The fit foodie makes a quick chicken dinner and a healthy casserole

These days I tend to want to eat food that I can ladle into a bowl and that is comforting. Nothing too fancy, just simple meals, says Derval O’Rourke. This week let’s make coconut & basil chicken and a turkey & lentil casserole.

Both of this weeks recipes are comfort food. One is done in very little time whilst the other is a bit longer.

These winter dinners will keep you going through the dark nights.

Rather than a third recipe this week I decided to talk about food labels.

I find it’s not realistic that I can always eat from food cooked from scratch so those times when I pick up packaged foods it’s useful to know what to look for in the label.

Recipes

Coconut and basil chicken

This is a super quick go too midweek meal. Whenever I make this I’m always reminded that tasty, healthy dinners can be done easily during the week without too much stress.

I use coconut milk as the main ingredient in the sauce.

The fit foodie makes a quick chicken dinner and a healthy casserole

It’s well worth keeping a few cans of coconut milk in your press, they have a long shelf life and they will be a great go-to ingredient.

Serves: 4

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 4 leeks, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 4 free range chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • a handful of basil leaves
  • 2 tins coconut milk
  • 4 tbsp toasted flaked almonds (this is optional but adds a lovely crunch to the dish!)
  • brown rice to serve

Method

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion, leeks and chilli and cook for about 10 minutes. If you notice the pan becoming dry add a dash of water.

Add the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add the fish sauce, honey, basil and coconut milk to the pan. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Cook the rice as per packet suggestion.

Serve the coconut and basil chicken in warmed serving bowls along with brown rice. Scatter each bowl with the almonds.

Turkey and lentil casserole

People often ask me what is a good recipe to cook in a big batch and reheat during the week. This is a great one. It’s easy to double the quantity and eat when you are too busy to cook from scratch. Chicken can be substituted for the turkey.

The fit foodie makes a quick chicken dinner and a healthy casserole

Serves: 4

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 600g turkey breast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 100g chorizo, sliced
  • 400g tin tomatoes
  • 100g dried apricots
  • 50g split red lentils
  • 1 cinnamon stick (or 2 tsp cinnamon)
  • 300 ml water
  • a handful of flaked almonds, toasted for 5-10 minutes in the oven
  • a handful of mint leaves
  • Brown rice, to serve

Method

Mix the garlic, spices and turkey in a bowl. Using your hands marinade the meat with the spices. Cover and leave to the side for a few minutes.

Heat the oven to 180D.

Heat the oil in a large casserole over medium heat. Add the onion and chorizo and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, apricots, lentils, cinnamon, water and the marinated turkey. Cover and place in the oven for around 1 hour 20 minutes.

Stir occasionally.

Cook the rice as per packet suggestions.

Ladle the coked casserole into warmed serving bowls and sprinkle over the almonds and mint.

Serve with brown rice.

Know you labels

Most weeks I try to give a snack recipe or idea but this week I wanted to do something slightly different by giving a quick guide to food labels.

I feel it’s really important to read your labels. If you are grabbing snacks in a shop or pre made food it’s important to know what to look out for.

Here are my top four tips for labels.

Beware marketing

Often products are described as “healthy” but are in fact full of junk. Look beyond the branding and turn to the label to actually read what is in the product.

Watch out for sugar

Sugar may not be called sugar on the label. Different names are : corn syrup, corn sugar, high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, sucrose, dextrose, honey, molasses, tubinado sugar or brown sugar.

What’s the order

Ingredients in food products are done by weight, the ingredient that is first makes up a higher percentage of the product than the ingredient that is list. This is important. I try to pick products that have whole foods in their first three ingredients. The longer the list of ingredients the likelihood is the product is highly processed.

Serving size

Nutritional information per serving size is important to note. A serving size might be far smaller than the amount you plan to consume. Take note of how much the serving size is.

Fitness focus

The world of social media and fitness

Fitness has become a massive industry online, social media gives us access to the latest fitness trends, data and new ideas with the touch of a screen.

I like to scroll through my social media feeds and get some inspiration.

I recommend people or companies to follow online every week in this column through my couple of lines on “fitspiration”.

I’m a big fan of online content and sharing but at the same time I think there needs to be an awareness of the limits of the online fitness industry.

If someone puts up a certain type of content, sexy pictures or bikini shots, they are more likely to get followers.

For me the integrity of the message is really important. The images should portray a positive, real message.

I try to stick to my simple message of eating well and keep moving.

Some days that means I put up pictures walking in the woods or in the gym; other days I’ll show pictures of food to give an insight into the way I like to eat.

Like everything with technology, it is neither totally good or totally bad when it comes to fitness.

If something sounds too good to be true it probably is too good to be true.

Social media is a wonderful place to find ideas and inspiration but beware the traps of false promises on heavily filtered pictures!

Fitspiration

This week’s fitspiration is the fair game podcast @FairGameCast. It’s a podcast with a focus on Irish sportswomen.

The ladies behind the podcast are Elaine Buckley and Emily Glen.

They give a super insight into some of Irelands top sportswomen.


Lifestyle

As Darina Allen marks 21 years of writing for The Irish Examiner, she talks to Ciara McDonnell about her amazing career.Darina Allen: you have to be aware of the impact you are making

More From The Irish Examiner