The Skinny Thing – Overnight Oats

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Thanks to the direction of my Fat Camp instructress D I have a renewed interest in food labels and sugar content and quite frankly this has ruined my breakfast.

My current plan involves avoiding anything processed with a sugar content of over 5%. I say ‘current’, this is something I should have maintained since my brush with pre-diabetes some years ago. Food manufacturers put sugar in EVERYTHING. Well almost everything because it’s cheap and arguably addictive and it tastes nice so then we want to eat more of it so we buy more of it. No rocket science here today, kids.  I’m not going to get into an argument on the virtues and pitfalls of dietary sugar but I am going to go out on a limb and say that there isn’t a credible source out there for eating more of it.

So we get healthy, we lose weight, we cut sugar, we are On A Diet. So obviously: bran flakes. Dieters eat bran flakes because they are high fibre and unenjoyable enough to give you a good dose of smug self righteousness in the morning, correct?
Only your average bran flake is coming in at around 20% sugar. Huh.
Ok then I used to have Special K so maybe I’ll go back to that. Special K is super healthy ask the woman in the ads in the foxy red dress, right?  Special K packs about 17% sugar with more fat and less fibre than the abandoned branflakes. Huh.
We went through several more options and just at my weakest, most disappointed point D hit me with her finishing move – the short and painful list of cereals that fall under the 5% threshold:
Cornflakes (pointless unless you eat a kilo at a time).
Oats (I have no time to cook in the morning and porridge without a ton of jam or syrup is boring).
Shredded Wheat. The big ones.
That was it.
I managed the shredded wheat for about ten days before it made me want to cry into my semi skimmed. I dont like to be in tears before midday but I still don’t have the time to mess around cooking porridge first thing (I already get up early enough TVM) which presented something of an issue. Oats really are the ryvitas of the cereal world in that they have a pretty righteous nutritional profile on their own but no one ever eats them on their own because they are boring! The challenge to overnight oats is to not make them slimy and to not eat them with a massive crunchy pile of sugary fat on top. They are certainly an acquired taste, gloopy and, the way I’ve done them, with a noticeable sour tang stronger than the average yoghurt fan might expect. This is easily covered with some additions just be sensible if you are on a trim mission.

The very basic recipe, which I can confirm should not be monkeyed with, should be equal volumes (not weight!) of oats, milk and natural yoghurt plus a pinch of sea salt. Mix it, cover it, refrigerate over night. Stick it in a mason jar and take photos for your instagram.
Working this to a serving of 5tbspns of each with whole milk and low fat yoghurt will yield you a breakfast of about 350 calories before additions. It does need additions though- either a strong flavour or contrasting texture. Nuts are an obvious choice, dried fruit or a sprinkling of granola all work and if you aren’t trying to watch your sugar or lose weight then have all of these and some jam on top! If you want the benefits of oats without a calorie tax, try the below variations saving the splurge for once a week or very high activity days.

Saintly- add half a tsp of cinnamon to the mix then half a grated apple just before eating for a clean sweet hit. Alternatively you can sweeten with some agave nectar or soft fruits but no more than a small handful.

Luxe- add a teaspoon of a quality cocoa powder and a drop of vanilla extract when mixing. This transforms it into a yummy fake liquidy cake breakfast. A breakfast worth getting up for with negligible calorie addition. Just use a good cocoa, not some crappy hot chocolate. Add a few crushed hazelnuts on serving if you are a devil.

Splurge- for guilt free weekends or treat days mix with Greek yoghurt or even a splash of cream then top with almonds and raisins. Or macadamia nuts and dried cranberries. Banana chips, cocoa nibs, honey, brown sugar, half a smashed up dime bar, play around until you find something you like that doesn’t destroy your calorie intake and don’t do it every day.

Oats, like many boring things, are actually awesome, providing a low slow energy release, tummy filling fibre and immune system buddy beta glucans. Try to eat some and if you have some good over night mixes to share I’d love to know.

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Skinflint Bolognese

The Mr and I are overspent this week in both financial and caloric terms which has presented something of a challenge for the catering team- which is Me tonight.
Due to being both brilliant and too lazy to go on a yellow sticker hunt at the shops I’ve pulled it out the bag with our scant fridge contents and made a pretty good dinner which I wanted to share for a number of reasons, not least of all to show that you can eat healthily and heartily on a budget- try these three ingredients for a start:

Turkey– a good protein source, nutritionally winning with high levels of iron, zinc and potassium plus metabolism buddy tryptophan which you need for all sorts of basic functions in the temple that is your body.

Chopped tomatoes– weirdly better for you than raw tomatoes due to increased lycopene availability which could help the body fight cancer and cardiovascular diseases too. Most own brand supermarket versions do the job as a sauce base at less than 40p a tin.

Garlic– Tasty and fights germs. And vampires.

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Store cupboard staple Morrissons chilli powder which packs plenty of flavour for all budgets

I’d also like to pay a quick homage here to Morrissons own brand herbs and spices which really walk the walk in my kitchen without racking up too much budget allocation. I’m not one to buy a crappy ingredient just because it is cheap, I like eating too much, but I very rarely stray from their chilli powder which is about 50p a pot and really nicely balanced in heat there really is no need to go higher. There was a horrible day in 2013 when we ran out of Morrissons awesome own brand smoked paprika but we will not dwell on those dark times now . Asda do very good own brand spices too if they are your supermarket of choice.
Moving on now to frozen veg. Gah, no, we all wail and agree that fresh is best BUT the majority of plain frozen veg retains a good level of nutrients and can rescue many a mid week dinner when you don’t have time to pop out to the Co op. Speaking of the Co op, they do stupidly good value deals on their frozen food. The peas we used this evening came from an Easter frozen deal which scored a leg of lamb, pack of peas, pack of carrots, Yorkshires (the horror, I know), roast potatoes (bigger horrors), profiteroles AND a full size tub of hagen daaz for a tenner. That’s still a bargain when you chuck out the spuds and Aunt Bessies so check out what your local Co op food Hall has on offer this week. The fresh mince you need for this recipe is £2 a pack there at standard price.

So here it is, the poor foodie’s bolognese which I reckon comes in at less than £1 and 400 calories a serving depending on your carbohydrate of choice.

Skinflint Bolognese

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Serves 4
Yes I know it isn’t a proper bolognese.

400g turkey mince
2 onions
5 cloves garlic
2 large carrots or a cup frozen slices
1 cup frozen peas
10 button mushrooms
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Cider vinegar
Chilli powder
Dried mixed herbs

Heat 1tbspn of rapeseed oil in a sturdy pan with 1-2 tsp chilli powder to taste. Roughly chop the onions and crush the garlic then add to the pan. Once softened, add the turkey mince and stir well. Once the mince colours add the carrots if using fresh and mushrooms. Cook through for another minute then add tomatoes, dried herbs and salt and pepper to taste.
Cover, turn the heat down and allow to simmer for ten minutes. Add the frozen peas and carrots if using plus a Tbspn cider vinegar, bring back to simmer for another two minutes, done.

Serve over pasta, rice or a baked potato.

Smoothie #7

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In The Pink.
I must confess to a slow start this morning but when Carlsberg make hangovers they are swiftly defeated, with this soothing sugar hit. Not one for the low carbers.

Boomboom Smoothie No 7

Around 400 calories
Up to 10g protein
Up to 12g fibre

1 medium banana
1 small green apple
5 medium strawberries
4 Tbspn natural yoghurt
2 tbspns muesli
1 tsp bramble jelly
Water to loosen

Good for an energy boost after a late night.

Skinny it- don’t try to cut on this one, as indulgences go this isn’t too bad. If it doesn’t fit your plan make something else.

Splurge it- use Greek yoghurt or a scoop of ice cream.

Grow Your Own- If Only We Had Ducks

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Staying in the dry side of the glass today. Cameo appearance from Errol the Lemon there on the right.

Good morning Green Fingerers, this post comes to you from a firm plot on the sofa sponsored by the consistent drumming of rain on double glazing.
So, another rained off Saturday garden date however I can observe good things from this side of the patio doors. Although inedible, it is consistently satisfying to see a good splash of colour in the form of cherfully blooming tulips and a pink flowering shrub that may or may not be some kind of currant.
Through a matter of landscaping we have inadvertently dehomed roughly a million snails which seems naughty but the unsightly stone pile they were living in had to go. Who keeps piles of stones as a garden accessory? I suspected to find pet remains beneath but it seems that no, our predecessors just liked rubble. I hope to make up the fauna count with a cutesy insect house recently installed by the primroses and continuing efforts to entice birds beyond our resident wood pigeons and fat Starling. We had a great tit for a while but he seems to have titted off for the time being.

But now, the edibles!

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The onion patch going strong.

Onions.  Red Karmen variety planted from bulb in ground and in pot and doing well in both, they all seemed to appear at once in the first week of April. Strong green shoots and lots of them.

Lettuce. Red and Green Salad Bowl variety planted from seed in ground and pot. Not killed by a hard frost shortly after planting which is rather thrilling and they are doing very well in plot and pot. So far about twenty two-leaf shoots growing rapidly around the evil weeds which I’m trying to control without chemicals as I do actually want to eat them in the summer.

Carrots. Nantes 5 variety planted in the last week of March in ground and pot. Visual evidence expected in the next ten days.

Rosemary:  Planted from seed in nursery pots currently inside and showing no sign of life whatsoever. Can confirm from general weed growth in the nursery pots that our compost stash seems to be contaminated with something, possibly bloody dandelions.

Established Herbs. Potted oregano and rosemary received by way of house warming gifts. Oregano mildly poached after being left in the conservatory on a very sunny day but now recovering outside. Next priority to get into bigger planters.

Hazelnuts. Catkins shed but behind on budding compared to the other tree life.  Constant discovery of nuts on the ground everywhere gives me faith that they will catch up.

Fig Tree. Established tree, not doing much since last time.

WTF Trees. Starting to bud, one cautiously identified by The Mothership as a plum of some sort. Time will tell.

Chilli Plant. Still going solidly on the windowsill, first fruit picked and in my freezer stash.

Lemon tree. I grew poor old Errol the Lemon from a pip in my my old flat and it has somehow survived on minimal light and root space for some seven years. He’s too big to stay inside now and getting very leggy in search of light so has been moved tentatively into out thermally shot conservatory to see if he can take the cold. He’s doing really well so far with much greener leaves and beginning to grow out again not just up. Would love to plant him out one day.

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Left- still unidentified pink flowering maybe currants. Top right- WTF tree blossoms. Bottom right- recovering oregano.

So that’s it for today, though my garden time quota won’t be wasted as there is plenty of tea and an Alan Titchmarsh instructional tome to be consumed. Happy Weekend all.

The Skinny Thing- 4 Week Catch Up

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Oh good, more salad!

Some weeks ago I had a personal overshare on my current fight against the bulge and previous life experience as a fatty. Oddly this turned out to be one of the most hit posts (in the least time) that I have ever penned. How charming that the facebook masses will flock so mercilessly to get a good look at some old chubber photos yet I will be lucky to find two at a time with an interest in my Moonmunch recipe (which is awesome, BTW). But then we are a nation obsessed with weight these days and who doesn’t love a quick check on their social media neighbour to make sure they aren’t going to out do you in the slender ankle contest? I received many complimentary and supportive comments which I am grateful for and have packed away in case I need them later. I would like to say I feel upbeat and positive and thin and stuff but I’m afraid at this point we must settle for that fact that I don’t feel beaten.

Dieting is boring, and signing myself up for a mild nutritional bootcamp from our glorious NHS has reinforced this fact. ‘My Weight Matters’ is a one to one counselling program provided in handy fifteen minute chunks which I will elaborate on fully at the end of the 15 week programme. I write to you now on the eve of my fifth weigh in, which I’m not looking forwards to as in my previous weigh ins over a month I have lost a grand total of……..wait for it…….. 1100 grams. I’ve been diligent and I’ve been hungry and I’ve lost a poxy kilo in a month.
Only I haven’t.
On my scales at home it looks more like 4 kilos, which is the joy of being able to hop on to record minus your clothes and half a day of stomach contents. Even though I know my nudey number it is most irksome to not see it reflected when I weigh in with the judgey ladies with clipboards but I’m pretty sure getting nekkid in the foyer of the Salvation Army community rooms is not something that’s going to win me any points. Not the kind of points you want, at least.
So it is working on the scales and if I’m honest in my clothes too, a very little bit. The trick? Oh you know the trick. Dump the chocolates and the butter and the crisps. Up the water and that pesky physical activity and just try for goodness sake. Then, when you are sick of trying and need to go off the rails, do it in style and don’t do it blindly. Knowing that I was saving for a big easter Sunday lunch with my dad stopped me from several potential fails in my third week. A fail needs to be worth it. A slice of sea salt treacle tart- worth it. A bowl of frozen Morrissons profiteroles, really not. Vending machine blitz of Walkers goods at work, absolutely not worth it. A pint of marmalade on toast bitter on the way home: so worth it you can do it twice.
A little restraint and sensible substitution go a really long way but I belive it was a strict regime for my first two weeks, no exceptions, that made me purge my cravings. Since then there has been only one horrible bloody day that ended in beer and bbq meats and I confess that was more about emotional cravings than nutritional ones. In fact although I’m hungry a lot of the time I don’t have much of an appetite at the moment. I’m tired and a bit whingey and I’m doing a lot of listless wandering around the supermarket before just going for a turkey steak and a head of broccoli so I don’t have to think about it any more. Maybe it is all the fibre, maybe guilt, maybe some deep chemical shift inside from a good ten day stint of dietary cleanliness but I feel like I’m over it. I don’t really want biscuits or my old adversary 3pm kitkat. I dont really want another apple either but if the choice is two things I’m not really bothered about, it is no chore to choose the healthier one.
It isn’t so bad. I sleep heavily and pee a lot and my duff hip and clicky knee both hurt less than they did in February. I cried with the effort of finishing a slow 4km jog yesterday that felt truly leaden and laborious but screw you and screw that 4km because it’s gone now and I have calories in the bank for that next carefully negotiated fail.

I don’t know how long this fug will last but the facts I keep coming back to are that It Is Working A Bit, and I’m not Beaten. That’s going to have to be enough until next time.