Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Oh, frabjous day!

aka why you gotta keep the faith (as Bon Jovi so rightly said)

So, you may remember that this time last week I wrote a post all about how I was completely ok with the fact that, despite my bestest efforts, the scales were being a little bit stubborn about moving.  And I wrote how I was being totally Zen (man) and that I trusted in the fact that if I kept on keeping on all would be well.

I am SO glad that I can report this week that I was right in every particular, because I don't know how long I would have been able to sustain that oh-so-sensible outlook.  This week I lost three and three quarter pounds, bringing my total for January up to four.  Which, at a rate of between one and one and a half pounds per week is absolutely perfect.  I am very happy.

I am not just very happy because I have lost some weight.  I am happy because I have done it with relatively little pain.  I look back at what I have been consuming over the last couple of weeks and can honestly say that it has been tasty, enjoyable and it is a way of eating to which I am happy to adhere.  That's the key, isn't it?  Whether you want to lose weight or maintain weight, you can only do it in the longterm if you eat in a way that you enjoy and that fits in with your lifestyle.  Hopefully when I'm back at home, I'll have time to blog a few more recipes - they  have been a bit thin on the ground recently and I've got some dishes that I would really love to share with you.

So this week and next week, being away from home Monday to Friday, are going to be a little trickier.  I am estimating points for everything I eat and hoping to fit a few swims in, and we'll see what happens.  I know from experience that I can quite easily maintain when I'm out of my home environment and I'm hoping that by being extra vigilant and trying to cut down on a few extras that sneak in (like biscuits with afternoon coffee and wine with dinner) I can manage a small downwards drift.  We'll see.  It's all good (man).

Monday, 23 January 2012

Meal planning Monday - 23rd January 2012

Really, there is very little meal planning going on this week. The reason? Once again, I’m abroad – by which I mean away from home rather than in an exotic location, teaching people how to be analysts. After two weeks which were successful in both a meal planning and a weight loss sense (more of that to follow in a later post) it is rather a blow to once again be in an environment where I have little control over what I eat. Poor D is left to keep the home fires burning with a fridge full of fresh soup, roast chicken leftover from yesterday’s fabulous Sunday dinner (if I do say so myself, I do a very good roast) and Christmas ham.

But there are still three dinners to be eaten at home.

  • Friday – I am hoping to be presented with a chicken and bacon salad with crispy leek fritters. However, D may well be out gallivanting, in which case this will get bumped (possibly to Sunday?) and I’ll have something gloriously simple like a poached egg on toast – which believe me, I’ll need after a week of institutionalised force feeding.

  • Saturday – I’m doing a belated Burns’ Night supper – haggis, neeps and tatties and a whisky cream sauce (probably made with half fat crème fraiche in an attempt to make it slightly more WW friendly).

  • Sunday – Not sure here: could be bumped salad, or we could end up with leftover haggis: I quite fancy it pan fried and piled into soft white rolls with spicy chutney.

As always, head over to Mrs M’s for more meal planning fun.

Monday, 16 January 2012

On not feeling the scale love (and being ok with that)

I would describe my relationship with my bathroom scales as…uneasy. We studiously ignore each other most of the time, apart from the odd period of frenzy when I hop on every time I enter the bathroom. This seems to suit us both.

At the end of last year I was attending a weekly WW meeting, which meant that the home scales could be disregarded altogether. But because of all the travelling that I have been doing for work recently, I was missing as many as I was attending, and it became difficult to justify the cost especially since I seldom stayed for the meeting proper. So this January, I’ve switched back to online membership and I’ve had to pick up with the boys in the bathroom again.

They are not loving me so far this year. Last week, I recorded a STS (Stay The Same) which I could accept quite happily given that my first post Christmas weigh in had shown what I thought was an undeservedly low figure. But this week, this week I was expecting big things. If they handed out prizes for WW Sainthood I would have won. I tracked diligently, I ate sensibly, I even exercised restraint on my alcohol consumption. I reached Sunday evening with points to spare and a decided air of smugness.

Those bastard scales sure put an end to that. Quarter of a pound off, if you please. Quarter of a pound! I could probably have lost that just by shaving my legs.

Old Me would have thrown a terrific strop. What’s the point, she would have said, why bother, let us just sit in bed and eat cake until they have to winch us out through the window.

But New Me is much more Zen. New Me looks back at last week and says – ok, you gave it a good shot and you didn’t get the loss that you were hoping for. But did you feel deprived? No. Did you enjoy the food you ate? Yes. Did you feel healthy and satisfied? Yes, most of the time. Is there anything you could do differently? Well, I could possibly spread my weeklies a little more evenly. Will the scales drop eventually? Yes, for sure.

I am not, I refuse, to be ruled by the number on the scales – I will not give them that power over me. I will continue to try, succeeding sometimes and other times not so much, and eventually I’ll see that figure meander downwards.


Meal planning Monday - 16th Jan 2012

This has been a fairly easy week in terms of planning; we have two reappearances after successful debuts last week and one dish that ended up bumped. Continuing with a spring clearout theme, we’re trying to eat down the freezer so I can (joy of joys) defrost it; therefore I expect the next few weeks to be a little repetitious.

  • Reappearance no 1: Chunky pea and ham soup – a D creation, loosely based on a recipe in this month’s Good Food magazine and bursting with so many veggies that it yielded four instead of the expected two portions. We’ll have the other half tonight with some garlic bread bites.
  • Reapparance no 2: Sweet potato cakes per a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe – two large potatoes produced enough for 11 little cakes, so five went into the freezer and will be served again this week.
  • Bump: Lamb and green bean curry.
  • Pesto spaghetti with slow roasted cherry tomatoes and mozzarella pearls – I’m think in terms of the pasta version of a caprese salad.
  • Grilled mackerel with harrisa and coriander couscous - I believe that this first popped up on a pre Christmas menu plan and for one reason or another never got made; this will hopefully be the week that the poor old mackerel is finally liberated from the freezer
  • Haddock with a cheddar and basil crust with mustard mash – fish from the Waitrose Cook range, for an occasion next week when I’m feeling lazy. Or, rather, even more lazy than usual.
Head over to Mrs M’s for more meal planning fun.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Recipe Corner - Good Wife Cookies

We've been doing some de-cluttering over the last couple of weeks. You would have thought that there is a limit to the amount of stuff it is possible to cram into a two bedroomed flat, but several bags later there is still a way to go.

Last Sunday was particularly traumatic; I managed to uncover some skirting boards that haven't seen the light of day in a while and promptly wished I'd left the layer of camouflaging clutter alone. Feeling like a thoroughly bad housewife, I promptly repaired to the kitchen and made these. Nothing like a bit of baking to restore one's sense that one IS, in fact, a domestic goddess. Anyway, I enjoyed them so much that I whipped up another batch today. Truly the sign of a successful recipe.

I must admit that I have been eating these for breakfast. But this is kind of ok; just like muffin is acceptable breakfast food (despite being cake by any other name) so is any baked good that contains oats - because it's practically porridge.

These lasted in an airtight tin for a good 3-4 days.

Date and stem ginger cookies


175g butter
175g soft brown sugar
100g golden syrup
85g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
250g porridge oats (you see!!)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
100g stoned dates, chopped
100g stem ginger, chopped
2 tbsp boiling water
1 medium egg, beaten

Makes 24 cookies, 5 pro points per cookie

Preheat the oven to 180 (fan 160) and line several baking sheets with baking parchment.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter, golden syrup and sugar together over a gentle heat. Meanwhile, measure out your dry ingredients.

When you have a sweet, golden pool bubbling away in the pan then tip in your dry ingredients and stir well. Add the raw egg and water in the hope that it will stop you licking the spoon (it won't).

Allow the mixture to cool slightly and then, with slightly damp hands, form into balls and place them on the baking sheets, flattening them out slightly as you put them down. They will spread when cooking, so allow plenty of space - I got six to a normal size baking sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. They will appear very soft on removal from the oven but they will firm up as they cool.

Serve for breakfast or otherwise.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Notes from my Christmas kitchen

Apologies for those of you who would rather eat their own hand than revisit the gluttony of the end of December, but I’m running a bit behind with blog posts owing to spending a chunk of last week feeling sorry for myself. Go and make a cup of tea and this will all be over soon.

You see, last year’s Christmas dinner was the first one I have ever cooked myself. Mum was in charge of sauces (I don’t eat sauces of the bread and cranberry variety so felt that I was not the best candidate to make them) and helped with the dishing up (which turns out to be one of the most stressful parts, especially when you have run out of oven space to warm the plates) but the majority of the cooking was done by yours truly. It is odd how very nervous I was about it, especially considering it is just a glorified roast dinner.

I wanted to make a few notes about it, more as an aide memoire to myself than anything else. After all, there are many miles to go and glasses of wine to be consumed before next Christmas, and the chances of me remembering anything useful between then and now are…remote.

Course the First

We started off with a selection of pates, which worked really well. Mainly because pate is a cinch to do in advance and because people can help themselves to as much or as little as they like, depending on how much room they have betwixt their navel and their waistband. To go with the pates I whipped up a batch of the brown soda bread that I blogged about a little while ago, only this time I produced a series of misshapen rolls rather than a single misshapen loaf. Incredibly easy to do, delicious served still slightly warm from the oven and kudos to the chef for producing fresh bread on Christmas Day. The rolls took about 20-25 minutes to bake through compared to the full size loaf.

Course the Second

To accompany the three bird roast (D was quite disgruntled that this had replaced the traditional turkey but I thought it was nice) we had:

Sausage meat stuffing (a family staple)

Sage and onion stuffing – homemade and, can I just say, I will never be able to use Paxo again after actually bothering to make this from scratch. I used a Mrs Beeton recipe that I found on the BBC website, baked it in a foil tray rather than within a bird and it was lovely.

Roasted potatoes and parmesan roast parsnips

Braised red cabbage

Brussel sprouts pan fried with bacon and chestnuts – a minor triumph here. My Dad proclaimed them the nicest sprouts he had ever had, which, given his feeling for them probably translates as “Least awful sprouts ever,” but still. We shredded and blanched them on Christmas Eve so all that was required prior to serving was cooking some finely chopped bacon and chestnuts in butter and then tossing through the sprouts with plenty of seasoning. I like sprouts, but even I have to admit that I prefer them shredded, although if you’re serving them like that be sure to give them next to no cooking to ensure you don’t end up with green mulch.

Crushed swede – my brother had said beforehand that he considered this a side dish too far, but I love swede smushed up with a bit of butter and loads of black pepper with my roast dinners.

Most of the side dishes were prepared in advance and placed in foil trays. The two stuffings and the potatoes and parsnips needed cooking through but the swede and cabbage only required warming ten minutes before serving. In any case, it was just a question of being organised with regards timings rather than having a lot of cooking to do which made for a relatively relaxed day. In retrospect we could probably have done with another green thing in there – I had intended to do peas but completely forgot when it came down to it. But all in all, I was pleased. And writing it down is making my mouth water a little bit which must be a good sign.

Course the Third

Although I adore Christmas pudding, I never want to eat it after Christmas dinner. It was D’s idea this year to produce a little trio of desserts which appealed to my pretentious side, although future S take note that there were a few tense marital moments during the baking of numerous miniature pastry cases (D and I do not cook well together – he is as orderly as I am haphazard).

We made miniature chocolate salted caramel tarts which were absolutely scrumptious. The original recipe, by Rachel Allen, can be found here; we halved the quantities which produced about eighteen dinky little tarts in total, assuming you’re not trying to show off it would be far easier to produce a full sized one and just serve slices. If you like chocolate and salted caramel and tarts (and who doesn’t?) then I urge you to give this a go. I’m rolling it out again (boom, boom!) for our next dinner party.

To either side of the tarts we had a burnt orange ice cream and little squares of Yorkshire parkin. I will share the parkin recipe with you in a future blog post, because it is a cake that deserves to be more widely known. The ice cream is a recipe of Tamasin Day Lewis’ which I can’t find online although there are appear to be a few similar ones if you dig around; basically you make an orange infused custard and then a caramel which you take just slightly over “done” (hence the burnt) and combine with glorious results.

Et fin…

And after all that we were too full for cheese! Which is not something you hear very often in our family. Cue one household snoozing, replete, in front of the television – which is just how it should be on Christmas Day...now but a distant memory (looks at plate of salad and weeps a little weep)...

Monday, 9 January 2012

Meal planning Monday - back for 2012!

Thank you for all those lovely New Year messages on my last post. I didn’t respond as unfortunately I was laid out on my sickbed having succumbed to a winter sickness lurgy. I have been looking very mournful for the last few days, I can tell you! Nothing makes me sadder than having to miss meals.

 I have rallied, you’ll be pleased to hear. Unfortunately, my system was obviously thrown into such a state of confusion that several days of close acquaintance with the bathroom floor followed by several more days of erratic eating have resulted in…a stay the same. I am sanguine. If I were my digestive system, I’d be confused too. And seeing as I didn’t gain any weight over the festive period this seems like a fair pay off to me. Still, one week into the New Year and I haven’t yet gained any weight – 2012 is not to be written off yet.

 This year I do want to stick to regular meal planning posts as much as possible, so feel free to come and beat me with a big virtual stick if you don’t see one during the first few days of the week.

 Then without further ado, what’s cooking chez moi this week?
Which should take us up to the weekend. My shopping / planning is slightly out of sync at the moment, so not sure yet what Saturday and Sunday will bring…(oh the excitement of living on the edge!)

 As always, check out Mrs M’s blog for more meal planning fun.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Happy new year!

I have spent the majority of my Christmas break in hibernation. Quite, quite literally – there have been days where I have barely left the confines of my bedroom except to fetch a fresh cup of tea, and have been mostly nose down in one of my new books or my shiny new Kindle (which I love, love, love!) It has been absolutely blissful and has meant I have started January feeling incredibly peaceful and content.

2011 was a good year for me in retrospect – although like the curate’s egg in reverse, it had its moments. I got married, which was lovely, despite the moments of stress and anxiety in the run up to the big day; I love being a wife and catch myself grinning down at my left hand even now. I stumbled, more by luck than judgement, into a new role at work which gives me a massive amount of job satisfaction and, yes, even enjoyment. It’s on secondment at the moment but will hopefully become permanent within the next couple of months so I'm tentatively feeling as if, professionally, things have started to come together. The downside of that was quite a lot of time away from home which I found difficult at first – I’m a homebody who thrives on routine and safety nets. And, looking back, I can see that outside of work and the W, my home life was a little stultified this year. I fell out of my gym habit, I didn’t do as much creative writing as I intended and missed quite a lot of my writing group’s monthly meetings. Having said that, I have kept up with this blog, albeit it has sometimes meandered quite a long way from its original purpose – but I guess that is the nature of blogs, they represent our very selves, complete with all our contradictions and falterings and what nots.

It was not a stellar year for weight loss. I tend to throw away records in fits of pique, or “fresh starts”, so I’m not sure what I weighed at this time last year but it sure as hell wasn’t significantly different to what I weigh now. That is frustrating. I am not going to waste time or emotional energy bemoaning the fact that another year has passed and I’m still a long way from where I want to be. The question I need to ask is: what now?

The first answer is – I keep trying. I want to be slimmer and fitter for both health and aesthetic reasons. As I mentioned here, I need to to rediscover the me who loves lipstick and high heels and that me wants to be at the very most a size 12 and probably (given my frame) smaller.

The second answer is – I address why I keep failing. It is not the plan I follow (if anything, WW’s new innovations have made it even more flexible and easy to use), it is not for lack of support. I have a platform here to work through those tangled emotions that keep getting in the way of success and I need to use it. So, expect the odd navel gazing post this year, and bear with.

The third answer is – I get fitter. I talked about my love hate relationship with exercise a bit here, and I am determined to get back into a decent routine this year if it kills me. Which it just might.

So my friends – here is to a fabulous (as opposed to flabulous) 2012 – to all of you out there in the ether, let’s make it a good one!