Kitchen Stuff

Learning how to cook healthy, low fat, low kilojoule/calorie food to assuage your mood isn’t hard when you know how. Here you’ll find handy tips and tricks to get you started and keep you on track to a healthier happier you. If you’ve got a question that isn’t covered here feel free to contact me and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

You’ll find….

home-lighten-up Lighten Up

Fantastic alternatives to your fat-laden faves

Nutrition Nutrition

The skinny on what’s good for you – the basics
Average diet
Energy intake
Good fats and bad fats

Things-you-want-to-know Easy charts

Find what potatoes are good for mashing,
which apples to use for a pie, or what oil has
the highest smoke point with these easy reference charts.

Measurements Measurements, Temperatures & Conversions

You’ll never need to look up another conversion chart again
Oven temperatures
Grams to ounces
Liquid conversions – metric, imperial

Cooking Times Cooking Times – is it cooked yet?

A guide to how long it takes to cook whatever you are cooking


Lighten Up

“Everything in moderation, including moderation”
-Oscar Wilde


We all love cream, chocolate, chips and full fat everythings because they taste good and indulge our naughty side. But if you are anything like me, you love little treats everyday and can’t stand the thought of deprivation of any kind when it comes to food (or anything for that matter…). Lighten Up helps you to find some lower fat alternatives to your higher fat favourites. Even though you might be wrinkling your nose right about now, give them a go before you decide, most of them are really great.

You don’t need to swap everything to make a real difference and the great thing about swapping out some is that you can keep the ones that you just can’t do without. For me it’s cheese: camembert, stilton, pecorino, parmesan… just gimme more cheese.

Moodie Note: read the label if you are not sure. Quite often food manufacturers will remove fat but add sugar and salt to boost the flavour. Just make sure you aren’t swapping one problem for another!


Higher Fat Faves Lower Fat Alternatives
Full fat milk Light Milk
Skim Milk
Evaporated Milk (see notes below)
Light Evaporated Milk
Cream Low fat cooking cream
Low fat thickened cream (see notes below)
Evaporated milk (standard or light)
Low fat custard
Light yogurt
Sour Cream Light sour cream
Light Greek yogurt
Cream Cheese Light or extra light cream cheese
Ricotta or light ricotta
Ice Cream Low fat ice cream
Low fat yogurt (frozen or not)
Sorbet (although watch the sugar)
Coconut Milk/cream Light and Creamy Coconut Evaporated Milk
Light coconut milk
Light coconut cream
Cheese Light cheese (see notes below)
Cheese Sauce Moodie cheese sauce
Cocktail Sauce Moodie cocktail sauce
Mayonnaise Light Mayonnaise – there are some great ones
Light natural yogurt with a little garlic, chives, salt
Full Fat Salad Dressings Lower fat options – make your own using less oil
Creamy Sauces Tomato-based sauces
Replace cream with light evaporated milk (see notes below)
Beef Choose lean cuts (those that don’t have a lot of white) and remove any outer edge of fat before cooking
Beef Mince Extra lean beef mince
Lean rump steak, minced in your processor
Chicken Mince Chicken breast, skin removed, minced in processor. Add 1-2 tablespoons water and leave for 15 mins before cooking
Lean chicken mince
Lean chicken thighs and breast, minced in your processor
Turkey mince
Chicken Thighs Chicken breast, skin removed, scored and soaked in 1 tablespoon of water for 15 mins before cooking keeps the moisture in so it doesn’t dry out too much
Chicken Drumsticks Remove skin before cooking
Pork Chops Lean pork steak
Pork fillet
Bacon 98% fat free bacon is leanest
Short cut – just the meaty middle bit, removing all the fatty long bit
Sausages Lean, low fat sausages (see notes)
Deep Fried Fish Fish covered in flour, egg white and breadcrumbs, oven cooked at 180°c for 10-20 mins (depending on the size of your fish)
Tuna in Oil Tuna in springwater or brine – add a little oil through a dressing for extra flavour
Salami Lean Ham or bacon
Buttered Toast Instead of butter, spray your toast lightly with olive oil – gorgeous!
Butter Light butter or margarine. Use vegetable oils where you can as they are unsaturated and better for you
Canned Soups Light canned options, miso soup, broths
Home-made soups where you can control the fat:
Use olive oil, light sour cream/cream/evaporated milk
Toasted Muesli/Granola Untoasted muesli
Home-made muesli or granola
Chips (crisps) Pretzels, rice crackers, homemade vegetable chips
Chips/French Fries (hot, deep fried) Cut up potatoes, spray with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and oven bake for 30-40 mins in moderate oven. See Moodie recipe
Mashed Potato Replace whole milk and/or cream with light milk/evaporated milk
Deep Fried Foods Try oven-baking instead as it often works well if not better


**This list is by no means exhaustive and if you’ve got anything to add please contact me.


Evaporated milk is fantastic! Honestly, before I tried it in my cooking I thought it was something that my nanna used. It is amazing in mashed potatoes, curries, sauces, soups –anything where you just want cream!

Low fat whipped cream doesn’t whip well so if you have a recipe that requires whipped cream, try this fantastic substitute:
1 can evaporated milk, chilled (just keep some in the fridge all the time and you’ll never be caught short)
1 sachet powdered gelatine (8gms or 3 teaspoons)
1/3 cup cold water
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ icing sugar (confectioners sugar)

Pour water into a small bowl and sprinkle over gelatine. Whisk vigorously until combined and set aside for 5 minutes until it becomes spongy. Put the bowl into a large bowl filled with hot water and whisk mixture until gelatine is dissolved. Cool slightly. While the gelatine in cooling, whip the evaporated milk until it thickens. Add vanilla and gelatine mixture and keep whipping until it becomes light and fluffy. Refrigerate until you need it.

Cheese: if you are a cheese lover like me, it’s difficult to find good lower fat option. I go for stronger cheeses like vintage in low fat cause then you get all the flavour and reduced fat – great for your pizza!

Creamy sauces: if you just have to have a creamy sauce (and believe me, I’m with you), try replacing the cream with light evaporated milk – thicken it with some cornflour if you want a thicker consistency. You can also try to use stock and plop in a little light sour cream at the end.

Meat: when cooking meat, try to remove as much visible fat as possible before cooking – skin, crackling, fat rind. This of course, is for everyday cooking and we all need to splurge on the pork crackling every now and again!

Sausages: the good news is that it’s possible to get great low fat sausages but you just have to be careful as some can be really dry and tasteless. Find good ones cause I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly not going to give up my sausages.

Eggs: for me there is no good substitute for eggs, although I do try to reduce the yolks when it’s not going to affect the outcome. For example, when scrambling eggs instead of using 8 eggs, try using 6 eggs and 2 egg whites.

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Nutrition – The skinny on what’s good for you

Far be it for me to tell you what you should and shouldn’t eat, that’s just not the purpose of The Moodie Foodie – it’s all about eating here! But I created The Moodie Foodie so I could eat what I wanted without upsizing my jeans…. okay, looking after myself did have something to do with it too. But deprivation is not an option for me when it comes to food. As someone who has studied nutrition both academically and through a lifetime of research, I thought I might share a few of the basics of good nutrition. So…


Basically, good nutrition means that you’re giving your body everything (food wise) it needs to thrive. It’s not about dieting, deprivation or becoming unrealistically skinny but rather feeling great and eating the foods you love without piling on the kilos. I love food, all food (even junk food sadly) but when I eat something full of fat and kilojoules/calories it affects everything: the size of my backside, the way I sleep, my moods, my energy levels and my general wellbeing.


The Average Diet
I’ve called this section The Average Diet but really there is no such thing. What you eat and how much varies with each individual and is dependent upon gender, height, age, build, amount of exercise you do, how your body burns food, whether you want to maintain your weight, put on weight, lose weight.

But… It goes without saying that dieting is never a good idea. Any type of deprivation or extreme behaviour is just too hard to maintain in the long run, not to mention self-esteem stealing and just downright too hard! Your best bet is to eat well, exercise frequently, drink plenty of water, sleep well and laugh every day!

There is so much choice out there that sometimes it’s hard to make the right ones, and for me it’s about eating plenty of fruit and vegetables and re-doing the things that you just can’t live without like lasagne, burgers, pizza, creamy chowder, brownies, chocolate pudding…


Not all food is made equal and not all calories/kilojoules are equally useful to your body. Low GI food is going to stay in your system for longer, make your body work harder to digest and generally be better for you than High GI food. Low GI foods are high in complex carbohydrates that are high in fibre. These foods take your body some time to process which gives you a steady blood-glucose level which means sustained energy. In other words, you’ll feel fuller for longer.

100 calories of white bread isn’t as good for you as 200 calories of chickpeas which are packed vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein. Choose wisely and go for low GI where you can.

Given what we’ve already read about individual requirements, most health professionals advise a daily energy intake of 2000 calories or around 8400 kilojoules for adults.


Good Fats and Bad Fats
As with energy, not all fat is made equal and in fact there are good and bad fats. Bad fat is saturated fat and usually comes from animal products. It can be detrimental to your heart and cholesterol levels and it’s best to watch these in your overall diet.

I say overall diet, because there are of course going to be times when you just need to indulge – you just have to – but keep in mind that eating food with high levels of saturated fat isn’t going to be good for you in the long term. Examples of saturated fat foods include meat, cheese, butter, other full fat dairy, chips, pastries, biscuits and cakes. “Aaaww” I hear you say. Eat them, God knows I couldn’t and wouldn’t do without most or all of them, but just in moderation.

Good fat is unsaturated fat and is usually plant derived (with the exception of fish) and can help your cholesterol levels and heart health. “Aaaahhh” I hear you say. Absolutely, dig in but don’t go overboard because it’s still fat and if eaten to excess will drive you to a larger dress size. Examples of unsaturated fat include: nuts, olives, avocado, seeds, vegetable oils (with the exception of palm and coconut oils), fatty fish – tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines…

We all need fat in our diet; our bodies need it for energy and vitamin absorption not to mention insulation in winter! But try to remember that unsaturated fats are better for you. Also remember that all food is not made equal and some may appear to be high in fat, but it’s good fat. For example, a 120gm tuna steak has 173 calories, 5.9gms total fat and 1.9gms saturated fat and a chicken breast has 126 calories, 1.9gms total fat and 0.6gms saturated fat. And whilst both are fantastic sources of protein, tuna is high in omega fatty acids that your body needs for brain health and lowering cholesterol. Avocados, nuts, seeds and olives are other examples – they may be high in fat, but it’s good fat. All I’m saying is don’t be put off by something that’s higher in fat if it’s good fat.

Your total fat intake should be between 20-30% of your total energy intake. Your saturated fat intake should be less than 10% of that.


Protein is digested as amino acids that are needed for growth and repair in our bodies. I’m not going to go too much into it here but needless to say we often eat more protein that we need – probably because it tastes so good! Good sources of protein include lean meat, poultry, fish, legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans), eggs, nuts and seeds, milk and milk products and grains.

It is recommended that a minimum of 15% of your daily calorie/kilojoule intake should come from protein.


Ah, carbs….. I love carbs. The good news is that carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy – in other words, we need them to function and keep our eyes open. But, like everything else to do with food, not all carbs are made equal. There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbs are quickly turned into glucose and are famous for the quick high that you get after eating them. They are also referred to as high GI foods. Examples of simple carbohydrates include: sugar, lollies, fruit juice, milk, white bread, honey, maple syrup.

Complex carbs take longer to digest and subsequently slow down the release of glucose into the system. They give you a longer and more balanced energy source, are usually high in fibre which speeds up your metabolism and generally have lower amounts of fat. These are low GI foods. Examples of complex carbohydrates include: wholegrain bread, vegetables, fruit, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans).

If you are concerned about carbohydrates in your diet you can try swapping:

  • White rice for brown rice
  • White pasta for brown pasta
  • White bread for wholegrain bread
  • Potatoes for sweet potatoes
  • Fizzy drinks for unsweetened juice
  • Rice crackers for rye crispbread

The list is by no means exhaustive but you get the general gist. Like I said earlier, The Moodie Foodie is not about telling you what you should eat but rather about food and great recipes. I’ve just mentioned this to give you a general understanding of good nutrition.

Generally, carbs should be 45-60% of your daily calorie/kilojoule intake.


Vitamins & Minerals
This isn’t a health site and so I’m not going to go into any detail at all about vitamins and minerals other than to say, make sure you get plenty! Eating a diverse range of food through a healthy diet should provide you with everything you need. This, of course, doesn’t include any of you with special medical or health related issues. An easy way to boost overall vitamin and mineral intake is to add colour to your plate. The more colourful fruit and vegetables you eat, the greater range of vitamins and minerals.


The morning walk, the daily run, the visits to the gym, a bike ride on the weekend… it’s all good for you. I’m certainly no exercise freak and I do need to talk myself out of the door but I’ve got to admit that once I’m out, I’m happy. Seriously, I exercise to get rid of stress and keep my muscles in some semblance of tone (mmmm, need a bit more work on that…) but mostly I exercise so that I can eat more. It’s all about the food for me – I don’t think of it as miles, kilometres, minutes, hours or circuits but rather a larger slice of lasagne, a bigger burger, more pasta and definitely an extra glass of wine or two.

Note: The Moodie Foodie is a recipe site and not a professional health advisor. As mentioned in this section, individual needs vary so use this information as a general guide only. If you want to find out exactly what’s right for you please consult a dietician for personalised advice and guidance.

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Easy Charts

It’s difficult to know which variety of potato, tomato or apple to use for what recipe, which sugars are best and which oils to use… This list is by no means exhaustive but it does give you a bit of a clue so your potatoes always mash and your apple pie is sweet and delicious.

Things you want to know

Basically, potatoes fall into one of three categories: waxy, floury or all purpose. Waxy potatoes are high in moisture and low in starch and are fantastic for anything that needs to hold its shape: roasting, boiling, salads, gratins, soups and casseroles. Floury potatoes are high in starch and tend to have a dry texture but turn light and fluffy when they are cooked: baking, mashing, frying/chips, soups where potato is used as a thickener. All purpose potatoes can do either but some do a better job in a particular area than others – you’ll work it out as you go.


Here’s a general guide:

Variety Roasting Baking Boiling Sliced Dishes – gratins & roesti Salads Mashing Chips Waxy Floury All Purpose
Desiree * * * * * * * *
Patrone * * * * * *
Atlantic * * * * *
Sebago * * * * * * * *
Delaware * * * * * *
Kipfler * * *
Red Rascal * *
Ruby Lou * * *
Toolangi Delight * * * *
Spunta * * *
Nicola * * * *
Pink Eye * * *
King Edward * * * *
Bintjes * * * * *
Idaho * * * *
New Potatoes * * *


Tips for potatoes:
– Potatoes need plenty of air during storage – store in paper or plastic bags with holes or specially-designed aerating container. Store in cool, dark, dry place.
– Never eat green potatoes – poisonous so not very good for you.
– Potatoes with dirt on them will last longer than those that have been scrubbed.



Field A good all-rounder for eating raw in salads and sandwiches or for cooking
Vine Ripened on the vine, these tomatoes are usually redder, have a strong tomatoey smell and a sweet flavour. Great in most dishes
Roma aka plum or italian tomatoes. These are oval in shape and tend to be a little fleshier which makes them great for sauces and chutneys
Cherry These tomatoes are great for salads and garnishes. Also work well thrown in with pasta
Pear aka tear-drop tomatoes. Used in a similar way to cherry tomatoes
Black Russian Sweet tomatoes, great in salads and pasta


Tips for tomatoes:
– Never refrigerate tomatoes as they lose their flavour
– Keep tomatoes at room temperature away from direct sunlight
– To peel, cut a cross in the bottom of each and cover with boiling water for 5 minutes then peel away.



Variety Taste All Rounders – eating fresh, baking, stewing, salads Salads & Fresh Eating
Golden Delicious sweet/bland *
Granny Smith slightly/tart *
Jonathan sweet/tart *
McIntosh sweet/tart *
Braeburn sweet/tart *
Pink Lady very sweet, great for cheeseboards and can be used in pies *
Gala sweet, aromatic, cooking tends to destroy texture *
Red Delicious Juicy *
Fuji sweet/mild, can also be used for sauces *




White sugar White sugar is refined and doesn’t offer any additional flavour other than sweetness
Caster sugar (super fine) Smaller in size than white sugar, caster sugar dissolves quickly and is ideal for baking
Brown sugar Fine grained and moist, brown sugar has a deep butterscotch flavour. Great for fruit cakes, caramel sauce or anything that requires a little more depth
Raw sugar Unrefined, this granulated sugar is what is left after the molasses has been removed
Golden demerara Purified raw sugar, demerara has a distinctive rich flavour
Muscovado Purified raw sugar that has a finer grain than demerara and has a strong molasses flavour
Palm sugar Palm sugar is made from the palmyra or date palm. It has a distinctive flavour and is great in any thai dish
Treacle A concentrated, refined sugar syrup with a deep flavour and dark black colour
Golden syrup A concentrated, refined sugar syrup with a distinctive flavour and golden colour. Great in cakes, on cereal or hot crumpets




Oil General Cooking Baking Stirfrying/deep frying (needing a high smoke point) Salad dressings, marinades, quick sauces
Olive *
Extra Virgin Olive * *
Peanut * *
Vegetable * *
Canola * * *
Macadamia * * *
Hazelnut * *
Walnut * *
Sesame *
Avocado * *
Coconut * *
Soya *


Many people believe that sea salt is healthier because of the way it is mined. In other words, it retains most of its minerals and doesn’t have preservatives or any other additives. I buy sea salt because I like the taste and the texture – softer taste and crunchy texture.

If you want to buy sea salt for health benefits, make sure that the package specifies ‘unrefined’. This makes the difference in the percentage of natural minerals left in the salt.

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Measurements, Temperatures & Conversions

I can never remember conversions and references for very hot, hot, moderate and slow. To save us all from trawling through other recipe books or internet sites, here are some things you really should know:


Oven Temps
All ovens are different and you get to know yours over time, but here is a general guide.

Gas Mark Celsius Fahrenheit Words that actually mean something
1 120 250 Cool/Slow
2 150 300 Cool/Slow
3 160 325 Warmish
4 180 350 Warm/Moderate
5 190 375 Pretty Hot
6 200 400 Pretty Hot
7 210 410 Hot
8 220 425 Extremely Hot
9 240 465 Scorching


Converting ounces into grams has always been a problem for me, maths having never been my thing. The exact conversion is 28 grams in 1 ounce, but who can do those sums without a calculator? As a rule, bring it back to 25 or up to 30 as it really doesn’t make much difference. For those of you who can’t be bothered doing even that or you want to be incredibly precise:

Ounces Grams
1 28
2 56
3 84
4 112
5 140
6 168
7 196
8 224
9 252
10 280
11 308
12 336
13 364
14 392
15 420
16/1lb 448


Liquid Conversions

Metric Imperial US cups
30ml 1 fl oz 1/8 cup
60ml 2 fl oz 1/4 cup
80ml 2¾ fl oz 1/3 cup
125ml 4 fl oz 1/2 cup
185ml 6 fl oz 3/4 cup
250ml 8 fl oz 1 cup
375ml 12 fl oz 1½ cups
500ml 16 fl oz 2 cups
600ml 20 fl oz 2½ cups
750ml 24 fl oz 3 cups
1 litre 32 fl oz 4 cups


1 teaspoon 5ml
1 Australian tablespoon 20ml
1 UK/US tablespoon 15ml
1 cup 250ml


Zesty Measurements – ish
“ish” as it’s really just a guide and depends on the size and juiciness of the fruit, but in general:

1 lime 1 tsp zest 1½ tbsp juice
1 lemon 2 tsp zest 5 tbsp juice
1 orange 1 tbsp zest 7 tbsp juice

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Cooking Times – Is it cooked yet?

I think one of the major stresses in the kitchen is getting everything ready to serve at the same time. If you have some guidelines at least you can make a plan which helps when you have several people for dinner. Take into account the types of meat/poultry/fish you are cooking and when in doubt either follow the recipe or ask your butcher/fish guy because they really do know everything, well most things anyway.

Cooking Times

Roasting Chart
These are pretty good indicators, but again each oven is different as is each cut of meat. Use these as guides but buy yourself a meat thermometer and you will never have either a mooing or leather roast beef.

Gas Mark Celsius Fahrenheit Mins per 500gms
Beef 4 180 350 Rare: 20-25
Medium: 30
Well done: 35-40
Lamb 6 200 400 Rare: 20
Medium: 25
Well done: 30
Chicken 4 180 350 30
Pork(first 30 mins for crackling) 8 220 425 30
Pork(thereafter) 4 180 350 30

*If you can stave off the hungry children (including the grown ones), let your meat rest for 15-20 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to settle and your roast will be so much juicier.


The Perfect Steak
A couple of tips to help you along the way:
– Try to remember to take your steak out of the fridge about 30-45mins before cooking. This way, it has a chance to reach room temperature and will cook evenly.
– Turn steak only once when cooking to avoid drying it out.

Cooking times for steak will depend upon the thickness of your meat, but as a general guide for a steak that’s 2-3cm thick:
Rare – 2-3mins on each side
Medium – 4-6mins on each side
Well done – 7-9mins on each side


Again, it will depend on the size of the bird and the piece that you are cooking, but a good way to judge if it’s cooked is to pierce it with a knife. If the juices run clear then it’s done.


Many say the best way to tell if your fish is cooked is to place a knife into it and put the side of the knife on your lip. If it’s warm then it’s cooked. I usually just take a look.


Scallops, Prawns, Mussels…
I absolutely adore seafood but it’s so easy to either overcook or undercook it. Shellfish really only needs a couple of minutes before it’s done.

As a guide:
– Scallops need about 1 minute per side on a med-high heat
– Green prawns only need a couple of minutes on either side – until they turn a lovely orange colour
– Mussels cook quickly in about 3-5 minutes in a pot with a little wine and the lid on


Barbequing, roasting or pan frying are great for cooking but don’t forget poaching. Poaching poultry and fish is a fantastic way to keep in moisture. You can create your own poaching combinations, but I have given a few suggestions below for those of you who have run out of ideas and inspiration:

  • Chinese: stock (enough to cover), shallots, ginger, soy, a little sugar.
  • Thai: stock, lite coconut milk, coriander, lemongrass, garlic, chilli, fish sauce.
  • Italian: stock, white wine, garlic, tomatoes, basil.
  • French: stock, white wine, garlic, tarragon.
  • Greek: stock, white wine, fennel, garlic, onions.
  • Indian: stock, garum marsala, cinnamon, curry paste.

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