Going on holiday most people expect to over indulge, to let themselves go a little, to surrender to a break. But, I just don't think this needs to extend to unhealthy eating and subsequent weight gain, I mean there's enough holiday blues without having to contend with overly tight clothes and a miserable diet on return.
I have been absolutely amazed by the gorgeous Lefay Resort in Lake Garda and its culinary genius. Expecting the healthy 500 calorie dinner option to leave me feeling empty, to look insubstantial and to make me envy to the point of hatred my fellow diners, I was utterly blown away. Everything was so artfully considered and expertly constructed that I repeatedly chose this option night after night just to see if it could be maintained... It could.
Broken down into five courses the balance between the dishes were impeccable. Let me take you through one of my nights: So, to start was lukewarm velvety soup of zucchini, basil and rutabaga, a beautiful green soup full of fresh flavours, wholesome, delicate and satisfying. Instead of croutons the dish was adorned with dehydrated zucchini crisps and it is touches like this, Lefay's agility to discover a healthy alternative that I find really inspiring and not too difficult to translate into my everyday life. Now, I am a ready meal queen, I truly believe that if you select carefully you can get a well balanced, nutritious meal which can fit into busy lifestyles or those who just don't like cooking... Yes we do exist! I think with all these baking programmes and people delightedly calling themselves 'foodies' we have forgotten that some of us, well, we're just not that bothered by it all, don't get me wrong, I like food, but if I want food, I want it now, not in two hours times. So, I thought I'd take one menu and ready meal it up to see if I could make if comparable in nutrition and energy.
Obviously, you're not going to find me whipping up a soup and waiting to ensure its lukewarm before serving, but there are so many tips I've learnt over the course of the week for exchanging the norm of ingredients with their healthier counterparts. Instead, I adore beetroot crisps and in the local supermarkets there is a plethora of dehydrated vegetable crisps of the healthy variety (not the oily ones) that would be perfect instead of bread and crouton for a yummy summer soup. I really love Covent gardens Souper Green soup, filled with spinach, basil and peas. Dividing that in two with some beetroot crisps on top would look at about 150kcals per person, a mere 60kcals more.
The second course was Spelt flour crepes with tofu and spinach, and oh my goodness get me some Spelt flour and teach me, even the most reluctant cook what the hell to do with it please, it really is absolutely scrum, saintly and satisfying. Looking just like a spinach and ricotta cannelloni when it arrived the flavours of the tofu and the spinach married together perfectly and the sauce on top, although clearly not cheese was just as creamy and thick. There really is no comparison to this pasta less dish so instead I'm going for a Waitrose healthy version of spinach and ricotta cannelloni at 289kcal. A much greater chunk of calories compared with the 140kcals which really demonstrates how pasta and cheese can really bulk out your daily intake if you're not careful, and sings the praises of Lefay's ingenious culinary skills.
Thirdly vegetables ratatouille "Provençal" style at 150kcals tasted like a scintillating vegetable moussaka with a rich plummy tomato sauce rendering cheese totally unnecessary. In this case after the rather heavy pasta dish I was really looking to keep this course very light and fresh, rather than the tomato sauce I was thinking just a blend of beautiful cooked vegetables soaking in their own juices, with pepper and paprika for flavouring. Chopping up some red and yellow peppers (my faves) and slicing some courgettes and mushrooms and lightly roasting them in the oven before seasoning leaves a really fresh and nutritious meal without totally eradicating the vitamin C benefits as the longer the cooking time the lower the vitamin C remaining. No need for oil, just leave them plain and you're looking at around 80kcals.
As I didn't have the pudding from this selection I'm going to go for the surprisingly tasty apple crumble from the night before. At only 180kcals I really wasn't expecting anything much, thinking perhaps it would be Apple purée with a sneeze, or rather a sniff of crumble flakes. I was wrong. Very wrong. Instead a really substantial crumble topping tasting of oats and cinnamon left me delighted, as for me crumble is the best bit, the Apple is just there for decoration. My equivalent here is Waitrose apple crumble individual pot which comes in at approx 240kcals, again slightly more but it is soooo gooey it's worth it. Adding just a sprinkle of cinnamon on top for that lovely warming spice.
So how did I fare against the 500kcal menu. Well using just supermarket food with no fancy cooking techniques or ingredients nobody has heard of, we are clocking in at 759kcals. For all that food: soup, croutons, cannelloni, roasted veg and Apple crumble I think that's really not too bad going.
Does that leave you inspired? Would love to know your ready meal combos to rival mine? Get creative, get inspired and get eating.