A new obsession

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In an effort to lose the last few pounds of baby weight, I’ve been using My Fitness Pal. This is a really useful website which allows you to count and track the calories you’re consuming and burning. I had used it intermittently in the past, but had never really got to grips with it.

This time, however, I was encouraged by a friend to get into the community aspects of the site. Like on Facebook, you can become ‘friends’ with other users, and support each other.

In real life, talking about weight and diets is, frankly, boring. Fortunately, I think, it is a topic that rarely comes up for discussion amongst my friends and I. However, on a website like My Fitness Pal, the community aspect is interesting. There are clearly obsessives out there, who spend all day posting about how many calories they have consumed, but I imagine this happens in most online forums. There are also many sensible people, and many sharing inspiring stories of having lost significant amounts of weight. These people are encouraging and supporting each other, and viewing each others’ food diaries.

I’m currently slightly obsessed with looking at other peoples’ food diaries. There was also a thread recently where people put photos of what they were eating for each meal. Needless to say, I was fascinated. Admittedly, I have a bit more time on my hands than usual at the moment, and I’m sure that when I’m back at work I won’t have time to obsess over other people’s food, but I’m definitely enjoying it at the moment.

Sharing a food diary (with people who are happy to look at it) is a great way of keeping an eye on what you’re eating. For me, it helps me really see where things add up, and it’s not always where you’d expect. My morning smoothie (banana, strawberry and grape) took my sugar levels over the daily recommended amount. Despite eating what I would consider a balanced diet, my iron levels on most days struggled to get above 50% of my RDA. I won’t get started on the calorie content on some of my baking.

So I’ve lost a few pounds. They’ll probably come back on and go back off over the next few weeks, months and years. But it has made me feel much more balanced and educated about my diet, which can only be a good thing.

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Spiced Rice in the Slow Cooker

Spiced Rice

This is a really nice side dish or as the main part of a vegetarian meal. We had it with some stuffed chapatis and an onion and tomato curry. It happily sat cooking away this afternoon and the rice was perfectly cooked when we came to eat (which ended up being half an hour later than planned – the joy of the slow cooker).

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stick celery
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 250g basmati rice
  • 1/2 a tsp each of garam masala, ground cumin, ground coriander, chilli powder and turmeric
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • 200g sweetcorn
  • 3 handfuls spinach

Method

  1. Dice the onion, carrot and celery and finely slice the garlic. Saute in vegetable oil in a frying pan for 5 minutes, until softened.
  2. Add the rice to the frying pan and stir round.
  3. Add the spices, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring well.
  4. Transfer the rice into the slow cooker. Add the stock and sweetcorn.
  5. Cook on High for 2 hours.
  6. Add the spinach on the top of the rice. Cook for a further 20 minutes.
  7. Stir well and serve.

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Roasted Vegetable Salad

Winter Salad

After a week away on holiday, with plenty of cake, lunches out and the occasional glass of wine, I felt the need to have a mini-health kick today. The problem with health-kicks at this time of year is that the cold weather isn’t conducive to eating cold salads. I don’t want to eat imported tomatoes and cucumber in March; I want to make the most of what the British seasons have to offer.

This warm salad is delicious, filling, and really healthy. Just by looking at the colours on the plate, you know it has all the good stuff in it. The yellow beetroot was an absolute find; I like the taste of beetroot but hate the purple appearance, and the way it stains everything else on the plate. I’ve tried to grow yellow beetroot before, but have had no success. I found this one in Booths in Clitheroe, which is a lovely supermarket, stocking lots of seasonal fruit and vegetables.

The roasted apple really ties all the flavours together, and marries well with the celeriac and goats cheese in particular. I didn’t make a dressing, although it occurs to me that one based on cider vinegar would work well.

I am submitting this in March’s Simple and in Season. This month, it is hosted by Chez Foti. It’s a great idea and I’m hoping this will be a blogging challenge that I’ll return to again and again.

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I was hungry, so the quantities here served me alone. Please don’t judge me for that – it’s mostly vegetables!

Ingredients

4 small carrots, peeled
1/4 celeriac, peeled
1 apple
1 golden beetroot, peeled
Thyme
50g hard goats cheese

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 160C.

2. Chop the vegetables and apple into similar sized pieces, reserving 1/4 of the beetroot.

3. Arrange the vegetables on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season. Scatter over the thyme leaves.

4. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes until the apple is very soft and the other vegetables are soft.

5. Arrange the roasted vegetables on a plate. Thinly slice the reserved beetroot. Place the raw beetroot on top of the vegetables.

6. Cut the cheese into small chunks or slivers. Scatter over the vegetables.

Winter Salad

I am submitting this in March’s Simple and in Season.

 

Crumble

Rhubarb crumble is one of my husband’s favourite desserts, and as rhubarb is in season for so much of the year, I’m happy to make it often.

A crumble topping is a useful recipe to know as it is easily adaptable. It has enjoyed a surge in popularity recently, as a topping for cupcakes and muffins, giving a good crunch and texture. The recipe itself is fairly adaptable too, by adding oats, substituting brown sugar for white, adding citrus zest or other spices.

Crumbles are good over rhubarb and apple, as the crunch gives a contrast to the soft fruit. I imagine summer fruits are excellent in crumbles too: peaches, nectarines, plums. Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries work well in combinations too.

The basic proportions for a crumble are as follows: 1 butter: 1 sugar: 2 flour. It is one of the few recipes where I tend to use imperial measurements, and for my dish, I used 3oz butter, 3oz sugar and 6oz flour.

The method is simple: rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Then stir in the sugar and sprinkle the crumble over the fruit. Bake for 35 minutes at 160C.

Serve with custard, cream or ice cream.

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Weaning 1: The first steps

We started weaning Baby Ben when he was 5 months, as he was showing all the signs listed here in the NHS Leaflet. We followed the advice in Annabel Karmel’s Weaning book, which I highly recommend. Because Baby Ben is quite likely to be allergic to certain foods (I have food allergies and he has eczema), we were advised to introduce foods slowly, and to take particular care when introducing dairy and wheat.

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Like many babies, his first food was baby rice. After a few days of this, the fun began! I spent several hours peeling, chopping, steaming, pureeing and freezing a variety of fruit and vegetables.

Instructions for making baby purees

1. Peel and chop fruit or vegetables into similar size pieces. Make sure you cut out any damaged or bad bits.

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2. Place the fruit or vegetables into a steamer. Steam until very soft.

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3. Allow fruit or vegetables to cool for a few minutes before putting into a blender. You may need to add some of the cooking water for it to puree to a thick consistency. You are best to make the puree thicker and to add water or breastmilk when the baby is ready to eat it.

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4. Put the puree into ice cube trays. I used an Annabel Karmel one which is not available any more, but it was a bit like this one.

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5. Freeze the puree until solid. Then pop the cubes out into labelled freezer bags.

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6. Defrost the cubes (1-2 cubes per meal to start with) thoroughly and heat until piping hot when you are ready to feed them to the baby. Allow to cool to avoid burning the baby’s mouth.

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This was a really good way to make weaning as simple as possible. When Ben was ready to try a new food, I would be able to pop out a cube of the new food and a food he had previously tried e.g. Sweet potato with pear.

We introduced the following foods in this order:

Baby rice; carrot; sweet potato; potato; apple; pear; parsnip; butternut squash; banana; peas; plums. So far, he’s as big a foodie as his mum and dad!