Green Veg Risotto

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Serves 4     Large saucepan / paella dish

Ingredients:

60 g walnuts – toasted for 5 minutes under a medium hot grill

1 red onion – finely chopped

1 clove of garlic – finely chopped or 1 tsp garlic salt

80 g green beans – trimmed and chopped into 2 cm lengths

65 g asparagus  – trimmed and chopped into 3 cm lengths

60 g kale – remove rough stems and coarsely chop

70 g frozen peas

900 ml vegetable stock

2 tbsp olive oil

225 g Arborio rice

1 tsp Marmite

140 ml white wine

salt and black pepper to season

Method:

Heat the olive oil and saute the red onions until soft. Add the garlic / garlic salt and stir for a minute. Then add the rice and heat for a minute. Turn up the heat a little and add the wine. Stir frequently and simmer until the wine has almost evaporated. Add the beans, asparagus and half of the stock. Stir occasionally. As the rice absorbs the stock, add more 50 ml at a time (you might not use all the stock). As the rice starts to soften , add the kale and peas and cook until the rice is just cooked and the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat and serve immediately – top each bowlful with some toasted walnuts.

 

 

 

 

 

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31 days – Habits created

One month has passed since I made the positive change to improving my health.  My intention was to be sugar free (apart from sugar in vegetables and dairy products) and be meat free).  I have however, taken it a step further and not eaten any fish, eggs and virtually cut out dairy products and so for the majority of the month I have eaten a vegan diet and the remainder of the time, vegetarian.  It wasn’t really a conscious decision…it just sort of happened.

Apart from the first week of sugar detox unpleasantness, I have enjoyed the month. I have found a few things out about myself – I do have will power and an inner voice that is looking out for me!! On the odd occasion when I have been hungry between meals (I actually haven’t wanted to snack between meals very much at all), I’ve opted for a savoury snack – new found passion for oatcakes and Marmite – rather than a sweet biscuit or two … or three! I have found myself having internal dialogue – acknowledging how much better I feel and do I really want to jeopardise that feeling?! In fact, there has been a bar of chocolate in the bottom of my handbag all month – I found it the other day. 31 days ago it would have ‘shouted’ at me and been snaffled and the wrapper probably hidden! There are also biscuits, homemade cakes and puddings for my husband – i’m not interested! Although I am focusing on how the food choices make me feel, an additional benefit is that I have lost 4kg over the month. Chemo weight is finally coming off  😁 yay!

I do think about food a great deal – not in a negative way though. Instead I enjoy planning and thinking about the day’s meals, enjoy reaching a mealtime hungry and therefore really enjoy what I am eating – every rainbow mouthful – rather than just seeing food as body fuel. I have settled in to a pattern of planning the week’s main meals on a Friday, collating the shopping list from this and therefore only buying what we need. An additional plus is that we don’t have any food going to waste and the weekly food bill is reduced!

Creative food swapping is becoming easier – my cheese sauce swap has really helped cut out a lot of dairy. I did think removing cheese from my diet would be hard – not helped by many vegan cheeses tasting, in my opinion, pretty vile. However, I have found a brand that tastes good and melts well – perfect for lasagne toppings etc.  Oat milk is very tasty in tea and coffee or I drink weak black tea (thanks HS for the tip 😊) although I have cut my consumption of these drinks significantly and prefer herbal teas.  Butter is the one food I haven’t found an alternative I enjoy. Toast and butter..mmm… I don’t have it very often but thoroughly enjoy it when I do. Any really tasty alternative options out there? From a purely health point of view I think butter is better for me than a vegetable spread with lots of additives.

I have been pleasantly surprised, when I have eaten out, about the number of vegetarian and increased number of vegan options on the menus. Foods with wonderful flavours and textures.

So many people have been supportive, which is lovely, but – here comes a negative – occasionally the odd person (occasional not strange!) passes a comment such as, ‘ Should you be eating that?’ or even, ‘You can’t eat that!’ For me, my diet choices are for my health – mine. My choice; my decisions.  At the moment, I can’t imagine eating meat / fish again but…if I want to…I will. I am not going to pigeon hole my dietary choices.

A taste (pardon the pun) of the rainbow of food eaten this month:

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My next steps:  eat cake, steak and fizzy drinks.  I very much doubt it.

I will however eat fruit if I feel like it.

I will continue to plan our weekly food and buy only what we need to keep wastage low.

I will continue to enjoy every mouthful.

 

 

Moussaka (vegan + gf)

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This dish is a complete meal in itself.

Preheat oven 180 C Gas mark 5

Ingredients:

4 medium / large potatoes

1 onion slices

Packet of vege mince 454 g

500 g carton passata

2 aubergines sliced

1 tsp mixed spice

black pepper

chilli flakes

olive oil

Sauce:

50 g vegan butter

3 tbsps flour (gf)

Approx 400 ml non dairy milk

Method:

Boil the potatoes until just tender. When cooled – slice thickly.

Brush the aubergine slices with a little olive oil and pan fry for 2-3 mins on each side.

Fry the onions until soft and add the vege mince, mixed spice, black pepper and passata.

Make the white sauce – thick pouring consistency

Grease the bottom of a large oven proof dish.

Create a layer of aubergine, potato and then mince mix. Continue to create layers until all ingredients used. Top with the sauce. Sprinkle chilli flakes over the surface.

Put in the oven for 20-30 mins until piping hot.

 

Vegan pie (2)- quick and easy

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This recipe is a more simple and quicker dish to prepare than my other vegetarian / vegan pie using fewer ingredients but just as tasty. It has a ‘stodgier’ base, which my husband prefers. He says it taste ‘meatier’.

Serves 4

Preheat oven to Gas mark 5  190 C

Ingredients:

4 medium/ large white potatoes

5 medium/ large sweet potatoes

Olive oil

1 large onion – finely chopped

Punnet of chestnut mushrooms – 200 g – coarsely chopped

100 g sun-dried tomatoes (I use a packet of Merchant Gourmet) – unsoaked

Red lentils – large mugful

1 large tin of chick peas 400 g – drained

Vegetable stock cube

Boiling water

Method:

Peel, chop, boil and mash the potatoes.

Fry the chopped onions in a some olive oil until soft. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chick peas, lentils, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, stock cube and enough boiling water to just cover the ingredients.  Stir and leave to simmer – stirring occasionally adding more water if required. Once the lentils are soft, remove from the heat and put into an oven proof dish.

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Cover the mixture with the mashed potatoes creating a thick layer.

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Place in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes. Once piping hot, serve and enjoy.

Creamy cashew nut sauce

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A time-saving method of making this sauce – an alternative to 2 hours to soak and then pulverize the cashew nuts to form the base of the sauce and using Marmite (for all the Marmite haters out there – I don’t think you can taste it) instead of nutritional yeast

Ingredients:

2 heaped tbsps cashew nut butter

2 tbsps plain flour (I use gf flour)

2 tsps of Marmite

750 ml Cashew milk – approx quantity – dependent on desired thickness of sauce

Method:

Put cashew butter and flour in to pan and  on to a medium heat – stir into a thick paste. Stir in the cashew milk –  a little at a time.  Add the Marmite.  Continue to stir and add milk until desired thickness is achieved. Allow the sauce to simmer but not boil.

A long week

So … last Monday at midnight I said goodbye to sugar. I also decided to switch back to a  solely vegetarian diet (during the festive period I seemed to eat more meat than I had done in the whole year) and reduce my dairy food intake.

I would like to say this week has been plain sailing for me. It hasn’t. Not eating meat / fish has not been an issue at all. However, the sugar withdrawal has been a different story. The first day was easy and lulled me in to a false sense of security. Days 2 and 3 delivered a constant headache – initially eased by increasing my water intake but this relief was only short lived. I awoke on day 4 headache free, ‘Yay!’  As the day progressed, I presumed all toxins were flushed out and sugar impact gone. Wrong. With the evening came a migraine that sent me to my bed. Day 5 – the cravings really hit. Sugar laden goodies were calling , no, shouting to me. Two choices – give in and then be cross with myself – or, distract myself and keep going.  I chose the second option.  Day 6 – no headaches and no cravings. Day 7 – all good.

Was the week worth it?

Definitely.

  • I am sleeping better
  • I am not waking up with heartburn
  • I’m eating nutrition dense not calorie dense food
  • no more sugar lows and sugar highs
  • I’m enjoying creating different flavours and cooking again – feel I have my mojo back
  • I feel full after I have eaten
  • I don’t want any of the chocolates, biscuits and cake that are in the house – not being smug- just not interested in them
  • perfected a speedy cashew Bechamel sauce! One step closer to a vegan diet.
  • (… I’ve lost 2 kg)

Onward …

 

Back on track

2018 was an eventful year! The stresses of selling our house, living in a caravan with 2 dogs, 2 cats and my husband during one of the hottest UK summers on record (many thanks to our wonderful friends for helping us) whilst we awaited the completion on the house we were buying seemed to stretch out endlessly.

This life turbulence completely tipped me upside down. As my kitchen disappeared so to my healthy food choices, love of cooking and exploration of flavours and blends disappeared. Instead, I trotted – no … galloped – in the direction of sugar laden comfort foods. Fast forward to the end of 2018 and I was a few pounds heavier, feeling very sluggish and lacking any momentum to change. I have spent the last few months mentally beating myself up for my lack of will power and weakness which has only lead to a downward spiral of self loathing followed quickly by a ‘what is the point?’ attitude as I devoured some more calorie dense / nutrient lacking morsel.

Thankfully, my inner voice has finally been heard. I am only human and to err is not a weakness. Self -care is paramount. Over the last few days, I have planned and prepared for overhauling my diet. So, as 2019 commences, the cookbooks cover my table once more, scraps of paper have ideas scribbled on them and sugar is off the menu.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year.