to the vegetables and served with meat, the vegetables will become a source of protein, and so the amount of meat can be reduced. Some other ideas are:
• Mix dried fruits, nuts, cooked brown rice, marrowfat peas or butter beans with salad vegetables or cooked vegetables,
• blend pureed red split lentils, yellow split peas or no-soak peas with mashed potatoes or other vegetable purees,
• sprinkle chopped nuts over vegetable purees,
• add chopped dried fruits to vegetable purees,
• form vegetable purees into small balls or flat cakes, coat in oats, or in nuts which have been ground. They can be fried, grilled or baked,
• use a nut butter instead of ordinary butter,
• make cooked red split lentils, yellow split peas or no-soak peas into a sauce by beating in some milk or plain yoghurt. Add some herbs or seasonings for extra flavour,
• use plain yoghurt or low fat soft cheese thinned down with fruit juice or milk for dressings,
• beat seasonings and nuts which have been ground into plain yoghurt for a dressing with a difference.
There is no need to have any feelings of guilt if you do not provide large helpings of expensive meat for the main course or main meal of the day. Our need for protein is not as great as used to be believed. By combining any of the following – brown rice, red split lentils, yellow split peas, marrowfat peas, no-soak peas, butter beans, nuts, oats and dried fruits with a small amount of meat, fish, eggs or dairy produce, nourishing and inexpensive meals can easily be made. Moreover, the dishes and meals will be made much more interesting and varied. They will have new flavours and textures and, by simply changing the type of fruit or nuts, you can create an almost entirely new dish.
• Red split lentils, yellow split peas, marrowfat peas, butter beans and brown rice can be added at the beginning of the cooking of a casserole and cooked along with the other ingredients, whether they are meat, offal or vegetables. If already cooked, they can quickly and easily be stirred in at the end,
• stir dried fruits and nuts into all casseroles,
• add lentils, peas or beans, dried fruits and nuts to minced meat dishes,
• scatter chopped nuts over the food for a crunchy garnish,
• meats that are to be grilled, fried or baked can be coated in oats or in nuts which have been ground or finely chopped,
• place some dried fruits, e.g. sultanas or raisins, which have been soaked, in the cavity .of a chicken before roasting it,
• for a quick, simple stuffing for rolled or boned joints, simply use dried fruits, e.g. sultanas and raisins, that have been soaked and a few chopped nuts – both the ‘stuffing* and the meat will be moist and tasty,
• for chicken portions with a difference, gently ease the skin away from the flesh and insert some chopped, cooked dried fruits between them. Spread a little home-made nut butter over the skin to cook and sprinkle chopped nuts over the surface to serve,
• for the more adventurous, cut out the bone from a chicken or turkey drumstick and fill as above,
• cook individual portions of meat or fish enclosed in foil parcels together with lightly cooked dried fruits and nuts,
• try making stuffings with dried fruits, lentils or split peas, brown rice, oats and nuts. Form it into small balls, cakes or croquettes. This will add ‘ fibre, flavour, variety and nutrition to all meat or fish dishes,
• when roasting chicken, lamb, pork or gammon, mix a thick apricot or fig puree with approximately 1 tbsp (15 ml) cider, wine or white malt vinegar, approximately 1-2 tsp (5-10 ml) brown sugar and a little mustard. Spread over the meat 30 minutes before the end of the cooking.
LIGHT MEALS AND SNACKS
Light meals and snacks that are varied, tasty and nutritious can be made at a moment’s notice without any special preparation, from everyday inexpensive ingredients: * Home-made soups are very easy to make with red split lentils, yellow split peas or no-soak peas and are so much more nutritious, interesting and varied than the convenience ones,
• use oats and nuts which have been ground in making soup,
• add dried fruits to soup,
• garnish soups with chopped nuts,
• serve home-made oat-based biscuits with soup,
• keep some cooked butter beans, marrowfat peas or brown rice in the refrigerator to form the basis for salads. Very few other ingredients will be needed. In fact, simply some dried fruits, nuts and a dressing, for example yoghurt, can make a good salad,
• keep some thick, pureed red split lentils, yellow split peas and no-soak peas in the refrigerator to make into ‘patties’ or ‘cakes’ to be baked or fried in a nut butter. Top or serve with poached or scrambled eggs, cottage cheese or grated cheese,
• keep some thick, pureed red split lentils, yellow split peas and no-soak peas handy in the refrigerator to use as a base for pates,
• add some seasonings, chutneys or herbs to thick pureed red split lentils, yellow split peas or no-soak peas to make a tasty spread for toast or rolls. Sprinkle some chopped nuts over the surface,
• cooked butter beans, marrowfat peas, brown rice, dried fruits and nuts can quickly and easily transform just a small amount of basic or leftover foods into interesting, tasty meals. Try combining with cheese, eggs, chopped chicken, vegetables or fish,
• cover the base of savoury flans with cooked butter beans, red split lentils, yellow split peas, no-soak peas or brown rice, then add the filling of your choice, sprinkle chopped nuts over the surface of flans, serve home-made savoury dried fruit sauce, relish or compote with cold meats, bread and cheese, flans, etc.
• Spread the bread with a nut butter,
• cottage cheese mixed with chopped hazelnuts topped with sliced, ready-to-eat figs,
• low fat soft cheese covered with no-need-to-soak apricots, then toasted coconut flakes,
• very finely shredded white cabbage mixed with peanuts and chopped, no-need-to-soak prunes,
• cottage cheese with a little curry paste and chopped dates,
• chopped celery, walnuts and figs,
• thick lentil puree flavoured with herbs, then topped with sliced, no-need-to-soak apricots and chopped, toasted hazelnuts,
• mix sliced, cooked chicken with flaked almonds and a little yoghurt blended with orange juice. Place some chopped no-need-to-soak prunes on top and sprinkle with desiccated coconut.
• Mix some chopped, cooked, no-need-to-soak apricots with flaked almonds, sprinkle soft brown sugar over the top and grill,
• scrambled egg topped with warmed no-soak pea puree and a sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts.
PUDDINGS AND DESSERTS
Despite their bad reputation, puddings and desserts can be both nutritious and appetising to eat with the correct choice of ingredients. The use of dried fruits can eliminate, or reduce, the need for any sugar.
• When making pastry, crumbles or sponges, replace 1 oz (25 g) flour with 1 oz (25 g) oatmeal or nuts which have been ground or finely chopped,
• use dried fruits to make pies, crumbles or sponge puddings,
• for an instant, crunchy topping, sprinkle finely chopped nuts over the surface of crumbles, sponges, milk puddings or meringues,
• add dried fruits and nuts to all milk-based puddings,
• chop dried fruits and nuts and add to all ‘creamy’ desserts, trifles, mousses, ice creams and cheesecakes,
• sprinkle chopped, dried fruits and nuts over the base of a cheesecake or flan.
• fold chopped nuts and dried fruit into plain yoghurt or cottage cheese and place in the centre of pancakes,
• use to fill baked apples and with baked bananas,
• puree cooked, dried fruits to make a sauce for serving with all sort of desserts, from ice creams and mousses to steamed puddings,
• blend pureed, cooked, dried fruits with plain yoghurt, low fat soft cheese or sieved cottage cheese and a little ground spice or grated fruit rind to make a topping or sauce for desserts,
• for a special dessert, soak some dried fruits (apricots are particularly good) in a fruity white wine. It need not be an expensive wine, but if you would like to give the fruits an extra special touch, add some sherry, brandy, whisky or liqueur.
Stuffed Figs, Apricots, Stoned Prunes
Easy to make, light and easy to carry, moist, delicious and nutritious to eat.
• Place a teaspoon of cottage cheese, or low fat curd cheese, flavoured with a little ground cinnamon, mixed spice or ginger, or orange or lemon rind, in each fruit,
• or, use a nut instead of cottage cheese,
• better still, combine the two – cottage cheese and finely chopped nuts.
CAKES AND BISCUITS
Recipes for cakes and biscuits using dried fruits and nuts are usually very simple and quick to make, so you will not need to spend hours in the kitchen. Many of them can be made by children.
• Add dried fruits and nuts to all cake mixtures,
• sprinkle chopped nuts over the surface of cakes and biscuits,
• replace 1 oz (25 g) flour with 1 oz (25 g) oats or nuts which have been ground, in every 4 oz (125 g) flour,
• bake cakes in loaf tins and serve them with a dried fruit compote, or thick dried fruit puree,
• serve scones with a dried fruit compote or thick dried fruit puree instead of jam,
• use a thick dried fruit puree to sandwich a sponge together,
• make an unusual topping for cakes by melting together 1 oz (25 g) margarine and 2 oz (50 g) soft brown light golden sugar. Then stir in 3 oz (75 g) desiccated coconut and 2 tbsp (30 ml) thick dried fruit puree and spread over the top of the cake about 5-10 minutes before the end of cooking.
All too often, packed meals are no more than a hurriedly assembled mixture of foods. Little or no thought is given to their nutritional value, let alone whether they are appetising, interesting or varied. Often they contain too much fat, too many ‘empty’ calories or insufficient energy to keep the body going for the rest of the day. Packed meals should be ‘balanced’, satisfying and should provide about one third of the body’s nutritional requirements for that day.
• What could be easier than some no-need-to-soak dried fruits or nuts. There is no preparation, they are light and they are not messy to pack or eat,
• instead of buying cakes and biscuits, make your own. There are some very quick and easy recipes using dried fruits, nuts and oats,
• instead of buying cream crackers or other savoury biscuits (which usually contain sugar), make your own savoury biscuits,
• use lentil or mushroom pate to accompany the biscuits, instead of bought pates and spreads,
• if possible, take a vacuum flask of home-made soup,
• instead of buying sweetened desserts, stir chopped, dried fruits, nuts or oats into yoghurt or cottage cheese,
• take salads in plastic pots with snap-on lids (cottage cheese and margarine cartons are useful), include cooked brown rice, butter beans or marrowfat peas, dried fruits and chopped nuts. See the Salad section for some ideas. Chop ingredients finely so they are easy to eat and avoid very soft or moist items,
• accompany salads with cheese and oat biscuits,
• if taking sandwiches, use a home-made nut butter on the bread,
Ideas for Sandwich fillings:
• Mashed sardines mixed with chopped apricots and hazelnuts,
• lightly cooked hard-boiled eggs, raisins and yoghurt, flavoured with curry powder,
• grated carrot, sultanas and peanuts moistened with unsweetened orange juice,
• low fat soft cheese, such as ricotta, chopped ready-to-eat figs and chopped almonds,
• cottage cheese blended with a little horseradish sauce, finely chopped celery and walnuts,
• grated Edam, chopped no-need-to-soak apricots and chopped peanuts,
• very finely chopped white cabbage, chopped dates and desiccated coconut, moistened with low fat curd cheese blended with apple juice.
There is no reason why a cold packed meal should not be as nutritious and interesting as a hot one. With dried fruits, nuts, rice, peas, beans and lentils, nutritious, appetising and interesting packed meals can be made quickly and simply.