Monthly Archives: October 2019

No Fried Food Review

Having made a blog post about starting the ‘no fried food’ challenge, it seems churlish not to post a review post about how it went. Whether it was a product of the time of year, or simply just that my shifts were less antisocial this time round but it was definitely an easier challenge to keep to this time.

While I didn’t actually make either chilli or curry during the month, the fact that I knew that I could if I needed to made it somehow much easier to keep to the challenge. I felt less fenced in by the challenge, in fact it felt more like a fun challenge and less like every joy being cut off whichever way I looked!

The weather being somewhat more Autumnal I made a fair amount of soup during the course of the challenge, which always helps with the snacking, as I’m considerably less likely to feel the urge to snack after a filling bowl of soup. The oven was definitely my friend this challenge as I cooked a variety of things under the grill or in the oven instead of making them on the stovetop.

For the first half of the challenge month I don’t feel that it really helped my workplace snacking as instead of eating crisps I instead ate chocolate even when that really wasn’t what I wanted. (I’m much more of a savoury snacking person.) However as the month wore on I got better at bringing my own healthier snacks, finding that snacks I picked out myself in advance were eminently more tempting than those chosen out of peckish apathy from the vending machine.

That’s actually been much easier to keep up into this month as tangerines are in season and they are the perfect snack fruit. (Few greater joys when out in the field at work, cold, tired and hungry, to find a tangerine in your coat pocket like a present from your past self.) I’ve certainly got better at hiding cereal bars and packets of dried fruit or unsalted nuts in my work bag to be found just when I need them most. Pistachio nuts in particular need no salting or sweetening to feel like an indulgent treat.

Mostly, I distracted myself with other challenges. I ate a fair amount of Japanese food over the course of the challenge as I worked my way through a sushi recipe book, learning to roll sushi with varying success. Having something new and exciting to focus on distracted me from fixating on the things I couldn’t have which I suppose is fundamentally what you want from one of these challenges, not to close yourself off, but rather to open yourself up to new things and in the process reduce your reliance on old – lazy – staples.

And while no chips were as delicious as the ones I ate in the pub the day after the challenge finished, I must admit that the thing I missed the most during the course of the challenge was an omelette. Preferably with lots of cheese, some bell pepper and perhaps a spring onion. A small pleasure, but a much missed one.

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Baked Comfort

Over the last few months I’ve been getting more adventurous with my oven usage. After something of a false start when I first moved in where it turned out the thermostat wire had melted through, I’ve been slowly getting the hang of my new oven. The rule of thumb appears to be, 10-20˚C lower than the recipe/packet suggests and 5-10 minutes less cooking time (180˚C on the middle shelf seems to be sweet spot of the oven) and you’ll be just dandy.

To my great delight – and relief! – unlike my last place’s oven, this one actually bakes cakes and buns properly, no more half-cooked blueberry muffins for me! They don’t weld themselves to the paper cases anymore either! I’ve now successfully made two different kinds of muffins (rhubarb ones and apple and cinnamon varieties) in the oven so I feel more able to be more adventurous with my baking again. I didn’t realise how much frustration and uncertainty about whether they’d come out okay had curtailed my baking.

Apple cinnamon muffins

The somewhat temperamental nature of the previous ovens meant I really only made pasta bakes and pies in it – though an honourable mention needs to be made for the delightful discovery of baked eggs. It’s been rather fun experimenting with roasted vegetables – I may never again eat sweet potatoes any other way – as it’s opened up a whole bunch of recipes that I previously avoided as they started with ‘first roast the vegetables’ and it was too much of a faff. It really does improve the flavour of a surprising number of vegetables.

I’ve also successfully made bread in the oven now – even if only from packet mix so far – something I never risked attempting in either of the ovens at my old place. Before I moved to Inverness I used to bake bread, not all the time, but at least on a regular basis. I’d got pretty good at making soda bread, and it became a ritual to make it every time I made pea and mint soup, something I now only really do when I’m home visiting my parents for Xmas. I’d forgotten in the interim, how easy and satisfying I find making – most, ciabatta never comes out right for me – bread until I had the dough under my fists pummelling it gently into submission. There’s a special kind of joy in going to check on my proving dough and finding it successfully doubled in size. In the way my whole flat smelled of warm bread for a good 24 hours afterwards, and the repeated pleasure I got every time I opened the breadbox to be greeted by the scent. The way the loaf was exactly the right size for me to have eaten it all before it went off, and the satisfaction of making sandwiches for lunch with it, the added pleasure of the casual ‘that looks nice bread’ comments from colleagues to which I could proudly respond ‘thanks, I made it myself’. There are few more comforting scents than fresh bread you made yourself, I find. An olfactory hug if you will.
Cheese and tomato bread!Cheese and tomato bread sliced!

Categories: feeling philisophical, new skills | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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