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Sketch

7 Jul

I am so full of tea, and my tea partner (baby sister) has left me for a few moments, so I thought I’d do a quick, live report. Check out this for afternoon tea…

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Pistachio, raspberry and black peppercorn trifles; rose macaroons (the correct spelling on the menu delighted me); salt caramel cups; lemon, macadamia and ouzo tarts; egg mayo sandwiches with quails egg and caviar… And those were just the highlights. Yum. Back to it.

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Ce qui me gêne

27 Apr

A macaroon (macaron in French) is a small cake made predominantly from ground almonds. The name comes from an Italian word, referring to the method of turning the almonds into a paste. In France, they have developed the style to those delicious little sandwiches in wonderful flavours, and they are now conquering the world with their sugary yumminess. The French have only one word for almond-based cakes – they call them all macarons. To use the word macaron as an English speaker is completely unnecessary – we have a perfectly functional word to describe the item, and it’s a direct translation from the French word.

In all honesty, it seems a little silly to use foreign phrases when our own will do. Except for in the title of this blog post, of course. We don’t shun the word cheese in favour of fromage, simply because we are eating Roquefort. Unfortunately, it has become so widespread (oh, Wikipedia) that a lot of people do not even know that macaron and macaroon mean the exact same thing, but I’d bet money that it originated with the sort of people who say things like “au contraire” a lot.

It takes a lot of food to reach 6′ 5″

18 Feb

When you try and reduce the crazy somewhere, more creeps in. Here, I begin to agonise over weaning the baby. There are so many options and methods out there. Firstly, there’s the currently popular baby-led weaning compared to standard purées-getting-chunkier method.

BLW, as it’s called, is getting a lot of press recently after a self-reporting study of 155 parents of 20-month- to 6-year-olds revealed some differences in the preferences and weight of the children, depending on their methods of weaning. Parents were asked to rate their child’s food preferences by category on a scale of 1-5 (1 “loves; 5 “hates”, with BLW children having scores of 1.82, 1.83 and 1.89 for carbohydrates, savoury snacks and sweet foods respectively, and spoon-fed children having scores of 2.12, 2.08 and 1.81 for those same categories. 61.9% of BLW babies and 63.5% of spoon-fed babies were considered a healthy weight by WHO z-score standards. Because of our concerns about obesity in the West, the focus has been more on the fact that 25.4% of BLW children and 31.7% of spoon-fed children were considered overweight or obese by WHO z-score standards.

Naturally, the overall conclusions have been more well-publicised than the figures themselves (poor old BMJ – they just don’t get the readership!). Looking at the figures in detail, I’m more inclined to think “meh – there’s clearly more to it than just how a baby is weaned”. There’s the correlating factor that always comes into play whenever we look at methods of parenting that have been deliberately selected rather than followed simply because it was what everyone else was doing. It makes sense that parents who actively make decisions are more likely to see positive outcomes (I feel icky just typing that! Like we’re preparing for our final grade, or something we can put in the family newsletter), so it just doesn’t seem possible to strip out all of the gazillions of correlating factors there are. I’m sure that if any of us tried to submit such an experiment to our GCSE Science teachers, we’d be told to bugger off and do a lot more work. I guess that the BMJ is less discerning than Mr Lees.

So… My first conclusion is that the method we use to wean Barney doesn’t seem to matter that much.

Then we get onto the food. This is where I stress myself out a lot. I have read Annabel Karmel’s books with great interest, but have yet to brave any recipes, as I’m terrified of my carefully-prepared meals being met with disgust. I also haven’t really gleaned much information on what *actual* nutrition small people require, only a list of scrummy-sounding recipes.

So far, we’ve stuck to the following – batches of cooked veggies, meat/fish/poultry and starches frozen into cubes and quickly defrosted (in the microwave) with some herbs at meal times. This is punctuated with the occasional purée of whatever I’m having, although as a pest0 fan, hot sauce junkie and salt fiend, I’ve had to use this method only when absolutely appropriate.

Everything has gone down well so far, although the puréed celery took a few attempts. I have always taken the George’s Marvellous Medicine approach to cooking, resulting in slightly peculiar taste combinations that nobody seems to like except me. But if only they’d try Tom Yum and emmental toasties, I know they’d love them! Thankfully, Barney is a captive audience, and he hasn’t turned his nose up at many concoctions, despite one accidental turmeric-spill. After he devoured a bowl of veal biryani, I texted Patrick to let him know that I would treasure this moment when, in the future, he would refuse to eat anything but bread. Yes, baby brother, I’m looking at you!

I’m sure that it’s hard to go too far wrong, unless you start feeding your child puréed fast food – yup, that happened. It doesn’t stop me freaking out over him eating too many bananas in a day (more than two), or when I had a stomach bug and couldn’t cope with preparing anything more sophisticated than Weetabix for an afternoon. These are the days on which I plan to look back and laugh when the real challenges set in!

Me and Meat

31 Mar

I am a keen omnivore. Apart from a brief spell in primary school when I got somehow targeted by The Vegetarian Society, I have never considered vegetarianism a choice that spoke to me. Veganism was a very far-off idea – the only vegan I knew was the class bully who would share gory stories that she’d heard about abbatoirs and sheep-shearing with whomever was in earshot. Back to the present, and vegans and vegetarians punctuate my everyday experiences in Blogland, and the issue has become very interesting to me again.

I’m really quite ambivalent when it comes to veganism and vegetarianism. On the one hand, if you believe that killing/using animals for food and/or clothing is wrong, then it 100% makes sense. I have a lot of respect for people with such strong convictions. Even if you just think it’s gross, or you feel that your diet is healthier without the saturated fat that inevitably comes with animal proteins – those are really excellent reasons to seek out the green tick on your food packaging.

However, I feel less confident about veganism and vegetarianism as methods of improving animal welfare. I guess I feel that more can be achieved by staying within any “system” and working to improve it, than opting out. When people abstain from voting because all politicians are corrupt anyway, I feel that they are simply handing over the power to other people – usually those who care about very different issues.

I feel like I have a vote to give and I want that to go to farmers who live near me, treating their animals well. If I can help keep their business going, then maybe it’ll become so successful that it’ll close down the farm where they overcrowd the chickens and cut their beaks off.

I love schemes like meat-free Monday, in which we are encouraged to have a day a week when we don’t eat any animal products. I know that they can be seen as gimmicky, but I believe they have a positive effect. If you take the money you’d spend on that extra day’s meat and spend it on better quality, more ethically-sourced meals throughout the rest of the week, then you’re doing more good than you were before.

Are you an omnivore, a vegetarian or a vegan? What led you to make that decision? Do you think that anything that could sway you to the “other side”?

How Do You Make A Hormone?

10 Nov

Please excuse the title. It’s a really bad joke, and I can’t even remember the correct punchline. If you can think of a good one, let me know!

I’m on a bit of a rollercoaster at the moment. Suddenly work has picked up through the roof – you’d think that was good but it’s a bit of a minimum-wage pity effort from my dear old Dad. Going from working part-time and with complete flexibility, to having to juggle clients is really quite overwhelming. Taking the financial weight off is a wonderful gift, though.

I don’t know if it’s pregnancy hormone stuff, but I’ve been really easily upset by things. Bloggers who giggle as their commenters gloat and shriek; pretty much anything I learn about Christine O’Donnell; the new McDonalds advert where all those people seek respite from their horrible journeys; the way some people have never used punctuation in their lives until they hyphenate their child’s name, Mollee-Faiye-Boo.

I’m at – as they say in the online pregnancy world – 5+1, five weeks and one day. Last time, the trouble began at 5+3. I know that once I pass that imaginary hurdle, there are still another 40 days or so until I’m out of the high-risk zone. I envy mothers-to-be who don’t even let this cross their minds and spend these first few months in giddiness, but don’t begrudge it remotely. Staying positive, cuddling beautiful Meg a lot and just taking good care of myself!

I’ve embarked on a pregnancy-friendly weight loss regime, inspired by the great success of Claire at Cakes and Bunting. Slimming World works on the principle of eating foods that are low in calorie density until you are full, ensuring that you eat nutrient-rich foods every day, and allowing room for treats. I don’t know why I’ve been ignoring it this long – I know several people who have been seriously successful with the diet, and I’m not talking about the “OMG! My size 6 jeans are a little tight!” types, but people who have actually improved their health and their life through weight loss.

I’m questioning whether or not the denial may be attributable to the same-old self-sabotage, but the navel-gaziness of it all seems a little pointless when considering the real goal – to start dejiggling.

For accountability’s sake, this is what I’ve been tucking into the past few days –

Tuesday: Lentil-rice casserole with Mulligatawny cup-soup for flavour; brussels sprouts with a whole roasted butternut squash stuffed with rice, parmesan, tomato sauce, olive oil and fat-free fromage frais.

Wednesday: Mushroom omelette; grapes; borlotti beans stir-fried with asparagus; salmon with lentil-rice casserole and roasted broccoli; fried bananas with sugar.

I’ve been delighted to eat such tasty stuff, and I’ve been inspired to eat more veggies. My big flaw when it comes to calorie counting is not being bothered to eat vegetables. I become so focussed upon calories and hunger that everything else goes out the window.

You may have noticed my new-found love of this lentil-rice casserole. I discovered the recipe via Frugal n Fit, and have become addicted – it’s just so creamy and filling and comforting. Essential in this godforsaken weather. The original recipe is here, a fantastic resource for recipes, but I’ve generally been going with (by volume) one part lentils, one part arborio risotto rice, six parts water, and whatever herbs or spices I think will be suitable with whatever it’s accompanying.

Questions –

Do you recognise habitual hurdles in your efforts to keep healthy?

Is there a dish that you could just cook day in and day out and never tire of?

Yummy

3 Nov

As I’ve said before, my recipes aren’t really recipes – more the assembly of stuff I like. Still, I thought I’d share! Some things I have been cooking lately –

Kinda-Mexican Eggy Bread

2 eggs

1/4 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp chilli flakes

splash of milk

2 slices of bread

Whisk all but the bread (duh!) in a baking tray or other fairly flat dish. Soak each side of the bread in and fry over a medium-high heat in a non-stick pan. Top with salsa and chow down!

Smoky Bacon and Pea Risotto

4 rashers of bacon

150g arborio risotto rice

300ml chicken stock

handful of frozen peas

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Snip the bacon into lardon-sized pieces and dry fry in a large saucepan. Add the risotto rice and paprika, then stir fry for two minutes. Add the stock a ladleful at a time, letting it simmer and be absorbed into the rice. Once half the stock has been added, add the peas. Keep adding the stock until it’s all gone and the rice is softer than al dente. Serve to yourself and your hungry companion!

Carrot Cake

I can’t claim this next one, because it was cooked by my beloved and not me, but I just think the colours are so pretty and autumnal!

Well, I suppose I’d better go for a nice walk to start burning it all off!

Jesse’s Irritations

27 Oct

Remember this guy?

(source)

Well, this week, I ‘ave been mostly irritated by…

Jeremy Hardy. Frankly, he is ruining the usually wonderful and hilarious News Quiz on Radio 4 with his irrelevant socialist BS. Start being funny or shut up, old man of squeaky voice.

Engagement shoots with that eyes closed, “we’re so in love” shot. I’m sure you are, but photos are either candid, or they’re posed. There is no “we hired you for an hour and you just happened to come across us during a really tender, intimate moment”.

Really, truly awful spelling and grammar. I could care less about loosing weight, but that’s a whole nother topic.

The fact that every once-in-a-while, ITV shows something brilliant, but not often enough that you might catch an advert for the next wonderful thing while watching the current one. As an aside, my friend Ciara and her sister used to use “ITV watcher” as an insult while fighting. Hilarious!

X Factor. Everybody loves it. Apparently there are four of us in the world who think that it’s actually contributing to the decline in society.

Clearly toasted cheese and Marmite sandwiches are the only answer.

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