Pumpkin-Paprika Soup

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Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

The ingredients: for 6 persons

  • 1 butternut pumpkin
  • 2 red paprika
  • 2 onions
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cubes low fat chicken bouillon
  • 1 bouquet garni (garnished bouquet)
  • 1 tbsp. paprika powder (soft taste)
  • 1 tsp. sharp paprika (spicy)
  • olive oil or other light fat
  • salt & pepper

The work:

Peal the butternut, take out the seeds, and cut the meat in pieces. Clean the 2 paprika’s, take out the seeds and cut them into pieces. Peal the onions and cut them in cubes. Peal the garlic and cut into small pieces.

Put some olive oil or other low fat oil into a cooking pot and simmer the onions, the paprika and the  garlic for a couple of minutes until the onions start to turn glazy. Add the butternut pieces and immediately cover all vegetables with water. You’ll need 1 to 1,5 liter. Add two cubes of chicken stock and the bouquet garni. To strengthen the taste of the soup, add a table spoon of soft paprika and a pinch of sharp paprika (spicy paprika).

Once the soup boils, lower the heat so that the soup boils softly for the rest of the cooking time. The paprika’s will need about 45 minutes until they are tender.

At the end of the cooking time, take out the bouquet garni and mix the soup using a mixer or blender. Add some extra water if necessary, to give the soup the right consistency. Season the soup with salt and pepper.

The Tip:
My neighbour brought me some smoked garlic the other day. I used this instead of normal garlic, and although i can’t prove nor measure it, but I believe the smoked garlic lifted the paprika taste much more than normal garlic. I’m sure if I would roast the paprika’s and peal them before using them, this would also be very beneficial for the taste of this soup. I really need to try that sometime.

I hate battling against pumpkins, so I in the beginning of winter I buy a bag of frozen butternut cubes. No work, as good!

The Secret:

Yet again the herbs are the secret to this taste. With the bouquet garni and the soft and spicy paprika herbs to the soup it gets a herby flavour and a great paprika ‘bite’.

If you don’t have sharp paprika, you can replace it by chilli. For the bouquet garni I used a dry bouquet which I bought in the shop. It contained: thyme, laurel and rosemary.

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Turkey roulade

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Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes

The Ingredients: for 4 persons

  • 800 g turkey roulade
  • 400-500 g canned pineapple slices (in syrup or in juice)
  • butter
  • peanut oil
  • port wine
  • 1 cube chicken stock
  • corn-starch
  • salt & pepper

The work:

Heat a bit of butter and some peanut oil in a pot, and bake the turkey roulade on all sides nicely brown. Season the meat with salt and pepper.

Add the pineapple slices with the juice and a small glass of port wine (shot). Also add a cube of stock. Turn back the heat and close lid. The roulade is cooked when the inside temperature of the meat gets to 90°C. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, the time to cook a roulade will take about 50-50 minutes.

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Put the meat aside to cut it in slices. Take out the pineapple slices for a moment and thicken the sauce to your liking using cornstarch. Put the pineapple and the slices of meat back into the sauce to keep them warm.

Serve some slices of meat with some pineapple on top.

The tip:

Turkey is very light meat. So if you want this dish to be almost completely calorie free, then use pineapple in juice instead of syrup and serve the dish with a  cooked potato .instead of potato croquettes.

The secret:

Two secrets this time for novice cooks…

Always mix corn-starch in a small amount of water first before adding it slowly to the boiling sauce (e.g. 1 table spoon of corn-starch in a 3rd of a glass of water). This way you avoid clotting and you can control the thickness of the sauce you’re making exactly to your liking. Always stir while you add the corn-starch. The same process applies if you use potato starch instead of corn starch.

If you have to bake meat for a longer time then it is important to choose fat which can stand heat. This is why we use half butter half peanut oil. The peanut oil can resist heat much better and the meat browns but doesn’t burn.

Steamed salmon with spinach mash

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Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

The Ingredients: for 2 persons

  • 2 pieces of salmon
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 cube of fish stock
  • 1 cube of meat stock
  • 6 medium sized potatoes
  • 500 g baby spinach
  • 1 clove garlic
  • olive oil
  • milk
  • nutmeg
  • salt & pepper

The work:

First prep the salmon dish.

Take an oven dish and lay the pieces of salmon in it. Peel the onion and cut it in fine rings. Peel the carrot and cut in in fine slices. Sprinkle the onion and carrots over the fish. Season with salt & pepper. Put a small bit of water in the oven dish and sprinkle the crumbled fish stock in the water around the fish. Cover the dish with plastic wrap. Puncture some holes in it with a knife. Voilà, the fish dish is ready, but we wait until our potatoes are almost done to cook it in the micro wave.

Peel the potatoes and cook them in water with salt, as you normally would do before making a mash.

In the meantime, peal the garlic and stab it to the end of a fork. Heat some olive oil or margarine in a large cooking pot and stir with the garlic clove in it while the oil is heating up, the oil will take the aroma of the garlic. Once the oil is hot, put in the rinced baby spinach leaves and stir from time to time. Season with pepper and salt and crumble some meat stock over the spinach. About 10-15 minutes later your spinach will be done.

Put the salmon in the micro wave for 5 minutes. Take out the oven dish and tilt it in different directions to mix the crumbled stock with the water. Put the fish back in the micro wave for another 5 minutes. Check from time to time how far the fish is cooked and add some more minutes each time if you are afraid to overcook  it. In my experience the fish is exactly right as soon as you start smelling the aroma in the kitchen.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and make a mash. Add the cooked spinach. Add some extra seasoning like nutmeg and optionally some milk if the mash is too dry. This depends on how much fluid was in the spinach.

The tip:

Yes, there is neither butter nor cream used here. The whole idea is make a light meal which is tasty. But if you must you can make the mash richer.

The vegetables with the fish are there for seasoning really, since the cooking time is often too short to have them ‘well-done’. I tend to add onion and a carrot because I always have some in the house, but plenty alternatives are possible to add extra taste to the fish like tomatoes, rosemary, lemon, etc. Feel free to share your favourite flavors. You can  also add some white wine instead of water. But hey, this post was supposed to inspire your light calorie cooking.

Weekday broccoli with cheese

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Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

The Ingredients: for 3 persons

  • 1 broccoli
  • ZIZ light cheese (Kraft foods, melt cheese)
  • 0.5 cube vegetable stock (or chicken)
  • salt & pepper

The work:

Steam the broccoli for about 25 minutes. I do this the old way, using a simple steaming pot and i put a half cube of stock in the boiling water, it makes the steamed vegetables more tasteful. If you like your vegetables crispy, then make sure not to overcook them at this stage since they still have to go in the oven for a short while.

When the broccoli is ready, take them out of the steamer and let cool them down in an oven dish. This recipe is ideal as a side dish when you have guests, since you can prepare it and just shove it in the oven when you need to serve.

Pre heat the oven at 180°C.

broccoli_1Add some salt and pepper and cover the broccoli with slices of the cheese. I use the light cheese to have maximum taste with minimum calories. Of course you can experiment with even more tasteful and less calorie friendly regular cheeses like Cheddar or Gouda.
Put the dish into the oven for about 10-15 minutes. It is best to keep an eye on it, you want the broccoli warm, but the cheese still visible as a layer covering the broccoli. When you leave it all in the oven to long, the cheese will have melted completely and have sunk between the broccolis. It may taste the same; it is definitely not as good looking.

The tip:

Important is to let the broccoli cool down before you add the cheese on top of it. If you put the cheese when the broccoli is still warm, it will be melted before you can put the broccoli into the oven.

The secret:

This recipe developed out of the leanness of the fridge during one of my ‘poor’ weeks… the very odd week when I do make an effort to cut some calories.

It’s so simple, yet so good!

Mussel packets on the BBQ

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Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

The Ingredients: for 4 persons

  • aluminium foil
  • 1 kg mussels
  • 2 onions
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 small glass of white wine
  • 1 cube fish stock
  • leaf parsley (optional)
  • 0,5 clove garlic (optional)
  • 1 lemon
  • salt & pepper

The work:

Wash and clean the mussels. It is very important to wash the mussels in plenty of water multiple times to make sure all sand and dirt is gone. As you poor the fresh mussels in a basin with ample water to rinse them, the mussels which do not sink to the bottom or remain open are the ones which are bad. So throw those away. After cleaning the mussels, leak them out for a short moment in time.

Fold a long leaf of aluminium foil double lengthwise. The idea is to make bags for the mussels, so you need a length of about 30-40 cm.

Add a handful of mussels in the centre of the foil. Fold the foil as if you will close it as a bag, so that a pit is formed to capture the ingredients and liquids which you will start adding to the mussel-bag.

In each mussel bag sprinkle some onion, some celery, some leaf parsley and optionally some garlic. Poor in the bag some white wine – a bottom will do since the mussels contain enough water in their shells to cook them.

Sprinkle some of the crunched fish stock cube in each bag and add salt & pepper.

Now close the bags smartly. The bags should be easy to grip with the barbecue tongs and all the moisture should remain in the bag until serving. It’s a challenge the first time, but once you’ve thought about it, I’m sure you’ll fold your own favourite bag shape.

When the bags are closed you can put them on the BBQ. Since no BBQ has equal fire everywhere, you should move the bags half way through the cooking time. Move the bags on the outside of the fire to the inside and vice versa. A mussel only needs 10 minutes to cook. Out of experience we know it takes a bit longer on the BBQ, but it will depend on your BBQ on how long they will need before done. Cooking time may easily go up to 20-30 minutes, depending. The solution is to peek from time to time. Take a bag from the fire, open it carefully and look if all the mussels are open and they don’t look glazy anymore. If some of the shells are still closed, close the bag and put it back on the fire for 5 minutes and repeat the sneak peek process.

Put the bag on a plate and serve with a piece of lemon on the side and brown bread. Let your guests discover the content of the bags themselves. The aroma escaping of such a bag is delicious. The cooking juices are great for dipping a good piece of brown bread.

Be careful, if you serve with bread some of your guests will turn this starter into a main course. In summer time this makes a great light lunch.

The secret:

Don’t look for the largest mussels. The small French Bouchot mussels are much more tasteful and are often less expensive than the larger ‘jumbo’s’ which are reserved for restaurants.

The tip:

Handle the aluminium bags always by lifting them up vertically. Don’t shove them over the grill; this will damage the bottom of the bag and let the cooking moisture escape. It is exactly that juice in the bag which steams and flavours the mussels.

Do not be tempted to put too many mussels in a bag!

You can develop many nuances to this recipe flavouring the mussels to your personal or regional taste. For instance you can add a slice of lemon in the package, or a drop of Ricard (anisette), or add some extra spices or herbs, or replace the wine with beer…these are only a handful of ideas.

Cleaning up after a mussel diner is not the nicest job. If everyone closes the packs again after eating, you can punch some holes in the bottom of the bag to leak out the left over juices. After some time, press out the bags and put them in the bin.

Chicken in the pot

Also known as ‘Steamed Chicken’

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Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes

The ingredients: for 4 persons

  • 1 chicken
  • chicken seasoning
  • 1 cube low fat chicken bouillon
  • margarine
  • salt & pepper

The work:

Smear the chicken richly with the chicken herbs. Make sure you throw a lot of seasoning inside the chest cavity and be generous with the herbs.

Melt the butter in a cooking pot and bake the chicken brown on all sides.

By the time the chicken is nicely browned, your fat will be burned and blackened. Take out the chicken, put it aside, get rid of the burned fat and clean the pot.

Put the pot back on the fire and add a small cube of margarine, let it melt and put the chicken back in. Season with salt & pepper. Add a half a cup of water. You should have about 1 cm of water in the bottom of the pan or pot. Crunch the cube of chicken bouillon and sprinkle it around the chicken in the water. Close the pan with a lid and reduce your hot plate to a very weak fire. The water should boil softly to make the steam in the pot. Leave your chicken like that for 45 minutes to 1 hour, take a peek from time to time to see if there is still a bottom of water. In case the water dries out, add some more.

By the time the chicken is soft and done, a syrupy sauce will develop automatically based on the water, the bouillon and the fat coming out of the chicken. ET voilà, you made a chicken to impress.

The secret:

I invented this recipe by accident because i simply don’t know how to brown a chicken without burning the fat.
The chicken herbs will determine the taste here. In Belgium and Holland I know you can get ‘Verstegen kruiden’, for me they are the best. But feel free to leave your comments on your local good seasoning providers. Don’t forget to add your country or region.
Each time I am amazed how fantastic this naturally developed sauce tastes.

The tip:

Even simpler than the recipe are the belonging tips.
If you don’t want to wrestle with a whole chicken, this magic works as fine with chicken legs as well.
You can throw in a half onion at the bottom of the pot or extra herbs to spice up the sauce. But the recipe doesn’t need it at all.
I tend to use Soya baking fat, since it has no effect on the outcome of the total taste, and I’m always looking to cut some calories.
The favourite Belgian way of serving this is definitely with apple sauce and cooked potatoes.

And last but not least… even if you are a novice cook, this will work like a charm!

Stuffed Zucchini

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Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes

The ingredients: for 4 persons

  • 4 zucchinis
  • 600 g minced beef (“américain”, we call it in Flanders)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 red chilli pepper (small one)
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • salt & pepper

The work:

Pre-heat the oven at 180° C.

Wash the zucchinis and cut them in 2, lengthwise. Steam the courgettes until they are just done. Don’t overcook them at this time, they still need to go in the oven for a while.

Put the meat in a bowl together with the seasoning. Cut the onion and the pepper extremely fine, press or grate the garlic, and mix all of this with the meat. I just use a fork to mix it all together.


When the courgettes are steamed, take out the seeds of the zucchini with a spoon. By doing this you create a small gutter for the meat. This does not have to be too deep, otherwise your zucchini will lose its strength and you may run into trouble serving it.

DSC00476Once you’ve filled the courgettes with the meat mix, put them in an oven dish and cook them for 20 minutes in the oven. Check if the meat is not red anymore to figure out cooking time.

The Tip:
We serve this with a jacket potato with sour cream.

This is also an ideal recipe when you’re trying to avoid calories. You can easily make a calorie friendly version limiting the meat to 100 g per person and serving the potato without the sour cream.

The Secret:

You probably also have days when you think ‘what am I going to cook tonight?’ or ‘what are we going to eat this time?’. Since i often have to go out for business diners, I have taken the habit of asking people – when appropriate of course – what they like to cook or what their favourite dish is. It also starts up the conversation again, when everybody start to get tired talking about work items.

It has inspired me quite often and brought the greatest ideas to the table. The recipes handed over like this often shined in simplicity and great taste.

Looking for inspiration one day, I popped the question during work lunch with colleagues ‘and what would you like to eat tonight?’ One of our engineers said… ‘it’s nothing fancy but at least I can cook this for my wife…’ and he explained about his stuffed zucchinis. Since then, thanks to Jürgen, the stuffed zucchinis are a returning item during lean weekdays .

Zucchini Soup

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Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes

The ingredients for 6 portions:

  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cubes of low fat chicken bouillon
  • salt & pepper
  • water

The work:

Wash the zucchinis, remove both ends. Cut the zucchinis in blocks.
Peel the onions and cut those in blocks too.
Put this all together in a cooking pot. Add the 2 cubes and a liter of water.
Cook for 20 to 40 minutes, depends on how long the zucchini needs.
Mix the soup and season with salt and pepper.

The tips:

I you like a lot of pepper in your soup and you like to put some portions in the freezer, remember the pepper will enforce. So it will come out of the freezer much spicier than you’ve put it in.

The story:

This recipe was handed over during a lunch conversation from woman to woman. Thank you Hildegard, you may not remember this conversation, but I’m still cooking and enjoying this regularly.