Everything, except celery

I eat everything, except celery.

Category: Food

As fussy as you like- Meatballs

There’s been a lot of hoo-hah in the media about the ‘meat’ content in processed foods. A lot of it has gone completely over my head. I don’t really comprehend ‘convenience’ food. As fussy as I am about most things I am especially fussy about how food is prepared and cooked. It’s the old addage of ‘if you want something doing right, do it yourself’ – I’d rather do it myself. I don’t find it convenient to compromise on taste and quality.

With meatballs under fire in the recent press I had a craving for them. Mention a foodstuff to me a few times and I’ll want it. Well, not the meatballs they were talking about, but ‘my’ meatballs. Quick, simple, cheap and wholesome. You can add to the recipe and make it your own, but for starters, all you’ll need is:

1 Small Onion
500g Lean Minced Beef
Salt & Pepper for seasoning.
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
Your choice of pasta

Chop the onion in half. Finely dice the first half and pop in a mixing bowl. Slice the second half into strips and add to a large oven proof dish.
To the mixing bowl, add the mince and some salt and pepper to season.
Using a firm spoon, work the onion into the mince until the mince breaks down and starts to stick together. Avoid over working the mince, the more of a paste it becomes, the denser your meatballs will be. Ideally the mix should just and so hold together when pressed firmly.
Now for the sticky bit! Get your hands in the bowl and roll your mince and onion mixture into around 20 balls of the same size (five per person to serve four people).
Lay out your perfect little meatballs in the oven proof dish on top of the sliced onions and pop in a preheated oven on a high heat (around 200c) for 10 minutes.
After the meatballs have been in the oven for 10 minutes and have just started to brown on top, take them out of the oven, pour over the tinned tomatoes and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes.
During this time, cook some pasta of your choosing (I like spaghetti with meatballs) and voila! A quick and hearty meal with no added blah blah blah.

This is the recipe at its most basic but…
Love garlic? Add 3 cloves of crushed garlic to your mince mixture and some sliced garlic to the onions in the oven dish.
Like it herby? Add some dried basil and/or oregano to the mince mixture and some fresh basil to the tomato sauce.
Like it spicy? Add some ceyenne pepper and/or paprika to the mince mixture and a chopped chilli to the tomato sauce.
Love your veg? Roast some peppers, mushrooms and courgette and mix in to your tomato sauce.

Basically, you can be as fussy as you like with this recipe; play around with it, you’re not going to break it!

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Nutty Cookies

One of my go-to biscuit recipes is for Golden Oatie Cookies, a recipe from the Coupar Angus Abbey Cookbook, a collection of housewives’ favourite recipes that was typed up by my Great Aunty Anna many years ago. I used to bake these biscuits for charity cake sales when I was at junior school and then again in my teens when I was feeling low. Handing out biscuits at school always made me feel better about myself and the baking of them was very theraputic.

When I’m down I like to bake, but sometimes baking an old recipe can bring up old feelings so rather than stick to my tried and tested recipe I thought about adapting it and turning them into Nutty Cookies. If they’ve got nuts in them I can say they’re health food yes? I’m over the moon that, with a few tweaks to the original recipe, the biscuits turned out brilliantly and were a great success so I thought I’d share the recipe with you…

3oz Butter, 1oz Peanut Butter, 4oz Caster Sugar, 3oz Porridge Oats, 1oz Chopped Mixed Nuts, 3oz Wholemeal Flour, 1tsp Baking Powder, 1tbsp Golden Syrup

Cream together the butter, peanut butter and caster sugar until fully combined and fluffy.
Mix in the syrup and then add the oats, nuts, flour and baking powder.
The mixture should be slightly tacky and hold together when pressed, if not, add a sprinkling of water.
Roll the mixture into individual balls (around 20) and lay out on a baking tray, leaving plenty of room around each ball (you might need to do two batches as they will flatten and spread during cooking).
Pop them in a preheated moderate oven (around 180c) for 10-15 minutes.
Remove the biscuits from the oven while they are still squidgy in the middle.
Allow to cool on the baking tray for a little while and then transfer to a cooling rack as soon as they are firm enough.

If you’re anything like me, the lure of warm biscuits means that not all of them will make it to the cooling rack!

Garbage Soup, and other wonders…

‘Oh it’s leftovers for lunch again’ my Granny will often say.

Fine by me! When everything is home cooked, lovingly prepared and, well, just darn right tasty, leftovers are a veritable feast!

She’d often make what she calls ‘Garbage Soup’, a soup made up of everything in the veg rack, the odds and ends that the more wasteful among us would just throw away.

When I was living on my own I’d make myself a huge roast dinner, and live off it for days, a few days of roast dinner, then bubble and squeak and then some garbage soup with the odds and ends that were left over. Simple, cheap and tasty – it would feed me for the most part of a week.

Waste not, want not!

I was making sausage and mash the other day. We rarely have mash, usually opting for potatoes with the skin on, but sometimes it’s just a mash kimd of day. As I was peeling the spuds I began thinking about garbage soup but I didn’t have much else in. Then I wondered about crisps. You know, the lovely artisan ones that have the skin still on. So I wondered about making crispy potato skin crisps.

I popped the peelings into the steamer and whacked them into the microwave for a few mins, just to soften them. Then I laid them out and removed any excess water/starch with a clean tea-towel, squirted them with some low cal olive oil spray and bunged them in an oven on a high heat.

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Ten mins or so later- voila, crispy potato skin crisps. Husband thought I was crazy for going to so much trouble so as not to waste some potato peelings. But I nipped out for a while and when I came home most of the crisps were gone so I think they were a success!

A little challenge and a long catch-up

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Ooops, I’ve left this for a fair few days, please forgive the extra-long post!

Day 5: Why do you really want to lose this weight? Are you doing it for you?

The first time I (sensibly) thought about losing weight and joined a group to support me I was losing the weight because I thought I could do with dropping a few lbs. Little did I know I was nearly 15st and I was firmly in the obese category for my height. It was a bit of a health shock and I thought I definitely needed to drop the weight to be healthier all round. Purely through diet and cutting out the junk I dropped a couple of stones over the Summer between my first and second years of university. I felt great, and when term came round, I moved, left my slimming group and continued to eat healthily but the treats and excesses began to creep back so over the course of two years about a stone crept back on. I was happy at that weight but alway knew I could be just that bit lighter. Losing weight has never been about other people, it’s just been about how happy I feel in myself. I’m doing it to feel comfortable and over the years I have felt more comfortable the healthier I have been.

Day 6: Do you binge? If so, explain why you do.

In short, yes. I hate leaving things unfinished. This includes packets of biscuits, batches of muffins and even bowls of salad. ‘Waste not, want not’ is a phrase etched in my genetic code. When I plan, and have my food thought out, I can circumvent the urge to eat all the things just because they’re there. The messier my head is, the harder it is to leave food uneaten, just in case it would go to waste. I do comfort eat but if I plan this properly I can comfort eat healthy things in moderate portions. If I don’t plan and the need to comfort myself with food sneaks up on me then I’ll eat and eat. I’ve not been unknown to make myself sick from just eating too much. I don’t have an off switch!

Day 7: Do your parents know you’re trying to lose weight? Do they care?

What an odd question. Okay, maybe not odd for most, but I don’t have parents in the conventional sense. My mum died nearly nine years ago and I don’t have any contact with my father. My inlaws know, I’ve not asked if they care, but they’ve been lovely in making little ajustments when I go around for dinner. Little things like making a salad to have with my starter so I won’t gorge on bread and pate.

Day 8: Your workout routine

This varies week to week, depending on the weather and for what I’m training. In years gone by, my workout routine was nil – walks when I could fit them in and then not a lot else save the odd yoga class here and there. In recent history I discovered running. It’s not hyperbole when I say it transformed my life. Now I run about three times a week and I’m training for a Marathon. To support my running I am doing more core exercise work for strength and keeping up yoga more regularly to help my flexibility and stability. I’ve also been walking more, rediscovering the fells from my childhood and adventuring to bag more and more peaks (quite handy that I live on the doorstop of the Lake District!). I’m also training for the Keswick to Barrow walk this May.

Day 9: Did people ever make comments about your weight in a negative way?

Yes. I was the fat kid at school. I would walk through town and be followed by a girl saying ‘beep beep, wide load’. My surname was Ford and my nickname was ‘Fat Ford Fiesta’ or ‘chocolate muffin’ (still not sure how that one came about). School was not a fun time.

Day 10: What was the hardest thing you gave up during this ‘weight loss’?

My teal velvet trousers. Haha, I should explain. I haven’t given up any type of food, it’s all about control and moderation. If I have a treat one day then I can’t have it the next. The only thing I’ve given up is the inches, which has meant that some of my favourite clothes no longer fit. It was hard to give up my teal trousers, but when they nearly fell down while I was running a workshop with young people I thought it was best I move on (or never be employed again!).

Day 11: Your favourite thinspo blog and why!

Hmm, not really sure about this. I read blogs by others about their weight-loss journey but each journey is so individual to that person. It’s the training blogs I find more inspirational. The Guardian Running Blog has been great for keeping me motivated and the comments are wonderful for following the journeys of others, whether they are in it for weight loss or not.

Day 12: What do you normally eat?

Everything, except celery! As the title of my blog indicates, I eat everything with the exception of celery, which I can’t stand. I eat a very varied diet, nothing is off limits, I just try to moderate it, which, when I stick to plan really works. While I really like cheese, it plays havoc with my digestive system and makes me very stinky so I have to time when I have it! I love fruit and veg which is helpful, and I’ve always been a bit wary of processed foods which is also a good mindset when trying to lose the pounds. Cooking from scratch means I know what is going into my body and in what quantities. I’m also a big advocate of keeping a food diary, only when you are aware of what you’re eating you can control and tailor it to your goals. Here’s a run down of a typical day in my diet:
Breakfast – porridge (cooked without milk) with cinnamon, poured over chopped apple.
Lunch- baked potato with beans and cheese.
Dinner- home-made bolognase (made with plenty of veg and lean mince) with wholewheat pasta.
Snacks- yoghurt, fresh pineapple, pop-corn (popped without fat).

Day 13: Are you losing weight in a healthy or unhealthy way?

As if anyone sets out to lose in an ‘unhealthy way’. We all think ‘our way’ is the healthy way. I’m no exception. I’m taking it slow and steady, not banning foods, keeping my diet varied, eating plenty of whole foods, fruit and veg, and taking regular exercise. I’d say that’s a pretty healthy way of doing it!

Day 14: What’s your UGW? When do you expect to achieve it?

Well, as my aim is to be a ‘healthy weight’ for my BMI, the most I should weigh is 11st4lb. I’ve set my target as 11st (because I like a round number). Although, I’ll have to see when I get there whether that is the right weight for me. At 12st now, I’m already a size 12 (which I haven’t been since I was age 12!) so I’m not sure how losing another stone is going to affect me and whether or not when I get there I might find that 10st7lb might be a good weight for me (right in the middle of the healthy BMI range for my height). As for when I expect to achieve it… I’d hoped to be there by the end of this month but that’s not going to happen! I think the end of May is a more reasonable target but we’ll see how it goes. As I’ve said before, I’m taking it slow and steady.

Day 15: Are you vegan or vegetarian? If so, has this helped you to lose weight? If not, would you ever consider turning vegan or vegetarian?

Nope. I’m a meat eater. Nope I wouldn’t ‘turn’ vegan or vegetarian. (This makes it sound like some sort of religious conversion!). I like meat, and I like to know where my meat comes from. I’m lucky where I live. I can walk down the lane and see happy pigs forraging in the fields. I can then go to the market and buy lovely sausages and cuts of pork from a local butcher. If I didn’t buy from these local traders then I wouldn’t get to see the happy pigs. On a local scale I support the farming and eating of meat. On a global scale I understand that the conversion of energy from feed into meat creates a defecit of energy and a shortage of food; but perhaps we all need to start thinking locally and responsibly and this energy defecit would deplete naturally over time. I’m not going to solve Third World hunger by forgoing a bacon sandwich but I can have an impact on my local economy, landscape and legacy by choosing responsibly when I shop. Maybe I’m kidding myself, but hey, it might just be a case of picking the battles you can win and doing what little I can.

Day 16: When did you first decide to lose weight?

As I’ve said (above) it was when I was between first and second year of university that I began my weight-loss journey. Before then I wanted to lose weight but never really knew how to go about it healthily so I just didn’t. I’d cut back the excesses occasionally when my clothes were a bit tight but there was no plan, no goal, and so, no outcome. Now I have the plan, the goal, and very importantly, the support, and I’m seeing the results.

13 in 13 – March ends…

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Looking back, I’ve said it at the beginning of most of my 13 in 13 posts, the month has flown by. March has been no exception to this. It did seem to stick around a bit longer, but it is longer than February so that makes sense! There’s the old wive’s tale that, ‘if March comes in like a lion it goes out like a lamb’ and vice versa. I love this personification of the weather, and, true to this, the beginning of March was certainly like a lamb. All bouncy and Spring-like. Then it all went down hill from there – snow, bitter wind and a dramatic drop in temperature. Around my area we have a similar saying, ‘if you’re swimming in the lake at Easter then you won’t be over Summer’. There was no chance that your everyday bod (ie, someone without a wetsuit) would be outdoor swimming this Easter! This fills me with hope that we’ll get a bit of Summer this year and have many days on the lake to look forward to.

Anyhow, back on topic, the overall goal for March was to get back to comfortably running 10k. I’m signed up for a couple in April so let’s see how I did…

1. Run 10k by the end of March
Nailed it! Twice! While my weekly mileage hasn’t increased (new job, still getting my head around when to fit in my runs) I’ve made it out the door and hammered a couple of 6 mile runs. On the first of these missions I battled through the wind and rain and thought, ‘f**k it, I’m already out, I’m already freezing, you’re not going to beat me’. The second saw me nearly turn around before I even got to the end of my warm-up walk as the horizontal blizzard tried to etch its way through my windbreaker and into my skin, piercing me with icy flakes of uncomfortable and spiteful trials to my resolve. I persevered and bravely took a new route so I had further to get home even if I did turn around. But I didn’t! I’m really chuffed with this, and coming in at 1:08 I’m on track for the 1:10 I’ve set for myself in my first road 10k on April 14. Although, I do need to keep up my mileage and work out a training plan to fit in 3/4 runs a week, a goal for next month I think.

2. Increase core workouts
Again, I’m going to blame a new job and work timetable. I did manage 8 days of the 30 Day Shred, so over the course of the month I did achieve an average of 2 core sessions a month, I just happened to do them in a row… Yeah, again, something I need to continue to work on.

3. Yoga workout 3 times a week.
Meh. I suppose if I’d done 3 runs a week then this one would’ve been achieved. But I didn’t, so I didn’t. I did get some of the routines in after the runs I did do, but nothing focussed, more of a tag-on to my usual stretching. Must try harder – or rather, plan my time better (I see a theme developing!)

4. Read more
I’d not even noticed, until my reflection now, that this has been achieved with very little conscious effort. I’m back in the habit of reading! It’s come back so naturally, I’ve finished a couple of books and I look forward to settling down and reading. Goal achieved!

5. Eat new things
We’ve not really pushed the boat out with this one, rather than ‘new’ things we’ve just started to rediscover dishes we haven’t had in a long while so we’ve been a lot more varied which is good. Something to build upon.

So, that was March, and, as ever, many thanks to Weight Wars for spurring me on to keep this up (I promise to be less tardy with my post next month!).

Tuna Parmesan Fishcakes

Well, I do have to say, sometimes I am a smartypants…
Not only did I lose 2lbs last week, I got home to my lovely dinner after weigh-in and I couldn’t finish my mash! Okay, maybe not the biggest exclamation in the world, but a big step for me. I was brought up under the rule that you finish everything on your plate, whether you want to or not. You were given a helping and could go back for seconds, or everything was laid out and you only took what you could eat lest you be told you had ‘eyes bigger than your belly!’. Probably not the worst insult in the world, but enough to say, don’t be so greedy, don’t be so wasteful.

I’ve carried this with me and if I have overfilled my plate I’ll continue to eat out of habit/superstition/fear of wasting food. But last night I cautiously ate around my mash, eating any that had been touched by gravy, leaving a pile of fluffy, unspoilt potato goodness… I had a plan for this mash…

Fishcakes! So simple, so easy, so tasty. Who says leftovers have to be dull!

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All I did was:
Pop on the grill to preheat
Beat an egg in a small mixing jug
Finely chop a small onion and add to the jug
Add 2 crushed garlic cloves and some ground black pepper
Add a tin of (drained) tuna and mix well
Sprinkle in a dessertspoon of parmesan
Add a dolop or two of mash until the mixture is firm but holds together
Cover a baking tray with some greaseproof paper
Use your hands to make the mixture into even sized balls, line them on the tray
Press them down gently to make little pattys and pop them under the grill
Cook for 10mins (until golden) then turn over and do the same on the other side

Voila! Tasty fishcakes!

While my fishcakes were under the grill I grated a carrot, chopped some cherry tomatoes, wilted some spinach and popped it on the plate as a bed for my little beauties. Num!

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