Sunday, 18 April 2010

Growing and shrinking

It's been a little while since I updated...I've been busy! The nice weather means I haven't been spending much time sitting down with my laptop. I've been doing lot of walking and hanging around at my allotment! I keep forgetting to take photos but will do next week. So far I've planted 3 different types of kale (red russian, curly and cavolo nero), summer purple sprouting broccoli, kabocha and buttercup squash, parsley and french beans. I'm still waiting on seed for yellow and white carrots, peas, ogen and honey sweet melon and cucumbers, as well as some herbs- dill, basil and mint as well as some pot marigold to repel the pests and brighten the patch up. I'm intending to grow some rocket, cut-and-come lettuce and peashoots on my fire escape too. That lot should have me eating pretty well all summer! I'm having vague worries about this volcanic ash blocking all the lovely veggie making sunlight. But hopefully it will calm down and die out quickly.
Another consequence of the good weather has been getting lots of exercise! I go for a run most mornings at sunrise, and then walk to and from work, and maybe another walk in the evening and/or some rooting around at the allotment. It seems to be doing wonders for my digestive transit. One of the basic IBS-C preventatives: get moving!
I didn't get my super-thin running shoes; the company forgot to order my size in. Instead, I spent the money on some girly summery dresses. I'm really happy with my body now, and thought I ought to celebrate that! For the first time in years (actually since I was last vegan), I fit into topshop clothes which I always viewed as a shop for teeny tiny teenage girls. I'm not teeny tiny, but I no longer have big frumpy exagerrated hips. This pleases me immensely:)

Sunday, 11 April 2010

New shoes!

I bought these running shoes yesterday as my current ones are at the end of the life. I decided to go for the near barefoot thing. I bought them online so they should be with me next week. So excited!
I'm off to my allotment now after a watermelon and homemade oat yogurt brekkie. Loving my yogurt!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Spring has sprung!

I've been feeling great this week!
Two reasons (I think):

Early morning running
I've been walking to work and back most days for a few weeks, but I've added in a morning run too. I get up just before 6 and go out for half an hour, then back in for a shower, brekkie and then walk to work. It's great. I have loads of energy. I was tired this morning and didn't really fancy it, but got up at half 8 and forced myself out the door. However, it was such a fantastic morning, and already getting warm (for April in Northern Ireland) and I had a great 45 min run HIIT-style. Thanks to Angela @ OhSheGlows for inspiring me. You get such a high from HIIT! I got in and had a mango, passionfruit and ginger smoothie with my...

Live, homemade vegan yogurt
This stuff seems to be doing wonders for my digestion. My digestive transit seems to have moved up a gear and I've had a cramp-free week. I think the running might be helping my digestion too, but I'm sure all those friendly bacteria have had their part to play too.
The first batch was a bit hit and miss consistency-wise, but had the flavour I've been hankering for- mild, "bland" as people describe dairy yogurt, but with a real sharpness. The problem with the consistency was that I didn't blend the xanthan gum very well so it had little beads of gum in it and was a bit runny. However when chucked in a blender for a smoothie it thickened up quite a lot! So I used this idea for my next batch; I put 15g sugar, contents of two probiotic capsules and 5g xanthan gum in the blender and dumped in a litre of Oatly oat milk.

It got quite thick and bubbly from just a minute or two of blending! A video was the best way of demonstrating the texture change from watery oat milk to this:

It's now fermenting in my new electric yogurt maker.

I think this, combined with the thorough blending and probiotic powder will give me better results. I noticed HEAB has been experimenting with non-dairy yogurt too, using a different milk and thickening agent.

Overnight oats seem to be everywhere this week too, Angela blogged about hers, and this morning's Guardian had an article.

After run, brekkie, catching up on the news and de-sweatifying, E and I went to an allotment meeting. We have a polytunnel and were working out how to utilise the space. We've decided to divide the polytunnel into areas for each type of crop so that everyone can get to try something out and it'll help share the responsbility of watering. Apart from the usual suspects of tomatoes, peppers and chillis, we are going to get some aubergine plants and try out cucumbers and melons!! I'm so excited. As the weather is so great, E and I are going to get our allotment cleared of weeds tomorrow and monday. Photos to follow! As it's our first year, we're not growing anything super fussy; three types of kale, purple sprouting broccoli, kabocha and buttercup squash and dwarf french beans. Lots more on the allotment in the next few days. And also the results of batch 2 of oat milk yogurt:)

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Birchermuesli (aka Swiss-style overnight oats)

Last night I whipped up an old favourite:

1 apple, grated, skin and all

1/4 cup jumbo oats

1/2 cup oat milk

1/2 cup frozen raspberries

Then cover the bowl and leave it in the fridge overnight.

Next morning, I stirred in some of my raspberry oat milk yogurt and half a big banana.

This was soo good! Even though the oat milk and yogurt are fairly light, the whole combo tasted really creamy and the apple and raspberry gives it plenty of sweetness.

I got myself properly hungry for my breakfast this morning; I took a leaf out of Farty Girl's book and got up before sunrise for a nice run. I felt so energised the rest of the day!
Eats for the rest of the day were banana, kiwi and carrot sticks with homemade hummus. I have to confess to a small coffee after lunch...whoops! But nothing kills hummusy garlic breath like a cup of the bean..aaah. Now I'm hungry again! I walked to and from work and went for a little coffee walk in the middle of the day too. Time to whip up a green veggie concoction!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Get Cultured! Part 3b

Part 3 was about my sauerkraut and oatgurt failures. Well, I've turned one of them into a success- I used my oatgurt to make bread, and it is so YUMMY!
I made up some no-knead bread:
450g strong bread flour
320g lukewarm water
1/8 tsp yeast
10g salt
All of the oatgurt (about 650g, originally 2 cups of pinhead oatmeal soaked in 2 cups of water)
Just mix everything up and leave it in a covered bowl for 12-18 hours. It'll be all puffy with air pockets. I had intended at this stage to add a cup or 2 of grated apple, but then I thought leaving it out would make the bread more 'multi-purpose', I could eat it with anything if it was just plain. But I reckon it would be great with apple, and maybe some jumbo oats or sunflower seeds chucked in too.
I stretched and folded the dough, plopped it on a sheet of floured greaseproof paper and dumped the lot in my cast iron pot, sprinkled some jumbo oats over the top, put the lid on and left it to sit somewhere warm for about 2.5 hours. Then I put the pot in the oven, turned it right up to the max heat, and left it for about 50 minutes before taking the lid off, and giving it another 40 minutes lid off.
This was the nicest bread I've made to date! It was a beautiful colour too. I love the way this bread is probably quite like how people used to make bread, i.e. using a mash of the grain rather than a milled flour and leaving it to sit around for days. The oatgurt was 3 days in the making, and then the bread dough was about 18 hours from first mixing to baking. The longer the grains or flour have to ferment, the more complex and rich the flavour. It begins to taste like biting into a field of golden oats, swaying in the hot August sun...yum.

I had some bread for lunch with a little bit of soup, hummus and cucumber

Look at how light the crumb is! I thought with that oat mash it would be quite a dense bread. I was very pleasantly surprised.

Some other eats:

I had a smoothie this morning for the first time in ages! I've been eating porridge for breakfast nearly every day with various toppings but fancied a change, something fruit-based now that the weather is starting to warm up a bit. I didn't depart too far from the oat theme, I used oat milk as the liquid and a tablespoon of oat bran for little fibre boost. The rest of the smoothie was frozen raspberries and a nice ripe banana. On the smoothie note- I've tried green smoothies, and it's just not my thing. It just does seem right? I guess I prefer chewing my greens and I like my smoothies fruity. That said, I got some matcha green tea recently and I was thinking that it might make a nice addition to a morning smoothie, it would also turn it green, without being cabbagey. But we'll see. For now I like them pink.

I'm still loving my greens'n'grains dinners: this was brown rice with kale, leeks, mushrooms and some sunblush tomatoes. The sauce is just vegan mayo (Plamil brand) with lots of Dijon mustard, tarragon and parsley. Without the tomatoes it would have been macro-friendly, but they really lifted this.

Tonight I had a baked potato, something I haven't had in a while! I mixed up some vegan "butter", nooch and sundried tomato and smooshed this into the potatoes and stuck them back in the oven while I cooked some green beans (I LOVELOVELOVE these things). I served the beans in more Dijon mustard and olive oil, and topped the baked potatoes with a nice big dollop of hummus.

Oh, I made oat milk yogurt too- it smells lovely and yogurty, but it was quite thin. Still, I'm glad I now have a non-soy yogurt to put in my smoothies and over my porridge. I tried using xanthan gum to thicken it but as the xanthan thickens as soon as it hits liquid, it's hard to stop it clumping up. I'm either going to find a way to get it better blended into the oat milk, or leave it out altogether. I'll do a separate blog post on oat milk yogurt once I've tried out my new electric yogurt maker (I used the EasiYo for last night's batch). It's not that I'm trying not to eat soy, I just don't like the beaniness in yogurt. But the brand I bought to start my oat yogurt off, Sojade, is quite nice. Not sour enough though, which is always a failing in non-dairy yogurts I've tried, but it wasn't very beany which is good.

Back to work tomorrow, boo. This will be the real test for my coffee habit, as my boss drinks a lot of coffee and we always go for coffee together or share a French press at tea time. My office is a tip at the moment, I'm in the middle of archiving a decade's worth of testing records (and we test ~60,000 donations a year, and ~40,000 antenatal samples too). Perhaps I'll stick some photos up this week.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

It's Bunny Day!

Happy Easter everyone:)
The weather has been pretty awful in Northern Ireland this week, we had an ice storm on wednesday and some people were without power until the weekend. Thankfully, the weather has improved drastically today. I saw this cool cloud formation on the way to my parent's this morning:

It looks like the remains of a tornado or something!

Dad indulged my dark chocolate lovin' with a Lindt chocolate bunny.

Mum also gave me bunny-themed things, but not food, as I think she's given up trying to work out what I eat or don't eat. I always gets bunny-themed things, even when it's not Easter. I've always loved rabbits, in fact I have a little pet bunny called Drizzt (named for the hero in R.A. Salvatore's best known Forgotten Realms novels).

I always bring tons of food with me when I go to my parents. Usually two or three mini jars of grains, some seasonings like nutritional yeast or a savoury spread like pesto or hummus, and a big pile of veggies. We normally go out for Easter Sunday dinner, but this year we're not, and I'm glad, because it means I can stay dressed down, and I don't have to go through the whole palaver of ordering vegan food from a set Easter sunday menu. Last year my sister got interrogated by the waiter for not ordering dessert, so I can just imagine what replies I'd get for wanting animal-free food.
So today I'm having more or less what I had last night, a bed of quinoa, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, dressed up with nooch and sunblush tomatoes. Yum. Then the Lindt bunny will be seeing the inside of Dukka Girl, hehe.

As I mentioned in my last post, I went out last night. I did have a drink, but just the one, a daiquiri. I had water and ginger beer after that. Even the one cocktail had my head spinning a bit. That's the problem with cutting down on booze, you turn into such a lightweight. I'll probably have a nice glass of Rioja with dinner today though, but I have gone from being quite a red wine drinker to not very fussed at all. I've got hooked on the clear head the next morning, being able to get up and go for a nice walk instead of waking up late, dehydrated and with a dodgy tummy.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Get Cultured! Part 3 (kinda)

My next fermented foods project was to be sauerkraut. In an earlier blog, I posted my recipe and technique and then I waited a while (a week-ish). It definitely had got sour, and it didn't smell vile, but it wasn't a smell that appealed to my tastebuds. So it's sitting in my fridge, uneaten. I haven't summoned the courage to taste it. I'm a coward, I know. Thing, is, I love cabbage, and it doesn't give me digestive trouble. I just wanted some bacteria with my veggies, but I just cannot associate the smell with something I'd want to eat, and that's even with all the ginger and fennel I put in.

So feeling rather down about the sauerkraut project "failing", and feeling guilty because it only did so because I'm a bit fussy, I threw myself into another fermented foods project so I could forget the sauerkraut incident. I decided to use a base product that I love- oats, one of my four favourite foods (oats, cruciferous vegetables of any kind, chocolate, peanut butter). I covered 2 cups of steel cut oats/pinhead oatmeal with 2 cups of water and left it for about 12 hours, maybe more? I then blended the lot up, I think I put some more water in, but not much. It didn't go completely smooth like I hoped it might. I stuck the mix in a jar and left it in the hotpress. After 48 hours I could see the fermentation bubbles and it smelled like sourdough starter, that is to say, yeasty, beery even, but not like yogurt, which I sort of hoped it would. The smell of it while warm was a bit weird (I wouldn't fancy shovelling my sourdough starter into me) so I hoped giving it a good chilling before eating would help. The bad sign is I'm not really excited about trying this. It's been in the fridge from almost 12 hours and I can think of loads of other things I'd rather eat instead. But this time I'm going to be brave. The thing is, if I don't like it as is, I reckon it'll make some nice oat sourdough bread. I could just lift it out of the fridge, bring up to room temperature, and add it to some rye sourdough starter and wholemeal flour, maybe a little more liquid and some salt.

While the oatgurt was doing its things in the hotpress, I got researching all thing fermenty and oaty. And lo- and behold, someone has written their PhD on oat yogurt!!
I had already heard about a Finnish company, Bioferme, who make an oat milk yogurt called Yosa. I think the PhD might be tied up in the whole creation of the product. I wish, oh I wish, that Yosa was available to buy in the UK. But it seems not to have spread beyond Finland. Interestingly, Finland produce more oats than any other country in Europe. Sounds like my kind of place (except in winter obviously).

I know I'll be waiting quite a while for Yosa to hit any shop shelves near me, so I read the PhD and reckon I can get my oat milk yogurt at home. I bought a yogurt maker from ebay and it turns out the oat milk I buy is one of the types used by Dr Martensson in his research. The oat milk making process was invented at his university, as far as I can tell. All I needed was some bacteria, so this morning I bought some live soy yogurt to start my yogurt off with. According to Plant Foods, oat milk makes a yogurt with a lot of waste liquid, but the yogurt itself is creamy and delicious, especially strained, so I bought some muslin squares to try this out too.
All in all, it's starting to look like I will have yogurt again. Yogurt is the only food E and I really miss since going vegan and we hated the soy yogurt. On top of this desire for yogurtiness, I want to include more live bacteria in our diet. So it's good these aims might be able to coincide. So Part 3b will be me trying out my oat milk yogurt. My electric yogurt maker I bought off ebay probably won't arrive until after Easter, but I have an old EasiYo maker at my parent's house which I'm going to dig out tomorrow, so hopefully I'll be able to try the oat milk yogurt as early as monday...and I'll probably be baking oat sourdough too...

Other things:
I loved Gena's coffee post. It really resonated with my own views on the health and pleasure aspects of eating and drinking.

"On the other hand, maybe there’s a food that isn’t nutritionally ideal, but it gives my client a great deal of pleasure, and helps him or her not to feel deprived, which in turn helps maintain balance. In those cases, I’ll always say that the food should stay in my client’s life. Living without pleasure does not fit into my definition of health...And since my own vision of health includes certain things that aren’t necessarily biologically ideal, but boost our pleasure and enhance our waking experience, a little bit of coffee in the morning is actually not so very out of keeping with my own talk"

I've always liked coffee, but I go through phases of drinking it everyday and then just occasionally. I know when I drink 2+ cups a day my digestion just isn't as good. So I'm going to try and limit myself to one cup of good coffee a day, at the most. I don't want to give it up, but I am a bit worried about my sudden increase in coffee consumption hence the desire to give myself a coffee rule. But as Gena points out, when you're good about so many other things, it's ok to have a few less-than-perfect habits. Not bad, just not perfect either, and a little but more vigilance is sometimes required.
My other naughty foods are chocolate and peanut butter, but for a different reason- I believe they are not inherently imperfect as coffee is, it's my inability to stop once I pop. I find it very hard to open a jar of peanut butter and leave it out without taking more. Chocolate is the same, I can't open a bar and leave it unfinished, although I have kept unopened bars for heroically long stretches of time before succumbing. Both these foods upset my stomach when I eat large quantities and they are also pretty energy dense, something I can't justify if I've already eaten a decent dinner and I haven't done much exercise. So the plan is to go chocolate free for seven days starting next tuesday, and also start my new coffee rule, and see do I see any benefits healthwise. That means no instant coffee, and it means no more than one cup a day, and that before 12pm, because it does make me a little jumpy.
Here I am earlier today enjoying a saturday Starbuck's visit, sipping on a soy flat white in my vegan tshirt:


Like Gena, it's not the caffeine I crave, it's the pleasure of the ritual, the smell and the feel of the beans as I scoop them into the grinder, the warm cup in my hands. It feels like a big treat and we all need pleasure in our lives, especially, I believe, those of us who sacrifice other pleasures for longer terms goals, i.e. good health throughout our lives and choosing not to consume other animals.
As for the Starbucks thing, yes, I go there. I have a Starbucks portable coffee mug and a loyalty card. Shoot me. It's the only place in Belfast I can get a soy coffee with my favourite ordinary dark chocolate (Divine), they sell my favourite newspaper, they're the closest coffee shop to my work, and the other branch in the town centre is conveniently between the health food and natural beauty products shops that I go to. With the card, my soy doesn't cost me any extra too. I'd love to support local independent coffee shops, but until they support me with a decent dairy free coffee, I'm spending my coffee allowance at the 'evil' multinational.

I was reading an article earlier about self discipline. I tend to think I'm quite lazy, but in reality I suppose I'm not really, I am, however, a perfectionist. I still think I could use some of the article's suggestions, and not to curb my imagined laziness, but to convince myself I'm not as lazy as I seem to think. Hopefully proving this to myself will make me a little bit more positive about my productivity. I've decided to try the Pomodoro technique out- but only at work to begin with. It would be mad to bring too much control and guilty into my non-work activities Shout out if you have any experience of/opinions on time management tools.

Oh, I nearly forgot! I won Meghan's 5 Days Low GI Challenge. I got lots of lovely free e-tutorials. Thanks Meghan!!! I'm especially enjoying her own story, The Healthy Cookie: Unbaked. I really must do a low GI post soon...

Right, I'm off now to enjoy the rest of my saturday- a quick work out, some steamed cauliflower (craving this aaaall day) and quinoa and then out to the pub with E, his brother and brother's fiancée. I haven't had alcohol in ages, and as I have an early start I'm in two minds about having one drink or sticking to ginger beer. I think having an alcoholic drink might be a good way of proving to myself I can break rules and not feel bad:) Milk thistle tablets at the ready then!