In the last few weeks I’ve been cooking a LOT more than I ever have before. Thats not to say I’ve never cooked, or that I just lived on ready meals previously.
I guess that the main aspect of cooking at the moment that’s changed is that for the first time in my life I am trying to embrace culinary variety. I’m also trying to take notice of the food that I eat on my plate, and how it is presented before I begin shovelling it into my face.
In order to heighten my awareness I’ve been photographing it and posting meals I make to Instagram and in my Slimming World Facebook group. I’m convinced they will eventually annoy people, but honestly (like my blog) I’m doing it purely for me. It helps my mindset, and if it works and motivates me then I’m going to carry on.
On paper my objective sounds really simple – do things differently and cook something new. In truth for me it’s anything but and requires a lot of mental effort.
Sure – I can follow a recipe and do what’s needed to make something I’ve never done before. Thats not the issue – I’m actually a pretty good cook when I get started. It’s just way easier not to try and to stick with the meals I’ve become good at making, because I know I like them and will enjoy them.
The danger though is that they eventually (no matter how much I enjoy them) become boring, and it becomes infinitely preferable to go and get a takeaway.
I don’t think I’m in any way unique – but I’m set in my ways, probably because I live alone and I do things the way that I want with no pressure from a partner. If I fancied cooking Chilli con Carne every day for a month, and I enjoyed it and can cook it who would stop me? I think I make a pretty mean Chilli actually!
It sounds comical when I write it down but this is has actually been the reality of my existence until now. Variety and change has been something that happens to others. Not me. The meal I’ve cooked in this picture has actually in the past been eaten EVERY DAY for weeks before I got completely sick of it.
Now I’m trying to keep it as a treat.
So, I’ve been making small steps. Breakfast is a big one. I haven’t eaten breakfast regularly for many years – and food didn’t usually pass my lips until lunchtime.
I’m not sure why this was the case – but I’m sure It’s been damaging in the long term, and has meant that when I eventually do get hungry I over compensate and eat to excess. Now breakfasts are things I can enjoy again, and the simple pleasure of plating up a meal in the morning before work is a habit I’m slowly beginning to get into.
I have to be careful here to not repeatedly eat what I like though, and if I’m honest its not hard to go for a Slimming World style English breakfast EVERY DAY. Like Chilli this needs to be limited – and because of that I’ve lately been trying to swap it out with ‘Overnight Oats’ (the overnight bit is the soaking of them in either milk or yogurt).
I have been a little afraid of fruit and the hidden sugars they contain since I became diabetic, but I’m bringing them back into my diet bit by bit, and mixing them with small amounts of oats so that carbs are released more slowly. Smothered with lashings of fat free natural yogurt and a sprinkling of Stevia they’re actually the highlight of my day sometimes.
So much that I have become somewhat obsessed with strawberries and blueberries from M&S – which are expensive, but compared to other supermarkets taste like I’ve just walked into food heaven…
Surprisingly I have also discovered that apples (in an effort to work fruit into other meals) go together well with basil and tuna in salads, which was something I’d never tried before, and came at a moment where there was very little left in the fridge. As always I guess, necessity is the mother of invention!
Another minor revelation to me has been taking place in my frying pan. I rarely cooked stir fry in the past – and ABSOLUTELY NEVER used noodles. I’ve done this a couple of times over the last few weeks and loved the results.
I wish I’d taken some pictures of the prawn version of this dish, but unfortunately at the time I wanted to eat it so damn much when I’d cooked it that my camera never came out of my pocket. The pork one was just as photogenic though and tasted almost as nice.
In the spirit of change I also tried to make some homemade beef burgers yesterday morning – and found a nice little recipe on the SW website.
Chopped onions, garlic, fresh parsley and a pinch of salt combined together to make probably the nicest quarter pounders I’ve had in ages! Although next time I think that I’m going to grate a small amount of Stilton into them. I’ve got quite a bit in the fridge and as long as I’m careful I can introduce it as a healthy extra.
Believe it or not my burger lunch was all ‘free’ food on my plan and contained zero ‘syns’. I steamed some veg to go with it and used the remaining juices in the pan with some Soy sauce to sauté some courgette rings for a bit of variety. It was pretty damn delicious!
If this wasn’t enough I went to visit a friend yesterday afternoon, and he’s someone that loves cooking. He’s into every aspect of food preparation, and quietly obsessed with making everything from scratch. I have a growing admiration for the way (unlike me) he butchers joints of meat into the cuts that he prefers to eat, spends ages marinading things before they’re cooked, and also uses an old fashioned steam kettle with a whistle.
Yesterday he was preparing Souvlaki when I went over and had tried really hard to make it in a way that would fit with Slimming World.
When I arrived the barbecue was already alight, and there was a wonderful aroma of burning coals in the garden and the kitchen. His dog, Boris was expectantly watching the proceedings and eventually took up residence on the nearby bench in the garden to get a better view of what was going on.
This may surprise people – but I’ve never owned a barbecue.
I’ve eaten barbecued food before (I lived with an Australian for a while – it’s almost an insult to eat food prepared indoors when men like him are around) and very much enjoyed it, but never once tried to do it myself. I’ve not been the least bit interested in how it all works.
Yesterday was different though – I was really really focused on the process. At some point in the near future I may get some shady umbrellas for the garden and buy one myself to try it.
The Souvlaki was a triumph and really hit the spot. Without realising it I’d been craving a kebab for a while. Fat free yogurt, cucumber, minced garlic, lemon juice and fresh mint combined to make the ‘on the side’ Tzatziki, and the pork was just covered in garlic and herbs with olive oil before going on the barbie.
A nice rustic salad with feta and a balsamic dressing topped it off, and before long it had moved from skewer to plate and from plate into toasted wholemeal pittas.
It was an absolutely smashing high point in an ongoing hedonistic week of food variety and pleasure – all of which was incredibly simple and enjoyable to make.
Today I’m moving into slightly more scary territory. This afternoon/tonight will be my first Beef Randang. I have a bunch of ingredients that I have NEVER used before, so I’m hopeful that it won’t turn into a complete hash that needs to be parcelled up and sent to Boris 🙂
I have no idea how all of this will translate or not translate into weight loss but I’m sure I’ll soon find out!
Love and food porn internet