Say hello to these dudes!

Cooking

You know when people tell you they’re not good at cooking by saying “I can’t even make toast”, well whatever the gardening equivalent of that phrase is then I’m it. This is why I am currently jumping up and down at the sight of these dudes! My new tarragon seedlings, aren’t they cute. Wish me luck!

Sundays & Smoothies

Cooking, Recipes

Last weekend I went to visit my brother and his wife in Hampshire. We spent a sunny Saturday at the allotment getting the plot ready for their first crops and looking at creepy crawlies!

After a well deserved lie-in on the Sunday morning I woke to find my sister-in-law Em and her brother Jack in the kitchen making us all a big batch of blueberry pancakes.

They were really scrummy and made with blueberries and cornmeal they were superfoodtastic! Em used this recipe from Martha Stewart but made it even more exciting by laying out a great selection of toppings. We had maple syrup, honey, almonds, bananas, walnuts and seeds to choose from.

Blueberry Pancake Toppings

This weekend I’ve gone smoothie mad! Smoothies have always ended up being a bit of a fad for me as I’ve tried a few times to have one a day but I often end up finding that the effort involved in cleaning the juicer/blender/jug/processor always outweighed the yumminess of the end result.

This new wave of smoothie love started off badly with my 10 year old hand blender dying a death. With a sliced banana in one hand I hurled it into my housemate’s blender and haven’t looked back. It even has a smoothie setting and completely purees an orange in seconds. It’s easy to clean too, I just whizz up some hot water and a smidge of washing up liquid and then rinse it – hoorah!

This morning’s smoothie was really simple and made enough for 2 large glasses:

Blend 2 peeled oranges with 2 peeled bananas until smooth. Pour into tall glasses and top each one with all the innards of half a passion fruit!

Other smoothie combos I’m gluzzling at the moment:

  • Orange, banana, pear, fresh ginger, pinch of spirulina
  • Orange, carrot, ginger

To keep up my smoothie-enthusiasm I need to get experimenting, next up I’m thinking cucumber, mint, apple and limes. Maybe some herbs too; strawberries, lemon, basil and black pepper might be nice in the summer…would love to hear some of your suggestions or your trusted favourite smoothie combos. x

Sugar-Free

Cooking

I’ve been having some pretty loopy mood swings lately. This might all be fun on a good day but heaven help anyone who speaks to me on a bad one. Turns out, my whole body is in a spot of bother and it appears that if I don’t do something about it now my health could really suffer.

Sugar has been deemed the biggest villain here and has been banished from my usual diet until further notice. White flour, white pasta and rice have been shown the door. In their place come whole-meal and whole-wheat counterparts. This isn’t a diet. I have never properly been on a diet. (Although I did once spend a week eating special K for breakfast and lunch. This sounds like I was successful until you factor in that I was meant to do it for a fortnight! Oh, and another time I tried to cut out carbohydrates and fruit but that lasted as long as it took me to realise I’d just made a batch of soda bread).

This no-sugar-more-wholemeal-plan is a change in eating habits that I need to make permanent. I eat quite healthily most of the time but I am prone to having huge sugar cravings. I can easily bake a batch of fairy cakes and eat the lot. This doesn’t sound catastrophic but these sugar hankerings have been getting progressively worse.

If the only result of my heavy sugar intake was a little weight gain and furry teeth then I could live with that but in my case even a small increase around my waist throws my hormones into a right muddle. In a funny sort of way I hope I stay scared about this for a long time, or at least until I have settled in to an almost sugar free world and begin to feel a few benefits.

After glancing over a few books, doing an online search and chatting over coffee with sympathetic friends I gleaned a lot more information on this subject than I thought. It sounds naïve but I was genuinely surprised at the amount of differences even small changes in eating habits can make with so many health problems.

So far, so good, although let’s be realistic, I’m only 3 days in!

In order for this to be sustainable I have decided to face it with the following two-pronged attack:

1) Focus on the worse case scenario

If I don’t change then there are serious health problems ahead.

2) Be positive about what I can eat

I started listing the things I cannot regularly eat anymore (such as white flour, sugar, cakes, biscuits) and started to think of delicious alternatives or “swapsies”. This new healthy lifestyle actually encourages the consumption of some of my favourite things – a little red wine, dark chocolate, poached eggs and avocados; if I start to think of these things as medicinal then, well; happy days!

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When Richard offered to make me porridge this morning I felt a little sad. I’m one of those people who take their porridge with a metric tonne of golden syrup but I know that’s definitely off the menu. Instead I went for chopped dates and a dash of cinnamon and (thankfully) it was surprisingly delicious. Yesterday I made risotto with bulgur wheat instead of white rice and this evening my spaghetti carbonara became spelt spaghetti with avocado and goats cheese.

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Bulghur Wheat Risotto

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Spelt Spaghetti with Avocado, Lemon, Goats Cheese and Spring Onion

With all this extra veg, fruit smoothies, dates and a dash of spirulina I might be farting for England for the next few days but at least I’m on the right track!

I shall open a window and look forward to loosing a few pounds and my sweet tooth!

Ooh that’s new!

Cooking

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I often get asked “so what kind of food do you do then?” and I am usually pretty stumped for a decent answer. Mostly I just panic and say “whatever you like” or “everything!” and fling my arms about enthusiastically so that they think I’m quirky and they move away.

The truth is I eat almost everything (although there are a couple of flavours for which the jury is still out on whether I like them or not; things like aniseed and liquorish). Most of the time I am perfectly happy in the kitchen hurling something together from whatever the hell I can find, a style of cooking which doesn’t often fit with one particular type of cuisine.

The list of the dishes I have not yet attempted however, has sparked my imagination recently and I announced to Richard that I would be making chips for dinner for no other reason other than that I had never made them before.
As a kid we never deep fried anything, ever. We weren’t raised on a diet of quinoa and sea kelp or anything, in fact we had fish and chips many times, but they were always from the local chippy. I think it was probably the fire risk involved and perhaps the tricky business of having to dispose of large quantities of waste oil afterwards that meant the first time I successfully deep fried anything I was 25 and was tasked with making falafel for someone else’s Lebanese dinner party (mild panic ensued).

So, last week on a whim I fired up a large pan of vegetable oil, looked up a recipe and dug out a thermometer. I found this hairy bikers recipe and it worked a treat! The only change I made was to leave the skins on, after all I wouldn’t want to miss out on those minerals!

Other things on my culinary bucket list are doughnuts, puff pastry, pork pies, tempura, fresh noodles, onion bahjis, oh and I’ve never boiled a crab or a lobster.

What’s on your list, I’d love to know. What foods have you eaten loads but never actually made from scratch?
x

Ready, Steady, Brighton!

Cooking

Image“When we get back to our house can we lay out a load of ingredients we need to use up and then you cook something out of them? Would that be fun for you?”

Of course it would! I didn’t spend my teenage years watching ready steady cook everyday after school for nothing! I’m always up for a creative culinary challenge (and particularly any excuse to show off). Naomi and Martin are two splendid newly weds who live seconds away from Brighton beach.

They were married on the same day that Richard and I met. The only significance in this fact was that the first time I saw Richard he was looking particularly dashing in a suit. In fact come to think of it, I also happened to be wearing a suit then, and a top hat, as we met after the wedding at a Halloween party where I had decided to dress as an undertaker.

Anyway, back to the kitchen! Richard and I arrived back at Naomi and Martin’s to find a whole host of vegetables, jars and tins laid out on the dining table. I requested a piece of paper and a pen and after a moment of deliberation I somehow managed to scribble down a very vague 2 course menu for 4.

Everyone chipped in and we made corn cakes with refried beans followed by mushroom chilli with rice (which was more of a ratatouille in the end). Whilst I was frying the corn cakes Naomi and the boys devised a little song and dance consisting of lots of shouting the letters M.I.M and “Go FOOD” with cheerleader type actions and intonations. This (not surprisingly) fast descended into tremendous fits of giggles to the point where I’m surprised we served anything at all. We had a lovely evening, their home is a wonderful, welcoming space, full of homemade furniture, pictures painted by family & friends and a very particular collection of pebbles from Brighton beach – selected only if they clearly resemble a letter of the alphabet. With the letters obtained thus far Martin is able to write the phrase “gone swimming x” completely in pebbles for Naomi to discover.