What I ate Wednesday #4

23 Nov

So, here we are again: another week, another Wednesday. And I’ve been hugging myself with glee thinking about what fun I have to write about for you all this week!

My day this week is Sunday (though the cooking starts on Saturday…).

Breakfast: Dorset Foods’ Gingerbread Porridge (thanks Skinny Latte for the heads-up! There’s tons in my Waitrose, thankfully – although I may be back to clean out the shelves). No photos, as it looked like nothing in the bowl. Obviously, Yorkshire Tea for hard water areas was drunk in skinfuls.

Lunch: edamame in oyster sauce. My standard, delicious, ready-in-three-from-the-freezer lunch or late dinner. So savoury! What does Heston call it? Umami! Yes, that in bags.

Dinner: aha. This is where it gets interesting. Carnitas with tomato, onion, coriander and lime salsa; zero yoghurt; cheese; lettuce, rice and tacos. I was feeding seven, hence the pork shoulder, which looked like this (I forgot to take a photo before I’d wrestled it into two pieces – and yes, that is how much it cost me):

I broke up the shoulder in five pieces, removed the skin and as much fat as I could, then popped it into the slow cooker (in two batches, starting Saturday afternoon and going on overnight). I’ve been wanting to try this amazing recipe for months, and the coincidence of a free Saturday and the need to cook for a big group made it happen, finally. In with the pork went orange and tomato juices, garlic, spices, chillis and tons of chipotle paste. After ten hours’ cooking, it looked like this:

Once it had cooled I shredded the pork (it fell off the bones in my hands) and removed any remaining fatty bits. I then strained the cooking liquid, did the ice-cube trick to take out the liquid fat, and reserved it. I then packed it all up and took it on a two-hour trip with me to Londonshrink’s place in town, where a bevy of hungry (and in some cases, hungover) friends awaited. My Mexican feast was very well received – especially as it provided at least two packed lunches and another Monday night dinner too! Here’s the carnitas and tacos in all their glory:

I was so proud of myself: proper hot spicy food long in the preparation but ready almost instantly. I ate far too many tacos – at least four!

Late night snack: Sunday night, I was on a roll. In front of the telly, I had a lovely homemade chai latte made from this wonderful recipe (in American measures; bear in mind 1 cup of liquid is 8oz, and if you’re using sugar substitute like me, each serving requires about 4 tablespoons rather than the 6.5 the recipe demands). I’ve had to go back and make a second lot already as it was so popular – and now my office are demanding I bring some in for them! Honestly, the recipe is so easy, I swear I’ll just keep making this rather than buying mixes and other teas. I’ve been looking for a late night milky drink for a while, but all the chai latte mixes are so sugar-packed, and I wanted something where I controlled how fattening it was. I also made it with decaf tea so that it’s good for the evening and won’t keep me awake, and I upped the spices so it’s pretty challenging compared to bland high street chain versions. One note of caution, though: if you double the quantities, don’t double the amount of tea as it starts to get bitter.

Here’s the mix in the making:

Here’s the drink itself:

And here’s the two bottles (yes, wine bottles!) of concentrate I have to get through until I need another batch:

I had the chai latte with my one really really unhealthy treat of the weekend: a Green & Black’s mini dark chocolate bar with ginger. They were giving them out free at Baker St tube on Thursday, would have been rude not to… Thankfully Londonshrink and the boys polished off the rest, leaving me free from temptation!

So, there’s my What I Ate Wednesday! Do tell me what you ate…

Shopping shenanigans

22 Nov

For days I’ve been wanting to tell you about my brilliant Saturday! I don’t know where the time has gone, but somehow it’s nearly Wednesday and I haven’t done it yet.

So, here’s my Shopping Saturday for your delectation. Brilliant eats and some lovely bargain clothes too.

Firstly, eats. I picked up this fab Beetroot and Walnut Pesto at our farmers’ market which is just a couple of streets over from my flat every Saturday morning. To be honest with you, I feel a bit smug-liberal whenever I go there, so I don’t often buy much. I think there’s a class-consciousness beating deep in these veins that would somehow prefer me to go to Tesco as it’s ordinary! The farmers’ market does have brilliant veg and meat, and lovely crafts, but as someone who’s cutting out bread and cakes I have to pass by so many of the stalls. I didn’t really use the pesto as sauce, rather as more of a relish in delicious wholewheat pittas with cucumber that brightened up Monday and Tuesday in the office.

After the farmers’ market, I headed off to my butcher’s. The class consciousness kicks in less there, as though I’m doing the trendy thing and asking my butcher for odd unfashionable cuts alongside other Guardianistas seeking ingredients for Nigel Slater’s latest, the butcher is also serving elderly West Indian ladies who he greets by name, putting their bacon and lamb chops in their bags ready wrapped. Anyway, I bought a whole shoulder of pork (and my arms nearly fell off carrying it home) – but more about that in my upcoming WIAW post.

Next stop was some charity shops to see what was on offer. As you know if you read this blog, I’m nearly two stones into a three-and-a-quarter stone weightloss journey, so buying new clothing now isn’t clever. Instead I’m charity shopping for the odd new piece that’ll update my wardrobe in line with my svelte-r but not svelte-enough figure. I got three super bargains this week.

A brilliant M&S Autograph silk t-shirt with three-quarter length sleeves and optional snood in size 12 which nearly-but-not-quite fits (it’s the arms that are the problem!). This was £4.99 – still with the tags on.

Also Next boots for £4! One of the joys of losing weight is being able to wear jeans again (albeit that mine, last worn in 2007, are dreaded indigo bootlegs, so I look a little throwback amongst all the skinnies of the last four years!). For jeans you need boots – preferably heely boots. These do the trick:

My third brilliant purchase: a size 12 chunky black cable-knit with no fastening from H&M. No pic, as it looks like nothing on the hanger, but is so smart for a winter office wardrobe, and goes with everything. £3.99! Marvellous.

My final expedition of the day was to Waitrose. I wanted frozen edamame beans for my go-to late dinners or light lunches, and thought I’d have a look around while I was at it! I ended up with a brilliant haul: edamame, Dorset Foods Gingerbread Porridge (which I’d read about at Skinny Latte’s place, but hadn’t seen to buy), chipotle paste, and a pack of no-sugar Old Jamaica Ginger Beer! I did a little dance on seeing this last, which is legendary in slimming circles but so hard to find!

Also in Waitrose I got this: Aveeno daily moisturising lotion with lavender. I’ve been needing something more heavy-duty for the winter cold and daily showers of my exercise routine, and was sort-of holding out for a chance to buy Dr Hauschka’s Rose Day Cream – the gold standard, and the product that when you smell you’ll wonder why no-one told you about it years ago. Sadly our outlet in SmallCity has closed, and I needed something straight away, so the Aveeno it was. And it’s stunning – my skin has not felt this soft or hydrated in years. I’m not sure this product is supposed to be for your face – but it’s certainly doing mine no harm, and it’s positively slaying my dusty elbows!

So, that was my brilliant Sunday! As for what happened to all that pork (and the chipotle paste), watch this space!

Completing the 30 Day Shred

19 Nov

So. I did it! On Wednesday I completed Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred. It took me 32 days to do (with 2 days off – one for a wedding, and one for a work day where I ended up chairing an evening event on a day that already had contained no breaks!), and I am SO PROUD of myself!

These posts are supposed to contain before and after photos, but I’m afraid I didn’t take any photos or measurements before I started. Thinking about it, I think I was so worn down by the blubber surrounding my form that I didn’t want to draw even my own attention to it, so I have nothing but perceptions to base my thoughts on.

When I started, I was 12 stone 12 pounds. I’m now 12 stone 4 – and I’ll take that eight pound weightloss, thank you very much! The key change though is, wow! how different my shape is. I have strength in my arms and legs I didn’t think I had. I can lift weights again. I can do 40 situps without a pause. My balance is transformed. I can run – today a kilometre without stopping. I have lost inches and inches on my worst areas – ribcage and stomach. Being barrel-chested is no fun at all, and means I don’t “go in” like other people under the bust area – plus I have tiny tits. From the side I’m straight up and straight down, no matter how much weight I lose. My mission is to add a bit more definition – some in and out – to my profile. The last month has really helped with this – my waist is more defined, the ribcage isn’t straining against my bra and popping out over the top of my jeans, and my tummy is a gentle curve rather than a bulging roll. (I’m crediting the 30 Day Shred alongside not drinking for two weeks for that.)

Clothes-wise, I’m now a size 14 – squarely in the middle of the dress size. I’ve fitted back into my size 14 dark-blue long length jeans, which is a real achievement. Sadly they’re bootleg, so I look like a 2007 throwback (the last time I fitted into them!) walking about town, but I don’t care – not going to buy anything new while I’ve still got more than a stone to lose. On the topic of fashion whilst dieting, Almost Athletical Ali has a brilliant post on getting through the middles when your old clothes don’t fit but you can’t buy new ones as you won’t fit into them for long…

As you can imagine, I didn’t let getting to 30 days stop me – I’ve turned right round and moved back on to Level 1, and I’m going to march straight through another 30 days, with added ten minutes running at the end each day I can manage. I’m even beginning to worry a bit about what I’ll do over Christmas staying with my folks – there is an LA Fitness near them, but my mum tends to schedule every moment, and I can’t bear the thought of five days with no exercise. Belgrade over new year also presents a problem… but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

What I ate Wednesday #3

16 Nov

So, it’s that time of week again!

Today’s day is last Friday.

Breakfast was Special K and Yorkshire Tea for hard water areas, as usual.

Working from home, I forgot to eat lunch (this happens frequently, as I find my groove, get into whatever I’m writing, and the time slips past with not a tummy grumble to mark it) So, it was to be a fridge lunch, and I fancied some quinoa. Googling took me here, and I ended up making this variation on that recipe from my fridge and storecupboard.

Ingredients
50g quinoa
An onion
Spray oil
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove , crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
Some feta cheese , crumbled
Three big handfuls of spinach , roughly chopped

Chop the onion and fry in the spray oil. Meanwhile make up the quinoa as per the pack. While it simmers, chop the spinach and crumble the feta. Mix up the olive oil, balsamic, garlic and cumin in a small bowl. When the quinoa is done and strained and the onion is fried up nicely, mix together and add the dressing to coat. Stir in the spinach and let wilt slightly. Top with the feta and season.

This is brilliant! I was so pleased that I made it three times this weekend. The sweetness of the onions goes so well with the nuttyness of the quinoa and the sourness of the vinegar. Marvellous.

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Dinner was another bowl of the same as it was sooo good, followed by apples heated with vanilla essence & cinnamon, served with zero fat Greek yoghurt. Lovely!

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Running, a film, remembrance

13 Nov

My weekend was mainly uneventful, but two things did happen: I went to the cinema; and I started running.

Londonshrink has been running for a while, and completed a half marathon in 1 hour 44 minutes earlier this year. He’s been very keen to get me to do a 10k race, and I have finally succumbed. In February, I will be running a 10k somewhere in the south of England (not sure where yet!). My hesitation was about my balance (which is poor, due to longstanding ear problems), my legs (poor balance and co-ordination leads to lots of falling off things and over things, so have weak knees and ankles) and shin splints (ow ow ow!). But he started me off on the scary treadmill to do ten minutes’ worth of 30 seconds running, 90 seconds walking on Saturday afternoon. I soon switched up to a minute of each alternating, and was getting well into it (helped by a new episode of the Freakonomics podcast) when Londonshrink came to stop me, cautioning against overdoing it. Though it was a tiring ten minutes, it felt well within my capability.

I also did my first Bodypump session in about two years on Friday night. The music has obviously changed (and we’re up to 79) but I fit right back into the groove straight away. I think I probably overdid the weights, though, as I just picked up what I used to use, forgetting all the degradation in the meantime. I was completely defeated by the speed of the choreography on the shoulders track, and the lack of alternation between legs on the lunge track had me wailing, but the rest were pretty okay. And I stretched out well enough at the end that I didn’t feel too stiff and painful the next morning.

So, exercise-wise, it’s been a good weekend. I’m on day 27 of the 30 Day Shred, so the end is looming, though I still don’t feel as though I’ve mastered level three. Two moves are as yet unmastered: the plank with rows balanced on weights and leg raises (partly this is because whichever surface I’m on I can feel the weights slipping under my hands and I panic) – I know I could do either leg raises or arm rows, just not both together – and the rockstar jumps, for which I’ve been substituting jumping jacks with weights, as I’m terrified of not getting my legs back down to land on, and crashing down onto my knees. Still, I can now do the whole two sessions of mountain climbers without stopping! I wish Zaggora would hurry up and replace my Hotpants, though. Terrible customer service from them.

On the food front it’s also been a good weekend. I cooked another prawn curry for Londonshrink yesterday at his request, and tonight I did chicken with honey and herbes de Provence, roast potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and steamed broccoli, which was delish.

Our treat for the weekend was going to see The Ides of March, starring George Clooney and Ryan Gosling and directed by George Clooney. I’m a massive The West Wing fan, and the premise of the film appealed: young, starry-eyed staffer on an American presidential primary campaign becomes a jaded old-timer. Nothing could ever touch Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue, of course, but the film reviewed well, and I was hopeful. Although it was an intelligent and tense film, with some strong performances, I didn’t overall buy it. For me, the obvious cartoonishness of the liberal-wet-dream candidate, played by Clooney, ruined the authenticity of the piece, which otherwise was dead-on. The storyline is shocking, and that the climactic shot is merely of a parked car in a motorcade into which a character has just climbed is nothing short of brilliant. One could counter by saying the Jed Bartlett in The West Wing is also the stuff of left-wing fantasy – and yes, he is, but for me the family lineage and wealth – no grandson of an immigrant, he – and over-the-top Catholicism count against that. As for the film’s message as a whole: I tire of the idea that idealism counts for little, and grubby pragmatic compromise is all. Certainly the people I know in politics compromise on the little things to make a difference on the big, and world-weary cynicism is there to be fought.

The message of the film sat oddly with this morning’s Remembrance Sunday service. As usual I went to the open-air service at our war memorial in SmallCity; it’s a multi-faith service, with Catholic, CofE, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh representatives leading the worship. As always, I was choked at the parade of veterans – this year including ten Gurkhas. Thoughts of the first world war always make me turn to the pride and foolishness of the leaders of the day, taking half of Europe into a needless war of pride and grandstanding; thoughts of the second world war remind me that Churchill was turfed out at the end in favour of a party who promised a National Health Service. In the end, politics affects us all: I hope for politicians who hold steadfast to what they see as right, take the time to explain, and avoid world-weariness.

As I stood there, I thought of my grandfather, a Royal Engineer deployed in Holland in WW2. An ordinary guy, a road-layer, lucky enough to come home when so many did not. I thought of the vivid picture Vera Brittain paints of the horror of waiting and hoping and praying during WW1. I am glad to be of the second generation never to have to face that in our lifetime.

Miscellany: seasonal

10 Nov

Today is the first day in three weeks I’ve not exercised. It’s a measure of how I’ve changed my life in the past month that this is a milestone. I’m now considering what to do when I’ve completed the 30 Day Shred in a week or so; probably another similar programme by Jillian Michaels, to be honest. I just can’t quite trust myself to do the stuff I hate (squats, lunges, planks) without her drill sergeant tones urging me on. Think I’m ready to top it up with a couple of classes – spin and Body Pump for preference.

I’m delighted to have reached 12st 6lbs today. Definitely a size 14, more than halfway to the dare-to-hope 11st where I finally get to be in the healthy BMI range for the first time in my adult life.

The progress has not, though, been helped by the as-yet unreplaced ripped HotPants. Anyone else think Zaggora’s customer services aren’t up to much? Eight days today since I returned them, but no replacement pair has yet appeared.

Christmas’ arrival is inexorable. I love Christmas – not least because five uninterrupted days with my mum is a joy. Christmas is for family, so me and Londonshrink go our separate ways to our own families; we have plenty of time together the rest of the year, but a Christmas without him for his mum or without me for mine would, I know, ruin their days. I adore time with my mum (and my dad and brothers), and that’s one of the most special things about Christmas.

What I ate Wednesday #2

9 Nov

It’s that time of week again!

This week’s day is, once again, Saturday! Mainly because that’s the only day I ever really cook properly as opposed to rushing through the same four or five meals. I am so impressed with all the wonderful bloggers out there that eat interesting exciting things every day of the week – but that’s just not me.

Saturday breakfast was, as always, Special K with Yorkshire Tea for hard water areas. Not pictured, as all the fun people are having with Nature’s Path cereals and I’m a bit ashamed of my Kellogg’s thing, especially as the health food shop not half a mile from my house in SmallCity has a wonderful selection… Maybe this’ll be the week I switch!

Lunch was gorgeous and fast: puy lentils and onions fried up in garlic, topped with feta cheese and a couple of pickled red chillies. Delish! Love this photo as you can see the steam rising!

After lunch I fitted in a quick expedition to Lidl – and they had exactly what I hoped! Squashes! Aren’t they gorgeous? I can’t work out if any are the famed kabochas, though.

That afternoon they became brilliant roast squash curry (made to last week’s recipe, but spicier!). I served it with a spinach dhal and spiced rice to the Academical Couple who appeared with a gorgeous dry Reisling (not pictured), having in their Eurocenric way scorned my proffered new world choice.

Afters was some wonderful pomegranates. One of the joys of living on a street full of speciality ethnic grocers is great fruit, vegetables and authentic ingredients for pennies. The road I live off in SmallCity is home to Greek, Polish, Turkish, Italian, Russian, Pakistani, Moroccan, Bangladeshi, Chinese and Thai grocery shops, plus small versions of the mainstream supermarkets and a Saturday farmers’ market. The pomegranates – three for a pound! – have been a staple this week.

So this was my Saturday. I’m going to make some food resolutions for this this week: I want to try a smoothie and a chia pudding like these marvellous examples on Laura’s blog. I’m also going to try tahini. Same time next week to see how I get on?