Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Veg Box Day: 24/4/12

This fortnight I've got spring onions, asparagus (yay!), carrots, potatoes, a red pepper, more purple sprouting broccoli (yay again!) and courgettes - I was meant to have portobello mushrooms but the quality wasn't up to scratch this week so they swapped them for the courgettes. Fine with me!

I seriously need to start finding things to do with potatoes, mind you. I don't really eat potatoes very often but I'm going to have to seeing as I now get a bag every fortnight! I've got a bag and a half to use now! To that end, I decided to make a warm Nicoise-inspired salad for tonight's supper, with tuna, spring onions, asparagus, potatoes, black olives and a hard-boiled egg. With a drizzle of balsamic vinegar it was absolutely delicious, and definitely a great way to use a couple of those spuds!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Baked oatmeal adventures!

A few weeks ago I posted about making raspberry baked oatmeal to fuel my half marathon efforts, and since then it's become my new favourite breakfast, so I thought I'd do a proper post with my made-up baked oatmeal recipe.
I based the recipe on one I found online, but only very loosely - most of the baked oatmeal recipes I've seen seem to involve tons of sugar, or cream, or both, and while I'm sure they're lovely and very indulgent, that's not quite what I want as a healthy everyday breakfast! So I took the basic proportions and went from there, and this is what I do:

Baked Oatmeal

1 ripe banana
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups almond milk
2 cups oats (I use a mixture of oats and millet flakes)
Whatever fruit and add-ins you fancy (so far I've done one with raspberries, one with an extra chopped banana and some unsweetened shredded coconut, and my latest is blueberry)

1. Mash the banana in a mixing bowl using a fork, then use said fork to beat in the egg and almond milk.
2. Add the oats and whatever else you're using and mix everything together.
3. Bake at 190C for around half an hour, until the edges are golden brown and it's firm in the centre.
4. Serve warm with milk and extra fruit, or cold as a portable snack (it's like a flapjack or a piece of dense banana bread). Yum yum!  

This is today's blueberry version, straight from the oven...
I cut each batch into five lots of four squares, to make breakfasts for the whole working week. As a very rough guide, if you're interested in the calorie contents then the basic recipe with just berries as an addition is around 200 calories per serving, and for the one I made with the extra banana and coconut (about 1 tablespoon of coconut for the whole batch) it was around 230 calories per serving.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Storm clouds gather over London...

...and I make a frittata.

Seriously, the weather is getting beyond a joke. We might have had the driest two winters on record, and we might be in the middle of a drought with hosepipe bans and all the rest of it, but you wouldn't have thought it judging by this week's weather! I couldn't believe the sky on my way home this evening...
The photo doesn't even do it justice...the bit of sky below the clouds was green. Just after I got to the station, there was a massive hail-and-thunder storm!

There's only one thing to do on a day like this, and that's to get home as quickly as possible, pour yourself a glass of wine, and make something nice to eat. I've been rather busy this week so I've still got quite a lot of veg box veg in the fridge that needs using before Tuesday, so I decided to make a frittata, which I baked in the oven. I totally made the recipe up, but it went something like this...

Baked vegetable frittata

Serves 2

1 small onion, sliced
1 small potato, cut into dice
Six or so cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small chunk of frozen leaf spinach (you know, if you buy the bags it comes in those chunks...), thawed and patted dry
3 eggs
150ml almond milk (or regular milk)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 200C and spray a small baking dish with oil.
2. Microwave the potato chunks with a little water for about a minute and a half, until softening. Add to the baking dish along with the onion, and roast in the oven for about 15 minutes until just starting to brown.
3. Add the cherry tomatoes to the dish and roast for another 10 minutes.
4. Beat the eggs and milk together in a bowl, then stir in the spinach and season.
5. Once the tomatoes have started to bubble, pour the egg mixture into the baking dish, return to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until just firm in the centre.
6. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving with salad (and I added a blob of mango chutney!)

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Carrots, chickpeas and solving a kitchen problem...

My kitchen is tiny. Not quite as tiny as Rachel Khoo's teeny weeny Paris kitchen (if she didn't fold her bed away in the morning she'd practically be cooking in bed) but it's small. There's just about enough room for one person to cook and one person to stand by the fridge drinking a glass of wine and passing the odd ingredient over from the fridge. And, as I've been here three and a half years and have accumulated various bits and pieces in that time, every now and then I encounter a serious storage problem. I've recently acquired a couple of new mugs, and there was literally nowhere for them to go, and the top of the microwave was absolutely covered in stuff too - something had to be done!

Then I happened to see a post on Laura's blog, Keeping Healthy Getting Stylish, where she mentioned using a cheap wooden shoe rack as kitchen storage. I did some online research and some measuring, and discovered I'd be able to fit a shoe rack on top of the (excellent) custom-made set of shelves my dad designed for me when I moved in. Brilliant!
It looks fab and it frees up tons of space elsewhere. In an ideal world I'd do a DIY job on the shoe rack and the shelves and paint them a lovely sage green or a nice warm cream to match the kitchen tiles, but that's for another weekend!

This evening's supper was just as successful - yet more veg box produce used, and yet another recipe from River Cottage Veg Every Day tried and tested! This time it was Hugh's spicy carrot and chickpea pitta pockets - lovely buttery carrots with lots of cumin and orange, served in Hugh's case with pittas and in my case with homemade wholemeal flatbreads.
I used this recipe for the breads, halving it and using wholemeal plain flour, and I didn't really change much about the carrot recipe except for halving it, which made a good main course-sized portion (it'd easily serve two as part of a mezze spread or as lunch) and using less butter and oil than directed (probably a quarter of the original recipe). I was a bit worried about the carrots burning, so I put a lid on the pan and sort of braised the carrots, shaking the pan every now and then, until they were tender.

It was seriously lovely, and definitely one I'll make again - it was so easy. I'm not even a fan of oranges, but I went with it and the zest and juice went perfectly with the carrots and cumin. Yum yum!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Instagram, swiss chard and potato curry, and eating better...

The extremely trendy and popular Instagram app has just become available for Android, and of course, as someone who loves taking photos with their phone, I've downloaded it! I've been having lots of fun trying to work out how to use the thing, and it's already inspired me to do something new. My eating habits have been absolutely awful just recently - two weeks of eating whatever I wanted because I was building up to a half marathon/I'd just done a half marathon followed by an Easter weekend full of (lovely) cheese, wine, cake and puddings means I really feel like I need to get back on track before my jeans get any tighter!

So I've set up a tumblr blog called What Allie Ate Today, where I'll be using Instagram to share photos of everything I eat. The theory is that if I actually have to take a photo of my food and share it with the internet, I might be less likely to eat badly!

And then this evening I used the swiss chard from my veg box to make Hugh F-W's chard and potato curry, from my River Cottage Veg Every Day book. The original used new potatoes, but I've still got a couple of big baking potatoes from my last veg box (and a new bag of smaller Desiree ones from this week's) so I used one of those, and the whole head of chard, which turned out to be about 200g. Instead of mixing the tomato purée with yogurt and stirring it in, I mixed it with a tiny bit of almond milk, and I ended up with a gorgeously spicy and soupy curry.
I had it with some mango chutney and didn't bother with rice or naan as it already had enough carbohydrate for me - OK, so I ended up eating two big bowls of the stuff, but I only actually ate one potato, a load of greens and some spices!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The 2012 PSB Mountain...

That's purple sprouting broccoli, for those not in the know!

It's Veg Box Week again, but I didn't take a photo of Tuesday's box because it was rather soggy after a massive rain/hailstorm and I just wanted to get all the veg dried and into the fridge as quickly as possible! Anyway, this week my box contained onions, carrots, swiss chard, little gem lettuce, cherry vine tomatoes, potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli. I love PSB...and it's a good job, too, because my mum sent me home after Easter with a bag of the stuff from her garden!

Last night I went for a run, as usual on a Wednesday, and I'd originally planned to have beans on toast when I got home, but then I remembered about the ton of PSB in the fridge and thought I'd better use some of that instead. I wanted something quick, as I don't get home from running until after 8.30pm, and gradually a sort of eggs florentine idea started to form. Before my run, I made a batch of Angela's amazing sauce, and then when I got home I toasted some rye bread, steamed some PSB in the microwave, reheated the sauce and fried an egg. In an ideal world I'd have poached the egg, but I couldn't be bothered!
Toast, PSB, egg, sauce, black pepper. It was really nice! And I still have half the batch of sauce in the fridge - I think I'm going to have it stirred through some pasta with yet more PSB.

Unfortunately I then undid all my healthy running and vegetable-eating work by slaughtering a Lindt Easter bunny...
...but these things happen!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Easter Food Fest...

I'm back from my Easter weekend in Somerset feeling absolutely stuffed - we made all sorts of gorgeous things to eat!

First off, my mum finally got the ice cream maker for her (beautiful) Kenwood Chef out of the cupboard - it was her birthday present from me and my sister last year, but she hadn't used it! It's really clever, with a bowl that you freeze, a larger plastic bowl, and a paddle attachment to complete the transformation from Chef to ice cream machine. We used this maple syrup ice cream recipe (we love maple syrup in our house thanks to the four years we spent in New England when my sister and I were little) and unfortunately we were far too excited about watching the ice cream churning to remember to take photos, so you can have a sneaky pic of the finished product instead!
We used more maple syrup than the recipe suggested, and rippled some through the soft ice cream before it went into the freezer to fully set, and it was amazing. Really smooth, really creamy and incredibly delicious!

We then revisited the chocolate pie I made a couple of weeks ago, but as my sister wasn't around we didn't have to worry about making it totally gluten-and-dairy-free. While shopping for biscuits we spotted some almond ones in Waitrose, so we used half almond biscuits and half ordinary digestives. Great idea! The chocolate filling was the same as before, except we used almond milk to carry on the almondy theme, and we decorated it with some edible gold leaf just to make it posh!
(Can you tell I was let loose with my mum's smart Nikon DSLR camera?)

And finally, we made a lemon drizzle cake - but it was a bit of a disaster! When it came out of the oven looking seriously misshapen and a bit odd, my mum remembered that she'd tried the recipe before, a couple of years ago, and had ended up with a weird cake then as well. But we sliced it in half, sandwiched the two halves together with buttercream to hide the wonkiness, and topped it with lemon icing, fluffy chicks and Mini Eggs. You can't go wrong with that, and it did taste far better than it looked! A bit of clever photography also helped...!
I'm not going to post the recipe, because it's so impossible to get right that it's been banished from my mum's recipe file, but at least we made it look half decent in the end!

Thursday, 5 April 2012


Every now and then I treat myself to a manicure - mainly because I hate doing my nails myself and I can never be bothered to spend the time to make them look nice! The other day one of the girls from work had her nails done and it looked so nice that I thought I'd get mine done as well. There's a brilliant salon just round the corner from the office - their manicures are £10 and they're fab. Usually I just go for one coat of a very, very neutral colour but I'm going to a party with a 'Hollywood glamour' theme this weekend so I thought I'd have a bit of colour. I have quite short nails and quite small hands, so I was a bit worried that the dark polish would make them look even shorter and smaller, but actually I think it makes my nails look really nice!

I haven't chipped it so far...fingers crossed...!

I'm off to visit my parents for the Easter weekend today, so I hope everyone has a lovely weekend with lots of chocolate and hot cross buns!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Reading Half Marathon!

In case you can't read that...it says 1:57.39! Under two hours! I'm totally chuffed and I've had a great day. The weather was perfectly chilly yet sunny (a little bit too sunny really, but I ignored that and powered on regardless!) and the race was so well organised and so much fun, with lots of people cheering us on and lots of bands and drums and students banging saucepans with wooden spoons along the way!

The official results aren't up yet, but my Garmin should be fairly accurate, I think. It's amazing how much mileage you add on weaving through the crowds - my Garmin reckons I actually ran nearly 13.4 miles, so I'd probably have come in at 1:55 if I hadn't been dodging people! I also managed am 8:22 mile which is quite frankly ridiculous, and only two of my miles were over 9 minutes...it couldn't have been better, really! My fellow Ealing Eagles all did brilliantly too, and some lovely friends of mine came to cheer me on and I went out for a celebratory lunch with them afterwards, so all in all it's been a really fab day and it's certainly put my fear of organised races to bed, I think!

Edit: my chip time is 1:57.40 but I think I'll give myself that extra second! Also, thanks to my friend Pete, here is a hilariously bad photo of me at mile 10. In my head I was all 'Yeah! This is great! Look how good I feel!' but actually I look ever so slightly crazed and extremely sweaty...

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