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Archive for the category “2015 – Resolution Record”

Cannellini bean challenge – more veg (ish) tales

I was inspired by an article in The Guardian Cook back in April (for recipes follow the link) about one pot of cannellini beans making four meals. I’m a great one for using tins of beans – particularly silky, creamy cannellini – but a bit lazy about soaking overnight etc. Since Rachel Roddy insists the flavour is better if you use dried beans and soak them, I went for it. Pretty delighted with the results – although my soupy-stew looks more like a gloopy stew, it tastes good. I left out the pancetta to keep it veggie but then caved in to a bit of crisped up organic chorizo on top from Peelham Farm here in the Borders. Job done!

Soup bubbling away nicely...

Soup bubbling away nicely…

More 'gloopy' soup than soupy stew but well tasty  even with the naughty addition of crispy chorizo!

More ‘gloopy’ soup than soupy stew but well tasty even with the naughty addition of crispy chorizo!

Next on my list was to freeze some of the beans and cooking juice for another week (none of us is up to beans four days a week) and then on to ‘the quick dip’. I really love this dip – it’s nearly up to my absolute favourite beany dip cum meal from (you guessed it) Yotam Ottolenghi – ‘Butter bean puree with dukkah’ – which, if you’ve never made it, has to be done. However, Ms Roddy’s recipe is jolly quick and a very credible alternative.

Cannellini bean and lemon puree - creamy and dreamy.

Cannellini bean and lemon puree – creamy and dreamy.

My third meal will probably be the ‘Creamy cannellini beans with sage and sausages’ – so more sneaking away from the veggie – but once you’ve got the base bean dish I reckon you can take it just about anywhere you want to go – the world, as they say, is your oyster (mushroom oyster for vegetarians).

With thanks to Rachel Roddy for the inspiration – you’ll find her on Instagram @rachelaliceroddy.

 

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Let’s hear it for veggie days – they’re vegtastic!

Back in 1988 Rose Elliot told us that vegetarian eating was ‘Not just a load of old lentils’. She was right, of course. It’s Mars Bars and chips (cooked in vegetable oil, obvs) and rhubarb crumble. And, actually, it is quite a lot of beans and lentils too. But, amazingly, it’s easy to eat nice veggie food (I’m not talking vegan – that’s a step too far at the moment) – and to feel full after eating it. In fact, eating veggie two days a week has surprisingly proved to be one of the most easy and pleasurable of my five aims for 2015.

It is surprising because we are confirmed carnivores who salivate at the thought of a succulent piece of pork encased in crackling, we celebrate a plate of practically mooing steak, we crack into crustaceans with undignified lipsmacking delight and hoover up sushi as soon as it’s been sliced or rolled. Pleasurable because I have really enjoyed searching out vegetarian recipes and cooking them – and the Husband and 13-year-old have licked their plates clean. I’ve always adored vegetables but tended to think of them as accompaniments rather than the standalone star of a meal. My journey to meat-free meals has has not come out of the blue: I do believe our meat and fish should be grown and dispatched with love and respect. And sadly that’s just not the case. Most of us would be disgusted at the way the animals that grace our tables are treated.

Even without the indecent intensity of the meat business, a succulent tomato salad lavishly seasoned with salt, pepper, fresh basil and drizzled with top-notch olive oil would never be unwelcome on my table. I’m also most partial to Delia Smith’s peppers stuffed with tomatoes and anchovies from her ‘Summer Collection’ (Smith credits Elizabeth David with the original creation). The sweetness of the red peppers, tang of tomatoes, and saltiness of the anchovies delivers that wonderful umami punch that gives you the tingles from your tastebuds to your toes. I know the purists amongst you will already be screaming ‘anchovies! anchovies! They’re not vegetables’. True enough. You could always substitute capers for anchovies – they’re just not as delicious. And that is an issue. The tiny anchovy is such a brilliant seasoning – it is, I think, impossible to replace with a veggie alternative. If any vegetarian out there knows of an anchovy-alike fish/meat-free alternative – tell me, please!

Now then, the mere mention of one name in particular can set me all a-quiver… Yotam Ottolenghi. He is the main man when it comes to veggie eating IMHO. What that man can do with a sweet potato or a couple of aubergines, or some asparagus. *Sigh*. Of course, the drawback with Ottelenghi is that his recipes are not only ingredient rich (and often a little difficult to source for those of us not in big cities), they can also be pretty time-consuming to create – great for a dinner party but not always ideal for a family supper.

Spinach & ricotta cannelloni - glass of red optional!

Spinach & ricotta cannelloni (see below) – glass of red optional!

Risottos and pasta have always featured in our family meals and that’s still the case. The 13-year-old was delighted with a recent mushroom risotto topped with roasted butternut squash and sprinkled with toasted sunflower seeds (a welcome addition to pretty much any salad, pasta or rice dish). And it’s always the season for pasta lavished with homemade pesto (I make mine with basil, olive oil, pine nuts, salt and pepper,a dash of sugar, and a splash of vinegar to keep the colour – I leave out Parmesan so people can add to their own taste). Finally, in no particular order, here are a few recipes I’ve stumbled across that we’ve enjoyed creating and are jolly tasty to boot. With thanks to the many people on the internet who take the time to post fab recipes.

Red lentil and potato dahl

This spicy and delicious little mouth warmer is not only sustaining it’s fabulously cheap to make. As well as the cilantro (fresh coriander) I like to stir in some spinach at the end of the cooking. Just yum. My personal favourite recipe so far.

Veggie crumble

A rib-sticking feelgood feast – the Husband declared it ‘worthy’. I loved it.

Spinach & ricotta cannelloni

What can I say? If you’ve never piped spinach and ricotta mix into cannelloni: get to it! It’s fabulously easy and the results from this recipe are tip-top – although careful not to overcook as it can get a bit dry.

Chilli con veggie

This is brilliant because you can cook up loads and freeze – my version was a little lacking in chilli punch so do check out how hot your fresh chilli is or chuck in some flakes to give it some umph.

Making a molehill out of a marathon

It’s no secret that regular brisk walking – just 20 minutes or so a day is good for you and will keep you in the kind of shape you’d like to be in. But walking on a regular basis – particularly if you don’t have a dog or, like me, can simply sidle upstairs to work – can be less compelling than one supposes. That’s proved true for me. My aim to take exercise at least five days a week has looked a bit threadbare on a number of occasions. And suddenly the date of a giant walk we’d optimistically committed to at the beginning of the year had arrived. The folly of it.

Yesterday, on a sunny Bank Holiday Monday, miraculously sandwiched between two duck-weather days, the Husband and I set off on a Coastal Challenge Walk. The route took us along the stunning Northumberland Caost from Budle Bay just above Bamburgh south to Alnmouth taking in seaviews, landscapes and three castles (I’m counting the views out to Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island). It was a marathon. Literally. That’s 26.2 miles. We completed it in 9 hours.

Lindisfarne Castle

Bamburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle

Three castles. From top to bottom: Lindisfarne, Bamburgh, Dunstanburgh.

What kept us going? Chatting to people along the way. Keeping a couple of friends who were rather fitter than us in our sights – and walking the final leg with them. Gorgeous scenery. Excellent organisation from Shepherds Walks – who offer a range of fabulous-sounding less demanding walks as well as these stonking leg-buster challenges.  The cheerful and kind encouragement from the volunteers who manned the checkpoints. Regular munches of cheese and pickle sandwiches. And, above all, the realisation at around the 15-mile point that we really could do it. Something that we had both secretly doubted.

A reviving doughnut, Seahouses Harbour

A reviving doughnut, Seahouses Harbour

We were pretty much in permanent forward motion for 9 hours on fairly uneven terrain and today – bar a few aches and pains – our limbs are still functional. We are pumped up with achievement and the wonderful adrenalin rush that comes from intense exercise – we even braved the drizzle this morning for a cool-down stroll along the banks of the Tweed. Would we walk a marathon again? Possibly not. But we’ll certainly be striding out again for sure – enjoying the fact that our bodies are rather more capable than we gave them credit for.

Finish line

We got the T-shirt!

We got the T-shirt!

Aim high and don’t worry if you fall short

My resolve is totally soluble. The minute I make a resolution my stamina evaporates and my willpower collapses. If I decide to lose weight I am drawn moth-like to all things tooth-decaying and girth-expanding.

Which is why, this year, I decided to set aims for 2015 rather than make Resolutions. Four aims to be precise. This means that by 22nd January – the day when, apparently, the majority of us have given up on our diet, exercise, or whatever health-giving regime we adopted on Jan 1st – I was still within the boundaries of my aims, although far from fulfilling them.

It is a mystery to me why it is so hard to do things that one believes one really wants to do. Three weeks is not long in the overall scheme of things: 21 days to break or make a habit, so some say, is all you need. Well, not in my world. It took me 100 years to give up smoking. It was Allen Carr’s “Easyway to Stop Smoking” (this was pre vapes and patches), that finally helped me beat the nicotine. Hurrah!

The first of my 2015 aims was to have at least two alcohol-free days a week. I had written ‘three days’ in my notebook but, bearing in mind that goals need to be achievable, I scratched that ‘three’ out before the last midnight chime on 31st December. For me it is easy to slip into the prototypical role of middle-aged women with an evening wine habit. And I’m not alone. A recent study in Australia found that 13% of women aged 45 to 59 average more than two drinks a day – maybe a glass with the evening meal followed by a TV tipple – massively increasing our risk of alcohol-related illnesses. The thought is that our regular snifters easily sink binge drinkers under the table. Sobering. What have I discovered so far? Not having a bevvy in the evening is easy as long as there are: 1. No stressful occurrences. 2. No joyful occurrences. 3. No visitors. 4. No going out. Oh, look, it’s not easy – but I’m hanging in with one lapsed week so far.

 

Just a glass of water for me with that delicious piece of cod.

No chilled wine for me today. Just a glass of water with that delicious piece of cod.

Eating no meat or fish for two days a week has proved surprisingly family friendly despite the fact that we’re all rabid carnivores. I’ve often written about my discomfort with the ways we produce and dispatch animals, so this was a logical extension. Eat less meat but know its provenance etc. Actually, we’ve been so delighted with lentil curries, bean stews, spinach and feta pies (if you’ve never piped spinach and ricotta into cannelloni, erm, just do it!), that we’ve surpassed the aim most weeks. Although I have been a tad naughty with a splash of chicken stock in soups and the occasional stray anchovy on a salad, I’ve become quite the carrot hugger.

I've become quite the carrot hugger.

I’ve become quite the carrot hugger.

Exercise five days a week – even if it’s just a turn around the walls of Berwick. The Husband and I wildly and optimistically committed to a coastal challenge walk in May. It’s 26.2 miles from Budle Bay to Alnmouth – you’re supposed to complete it in 11 hours. Today we thought we’d managed three miles but it turned out to be 2.5. We may need an extension.

Getting out and about is proving quite a challenge for us.

Getting out and about is proving quite a challenge for us.

Finally, to rise at 6am on two days a week. I know that’s not early for many people, but it’s an hour before I usually see the sky. The three times I have managed it, I’ve got an enormous amount done in that precious hour. And, yes, you read correctly. Three times. But this, I think, is the thing about aims: unlike resolutions, aims don’t crash and burn when you slip. They sit there, waiting for you to edge towards them – even if, like Alnmouth in relation to Budle Bay, they seem more elusive mirage than attainable goal.

One week in = fun. But surely there aren’t enough vegetables for 51 more weeks?

Rather unexpectedly, the most difficult of my aims for 2015 during this first week, proved to be number two below. The residual exhaustion of the festive season and the fact that school term only started today may have something to do with my inability to rise early (oh and the fact that I set the alarm for the wrong day!). However, the morning I did manage to rise at 6am, I was rewarded by a glorious nearly full moon lighting up our still night-cloaked garden, the pleasure of making myself a warming fire, a cup of fresh coffee and the relief of ticking off two hours of Open University coursework. All before even a mouse so much as sneezed in the house. Result. I hope I can do it a few times more before the year’s out!

1. Eat at least two meat/fish free meals a week

2. Rise earlier (aim 6am) two days a week

3. Take exercise on at least five days a week

4. Drink no alcohol on at least two days a week

Both the Husband and the 13-year-old have announced they are joining me in my folly (the veggie eating for both, plus the exercise and booze-free days for him). Though delightful to have company, it is perhaps a tad more challenging. Whilst I might choose a bowl of Tyrrells cheese crisps as my vegetarian supper, this just won’t wash as a healthy or sustaining repast for the family. Post-supper bolt-on, yes. But full-blown meal? No way. Plus, cooking vegetarian for a teenager who’s not totally over-the-moon about vegetables may prove tricky – although she was surprisingly positive about my veg crumble this evening (the Husband declared it ‘virtuous’ with it’s wholemeal & chopped almond topping and 10 different veg). There’s also the on-going debate about how pedantic to be about the vegetarian thing – is it so very wrong to have chicken stock in parsnip soup? According to some Twitterers it most certainly is, others are a wee bit more laid back…and, yes, we did have the chicken stock. But 52 weeks of being inventive with pulses and veg? I think I’m going to need substantially more recipes!

Vegetarian supper for one (perhaps with a glass of wine?)

Vegetarian supper for one (perhaps with a glass of wine?)

Another area of on-going debate is what constitutes exercise. Does walking to the shop for instance? Or is that just part of daily life? What about sex (just kidding – of course it’s exercise!). The Husband was resistant to going out in the rain for a morning constitutional – but if we’re going to fit in five days of exercise…well, I’m going to have to be strict. Plus on that wet day we were rewarded by the most amazing rainbow spanning Berwick not dissimilar to the one here that I captured late last year. It’s great to reconnect with walks round Berwick and along the river and coast that were such highlights when we first moved here and that we have perhaps neglected more recently. This morning we even saw an otter eating a fishy breakfast on the lip of the river Tweed – it’s our first otter sighting in four and half years of living here. Brilliant. And it’s lovely to be enjoying some of the recently revamped park spaces.

The refurbed lily pond and shelter near Berwick Station

The refurbed lily pond and shelter near Berwick Station – no time for a rest for us on our punishing exercise regimen!

Finally, I haven’t really nailed down the keeping track of it all. Do I have specific days for each aim – you know: No wine Mondays and Tuesdays; no meat or fish Wednesdays and Thursdays; exercise Monday through Friday; up early Tuesday and Thursdays? Or do I leave it to chance and risk the end of the week arriving before I’ve managed to squeeze in my free-from, early rise, active days?

One week in it’s all quite entertaining. I have a sneaking suspicion it won’t last. Only time will tell.

 

Resolutions for 2015 – you’re having a laugh!

What can I say? I laugh in the face of resolutions. If I do make them, I keep them a secret. The sort of things I’d like to be – more organised, less tense and stressy, more focused – are simply not possible to achieve through resolutions. Overall, I’m a firm believer that if you’re going to do something the only way to do it is to get on with it. Waiting for the beginning of a New Year to commit to something is simply a form of procrastination – a way to let yourself off the hook. So, having already written my own get-out-of-resolutions-for-free card, here goes.

New for 2015 in Jackie Kaines world:

– Get up earlier on at least three days a week (aim = 6am)

If I’m going to fit all that exercise in (see below) and maintain normal life, this is a must. I’d also like to reinstigate something that has slipped of late: a time of peaceful personal and spiritual reflection.

– Eat no meat or fish on two days a week

If I had the time (and the ingredients) to create  Yotam Ottolenghi recipes every day, this would be easy. Realistically, we may be facing a bowl of warmed up lentils twice a week. However, I have expressed my reservations about how our society grows, feeds and produces meat (and fish) on a number of occasions and am determined to edge towards putting my eating where my principles are. I’m hoping I’ll discover some new and exciting ways with veg and dairy.

– Exercise on at least five days a week – even if it’s just a turn round the historic walls of Berwick

The Husband & I are aiming to do a 26.2 mile coastal walk with Shepherds Walks in May – so this is an absolute must.

– Drink no alcohol on at least two days a week

This could be the hardest to achieve. I am not a one-glass-of-wine kind of girl. I also find it increasingly difficult not to have a drink every evening. It’s the 8pm crumble that gets me every time. The ‘oh, why not? I won’t have one tomorrow.’ Fact is, I enjoy a drink with friends and I don’t want to drink myself into a situation where the only thing left is to give the wine up altogether.

I shall keep you posted on how it all goes. Meanwhile I’m popping downstairs to let the Husband and 13-year-old know. I wonder how they’ll take it?

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