Saturday, 17 October 2009

Butterscotch & Banana Loaf

Contains a (large) bar and a half of Green & Blacks Butterscotch Chocolate.....took all the willpower in the world to not nibble at.. but has now been frozen and saved, ready for when the wheat amnesty ends....

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Things I made this week

This week concluded my preserving marathon when I made (for the first time) some pickled onions, Christmas mincemeat and onion marmalade.

The pickled onions were really easy and I know they will taste amazing. The vinegar in which they are being pickled was flavoured by some lovely stuff, including ginger, allspice berries, mace blades and mustard seeds. They look really authentic too... I am thinking of doing some more this week as Christmas presents (they can't be eaten yet for 6-8 weeks... so I have no idea how good/bad they are...)

The mincemeat was a pleasure to make.. I used Delia's recipe and the house smelled of Christmas for a couple of days! The mincemeat is now in jars, allowing the flavours to seep, ready for mince pie making in couple of months!

The onion marmalade was a challenge to say the least. 2kg of onions which needed peeling and slicing. I used a slicer on the food processor but still the house was filled with onions smells and my eyes were watering 24 hours later! But the end result was so so worth it.. it is gorgeously tasty and a worthy effort!

I have also made parkin this week, which I have frozen, ready to take with us on holiday during the October half term (and my wheat-free diet will temporarily end!) and a number of loaves, including brioche and 100% spelt. I show my dedication to the wheat-free cause by making brioche yet not tasting it. My children and husband contest to the fact that the brioche tasted authentically brioche-esk and it smelled divine!

I bought the Good House-Keeping Christmas Cook Book this week and I have so many things planned.. what a great buy!

Wheat-free = weight loss?

I decided to cut wheat out my diet this week as I have a few online friends who have successfully cut wheat out of their diets for the purpose of losing weight. There are a few theories why this might work.

  • That you might have an underlying intolerance to wheat/gluten, even a mild one, so removing it from your diet will enable you body to work better and maximise performance, so if you are eating sensibly and exercising, you may notice a difference..
  • That cutting out wheat means you remove a large group of high carb foods, eg pasta and bread to name two, so you naturally cut the number of calories you are consuming. Many wheat based products have a higher GI index, and therefore allow you to feel sugar highs and lows.....the lows meaning you are more likely to feel hunger and the need to snack.
  • That wheat plays such a large part in a typical Western diet now, that removing it means you are forced to really take a long hard look at what you are eating and what goes into your food.

I would say for me, if I am successful in losing weight in this way then it will be because of a mixture of the last two points as I have no reason to think I have any kind of food intolerance or allergy.

I am not cutting out gluten, just wheat. So I am still allowing myself oats, and other similar grains, such as rye, spelt, quinoa, buckwheat, corn.. to name a few. I am trying to not replace old habits of bread or pasta eating with a similar grain, but by allowing myself to eat other grains, I am not finding it too restrictive. I have also found I can eat more foods with a higher fat content (eg cheese) and not be pushing the number of calories I consume (I aim for 1400-1600 per day) and I naturally eat more protein rich foods as a result.... many of which are lower in fat as I am vegetarian.

Most of the tried and tested family meals are based around pasta, and i do want to continue eating the same as the rest of my family where possible. So this week I bought some 'Free from' spaghetti pasta (made from various wheat-free ingredients and quite highly processed). Although this tasted ok, the consistancy was not nice, very gloopy and I have no desire to eat it again!

I have since been advised, by that know more than me, that buying a pasta made from alternative flours might be better if I went for non-alternatives to wheat pasta - ie foods NOT trying to be a wheat substitute. Suggestions include rice noodles and buckwheat pasta. I also love quinoa and have found a pasta made from quinoa... so have ordered some with my groceries - should arrive at the end of next week... looking forward to trying it!

I have been eating more oatcakes and found some crackers made with spelt. I have also made 100% spelt loaves this week. I haven't eaten them in the same way as I would normal bread as they are very dense and filling, but I haven't really missed eating bread because of the gap these flours seem to fill......

So.... I had a sneak peep on the scales this morning (normal weigh-in day is Monday) and I have lost 2lbs. I am quite happy as I don't feel I have been trying too hard and I have only exercised once, which was Friday when I went to aerobics....And it's the first time I have lost weight since July when I returned from my honeymoon.

So initial thoughts are that (for whatever reason...) IT WORKS!

I intend to be realistic about what I eat and what I want to eat by doing 2 weeks cutting out wheat and 1 week eating as usual. In 2 weeks time we are going on holiday and I have already started baking cakes to take with us (parkin and pumpkin cake!).. so I intend to continue my wheat amnesty until then (24th October) and then indulge. I will resume on my return, hoping to get to target weight (8 stone 8lb) by Christmas.

Sunday, 4 October 2009


I am excited to be hosting Christmas this year, for the very first time. There will be 8 of us (D, Is, T, Io, L, Ma & Pa and myself) and I will be cooking everything from scratch. Out of the love of cooking!

I am planning the menu at the minute which is a difficult task as we have 2 vegetarians (D & I), 1 very fussy adult eater (you know who you are!) and 4 littlies who can be fussy and difficult to cater for... especially if you consider the rich tastes that Christmas often brings. And it's these rich tastes that I want to create.....

Ideas so far:

  • Turkey..... I am guessing a crown will be the best idea. We have a local farm where turkeys are free range and organic, so we plan to visit the farm shop soon to discuss requirements.
  • A veggie main. No idea what yet.
  • Potted cheese and home-made oatcakes.
  • Red cabbage with braised apples.
  • Sprouts cooked in an inventive way ( I have seen a recipe for cooking them in an orange and butter sauce which I am tempted with).
  • Carrots. Plain. So children will be happy to eat them.
  • Cranberry sauce of some description. I am tempted to do a cranberry salsa which I spotted on a foodie site not so long ago.....
  • Chipolatas. Again sourced from above mentioned organic farm.
  • A cheeseboard with artisan cheeses, figs and grapes.
  • Mince pies. I plan to make the mincemeat soon.
  • Christmas cake. This is something I have never attempted before. A friend has linked me to a recipe made with vanilla flavoured vodka, which is apppealing to me more and more.
  • An alternative sweet/pudding that will appeal to the children. Unsure what yet.
  • Chutneys and pickles. Home-made of course!

So, much to do, and less than 3 months to go. I plan to make the mincemeat and pickle the onions this week. I also hope to finalise which cake recipe I will use. I took delivery of a second hand copy of Delia's Christmas Book this week and I am waiting for a copy of Nigella's book too......

Birthdays and Pumpkins

I turned 33 this week. As a birthday treat, D and I went out for a meal at Hansa's vegetarian restaurant in Leeds, which was truly amazing. Truly amazing because it was the first time in about 5 years that D and I have been out for a meal alone and truly amazing because the food was truly amazing. We had about 4 or 5 courses. I had worried that everything might simply be too hot for me (being a curry/Indian-food novice), but the flavours were amazing, very few things were overly hot, just aromatic and tingling. I cannot wait to go again!

I am also the lucky owner of a brand new iPod Nano, 16Gb in orange. Ooooh how lovely it is to look at and hold... and I am sure it will change the way we both store and buy our music. Io was very taken with it, sitting for a good half our with the earphones in place, Muse playing!

And we decided to harvest the pumpkin this week as the plant was well and truly dead. Final measurements haven't yet been done, but here is a picture of it sat next to an average-sized apple to put it into perspective! As originally suspected, it didn't go orange and I don't think it is going to last another 4 weeks to be carved for Halloween, so I am currently searching out a worthy recipe of our sole-surviving pumpkin, green or otherwise!


I made my first real chutney today! After the practise run last week with the rhubarb relish, which went down well, and passed the taste test, I went to the Farmer's Market in Leeds this morning and bought a bag full of organic veg and got cooking.

I used the recipe from River Cottage Handbook No 2: Preserves, called Hearty Ale Chutney, which is FULL of very delicious things, including swede, carrots, cauliflower, apples, onions, dates, beer (organic dandelion ale!)and various spices. I found a fantastic stall at the market which sold produce from a local organic farm and 80% of the ingredients were organic..... prompting me to label the end product as 'Jo's Organic Ale Chutney'! I made about 6 jars but I won't be opening any until mid-November, by which time the flavours should have infused properly and it should be tasting fantastic.

I have to particularly mention the bunch of organic carrots we bought which were 'Rainbow Carrots', which I have never seen before. They were orange, yellow and pink and were amazing... very tasty too!

I have plans to make Onion Marmalade, Christmas Mincemeat, and Pickled Onions in the next 2-3 weeks. I think this preserving business might be a little addictive?