Friday, 31 October 2008

Average weigh-ins for 2008




January 134
February 134
March 134
April 134.5
May 134.5
June 134.5
July 134.5
August 134
September 135.5
October 135.8--In all honesty, 136

So there it is. Going up. All measurements up 1/4 an inch from January (except, and this is one of life's little jokes on me, in the chest).

The question is am I willing to do what it takes to put a stop to this?

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Stress and chocolate

It's been a tough few days at work. It seems that public libraries are falling apart in this country, and things are no different in my authority. Staffing levels are now set so low that when people take their annual leave entitlement and then someone calls in sick, we don't enough staff to even cover the front line, let alone do the behind the scenes work. There are 7 libraries in my division. My library is the main one in the division, and one of the top 3 in the county for customer footfalls and issues, and yet I have to take front line staff out of this busy library to work branches that do very little business at all. There are not enough of us to go around, and it is just getting worse and worse. I don't even normally deal with timetables, but the woman who does is out sick and so my colleagues and I have been doing it for two weeks, on top of the front line work and other work we have to get done. Anyway, it's an impossible situation, staff morale is extremely low and I have been eating a lot of chocolate in the staff room. Not good.

BUT, I think one reason I've had trouble sticking to my Food Mover is that I set the calories too low. I thought 1600 was reasonable, but this calorie calculator suggests my daily caloric needs are actually 2115! So that's too big a calorie deficit. I have changed the Food Mover to the 1800 calorie card and we'll see if I survive better without resorting to noshing on stuff.

My driving lesson yesterday was not so good. I am still making lots of errors that will cause me to fail. I have a long way to go. For those who have never driven over here, you just don't know how difficult it is. This country was not intended for cars, and the skill required just to get from point A to point B, negotiating awkward traffic situations and dealing with ancient road systems, then finding a place to park up and getting your tiny car into an even tinier space--well, it's just amazing. There are no wide open spaces here, no simple 4-way stops. It's assertive and highly skilled. Driving is so much easier where I'm from, rural Arkansas, where it's actually the case that if you can operate the vehicle you have sufficient skill to be a licensed driver. Over here, operating the vehicle is just the beginning. I don't know if I will ever pass, but my driving instructor assures me I will. I think I am going to stop scheduling lessons at the end of a work day-I'm just too tired to think. I will have to do them in the morning before I go to work.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

You're seeing a what!

Can you believe it? I have an appointment to see a personal trainer on Friday. His company is called Sparta Fitness, his name is Craig Gilkes and he's going to teach me how to swing the kettlebell safely! He is certainly patient. I've already taken up a lot of his time with questions and waffling around with figuring out a time to meet him and clarifying what exactly I want to learn. I'm looking forward to learning and will post a full report on the session after the fact. It's just amazing to me that I've done this. I have never done any exercise in front of anyone, ever, except when I do the weight lifting videos with Derek!

Friday's a busy day for me. I'm on the frontline all day from 8.15, more or less, then I have taken off a bit early to meet Craig, the trainer, for an hour. Then I have to shower and get dressed up in a harajuku style outfit (well, as much as I can afford to do on about 5 quid!) and get back to the library for 5.45 because I am hosting a manga meet-up from 6-8. Then after the event, a friend from the library is coming home with us and we're going to watch the movie, 'Halloween', as it's the film's 30th anniversary, and as you may know, DH is a huge fan and watching the film is an annual ritual around our house.

It may not sound like much, but I'll be pretty busy! The next day, I'm off work, but I'm going to Learn Direct for 2 hours of training in Excel spreadsheets (while Derek goes to Coventry to a collector show), then in the afternoon we're going to see 'Quantum of Solace'. We're having a houseguest, our friend Mandy from Chester, who is going to the show with Derek and then staying over until Sunday. I don't know how I'm going to fit my workouts in around all this stuff, or resist the temptation to eat all the junk I'm sure Derek will buy.

Update on the Food Mover. I did well for two days and my weight did a funky little plummet to 133.8, then the evil monthly came along, I ate chocolate and nacho chips, and this morning it's 135.0. Oh well. So far today I've eaten okay. We'll see if I can make it through the day. Gotta pace myself!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

By request: my scrambled tofu recipe




Okay, there are lots of scrambled tofu recipes out there, but this is one hubby and I like. It makes enough for 2 people, with wholemeal toast, etc.

1 box of silken tofu

salt and fresh ground black pepper

dried sage to taste

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes or more to taste

1-2 tsp chickpea flour, optional

1/2 a small onion, diced as fine as your knife skills allow, (about 3-4 heaping Tbs)

rice bran or peanut oil

Heat a nonstick skillet and saute the onions in a bit of oil. While they cook, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and stir gently to combine. The turmeric will color the tofu and add subtle flavour. Don't add too much turmeric as it will overpower the taste. The nutritional yeast flakes are important for flavour. You can leave them out, but for some reason they do add a more eggy taste to the mix, without tasting like eggs. Ha! (Chickpea flour and nutritional yeast flakes are available in health food stores and are common vegan storecupboard ingredients...)

Add the tofu mixture to the pan and combine with the onions. Panfry the mixture until as dry and cooked as you like.

We have this as part of an English breakfast: eggs, toast, grilled tomato and mushrooms and baked beans. This combo is known as a 'fry-up' and usually contains sausages and bacon as well, but obviously we don't include those, unless they're veggie sausages. I don't make a fry-up very often, and only do scrambled tofu as a weekend breakfast occasionally to have with just toast and beans. If you haven't eaten beans for breakfast before, be open minded! It's really nice! (Over here they're called 'baked beans', but Americans usually call them 'pork and beans'--the navy beans in a sugary orange-colored tomato sauce! I know , I know, but try it, really!)

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Cottage Pie



This is good to make with leftovers, so bear with the instructions.

You will need:

leftover boiled or roasted root vegetables--potato, swede, turnip--or just potato, which you are going to mash and seasoned with salt and pepper (don't add soy milk it's too strong a taste; if you must add liquid, try some vegetable stock but avoid any liquid unless the mixture is just too dry to spread; shouldn't be liked whipped potatoes, should be much stiffer than that, but you do want it pretty smooth)

a few carrots
a large onion
a leek
your favourite veggie mince
marmite
vegan bouillon powder
red wine

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Dice the carrots and slice the leeks and saute them in a bit of oil until they start to caramelize. Deglaze the pan with some red wine as you go. When the veg is well softened, add the veggie mince and some marmite thinned in a bit of water. Cook and stir to reduce the liquid. Add vegan bouillon powder, salt and pepper to taste. Add any herbs you want. Rosemary is good! You want to cook this down to a gravy-coated mixture that will hold its shape when packed. You can add some vegan gravy granules if you have some, or you can always thicken with a bit of cornstarch and water.

Pour the mixture in a casserole dish, spread the potato mixture on top and bake until the potatoes are browned and puffy on top.

Serve with additional gravy if you like, and a variety of vegetables.

Sorry there are so few details, but it really doesn't matter what you put in it as long as it is thick enough not to go running across the plate and it tastes good to you. Play around with it!

Monday, 20 October 2008

B'nanna Puddin'



I'm from Arkansas, and a staple of my childhood was what we called 'nanner puddin'. (More sophisticated Southern women say something that comes out like "b'nay-uh-nuh puddn". That's banana pudding for you Yankee types!) To my shame, as a child I wouldn't eat it. I didn't like bananas. My mother used to make a chocolate version for me. It wasn't until I was a lot older that I learned to appreciate the joys of nanner puddin. It's a homely and humble thing, and that photo there conjures up every family get-together of my life!

This recipe is something that I made up. At least, it's a recipe I've never read. It is SO EASY that it's embarrassing. In fact, it's too easy for someone not to have come up with it already. It's also damn good. (It probably doesn't taste a whole lot like the milky stuff southern mamas make, but so what!)

2 boxes silken tofu
2-3 very ripe bananas, peeled, more bananas if you want
sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar or whatever sweetener you fancy--to taste
enough vanilla extract to make it taste good to you
vanilla wafers for layering (there is no decent equivalent for vanilla wafers, but if you can't get them, you could try ladyfingers or plain digestives. Poor substitutes, though!)

In a bowl, mash the bananas and tofu, then use a hand blender to blend until creamy and smooth. Sweeten and add vanilla to taste.

Layer this mixture with the biscuits. Top with more biscuits. You can include sliced bananas if you like, but I prefer it smooth. Cover with cling film so that it touches the surface of the pudding. (Bananas tend to go brown). Refrigerate until the cookies have gone soft, 6-12 hours or overnight.

Nice!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Carpe Ferrum




I've just purchased my first kettlebell and kettlebell workout DVD! I've been reading about kettlebells for a while now on videofitness.com, but have resisted the urge to try them out. Now seemed like the time. I think it's about time I try something completely new. After a bit of research, I've settled on an 8kg cast iron kettlebell to start, which is the recommended starting weight for women. I found one on special offer with free shipping at Amazon.co.uk!

Someone on videofitness recommended 'Ultimate Body Sculpt and Conditioning with Kettlebells' by Lauren Brooks as a good starter DVD, so I ordered that as well. It's being shipped from America.



I'm looking forward to trying this out! I'm sure I'll like it. I enjoy a good challenge, and I gather that kettlebell training is very good for fat-burning.

Here are some clips of Lauren teaching:

Front Squat

One Arm Rows

Kettlebell Clean

Kettlebell Dead Lift

Kettlebell Swing This is the classic kettlebell move!

So anyway, looks like a really good and different way of working out is on its way for me!

Now here's an interesting thing. I've got my usual emotions setting in after making this purchase. But I'm going to take a few drops of cerato and put the worries out of my mind.

Sweet potato, red onion and olive frittata with smoked paprika



You can make this frittata using the oven, the stovetop or a combination of both. Whatever you like! You can serve it loose like scrambled eggs, or press it down and sliced it into wedges.

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
6 Tbs olive oil
1 large red onion, sliced
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 boxes silken tofu
2 handfuls stoned black olives, roughly chopped
1 spring onion, chopped

Panfry or oven roast sweet potatoes in 2 tbs olive oil with salt and pepper. Caramelize the onion in a frying pan using remaining olive oil. Add paprika.

In a bowl, combine tofu, olives and spring onions. In the frying pan, combine sweet potatoes, tofu mixture and a little salt with the onions. Press the mixture down into the frying pan and top brown in oven or continue to fry in the pan, as desired.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Broccoli Soup



I am not a fan of Gordon Ramsay, but I do sometimes enjoy watching him yell at useless cooks to try to help keep them from losing their wretched eating establishments. On one memorable episode of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, he asked a clueless 'chef' to make him a bowl of broccoli soup. The chef proceeded to produce a confused mulch of about 15 ingredients. Ramsey tasted it, gagged, then told him that his own broccoli soup consisted of three ingredients: broccoli, water and salt. 'This has clean flavours, the punters love it, and you'll make a fortune from it, mate,' he proclaimed. He did garnish it with olive oil and a few basil leaves, though.

So here's my version of Ramsey's simple broccoli soup. It's really good.

1 leek, carefully washed (they get sandy in there) and chopped
1 very large head of broccoli, chopped
vegan bouillon powder
olive oil
fresh basil (optional)

Place in saucepan with water to cover. Boil until tender. Puree with hand blender until smooth. Add more water if needed to desired thinness, and add vegan bouillon powder to taste. (You could just use salt, but I love Marigold Vegan Bouillon Powder.)

Ladle into bowls and garnish with a swirl of olive or pumpkin seed oil, maybe a dash of vegan parmesan, and fresh basil leaves.

Chile-Cinnamon Chocolate Pudding



This pudding is the creation of Nigella Lawson. I have veganized it by substituting for butter and milk. It is a hot pudding that goes cakey on top with a molten chocolate sauce underneath. When you serve it, spoon it out upside down on the plate so that the melty part becomes the topping. It's ORGASMO!

Grease a 3.5 pint pudding dish with coconut oil or vegan margarine. Preheat oven to 180 C.

In a bowl, combine 150g plain flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp chile powder, 200g caster sugar and 25g cocoa. Add 1 tsp vanilla, 50 ml corn oil and 125ml soy, oat or almond milk. Spoon the batter into the buttered dish.

In a jug, combine 100g dark brown sugar and 25g cocoa until no lumps, then sprinkle this mixture over the batter.

Pour 175 ml boiled water over the sugar-topped batter. Finally, tip 50 ml dark rum over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Serve hot.

(1/6 of the pudding contains 400 calories, 9g fat, 74g carbs)

Koshari



Also called kushari, kosheri, and all sorts of spellings, this is a staple street food in Egypt, and you can find recipes for it all over the web. This is the best recipe ever!

For the tomato sauce:

4 tbs olive oil
2 crushed garlic cloves
2 hot red chilis , diced, or chili flakes to taste
1 can of tomatoes
4 tbs cider vinegar
3 tsp salt or to taste
2 tsp cumin
20g coriander leaves, chopped
a bit of water to thin it out

Cook the garlic and chilis in the oil, add remaining ingredients, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or to desired thickness. Should be intensely spicy and tomato-yy, with red-tinted olive oil gathering in glistening pools around the edges. Oh yes! Cover and set aside.

For the koshari:
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 tbs olive oil
1 tin of green lentils, drained
about 3 cups of cooked brown basmati rice (if purpose made for this dish, cook in vegan chicken-style stock!)
about a cup of broken up, cooked wholewheat or other whole grain spaghetti or vermicelli (or you can use elbow macaroni, or you can leave out the pasta and just use rice!)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1.5 tsp cinnamon
fresh ground black pepper
salt to taste

Saute the onions in olive oil until they are golden brown and going crisp. This takes about a half hour and you have to watch them. You could do this while cooking the tomato sauce. Set aside.

Combine the rice and vermicelli. (If using leftovers, heat in microwave). Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, salt and the fried onions. Reserve a few onions for garnish. Toss mixture to get the onions well mixed. Taste it. If you want more cinnamon or nutmeg, add it. I always end up adding more.

Divide the mixture on plates, top with the spicy tomato sauce and garnish with fried onions.

Derek goes mad for this every time I make it. I guess I'll make some today now that I'm thinking of it!

EDITED TO ADD:

We just devoured all the kosheri I just made! For this pot, I made it with all basmati rice. To the onions, I added chopped spring greens and slow cooked them until tender and mixed them with the rice. Instead of lentils, I used chickpeas. It was delicious with wholemeal pita breads. YUM!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Good YouTubes

Steven the Vegan

Happy Chubby Vegan

10 Stupid Things Vegans Hear on a Daily Basis

Vegan Month of Food



It's Vegan Month of Food at The Post Punk Kitchen, and I added my blog to the list of participants. We're all supposed to post a recipe a day, or as many as we can, for the month of October. Now, I'm not the type to mess about with a digital camera and bother with posting photos of my 'creation', although I will occasionally nick something from Google image. I'm also not the type to mess about too much in the kitchen dreaming up 50 tricks with seitan. (I don't even really like seitan. It's kinda hard to digest.) However, I am the type who cooks something yummy and vegan every night for dinner, and it usually takes 30 minutes or less. If that's the kind of food you want, keep checking back here. My plan is not to concoct prize-winning recipes, but just to post what I cook each day, if it's something I think is worth posting.

Happy MOFO!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

My miso soup

I never measure anything when I make miso soup, but it always turns out great!

Into a saucepan, crumble up about a half a stick of dried kombu. Throw in 3 dried shiitake mushrooms and cover with boiling water--about 3 or 4 cups. Put the lid on the pot and go and do something for half an hour. You're just letting the kombu and mushrooms soften in the hot water, no heat under the pot.

Come back and take the mushrooms out of the water, remove the stems and discard. Slice the mushrooms thin. Return them to the pot and turn on the heat to medium. Add a packet of dashi powder and a tablespoon or two of mirin. When the stock is very hot, stir in two fat tablespoons of red miso and stir. Turn off the heat and put the lid back on the pot. Push to the back of the stove and go ahead and make your other dishes.

Tonight we had brown rice and barley mixed with courgette, carrot and onion (stir fry), accompanied by bowls of miso soup. You could put strips of pan-fried tofu over the rice in the bowl, but we had veggie sausages for lunch and didn't need any tofu. If you wanted to make it a complete Japanese meal, add a tiny dish of pickled vegetables, a couple of side vegetables and a cup of green tea.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Mega Easy Vegetable Soup

You ever have half a jar of pasta sauce lurking in the fridge? A few vegetables languishing in the veg drawer? Try this:

Chop 1 small onion, 2 large carrots and 1 large-ish courgette (zucchini) into small dice. Saute them in a bit of olive oil until softened and beginning to brown. (Or use whatever veg you have!) Pour in the leftover pasta sauce plus enough water to make the soup as thin as you want. (I used 2.5 jars to .5 a jar of sauce). Season with black pepper and a bit more olive oil to give it that minestrone-sheen. I had a small bit of leftover wholewheat fusilli, so I threw that in as well. Heat through.

This made just enough soup for hubby and me to have 2 bowls each. Perfect quick light dinner. Only took about 15 minutes!

SUPERGIRL!




I went an entire work week without eating a single thing on the dreaded coffee table! Not one biscuit, chocolate, cake or any of it! Yes! On my way to recovering from that STUPID Jillian Michaels rotation.

I have been in a really retro mood lately. I've made a rotation using some of my oldest workouts. I even ordered a DVD of the 1987 classic 'Original Buns of Steel'. It was nightmare finding someone in the US who would ship it to me, and of course there are no UK distributors. It should arrive in a week or two.

Ana's 60/25/15 regime rang a bell with me and I started wondering how I could make this simpler for myself. For some reason I remembered something from the bad old days, something that years ago had been relegated to the junk drawer in the kitchen, but which now I realise might just come in handy. A Richard Simmons Food Mover! It's absolutely the simplest way I could recall of tracking food intake without having to do any maths or inputting any data into anything. The programme is 60/20/20, which to me is close enough! You eat your serving and close the window on it. That's it! I found one on ebay for £9.00. A lovely friend of mine is shipping it to me from the US, as the shipping to the UK (when I could even find it) was beyond outrageous.

So anyway. I'm on my way to saying good-bye to the 3 pounds I gained last month. (Ooh, I'd kick Jillian Michael's ass if I wasn't scared of her!) And maybe I'll lose all the way back down to 131, where I was this time last year.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Melody Beattie

'Besides the big hard calls we make, there's another kind, too. It's the little ones we face each day: do the right thing, or stir up the pot. Do the next thing, or sit and sulk. Relax and let go, or obsess. Pick up the phone, call someone, and be of service, or dwell on how miserable you feel. Feel, or go numb. Do somehting that feels gentle, nurturing and nice, or sit and torture ourselves.'

~Melody Beattie, Choices



I've been reading the book Choices by Melody Beattie. She is my favourite self-help writer. This is not her best book, but it has some really fine sentiments here and there. I picked it up the other day when I realised I was still behaving in a codependent way in some areas of my life.

It's a series of very short vignettes in which people are making choices in their lives. Some will resonate more than others, of course. After each little story, Melody adds thoughts from her own life. If you've read all her books up this one, you will be very familiar with these events, but if you haven't read her before, you might be a bit confused about what she's talking about.

Melody Beattie is a leader in the area of codependency. I highly recommend all her books, but particularly:

Codependent No More

Beyond Codependency

Playing It by Heart