Baby, It’s Cold Outside [Have Some Soup!]

Writing lately has felt like an old, close friend – the kind you don’t see for years, yet when you meet again, it’s as if you were never apart. It always feels good to get stuck into a post, albeit today’s will be a bit of a mish-mash.

Earlier this morning, I had the pleasure of rolling out of bed when I very well felt like it, which does not happen often! Bug spent the night with her Grandad and Mamgu (Welsh for Grandma) and that meant I only had myself to get ready. Unfortunately, the weather has been horrendous lately, (winter is well and truly here) so before leaving the house, I went to put on my wellies which had been under the stairs. The nook under the stairs always kind of creeps me out, mostly because it’s dark and I’m pretty sure there are crawlies hidden throughout. Anyway, I went to pull one over my foot when I felt something. I had a little shriek, but thankfully, I found it was just a bottle of vitamins. What? (Meanwhile, all mothers of toddlers are nodding with complete understanding.) Then on goes the other boot. At this point, I’m fully shrouded in a false sense of security until I feel another something. Cringe! Ah, Fisher Price Farmer Brown! That’s where you’ve been hiding for the last 2 months!

After finishing work, I met the Husband in town so we could do some shopping. I could tell he wasn’t himself. So we picked up ingredients for an Immune-boosting Vegetable Soup that I found on Pinterest a month ago. The last time I made this for us, we all felt better the next day. It was like a super-soup! The only thing we’ve done differently is add a little soy sauce to encourage the Asian flavours and use chicken broth instead of just water. Pretty tasty!

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We are determined to stay well and healthy this season! Do you have any immune-boosting tips or favourite recipes?

IQS – Week 5, Day 32

We’re going downhill! (Meaning we are over halfway through the programme.) There was a small setback last week when Husband and I were very kindly invited to dinner at someone’s home, where we thoroughly enjoyed the food, but we drank some elderflower pressé before eating, and within minutes, my head felt awful. It’s amazing to think how quickly the sugar can affect the body! There were sultanas in the lovely salad we had with the main, and a cheesecake with strawberries for our dessert. I had a very small piece of the cheesecake as I didn’t want to decline and appear rude, and although it was tasty, I actually felt as though I could take just one bite and be done. I wasn’t tempted by it at all. I did go ahead and eat it all, including the strawberries, again so that I wouldn’t appear rude. Not having any sugar of any sort to suddenly having so much in one evening was really a shock to my system. Despite the nice food, I felt bloated and a bit gross. Afterward, we all took a walk around their beautiful land, which was in preparation for the Eisteddfod (for anyone completely foreign to Welsh, it’s pronounced roughly “eye-STETH-vod”). From that evening, I’ve recognised a desire to get moving when I feel a bit “ick.” Taking a walk post dinner that evening felt so great; it was a cool evening and I loved hearing the noises of the night all around us. They reminded me of the crickets chirping away on a hot summer night back home in Missouri. I got a little nostalgic. Maybe it was that nostalgia that helped to put me in the frame of mind to exercise. I used to go jogging most afternoons after school when I was a teenager, and I always found it therapeutic. I’m not sure why I ever stopped, but I can say now, five weeks into the program, I’ve had a renewed desire to be more active. I’ve logged time on the cross trainer, and indulged in a new Windsor Pilates DVD set with Pilates circle, which has become my new favorite thing! It appears to be simple and low-impact at first, until a sore set of abs greets you upon waking the next morning! I really want to jump start my weight loss since it was clearly impacted by the inflammation of our sugar spree.

The amazing food has continued! We made Sarah’s Sugar-free Barbeque Pulled Pork a week ago, and I’m still looking forward to eating it again. Husband wasn’t so impressed by it, but I loved the combination of the pork and pickled chilli cucumber ribbons with homemade slaw, wrapped in a corn tortilla. I didn’t get a snap of the finished product, (it didn’t last very long!) but I did get one of the pork shoulder before I seared it.

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Sugar-free Barbeque Pulled Pork 

It was a lot of work, but it did feed us both at least twice.

Our food creativity has still been pretty high, preferring to just throw together what we have, rather than seeking recipes. We did find a recipe on Pinterest because we wanted to use up some cannellini beans, which resulted in this yumminess:

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White Beans with Spinach and Sausage 

 But mostly our meals have looked a little like this:

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Just some sautéed asparagus with fresh mozzarella and a simple salad. Nice.

But one of our most favorite recipes, however, (pre-IQS even!) is Tarka Dal. Lentils, tomatoes, white beans, spices, chilli, ginger, garlic, coriander (US cilantro)…you can’t go wrong! I would happily choose this over a take-away version any day.

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Tarka Dal 

One more fantastic side effect of quitting sugar has been my skin. It’s much smoother and clearer than when I started, and I’m wearing much less make up as a result.

Seeing my journey so far, do you think you could quit sugar, too? What do you think would be the hardest part for you? Remember, this lifestyle isn’t about deprivation. It’s ultimately about learning to listen to your body and treat it well.

As well as Facebook, I’m also on Instagram, Pinterest, and on Twitter as @ttbakermom if you want to follow! I appreciate all of the support I have had so far – it really helps to have people rooting for you!

IQS – Week 3, Day 18

If you think the title of this entry is a good sign, you’re right! I have managed to stick with this new lifestyle. In reality, it has only been 18 days so far, but it already feels like a lifetime. The amount of information that has embedded itself into my brain, the recipes, the new food I’ve tried – hello! how had I never tried eggplant (UK Aubergine) until now? – have made me feel like a bit of an old hand at this. Again and again I’m reminded that this is a lifestyle, not a diet. And the health benefits and weight loss are sustainable as a result. Speaking of weight loss, could you possibly be a little interested as to how much I’ve shifted? Yes? I’ve lost…drumroll, please…

Five pounds! That’s 5 pounds in 2 1/2 weeks. The only thing I have changed is my diet. I’m pretty happy with that. I do, however, have a magic number in mind which, if I fall below, will really solidify that I am truly losing weight. Besides the weight loss, I have been sleeping better than before, although I still feel quite tired in the morning and throughout the day. Sarah Wilson explains that some people may feel a little hypoglycaemic in the beginning, and that it is beneficial to still snack between meals to get through this phase. I have considered that this might be down to my thyroid disorder, as well. I have had a particularly difficult few weeks in regard to that, and I’m still waiting to receive my appointment date to see an endocrinologist. I have previously written about my struggle to get to this point, about the time I started this sugar-free journey. You can read up on that here. It’s clear that this condition has been aggravated by my sugar intake. While my body works to get clear of the junk I had been putting inside it, I can push through and take comfort in the fact that I am doing it a far greater favor for the future.

My husband and I have been very busy in the kitchen the last few weeks. It’s been a bit of trial and error, but with mostly positive outcomes. We both adored this Aubergine Parmigiana from our River Cottage Veg Everyday! cookbook, and will most definitely be making it again, although perhaps when the weather gets a bit cooler, as it was a very hearty and warming dish. Side note: if you would like to incorporate more vegetables in your diet, get this book!! You won’t even miss the meat, I promise.

A few other winning recipes included:

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ANZAC Biscuits (Husband was really missing a biscuit with his tea. This was a really yummy alternative. Little Bug liked them, too!)

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Cauliflower Fried Rice

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Tahini-dressed Courgette and Green Bean Salad (Courgettes are US zucchini, by the way.)

And a few things I threw together on my own, but inspired by tips from the I Quit Sugar and I Quit Sugar For Life cookbooks. Here’s what I did last night: 

 Mixed Green Vegetables with White Wine and Garlic

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Serves 2 

All measurements are incredibly rough! 

Handful of fresh green beans 

 Half a head of broccoli 

 2 garlic cloves, grated or finely chopped 

 1 1/2 Tbs butter 

 2 large pieces of cavolo nero kale, stalks removed 

 1 leek, chopped 

 2 small shallots, cut into slivers 

 2 Tbs white wine 

 Salt and pepper, to taste 

 Steam broccoli and green beans until al dente, and set aside. In a frying pan on medium heat, sauté garlic, leek, and shallots until softened. Add the broccoli, green beans, and white wine and heat until alcohol is cooked out. Season with salt and pepper to your liking, and melt through the last 1/2 Tbs of butter. Serve with toasted sourdough and top with a fried or poached egg.

We took the tip from the IQS cookbook to freeze leftover wine into cube trays for later use. I bought a really cheap affordable bottle of wine to cook some leek risotto last week, but the wine wasn’t really to our taste, and we didn’t want to just pour the rest down the drain. For the recipe above, I actually used one cube of frozen wine, but our cubes are pretty huge because they are frozen in silicon trays we had previously used to purée and freeze Bug’s homemade baby food.

I’ve been so much more conscious of what what I eat nowadays. The average Briton consumes 160 teaspoons of sugar per week. Considering the recommended limit per day is 50g/roughly 12 teaspoons, or 84 teaspoons per week, this is incredibly high. The 160 figure includes hidden sugars and those occurring naturally in fruit. But don’t be fooled. Sugar is still sugar, wherever it comes from.

Five or six generations ago, we hardly consumed sugar. Fruit was a treat, and didn’t come around very often. The contrast of diet between then and now is shocking. (Not that I was there! But still, it’s safe to say that if our great-great-great-great-great-great grandmothers could see us now, I’m sure they would be wagging their fingers at us!) We have a huge population of overweight and obese individuals. We are inactive, complacent, and impulsive. We are also addicted. It has been proven that sugar gives our brains a “high” – a feeling which we love to experience again and again. Bad day at the office? Chocolate bar. Kid kept you up all night? Sugary coffee drink, it is! Going through a break-up? Girls’ night, complete with ice cream, gummy worms, and cookies galore. Sound familiar? We have such an emotional attachment to food. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing on its own, but when we combine it with a substance which has the power to control our appetite, it spells disaster. Maybe you’ve been dieting and have been “really good” so you want to “treat” yourself. This is something I used to say.

When did eating something so bad for us become a “treat”?

In the last few weeks, I’ve had somewhat of an epiphany. I’ve begun to consider that, actually, putting healthy foods into your body is a treat. Going for a jog is a treat. Listening to your favorite song is a treat. Having a massage is a treat. We should be treating ourselves – every day. At this moment in time, I could not imagine sitting down to eat an entire Cadbury Marvellous Creations Jelly Popping Candy chocolate bar, but I used to. The sharing one. But I didn’t share.

You can see why I feel as if I have done this forever. The way I look at food has completely changed, and I couldn’t imagine going back now. I’ve become passionate about my own health, and I’m hoping to inspire others along the way.

IQS – Week 1

Day three of this new way of life, and I have to say – I’m doing pretty well. Even though the first week is a transition into letting go of the sugars in your life (think: half tsp instead of a full one in your tea or coffee), I have been completely sugar-free since Sunday. It hasn’t been without pain, though. Monday evening, I had the nastiest headache and felt nauseated, so I took a bath to help. If I ever feel unwell, no matter what ails me, a bath is my go-to cure. Except that time I had a fever and didn’t know it – nearly passing out taught me to always take my temperature first before soaking! Anyway, afterward I felt only a little better, so I went to bed but woke up the next day with a slight headache. Ridding your body of sugar is tough business! It just shows the drug-like effects of sugar. I really was feeling the withdrawal.

I have been eating pretty well, and our mealtimes have been far from boring! Monday for dinner, Husband made Summery Quinoa Tabbouleh and sea bream topped with Pea Herb and Almond Crush. I had the leftover tabbouleh for lunch the next day. I could have easily eaten the whole recipe to myself! It was delicious. I suppose it helps that my husband knows his way around the kitchen.

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Nice, huh?

For my lunchtimes while in work, I recalled a recipe I had seen on River Cottage, prepared by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I love watching his programme, and often make note of his dishes. In particular, I have fallen in love with the tasty and super easy “Instant Noodles” featured in one episode. I didn’t follow this recipe in particular, but it is pretty difficult to mess up. I used: 

 one nest of thin, egg noodles 

stock powder 

garlic powder 

powdered ginger 

pepper flakes 

broccoli 

diced red pepper 

mangetout 

bean sprouts 

soy sauce 

 The quantities depend on the size of your jar. Yes, jar! The beauty of this recipe is that you can just chuck everything in a glass mason jar and tote it to work. Then just boil a kettle and pour! I helped mine along a bit by whacking it in the microwave for a few minutes. I don’t eat things like Pot Noodle, but in my not so professional opinion, this alternative is 1000% better for you.

I’ve really been getting into the “IQS” community, especially on Instagram. (My username is @nashnewton if you want to follow along!) It’s a nice feeling to know that so many others are making the same journey. I hashtagged “IQS” and “iqs8wp” (I quit sugar 8 week programme) on a photo of my red pepper soup from yesterday, and I even got a special mention from @iquitsugar in my comments. “Great pic!”

I felt pretty cool.

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So at the end of Day 3, I’m feeling pretty good. Today was a co-worker’s birthday, and that meant sweet treats to resist. And resist them, I did. Feeling a little proud of myself!

It’s the kind of self-motivation that gets me excited to see where I will be next week. Stay tuned!

I(‘m) Quit(ting) Sugar

Looks like my baking adventures will take a backseat for a while. I don’t say that sadly, though. I am thoroughly excited for this new adventure, and in the right mindset. Husband happened upon a book called I Quit Sugar by Australian, Sarah Wilson. She suffers from the same autoimmune disorder as I do (Hashimoto’s). It has only been since the birth of my daughter that I have truly had a problem with my disorder, which has brought on Hypothyroidism. Through struggling to find a GP that would actually listen to my problems, despite only a slightly abnormal reading on paper, to finally receiving a diagnosis after demanding further (probably expensive so therefore deemed “unnecessary” by the NHS) testing, I have since been placed on thyroid hormone, only to feel not a great deal improved. I’ve been referred to a specialist, but in the meantime, I’ve developed a desire to take back my health. So for the last few weeks, we have been researching the effects of sugar in the body and specifically in those who suffer from thyroid autoimmune disorders. You can read more about that here.

We bought two of Wilson’s books, I Quit Sugar and I Quit Sugar for Life. Technically, day one of our 8 week challenge begins Monday, but we have been experimenting the last few days with her recipes, namely her Coco-nutty Granola, Carrot Cake Porridge Whip, and Perfect Omlette with Baked Mushrooms.

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Coco-nutty Granola.

I added some sesame seeds and sunflower seeds to mine and used 95g coconut oil. I also omitted the rice malt syrup as we just ordered ours from Amazon yesterday.

I’ve been a little coco-nutty myself, lately! I can’t seem to get enough coconut, which bodes well with this lifestyle. Wilson uses different forms of coconut in her recipes A LOT.

Hopefully blogging about our journey will help us be more accountable and track our progress. Another benefit (but certainly not the most important factor) of this journey is the amazing weight loss achieved by participants, remarking that they don’t miss the sugar at all! Their skin glows, energy soars, and their bodies feel like new. It is important to note that sugar isn’t “banned.” That’s not what it’s about. The 8 week initial cleanse is about recalibrating the body and killing the sugar cravings, then slowly reintroducing the better alternatives (I.e. fruit), enabling you to make better choices.

I’ve avoided using the word “diet” because it simply isn’t one. It’s a major lifestyle change. One that will, hopefully, transform this body more than just aesthetically.

A Red Velvet State of Mind

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I hadn’t planned on finding time to blog two days in a row, which can only mean one thing:

Bank Holiday!!

Today, Bug and I walked into town to pick up ingredients for Red Velvet Cupcakes, by the request of Husband. He’s got good taste. Obviously.

Upon searching, I discovered that one of my favorite baking sites was now on restricted access, meaning I would need to pay a monthly premium to access all areas of the website, including my normal Red Velvet recipe. Lame! I knew all of the ingredients, but couldn’t quite remember the quantities, namely the bicarb and baking powder. Anyone who bakes knows that using the wrong measurements of these two components can spell disaster. Once I composed myself from the shock/horror, I began searching for a new recipe and happened upon Nigella Lawson’s Red Velvet Cupcake recipe. It contains all the same ingredients, with the addition of cider vinegar at the end. Awesome.

I began by sifting all the dry ingredients together.

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Then, I creamed together the butter and sugar.

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I like to dry out used vanilla pods and stick them in with my caster sugar. It infuses the sugar and creates a beautiful aroma and flavor.

Next came the food coloring.

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What a beautiful hue!
The interesting thing about this recipe was that it called for one spoonful of dry ingredients before each egg, and the milk at the end. I assume this was to prevent curdling, and it worked beautifully. The normal recipe I followed explained to crack in both eggs, then the dry mix in thirds, separated by two halves of the milk. I gotta say, I much preferred this mix as it came out so silky and smooth. The only thing I would do differently is add a little more cocoa, since I like my red velvet slightly more chocolatey. Thankfully, my husband was available to rescue the remnants of batter left in the bowl after filling the cases.

Into the oven!

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I slightly overfilled the cases and ended up with 17 cakes, but the original recipe says it makes 24.

I started to whip up the Cream Cheese Frosting recipe I love, from Sweetapolita.

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I have to admit, I have always found this recipe to be temperamental, with the consistency running very thin about half the time. The Husband did a bit of research and found that Brits often have a hard time making cream cheese frosting, because American powdered sugar contains corn flour (starch). The more you know! I ended up deviating from the recipe and creaming together the butter and cream cheese first, then adding in the powdered sugar. I was able to better control the consistency and the sweetness. I believe that real vanilla pods should be used when making frosting, or at least great quality extract.

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I think it’s safe to say that Bug was a fan of the frosting. Just to clarify, the “No Pants Required” policy in our kitchen only applies to adorable individuals under 2.

The result!

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Red Velvet Cupcakes 

 250 grams plain flour 

2 tablespoons cocoa powder (sifted) 

2 teaspoons baking powder 

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 

100 grams soft unsalted butter 

200 grams caster sugar 

1 heaped tablespoon Christmas-red paste food colouring 

2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

2 large eggs 

175 ml buttermilk 

1 teaspoon cider vinegar 

Method here

There’s also an option to switch to US measurements if you need it! 

 Cream Cheese Frosting 

1/3 cup (75 g/2.5 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature 

 1 1/2 lbs (5 1/2 cups/685 g) confectioners’ sugar 

 1 1/2 packages (8 oz packages) cream cheese (12 oz/345 g), cut into cubes, cold 

 1/4 cup (60 ml) whipping cream (heavy cream 35%) 

 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract (I use Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Extract) 

 pinch of salt 

 The instructions are about a quarter of the way down the page.

Hope you enjoy these recipes as much as we have!

Overnight Oats and Being Unplugged

So today I decided to finally write something. I haven’t written anything in ages, at least not since I was an angst-y teenager with a very lame diary. (Not counting my little girl’s baby journal, in which I write from time to time. That is something special for her.) At least two months ago I signed up for this, and now I am jumping in. I have wanted to have a blog for a while now, but struggled with what kind I should create. I love to bake, but don’t get to as often as I’d like. I’m still trying to work off the baby weight 14 months later, but only recently have had a diagnosis for my hypothyroidism in this country. Thanks a lot, NHS! But seriously, I am thankful that it’s free. And my husband and I have dabbled in a bit of vegetarianism/organic eating – key word being “dabbled.” There seem to be so many things I could go on about, but nothing providing a consistent substance or theme. I suppose I will just write about them all. So this is a journey into writing, experimental baking (gluten-free recipes included!), weight loss, and general well-being.

Last night, I put together a yummy, easy breakfast to have in the morning. As the weather begins to break here, it’s nice to have a cool, yet filling alternative to keep fuelled for the morning. And it makes quite a portion! Put half aside for a snack or breakfast the next day. It keeps for a few days in the fridge.

Overnight Oats
Ingredients:
(Just as a side note, we try to use organic products as often as possible, but use what you have!)
1 C. Rolled Oats
Nonfat Milk
5 Tbs. Greek Yogurt
1 Tbs. Honey
1 Tbs. Chia seeds
1/2 C. Blueberries (or any fruit you like!)

Pour oats into a mason jar, followed by just enough milk to cover them. Mix with all the remaining ingredients and pop in the fridge. Done!

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Yum.

I found this recipe on Pinterest, but deviated from the recipes featured. However, I still feel credit should be due and you can find the link we used here.

The husband and I decided today to make a pact. At least one night a week, after Bug goes to sleep, we will spend Unplugged. No TV, no phones, just us. Tonight we played Egyptian Rat Screw, a game we spent so many hours playing before we were married, mostly in the airports prior to departure. That’s a story for another time.

We also played good, old-fashioned checkers. He had never played them before. Maybe it’s an American thing, but I’ve never known a single person who didn’t know how! And how didn’t I know my husband never played until now? Without this time set aside, I would never have found that out. We thoroughly enjoyed laughing and chatting. I won ERS and he won checkers. I must be a fantastic teacher.