Bits & pieces 9: Coconut yoghurt & baked oats

I've written here before about my love of breakfast. I don't understand those people who rush out the door with nothing in their bellies. Lately, I've gotten into preparing my breakfast the night before so I just need to assemble in the morning. While I love a berry or green smoothie as much as the rest of the smoothie-drinking world, at the moment I just want oats. Be it porridge made with soaked steel cut oats, raw with nut milk or yoghurt, or baked the night before into a delicious cakey goodness. Baked carrot cake oats

Above is my adaptation of Baked Carrot Cake Oatmeal from the wonderful Green Kitchen Stories. I omitted the nuts, added desiccated coconut and poppy seeds to the topping, and made it with chia seeds instead of eggs. Delicious. It's definitely good enough for both dessert and breakfast.

This week I'm going try out this recipe for homemade coconut milk yoghurt for the second time. My first attempt at making it a couple of weeks ago, failed miserably for some unknown reason. It kinda curdled. Ew. I'm determined to make it work though as I love yoghurt but, like most dairy products, I don't really eat it much as it brings me out in eczema. Secondly, we actually have an Easiyo yoghurt maker that I bought the boyfriend a couple of years back. He got bored with it though and would rather spend his kitchen time perfecting a loaf of sourdough than faffing around with yoghurt. Said yoghurt maker is sitting unloved on top of our kitchen cupboards so I'm determined to use it by making my coconut milk version.

Have you ever tried making your own coconut milk yoghurt? How do you like oats? Baked, raw or cooked stove top?

X c

Feeling lighter

IMG_2948 After four weddings, a funeral, a 40th in Wales, a hen do, a trip to Paris and Amsterdam, a visit from my sister, multiple trips to Edinburgh for work, too many nights out and general too-much-to-do-ness, I've been feeling somewhat knackered and weighed down. Now things have calmed down and before the silly season kicks in, I've decided to get back to basics, get organised and get my routine sorted.

After chatting about it with my sister, I've started reading Dr Libby's book Accidentally Overweight. And my god, it just makes so much sense. Since starting it, I haven't eaten one ounce of dairy or had a single drop of alcohol. And  it's been easy. Dairy hasn't been any great sacrifice as it's always bought me out in a rash so I tend to not have much anyway. But booze, well, there really is nothing nicer than a glass of red on a chilly evening or an Aperol spritz on a hot day. Even so, I've found this no great loss either.

I've also started meal planning for the week ahead, which I always thought sounded like a total chore and something only bored American housewives would do, but actually it's been brilliant. I downloaded a free online planner and just planning what eat for the week ahead. No scrambling for ideas, trips to Pret or last minute trolley dashes to the supermarket. A visit to the farmer's market on Sunday, a scoot around the vegetable patch and a few bits from the local shop on the walk home from work. It's been somewhat of a revelation and I'm loving it. It's certainly saved us money too. I just print it out, stick it on the fridge and meal an ingredients list in Trello. That way I don't get distracted by anything else and buy/make what's on the plan.

I'm not going teetotal but I have decided I'll save the booze for special occasions - birthdays, catching up with friends, parties and weddings, Christmas etc. Just no more I'm-bored/ had-a-bad-day/ it's-6pm-drinks anymore. I'm off to another wedding (5th this year!) soon so I'll definitely be indulging but hopefully not too much!

As for the dairy, well, I'm not going to say never-again but for now it's off the menu. I'll still eat eggs but the cheese, cream and anything else moo-related can stay away from me. After only two weeks, I'm less bloated, my skin is clearer, the dark circles under my eyes are going. I generally feel lighter and brighter, and my clothes fit better.

I don't feel like I'm on a diet, like I'm depriving myself or that I'm missing out. I'm eating yummy food that makes me feel good. Getting out of bed in the morning isn't a breeze (it never will be) but it's certainly easier. Let's see how long I can stick with it.  I'm also still walking to and from the office where I'm working at the moment, and back at yoga once a week.

Dinner tonight? Leek, greens and cannelini bean soup with rye bread, and nasturtium, apple and almond pesto.

Reading: Anything by Dr Libby

Eating: Green smoothies, oats and nut milk, rye bread, loads of vegetables and soups.

Photo: Nasturtiums growing in Monet's Garden last month.

No resolutions around here.

I have very little willpower and even less when faced with a large glass of Merlot. So there'll be no hard and fast resolutions around here.  I've set myself what I like to think of as goals, plans and dreams for 2011 instead:

  • Get some sunshine and visit the homeland. According to the doctor I am actually quite deficient in Vitamin D and because you need Vitamin D to absorb calcium I’m lacking in that too. So what better excuse for a trip home. Hurrah, flights to New Zealand are booked for February – four weeks of sun, family and friends. And introducing Mr Ukulele to a New Zealand summer. We're stopping over in Tokyo for four nights on the way back to London (and to break the 28 hour plane flights ugh). I can hardly contain my excitement. Yippee!
  • See my friends more. 2010 was great but I often felt I didn’t see my friends as much I’d have liked, mostly due to tiredness, work and other commitments. 2011 I will be more sociable. I promise.
  • Discover Italy. I’ve only been to Venice and I’m hankering for a short Italian holiday. Perhaps for my birthday. Or I after I've paid off our big trip first!
  • Not let things get on top of me. Work is, well work. I'm planning on liking that more this year. And house sharing is always a barrel of laughs, love the girls but not necessarily all the other bollocks that comes with a full busy household, like bills, leaking showers, broken boilers, dirty dishes, and mess…
  • …which leads me to the plan to move in with the Mr Ukulele properly after our five weeks away. I’m sure the joys of trying to find a cute one-bedroom flat to rent in London (which doesn’t cost the earth and isn’t a dump) will be endless but still I can’t wait.
  • Make the most of my fabulous new Christmas present – a KitchenAid mixer! I will be christening it this weekend by doing some baking, probably something from the recipe book Chocolate Heartache. But made vegan for my afternoon tea party with friends. This year I will be baking machine.
  • Drink less but drink better. Nicer wine, preferably vegetarian and no dodgy bottles from the offie. (Unless it’s been a really god awful day) Cut out the beer all together, unless it extremely hot, like when we’re in NZ in February… uh-oh I can see myself failing that one.
  • Cut out dairy where at all possible. As a vegetarian I find myself often craving and eating too much cheese. And I’m not sure it’s particularly good for me. I’m halfway through reading ‘Eating Animals’ and I think cheese is ruined for me forever.
  • Walk more. I like walking around and observing, thinking. It's obviously good for the hips too. So I'm going to ignore the cold and wrap up warm and walk whenever I can and when I'm not commuting great distances for work.
  • Get the Mr to teach me how to play the ukulele that he gave me as a bit of a joke for Christmas last year. Failing that, I gave him a gorgeous vintage tambourine as one of his Christmas presents this year. Perhaps I'll just give that a bash. It's complete with tatty old ribbons I'm going to replace. I’m thinking I'll be channelling Stevie Nicks circa 1977.
  • Be a better blogger, write more frequently and get a better camera.
  • And finally, and perhaps most importantly, I’m going to start making more stuff. Make some space for the sewing machine, make some Liberty print cushions, frame some pictures, do some embroidery and sew myself a dress. I haven’t really made much or sewn much since I came to London and I miss it.

Not sure how each will relate to each other, and if indeed they are all possible. Not eating cheese will be challenge and not drinking beer in the NZ sunshine perhaps even harder! What are the challenges you’ve set for yourself this year and can you give me any advice for achieving mine? What do you have in store for us 2011?