Saturday, 27 June 2015

'Carrot Cake' Super Porridge

I know that we are always hearing about its importance but I'm really not much of a breakfast eater, mainly just opting for a piece of fruit or two on weekday mornings. This may well be down to my tendency to eat a bit too much at night but what can I say,  I love a good evening-time munch.

At the weekends though I do like to have a little play with breakfasty things, even if I often eat them at lunch or dinner time instead of first thing. I had made these intriguingly titled Carrot Cake Pancakes  a couple of times recently and liked them a lot. They made me think that similar ingredients could work well in porridge form.

I am really a pretty new porridge eater. I think people react to oats differently and they never made me feel great when I just ate a big plain bowl of them in the past. I used to get that carby bloated feeling.   In fact, even though I know it's long been renowned for its high satiety factor, I always imagined that eating porridge actually made me hungrier and even gave me cravings later in the day. Here, a smaller volume of actual oats and the addition of lots of nutritious extras like mixed nuts and flax and chia seeds ups the protein content and makes for an entirely more satisfying eating experience.


Apart from the odd packet of dry roasted in the pub, nuts and seeds are things I almost never ate in the past. Now, I have some almost every day, my favourites being pecans and hazelnuts (Lidl have amazing quality nuts at great prices). Another revelation for me was discovering that pretty much any selection of nuts and seeds make the most amazing snack when roasted with just a little bit of olive oil and soy sauce and sprinkled with chilli flakes -  all the saltiness and munchability of crisps but with a welcome dose of goodness. Just don't make more than you plan on eating. You will not be able to stop.

But back to this porridge which sounds a bit mad but, believe it or not, really does taste a lot like carrot cake! I didn't add them but some raisins or sultanas would work very well here too.  I don't eat much dried fruit these days as I find that even a handful has a similar effect on my blood sugar to eating a Mars bar. I'm all for a bit of sweetness though and I had intended to add some maple syrup of honey here but found that it (bizarrely) didn't need it. The only sweetness is from the carrots and desiccated coconut. However, I've found that the pinch of salt is an essential addition, making the natural sweetness much more pronounced.

I'm trying to replace some of the dairy in my diet with non dairy alternatives at the moment so I have used almond milk in this recipe. The dessert factor of this is upped with the addition of a dollop of (full fat) Greek yogurt and a few more toasted nuts sprinkled on top. My flattie even had it last week with ice-cream! Either way, this creamy, spiced, nutty porridge really is magically indulgent and virtuous all at once. What's not to like?!


'Carrot Cake' Super Porridge

3 tbs porridge oats

1 tbs ground flax seed

1 tbs chia seeds

1 tbs mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin etc, roasted)

1-2 tbs nuts(roasted) (walnuts or pecans are especially good. I used almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts today)

1 tbs desiccated coconut

1 - 2 tsp cinnamon (start with one and add more to taste. I like lots)

1/2 tsp mixed spice

1/4 tsp salt

1 American cup measure of grated carrot(about 2 medium or 1 large carrot)

250 - 300 mls milk (cows/almond/coconut etc)

Raisins (optional)

Full Fat Greek Yogurt to serve

To make

To be fair the directions here are pretty basic.

Roast the nuts and seeds in a preheated oven for about 10 minutes.

Mix everything else together in a saucepan and cook on a low to medium heat for about   5 - 7 minutes until thickened and the carrots are softened.


Friday, 19 June 2015

The Joy of Aldi's Super Six

I quite like getting older for the most part. I'm 32 now and to be honest the sense of just not giving a shit about many of the things I would once have agonized over that accompanied my transition into this particular decade was a welcome surprise for me.I genuinely wouldn't wish to revert back to my twenties and the insecurities that came with them, laughter lines or no laughter lines.

It's certainly true that, for me, getting older has brought a much deeper appreciation for the simple things in life - finding a parking spot I can drive straight into (and, better still, straight out of), coming across a forgotten fiver in an old jacket , and, rightly or wrongly, the rush of anticipation that accompanies the announcement of a new Aldi Super Six fruit and vegetable offer.

To be honest, I am much more of a Lidl fan and this is pretty much the only thing that brings me to Aldi (that and their amazing spicy my opinion the Lidl version has more than a slight whiff of donkey about it.) In terms of choice and quality, I think Lidl definitely has the edge in fruit and veg and overall but Aldi's amazing Super Six offer alone usually makes a trip well worthwhile.

One of the perks of my recent move to the wilds of Santry is having a massive branch of both nearby. And with the glut of 'save ten euro when you spend fifty' coupons in the papers in recent weeks, I have been unashamedly visiting both.

The offer involves a rotating selection of fruit and vegetables priced as low as 29 cents and as high as 79 and is, perhaps unsurprisingly, sometimes much better than others. Last week it was amazing, offering 2 packs of avocados and courgettes at an unbelievable 29 cents each.  This week was a little less thrilling, involving a selection of more boring things like apple and pear punnets priced at a still very cheap 49 cents.

On a good week, this offer makes me feel like I imagine a looter would, loading up the trolley with wild abandon. But even on a not so good week it's still pretty good. I realise I am not painting myself in the best light here but I have recently been been dreaming of what my own fantasy super six selection might be (since you ask, avocados, courgettes, bananas, grapes, pak choi and asparagus, all down to 29 cents ). On second thoughts, however,  that might just send me over the edge.... I certainly wouldn't be able to close the fridge door for a week.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Annie's New Appetite

Well blog-land, it's been a while. And a lot has changed over the past 13 months. I am now single and have lost over two stone (could I be any more of a cliché?!)  but, more than that, I have gained an understanding of the absolutely life-changing impact proper nutrition can have, not only on your body, but also (and so much more importantly) on your mood and general happiness. 

My friend Jenny would probably tell you that I'm not on any healthy eating plan that she's aware of, given that our joint quest to find the best chicken wings in Dublin continues every few weeks (currently heading up the leader-board if you're interested is the Oarsman in Ringsend) but I am increasingly gaining less enjoyment from big blow outs and more satisfaction from instead making healthier versions of my favourite treats myself......hence I have resurrected this blog.

Many years ago,  I read an article written by radio presenter Gareth O'Callaghan in which he claimed to have cured himself of depression through healthy diet alone. I was skeptical then but, whilst I was certainly never depressed, eating a primarily whole food diet over the past eight months has honestly transformed both my mood and my very outlook on life to a degree I never thought possible.

I have grown to hate the term in recent years but I am a 'foodie' and I suppose I always have been. I was a little piglet as a child and was later torn between studying Food Science and English in college before eventually opting for the latter. I spend more time than most people would deem normal each day mentally planning my next meal. For years, I thought that my lifelong love of food and my overindulgence on things like sugary desserts and pizzas the size of car wheels just went hand in hand. Looking back, I mentally resigned myself to carry the extra weight as a pay-off for the privilege of eating delicious food. I now know it doesn't have to be that way.

I firmly believe that the food pyramid has a lot to answer for in terms of society's over-reliance on refined carbohydrates which offer so little nutritionally. I think the Irish version badly needs updating like Australia's recently was (thanks for that Anne:))

For me it's a no-brainer that instead of advocating a large consumption of flour and grains, the bottom shelf of the pyramid should instead be populated by totally unrefined foods such as fruits and vegetables which provide the body with so much goodness. One of the biggest changes I have made in terms of my day to day diet is replacing the pasta in my meals with vegetables. Wilted spinach or courgettes (spiralized if you wish, I just slice them) are particularly good replacements and this means that I can still enjoy bolognese, blue cheese and pretty much all my favourite pasta sauces and toppings in a much healthier, more energizing and equally tasty way.

In the past, I almost felt sorry for people who chose to eat a primarily whole food, protein and plant heavy diet like I do now. I thought that their food must be so boring and that they were somehow missing out or desperately depriving themselves. All I can say is I was very wrong.  I now enjoy my food more than ever, even though I rarely or never eat a lot of the things I did before. The flip side of that is that my diet has expanded hugely in terms of what I do actually eat.

I'm pretty ashamed to admit this publicly but before last summer I often didn't know if I was genuinely hungry or not. I ate lunch every day because it was lunch-time not because my body told me I should.  The way I eat now is not about restriction but instead about trying to give your body what it needs when it needs it. As 'new age' as it sounds, it's ultimately about listening to your body and feeding it correctly in return. I thought that was a load of rubbish but I have learned that (with some practice) it really works and the rewards are huge.

Like most women, I would be lying if I said weight wasn't an ongoing concern for me. And losing this weight has made me feel lighter and happier. But that absolutely hasn't been the only benefit of the changes I've made to my diet. The crazy daily cycles of cravings and energy crashes I had from all the white flour, sugar and other rubbish I was eating have totally gone. I feel invigorated and full of life, more confident, optimistic and better able to cope with stress. Let's be honest, if a tablet could do all these things, it would be an instant sell out!

I've probably eaten bread and refined sugar a combined total of five or six times in the last eight months. I'm not saying I never will again (I still pretty much eat whatever I'm offered at a wedding or if I'm invited to someone's house) but I've learned that, for me, the payoff from avoiding those things on a daily basis far outweighs any feelings of deprivation I might have.  I used to have an unbelievable capacity for pizza. It really was my Achilles heel. Now, I honestly cant see myself endlessly eating doughy, bland Dominos ever again. However, an occasional, proper, delicious stone-oven baked one would be a quite a different story.

This has also been a process of trial and error. In the beginning,as I cut carbs, I overdid it on the dairy which in turn gave me horrendous spots, the likes of which I never even had as a teen. I'm still looking for the balance and I will aim to use this blog to hopefully challenge myself to learn more and to hopefully ultimately become a better cook, even if it only proves to be an online diary for myself. I am now enjoying my food more than ever and hopefully that will be reflected in this new Annie's Appetite focusing on a diet based on vibrant,  healthy, living foods over processed, dead, unhealthy ones. 

I started with one cliché so I may as well finish with another. Life really is a journey and we are all constantly learning. I've learned a few things since I last wrote here and I am looking forward to learning some more. And you are all very welcome to join me!