Not-Thai Fish Curry.

Well, as I was saying yesterday, I like to buy from clearance websites. So I went a little crazy a few weeks ago and bought a 10kg restaurant-sized tub of Sharwoods curry paste (for only £1.50). Just a little crazy. And, to test it out, I made a Not-Thai Fish Curry. It was a bit hot for Jon, but I’m working on that next time.

This is a lie. It is not the fish curry. Same ingredients in the base, but not curried. I can't find my fish curry pictures. :(

This is a lie. It is not the fish curry. Same ingredients in the base, but not curried. I can’t find my fish curry pictures. 😦

Ingredients:

  • 2 basa or pollock fillets
  • 3 small (15-20cm) squid
  • 100g mussels
  • 100g fish pie mix or smoked fish or salmon
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 400g mixed vegetables (pick plain ones, like broccoli, peas, spinach or aubergine)
  • 4tbsp curry paste or powder
  • 2tbsp soy sauce
  • pepper if needed

Utensils:

  • measuring utensils
  • chopping board and knife
  • large pot

Recipe:

  1. Chop the fillets, squid and vegetables.
  2. Mix all the fish and vegetables together in the pot.
  3. Stir in the seasonings and leave to rest a little.
  4. Add coconut milk and water. Bring the pot to a boil.
  5. Simmer for 30min.
  6. Serve with rice or beans.

As I said, Jon liked it but found it juuust too spicy, so I will work on that next time. Always learn the heat of every premixed sauce or paste you use, and adjust accordingly!

TTFN and Happy Eating!

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How To… set up a great picnic.

I’m not sure what it’s like where you are, but around here the weather is just about right for picnics. The Summer heat is fading a little, but the wind and rain hasn’t picked up yet. This means filling a hamper with food and going somewhere nice and warm to eat it.

This is how I make a traditional picnic, without relying on crisps and fruit, to have a great time anywhere.

1: Pies, pasties and puddings.

I try and make sure that all the soft foods like jam, meat stew and the likes are firmly encased in pastry, to make them easy to handle and carry.

Meat breads are also a great idea. You make dough and then as you are forming the rolls, you tuck meat and vegetables into the centre of the bread. When it bakes the dough absorbs some of the juices and makes for a delicious treat that is more robust than a sandwich.

2: Solid things.

Bring only hard fruits, like apples, or things in tupperware boxes. Anything soft or crunchy will crumble apart.

3: The basket.

You want a basket that closes well and keeps everything inside even if it is swung around. You want to pack it neatly.

4: Dishes and cutlery.

Choose less breakable items and try and bring a tray to keep them together.

5: A blanket.

A requirement. If the weather has been a little damp, bring a ground mat from a tent!

6: Keeping clean.

Baby wipes, two tea towels and a bottle of lightly soapy water for rinsing everything.

7: Drinks.

Bring plastic bottles, not glass or cans. If necessary, decant drinks from cans and glass bottles into empty water bottles before leaving. Just don’t bring glass or cans, as they can break, injure people, waste drinks and make a mess.

8: Against the elements.

Pick a spot where your blanket stays put on its own. Just put it down and watch it a moment if you’re not sure. When the wind doesn’t move it, the spot is right.

Don’t set up immediately under a tree, at the shell line on the beach or near sand dunes.

9: Against ants.

If ants are hard to avoid, bring some cinnamon and sprinkle it over your blanket. It burns ants so they will leave you alone.

10: For fun.

Bring two things for every person. There can be overlap, for example if two of the kids want to play football, that’s one thing for each of them, plus a magazine for the older kid and an art block for the younger one. Make sure everyone has something to do.

11: Make memories.

Press a few flowers, take some pictures or collect some still life every time you go on a picnic, it makes it all the more fun.

Finally, like anywhere, don’t overstay your welcome. When the food is gone, everyone has had fun and people are getting bored and tired, it’s time to leave. Trying to linger when everyone is bored is a surefire way to ruin a good picnic, not a way to make the day more fun.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Do you like picnics? How do you manage them? Got any good picnic recipes or ways of wrangling the kids? Feel free to share them with us!

How To… know when you’re full.

In the vein of this week’s post on getting your family to eat healthier, this post is on how to tell when you’re full.

In the West we have an abundance of food. We rarely if ever feel true hunger. Generally we feel peckish and eat, or eat at set times. And as we don’t feel hunger often or at all, we are almost certainly eating when we don’t need food. We have lost track of the usual signals that tell us we’ve had enough. But with a little focus we can recognize and reintegrate these signals.

I am trying to put them in the order they generally happen in.

Signal 1: The Taste Change.

Your body preempts the foods it will be eating based on cravings, sight and smell. The foods that seem most pleasant are the foods your body is primed for. But after that urge is satisfied, the perceived taste of the food changes slightly. Whether it’s pure grease, pure sugar or a pizza, everything has a taste change once your craving is satisfied, however early or late it is. Because many of the foods we eat are so palatable the taste change is less obvious, but by looking for it you’ll notice it.

Signal 2: Body Heat.

As digestion progresses, your body heats up to help in the breaking down of food. When your body starts feeling warm you know that the stomach is starting to reach its digestion capacity. Not full, just the most food you can optimally digest. Any more and you may get sweats or break into the following fullness signals.

Signal 3: Thirst.

Again, as digestion progresses, your stomach acid intensifies. And once your digestion capacity is almost there, the combined body heat and extra acid will make you thirsty. Don’t drink during your meal and when you get thirsty, drink plain water or tea until your thirst is satisfied. Your hunger will be also.

Signal 4: Boredom.

Definitely into the danger zone here. This is like the mega-evolution of the taste change. You have eaten so much that even the primitive part of your brain no longer enjoys the flavour. Even a different tasting food leaves you wondering why you’re still eating and you’re pushing to finish the plate just so you don’t leave any. It is just eating for the sake of eating.

Signal 5: Stomach stretch.

The slight to intense pain caused by your stomach reaching its full capacity. This is definitely too much food. It can be anywhere from uncomfortable to painful, you probably feel very thirsty but don’t have room even for water.

Signal 6: Gurgling.

Gurgling is the sound of your stomach emptying and gas bubbles being forced through the intestine. It happens when you haven’t eaten for a while and your stomach is discarding old, unused, neutralized acid. It also happens when you have had a meal and the digested food is passing through. If your stomach gurgles during a meal, then the contents have been digested and are on their way out. Adding more food on top of it can lead to inefficient digestion and is almost certainly more than you need anyway.

Signal 7: Sickness.

Definitely gone too far. You have consumed so much that your stomach can’t digest it fast enough to pass it through to the intestine and is trying to force it out the way it came. Abort mission meal.

And those are the seven signals your body gives you that it is full. More or less in the order they occur, though sometimes a step will be missed, ignored or happen early or simultaneously with another.

So if you start feeling the tastes change, know your body is almost done with that food. When you feel thirsty and warm, the meal is over. Keeping on going after that is pure greed.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How do you control your food intake? Do you find you have a good or a bad appetite signal? What methods do you rely on to pace your meal? Do share!

10 Ways to Take Care of Yourself.

We all know and understand the message of looking after ourselves first. Everything from the little reminder during airline safety videos to advice for first time mothers reminds us that you can’t help someone before making sure you’re safe yourself.

But it can be hard to stick to this. Most of us have someone we put at the same level as ourselves, if not before us in terms of wellbeing. All of us have at some point harmed our health by trying to care for someone else. It’s all well and good to say “look after yourself”, but when the time actually comes, all you want to do is give everything to your partner, child, friend, relative or pet. When we try and look after ourselves first we can feel guilty or worried.

So what are some ways we can take care of ourselves when really all we want to do is run around looking after other people?

1. Quiet corner.

This is first because it’s the very first thing you can do. Everything else comes in no particular order, but this is big. Find yourself a nice, quiet corner of the house to call your own and to make comfortable. Try and keep any stressful work away from it and make it pretty clear that it’s your territory and refuge. It doesn’t have to be a room. The bath, a comfy chair or even the garden could do. Wherever you are comfortable, happy and out of the way of household traffic.

2. Eat well.

Eating healthy is vital to looking after yourself. Make sure that you eat food that energizes you and refreshes you, avoid food that makes you sluggish or unwell and don’t eat too much or too little. Eat when you’re hungry and not just when you get the time. Drink plenty of fluids. Don’t let yourself get away with a diet you’d never feed someone else. You deserve as good and healthy a meal as anyone else.

3. Bedtimes.

Set a bedtime and stick to it as much as possible. Sure, you may get up to care for someone who is sick or to put a child back to bed, but in principle, lights out is lights out. Try and guarantee yourself a routine, some proper rest and some bedroom privacy.

4. Dress up.

Make yourself look nice every day. Maybe not dressing to the nines, but wear practical clothes you like seeing yourself in, sort your hair, put on a bit of jewelery, a dusting of makeup, get rid of hangnails and dirty hands. Seeing yourself looking good will boost your confidence and mood.

5. Have a treat.

Even if you’re making sure to eat really healthy, budget properly and stay focused, from time to time give yourself a treat. It doesn’t have to be something massive, expensive, extravagant or anything of the sort. But if you’re the sort of person who will, in a week, buy £20 of chocolate for a loved one and not allow themselves a boiled sweet for the entire seven days, you’ll understand when I say: it really isn’t that big of a deal. Have a little treat. Enjoy it.

6. Get a hobby.

Find something you can do that you love. It might be scrapbooking, painting, dancing, cooking, rappelling, sewing, anything. But find something you love and make a habit of doing it. Maybe you’ll go to a monthly book club or maybe you’ll set aside twenty minutes a day to garden. Whatever it is and however often, take some time to just be you and have fun.

7. Exercise.

No matter how healthy you’re eating, how well rested you are and how little time you have, try and find a few minutes a day to exercise. It will build your muscles, burn through fat, elevate your mood and get you fired up and ready for the next challenge. Maybe you can only manage a four minute emergency workout in the morning. Or maybe you have three hours a week to dedicate to jogging. Whatever it is, do it.

8. Unwind.

Just because you have your quiet space and bedtime doesn’t mean those are the only times and places you can relax. Sit down with the kids and read a book. Watch a film with your partner. Just soak in the bath. Do something once in a while to completely put your mind and body at ease.

9. Get out.

It can be very easy to get locked between work, home, shopping and any other closed spaces, like bars, clubs, gyms, restaurants or friends’ houses. But the great outdoors can help you in many ways. Just looking at plants can relax you, fresh air does a body good and sunlight provides life-giving Vitamin D. A brisk walk in the park once a week could make life so much easier.

10. Laugh.

Laughter being the best medicine is a commonly repeated and mocked expression. But, in reality, it does help. Laughter can provide pain relief, relax you, make you happy and boost your immune system. So find something comical, sit down and have a good laugh. Laugh even at the bad jokes, the inappropriate ones, the offensive ones, the ones you don’t like. Laugh more and you’ll feel better all round.

Do you think you look after yourself well? Or do you always put others first and yourself last? How do you look after yourself? How could you improve? Feel free to share.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

5 Diet Myths You Probably Believe.

I think everyone has a few ideas on diet they cling onto for no reason at all. I know fruit is no worse (or should I say no better?) for me than potatoes, but I still love potatoes and neglect fruit. I probably believe or do some things that are completely nonsensical because I picked them up and never let them go.

But some of these myths are held by so many people that sometimes we have to complain. And that’s what I’m going to do. Here are five diet myths that are demonstrably false which you probably actually do believe.

1. X/Y/Z Is Bad For You.

Yes, we all use it as an expression. But we also genuinely believe it about certain things. You may think meat is bad for you, carbs are bad for you, sugar is bad for you, salt is bad for you, alcohol is bad for you, etc. And we incorporate this into our daily diets and the diet advice we dole out. And to a degree, it’s true. Alcohol does your liver some harm in any amount. Junk food messes with your metabolism. Sugar strains your pancreas. But there is an implicit falsehood in it.

You’ve probably already heard “everything in moderation”, the argument that nothing is inherently “Bad”, just that it can be consumed in too high a quantity. But there is another side to that argument: nothing is actually inherently “Good” for you either. Everything we consume has necessary nutrients, every nutrient is necessary. Everything puts some strain on the body or has some toxic products or byproducts. Avoiding one or two specific things is as meaningless as eating one or two specific things. Teetotalism makes you no more a saint of health than eating Goji berries does. It’s better to work out how your body, on an individual basis, processes all sorts of foods and to balance the right amount of everything.

And, mentioning toxins…

2. Detox.

Detoxes are a joke. Think about this rationally. If you drink enough alcohol that your liver can’t eliminate the toxins, you die. If you eat an apple pip, you body processes the cyanide, if you eat cyanide crystals, your body detoxes too slowly and you die. So, if your body wasn’t detoxing, you’d not be here.

And what about progressive buildup? Well, that’s a whole other can of worms. For the sake of simplicity: if you are keeping your body consistently just below the mark for poisoning, do you really think fasting, drinking green smoothies or some magic shake is going to undo all that damage and filter all that out? And do you really think a detox is a better option than not poisoning yourself to begin with? Seriously?

3. Dietary Variety.

Now, what isn’t a myth is that dietary variety benefits you. But the two main benefits of dietary variety are that you’re less likely to be poisoned and guaranteed nutritional variety. However most people throughout the world avoided poisoning and nutritional deficiencies on a fairly plain diet at some point in history or another. And with modern sanitation we can keep our food clean and with modern nutritional data we can assess our food’s nutritional quality. So there is no longer any actual need for dietary variety. Hell, teenagers can survive on chicken nuggets and you can meet your requirements for every nutrient on a diet of potatoes, bananas, liver, sardines, eggs and sunflower seeds.

Now, your health may be improved if you add some variety and the need to meticulously weigh every serving of food goes away. But the sheer amount of variety some people think we need is not only historically impossible, but is also not at all required for life and general fitness.

4. Going All Out On Cheat Days.

Not so much a rule or belief as an action that has just as negative an effect. When we diet strictly or diet at all, when we’re trying to lose weight or get fit or get healthy, we have cravings for foods we’re not allowed. You could go on an “only my 5 favourite foods” diet and eventually get sick of them and crave something you never thought was all that great. So, we allow cheat days. And the general idea of a cheat day is to go all out, eat and drink everything you can’t eat or drink the rest of the time. And we somehow think this is healthy.

After 150 days. And that’s still not doing his organs any favours. Mull that over.

But overwhelming your body isn’t healthy. Let’s use the pancreas as an example. It secretes insulin in response to sugar, enzymes in response to fat, protein or alcohol and triggers hormonal regulation that affects youth thyroid and adrenal glands, among other things. If you eat low carb, no junk food, moderate fat, just the right amount of protein and no alcohol for six days and then on the seventh day you eat four pizzas, a steak and chips, a tub of ice-cream and a bottle of vodka, you are throwing a week’s worth of work onto your pancreas in one go. Your body just isn’t designed to deal with that. That is why alcoholics get liver disease but some people get severe acute pancreatitis from two beers.

In short, either restrict your cheats to a single meal or follow the 80/20 rule, unless you want to overwhelm your body and make yourself ill.

5. I’ll Just Work It Off.

Surely eating too much or eating junk or drinking too much doesn’t matter, because you can burn it off at the end of the day? Well, we only believe that because we conflate being slim with being healthy. In reality, plenty of thin people have metabolic disorder, heart attacks, liver disease and colon cancer. So working off the calories in your food will not fix you or make you less prone to illness.

In reality, whilst nothing is inherently just “Bad” or “Good” for you, if you do overconsume something that wears your body down, the calories aren’t the only thing impacting your health. And you just can’t “work off” insulin resistance, liver scars, diverticulae or thyroid imbalances. You can only prevent these things from happening by eating a healthy, balanced diet.

And those are five diet myths you probably believed. Do you know any other diet myths that are demonstrably false? What advice would you give to anyone struggling with the issues here? How do you keep fit and healthy? Please share in the comments!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Preparing and Hosting MeatFeast V.

Seeing as we hadn’t seen C___ for a while, we decided it was time to invite him round for a MeatFeast before we were all busy with work, festivities and the likes.

1: The food.

The spread minus the pork and lemon chicken.

The spread minus the pork and lemon chicken.

The night before the MeatFeast I cut some ox heart off the main piece, defrosted some chicken limbs and a pork shoulder roll. I scored the pork fat and rubbed it with A1 Steak Sauce. I rolled the chicken quarters in honey, cinnamon, lemon and salt, then placing them in a bag and filling it with more salt, lemon and water to marinade. I placed the heart in a bag of water with salt, pepper and chili to marinade. I find that sandwich bags are more than sufficient for small marinades. I also scrubbed some potatoes.

The next morning, whilst the ox heart was simmering in pepper and cream, I started work on the tart.

Plum, Peach and Cream Tart.

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Ingredients:

-1 can peaches (or fresh peaches and juice, if you’re not feeling lazy)

-300g plum jam

-200g flour

-50g butter

Utensils:

-mixing bowl

-greased or nonstick baking tray

Recipe:

1: Mash the juice and butter together with the flour, leave to cool in the fridge.

2: Once cool, roll it out, fit it into the pan and bake in the oven at 200C until firm but not solid.

3: Spread the jam and layer the peaches.

4: Bake at 160C until the crust is solid.

I also prepared a batter for the potatoes and some chicken wings.

Batter.

Ingredients:

-3 eggs

-200g goose fat

-flour, salt and peppered as desired

Utensils:

-2 bowls

-blender

Recipe:

1: Blend the fat and eggs together.

2: Roll the dry potatoes and wings first in the fat, next in the flour.

3: Place in the oven or deep fat frier until cooked-through and crisp.

Meanwhile, a whole chicken, some lemony chicken quarters and a small pork joint were roasting nicely in the oven. At the very end I sauteed brussels sprouts in chicken grease.

About half the chicken, 1/3 of the pork, all the wings, half the heart, half the potatoes, 2/3 the sprouts and 3/4 of the pie was gone by the end.

2: The drinks.

It was early in the afternoon, C___ is not currently able to drink much and Jon was driving C___ home, so there wasn’t much drinking going off, at least not by our standards. We had some beer and energy drinks for C___ and some wine for Jon and beer for me to enjoy later.

Jon's modest glass of wine.

Jon’s modest glass of wine. Mug for scale.

3: The entertainment.

Again, due to the time shortage we didn’t do much. Watched a few of the Bouncer Channel videos and generally just chatted.

4: The setting.

Decorations were up, the house was warm and the food was kept on the coffee table in the middle of the room, away from the mess in the kitchen. Nothing more in particular.

Money-Saving Book: Sneak-Peek.

So, it isn’t quite finished yet, I don’t have a proper title yet and everything is likely to be polished up and changed a little, but here’s an excerpt from the book I’m writing on money-saving tricks, tips and techniques.

All feedback appreciated and, if you’ve personally tried any of these tricks, feel free to leave a testimony/review, as it will be added to the book. 😀

From what’s currently chapter 3: “FOOD”.

1.- Supermarkets: Scams, Scroungers, Savings!

Too many people nowadays seem to think that supermarkets are a necessary evil. Yes, they draw you in with “Offers” and then shove what they actually want you to buy in your face, but what can you do? They’re the only place where you can find everything you want at a medium price and just get it all over. Necessary Evil.

Except they aren’t either: not necessary, but not evil either. But more on that in the next chapter, just hold the thought! First, we’ll assume you don’t feel up to going to an outdoors market, or to specialized stores for everything you want. Let’s say you want to use the supermarket, you just don’t want to be conned.

Something I quickly found was that brand names do in fact, mean very little. For example, my boyfriend and I would usually only drink a certain brand of energy drink. It didn’t take long to figure out that, on offer, it was £2 a litre and, full price, sometimes £4 or more! What were we using it for? The taste? That was the main difference between our favourite and the cheaper brands and we used them largely for the odd (or daily) boost in the morning. So, we started getting some cheaper energy drinks. We quickly saw that cheaper brands were, at most £1.30 a litre, sometimes even cheaper than that! And, to be honest: you aren’t going to tell the difference at that time in the morning.

Another issue was baked beans. There is a certain, well-known brand of beans that does, according to my boyfriend, taste rather different to others. He prefers it. However, a preference isn’t a need and we soon found out that a splash of curry-paste or paprika in a cheaper brand did wonders! Plus, it goes really well with sausages. Yum!

Admittedly, there will be things everyone hangs onto. I still buy the expensive energy drink because I like to enjoy it with my boyfriend, it has connotations for us that make it pleasant. I also sometimes get a certain type of chocolate, as a treat. But these are odd treats: you don’t have to have it all the time and, even if a certain brand is truly “irreplaceable”, that doesn’t have to be how it is for every item in your house!

But what about offers? When is a deal really too good to miss? Well, there are two types of offers, as far as I’m concerned: offers on a product you usually get (same or different brand) and offers on something you haven’t ever got.

So: products you usually get. If it’s the exact same item you usually get, same brand, same size box… etc. and it’s just been discounted, it’s a no-brainer: get it. But what if it’s a “multi” offer? Where you have to buy more than you’d usually get so as to make a save? There are three main variables: perishability, quality and cost.

How perishable is it?
You’re more likely to get away with buying 12 cans of tomatoes than 12 actual tomatoes (unless your family are true tomato-lovers!). Think about how long it would take to use it all up. For example, as I am usually at home on my own, I wouldn’t ever get more than 10 bananas: I just can’t eat them that fast! However, if there was a deal of “12 for the price of 6”, I may get the 12 and just make sure I eat A LOT of bananas. Basically: know your limits. If it’s 1 for £1.20 or 2 for £2, ask yourself: Is there any humanly possible way we can get through two before they go off? Do we want to? Depending on your answer, you’re halfway to seeing if it’s worth buying!

How good is it?
If it’s the same brand you always get, you won’t have to ask this, but, sometimes, you see a new or different brand on offer and wonder “Would this work?” I often find myself looking at discounted new or popular brands and try and weigh the pros and cons of getting it. So, here’s a check-list to see if it’s worth being adventurous and getting those 12 cans of unknown-brand tomatoes!
– Is it something fairly generic?
Good example: apples. Apples are apples are apples. As long as you can see what it is on the outside, you can have a quick guess as to whether these Granny Smith’s are better or worse than your usual choice.
– Does it have the same (or better) stuff in?
You don’t want to be swapping your favourite, wholesome pasta-sauce for one filled with preservatives if you can avoid it!
– Could we eat our way through it or make it work if it turns out we don’t like it?
Not necessary if you can return it, but returning is a major annoyance and most people I have known wouldn’t return something just because they don’t like it.
– Is this something everyone eats?
Why bother getting 2kg of pork when Bobby is a vegetarian, Mommy is dieting and Luke won’t eat anything that isn’t reared to his standards? (Unless, of course, Daddy is going through a bodybuilding/strength-training phase.)

How expensive is it?
Needless to say, if your weekly food budget is £40 and those tomatoes would push you into £45, they’re probably staying on the shelf. Something I advise, specifically for this sort of occasion, is to always have a small amount of change that you can throw onto a shopping bill. It may seem frivolous at first, but, if it saves you £10 over three weeks, would it be such a bad thing to have an extra fiver in pennies?

Tips for trying new stuff:

Return dates! If you are happy to make a return trip: do it within a certain time-limit! It’s very hard to return perishables much later than the next day. For non-perishables, return within a week or by the date given on the receipt!

Don’t experiment with staples! It’s hard to get through bread you hate when you’re having it for the next week and a bit.

If you don’t like it, try and swap with friends/family/neighbours! You may not make all your money’s worth back, but something is better than nothing.

But what if you haven’t ever got this item before? Here, I recommend the same cautions as with the untried brands… and even more! If at all possible, buy a “sample” to take home and try. You may find that certain products are on “loop-offers”: offers that they make and then repeat in a few month’s time. I found out that Lidl often keep a certain well-known brand of beans on a “loop”. The offer they were on made them cheaper than the cheapest brands! So I tried them and then, as I liked the taste, later stocked up on them. Now I alternate using that brand and cheap beans with paprika! But this was another brand issue. I would never consider swapping from say, potatoes to brown rice, if I’ve never tried the rice! I’d have to try it first, see if it works with what I usually have at home before I stocked-up on discounted rice.