USE USING USED BY

It’s been awhile. Partly it is due to technology issues such as me losing my phone, breaking my netbook, switching to a mini IPad then discovering that for some reason wordpress doesn’t like me accessing it through an IPad (constantly getting the message “there is a problem with this page so it was reloaded”). I’m also not very good at remembering to take photos and part of me believes I should try and include photos in a blog post if possible…

Mostly though I have lacked the enthusiasm to write about food.

When the economy crashed we went through a restructuring at work which led to  a feeling of insecurity. Then, just when we thought things would be alright, the government decided that the austerity measures were not having the desired effect and so about 3 years ago they announced another round of cuts. My employers promised that the second restructuring would be quick but then due to budgetary uncertainty (and a lot of rain leading to a rethink on flood defence issues) the restructuring took a whole year before it was complete.

For my part the year of “do I don’t I have a job” resulted in a lot of comfort food being consumed and probably too many nights on the sofa working my way through a bottle of red wine. Cue weight issues. From the 11st I had been happy with since Joe was born I went up to 12st 7lb (and more) and a band of middle age flab took up residence around my waist.

Eating happened. Cooking happened. Writing about it… not so much… and then once you stop writing it’s difficult to start again.

18 months ago I started to tackle the weight issue, mainly with exercise. This year I want to tackle the food side of things more diligently. As I’ve blogged before there will be no silly diets just healthy eating and portion control but more I want to enjoy eating because food should not just be about food.

The word of the year is frugal though. I want to keep trying to eat seasonally and locally if I can but mostly I want to use what is in the cupboard. I am sure I am not alone in buying the occasional special ingredient and then not using it until I find the right recipe or the right occasion but lets face it the Pope* is never going to come to dinner so I may as well use things before they go past their use by date

*not that I want the Pope to come to dinner but since as a republican (as opposed to a monarchist) its even less likely I’d invite the Queen  for a spot of Supper.

I also want to make my recipe books earn their place on the shelf as my collection is getting out of control. The same goes for all those kitchen gadgets that clutter up the cupboards and the kitchen surface… either they prove they have a purpose in life and are essential to my culinary life or out they go.

Mostly however I want to finally get the kitchen finished off. After all it will be 10 years in August since we knocked the house down and rebuilt it… it’s probably about time we finally tiled the kitchen.

I think I have my appetite back.

Well if it’s January then it must be …Dieting

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We don’t like the concept of dieting here at Currantbun Towers. We don’t like it. We don’t believe in it… and most importantly we don’t do it. Diets yes, dieting no…

I probably should explain here my use of language here.  A diet is what you eat. It can be general referring to everything you eat or it can refer to a particular regime you have chosen to follow for a reason that is not necessarily associated with weight loss. For example you might be training for a marathon, have a heart condition or suffer from migraines and you follow a specific regime or diet that is designed to help you with that.

“Dieting” though almost always seems to relate to following a particular regime in order to lose weight. You pretty much never hear someone say that they are dieting because they suffer from a migraine and are trying to avoid certain foods… then it’s described as “following a diet”

So, we don’t do dieting here… we believe in a healthy balanced appetite with everything we enjoy eating in moderation… until, we forget the moderation and the balanced bit… and the monitoring to ensure that it is moderate and balanced  😦

How did I get here ?

Possibly sitting on the sofa for 12-18 months feeling sorry for myself and doing nothing but drink red wine and eat comfort food. So nothing interesting or unusual there… The story is that in October 2013 my employers announced they were cutting the work force by 1700 and then what was supposed to be a quick exercise was dragged out for a Loooooooooooooong time… and we were pretty much in limbo for 12 months not knowing what was happening.

But now it is over.  I have a job. What’s more I have an extra 2 hours of freedom a day as part of the restructuring I got to move office and don’t have to commute quite so much. But…

Where does this leave me ?

I put on weight. I put on a lot of weight. I am now 1.5 stones over the weight I am comfortable living out…I am 2 stone over the weight I would like to be… and I am 3 stone over weight Nirvana (which, since it is the weight I was at age 18 I know is unachievable…)

Oddly though, the fact that I am overweight and need to do something about it has reignited my interest in food… but in a good way

January is a silly time to start a diet and exercise regime… the overcast skies, the gloom and the grey, the dark nights and the cold make it highly unlikely that you will want to go out and exercise after work and more likely that you will stay in. In January, and possibly more so in February, foodie thoughts turn to stews and casseroles full of potatoes, dumplings and fatty meat (yes please !)

but we all do it… because we overindulge at Christmas… but 18 months of overindulgence… well that means you can’t afford to procrastinate. Do it and do it now. But recognise that the first months will be tough and just because you fall off the wagon it doesn’t mean that you give up.

Nevertheless I have made inroads into my problem. Despite the fact that I tend to hibernate the whole of February with too much wine and chocolate, I have still managed to lose over half a stone.  This has mainly been through portion control, less red wine and cutting out the biscuits, chocolate and crisps. I have also made an effort to move more and have been aiming for 10,000 steps a day.  I also fell off the wagon a lot in February… it was really hard…

I am not aiming for perfection. I am not aiming for a fast loss of weight. I just want there to be less of me at Christmas than there is now.

So, I although I am dusting off the blog and planning on writing about Appetite again  I will try not to whine about being fat… but more about how wonderful food is, and how healthy eating does not mean living on undressed lettuce and detoxing…

Please bear with me, the other reason I haven’t been blogging so much (other than fear of redundancy) is that my boy managed to kill my lap top. The hard drive is toast. I swapped to an IPad mini but fear it has proved a bit more complicated for someone of my advanced years (that’s 43 in case you are wondering… but as far as Spider is concerned that is “old” and pretty much almost dead !!!)

And yes, I know its May… but it shows you how much I hate the concept of dieting in that its taken me until the end of May to bring myself to write about it…and to be honest it’s been going up and down like a yoyo due to grey miserable skies… April was much better.

In fact Easter is a much better time to start a diet…

The Diet Doctors Inside and Out (a sort of review)

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I don’ believe in diets and I don’t as a rule EVER follow a particular diet supposedly guaranteed to drop inches off my measurements… not since 2001 as far as I can remember when I dutifully followed a 7 day juice detox (having worked out that if I froze the lunchtime juice and took it to work it was in perfect condition by lunchtime) and ended up feeling by day 4  completely shattered and with very spotty skin…no doubt it was because “all the toxins were forcing their way out of your body”…

Who knows, but I’ve not followed a known diet regime since then, even when I follow the Matt Roberts Fat loss programme I only do the exercise part and ignore the diet side.

It is surprising to discover that I do actually have several books about dieting lurking around the house including The Diet Doctors Inside and Out – The ultimate 12 week diet plan…I think my Mum found it in a charity shop and passed it on to try and distract me from what she describes as that “Boot Camp”…I haven’t managed to get past week 6 of Matt Roberts programme the last 2 times I’ve tried it as I end up injured !

The Diet Doctors Inside And Out: The 12-week plan to make you slim for l By Dr Samina Showghi

I had a flick through this when it entered the house and put it down quite quickly as it wanted you to do a quiz and then didn’t seem to do anything with the results… well the book resurfaced a couple of weeks ago in a house reorganisation and I discovered that the results are actually listed in the back…AND discovered that actually my diet was not as healthy as I thought…so I sat down and read the book.

It’s basic principles are in line with what I’ve been trying to do, namely  if you want to lose weight you need to burn more calories than you use.  They advocate achieving this in the following way

1. Move more

2. Eat more vegetables, less red meat and less carbohydrates, less fat

3. Portion Control…and don’t overeat

4. Cut out the junk and processed food – less sugary high fat food

5. But should not just be a one off 12 weeks “diet”. It is about adopting good food habits for life…you are slowly changing your habits over the 12 weeks so that they become part of your lifestyle.

Sounds sensible enough right ?

They divide what you eat into 5 groups. Most of your diet should be made up of fruit and vegetables and the group 2 foods of bread rice pasta and potatoes. What they don’t explain clearly is that both group 1 and group 2 foods are carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables are usually more carbohydrate than anything else, the Group 2 foods are carbohydrates with more starch in them than the group 1 and they advocate trying to eat less processed versions…in fact they say “we want you to drop white refined and processed versions of the group 2 foods”

…and it is here I have a bit of a problem because I have yet to meet a whole wheat pasta that I like and I find brown rice far too much like hard work. I’d rather just eat a small portion of the more processed types…wholegrain bread I don’t have too much of a problem with but good bread generally is hard to find when you don’t have lot of time to shop. It’s also not clear where pulses fall within their 5 food groups, I’m presuming it’s Group 1 or are classed as unrefined group 2 foods…

But anyway, I’m going to give it a go, 1 week at a time and see whether it helps the weight level to go down more than it is at the moment…at the moment my waist measurement is fairly static.

Waist measurement currently = 32 inches

The Perfect Gin and Tonic

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What’s this, alcohol ? I thought there was meant to be a change of direction here, I thought this was all about healthy eating…”

It is about healthy eating, but it is also about variety, moderation and balance and  it is about FUN.  A gin and tonic can be part of healthy eating…lots of G&T’s possibly not !

On friday’s husband and I gather at my parents for a chat and occasionally some food or a film (Spider had a thing about James Bond this year and we ended up working out way through most of the films on fridays). My Dad and I indulge in a G&T, well usually 2 G&T’s. Some time ago we decided to start trying and comparing Gin’s and over the next few weeks I will try and tell you about them…if I start writing down what we thought about each brand then I can at least pretend we are connoisseur and not alcoholics !

gin

There is however no such thing as a perfect G&T as it’s all a matter of personal taste, however what follows is how we make our G&T’s and it is how we have tested each of the various brands we have tried so far.

  1. Take a cut glass tumbler…you can use any old glass but I think the drinking experience is so much nicer when you drink out of good glass…besides we used to use the markings on ours to measure out the gin…these days we use a proper measure !
  2. Put four lumps of ice in the bottom of the glass  (if you add the ice first it starts cooling the glass down)
  3. Add a slice of lime… in most pubs in the UK you tend to get lemon…our family has just always preferred lime, so lime it is.  If it’s not a naturally juicy one then give it a quick squeeze to help it out…alternatively rub the lime round the top of the glass.
  4. Choose a decent brand of Gin – our standard for years was Gordon’s Export which wasn’t always easy to get and we were reliant on people going abroad to bring it back as duty free.  At some point after 1992 we switched to Tanqueray. Both of these are London Dry Gin’s and are actually owned by the same people (Diageo)
  5. Measure out 50ml of gin… as I mentioned we used to pour the gin to a particular point in the glass but about 3 years ago decided to act like responsible adults.  We use a measure that came as a lid to a bottle of tonic once, it was approximately the same amount of gin as the mark on the glass method…much much later one of us poured the measure into a measuring glass and worked out that our G&T’s were based on a double measure !
  6. Top up to taste with whatever brand of tonic water floats your boat.  For a long time for us it had to be Schweppes indian tonic water and it had to be the full fat version as the diet versions used artificial sweetners and just tasted plain nasty… however at some point Schweppes seems to have changed their reciepe  so we switched tonic. We now top up with Fevertree…and I don’t know how much tonic is involved but for us it tends to work out as 1.5 small bottles of tonic between the 2 glasses…again it’s all down to taste and how strong or weak you like your G&T
  7. Very important this last bit… give it a swizzle (stir) and…
  8. Enjoy

Calories: in ours  182 calories…  not all gins have the same calories, not all tonics have the same and presumably there are some nice low calorie versions out there, so if you want to reduce the calorie count then play around until you find something you like

September means Sweetcorn

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I have had a love affair with sweetcorn for a long long time. At the age of 7 if asked, I would answer that my favourite food was chicken and sweetcorn soup, but  I think it was probably the sweetcorn part that made the difference.

 One of my first cookbooks was Real Good Food:Nigel Slater and I remember reading again and again his description of how he barbecued sweetcorn on a BBQ made from an old flowerpot filled with pebbles and charcoal and then served with lashings of chilli butter…I longed to  have my own house and garden so that I could do this too…20 years on and I have had BBQ sweetcorn on many occasions but from much more unromantic “disposable grills”…but still as September comes round my stomach starts to rumble as I see the “Sweetcorn for sale” signs on the farm gates around Warwickshire…

 It is also one of the few vegetables that I can get Spider to eat without fuss which is why if a couple of cobs of sweetcorn appear in the weekly veg box, they usually end up heading his way instead of mine…but, because Husband, doesn’t eat it, it is not something that I generally end up buying…not even tinned.

 I have accidentally scored a tin of sweetcorn this week. Due to Spider absent mindedly leaving his bag in Husband’s car on Thursday night, the tin my Mum had put in his bag for the Harvest Festival on Friday (because  it’s a safe bet I would have forgotten) is now mine, Spider having taken a tin of mushroom soup  (schools prefer tinned food these days apparently – gone are the days of taking one of your Dad’s supersized marrows in)…

 Much as I adore the flavour of a freshly cooked sweetcorn…it is admittedly at it’s best just as you have picked it  (does anyone remember the bit in M*A*S*H where Sherman Potter is explaining how he will take a cooker and a pot of water out into the field and bend the stalk of corn over until the cob (still attached to the plant) meets the water)…and the chances of getting sweetcorn that fresh is slim… Almost as soon as it is picked the sugar starts turning to starch…

 Nutritionally Speaking

Sugar ? Starch ? Yes, that’s right Sweetcorn is a carbohydrate…as are most vegetables…however Sweetcorn does have quite a lot of good things going for it…for a start it is supposed to be high in anti oxidants and be good for eyesight… compared to an apple it has more vitamin C, more protein, slightly more carbohydrates (6% as compared to 4%) and slightly higher in dietary fibre. Also surprisingly, in that you can cook with corn oil, sweetcorn is relatively low in fat (1%, compared with an apple’s 0%) and those fats being mainly mono or poly unsaturated…

 The problem with sweetcorn tends to be what people do with it…slathering it with chilli butter is probably off the menu for me…but most of the other recipes I’ve looked at for inspiration are high in fats, oil or cream too…probably because the taste of sweetcorn is very delicate (most of its attraction being the crunch texture and the hit of sugar) so most people add flavours (and fat) to it…

So for the time being, as after all this is a tin of sweetcorn, I don’t HAVE to eat it now, I’ve parked it until I can think of something better to do with it than eating it raw in a salad…

photo to follow – still having camera issues

A new direction ?

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I have been meaning to give the blog a facelift for sometime…in fact I started to do so at the beginning of the year, but then caught the flu and for quite some time have had no real interest in food… But then it is difficult to sustain an interest in food when you are bombarded by media messages about how the developed world is heading for an obesity crisis and that we are all eating such bad bad things !

 It cannot be denied that we (me and Husband) are both overweight, we are both about a stone above where we are comfortable being and in truth really need to lose 2 stone each…and you are probably thinking “well what do you expect when you have a blog called “Appetite for Cake”. Surprisingly though it is not the cake that is to blame, I make a lot of cake but most of it I give away to cheer other people up. No, our downfall is cheese. Cheese, but also sausages, mash, gin and red wine…

And in this year of ups and downs and illness (never really recovered from the flu before being struck down by cold after cold) that there has been a lot of comfort eating…

 I don’t believe in diets though, or rather “dieting”. You follow a diet for a set time, loose weight and then go back to how you used to be, and the weight just all comes back…I also don’t believe in “good” and “bad” foods. Food is a source of energy, if you eat it you will live, however some foods you can eat more of without an adverse effect on your weight and some foods are probably best kept for treats ! (Supersize me demonstrates that quite well !).

 I also don’t believe in daily calorie limits…I don’t believe in beating yourself up on Monday because you pushed the boat out on Sunday…As long as what you eat is on average healthy and not heavily laden with fat and sugar then the occasional G&T is not a reason for abandoning any attempt at healthy living as doomed from the start!

 So the direction I’m going in is a slow and gentle tweaking of what the household eats.

Dieting with the fun left in means embracing healthy eating but still enjoying it…food and eating can be a pleasure, it should not be purely about refuelling.  Along the way there are a few other things I’d like to achieve like putting the fun back into packed lunches, finding food that I am happy cooking that my family will actually eat, cutting out waste, eating locally and seasonally (not because of my carbon footprint but because buying locally helps support my local community and strawberries do taste better in the sun in June than at Christmas)…

 And what about cookbooks ?  I have shelf after shelf of cook books…I read them…I dream of cooking from them, sometimes I actually do. But it cannot be denied that a lot of the recipes in these books are likely to assist with piling on the pounds…or at least the ones that leap off the page at you saying “cook me, cook me”…even the books where  you would assume the recipes will be good wholesome food, such as Nigel Slater’s Tender (it’s a book about vegetables, how can it not be good for you ?) turn out to be full of butter, cream, olive oil… Well, I’ll still be reading cookbooks, but mixing the high calorific food in with the less calorific…the key is moderation…and finding better ways of cooking the same thing

 Eating healthily will not be easy…I mean we know how to cook but…as a family we are time poor…also the majority of the family has an uneasy relationship with most vegetables apart from potatoes…

 And for those who are interested  this is a visual representation of how much weight we are aiming to shift… at least it will be when I can work out how to get the photo off the camera

A plan

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Husband doesn’t cook roast dinners. Correction he doesn’t cook all of a roast dinner but he insists on making the yorkshire pudding, he sees it as “his role” – the same as when the sun comes out a lot of men consider that it is their role to cook, but only if they get to play with matches and a load of charcoal.

Husband claims he has no talent for cooking roasts, he doesn’t know how to get it all on the table at the same time (yet he can do eggs and bacon which requires the same skill on a smaller scale)…and when you ask him to make the yorkshire pudding you realise why he can’t do a roast dinner…it’s because he doesn’t understand the importance of a plan to a roast…so when I say “Darling, dinner will be at x therefore you need to have the yorkie ready to go in the oven by y” he comes into the kitchen at y to make the pudding and sends my carefully constructed plan awry.

I’ve learned to make the timings flexible…

Christmas Dinner traditionally in the family is very very laid back, partly due to the family habit of Champagne at 11am…and the other family tradition known as “sabotage the cook” (this is related to the champagne..!)

However it still helps to have a plan and thanks to insomnia at 3am this morning and a last minute decision not to go to work (due to the insomnia meaning driving would not be a good call today) I now have a plan.  I probably shouldn’t have left it so late, I probably wouldn’t have had insomnia if I’d had a plan and knew just what on earth I was going to be doing tomorrow and when…I may well have been sticking my head in the sand here and pretending that I don’t have to cook sprouts but since I now have a clean oven I have run out of excuses, I am cooking Christmas dinner…

Anyway, I now have a plan. There is no Yorkshire Pud in this Christmas dinner…so all I need to worry about is the champagne…