Tuesday, 31 January 2017

A Day of Bread at Betty's Cookery School

If you have ever travelled up to York or Harrogate, you may well be familiar with Betty’s Tea Rooms. The York branch was never without a queue of tourists snaking from the door, desperate to take tea and scones in the beautifully appointed dining room. Everyone with a passion for baked goods should try a Betty’s Fat Rascal at some point.

What you may not know is that Betty’s have their own cookery school, situated on a little industrial park just outside Harrogate within spitting distance of the Betty’s bakery (wherein all of said Fat Rascals are brought to being) and the Taylors of Harrogate factory (purveyors of Yorkshire Tea, the only one acceptable in our house). They do a range of courses encompassing various types of cooking and baking. And a week and a bit ago there I was, participating in their Artisan Breads Day. Now, this is not a sponsored post. The trip was, in fact, a birthday present from my husband whose talent for choosing appropriate gifts is unmatched. But you could be forgiven for thinking that Betty’s had paid me a good deal of money to talk about the course, as opposed to D paying them a lot of money to allow me to attend, so high is the level of gushing likely to be. Because this was a really, really good day.

Bread making is something I’ve become increasingly interested in and, in the last couple of years, begun to develop a vague proficiency. This was the perfect course to really take those basic skills and start to hone them. We made four types of bread over the course of the day: Cheese and Chive, Pumpkin Seed, English Rye and Flaked Wheat. If you held a baguette to my head and made me choose, I might have to admit that the Cheese and Chive just about squeaked into pole position for me, but each and every loaf was utterly delicious.

Most excitingly, I made all of them entirely by hand. For someone who has always relied quite heavily on my Kitchen-Aid’s dough hook as a semi legitimate shortcut, this was a truly satisfying achievement. What I found particularly interesting was the economy of movement required by the Real Life Betty’s Baker’s kneading technique which the whole class aspired to emulate. By the end of the day, I certainly felt that I had a basic grasp and, if I can’t quite accomplish it with one hand casually behind my back (yet!) I’m going to work on it.

But it wasn't just the subject matter but the whole experience that was brilliant, and I’m already eager to go back and try another course. The school itself is well equipped, the charming presenters knew their stuff inside out AND they ply you with food and copious amounts of tea throughout (croissants…biscuits…two course lunch…cake…) It was a fabulous day and, as soon as we have chomped our way through the bread mountain that I lugged home, I will be sure to put my newfound skills to good use. Incidentally – if you are a bread baking enthusiast looking to source some different types of flour then this website was recommended to us and seems to be well worth checking out. I haven’t ordered anything myself yet but the range looks good and it comes with a Betty’s seal of approval. Which, if you’ve ever tasted a Fat Rascal, you will know is well worth having.

Betty's Cookery School
Hookstone Park
Hookstone Chase
01423 814016

Monday, 30 January 2017

MPM: 30th January 2017

You were promised a Meal Planning Monday and, my friends, you shall HAVE a Meal Planning Monday. Not that I flatter myself that the majority of people give two hoots about what I will be eating but, aside from anything else, I like keeping an historical record. Future generations will perhaps pop pills in lieu of food – poor beans – and will marvel at the amount of time and energy that we denizens of the twenty first century poured into the issue of What To Eat.

Tomorrow, I will be having a root canal. I am not happy about the prospect and, indeed, am taking the whole day off work for the purpose – and the associated sulking. My appointment is at ten, and I hope that by eleven (fortunately, my dentist is very local) I will be at home, in bed, with my cat, a hot water bottle and a comforting book. On the basis that I probably won’t want to eat much anyway, Tuesday has been designated Fast Day 1, and I intend to soothe my troubled maw with a bowl of that famous cure-all, Heinz Cream of Tomato soup.

On Wednesday we hope to be celebrating because finally, we should have completed our house purchase. We have been in the throes of buying the house in which we live for ages and it looks like (touch much wood) it is finally drawing to a close. So, assuming my mouth is ok by then – in fact even if it isn’t – we are going out for a drink and a bite to eat in Headingley. Which means that Thursday will be Fast Day 2 and, again, likely to involve soup of some description.

 Elsewhere, the week shapes up like this:

Monday: Black pepper tofu

Friday: Haggis hash, cavolo nero with chilli and rosemary

Saturday: Pork chop with sage and Gorgonzola gnocchi

Sunday: Beef and porcini stew with Parmesan mash and sautéed mushrooms

 Have a great week all!

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Wot, no meal planning (and this week’s weigh in result)

I think that we might need to up our game with the meal planning a little bit as neither this week nor last week have I felt inspired to blog about what we’ve been eating. It doesn’t help that we continue to stick with a bowl of soup on fast days which, although it ticks many boxes – tasty, warming, filling, minimal effort – isn’t very exciting. So that leaves five days a week and when we’re out for a couple of those…well, the meal plan becomes very short.

We’ve also been aiming to have a pretty frugal January, and have managed well for the most part. I reckon that our total grocery bill for the month is going to come in at under £250, and that includes several bottle of wine and a bottle of gin to replenish our stores post-Christmas. Again, while our bank balances are thanking us, it doesn’t necessarily make for the most exciting meal planning post when we’re freezer diving or eating leftovers.

I promise that socks will be duly pulled up in February.

Now, what about weight loss this week? As you may recall, the first two weeks of 5:2 had seen me record a cracking couple of losses (partly because the second week turned into an accidental 4:3). I was expecting a slowdown this week – almost hoping for one, in fact, as I always feel that it “consolidates” the loss (if you see what I mean. Or am I just a bit odd?) Anyway, week 3 went like this:

Week 1-2 loss / (gain): 8.4lbs
Week 3 loss / (gain): 1.2lbs
Total: 9.6lbs

I’m really happy with that! A pound a week is probably all that I can reasonably expect in the long run with this plan, so to squeak in just over that after last week was very pleasing indeed. I’ve made an excellent start and am definitely inspired to continue – what a lovely thought that I could hit the first stone mark by the end of February if I keep on keeping on.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Much pain, no gain

When we last saw our heroine, she was looking forward to a lazy weekend resting her poorly foot (or paw as Lesley called it – I much prefer the idea of having paws to feet!)

Well, the good news is that the foot is much improved from a couple of days of very little usage. I can now walk without wincing! Hurrah!

The bad news is that I am now suffering with toothache. Ouch. I spent most of Sunday taking the strongest painkillers that D could elicit from our friendly local pharmacist and whimpering (NB: I am a terrible invalid. I am the whiniest, most trying patient you could ever hope to meet. Stoic is not my middle name). An emergency trip to the dentist yesterday afternoon ended with a prescription for anti-biotics to clear up some infection and an additional appointment, two weeks hence, for a root canal.

Colour me most unhappy.

The silver lining to this particular cloud is that I could barely eat on Sunday, and so inadvertently had another fast day which bolstered my Monday morning result. Here are the scores on the doors so far for 2017:

Week 1 loss/(gain):​​ 4.0lbs
This week loss/(gain):​​ 3.4lbs
Total​​​​: 7.4lbs

By any stretch of the imagination, that is good going. To be honest, if I could just maintain that loss this week I would be perfectly happy – it doesn’t feel quite “real” at the moment (if that makes any sense?)

I talked last week about trying to eat a bit more on non-fast days and to be careful about being too careful. Clearly, the fact that I had an extra, accidental, fast day this week flies in the face of that a little bit. But I certainly didn’t feel deprived on the four normal days. There was a takeaway pizza one evening (with pizza leftovers for breakfast the following day), there was a meal out, a steak sandwich with a decent slather of blue cheese mayonnaise…

D and I have been having a Dry January which has, undoubtedly, also been a boost. I shudder to think of the number of calories that I am capable of taking in liquid form over the course of a weekend; they add up incredibly quickly. While I have no intention of staying dry once January is over, it has definitely inspired me to be more vigilant about the amount I have to drink as a general rule.

I’m also looking forward to getting started with the Couch to 5k – I’m going to hold off for another week or so to ensure my foot is absolutely fine, but it will be nice to get moving. And, once the weather picks up, D and I want to get out and do some walking which will be an additional boost. For now, it’s all about getting the food side of things right and, as the results above demonstrate, I think I’m on with that.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Whatever works

This week has seemed very long and, as I write this on Friday afternoon, I am looking forward to a weekend of doing very little.

I managed to injure my foot on New Year’s Eve. Not, as one might expect, dancing drunkenly on the tables of a local establishment but walking down the stairs at my parents’ house. I’ve done it before – I have a dodgy ankle that will occasionally “turn” for no particular reason – and my foot was well and truly jarred. It came up quite a pretty shade of bruise and, although this is now fading, it is still painful. And it’s not going to get better unless it is properly rested so, this Saturday and Sunday, you will mostly find me on the bed or the sofa with it propped up on a couple of cushions. You may well find the cat close by as well.

A quiet life is generally conducive to successful dieting. Of course, with the 5:2, it is perfectly possible to eat out and have a social life aside from the two days of abstinence. But it is easier to keep eating on the straight and narrow when you’re not having to negotitate multiple social engagements. I’m meeting a friend for an early supper tonight (I was, shamefully, hoping that she might be snowed in and forced to cancel) but I can’t see us going overboard. I’ve known A since we were at university together and she is one of those envy-inducing people who maintains a perfect figure by being sensible without apparent effort.

So, how has it been? The fast days, again, were tough. On Monday, as mentioned in my previous post, I really messed up but learned an important lesson in the process and ensured that on Wednesday I ate a light lunch to keep me going. Lightly seasoned chopped salad, two oatcakes, two low fat cheese triangles – only 150 calories but the difference was marked. I could walk, rather than crawl, home for a start.

I feel like my food intake has been slightly higher than last week, and am expecting my loss to be correspondingly lower. That’s fine. I’m not going mad by any stretch of the imagination, and I find keeping a food diary to be a really key tool in self regulation. I’ve actually invested in a beautiful, hardback Moleskine day to a page diary and I don’t want to sully its elegant pages with tales of over indulgence. Actually, day to a page is a fantastic psychological tool in itself – I genuinely feel like each new day (page) is a fresh start. Might sound weird. But whatever works.

Hope everyone out there in blogland has a lovely weekend – stay warm and virtuous (or, if you must sin (syn?) make it a worthwhile one).

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

A new kind of hard

I managed a 4lb loss this week following the 5:2 plan. That’s a pretty satisfying result for any first week back, but doubly so when you consider that over the course of the five non fast days I enjoyed a pretty pleasant programme of eating, including several slices of the triple layered red velvet cake that D made me for my birthday.

I think a respectful pause is warranted here - this cake is a true thing of beauty.

Returning to the point though: I must admit, when I am forced to think about it, I realise that I still struggle with what constitutes “normal” eating is on the non-fast days. Yes, I know that in earlier posts I boasted that I had normal eating down but…perhaps overly conscious that I wanted a good result, I found myself doing quite a lot of second guessing and, I suspect, under eating some days. Finding balance will clearly continue to be a work in progress.

It’s a new kind of hard. On Weight Watchers, I knew that if it was pointed then I could eat it. Sometimes, I would find myself polishing off a plate of food or eating a piece of chocolate just because it had been tracked – that’s not right. But, equally, last week I ended up quite light headed on a couple of occasions and that’s not quite right either.

My aim is modest – if I can manage a pound a week loss then I will be perfectly satisfied, so that should mean a fairly wide leeway on non-fast days, especially on weeks (like last week) where there are no meals out planned. I’m going to try to be a bit less controlling over the coming seven days and see what impact that has on the scales.

Oh, and I had a real learning experience yesterday, which was a fast day. Some people are able to save their full 500 calorie allowance for a single meal in the evening. Turns out that I am not one of them. I got through a full day of work on black coffee, sugar free squash and two satsumas and, by the time I got home, was feeling very poorly indeed. I managed to make and eat a bowl of soup but D subsequently packed me off to bed at quarter to eight telling me that I looked "dreadful". Lesson learned - trying to function on empty just doesn't suit my system.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Meal planning and weighing in

So firstly – news from the scales. Today I weighed in after my first full week, post-Christmas, on 5:2 and recorded… (drum roll please…) a loss of 4lbs!

Cue much happy dancing. A very pleasing result. I’m back under my mid-December weight and only 0.2 lbs over where I was at the beginning of December. Hurrah.

It’s been an interesting week, but I probably need to record my full thoughts on a separate post, as I want make sure I’m keeping a full, critical record of my time on 5:2. So, to meal planning.

Monday and Wednesday are this week’s fast days and I’ll be making a batch of broccoli, spinach and blue cheese soup which comes in at just under 200 calories. It’s a little high but it should have quite a luxurious taste and texture owing to the inclusion of, well, cheese.


Tuesday: Cauliflower risotto

Thursday: Rice bowl with stir fried pork mince and pickled cucumber.

Friday: I’m out – so D must fend for himself (sob!)

Saturday: Steak baguettes with caramelised onion and blue cheese mayonnaise

Sunday: Some sort of roast (tbc)

Thursday, 5 January 2017

2017: and so it begins

Happy new year lovely blog readers! Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, I basically decided to do the square root of FA over the Christmas period and very nice and indulgent it was too. We ate, drank and were generally merry for most of the time. I turned another year older, which briefly curtailed the merriment as I reflected on the fact that I am now ANCIENT. But I got a lot of lovely presents, which eased the pain.

Some of said presents were very much on a theme of food so I think warrant a mention here. D, who is an awesome giver of gifts, has booked me on to a one day artisan bread making course at Betty's Cookery School in Harrogate – that made me squee quite a lot. D2 (my brother) presented me with a leg of Serrano ham, complete with stand, which is currently sat on our dining table taunting us every time we walk past. He also gave me a sack of goodies which contains everything I need in order to cook Korean food. Expect a report back on my adventures in Kimchee making shortly, I’ve been meaning to try for ages and now have no excuse!

Of course, after the indulgence comes the encounter with the Scales of Doom (TM Peridot). I hopped on gloomily on Monday morning and was up 3.4lbs from my last weigh in. A bit of an ouch, but considering said last weigh in took place on a Thursday in mid-December just after a fast day, it could have been a lot worse. Two and a half weeks of indulgence in exchange for a quarter of a stone isn’t the end of the world.

Now here we are on Thursday and D and I have completed our two fast days for the week (Monday and Wednesday). They were not easy, I’ll be honest. In fact, I spent a good chunk of Monday asleep to try and distract from the misery (the advantage of fasting on a Bank Holiday). But, as of this morning, the scales have dropped a whopping 4.2lbs. I don’t expect to maintain the whole of that loss over the weekend, but seeing that quick fall has really inspired me to try and be sensible during the coming non-fast days. I think this is one diet plan where daily weighing might be a help rather than a hindrance.

Anyway, the truth will out come next Monday. In the meantime, I hope that all of you have a fab start to 2017 and look forward to sharing another year’s worth of eating, dieting, cat-stroking and general, all-purpose bimbling with you.