Posted in Food, Life, TV

Sunday is Soup Day

Who doesn’t love a good bowl of soup?

My usual weekends, filled with anxiety or loneliness, are currently being filled by soup.

Last weekend I had a bit of a rough day on Saturday, my worries overflowed and I spent most of the day curled into a ball watching Netflix. By Sunday I was determined to try to power through and after noticing my ever-growing round tummy in the mirror I resolved that cake was not an option.

My Sunday mornings consist of getting up around 8ish, making a milky coffee and lounging on the sofa watching the Food Network. I used to do this at home with my parents so I see no problem carrying on with the tradition now I’m living alone.

I get inspired by the smallest of things. This time it was Ree Drummand (The Pioneer Woman) cooking potato soup for her mother-in-law. I too love soup and have far too many potatoes living on top of my fridge so this was perfect. A quick call home to my mother to double-check her recipe and I was in the kitchen grabbing a pan and a potato peeler.

An hour later I had a steaming bowl of Leek and Potato soup. It reminded me of home so much I sat with a smile on my face whilst slurping away – my dad’s favourite starter and my mum’s go to dish, oh the memories I have of leek and potato soup. It’s a Christmas lunch tradition above anything else.

The easiest recipe

2 large potatoes

1 leek

1 onion

1 pint of chicken or vegetable stock

Peel, chop, boil, simmer for a little, then blend – season to taste (in my family that means add a small mountain of ground pepper)

I had bought some crusty tiger-loaf bread so this really was a treat.

 

This weekend, I decided to do something slightly more complicated. I’m generally directed by whatever vegetable I have in abundance that week or if something is a little past it’s best.

So… 5 parsnips, 1 large potato and an onion. After a little bit more work I had a glorious smell of curried parsnip soup steaming through my flat.

I made up a recipe

5 parsnips, 1 large potato, 1 onion

2 cloves of garlic, a heaped teaspoon of garam masala, a teaspoon of chilli paste

1 litre of chicken stock

I sweated the onion in a little butter with the garlic, then added the chopped parsnips, potato and boiling chicken stock along with the spice.

Boil, simmer and blend

For an extra treat I swirled through some cream and the dish was instantly lifted.

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As my mum always told me, it takes 3 spoonfuls of parsnip soup for you to get used to it but after that it is amazing. It really was amazing.

The main issue I’ve come across is trying to dispense the remaining soup into freezable containers – I used zip lock bags, but no matter how hard I try to be neat I make a huge mess.

After 10 minutes of washing up and wiping the drips of soup off every surface in my kitchen, I sat down thoroughly content knowing that I have four bags of lovely soup in my freezer to warm me up in the coming chilly weeks.

I didn’t waste my weekend and I kept the anxiety low. A good soup sunday.

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Posted in Food, General Issues, Life

Lemon-aid! What else can I cure with lemons?

I’ve been thinking… I do a lot of thinking. Weekends are the worst, I spend my time over thinking. Anxiety/depression/general grumpiness sets in.

5:30pm on Friday night I walked in to my little flat, locked the door behind me and didn’t leave until 8:30am Monday morning.

As usual, I tried to break up my weekend with baking.

 

In the past I have made Lemon Creme Brulee and last week Lemon Drizzle Cake.

I tried to avoid a lemon flavoured desert this weekend. Instead opting for an apple crumble… Of course I still needed the lemon juice to stop the apples from turning brown.

Simple recipe for those who care:

4oz plain flour

2oz sugar

2oz butter

Mix with hands using a rubbing motion to create a breadcrumb texture

Peel and slice 3 apples putting them into the lemon juice to stop them browning

Empty apples into baking tin

Tip the crumble on top.

25 minutes at 200 degrees

Add custard/cream/ice cream and forget all your problems.

To add to my buttery crumble I of course had a glass or two of lemonade. Not the cheap fizzy stuff from the supermarket but the still, tart, refreshing, homemade type.

Last weekend I bought 3 bottles – lemonade with citrus, lemonade with elderflower and their original lemonade… two of these bottles are now empty. This stuff is pure bliss. Thank you Hullabaloos for cheering up my afternoons.

 

Lemon Cures

Not only is my boredom cured by lemons and grumpiness by lemonade, I have discovered new and interesting things that are cured by the sour elixir.

On Wednesday last week I woke up in th middle of the night scratching my head, I thought that was a little strange but it was 3am and there was nothing I could do. I went back to sleep, only to wake up at 6am with blood under my nails.

After 6 years of using dry shampoo (at least once a week) I’ve suddenly become allergic to it.

How to cure my burning scalp and resulting dandruff from that night of tearing my head to pieces?    Lemon juice

On Saturday afternoon I poured a watered down lemon juice over my head and washed with my normal tea tree based shampoo. Instantly the itchiness stopped.

I have to say that although my head was still slightly scratchy, it was significantly reduced. I tried it again this morning and it seems to have cured it.

 

What else can I cure with lemons?

I’ve read that lemon in water helps with digestion, skin and weight-loss… I can’t believe that. If that was true surely everyone would use it.

I might still try it though…

 

 

Posted in Food, General Issues, Life

The laziest cake I’ve ever made

As 11am rolled around on Saturday morning I sat staring at my TV wondering why I dislike weekends so much. It’s not hard to understand – I’m alone and bored, I crave some social interaction or at least the structure that a weekday offers.

All too often I spend a weekend, or more commonly a Saturday, curled into a ball of sadness and anxiety watching repeated episodes of old TV shows wishing I’d made some sort of plan.

This weekend was no exception.

With a grey sky and lack of company or incentive to venture out of my little flat, I trawled through Netflix and found an interesting set of documentaries on castles in the UK (I used to live in a castle as a part of a previous job). It immediately drew me in and by mid afternoon I was 4 episodes in and struggling to tear myself from the leather-sofa-duvet-cocoon I was submerged in. Things changed after the all-too-common Saturday guilt trip phone call from my mother.

“You’ve stayed in again? You really need to get out of that flat and do something”.

I’ve come to the realisation that I need to stop this cocconing and break the habit. My usual reflex when something has upset/stressed me is to clean. Last Sunday as the weekend drew to a close, I realised I’d cleaned my flat at least 8 times over the two days and decided that cooking was going to be another release. Or at least a way of making a mess to clean and give me something to do.

Last week I was craving curry and the packet of spices and coconut milk in my cupboard were the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately a voice in my head insisted on naan bread and it wouldn’t shut up. After googling “shops open after 4pm on Sundays” and finding nothing I convinced myself they wouldn’t be difficult to make. I was wrong, the kitchen and I were covered in the stickiest substance I’ve ever dealt with, it was like soft white tar, but it gave me something to do and definitely something to clean.

In the end they turned out pretty well and if anyone has a better recipe than the one I worked from, I’d be very grateful to hear it.

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This Saturday my brain decided upon cake. For some strange reason I had bought 5 lemons (I didn’t need lemons at all, I have 2 in my fruit bowl and a whole bottle of lemon juice in my cupboard) so clearly it had to be a lemon cake.

 

But not just any lemon cake…

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Lemon Drizzle cake.

 

Now, I’m pretty lazy and stubborn so I stick with the easiest option.

A quick inspection of my kitchen revealed a small bag of flour, milk, eggs and sugar… and a 25p supermarket packet cake mix.

Decision made. Adding a medium egg and 6 tablespoons of water to pre-mixed ingredients is always the best option.

I made up a recipe based on some random website searches.

Empty the cake mix into a bowl, add an egg and enough water to get a gloopy batter

Zest (and swear after accidentally and painfully zesting knuckles) 2 lemons into the bowl

Add a squirt of lemon juice for good measure

Mix, covering the kitchen with flour becuase you’ve turned the mixer up too high

Pour into a butter lined loaf tin and throw in the oven at 190 degrees (UK oven) for 20 minutes

Simple.

The drizzle was completely made up since all of the recipes I found included caster sugar (I don’t have any and didn’t check before I started baking).

Juice of the 2 zested lemons went into a measuring jug and into the microwave for 45 seconds to warm up

6 table spoons of sugar stirred into the juice till it dissolved.

I’ve heard that poking holes in the cake helps the drizzle to absorb so I did.

Then after pouring a large amount of drizzle on my hot cake I realised I had made a little too much so as the cake cooled I sat back on the sofa drinking the drizzle. I don’t recommend this if you’re supposed to be controlling your blood sugar levels like I am. I was bouncing off the walls for hours… but it was delicious and so worth it.

The end product was a beautiful cake, a few hours of complete hyper behaviour till the sugar wore off and a feeling of accomplishment.

 

On Sunday I ended up at a food festival with a friend buying sauces, alcohol and lemonade… I think I’ve got a problem with lemons.

Posted in Family, Food, General Issues, Life

Preparing For My First Dinner Party

This may not sound much but I’ve never cooked for anyone before.

Leaving home at 18 obviously meant learning to cook for myself, I was not the type of student to live off pot-noodle, but that doesn’t mean I had to learn to cook for anyone else.

 

The Challenge

My mother’s birthday.

I have volunteered to do this. I’m not sure what I was thinking.

Luckily, my mother, knowing how I hated cooking has not invited any of her friends so it’s only my mum and dad that I have to feed. This may sound easy. It’s not.

My mum is a seasoned cook, she’s been experimenting with food since she was 16 and now for her 52nd birthday she’s going to enjoy watching me struggle.

Just a side note, to make things more interesting, my dad is picky. He likes beef or chicken, anything else he’ll refuse to eat. Also, there’s got to be chips. Every meal should have chips in his world.

 

The Theme

All our birthdays, meals and presents, have always run along with a loose theme. My mother’s this year

“Tropical Island”

I realise tropical island suggests a lot of fish, but as my dad doesn’t really like fish I will adapt.pexels-photo-139259

The Menu

 

Appetisers

Cheese & Pineapple on Sticks

Watermelon and Feta Salad

 

I know these sound like a 70’s party buffet and not particularly exciting but they will keep my parents happy whilst I’m cooking and my mum absolutely loves both. Fruit and cheese is a little bit tropical right? At least the Pineapple should be.

 

Starter

Chilli Salmon

Spiced Prawns

Skinny fries

Roast Peppers

Roast Tomatoes

 

I’m only cooking one large salmon piece and cutting it roughly into 4. My dad will try it because he likes sweet chilli but won’t eat more than a mouthful. The skinny fries will appease him.

My aim is to serve the skinny fries and curried prawns in little wire baskets, with the salmon, tomatoes and peppers being cooked in tin foil parcels so I’ll just rip them open and put on a large serving plate. Very relaxed (trying for an informal Caribbean feeling)

 

Main Course

Jerk Chicken

Rice and Peas

Sweet Potato Wedges

 

Keeping it simple, easy to cook and easy to serve.

 

Desert

‘Watermelon Shots’

Pineapple with Mint and Sugar

Birthday Cake (Jamaican Ginger Cake)

 

The watermelon shots are not made of watermelon. This was just a fun looking thing on Pinterest and I thought I’d try to recreate the look as my mum will love it. I’m going for a lime jelly base, a strawberry moose top and chocolate chips.

Pineapple is literally covered with sugar and chopped mint. Birthday cake will be easy, I’m buying it.

 

The Struggle

I’m going home to cook this. Home is 3 hours away. I’m going on friday evening and this food will be Saturday afternoon.

It may not sound too difficult but when you realise that I have to go to work on Friday and I will be going straight home from work, keeping things chilled for a day in the office and a 3 hour drive is going to be hard work.

 

The Plan

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Appetiser – Will buy the components Thursday night and assemble on Saturday

Starter and Main – Will take the chicken and salmon from the freezer Friday morning and they can slowly defrost in the office fridge during the day and should be ok for me to cook 30 hours later. I’ll buy/take out of my dads greenhouse the tomatoes, peppers and sweet potatoes. Rice and peas will be cooked Saturday. As for the skinny fries and prawns, I’ll buy at home and cook from frozen – one of the best phrases in the english language!

Desert – Will buy the cake and parts of the shots, make the jelly friday night before I go to bed and the moose 5 minutes before serving.

 

The Decoration

I have no idea… I’m hoping something along these lines

 

I feel like I shouldn’t have offered to do this but I know my previous idea (country themed birthday, picnic on the tailgate of a truck) was shot down by my grumpy father and he’s not going to help with anything anyway.

My mum makes such an effort for my birthday, she was the best thing about it this year (my depressing birthday blog shows that). I have to return the effort.

Posted in Fat, Food, Life, Random Thoughts

I Created the Perfect Creme Brulee

A tough claim I know. But I did. It was glorious!

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Up until last month I have never had any interest in either cooking or eating a creme brulee. Mainly down to the fact I HATE eggs. When I thought of a creme brulee I thought of an eggy mixture with sugar on top. How wrong I was.

Despite my 20-odd year hatred of eggs I will eat an omelette (as long as there are enough ingredients to mask the egg taste), french toast, fish pie (the type with cut up boiled egg in), and egg fried rice. With the exception of the latter, you’ll notice that non of these dishes have the egg in the name – a crucial point. The moment that one of my friends offered me some eggy bread for breakfast I pulled a disgusted face and refused, when only a day before I was eating French toast which is basically the same thing.

That said, my parents always bring me six eggs from our home farm when they visit. I google “What to do with eggs when you don’t like eggs” regularly. A lemon creme brulee recipe suddenly popped up.

 

This recipe from a page called Foxes Love Lemons looked incredibly rich but more importantly, incredibly easy.

I halved the ingredients so that I wasn’t wasting a large amount of cream if everything went wrong. It is Wrong with a capital “R” to waste something as delicious and pure as double cream.

For my recipe I decided to try to make 2 creme brulees with the following ingredients

1 cup of cream

3 tablespoons of sugar

2 egg yolks

Zest of 1 lemon

A drop of vanilla

 

My method was slightly different to the one suggested on the website.

I put my oven on to heat up (150C/300F/Gas Mark 2)

I put the kettle on to boil and placed 2 ramekins in an oven dish

Putting the cream and 1 and 1/2 spoons of sugar in a pan to heat (not to boil, stopping before bubbles appeared)

While this was warming I added the lemon zest, vanilla, remaining sugar and egg yolks in a big green mixing bowl (colour of mixing bowl optional) and beat with a whisk.

Little side note – zest the lemon first, it was a lot harder than I had planned and the cream would have caramelised by the time I’d finished.

Once the cream was warm I slowly added it to the lemon-eggy mix drop by drop whilst whisking. I’ve watched too many cookery programs to know that a hot mix could scramble the eggs. Thank you Bake Off!

I poured the mix into a jug (through a fine mesh sieve, although I’m not sure what this achieved). The jug made it easier to pour into the ramekins. Hot water went into the oven dish, the dish went into the oven.

 

The first time I tried this, inevitably it went wrong, I set my oven to 300 degrees until about 25 minutes through I noticed they looked more like souffles and I was working from an american recipe on a british oven, I’d made the crucial mistake of not checking the temperature first. In the UK, it should be 25 – 30 minutes at 150 degrees C.

Checking at 20 – 25 minutes is also a huge relief, I don’t want to burn the little pots of loveliness.

Pulling them out of the oven, giggling at the satisfying wobble and leaving on the side to cool, I marvelled at the light lemony scent floating around my flat. As the recipe stated (and my stomach disagreed with) I put the ramekins in the fridge for 24 hours.

 

Awk's Creme Brulee 1
Before the Brulee

 

At this point I remembered a little pearl of wisdom my mother imparted, pull the ramekins out of the fridge and let them come up to room temperature before hitting them with the heat of the blow torch.

 

It took me 4 days to find a gas canister to fill up my mini blow torch and about 5 minutes to fill my father with horror when I called him to say that he didn’t need to do it for me.

“Go outside and don’t blow yourself up!!” comforting advice

Once the blow torch worked and I was satisfied that I wasnt going to blow up my apartment, I sprinkled a thin layer of sugar over the yellow custard and attacked it with blue fire.

Result? A perfect looking desert.

Awk's Creme Brulee 2
The Perfect Result

It took so much will power to make it to my sofa and let the top cool slightly before hitting it with my spoon to see the sugar layer crack.

The sunshine coloured silk that lay below was the best thing I have ever made. I was in heaven for a full 4 minutes whilst I devoured every single spec of goodness. Who cares about the calories?!!

 

The best thing? Apart from it now obviously being my signature ‘go-to’ dish… I have another one in the fridge for tonight!

Posted in Fat, Food, General Issues, Life, Weight-loss

Waiting for the weight-loss

So after weeks of general complaining and trying a number of ‘quick fixes’ I can honestly say… I’m still fat.

Has anyone had a positive result from a quick fix diet?

I’ve caught myself googling “why am I still fat?” on too many occasions now.

Way back, during the week I decided to “change” I was weighed by a nurse so I had a pretty good base weight to go on. This weekend I finally unpacked my scales that I’d intentionally left in a storage box when I moved in May.

I placed my scales in the bathroom and whilst my Sunday evening bath was running I weighed myself. I’ve always told myself it’s better to weigh myself in as little as possible because jeans are obviously the heaviest thing known to man and it is their fault the scales say I’m obese.

My heart sunk as the stupid little dial showed that I have put on 4kg. That’s 8 pounds!

How!?

I’ve been cutting down portion sizes, changed my sugary morning cereal for low-fat smoothies, made sure I ate as few carbs as possible and I’m eating salad. Salad!

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Incredibly I thought I’d been losing weight, I’d been feeling better. Well up until last week when I had a week free of morning smoothies. I noticed a significant drop in energy levels when I don’t have my bananas and berries.

 

I asked my friends what they thought. Not the ‘nice friends’ but the brutally honest best friends that have similar problems. I received 5 common answers.

 

1. “It’s just water retention”pexels-photo-113734.jpeg

Retaining water has been an issue since I was about 10, I wasn’t sure why but I always knew if my shorts wouldn’t button up I should go to the loo and 9/10 it worked.

Now I know it’s more my fault. I don’t drink enough.

I have my morning smoothie, (sometimes with a coffee), then maybe 4 or 5 cups of tea whilst I’m at work. I go home to a glass of juice (or wine).

I don’t really enjoy water and I can’t spend any more time going to the bathroom. I’ve already wondered if I should move my desk in there.

 

2. “I blame the pill”

Yes, it’s a well googled fact, the pill increases your appetite and makes it harder to lose weight. I think it’s also makes the water retention worse.

I’d like to blame the pill but as I’m not going to stop taking it, I’ve got to find a way around it.

 

3. “You don’t exercise enough”

Yes, I know I don’t. I’m working on it. Next.

 

4. “You’re not calorie counting”

No, I don’t want to spend my life having a breakdown because I’m 3 calories over my daily intake.

pexels-photo-944361.jpegI refuse to be one of those people who read the label before they eat.

I eat low-fat yoghurt in my smoothies, I have cut the majority of carbs out of my diet and I eat salads with low fat or no dressing. I’m not going to starve myself of everything I love. I’ve already given up bread which has left a huge hole in my life.

 

5. “Your Expectations Are Unrealistic”

This sounds more likely.

I have never really tried to lose weight properly so I’m not really sure how fast it’s supposed to happen. Watching the tv weight loss reality shows does not give me a good comparison. They have specialist trainers, diet experts and coaches to slap the cake out of their hands. Plus they’re on tv for some family/life saving/personal mission with a purpose. My aim is to fit back into some old clothes so I don’t have the stress of buying more.

Trying to combine a weight-loss regime with a love of food and lack of motivation to exercise is not easy.

It’s not possible.

If I read one more article on how I shouldn’t be dieting but I should be changing my lifestyle I will scream.

Posted in Food, General Issues, Life, Relationships, Weight-loss

The Post Break-Up Binge

I wasn’t going to bore anyone with this but I think it’s important for me to get off my chest how much I miss… eating carbs.

To cut a long story short, I have been with the boyfriend for 17 months, we met at University where he was an older first year and I was about to graduate. We kept up a decent long distance thing for 13 months but for the past 2 it has become very clear that we’ve grown apart. I’ve grown up, he refuses to.

Thursday night saw a series of phone calls where things finally ended. I just felt relief. I realise how bad that may sound but I have had a few weeks to process it and gear myself up to actually saying something to him.

 

After the usual messages to friends to let them know (much to their relief as well I’m sure) and a call home to inform the parents, I went to bed late and set my alarm for an extra 30 minute lie in.

I deserved it.

Strangely I didn’t need it, I woke up at my usual time and was able to get up straight away without the daily bartering and mental preparation I go through to pull myself out of bed.

I just had the urge to clean.

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I live in a one-bedroom flat, cleaning doesn’t take too long. Whenever my now ex used to visit he would leave a trail of rubbish, dirt, tobacco and weed behind him. Weekends were always a difficult time for my OCD. The moment I dropped him at the train station a huge feeling of excitement would wash over me as I realised I could clean without him judging me. The flat would be disinfected, polished, sheets changed, floors mopped, washing up done etc. within an hour of me arriving home. BLISS

 

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So Friday morning, even though he hadn’t visited in at least 5 weeks I got up to clean. Texts from friends checking on me were replied to with a happy breezy comment whilst I sat on my neat and freshly wiped leather sofa with a well-deserved coffee.

 

 

pexels-photo-57799Friday then saw an extremely productive day at work, though I’ve not told my colleagues what happened yet. In the evening I packed an overnight bag for the weekend and relaxed with a funny Ryan Reynolds film, perfectly cooked steak followed by a bowl of ice cream. Yes, I didn’t even eat it out of the tub!

 

Is this the easiest break-up I’ve ever had? I think so.

 

Sunday was a little more difficult. I should have seen him but obviously now didn’t have to. A great night out with my best friend and night in a hotel gave me, at best, 4 hours sleep, followed by “continental breakfast” (always disappointing when sausages are on offer) and a 3 hour train journey home.

I walked in and cracked.

 

I had put wet laundry on an airer before I left so whilst I put everything away and unpacked my bag a pan full of pasta bubbled away.

My almost carb free diet was ruined. I needed filling comfort food to help me relax before Monday morning comes around.

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I haven’t cried about this, I’ve hardly even felt sad but my hunger for pasta, potatoes and bread has increased. They have left a much larger hole in my life.

 

Sunday evening was more productive. After I ate a glorious bowl of squishy yellow goodness I convinced myself I needed to get up and do something so I could help the digestion.

More cleaning. I put everything away down to the last hair grip. As I came to the final hurdle – the washing up – I crashed and went back to the comfort of the sofa and an episode of The Office (US).

 

I instantly regretted not washing up when I awoke today. One of my best friends has offered to come over and cook for me tonight while I lounge on the sofa with a glass of wine – his words!

So obviously I can’t expect him to wash up before he starts.

It’s my choice what he cooks for dinner… Can I have a meal that is solely made from carbs?