Sunday, 28 January 2007

Sunday 28 Jan 2008

I've not done very much in the way of commentary on my food this week, although I've got a couple of recipes noted down. Through the week it was mainly eating up frozen portions of stuff, and an uninspiring omelette on Tuesday evening when my parents decided they wanted to eat bacon and sausages (still, I suppose it's my fault for still having them in the freezer).

My main food discovery of the week has been pineapple. For years I've been convinced that I don't like it, but it's been recommended to me as a means of avoiding sore legs while marathon training. I can't remember the name of the chemical in it, but apparently it's in pineapple and papaya, so I decided to give pineapple juice a go as a post run rehydration/refuel/save the legs type drink, and realised I liked it. I followed that up with a tinned tropical fruit salad from Tesco with pineapple and papaya (double whammy!) and liked that too, so I guess that pineapples are go.

I've also come up with another trick for races. After the success of soup (then a second lunch) after my half marathon last weekend, I took the leftovers of last night's beetroot and squash salad to my cross country today. It really helped stave off the hunger pangs when I got in, allowing me to have a shower and cook some proper soup without diving straight into the jaffa cakes or toast. According to the nutritional info in the mag I adapted the salad from it was about 200 calories, and it was huge, far more filling than a Lucozade sport bar for a similar number of calories.

Today's soup wasn't the most inspiring I've ever made. It tasted a bit watery, I'm not sure whether that would be best dealt with by reducing the amount of water, or by using stock instead. It was edible, but nothing special.

I've now got to the meal of the week where I look at my leftovers and try to work out what to do with them. If in doubt, I tend to just roast the veg up and have it with packet nut roast. From the veg box I've got some broccoli, onions and potatoes, and from the extra stuff I bought to pad out some of the recipes I've got spinach, a little butternut squash and some parsnips. So I'm thinking nut roast with roast squash, parsnips and potatoes, and possibly some spinach and maybe even broccoli too, unless something more inspiring springs to mind during the course of the afternoon.

Nutty Parsnip Soup

2 carrots, chopped
3 parsnips, chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1.5 litres water
2 tbsp reduced fat peanut butter
lemon juice

Place the veg, herbs and water in a large pan, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes until soft.

Blend with the peanut butter, season and add lemon juice, reheat and serve.

Serves 5

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Warm pumpkin, beetroot and alfafa salad

75g brown rice
3 beetroot
400g butternut squash
1.5 tbsp olive oil
1tsp cumin seeds
4 garlic cloves
1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
50g alfafa sprouts

Heat the oven to 200c. Wrap the beetroot loosely with foil and roast for 45 minutes. At some point cook the rice and set it aside.

Peel the squash and scrape out the seeds. Cut it into chunks and put on a baking tray. Sprinkle with 1/2 tbsp oil and the cumin seeds, add the garlic and roast with the beetroot for 30 minutes.

Remove the veg, peel and chop the beetroot. Peel the garlic cloves. Mash one of them with the rest of the olive oil and red wine vinegar to make a dressing and season.

Put the rice, roast veg and remaining garlic cloves in a big bowl and mix together. Add the alfafa sprouts and stir in. Serve on a bed of baby spinach leaves. (The leaves from the beetroot would have been better, but mine didn't come with any).

Serves 2

Leek, pea and spinach soup

10g butter
2 leeks, chopped, washed and drained
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 clove garlic, chopped
900ml vegetable stock
275g frozen peas
100g baby spinach leaves
1 tablespoon mint

Melt the butter in a pan and cook the leeks, thyme and garlic over a gentle heat until soft but not brown.

Add the stock, bring to the boil and add the peas and lettuce. Cook until the spinach has wilted down and the peas are tender.

Stir in the mint, then blend, reheat and season.

Serves 4.

Friday, 26 January 2007

Quinoa and rice with pumpkin seeds and broccoli

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, chopped
60g brown rice
60g quinoa
300ml vegetable stock
125g frozen peas
125g small broccoli florets
25g pumpkin seeds

Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion for about 5 minutes. Add the rice, quinoa and stock , stir, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 - 25 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed and the grains are tender. I found it needed more liquid as it was cooking.

Add the peas and broccoli and cook for another 3 - 4 minutes. At this point I departed from the recipe, decided it needed a bit more flavour and added some soy sauce too.

Stir in the pumpkin seeds, season and serve.

Serves 2

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Sunday 21 January 2007

OK, I'm officially a freak. My stunning idea for using up the leftover veg (or most of it) was to get up early before my half marathon and make another batch of soup so that I could put some in a flask to warm me up at the end, and make up for only having frozen 2 portions of the parsnip soup from yesterday (as I usually get through 4 - 5 portions during the week I try to make at least that number of extra portions most weeks so that I've always got a decent selection to choose from in the freezer and a bit of leeway for weekends when I can't cook.

Actually, I lie. I made part of it last night. I chopped and softened the veg and then left them in the pan with the vegetable stock overnight, ready to be simmered for 15 minutes and blended this morning to cut down preparation time this morning. But still, I'm sure that some people would call this sort of behaviour rather obsessive.

I was meant to be going out for lunch after the race (and I might still eat, the soup won't go very far to replacing all those lost calories), but I wanted something hot right at the finish to take the edge off my hunger and warm me up a bit, and soup seemed to kill the heat bird and the excess veg bird with one stone.

Root Vegetable Soup

2 carrots, sliced
3 parsnips, sliced
1/2 swede, sliced
2 small onions, sliced
2 bay leaves
1 litre vegetable stock
a little olive oil.

Fry the onions in the oil until translucent, add the other veg for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the stock and bay leaves, simmer for 15 minutes, remove the bay leaves, blend, season and serve.

(The recipe had a different balance of veg, but I just used up what I had left)

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Saturday 20 January 2007

I've had a nice quiet pre-half day in the house today. Obviously that's a great excuse to cook and eat carbs, and I couldn't turn that one down. I'm not drinking today though, getting through herbal tea and freshly squeezed orange juice instead. I might have a celebratory drink or two tomorrow, although usually it's the last thing I feel like after a half.

For lunch I made curried parsnip soup, which I ate with bread (obviously). It made less than I was hoping, and I ended up really kicking myself for not making twice the amount which would have been no harder really, and would have given me extra parsnippy goodness to put in the freezer. With some fresh orange juice mid afternoon, I was ready to spend time cooking something a bit more time consuming than normal this evening, vegetable bake. This worked pretty well, or it would have done if I'd remembered the flour stage. I served it with my freezer staple, frozen green beans. A mere 21 calories, a serving of veg, and nice to add a bit of bulk to a meal. I still had plenty of apple crumble left to eat with a dollop of greek yoghurt.

Now I just have to decide what to do with the assorted bits of veg I have left tomorrow. I might go the "Sunday Roast" route again and do some nut roast and various veggie dishes to go with it, or I might see if I can think of something more inventive to do with vegetables including a leek, half a cabbage, half a swede, parsnips, carrots, potatoes and onions. But I've eaten all the broccoli (despite the fact they gave me twice the amount of the stuff I got last week!)

Vegetable Bake

Serves 4

2 large potatoes, thinly sliced
cooking oil spray
3 small onions, chopped
1 leek, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 carrot, sliced
1 broccoli head, cut into florets
1 parsnip, sliced
1/2 swede, sliced
850ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp plain flour
1 apple, sliced
cayenne pepper
50g low fat cheddar, grated

Cook the potato slices in a saucepan of boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain and reserve.

Heat the oil spray and saute the onion, leek and garlic for 2 - 3 minutes. Add the remaining vegetables and cook for a further 3 - 4 minutes, stirring.

Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute*. Gradually add the stock and bring the mixture to the boil. Add the apple, herbs and cayenne pepper and season well. Remove from the heat, transfer the veg to an ovenproof dish.

Arrange the potato slices on top of the vegetable mixture and sprinkle with the cheese. Cook in an oven (190C) for 30 - 35 minutes or until the potato is golden brown and beginning to crispen.

*Note - I thought there was too much liquid and too little cheese. The cheese can be remedied, but it was only when I sat down to type this out that I noticed I'd missed out the flour stage, which might explain the liquidity.

Curried Parsnip Soup

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp butter
2 onions, chopped
3 parsnips, chipped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp plain flour
850ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp lemon juice

Melt the oil and butter in a large pan, add the onion, parsnips and garlic and cook for 5 - 7 minutes until the vegetables have softened.

Add the garam masala and chilli powder and cook for 30 seconds, stirring well. Sprinkle in the flour, mixing well and cook for a further 30 seconds.

Stir in the stock and lemon juice and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Blend until smooth, season and serve.

(The recipe says that it serves 4, but I thought it was more like 3).

Friday, 19 January 2007

Friday 19 January 2007

Oh, it's so nice to be cooking again. After my normal midweek routine of living out of stuff in the freezer, and a meal out last night, I got a new veg delivery and time to do some cooking. Yay!

I'm running a half marathon at the weekend, so I've got the freedom to do a bit of carb loading. Double yay! Anyway, tonight I wanted something to cook that didn't involve a trip to the supermarket to stock up on ingredients, so I went for a fairly straightforward stir fry. You will note, I hope, the presence of broccoli?

Then, on the basis I have a load of apples in the house, I decided to make some apple crumble to satisfy my sweet tooth through the weekend. Plus there are some nice carby bits in the topping, to help fuel my run. Honest, that's the only reason I decided to make crumble...

Apple crumble

5 apples
50g sultanas
15g honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp water


75g plain flour
25g porridge oats
50g soft brown sugar
40g butter
25g sunflower seeds
25g sesame seeds

Dice the apples and put in a pan with the rest of the base ingredients. Simmer for 5 - 10 minutes. Tip into a large ovenproof dish.

Put the flour, porridge oats and sugar in a bowl. Cut the butter into cubes and rub in until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the seeds, mix, then tip over the fruit.

Bake in the oven (180C) for 30 minutes.

Quick broccoli and cabbage Stir Fry

1 broccoli
1/2 cabbage
1 carrot
1 onion
sesame oil
5 spice paste
soy sauce
sesame seeds

Slice the broccoli, cabbage and carrot. Heat the oil, add the ginger and 5 spice paste. Add the veg, stir fry, adding soy sauce as it cooks. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Monday 15 January, Tuesday 16 January 2007

The good thing about having a big cooking session is how easy it makes it during the week. Yesterday was running club so I grabbed a frozen meal out of the freezer, and today I used up the rest of the winter veg ratatouille from Saturday. Easy.

There was a bit of adventurousness mixed in though. On Monday I was meant to be going out for lunch with a colleague. It fell through so I had to buy lunch, and summoned up the courage to try vegetarian sushi from pret. I've been meaning to try it for a while, but never quite managed to persuade myself to do it before. I liked! I wouldn't have it every day, but I'd definitely eat it again. Another thing to add to the list of things I've tried and liked that I wouldn't have touched with a bargepole before.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Sunday 14 January 2007

Today has been a bit of a leftovers day. I did a 12.5 mile run this morning so had a few calories to replenish...

Lunch was leek and potato soup. This didn't turn out as nice as I was hoping, but made 4 pretty substantial portions and was at least very filling even without bread.

This evening I've used up the rest of the roasted veggies saved from the ratatouille recipe yesterday, which I'm having with a packet nut roast mix, some green beans and some veggie gravy. I've popped the veg back in the oven to roast a bit more and go a bit crispier as they went a bit soggy in the fridge overnight. It's nice to have a "proper" Sunday roast once in a while. It's not something I ever really did as a meat eater, but now it's just a case of preparing some veggies and gravy, with the nut roast taking about 20 minutes from the packet, it's a lot more of an appealing prospect.

I also had the remains of the tumeric spiced bulgar from Friday as a starter, but it had gone a bit hard in the fridge over the weekend.

Preparation for the week-wise I made up another batch of houmous, and I'll do myself a fruity compote again later. I haven't decided yet whether to do apricot and apple again, or something using some plums I've got.

Leek and Potato Soup

2 large (and I mean large!) leeks, sliced
3 potatoes, chopped
1 large carrot, sliced
1 pint vegetable stock
1 pint milk

Put all ingredients in a pan, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Blend, season and serve.

Serves 4.

Saturday, 13 January 2007

Saturday 13 January 2007

The broccoli is eaten! Actually, it wasn't too bad. I decided to use the tried and tested on kids approach of hiding it where I couldn't see it before moving on to the version that looks like broccoli. So the logical answer was to make one of my soup recipes for the weekend broccoli based, so that I could blend it into a green mush that looks like other things I eat.

I didn't want just broccoli though, so I hunted round for ideas. I came up with a plan to make broccoli and stilton soup, but couldn't find a recipe that did exactly what I wanted (most seemed to have a load of cream in them), so I used a recipe as inspiration and then added some beans and tweaked around with a couple of other ingredients to make it fit better into my style of eating. And the results were pretty impressive actually. This is what I ended up making, it wasn't too cheesy at all, and the beans gave it some nice substance. Dare I say it, I actually enjoyed it! In fact, it was bloody lovely!

Then this evening I moved onto winter veg ratatouille. I roasted all the veg, then saved half for other (as yet undecided) uses, poured half the passata in, then split the mixture into half and cooked one portion of pasta to stir into it rather than enough to feed a small family. I crumbled some goats cheese over the top on the basis that I had some, and it wasn't worth opening the parmesan I have in the fridge when I already seem to have a growing cheese mountain in there. I have to say, the parsnips and carrots were so unlike supermarket veg! Even the supermarket organic versions, the parsnip was just so soft and luscious, and the carrot was so bright and orangey compared to the stuff I normally eat. I'm liking this veg lark (although I am starting to wonder how I'm going to eat it all, the freezer is getting closer and closer to bursting, but if I spend a day eating stuff I've frozen it will be a day less when I can cook with the veg!

Winter Vegetable Ratatouille

This was another BBC inspired special. No real modifications to tell of.

Broccoli and Stilton Soup

2 onions, chopped
1 broccoli, chopped
1 tin beans (I used flageolet, but only because I couldn't find any cannellini in the cupboard)
20g butter
600ml vegetable stock
60g stilton

Heat the butter in a pan and brown the onion for 2 minutes. Add the broccoli for 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and beans, then boil for 20 minutes.

Blend, add water if necessary, and stir in the stilton until melted. Season and serve.

Serves 4.

Friday, 12 January 2007

Friday 12 January 2007

It's Friday, which means it's day 1 of use up the veg box! Last night I perused recipes and came up with a vague plan for the week. Then at work I had a couple of different ideas, raided the BBC website for recipes (the joy of internet at work...), and rewrote my shopping list. My aim was a recipe I had all the ingredients for tonight, then shop after eating for anything extra I need for the stuff for the rest of the weekend. The other vague plan is to use as much of the veg as I can over the weekend during my big cooking spree, because I don't cook too much during the week.

So, anyway after that ramble, last night I decided on aloo gobi for the main meal, and a use for the cauliflower that arrived in the box. I was then trying to work out something to go with it. I still had courgette left (will I never find uses for it all?!), and wanted something vaguely spicy to do with it to complement the curry. Anyway, I found a recipe for turmeric spiced bulgar wheat that again used pretty much only ingredients in my possession, so I decided it was a goer. This made two portions, I reckon the leftovers will be OK without reheating as a salad, the only question is working out when to eat them amongst all the other stuff I have planned!

So, veg box day 1 is a success, tomorrow is the great broccoli experiment so wish me luck!

Aloo gobi

Serves 4

2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds (mine were brown. Are these the same?)
1/2 onion, finely chopped (I used a whole small one)
200g potatoes, cut into 2cm cubes (is it possible to get the exact weight? using my rounding up theory I used 2 potatoes)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1.5 teaspoons garam masala
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
2cm piece of ginger (OK, I used lazy ginger)
1 teaspoon sugar

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over low heat. Add the mustard seeds, cover the pan and wait for the seeds to pop. Add the onion and potato and fry until lightly browned.

Add the turmeric, cumin, coriander and garam masala to the pan and cook for a couple of seconds. Add the tomato and stir until the spices are well mixed. Add the cauliflower florets and stir until thoroughly coated. Stir in the ginger, sugar and 125ml water, increase the heat to medium and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Turmeric spiced bulgar wheat

I got inspiration from this from the BBC website.
255g/8oz bulgar wheat
425ml/½ pint boiling water
1 tbsp olive oil
½ yellow courgette, diced
1 large spring onion, chopped
½ tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
55ml/2fl oz white wine or white wine vinegar

1. Preheat a large frying pan.
2. Place the bulgar wheat in a large bowl and pour over the boiling water.
3. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to steam for at least 5 minutes.
4. Heat the oil in the frying pan. Add the courgettes and spring onion and sauté for 2 minutes.
5. Add the spices and sauté for 2 minutes.
6. Pour in the wine and turn up the heat to reduce the liquid.
7. Remove the cling film from the bulgar and toss half the bulgar into the frying pan.
8. Reserve the remaining bulgar for the chilli-roasted tomatoes recipe.
9. Fry the bulgar for 2-3 minutes until it is soft, fluffy and heated through.
10. Remove bulgar from heat and serve with the Harissa Swordfish.

I pretty much followed the recipe except (having had the foresight to read all the way down before starting), I realised that I only needed half the bulgar, as the other half was for a difference recipe. I also used a full green courgette because that's what I had (and I almost always round up to the nearest whole veg), and a normal onion instead of a spring one (again, what I had). I used wine instead of white wine vinegar.

It worked pretty well actually, so thumbs up to the BBC again.

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Thursday 11 January 2007

Today I actually went out for lunch with a friend, so didn't take much other than breakfast and an apple and apricot pot into work with me. I did, however, spend much of the day working out what to do with the few remnants of last weekend's shop in the fridge. The three main things I had were carrots, courgettes and cheese, but I knew I could think of something...

In the end, I plumped for the courgettes and cheese, in a made up in my head pasta dish that was an attempt to replicate something I ate in GC. It wasn't bad, actually, although I'm sure I can manage some tweaking if I try it again.

As it turned out, I didn't need to limit myself to what was in the fridge at all. I got home and I had a lovely full veggie box waiting for me behind the door. But I couldn't face working out something else to cook with the new veg, so I just went with the original plan.

I picked up some strawberries on the way home from work, so I'll be making some orange and strawberry juice later (possibly also with papaya).

I also picked up a single serving christmas pudding and some 9p brandy sauce. Naughty naughty...

Courgette and goats cheese pasta

Here's a little quickie I made up earlier to use up some stuff that had been festering in the fridge.

1 courgette
2 tomatoes
30g goats cheese
some olive oil
some red wine vinegar
100g pasta

I sliced the courgette and tomatoes while the water was boiling for the pasta.

I put the pasta in to cook (10 minutes) and then fried the courgette and tomatoes in the olive oil for just a bit until the tomato juice started to run out and get a bit juicy. I added some red wine vinegar to keep it nice and juicy, then took it off the heat and stirred in the goats cheese and some dried herbs until it melted and went nice and creamy.

Then when the pasta was cooked I drained it and stirred that in too, ground some black pepper over the top and bob's your uncle. Not the most exotic recipe ever, but a decently cheesy and vegg-y quick post work meal.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Wednesday 10 January 2007

Today was a day of reheating rather than cooking, and I'm off out for lunch tomorrow so there wasn't even any preparation of stuff for tomorrow (which was quite good considering the length of my post work run). The new blog grinds quickly to a halt...

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Tuesday 9 January 2007

Today started in similar fashion to yesterday, beetroot, apricots, lemon and ginger tea, porridge, espresso and an apple. Today's soup lucky dip was pasta, bean and vegetable soup from a batch I cooked up at the weekend. I found this soup a bit uninspiring to be honest, although I think it was because the stock I used wasn't great. I've not got to the stage of cooking up my own stock (although it's something I want to try at some point) and I'm still using powders and cubes. I find some of them too salty, and some a bit tasteless. I've yet to find the perfect stock, and this soup doesn't have any liquid other than the stock, and isn't blended, so the taste of the stock is pretty important I guess.

In the afternoon I had a bit of a treat in addition to my apple and apricot compote and apple, plus more fruit tea and espresso. Last night I prepared myself a pomegranate, so I had a little tub full of seeds to snack on to keep me going. It's fiddly, but I find that I can happily sit in front of the tv in the evening and take the seeds out without it feeling like too much of a chore, and it gives me something to look forward to the next day! This pomegranate was particularly seed filled and juicy, one of the best I've had in the UK (Canarian pomegranates are usually a class above). Mind you, given the price I paid for it, it should have been! (Oh, and there was another teeny tiny treat in the form of a Galaxy bar).

This evening is a non running evening, which means more potential for food preparation. Yes, it's the middle of winter, but I'm not letting that stop me eating salads. Call it a hangover from being in Spain over Christmas and getting back into the habit of eating cold food. Courgettes were on special offer at the supermarket on Sunday, so I bought a couple without really thinking about what I'd use them in. Having flicked through a few recipe books I came across a recipe for carrot and courgette salad which I had all the ingredients for, so I decided to eat that with some spinach and cheese filo parcels from the freezer, and some mixed salad leaves. I cooked the parcels up ages ago and can't remember what recipe I used, but they crisped back up OK in the oven despite their lengthy stay in the freezer. The leftover salad will go with me to work tomorrow for a change from soup.

I also decided to try the new blender on something more challenging than fruit juice, and tried to make some houmous. Being particularly well prepared yesterday evening, I even used dried (and soaked) chickpeas rather than the canned ones. My sister has the same blender and said that she uses it for houmous, so I assumed that the attachments I had would do the job OK. I usually eat the shop bought stuff, but thought I'd experiment a bit as part of the making as much as possible from scratch new year's plan. I'd find it hard to say exactly what my recipe was, I had about three in front of me and kept on adding things, tasting it and tweaking. I think there's too much tahini in this batch, but I'll definitely try again. Once I've eaten this lot, that is. I think I've created a houmous mountain!

The houmous is mainly for lunch tomorrow, but I had to try a bit didn't I, so I grabbed some celery and dipped away. I put a bit on some ryvita too. Quality control, obviously.

Pasta, Bean and Vegetable Soup

75g green/brown lentils
15g sundried tomatoes, chopped
15ml olive oil (I used spray)
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stick, diced
1 onion or 3-4 shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
dried crushed chillis
1.5l vegetable stock
1 small can red kidney beans
1 small can cannellini beans
1 small can chickpeas
115g wholemeal pasta

1. Cook the lentils in 475ml water. Simmer for 15 - 20 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, soak the sundried tomatoes in 175ml warm water.

2. Drain and rinse the lentils.

3. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan and add the carrot, celery, onion, garlic, parsley and chillies. Cook over a low heat for 5 - 7 minutes and stir. Add the stock, the tomatoes and the water they were in.

4. Bring to the boil and add the drained beans, chickpeas and lentils. Season, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

5. Add the pasta, bring back to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Makes 6.

Carrot and Courgette Salad

1 courgette
3 carrots
1 orange
1tbsp olive oil

Grate the carrots and courgette. Grate the rind of the orange and juice it, then mix together with the olive oil. Season, and pour over the carrots and courgette, marinate for 15 minutes.

Serves 2 - 3

Monday, 8 January 2007

Monday 8 January 2007

First day back at work after getting back from Spain, and with a whole Sunday spent in the house, and a trip to the supermarket there was no excuse for a sloppy start to the New Year. I promise that my eating isn't quite as virtuous looking as this!

Pre gym snack - 2 cooked beetroot and 6 dried apricots. I usually just have a handful of dried apricots before I leave the house, but there was some beetroot in the fridge so, what the hell, I had a couple of those too. 2 portions of fruit and veg before 6.15, yay me!

Breakfast - Porridge with berries and yoghurt. I have this every day, and never get sick of it. I mix up some porridge with some frozen berries (usually mixed berries, raspberries or blueberries), and water, then whack it in the microwave. When it's cooked I stir a pot of yoghurt into it. Another portion of fruit and veg under my belt. I had some Twinings lemon & ginger tea with it. I'm not convinced about this stuff, but they say that hot lemon wakes your digestion up, and it's drinkable so I'll persevere with it at least until the end of the box.

Mid-morning - some espresso (at about 10) and an apple (at about 11). Apples just don't fill me, but I carry on bringing them to work anyway. Maybe they'd be better eaten with some protein?

Lunch - spicy parsnip soup from the freezer. I got the recipe from this from the BBC Good Food Magazine "Vegetarian Christmas" special, made some up before christmas and froze the rest. It freezes pretty well, and was nice and warming. I went out for a walk then had the second half of my lunch, Apple and Apricot Compote with low fat greek yoghurt. I cooked the compote up yesterday evening and split it into four little pots and I'll be having it most lunchtimes this week.

Mid-afternoon - raspberry and echinacea tea. I've only recently started drinking these fruit teas and I'm still not sure that they taste of much, but I'm perservering hoping to find one I actually like. I picked a box of these up at lunchtime. Verdict - drinkable, but not the holy grail. Another apple (Pink Lady) still doesn't fill me. There were also a couple of squares of Cocoa Farm merlot chocolate and some teeny toffees (only 2 or 3). Pre-run energy...

Evening - Pumpkin and Parsnip Cassoulet - again a recipe from "Vegetarian Christmas", but with some modifications. This is the recipe as I actually cooked it. I loved this the first time round and froze the rest (it made tons), and I think the recipe could be adapted for all sorts of vegetables.

After my run I had some freshly squeezed orange, papaya and berry juice (the juice of 4 oranges, half a papaya and whatever frozen fruit I have in the freezer whizzed with a stick blender).

I also did some prep for tomorrow - I put some chickpeas on to soak for a houmous making experiment tomorrow and I prepared a pomegranate to take into work tomorrow so I don't need to fiddle around getting the seeds out at work.

Finally, the big question of the day - do I start getting an organic veg box delivered? Even if it's not actually better for me , I like the idea of eating more locally and seasonally, and of being forced into trying things because they appear on my doorstep. But will I just end up with mounds of potatoes that I never get to the end of? I'll ponder a little more.

Pumpkin and Parsnip Cassoulet

2 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
500g pumpkin, deseeded, peeled and diced (I used carnival squash because that's what Tesco had, and a whole one, which was more than 500g but I threw it all in)
500g parsnips, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 x 425g cans mixed beans, drained
780g can tomatoes (have to admit I've never seen a can that big so I used two normal size ones)
225ml red wine
300ml vegetable stock
2 large sprigs fresh thyme (I used dried)
1 tbsp sugar
75g fresh breadcrumbs
25g parmesan, grated

1. Heat oven to 180c. Heat the oil in a large pan or wok, addonions, then fry for 5 minutes until golden. Add pumpkin, parsnips and garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes. Stir in beans, tomatoes, wine, stock, thyme, sugar and plenty of seasoning. Bring to the boil, then transfer to a large casserole dish, pressing the beans and vegetables beneath the liquid (I actually did everything in the same pan, I've got a casseroley thing that's also OK on the hob).

2. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and grated cheese. Cover, then cook for 40 minutes. Uncover, stir well (not sure how you do this without disturbing the topping?) and cook for a further 40 minutes.

Nutrition info - serves 6, per serving 368 cal, 16g protein, 53g carbs, 9g fat, 2g saturated fat, 14g fibre, 3g sugar, 2.16g salt.

Apple and Apricot Compote

This is dead simple - basically put some chopped apples (I use 4), dried apricots (125g, soaked for a couple of hours), water (the stuff the apricots were soaked in), honey (1tbsp ish) and cinnamon (to taste) in a pan and cook for 10 minutes.

How I Cook/Eat

First up, I'm vegetarian. However, I'm not strict with my veggie-ness. I'm aware that some of the things I eat, such as Muller Vitality yoghurts, Worcester Sauce and certain cheeses aren't veggie. However, my reasons for going veggie were to increase the range of vegetables I eat and stop my reliance on meat, and because I feel better when vegetables, pulses and grains are the bedrock of my diet, not because I have a moral objection to eating meat. So don't shout at me if I use real parmesan, please. There are vegetarian alternatives available, I'm sure, but I'm not fussy enough to use them. Sorry.

In terms of when I eat, the bedrock of my diet is the bag of food I take to work with me. Planning what I eat and taking it with me not only helps me avoid snacking or bad impulse food choices, but it really works for me as a way of using up leftovers.

I tend to go to the gym before work, so I have 2 breakfasts. Firstly I have a handful of something (usually dried fruit) on the way out of the house, then I have a proper breakfast when I get to work. Lunch is often (although not invariably) leftover soup from one of my big weekend soup cooking sessions, which is divided into plastic containers and bunged into the freezer. I don't label anything, so tend to play "soup lucky dip" where I pick something at random and then get to guess what it is when I come to eat it. Still, it works with my lifestyle and it's dead easy to grab something from the freezer on the way to the gym then let it defrost through the morning.

2 evenings a week I usually go to running club straight from work. Because I'm not a late evening eater, this means I eat before I go, usually at about 5 to give me some time to digest before running at 7. Again, this is usually a pot of something I've cooked up in a big batch and frozen, and again it's usually lucky dip. (I have one concession to not labelling - main meals and soups go in different size pots so I can at least tell what meal it's intended for). I then eat again after my run, but more of a "dessert" or "snack" rather than a full meal.

And I snack. Constantly. Fruit, mainly, although there are some other treats in there too. Particularly just after Christmas when I'm still working through all the goodies...

The weekends are my "big cooks". I'll try to cook up loads of stuff that I can freeze to keep me going through the week when I have to take stuff to work or want something quicker when I get in. I do cook midweek too, but not to the same extent.


I've realised recently that cooking is becoming more and more important to me. One comment I read once really resonated with me. It queried why people put so much effort into chosing the right computer, or tv, or clothes, but shovel food into their mouths indiscriminately even though that will affect, and become part of, their body, and affect their lives far more than that extra bit of surround sound or function that you never use. I started trying to eat more healthily when I was losing weight. Although I put a lot of that down to exercise as well as to nutrition, there's no doubting that what I eat is a lot better than it used to be, and cooking is becoming a passion. I can't resist a new cookbook, and I'm getting an increasingly big library of them that I love to dip into. So, I thought, why don't I blog it all?

This isn't intended to be an exhaustive food diary listing calories and grams of fat and such like. It also may not take account of, or only mention in passing, some of the meals I eat out, or *ahem* treats. But I've had a lot of comments while I've been losing weight that what I eat looks, sounds or smells fantastic, so I wanted to share some of what I eat. I also want to use this as a resource for myself, with comments about recipes I enjoyed, any suggestions or comments from anyone else about modifications to the recipes etc. It's a record of how I cook, and shop for, and prepare a healthy vegetarian* diet for one, and how I fit it into my lifestyle.

I welcome comments, about the recipes and with food ideas, but also if there are any new things that you think I should try, or general comments and questions about my diet. I've learned a lot while losing over 100lb, but I'm always open to new ideas.

*See the "How I cook/eat" section for more information on this.