Saturday 30 October 2010

The Latymer at Pennyhill Park

I had a fine haul of presents for my birthday, which started with a shared half bottle of Krug with my toasted bagel with a poached egg and a candle on top :o)  Cookery books, some really bright bicycle lights, wide-mouthed Thermos (yay! hot lunches ahoy!) and a tasting collection of wine from the Camel Valley.

I'd been given warning to pack various outfits into a bag for a couple of days away already but the main event was still a secret until I opened Mr TOTKat's birthday card in the morning.  Dinner at The Latymer at Pennyhill Park!  We've been to Pennyhill a few times already but only ever eaten in the brasserie there.  It's tricky to get a table at the Michelin starred Latymer but this time we had a booking.

Without a pause for thought, the tasting menu was chosen and the wine selection to go with it...

The menu

Poached and roast duck liver from Langres, duck and beetroot consomme, Sour dough crisp, artichokes, truffle emulsion, Pedro Ximenez foam

Marinated rainbow trout, slow cooked octopus, seaweed salad, dill mousseline, warm seaweed tea

Cassoulet of clams, baby squid, poached quail egg, squid ink gnocchi, clam veloute

Freshly baked breads with unsalted butter

 Us, enjoying a glass of Perrier Jouet

 Poached breast of royal Anjou pigeon, mustard cream cabbage, roast kohl rabi, glazed new season black figs, bread and bay leaf puree

Red mullet, roast Scottish langoustine, anchovy beignets, Cornish samphire, bagna cauda jus

The Latymer from a corner table

Poached fillet of Limousin veal, sweetbread, pickled baby onions, roast cavalo nero, lavender jus

Fourme d'Ambert, Beaufort, smoked paprika crisp, pickled apples, celery cress

Glazed pea cassonade, Yorkshire strawberries, mint ice-cream, crispy tapicoa

 Coconut parfait, confit pineapple, rum gel, marinated raspberries

Bitter chocolate delice, pistachio marzipan, coffee tagliatelle, caramel powder, almond foam

 List of petit fours

 Very strong coffee

 The petit fours


It was a fabulous tasting menu - I could have had one or two courses fewer and felt a bit less stuffed at the end but I don't regret a single mouthful of the whole meal.  I did have to cheat a little bit though, and stick some of the petit fours in my handbag for later.

Weight Watchers Pro Points

Weight Watchers has never featured on my radar.  Not even when I was losing weight.  Mostly because I hated the idea of meetings and weigh-ins.  I'm a loner when it comes to doing things for myself, I don't want help and not just because I'm proud but because I'm difficult and annoying and fussy.  So, Weight Watchers wasn't something I was ever going to join.

The other problem with Weight Watchers was the proprietary points system that seemed to me to be very restrictive; if it wasn't in the little look-up table, you pretty much couldn't have it as you'd have no idea how many points it would translate to.  Urgh!  Where's my control?  Now, not knowing anything about the advances in Weight Watchers to date I may be behind the times with the look-ups and given what I have in my Pro Points goody bag, I think there may have been an advance there with the Points calculator which allowed you to enter bits of information from the nutritional information of a food and it worked out the points from there.

So, now for the Pro Points system and the changes to the Weight Watchers plan.  This is pretty big, to be honest.  Calories are out of the window.  Points are still in, but in a very different way.  It'll be coming to Weight Watchers meetings from 7th November and the old points system will be no more.

Using 10 years of scientific research into nutrition, Weight Watchers have come up with an impressive new plan which stops using the 100 year old blunt instrument of calories and starts to do something a bit more clever.  It's been tested for over 2 years, including two randomised clinical trails, the results of which were not only general weight loss as expected but there were also improvements in health risk indicators like blood cholesterol.  And I was really glad that when I asked the question "how did the rate of weight loss compare with the old Points system?", the answer that came back was that that comparison was not done at all.  It was never going to be about losing weight faster or more efficiently, it was about doing it in a more informed, flexible and educated way with the emphasis being on foods that are cleaner/less processed and will help to keep people on the wagon as they'll not really get hungry as easily by making food choices that are based not purely on calorie content which can lead to blood sugar spikes and crashes.

It's the biggest Weight Watchers innovation in 15 years and 3 years in the making.  A new weight loss plan that is based on the available energy from food rather than the raw energy in food.  Taking into account the "conversion cost" of macro-nutrient types, the new Pro Points system not only makes more sense in terms of the energy a body is taking in, it also considers the satiety of foods as well.  While the counting of points isn't a departure from the old points system, the introduction of a weekly allowance is new.  As before you get a daily allowance based on weight, age and sex but in addition to that, there's a weekly "back pocket" allowance on top of that which you can dip into daily or save it all up for a splurge on one day if you want to.  The little calculator keeps track of your points on a daily and weekly basis and when you've got to goal you can flip the setting from "loss" to "maintenance" and still use it to help you with the initial bit of maintenance as you ease into your new points allowance, or longer term if you need it.

All of these changes add up to nudging people towards food choices that lead to feeling fuller for longer.  Marks and Spencer have already been using the macro-nutrient approach for their "Fuller For Longer" range, concentrating on protein and fibre in the recipes as they are harder to process - have a higher "conversion cost" - which leads to longer term satiety.  And the idea is that the small changes in food choices you make during the weight loss phase leads to longer term better choices after reaching your goal.  I'd love to say "it's all about informed choices" but then, isn't that always what a proper weight management diet was always about?

It's looking really quite good for getting people to lean towards cleaner foods.  I think that processed foods will generally score high on the Pro Points scale as they tend to have higher proportions of carbohydrate and fat vs protein and fibre.  And although almost all fruit and vegetables are still rated zero on the points system and there is definitely energy to be derived from those, it's still going to help with weight loss, maintenance and healthier choices in the long term.  It's also looking good for starting to get people away from thinking purely in terms of calories which has been at the forefront of bad "diet" foods; foods where the reduction of fat (usually) or carbohydrate (on occasion) is at the cost of the natural state of the ingredients.  And the cool thing for me was the little Pro Points calculator that you just have to enter the protein, fat, carbohydrate and fibre off the label of a food packet and it tells you the points in that food.  The only thing I didn't find out about was the points relating to alcohol - it has zero nutritional value, so it'll be good to know about that bit.

For a mass-market weight loss system, Pro Points really does look like quite a good choice.  It's still not faddy; no only eating green foods on a Tuesday or no carbohydrate after 6pm etc.  It's getting away from calories, which have grated for me for a while now as I'd been thinking about the fact that some guy burning a peanut to heat up some water really bears no relation to how my body processes a peanut.  It's helping lead people to informed choice - helping with leaning towards cleaner food, choosing less processed food in the understanding of satiety and nutritional value.  It's helping change habits for life - more clever choices with food but realistic ones for long term maintenance.  It'll be interesting to see the impact of this on supermarkets and other food industry companies.  Marks and Spencer have already dipped a toe into the land of macro-nutrient based weight management products, let's see what the others do.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Weight Watchers Pro Points demo

I day on Pro Points without dipping in to the weekly "back pocket" points allowance.

Edit:- This was the table demo of a typical day's food on the new Pro Points system during the weight loss phase.  3 Meals, 3 snacks and that includes a bottle of beer!

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Still not logging

I've not logged my food since 17th September.  The first 2 weeks of that was because I was on holiday, but since I've been back I've stayed off it.

For a control freak like me, this was theoretically hard.  And for the first week or two after the holidays it definitely made me a bit twitchy.  What's kept me going and not freaking out so far has been the fact that my cycling has been very random - one week saw 4x return journeys to work, whereas last week and this week it's been zero for various reasons.  That alone means that the transit food weight is all over the place so I have no idea whether I'm slightly gaining weight or staying stable in the grand scheme of things.  Of course, my clothes fit fine (and given that most of my work clothes are very fitted shift dresses, I'd notice any even slight size change there) .  So.  The plan is to keep going with not logging for at least a total of 3 months to get some good data.  OK, yes, Christmas is in that 3 months, but... I've never really been one for over-doing it particularly around Christmas and seeing as Christmas is pretty much cancelled for me this year (work is a bit nuts) it shouldn't be a particularly difficult eating season at all.  I'm figuring that as long as I put in a minimum of 2x weights sessions per week, aim for 3 and cycle in to work for at least some of the Winter I'll be doing fine.

Now for the fun bit... I'm off to a product launch tomorrow with Weight Watchers.  Anyone else going?  I'll report back, of course, but it'd be great to hook up if any of you guys are also going to be there!

Monday 25 October 2010

An Evening with James Martin

So, as promised...

I was invited to a private dining event with James Martin at his beautiful house in the countryside on Thursday evening last week.  Me, Mr TOTKat and 20 other people were guests of James Martin for an evening, to partake of his fantastic cooking and take a look at his collection of motorised vehicles.

We were greeted at the gate by James, who shook our hands and showed us into the wing we'd be in for the event - a great conservatory-type part of the house which had a wood-fired pizza oven outside on the enormous patio and a reasonable sized kitchen as part of the large dining room with a mezzanine level (with a billiards table on it and plenty of room to play a game or two as some did between dessert and the coffee course) looking down onto the cooking area.  On the huge wall behind the cooking area was a huge clock face, from head height all the way up to the top of the mezzanine level height, with large brass numbers.  Gorgeous thing!  James introduced the evening and his team to us all and explained that he only does this sort of event once every couple of years, so it really was a special evening ahead of us.

James and his right-hand man Chris prepared an amazing meal from pizza canapes through to slabs of chocolate with dessert; starting with a glass or two of champagne and meeting some of the other people there while one of James' other people (whose name I forget - argh!) handed 'round the little slice of freshly made pizza.  Then at around 8.30pm we sat down for the starter of Arbroath smokie pate on smoked beetroot slices (peeled and boiled for many hours, then sliced thinly and smoked over oak chips) with a twirly crisp of bread and a perfectly cooked quail's egg.  This was served with a really nice Puligny-Montrachet which carried on into the next course of wild Morel risotto with cream Cornish lobster in the shell - half a small lobster with some of the best risotto I've ever had.  James was very clear in pointing out that a good risotto not only had butter, wine and parmesan but it really has to have mascarpone in it too.  I am -so- not arguing and the second helping he was dolloping out for those of us with bottomless stomachs pretty much sealed that thought for me.

Then came the slow roast fillet of beef - done in a water bath at 65C for lots of hours, served with a quite subtle Margaux.  I'm usually one for a much more hefty red but the Margaux was nice for a change and went well with the beef and stood up to the Indian spiced pumpkin pickle and nice fat dollop of mashed potato, heavy with cream and butter.  Fudge-the-dog came in for a bit of company and some beef treats.  He's a lovely old and well behaved slobberer that dog.  Then, I think it was at this point that we went for a look in the garages at the cars, bikes, model planes and all sorts of other vehicles.  James fired up the classic Ferrari 275; what a hell of a racket!  And the 1967 Mustang... RAAARRR!  And we poked about with the teeny Fiat, an R8, a Mini and probably lots lots more, but I was a bit pickled by this point so it's a bit fuzzy.

Back over to the dining room, via a look at one of the other guest's McLaren Mercedes SLR and we finished up with the dish to which James attributes the kick-off of his career - white chocolate and whiskey croissant butter pudding with vanilla ice-cream.  Which was heavenly.  And lots of it, so another course with seconds!  Yay!  Lots of good conversation with the other guests (not so much James himself as our placement on the table meant we weren't in an easily accessible position, though plenty of other guests got lots of time and attention from him and the dog) over the enormous slabs of chocolate with coffee after the dessert and at around 1.30am we decided it was time to make track with the help of Pippa (James' PA), we picked up a signed book as a parting gift from James and got a car back to the hotel and crashed into bed ready for a 6am start to get back into town the next morning to work.

We had a great night and I'm really pleased that we got the opportunity to go and experience the evening's event.  James is a really nice guy, passionate about his food, his cars and his dog.  Saturday Kitchen will never be the same again for me.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Bit busy...

It's been a busy week.  Tuesday at the conference thing and then on Thursday night a really fantastic night.  Dinner at James Martin's house, cooked by him, with a tour of some of his cars and other vehicles.  It was utterly amazing and we're still recovering from it really.  More detail on dinner when I've got less general catching up to do... piles of washing and paperwork beckon!

(ohgod, I just remembered the juke box...)

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Lamb with apricots, lemon and cinnamon

This recipe was in the previous post, but now that I've tasted it I think it deserves to be properly presented.  It's really rather good:-

Lamb with apricots, lemon and cinnamon (serves 4; about 300kcals each, 25g protein, 21g carb, 13.5g fat):-
  • 400-450g lamb neck fillet (cubed)
  • 6-8 dried apricots (cut in half)
  • 2 carrots (thickly sliced)
  • 1 parsnip (thickly sliced/roughly cubed)
  • 2 medium onions (chopped roughly)
  • 3 large cloves garlic (sliced thickly)
  • 2 stock cubes
  • the peel of most of 1 lemon (use a veg peeler to get wide strips)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (snapped in half)
  • 1 flat tbsp plain flour
  • 600ml water
Prepare the ingredients as above, dump it all into a slow cooker.  Cook for at least 3 hours.  Fish out the bits of cinnamon stick before serving with couscous.

Being tormented the Star Chef!  Damned thing!

This morning, I stuck some lamb neck fillet (cubed - 400g), carrot (2x sliced), onion (2x medium, chopped roughly), garlic (3 large cloves, sliced thickly), stock cubes (x2), lemon peel (most of a lemon's peel), halved dried apricots (7), parsnip (1x sliced), cinnamon stick (snapped in half), flour (1 flat tbsp) and water (600ml) in the slow cooker and set it to be ready at 7pm so it can sit, keeping warm until we want it.  And went out to a conference for the day.

Yes, I had breakfast before heading out (Total Greek yoghurt with MP Max protein and some fruit compote) and I took a punnet of Graze "Americas Nut Mix" with me in case the snacks were bad, and ohboy was I glad of that!  The breakfast reception was tea/coffee and pastries.  I had 2x coffees.  Then the coffee break was tea/coffee and chocolate chip cookies.  I had 1x tea.  Lunch was frickin' ages away, so I had some of those nuts shortly after the tea break.  Lunch was at 1pm!  And, as the session I was in ended a few minutes after the other two on at the same time, those in the session I was in had to wait ages for any food.  And lunch was teeny tiny bowls of rice or noodles and cabbage or prawns (ha! I say prawns, I got two minuscule prawns in my bowl!), no more than a couple of flat tablespoons full of food in each bowl.  I had two bowls.  Then there was chocolate brownies and coffee/tea.  Guess what?  Yep!  I had tea.  No brownie.  Then back to the sessions at 2pm and I tucked into the rest of my nuts at 3.  Two small glasses of wine at the drinkies after the session and home by 6.30pm to be met by The Smell.

Thank you very much Star Chef!  For filling the house with the most -incredible- smell of lamb and cinnamon and general nommage!  I'm -STARVING-!  And it's too early to eat dinner, but all I can think of is the fabulous smell.  *whimper*

Monday 18 October 2010


Lots of wine on Saturday.  No more than any given night when we were on holiday a few weeks back, but it bit hard on Sunday.  Spent most of the day on the sofa, watching telly and doing not very much at all.  (well, my version of not very much which included lots of laundry.  And for a really badly hung-over day, I did very well on the food front.  3 meals (wholemeal bagel with a poached egg, wholemeal granary sarnie of ham cream cheese and lettuce, wholemeal pasta with beef chilli followed by a small dollop of 70% chocolate ice-cream), 1 snack (greek yoghurt with fruit compote) and nothing "bad".

A lot of yesterday's telly included 3 episodes of Jamie's 30-Minute Meals.  Anyone else seen any of those?  I'm pretty impressed, to be honest.  Really good meals, 99.5% made from scratch (tiny cheats in pastry cases already made in one of the 3 I saw), and all in under 30 minutes.  We were so taken that we're going to get the book.

This morning, I'm still feeling a bit delicate and the week is looking to be heading away from my plan already: Mon - gym, Tue - cycle, Wed - gym, Thu - cycle, Fri - gym, Sat&Sun - rest.  And already, Tuesday is looking doubtful.  Hey ho.

Saturday 16 October 2010

I don't know why

I went a bit silly at work on Friday.  I'd had a good week in general, lots of gym and cycling and good food in appropriate quantities.  Then there was a pretty major milestone achieved and my boss got cake in.  I have -no- idea what happened.  I have -never- been one to go nuts with sweet things, not in my life.  So, when I ended up having 3x Gu Millionaires Flapjacks, 5x M&S raspberry yoghurt bites and a raspberry cup cake...  What. The.  Hell?  Had I stopped before the cupcake that would have just been a bit piggy, but I'm actually lost for words with that haul.  Especially given that I knew we were having pizza for dinner and a couple of beers.  Just... I... I plain have no idea what happened there.  I don't feel guilty, or horrible, or scared I'll put on 10 pounds.  I'm just confused.

Any of you guys done something totally mad and random relating to eating like that?


Today's gym was pretty good.  I managed to increase the weights on the overhead raise with squat and the lunges with overhead swing with the ViPR from 16kg to 20kg as well as getting more reps in on the squat with clean and press with the 30kg barbell, and I had a go on the leg press and lat pulldown machines to see how heavy I can manage these days.  55kg on the lat pulldown, without cheating and using my bodyweight to pull it down.  And 110kg on the leg press.

Friday 15 October 2010


I broke the 1000km barrier with my bike this week (1067km actually).  *beam*  And the not-logging is still going OK, given where I am with it, in the "still learning" phase.  I've had to check up a couple of times that I'm not going nuts and about to end up eating too much and both times I was absolutely right that I'd not eaten anywhere near enough for that day and I really -was- lacking.

  • > 1000km on my new bike (not sure I can call it new any more ;o))
  • Still not logging food (and thus exercise)
  • 3x cycle commutes
  • 2x gym (so far, will probably go again at the weekend)
  • Hit 40 followers (some are hidden, so you guys won't see that number I don't think)
Not too bad really.

It's pretty much the kitchen sink, without actually being a kitchen sink.  Though the removable parts are easy to clean ;o)

I'm talking about this here new toy I have - the JML Star Chef Deluxe.

As it says on the Weight World web site "The JML Star Chef is a 5-in-1 cooker that allows you to steam, boil, slow-cook, fry or bake. The large capacity, non-stick bowl gives you enough space to cook up a large meal for the whole family.".  And it really is very versatile.

The first thing I cooked in it was some salmon fillets.  I was initially worried that they'd not be crispy, given that the lid of the cooker is closed during cooking which I thought would result in a build up of steam, stopping the fillets from getting crunchy.  That just didn't happen though.  The salmon came out really nice, flavour nicely kept in and steam let out without stinking up the house and setting off the smoke alarm.  You see, I love pan fried salmon fillets, but whenever we cook them, the house reeks of smoked salmon for days afterwards and during cooking our extremely over-sensitive smoke alarms -will- go off if the kitchen door is opened even a crack during cooking.  You only have to think about using the toaster and the bloody things go nuts!  So it was a much less stressful experience pan frying this way.

The next try-out was a test of the timer and slow-cook facility - a casserole of sausages.  And I got it wrong.  I didn't read the manual and assumed the Star Chef wasn't as clever as it really is.  Wanting dinner to be cooked by about 7pm and the casserole to be cooked for 4.5 hours, I set the cooking time to 4.5 hours, the "preset" to 06:00 and pressed "start".  When I got home... it hadn't done any cooking.  The display still read "06:00".  Hm.  Checking the manual educated me that the preset is the actual clock time you want the food to be finished cooking.  Argh!  So it would finish at 6am the next day!  I got it right the next day and we had a really tasty sausage casserole.  Even better, I had mine around 8pm and left half in the Star Chef on its "keep warm" mode for Mr TOTKat when he got home.  Nicely hot sausage casserole for him two hours after I'd had mine.

So, the manual.  The manual is quite sketchy, to be honest.  I think that's maybe why I didn't bother checking it with respect to the "preset" setting.  It tells you how to set the clock and gives a few examples of how to use the menus, but isn't detailed and doesn't explain each setting at all.  I think that could result in people using it incorrectly and not getting the best out of it, but maybe I'm not crediting most people with as much common sense as I think it needs to operate it without a more comprehensive manual.  Perhaps there was a good amount of user acceptance testing, but it doesn't feel that way.  Apart from messing up with the preset once so far, I don't seem to have gone far wrong and given how versatile the menus and functions are, I'm sure that there is plenty of scope to make a right pig's ear of it.

Anyway.  I then tried rice.  And got the amount of water wrong when I scaled the recipe down from a huge amount of rice to a manageable amount for two.  So I got rice that was crunchy on the bottom, a bit dry and a layer of thin, crispy starch on the base.  Rice needs another go then.

Stew time!

Beef stew for four healthy appetities (or two and freeze some, in this case).  The handy bit on this one was that I browned the beef using the frying option and didn't have to dirty any more pans to do that part before whacking everything else in to stew.  I certainly wouldn't use the frying option to fry/sear/brown any meat without making sure that the bowl was hot -before- putting the meat in as the gradual heating up does result in the meat boiling in its own juices rather than frying as the juices start to run out before the heat has had a chance to sear the outsides.  That's the same as doing it in a pan/hot plate on the hob but it's easy to forget that when you have to set the machine to fry for a certain length of time.  Easily remedied by setting the fry option for longer than you need to allow for heating up first and then just hit "stop" when you're done.

5 hours of cooking the stew with the odd sneaky peek and noms arrived.  No splattering over the hob or oven or drying out.

And finally, I got around to trying it to steam stuff.  I've never steamed anything before, so it was a totally new experience for me.  And it wasn't hard.  I ended up with slightly al dente, tasty broccoli.  I did need to look up how long broccoli needs to steam, but that was the only "difficult" part.

The only actually annoying drawback that's cropping up so far is when you come to serve the food.  Obviously the bowl is very hot and when it comes to serving the last couple of inches of food from the bottom, having it still in the Star Chef makes it hard to do that part.  So, I have worked around that thus far by serving the majority of the food, then using a tea towel to pick up the bowl and serve the rest.  Not perfect, but perfectly fine.

As for cleaning it, most of the removable parts can go in the dishwasher or wash nicely in the sink by hand with little fuss.  I've not had anything result in food bits that I couldn't get off easily with a scrubber sponge and hot, soapy water.

Overall, had I known that one of these combination appliances existed and was as easy to use (despite the lack of detailed manual) and clean as this has been so far, I'm pretty sure that I would have bought one.  I'm pretty mean and stingey when it comes to buying things for the home (though usually prefer to buy decent quality products than something cheaper that may not be as well made, usable or last as long) and I am nothing if not honest when asked my opinion of things (which has been known to make life a bit difficult sometimes as I don't like upsetting people almost as much as I don't like giving praise where it is undeserved).  So.  It's a proper thumbs up for the JML Star Chef from me and you can be sure there will be more slow-cooking and steaming recipes to come as I try them.

Thursday 14 October 2010


Hey everybody!

Just noticed I'm almost at 40 "follower"s now, so I'm all excited :oD  HELLO and thanks for reading!  If I can work out how to add Twitter, Facebook and other widgetty buttons so we can communicate even better (or not, whichever you want to do), I'll be adding them.

Right! Off to school! *wave*

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Tuna Experimental

Most of the time I don't cook from recipes, just from what I think will make a nice combination.  And today was no exception.  The target today was tuna and I decided that, as curries smell so good when you put the paste into the pan, why not use that method to coat the tuna?  So I grabbed the nutmeg grater and set to, grating lime zest (one whole lime), garlic (two fat cloves), a chilli and adding soy sauce (10ml), olive oil (10ml) and lime juice (15ml) into the mush to spread over the tuna steaks.  Of course, I grated one of my knuckles and bled a bit (What do you -do- with those bits of skin that are hanging off when that sort of things happen?  Do you leave them where they are or pull them off?), so maybe I should remember to use the corncob holder to skewer things to hold them next time.  *sigh*  Annoyingly, the gorgeously strong garlic died off a bit as a flavour when the mix was cooked, but otherwise it turned out pretty tasty.  Perhaps an improvement would have been to let the tuna rest in the mix for an hour or so before cooking, instead of just smearing it on immediately before cooking.  I may well find out later as I've not yet cooked it, but I've smeared Mr TOTKat's steak with the mix for when he gets home later.

Today also saw the first go at steaming veg in the Star Chef.  Which also turned out well.  I've never steamed anything before, so I wasn't sure what the results might be like, but I've ended up with slightly al dente, flavoursome broccoli this time, so I think I've probably done it right.

All in all, a pretty nice dinner I thought.  Now I just need to stay away from the wine that's lying around... it's getting pretty tempting.

Monday 11 October 2010

Week one of not logging

Week one of not logging food and, well, it seems to be going OK.  Yeah I had a bit of a session on the booze last night, but weight is roughly stable so far over this first week.  I've not totally freaked out on the days when my weight was way up and not danced around in circles when it was down.  3 more weeks of this test to go though.  And there are a few events in those 3 weeks, so it's quite representative of a "normal" 4 weeks overall.

So far, it's not as hard as I though it would be.  After logging and recording and planning for over 4 years, I thought my control freaky nature would stop me from being able to do "intuitive eating" in any way at all, even if it was more just routine eating of combinations of things that I know keep me in my allowances.  I'm even not always eating at the set times I'd normally eat - apart from breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up, making sure I've had something no more than 90 minutes (and no less than 20 minutes) before hard exercise, and an evening meal at 7.30pm-8pm - more when I feel it is time for something.

How do you guys get on with not logging?  Do you do it obsessively?  Are you OK not doing it?  Are you somewhere in between?

Sunday 10 October 2010


What better to open a bottle of beer than a Klein Bottle bottle opener:-

Seriously pretty, geeky and cool!  The only tiny drawback is the seam where the plane of the two intersecting bits actually continues through, which means it's not -strictly- a Klein bottle.  But...


GOOD gym today!  Increased my clean and presses to 30kg!  OK so I only managed 8, 8, 4 but still... a while back I couldn't get it over my head even once :o)  Unassisted (no counter-weights on the Smith machine) squats at 45kg as well... feeling faberlous!

Roasted a Black Farmer organic chickie for dinner and feeling great given that I've dropped some fat since coming back from hols (down to 66.6kg today from over 68kg on hols :o)) and gymmage went nicely.  Plus, I'm feeling a lot less stressy not logging foods though I have cheated a bit during the week and discovered I've been heading way low on active days so ended up snacking in the evenings.  It is nice not to feel that I have to eat at particular times to fulfil my set snacking through the day, but that I can eat -something- when I get hungry anyway.  And... getting hungry... well, I've been a bit scared of it and ending up scarfing loads of food but having available snacks in the office is helping a lot there.  Nibble on an appropriate amount of dried fruit/nuts/yogurt&fruit/carrot&houmous/beef jerky and I feel fine to wait until a reasonable meal time etc.

Brekkie was nice this morning (see photo)... again prepared by Mr TOTKat.  Toasted wholemeal seeded Food Doctor bagel with butter, Marmite and a poached egg.  NOM!

Saturday 9 October 2010


Oh man!  This is a -good- one!

Slow cooked beef casserole - serves 4 (approx 470kcals per portion):-
  • 500g diced/cubed braising beef
  • 2 medium potatoes - cut into 8ths or 12ths
  • 2 medium/large carrots - sliced thickly
  • 2 medium/large parsnips - sliced thickly to the fat bit, then quartered at the fat bit
  • 2 medium onions - roughly chopped
  • 8-10 cloves garlic
  • 1tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4tbsps tomato puree
  • 1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • handful of fresh sage leaves - chopped
  • 2x beef stock cubes or 1l beef stock
  • 4 bay leaves - bruised
  • 5 large plum tomatoes - chopped into 8ths
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • salt
Put the oil into a pan and heat.  Toss the beef chunks in the flour, add the beef chunks to the hot oil and brown.  Once the beef is browned, add the contents of the pan including any leftover dusting flour to a casserole dish/slow cooker with all of the other ingredients (add 800ml water if using stock cubes rather than stock).  Cook for 4-5 hours until the beef falls apart easily.  Season to taste with salt and pepper about 15 minutes before the end of cooking.  Remove the bay leaves and serve hot, with fresh crusty bread and a glass of fat red wine if desired, or just by itself.

Sometimes I have to remind myself of basics

After 2 weeks off from any exercise, going in with 3x return trip cycles to work and 2x gym sessions in a 7 day period (3850kcals overall)... is potentially a bit much.  So, time to remind myself not to thrash myself to bits out of nowhere and not feel bad that I didn't do 3x gyms this week.

I gave in and did a body fat measurement today, having been dreading it for a while.  And it wasn't horrible!  25.2% (at 67.5kg); up from 24.9%(at 65.7kg)  back at the end of July but that's not bad at all, all things considered.  I was expecting it to be higher.  More interestingly, I've gained 1.2kg lean body mass in that time period without particularly trying.  OK, yes, I've gained fat too (0.65kg), but not as much as the muscle and that was probably while we were on hols and I wasn't doing any exercise.

I've not had many food photos recently, so here's one of my afternoon snack today, that Mr TOTKat prepared so prettily for me.

Friday 8 October 2010

It was to be expected really

So... cooking carbs for two is sometimes too small an amount to do properly.  I tried brown rice in the Star Chef this evening and, well, it didn't turn out quite right.  And the reason was pretty much that there wasn't enough to cook.  100g rice and 130ml water is barely enough to cover the base of the pot, so it was never going to work very well.  But I tried it anyway.  However, it wasn't a disaster either :o)

I think the failure was mostly in the estimation of how much water is required for 100g rice.  The recipe for rice that came with the Star Chef was for 300g rice with 400ml water.  So for 100g rice, I thought 130ishml water would be fine.  The rice turned out quite crunchy. Evidently not enough water.  But. They key point was that it was perfectly cooked for the amount of water.  Not too al dente in the way that undercooked rice can be and not a squishy mush the way overcooked rice can be.  It was perfectly cooked, but just with not enough water, so it went a bit crispy with the starch on the bottom.

The pan was easy to clean up (it's proper non-stick, so if you treat it like you treat any other non-stick pans, it does what it is supposed to) and the rice was completely fine once I added a bit more water, stirred it about a bit and then mixed it in with the re-heated chilli.

So.  Not a horrible mistake and next time I'll either add more water or I'll make more rice, but it's a hell of an improvement over cooking it in a pan - no gelatinous mush if I forget there's rice on, no icky-looking foam on top, no over-boiling pan to fiddle with.  It's just perfect for an inattentive cook like me.  Some things I really don't have the attention span to stand over; a pan of boiling/simmering rice/potatoes/pasta for example.  So the Star Chef is a bloody god-send for avoiding that.  I'm cure I'll work out what rice cook settings equivalent works for pasta and couscous (though that's far less faff anyway).

I know I was given this kitchen toy and I didn't spend any of my own money on it, but it's hugely appealing to how I like to do things in the kitchen.  I'm awful with patience around things like rice and having the oven on for hours heating up far more space than it needs to etc.  This solves those problems and more and to be brutally honest, based on what I've tried so far I'd be happy to spend the money on it if I'd known about it before now.  Can't wait for the Ocado delivery tomorrow so I can do a beef stew!

I <3 my bike

Today's ride in wasn't particularly nice.  Though London was oddly beautiful in the strangely warm and dry mist this morning.  Like.. weird.  Misty.  But warm.  And I didn't feel damp at all.  Pretty.  But weird.  My legs had no power and I felt a bit weak in general.  No fun at all.  So I decided at the end of today's working day not to bother getting into my lycra and to just cycle home in my jeans and t-shirt and take it easy.

The first great thing was that CTUK were at the Northern side of Southwark bridge, helping out with tuning and training, so I stopped for a lovely chat and learned about brake and gear tuning.  I now have a set of gears that will let me use the big chain ring!  And my brakes are lovely and sharp with -much- less travel in the levers.  And I know how to adjust them myself for next time.  Result!  So that made me set off with a spring in my step, so to speak and I ended up having a fabulous ride home, spotting the best gaps and hazards weeeell in advance and didn't have to stop at all between Clapham South and the Savacentre!  The upshot was, the fastest ever ride home and a really really enjoyable one with no fuming, snarking, yelling or grumbling at all.  *beam*

Thursday 7 October 2010


Sossie casserole!
 Serves 2/3:-
  • 6x pork and venison sausages - whole
  • 1x tin of plum tomatoes - undrained
  • 2-3x medium sweet potatoes
  • 2x carrots - chopped
  • 1x medium onion - roughly chopped
  • 6x cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 8x dried apricots - halved
  • 1x stock cube - vegetable, chicken or pork
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • salt

Plop everything into a slow cooker and stir, then cook for 4+ hours.  Or, in a casserole dish in a warm oven for 4+ hours.  I cooked it for 4.5 hours on the "stew" setting and had it keep warm for 9.5 hours before I got home.

Ohyes.  And lo', it was good.  :o)  (photo shows 2/3rds of the ingredients as I couldn't wait to take a photo before I'd had some!)


So I set the Star Chef to make us a lovely sausage casserole for when we got home last night.  When I came through the front door at the end of the day... hm... no smell of yumminess.  *confused*  The thing was sitting there, still saying "06:00" and not cooking or counting down.  And that should have been my clue... Not. Counting. Down.  The 6 hour preset start time I'd put in was not, in fact, a 6 hour count down to the start of cooking but the time it would -finish- cooking.  6am today!

So.  Having checked the actual manual, I re-set it to finish cooking at 10am today and keep warm (for up to 24 hours after finishing) so it should start just before I left the house this morning.  And it did.  Phew!  So.  Yummy casserole will happen tonight instead. (and we went to the local Italian for dinner last night instead - I had 1/2 a thin and crisp tomato/garlic bread, canneloni and a couple of small glasses of Prosecco)

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Gonna be difficult!

Ohboy is it tricky so far.  Only 5 days into the not-logging thing and although I know full well that I'm not eating excessively, because my weight is trickling upwards a tiny bit, I'm stressing about it.  I know I have to give it a couple of weeks or so to settle down, but it's difficult!

I have to remember that changing too many things in a short period of time gives un-interpretable results. But... gnnnngh!

Tuesday 5 October 2010

New toy - JML Star Chef

I've been sort of wanting a slow cooker for quite a while and the opportunity to have one arose a little while ago.  Well, what I've now got isn't just a slow cooker... it can bake, steam, fry, slow-cook or boil.  Quite the little versatile appliance.

It's the JML Star Chef and it arrived at work, while I was on holiday last week.  Of course, I cycled in to work yesterday so couldn't get it home on my bike as it's a little bit big for a rucksack.  I didn't cycle today so I could get it home and play as soon as possible.  Of course, I'd not be able to do any slow cooking today as there just wouldn't be enough time so I got out some salmon fillets from the freezer this morning.

And here it is...

And out of the box...

In the box is: the appliance, the power cord, a cooking pot, a steaming basket, measuring cup, stirring paddle, spoon, drip tray and spoon holder.  Sadly, the measuring cup got cracked in transit, but... I have loads of those so I don't mind really.

Unboxed, plugged in and the time set on the clock and I got to work with a salmon fillet for my dinner.  Set the Star Chef to fry fish for 10 minutes, plopped in the salmon and left the lid open so I could watch.  2 minutes in and it wasn't getting very hot so I thought maybe it'd be happier with the lid closed.  Yep!  I left it to its own devices until it'd had the first 5 minutes and came back to a sizzling salmon fillet which I flipped over and closed the lid on again.  At 10 minutes, there was a polite beeping and the Star Chef set itself to "keep warm" mode.  Out came a really nice looking fried salmon fillet (which I then broke getting out of the pot with the wrong implement *cough*)

Pretty darned good, I think.  Plus, and here's the huuuuuuuuge bonus for me, the house doesn't reek of salmon AND the smoke alarm didn't go off!  (it's apparently impossible to cook even mediumly brown toast in our kitchen without setting off the smoke alarm in the hall as it's so bloody over-sensitive)

Anyhoo.  First impression is "woo!".  MUCH more detailed thoughts in a later post.  And many more modes and recipes to try and have fun with :o)

Taking half a plunge

Over the two weeks of eating and drinking really quite freely (well, yes with 1 longish run, 2x gym sessions and a longish bike ride) I've put on a kilo.  Which I think isn't half bad really.  So.  Here goes a bit of a plunge near the deep end.

I'm going to stop logging food (and exercise) and see how I go with what feels right and what I've been generally been doing for the last few months.  It might not seem like a big deal to many of you, but I'm a bit obsessive about logging and I've been doing it for almost four and a half years now and I've really needed the sense of control it's given me; the fear of being fat again is really quite huge.  And when I say huge...

So here goes.  Wish me luck!

Of course it means that certainly for the foreseeable future I will continue to weigh myself daily and weigh my food so I'm sure my portion sizes aren't slipping.  The only small worry would be not getting enough fuel on the days when I cycle or cycle -and- gym.  I've got gym only days pretty nailed, I think.

Monday 4 October 2010

Holiday(s) - Part II

Friday came around again and off we set back down to Cornwall again.

I felt a bit sick all the way there... what if it was the wrong week again? (of course it wasn't, I'd heard the woman say we were booked for 24th, so... well, it never stops the fear though, does it?)  The journey wasn't too bad and we knew the way already so that was handy.

Everything was right this time though and having unpacked the car, we headed to the local pub for dinner.  Heavenly fish and chips, though I'd originally wanted the beef lasagne there wasn't any left so I gave in and had the fried option.  I had more than half of the batter, which says a lot for the quality of the batter as I usually leave at least 2/3rds of it unless it is phenomenally light and crispy.  And having discovered Tribute ale from the St Austell brewery in Part I, we tucked into a couple of pints and finally relaxed.

I think I cooked dinner all of twice in the whole week - we picked up some local beef and duck at the food fair in Truro at the weekend and had steak early in the week and duck right at the end.  In between was a lot of pub dinners and a trip to Rick Stein's "The Seafood Restaurant" in Padstow (with a round trip taxi journey at £110!).  Stein's was great.  Really great.  We had the 7 course tasting menu with wine recommended by the sommelier and every course was really lovely right down to the puff-light pavlova at the end which left us not feeling stuffed at all, just nicely full and happy.  And, for a top-notch restaurant tasting menu it wasn't desperately expensive.  Very happy customers.

Oh, and on the one day of glorious sunshine, we hired a couple of mountain bikes from the Bike Barn and cycled the "Coast to Coast Trail" - 22ish miles of almost flat track and trail through nature reserves, along a river, past an old arsenic mine and, of course, a coast at either end.

Holiday(s) - Part I

First of all, we were only supposed to have a week off.  But...

After 6.5 hours driving to Cornwall on the Friday, getting the key to the cottage, unloading the car and getting ready to hit the pub, another couple arrived.  Yeah... so, to cut a long story short, we were a week early and I hadn't noticed the dates in the PDF attached confirmation to the booking.  So, tired, upset and grumpy we re-packed the car and drove to the nearby Tesco car-park to work out what to do.  I was prepared to get some food in us and drive home again, but Mr TOTKat was already checking for somewhere to stay for the night.

A quick search for "hotels in Cornwall, sorted by price descending" threw up The Cornwall Hotel Spa and Estate which tunred out to be all of 12 miles away, just outside St Austell.  So we booked for the night and drove over that way.  Ohyes.  Yes.  Newly opened in March this year it was shiny and pretty and luxurious.  Over aperitifs we discussed that we really didn't want to go back to work on Monday; when you're in the mind-set that you're on holiday for a week and have spent a day travelling, you're really not in the best frame to pull it back to "off to work on Monday" all that easily.  So we decided to stay for a few nights.  I checked that we could get a room for the following couple of nights and booked us in.

Yeah, they're new and yeah they're a bit flaky around the edges but we enjoyed ourselves and had a couple of sessions in the little gym and a nice long (for me) run.  Couple of supply issues and timing issues with the hotel, but they'll improve that over time I'm sure.  Very nice.  Not -quite- Pennyhill Park, but ohmygod it was -exactly- the right thing at the time.

Tuesday, we came back to London and had a great night in with cat-sitters - mahousive Chinese takeaway and some fizzy wine, then back to work for a couple of days to get stuff sorted that couldn't wait another week.  Work didn't feel so bad at that point and we both got loads done (I left my Out of Office message on so people didn't book me for meetings that could wait a bit while I got the pressing things sorted).

Sunday 3 October 2010

First gym in a little while

Last time I did any proper exercise was 20th September - an off-piste gym session at the Cornwall Hotel Spa and Estate which had a tiny gym equipped with lots of cardio machines but not so well on the free weights front.  No Smith machine, only a wobbly bar and bar weights up to 5kg to add on.  Still managed a reasonable couple of routines in that gym though, which was nice.

This morning... back to the last routine from my trainer and I was expecting to be weak and pathetic after almost 2 weeks off.  But no :o)  Increased weights on most stuff and added in a couple of extra bits from previous routines as well:-
  • Warm up 1km on the rower (L7 04:30)
  • Squats - Smith machine (no counter-weight) with Olympic bar plus 15kg - 3x10
  • Clean and press - 25kg barbell - 3x10 (A)
  • Reverse crunches - bodyweight - 3x15 (A)
  • Overhead squat - 3x10 - 12kg ViPR (B)
  • Crunch with overhead lift - 3x10 - 12kg ViPR (B)
  • Planks on 3x medicine balls - 2x60s
  • Pressups on 3x medicine balls - x5
  • Squat and swing - 18kg dumbbell - 3x10
  • Lunge and horizontal press - 3x10x2 - 10kg ViPR
  • Lunge with overhead swing - 3x8x2 - 16kg ViPR
  • Cool down on x-trainer - 5 minutes (L7, L6, L4)
  • Stretch on the Powerplate.
 RAWR!  Gonna hurt tomorrow :oD

Photos from holiday(s) and some further thoughts later... it's been a bit sorty-outy this weekend so far and I could do with sitting on my arse a little bit.