These recipes are meant for those times during treatment when you need a nutritious, easy meal but energy and inspiration are lacking. They make use of some chill cabinet and freezer foods from your local supermarket, with a few fresh bits to add extra nutritional and taste oomph. When out shopping (or better yet when someone else does it for you) compare package labels to get the best quality ingredients with the minimum of additives and little or no hydrogenated fats. For most of the recipes use whatever herbs, spices and seasoning that you like. Use these simple ideas as a springboard for your own ideas.
Eggs with asparagus: Simmer whole egg(s) in gently simmering water for six minutes; peel under cool running water. Serve on buttered wholemeal toast with steamed asparagus or baby spinach wilted over a low heat.
Prawns(or crayfish) with white beans: Open a tin of white beans, rinse and drain. Combine half of the beans with a handful of cooked peeled prawns (defrosted cooked prawns are fine), some olive oil, a little minced garlic, salt, pepper and 1/4 tsp thyme leaves or pinch of paprika. Cook in a small pan over a low heat until prawns are heated through and garlic is softened. Drizzle over a little balsamic vinegar if you have any. For a complete meal serve with a piece of bread, extra olive oil and a small green salad.
Fried Sole: Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a small frying pan. Dip sole fillets in some seasoned flour and fry until golden, about two minutes on each side. Serve on bread with bought tartare sauce and/or lemon slice. Cooked frozen vegetable medley (Bird’s Eye ‘Steamfresh’ is good) makes a complete meal.
Baked mackerel: Spread fresh mackerel fillets (some shops have frozen mackerel fillets: defrost as directed) with mustard of your choice, sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs (tarragon or dill are good), salt and pepper and bought or homemade breadcrumbs. Bake for eight minutes in a hot oven (220C/425 F) along with a halved tomato on the side. Serve with microwave brown basmati rice (Tilda brand) and the tomato halves. If you have a favourite spice rub mix (Cajun or Moroccan spring to mind) try that instead of the mustard.
Smoked mackerel salad: Tear smoked mackerel (or poached salmon) into pieces. Mix with some ready mixed salad leaves, chopped tomatoes, some cooked green beans and sliced new potatoes or cooked pasta. Toss together with some bought vinaigrette or try this simple dressing: 1 tsp white wine vinegar, 1 ½ tbsp of olive oil, ¼ tsp mustard, smidge honey or caster sugar, salt and black pepper (shake together in a lidded jar or whisk in a small bowl).
Chicken tortillas: Take two small wholemeal flour tortillas, place one in a large frying pan and top it with sliced cooked chicken (supermarket kind is good but leftover roast chicken is ideal), 5 chopped cherry tomatoes and a small handful of shredded cheese. Cover with the other tortilla, pressing down lightly. Heat the tortilla for two minutes, flip over carefully (top the pan with a large plate and invert if necessary) and heat until the cheese is starting to melt and everything is warmed through. You can do this in the oven too: on a baking tray, 180C for 8 minutes. Serve with shredded lettuce, extra tomatoes, some spring onion and avocado. Bottled salsa is nice with this too.
Couscous with sardines: Soak 80 g of couscous (a raw grain found in the tinned veg section or with the rice/grain mixes) in 100 ml just boiled water with a dash of salt or powdered vegetable stock. Cover tightly for 5 minutes, or until absorbed and plump. Pour out onto a plate and top with tinned sardines of your choice, chopped tomatoes, chopped parsley, some nice olive oil and pepper. Supermarkets usually have a few flavoured varieties of couscous (such as Ainsley Harriot range) for added taste. You could also try a pack of pre-cooked quinoa in place of the couscous (more nutrients.
Couscous with ratatouille: Do the couscous as above and top with tinned ratatouille and a drizzle of olive oil. Mix in some fresh torn basil and some tinned beans if desired.
Pasta with fresh pesto: Cook your favourite pasta as directed. When drained mix with 2 tbsp fresh pesto (found with fresh Italian sauces in chiller section), some shredded basil, chopped tomatoes and either flaked tinned tuna or torn fresh mozzarella (the kind in a milky ball rather than the shiny’ block’ kind). Unused pesto freezes well (or use within a couple of days).
Quick tomato pasta sauce: Simmer for 20 minutes one tin of quality chopped tomato with 1 minced garlic clove, ½ tsp dried oregano or mixed herbs, 1 tbsp olive oil, ½ tsp sugar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Serve with freshly cooked pasta or quality cheese tortellini. Mix in drained tuna, cooked chickpeas or tinned anchovies for a protein boost.
Courgette pasta: Lightly fry shredded courgette (do on a cheese grater) in some olive oil, adding minced garlic and chopped herbs of your choice. Serve with wholemeal spaghetti, freshly grated Parmesan or best-quality cheddar cheese.
Mackerel on toast: Heat a knob of butter and a tsp of olive oil in a fry pan. When the fat is sizzling slightly add two fresh mackerel fillets, flesh-side down. Fry for two minutes then flip and cook for a further two minutes. Add a small palmful of chopped parsley. Top a piece of wholemeal toast with the mackerel, squeeze on some lemon and season.
Waldorf-type salad: Toast a handful of walnuts in a dry fry pan, tossing occasionally so as not to burn (about 2 minutes). Cool on a plate. Chop an apple and/or pear and one celery stick; toss with some green salad leaves, the cooled walnuts and a dressing made with olive oil, white wine vinegar, Dijon or grain mustard and salt and pepper. Top with crumbled blue or goats’ cheese if you like.
Quick spicy crab pasta: Finely chop a handful of parsley, 1 deseeded chilli and 1 clove of garlic; mix this with juice of ½ lemon. Drain a tin of crab (or get some fresh or frozen crab from the fishmonger – defrost first) and mix together. Cook some pasta (orzo is pretty) and add the crab mixture and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Season to taste. This also tastes nice with cooked crayfish.
Quick stir-fry: In hot wok or large fry pan sauté 1 pkg of stirfry vegetable (fresh or frozen) with 1 inch of sliced fresh gingerroot until almost cooked. Add half a crumbled low-salt vegetable stock cube and 1 package of cooked prawns. Heat through, stirring all the time (about two minutes). Serve with a couple of shakes of low-salt soy sauce and maybe some sesame seeds. If you want to make these with vegetarian protein, use a package of ‘Cauldron Foods’ marinated tofu pieces, but leave out the stock cube as the tofu is salty enough. Serve with ready-cooked wok noodles or a pouch of cooked basmati rice.
Teriyaki: Marinate for ½ an hour 1 fillet salmon (about 100 g) in 2 tsp teriyaki or soy sauce, 1/2 tsp brown sugar, juice ½ lime or 1 ½ tsp cider/rice vinegar + black pepper & grated or dried ginger. Bake salmon for 10-12 minutes at 190 C, or until cooked through. Serve with wholemeal ‘Chinese’ noodles and steamed or lightly stir-fried pak choi, broccoli, pepper and mushroom (or use a chopped mix from the salad or freezer section).
Toppings for Toast: Many storecupboard staples spread on a piece of toast qualify as a meal. Ideas include peanut butter and jam; tinned mackerel in tomato sauce; good old baked beans; tuna mixed with quality mayonnaise and chopped spring onions or gherkin; grilled or sautéed mushrooms with some herbs; hummous and chopped tomatoes; ½ an avocado mashed with some olive oil and lemon juice; cooked prawns, chopped or blended with some sweet chilli sauce and good quality mayonnaise or low-fat soft cheese.
Mini pizza: Split a wholemeal pitta around the edges so you have two flat halves. Combine 2 tbsp tomato puree with some mixed herbs, a pinch of sugar, 1 tsp olive oil and 1 tbsp water; spread the mix on one or both halves. Top with deseeded chopped tomatoes, sliced spring onions or finely chopped red onion, a tbsp of sweetcorn and shredded courgette. Or top with a couple of spoonfuls jarred antipasto vegetables. Drizzle with extra olive oil and some shredded cheese of your choice (optional). Place under a medium grill until the cheese melts and the edges go a bit crispy.
Restaurant-style Chicken: Mix together either 3 tbsp sundried tomato puree or basil pesto with 1 sm teacup of crispy breadcrumbs (Tesco does them in a tub), 4 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or 6 tbsp other hard cheese), 1 tbsp olive oil and lemon zest from ½ lemon. Take two skinless organic chicken breasts and press the mix on top. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 190 C for 20-25 minutes. Serve with lightly cooked vegetables and boiled new potatoes or couscous. Dress the vegetables with lemon jucie and a little olive oil.
Chocolate-berry treat: Melt 100 g Green and Black’s organic dark chocolate (or similar dk chocolate) and stir in 50 g quality dried fruit (berries are my favourite) and 50 g roughly chopped nuts (pecan and walnut are good). Drop in tablespoons onto a baking paper lined tray and allow to set in a cool room or the fridge. When set keep in a covered container. One serving is two pieces. These are simple and simply delicious!
Other mini meals/snacks
•Two to three oatcakes or wholegrain crispbreads spread with nut butter (for example, quality peanut butter, almond, ‘Omega Mix’, pumpkin seed, or sesame seed/tahini) & topped with slices of tomato, banana or no-sugar added jam.
•No sugar-added muesli with grated apple, cinnamon and organic milk.
•Wholemeal tortilla or chappati wrapped around diced cooked chicken breast/marinated tofu pieces– shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, ¼ avocado and a few tablespoons salsa or 1 tbsp vinaigrette.
•Instead of chips, try baked sweet potato wedges instead. Scrub and slice one sweet potato per person, cut into chip-size wedges, toss in a little extra virgin olive oil and pour onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle with ground or whole cumin and sea salt; bake at 180 C for 25-30 minutes. This is great with simple roasted salmon and steamed broccoli florets.
•Stir fry a pouch of cooked brown basmati rice with a beaten egg and add cooked chopped frozen veg for a quick, tasty (and healthy) meal. Add a splash of soy sauce. This is a great standby meal, or side dish for steamed salmon.
•Toast a mix of seeds over a medium heat, turn off heat and sprinkle with soy sauce; mix & cool on a plate. Have this as a munchy TV snack or sprinkled on salads. Store in a screw-top jar.
•Fish wrapped in foil with ‘matchstick’ cut vegetables and a splash of white wine or lemon juice. Serve with herb-strewn quinoa or brown rice (from a pouch is fine).
•Ready-marinated tofu stir-fried with vegetables and sprinkled with fresh beansprouts or seed sprouts, or sesame seeds. Serve with brown rice noodles(check the oriental section of your supermarket) & a side of orange slices. You usually just have to soak the noodles in boiling water for 5 minutes.
•Bolognese sauce made with quality bought sauce (no additives or non-food ingredients), low fat mince, ½ tin of lentils or mixed beans & chopped sautéed vegetables. Serve with wholemeal or ‘half’and-half’ pasta.
•Health food shops and the ‘healthy aisle’ of large supermarkets may stock a selection of long-life mini meals, such as couscous with beans and vegetables. Keep one in your bag for long hospital waits or when you are out and about.
•Due to tiredness cooking sometimes isn’t an option. Don’t feel bad about this: major supermarkets stock good quality ’healthy range’ chilled and frozen meals. Frozen meals are usually better as they will have minimal preservatives. Just add some cooked frozen veg and a slice of wholemeal bread and you’ve got a proper meal.
•Don’t forget soups: homemade or quality chilled soups. Add some cooked lentils or beans to a vegetable soup for more protein and satisfaction.
By Kellie Anderson, for Maggie’s Centre