Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cold Comfort

After watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics last night and glad to say I'm (still) proud to be British. It was very impressive, although possibly other countries would not understand the early part where they showed the history of our country (from peasant farming, through the indusrial revolution, and onwards to the present day). The amount of organisation it must have taken to remove each era so effortlessly without a break in the proceedings was incredible.

Funny really, over the past weeks, everything seemed to be going wrong, but even though it was raining shortly before the start, even that went away and other than too much modern music for my tastes, it was just about perfect. Even lighting the Olympic flame was a new approach, and let us hope that British Gas foots the bill for that.

Quite a few of the athletes did not attend the ceremony as they have an early start today with their events and as the above did not finish until the early hours of this morning, they would have been too exhausted to compete. Do hope that the overseas readers to this blog watched the ceremony as it was shown world wide. And just to make sure you know, it wasn't really the Queen that jumped from the helicopter gliding down to the arena on a parachute. But that was very amusing, as was the Rowan Atkinson 'cameo' playing a keyboard along with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Like the Jubilee, I was at first not that interested in the run up to the event, but now am really hooked and no doubt will spend quite a bit of time watching as many of the events that interest me as possible. BBC have set up a really good website where they cover all the events and we can choose which to watch via our computer if it isn't being shown on the normal TV screen.

Thanks for letting me know about the 'Diners...." prog Oliver. Am not sure whether the digi box should be retuned receive that channel as I watch enough foodie programmes already. With even more to watch I would never move from in front of the TV. Tempting though.

Yesterday we actually had quite a lot of sun and so outside I went to 'have a sit'. Took a thermometer out with me and the temperature in the shade had reached 80F, and in the sun it rose to 90C. B says it is always the temperature in the shade that is the one that is counted. Yet, even with that heat, it didn't feel THAT warm as there was a fairly strong and cool breeze blowing over me, even though I was tucked up in a fairly sheltered corner of the garden.

Over recent nights the humidity level has been 77, but last night it had fallen to 65 which made it a lot more comfortable when sleeping. After an cloudy start to the day, blue sky is now appearing and so we again have some sun, but with quite a strong wind, and considerably cooler.
Not sure whether I envy you your weather Lisa or not, certainly having such high temperatures for such a long period of time would not be bearable if not used to it. Perhaps it is normal summer temperatures for America (or at least your state), but certainly we never reach that heat here. But then our winter temperatures are possibly normally milder than yours.
With this global warming it does seem that a lot of our planet is getting more extreme weather at both ends of the temperature scale. So who knows what weather this coming winter will bring to our shores.

Myself am very fond of sushi, but only that type that has no raw fish, only the cooked or smoked shellfish/salmon etc. Think the 'raw' is called 'sashumi', not sure. At one time I used to make a lot of sushi, but gave all the 'necessary' away (rolling mat, sushi rice etc), and think it might be a good idea to start again as sushi makes a really good light meal/supper/buffet dish.

Am really going to have to be firm with myself and try and lose the weight I've been gaining (back) recently. Have over two months before my next weigh in and want to lose at least two stone. Shouldn't be difficult if it is worked to a few pounds loss a week, but how easy it is to fall by the wayside. I've tried very hard to keep control of my food intake, and relied a lot of 'cold comfort eating', but perhaps that is the reason. Cold food (for me) can often be 'something in a sandwich', and for me eating bread (carbos) is guaranteed to make me pile the pounds back on again. Also having had one sarnie, then I want another, so end up eating twice as much as I really need (or even really want).

All that weight I'd lost and I thought I'd really got control. My stomach seemed to have shrunk and even small amounts made me feel full. Something got me eating small amounts more often, and these became larger amounts less often, so my tum obviously stretched back and no longer do I feel 'full', and now eating three meals a day again when previously two was too many. How easy it is to fall back into bad habits. Do hope I can be strong enough to go back to a sensible routine and eat far less. Shouldn't be difficult during the summer months as we have such a big choice of all the seasonal fruit and veggies, many of them on 'offer' (but still not that cheap).

Went into the larder yesterday and sat down to see what I could eat that had few calories, and although normally I don't check the nutritional guide printed on the cans, was very surprised to find that the Tesco Value Tuna chunks were 100 cals per 100g, yet the same size can of Princes Tuna steaks showed this (per 100g) was almost double the cals (possible because they were in oil, the cheaper was in brine).
So a double bonus for those of us who want to lose both lbs and ££s. Buy the cheaper cans of tuna.

After reading the nutritional value of different brands of baked beans, chopped tomatoes, sardines, pilchards etc, it was very surprising to find out how some are much lower in calories than an other similar one. Usually the cheaper the brand, the lower the calories (and also lower the protein if it has any). Unfortunately to gain the advantage of price and low cal, we often have to lose the better flavour the more expensive has. Win some, lose some I suppose.

Quite a lot of food today does not seem to have much taste at all. Certainly fresh fruits (picked before being fully ripe to allow them to last longer on the supermarket shelves) have little flavour. Vegetables are now grown more for appearance than 'mouth appeal', and have to say when it comes to cheese - especially Cheddar - almost all the 'mild' and even 'mature/strong' Cheddars have very little to recommend them. We have to hunt out the cheeses on deli counters, cut from the whole cheese, before we can find one that really tastes as good as it should, and then it costs us.

Strangely, having tried many different brands/cuts of bacon, we find the Tesco's own streaky smoked rashers the ones we prefer, and these are probably their cheapest (other than the mixed 'value' packs of offcuts). The are thinly sliced (so plenty to a pack) and fry/grill really crispy and also taste good. Others may think differently, but once we all find something that suits our palate, then we are generally happy with it.

With fish, well I find this also lacks flavour. Not that fish often does have any, but for real enjoyment I prefer smoked fish: haddock, mackerel, salmon.

What about meat. A good home-cooked gammon (aka 'ham') is far nicer than any sold over the counter (unless a good York ham cut from the bone - and far too expensive for me). Well hung meat has a far better and stronger flavour than a 'younger' meat. But again more expensive.
But I do love sausages, the best I can afford, but will settle for Walls or Richmond's pork sausages if I have to. Our butcher makes great pork sausages, but again too expensive for regular use (I can eat 6 cold sausages in one go, no wonder I am gaining weight!).

The best tasting food (have to say this is now mainly from memory), is the home-cooked 'bakes'. The lemon drizzle cakes, the gingerbread, flapjack, parkin, rich fruit cake. Different home-cooked biscuits, light fluffy scones smothered with home-made jam and clotted cream. All out of my reach because of being 'officially' diabetic (although now well below the level), and the many calories (if I eat one I have to eat the lot), so although still make these, it is B who gets the pleasure (and never gains a lb even though he scoffs the lot. Life just isn't fair!).

For those who are into healthy eating and/or counting calories (not necessarily the same thing), here are a few recipes to help shed a few lbs. Not necessarily the cheapest version we could make, but there is nothing stopping us substituting a lower priced (and still low calorie) ingredient for another.

First recipe uses chicken, the fruit being mango. Fresh pineapple could be used instead, and maybe canned pineapple if not in a heavy syrup. Apples go well with chicken, and also oranges or grapefruit.
Not a million miles away from 'Coronation Chicken' this recipe could have a spoon of mango chutney folded into the yogurt and omit the more expensive mango fruit.
Chicken Salad with Mango: serves 4
1 Little Gem lettuce
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
4 spring onions, finely chopped
half cucumber, thinly sliced
1 mango, peeled and flesh chopped
12 oz (350g) cooked roast chicken
5 fl oz (150ml) natural yogurt
1 tsp mild curry powder
freshly ground black pepper
few mint leaves for garnish
Separate the lettuce leaves and use to line a shallow salad bowl. Scatter the celery, onions and cucumber over the top.
Make the dressing by mixing together the yogurt and curry powder. Tear the chicken into pieces and either fold this into the dressing and then spoon on top of the salad, or place the chicken on the salad and spoon the dressing over it. Finish with a grinding of black pepper and a few mint leaves for garnish.

Far be it from me to suggest serving a sarnie when on a diet, but two slices of wholemeal (or granary) bread will be far better for us than the bog-standard white we normally use, and calorie-wise (we are looking at around 250 for this one when using an ordinary low-fat mayo) and one portion of the below would work well as a summer light lunch.
Remember that the Hellman's 'Lighter than Light' mayo has only 10 cals per tblsp., far less than their 'light mayo' so the calorie count would be less.
Lemon Tuna Sarnie: serves 2
1 x 175g can tuna in brine or spring water, drained
2 tblsp low fat mayonnaise (see above)
zest and juice of 1 small lemon
freshly ground black pepper
2 tblsp chopped parsley
2 spring onions, finely chopped
4 slices bread (see above)
4 slices tomato
watercress leaves
Put the tuna, mayo, lemon zest and juice, pepper to taste, parsley, and spring onions into a bowl and mix well and mix well together. Spread this over two slices of the bread, then top each with tomato and watercress. Cover with remaining bread and serve.

We spread bread with butter to act as a barrier to prevent any moist filling (tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce....) soaking into the crumb, so we could instead use low-fat cream cheese or mayo to spread on the bread (instead of using butter/marg) to serve the same purpose.
Using a 'dry' filling, such as roast beef, this would still need some sort of moisture to make the sarnie more palatable, so the bread could be spread with a little mayo mixed with a savoury 'sauce'. Much depends on the meat chosen and personal tastes, but myself use brown sauce (HP), mustard or horseradish sauce with beef, mustard with ham, cranberry sauce with chicken/turkey. Mint sauce/redcurrant jelly with lamb.

Three more recipes before I leave for today. First is a version of 'tabbouleh' that includes cheese. If we have no bulgar wheat we could use couscous (this being 'cooked' by just pouring the boiling water over and then letting it soak for 15 minutes before draining - if necessary - then fluffing up with a fork). Preferably soak the grain this with home-made vegetable stock or you could use the same amount of boiling water plus a vegetable stock cube dissolved in the water.
Myself like to add diced red/yellow bell peppers and also a tablespoon of chopped fresh mint to this dish, but optional.
Middle Eastern Salad: serves 4
7 oz (200g) bulgar wheat
1.5 pints (850ml) boiling vegetable stock (see above)
1 red onion, finely chopped
half cucumber, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
small handful parsley, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp Dijon or wholegrain mustard
salt and pepper
3 oz (75g) Feta cheese
Put the bulgar into a saucepan with the boiling stock (or water and crumbled stock cube). Cover and simmer for 12 minutes until the grain is tender. Tip into a large bowl and leave to cool then fluff up with a fork (draining off any excess water).Add the onions, cucumber, tomatoes, and herbs and fold together.
Put the lemon zest and juice into a jug with the mustard and mix well then pour this over the salad, folding it in so that it coats as much of the grain and veggies as possible. Add seasoning to taste then crumble the Feta cheese over the top. Chill until ready to serve.

Penultimate recipe is another great lunch or supper dish. If possible serve this on thick slices of bruschetta or diagonally sliced French stick (baguette), otherwise uses slices of wholemeal or granary.
Cheese and Mushrooms on Toast: serves 4
2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp tomato puree/paste
4 slices bruschetta bread (see above)
8 oz (225g) mixed mushrooms
2 fl oz (50ml) vegetable stock
2 tblsp balsamic vinegar
2 oz (50g) creamy blue cheese (Gorgonzola etc)
freshly ground black pepper
Mix together the oil, garlic, and tomato puree. Spread this onto the bread, then grill until lightly toasted.
Meanwhile, slice up the larger mushrooms and put into a pan with the stock and simmer for a few minutes until the liquid has evaporated, then add the vinegar, stirring to coat the mushrooms.
Place one slice of the toasted bread onto 4 individual plates and top with the mushrooms, spooning over any juices left in the pan, the crumble the cheese on top and season with pepper. Serve immediately.

Final recipe also uses mushrooms, this time the large chestnut 'Portobello' (although the large white field ones are almost - but not quite - as good.
As I haven't fish sauce would use a miso 'soup' sachet, or a spoon of soy sauce, and it goes without saying that the shredded chicken would be that left over from a roast, and preferably use the scraps that are on the bones of the carcase once we have boiled it to make the chicken stock.
Normally I grate lemon and lime zest using a micrograter - this giving me very fine 'crumbs' of citrus peel. For this dish the appearance is better when a coarser grater or peeler ('cannelle' knife) is used so that the zest is in very thin short strips. But then as it all goes down the same way and tastes just as good, who cares what grater we use?
Oriental Chicken and Mushroom Broth: serves 4
1.75 pints (1ltr) hot chicken stock
1 tblsp Thai red curry paste
1 tblsp Thai fish sauce
2 tsp sugar
zest and juice of 1 lime
4 oz (100g) Portobello mushrooms, sliced
4 spring onions, sliced (separate white and green parts)
8 oz (225g) cooked chicken, shredded
Put the stock into a pan with the curry paste, fish sauce, sugar and lime juice. Bring to the boil then add the mushrooms and the white part of the spring onions.
Cover and simmer for 2 minutes, then stir in the chicken and the green part of the onions. When heated through, ladle into bowl, scattering the lime zest on the surface.

Still cloudy but with a bit of blue sky so we are getting some sun, but far too windy for me to want to sit out. B is sitting watching the Olympics on TV (he will probably not move far from his chair the res of the day), and I may even go and join him (depends what events are on). Saturday is normally the day we 'make do' as regards supper, B generally getting himself sardine or bacon sarnies, myself will try to 'make do' with a salad (with maybe some of the 100 cal tuna). Already the thought is making me want to go and get something to eat, and I'm really not hungry at all. I even had breakfast before I sat down to write so my fast was well and truly 'broken'.

Sometimes it is as though I am two people, one saying "I really fancy eating something" (especially Spam!), the other telling me "no you mustn't". Why is it the naughty one usually has the stronger will? Always after the eating I then sit there feeling guilty and tell myself I shouldn't have done it. So it's not as though the eating has cheered me up. Why can't I take control of myself? Am sure others have the same problem.

Enjoy your day and any good weather we may have left. It will be cooler, but after the heat that is no bad thing. Just as long as it stays dry. Will be back again tomorrow, if arising early enough will manage to publish before Gill phones me. If not then my blog won't be on your screens until nearer lunchtime. TTFN.