24 Hour Food Watch

courtyard breakfastIt’s the most transcendentally beautiful morning here in Oxfordshire and I was looking for an excuse to show you pictures of my breakfast in the garden. I came up with the idea of watching my food for 24 hours. A food diary is what they ask you to keep when you join Weightwatchers or similar and usually has sinister overtones of self-denial. But this one is entirely voluntary and I will try not to alter what I put in my mouth to make it look good. Honest! It is just an enquiry into what I eat and how and it begins with my hot milk and honey, cinnamon and turmeric that kicks off my day about 7am with meditation. In Winter this is usually inside. In Venice it is often at the end of the breakwater surrounded by the lapping waves and occasionally a party of swimming Italians who talk as they swim (I kid you not) just as loudly and enthusiastically as they talk during every other activity. Such stamina!

IMG_0470

The empty cup of golden milk!

 

But this morning it is in the kitchen, French windows thrown open, birds singing their little hearts out and the dog wondering if he can help. For the Dalai Lama and others whose state of consciousness is solidly under their control it may be that an inquisitive Labrador is neither here nor there. For me, not so much. However it was a lovely place to drink my milk and sometimes, if the concentration is not showing up, my meditation becomes an appreciation of hot milk and bird life which is still a lovely way to begin the day.

Beau on top of the world

The dog in question on his winter holidays

 

Breakfast came next after getting dressed and before starting work. My favourite cappuccino with turmeric on top, banana and peanut butter wholemeal bread. At the end of the morning I had my breakfast fruit salad for lunch instead. (Very boring but good for my insides.) I would have liked a piece of Gruyere or something with that but none in the fridge. Still shopping imminently so I can fix that craving. There was also a cup of instant coffee along the way and a glass of water.

Breakfast

Peanut butter, banana and wholemeal bread – is this the ultimate breakfast?

 

In the middle of Waitrose I realise I have miscalculated and am struck with that ‘must eat now’ feeling. An apple is no way going to address this! Only divine grace guides me towards a small packet of brazil nuts and away from Snickers (or Marathon as I internally call them in my antique way). There is internal protest but on the other hand I really love nuts. I reckon the calories may be the same but the nuts are protein and therefore count as nutrition – unlike the two butter crunch biscuits I have at home with a cup of tea. Not to worry. Soon I shall start preparing dinner. Some English asparagus is inspiring me to make an hollandaise (which doesn’t always work). After that chicken with garlic, ginger and fresh turmeric is in my head. Whether it will be bread with the asparagus or rice with the chicken depends a bit on how well the hollandaise turns out. Sadly a non-alcohol day today so my trusty alcohol free Cobra beer is in the fridge. Strangely I didn’t miss the alcohol at all on retreat but there’s a real sense of loss at home. Must be because the wine is right there and it’s only my own rule … interesting.

Well it turns out the hollandaise did work! The last of the English asparagus (according to my local shop) is the best we’ve had this year and the two together were sensational. The wholemeal bread once again came into its own and TBH I should have stopped right there.

asparagus

But the chicken with turmeric and garlic and cabbage was by now waiting and a lovely colour. Ignoring the fact that I wasn’t very hungry was ill-judged but I can report that it was a good combination and at a hungrier time would have gone well with rice. Without the coconut milk it is super healthy. With the coconut milk it tasted nicer.

My food for the day drew to a close with more water and a mug of cocoa. So I notice a couple of misjudgments – ones I’ve made before what’s more. I musn’t let myself get over-hungry away from home and especially not in the supermarket. And I don’t enjoy eating stuff I’m not hungry for – I wish I had chilled the chicken for another day.

Here’s the recipe in case you’d like to try it.

 

chicken with turmeric and cabbageChicken with Turmeric, Garlic, Ginger and Cabbage

 

1 chicken breast per person or 4 between 3

fresh turmeric, root ginger and garlic, grated with a microplane

olive oil

cabbage or greens – any sort, shredded

Soften your turmeric, garlic, leeks and root ginger in a large heavy pan (frying pan with lid is ideal) with some olive oil. (I used leeks but you could really add any vegetable that cooks reasonably quickly – courgettes, onions, finely cut carrots, celery.)

Cut your chicken breasts into a size of piece that pleases you and add to the pan with the cabbage. Cook as little as possible until just cooked through. Now taste it and add salt and pepper and decide whether to go for the coconut milk (one tin for two people) or not. If you add the coconut milk bring the pan to the boil and then turn down immediately. Just give it a couple of moments to amalgamate with the rest of the dish and then serve.

If you prefer leave out the coconut milk ands serve with a spoonful of fromage frais or Greek yoghurt.

Rice, couscous, bulgur wheat or bread go well.

Stress and Addiction Eating

Under stress our addictions pop right up again even when we thought we’d sorted all that. If you’re under stress (who isn’t?) look after yourself. Here’s how.

Have in a wide range of food in healthy proportions. (That means a packet of biscuits in the tin, sure, but a fridge and a fruit bowl overflowing with fresh raw things. Cheesecake is not a raw thing.)

  1. If you feel the need to eat and it’s not a meal time reassure that anxious part of you that it’s not going to starve and lay your hands on as much fruit as you can. Eat it straight or arrange it like a still life first. Don’t want fruit? Always have access to some tomatoes and miso soup, maybe a hard boiled egg too. Keep reassuring the anxious part which is not your stomach. If your anxious part is afraid of the food, reassure it just the same. There isn’t going to be any force feeding. There is only kindness. Sense into the part of you that panics. How old is it?
  2. If part of you is always afraid of being deprived, eat off large plates. A large plate filled with raw foods and a small amount of protein/carbohydrate/fat (meat, fish, cheese, bread, mayonnaise, salad dressing, butter etc) . This feels generous and is less likely to send that hungry frightened part into orbit.
  3. Equally if your small and hungry part is frightened by food, make it a small and tempting plate. Imagine you are looking after a toddler.
  4. Make it tasty! Anchovies, lemon juice, fresh herbs, garlic, ginger, coriander on your salad mean you don’t need so much oil.
  5. I’m all for healthy eating but this isn’t the time to start giving up salt. If you’re trying to eat sensibly in terms of quantity make it delicious. If you try to revolutionise your eating in one go (from a Full English diet to no-salt, low fat)  you are asking to fail. One thing at a time. Don’t feed the part that believes in all or nothing. Feed the grown-up part that knows to take it slowly. Someone needs to look after that toddler.
  6. Make soup. Make soup often! Making it is incredibly therapeutic and eating it is pretty good too. My current favourite is root vegetables such as carrots, swede and parsnips – whatever you have in but go easy on the potatoes. Chop and saute and onion. Peel and chop your root veg and add to the pan with enough Marigold vegetable stock to cover generously. Cook until the veg are soft and then liquidise. Freeze some and meanwhile season what you are keeping out for the next few days. By seasoning at the time of eating you can vary the soup. I like to add cayenne and curry powder for quite a spicy taste, then add some good yoghurt or a dash of cream to your bowl when serving. Next time you can add ginger and lemon and parsley or some other wonderful combination you’ve discovered.

 

Today’s recipe is for Pasta with Prawns.

Prawn Spaghetti

 

Chop finely some parsley and garlic and put in a small bowl with the prawns (room temperature), the juice of half a lemon, salt and pepper. Heat some good olive oil in a small pan and when your pasta is drained and ready add everything from the bowl with the prawns in it and a teaspoon of Harissa pasta or a sprinkling of chilli flakes. Warm through and divide between the pasta dishes. This also works beautifully with crab meat or sautéed courgettes or roasted broccoli instead of the prawns.

In Italy at Last

paviaBreakfast at Le Stanze del Cardinale, Pavia

This was our breakfast buffet at a wonderful B & B in Pavia called Le Stanze del Cardinale. where Martina and her colleagues make you feel so welcome. In addition to the delicious bread, jam and cakes they insisted on cooking us bacon and eggs – perhaps because they knew we were English. In any case it was a great start to the last day of our journey. Pavia was another beautiful Italian city that we had too little time to explore but we shall certainly be back. The B & B overlooks the Piazza del Duomo. Gorgeous.

In a hop skip and a short ferry ride we were in Venice.

venice-2View from the car ferry to the Lido

After all that traffic and all those different stops, I arrived with quite a lot to do to prepare Christmas for friends and family in Venice. Not surprisingly the old IBS started playing up and I could feel a bad throat coming on. But I have discovered turmeric milk with the help of another blog called Cooking Without Limits and this has had a powerful effect on my system such as I would never have believed. My new packet of ibuprofen remain unopened! I knew that turmeric is a healing Ayurvedic spice good for inflammation and but it had never occurred to me that you could enjoy it with hot milk, cinnamon and honey or put it on your porridge. I can’t say for sure that the cold has gone but certainly I feel heaps better. I shall sprinkle it wherever I can to fend off Christmas colds.

porridge-2Here is the rainbow porridge with toasted flaked almonds, cinnamon and turmeric as well as a spoonful of sugar. I could feel it doing me good! I would love to hear if you try it.

 

Sunday is Granola Day

granola-close-up

Hugely nutritious and easy peasy to make, granola makes you feel like Nigella in her prime even if it’s the first time you’ve ever stirred anything. You don’t really need a pinny to stir a dry mixture in a pan but put one on anyway. Indulge the part of you that might like to feed people. A gorgeous, warm and comforting smell comes off the toasting seeds and nuts pretty much as soon as you turn on the gas. By the time you’ve got it in heaping sackfuls on your larder shelf you’ve  written your winner’s speech for Bake Off in your head and you’re Ready For Anything.

Granola’s secret is that is is very very satisfying. Satisfying to make. Satisfying to eat. I expect a proper analysis would reveal that the combination of protein and fat (the nuts and seeds), the complex carbs (oats) and the sugars in the maple syrup and honey speak directly to our lizard brain about security and love. Can eating home-made granola make you feel loved? Take a look at an amazing book by Sue Gerhardt called Why Love Matters : How Affection Shapes a Baby’s Brain. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Why-Love-Matters-Affection-Shapes/dp/1583918175 and see what you think. The connection between nutrition and affection is not transparent but I believe it lies at the heart of our eating disorders.

Back to the granola! A large dessert spoon of home-made granola on top of your yoghurt or porridge can give you the strength of ten. It is definitely the thing to eat before you go in to negotiate a pay rise or ask your teenager to tidy his bedroom or run that 10k you’ve been working up to. If, like me on the other hand, you are stumbling towards your computer or an armchair, go easy. I have been known to have it for dinner when I was feeling low because it is a truly nourishing thing and the fact that you made it yourself makes it all the more so.  Keep it in your cupboard for days when you need a treat or extra feeding because, let’s not be coy, it is highly calorific. Treat it with respect. That’s why I keep it for Sundays.

BEST DIETING TIP EVER

The voices of punishment and deprivation that show up when we feel overweight are treacherous. Think of them as Odysseus thought of the sirens and stop your ears with bees’ wax; have your men tie you to the mast. But how? I’m going to tell you. Silence them by refusing to start with denial and self-hatred. Refuse to deny yourself porridge or granola or bacon and eggs or croissants (what kind of a life would that be?) but ALWAYS, ALWAYS have a huge fruit salad first. I mean a large dinner plateful, albeit charmingly arranged. An apple, a pear, a banana, a few grapes maybe. Elegant slices of kiwi. Chunks of mango or pineapple. Your fruit salad will reflect your resources and the seasons but make it significant – not that unfilling expensive pot from Pret. And if your fruit bowl habitually contains old biro tops and Lego, at least make sure it also has a couple apples and some passion fruit as well. While we’re on the subject, passion fruit should indeed be mentioned in despatches for they are heroes amongst fruit. Unlike the prima donna pear or peach it appears to be impossible to keep passion fruit too long for however wrinkly they become, they can jazz up an otherwise uninspired breakfast salad into a exploding taste fest.

So here’s the deal.

  1. Reassure the hungry one inside that food is coming.
  2. Now take your time to make and eat your fruit salad.
  3. And pause. Take a moment to sense into yourself and enquire what you really want next.
  4. Have whatever that turns out to be. I guarantee it will be a smaller and kinder helping than otherwise. Now the recipe.

Granola Recipe

First what my Aunty Ruby (she was great) used to call the ingreediments :

Oats – any old kind will do including the unloved ones at the back of your cupboard

Seeds – sunflower, sesame, poppy, pumpkin, all are good.

Nuts – all kinds or whatever you have to hand. Blanched or otherwise. Flaked or otherwise.

Dried fruit – dried cranberries are especially delicious but sultanas work too as do apricots or prunes chopped small.

Vegetable oil

Runny honey

Maple syrup or the imitation from Tate and Lyle

1. Pour several cups of oats into a large, deep frying pan. Add seeds and nuts so that the oats ideally form about half of the mixture.*

2. Add a tablespoon or so of e.g. sunflower oil – enough for a scant coating of the oats and nuts and seeds when you stir it well.

3. Toast** over a medium heat stirring frequently until you can smell them and they change colour. Breathe deeply. Enjoy.

4. Turn down the heat and add a good squirt of runny honey and a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup. Keep stirring to prevent burning but make sure the mixture is really toasted..

5. Stir until the sugars are evenly distributed and the stickiness recedes. Remove from the heat.

6. Add the dried fruit when the granola is still warm but not hot and stir it in.

7. Let it cool in the pan and then transfer to a tupperware. Bash it up if it’s stuck together.

*Nuts and seeds and fruit are expensive so if you are a bit pushed on the cash front this week, increase the proportion of oats.

**If you are using sesame seeds or poppy seeds add these towards the end of the toasting as they burn easily.

 

granola-photo

 

Christmas

You can pop this in cellophane bags (Amazon) and tie with twine and a few orange slices (you’ve dried in the oven) for presents. We are all domestic goddesses now!