10 day 10-a-day challenge

I recently read a post by Kezzie in which she challenged herself to see whether she ate 10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, based on recent news that scientists say we should actually be eating 10-a-day and not 5 as previously advised.  That post inspired me to take the challenge myself and see whether I manage 10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day (although I was already fairly sure I wasn’t even reaching the originally advised 5!).

Coincidentally, I had read the news myself a few days before seeing Kezzie’s post and, after a discussion with Jan, ended up on the NHS website reminding myself of what constitutes a portion. Prior to that, I had assumed we were at least reaching the 5 on some days thanks to the amount of beans and chickpeas we eat, so I was horrified to discover that beans and pulses are only allowed to count as one portion per day no matter how many you eat! I had already decided then that I would need to start relying less on beans, but for the purposes of this experiment I stuck with our “normal” meals to give you an accurate picture of how we eat. So now you get to see just how awful my diet actually is…

Quick note: I’m not going to get into ridiculous fractions, so where an amount was less than 1 portion but more than half I will count it as half a portion. For instance, 7 cherry tomatoes is a portion so if I only had 5 I’ll call it half a portion.

I didn’t take photos of all my meals, so the collages are just a random selection. You can try to match the photos to the meals if you like 😉
I will also apologise in advance for the quality of my photography… I’m no good at food photos! Right, without any further ado, here we go:

Day 1:

Breakfast: Greek style yoghurt with honey and walnuts -> 0 portions
Lunch: Scrambled eggs with 5 cherry tomatoes -> ½ portion
Dinner: Tuna pasta bake containing:
– chickpeas and kidney beans (only allowed to count as one portion all together. Booo!) -> 1 portion
– Courgette -> 1 portion
– Tinned tomatoes -> third of a tin, so maybe 1½ portions?

Total: 4 portions

Day 2:
(I was in the office on this day so breakfast and lunch were purchased on the way and Jan was in charge of dinner!)

Breakfast: Chocolate croissant -> 0 portions
Lunch: “Veggie” baguette with avocado and feta -> I think it was ½ an avocado, so 1 portion
Dinner: Bread with cheese and ham -> 0 portions
Snacks: Dried apples and berries -> ½ portion
2 mini cakes -> 0 portions
Capri-Sun (contains fruit juice but definitely doesn’t count!) -> 0 portions

Total: 1½ portions

Day 3:

Breakfast: Nothing (naughty!) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Leftover tuna pasta bake (see above) -> 3½ portions
Dinner: Chilli con carne made with
– Kidney beans (not allowed to count because I had beans earlier in the day) -> 0 portions
– Red pepper -> 1 portion
– Tinned tomatoes -> half a tin, 2 portions?
Served in whole wheat tortillas with cheese and iceberg lettuce -> hopefully ½ portion
Snacks: Sweet potato crisps (sweet potato counts as veg. but I hardly had any crisps) -> o portions
Orange juice (can only count once no matter how much you drink!) -> 1 portion

Total: 7 portions

Day 4:
(We had visitors this day and dinner was at a restaurant)

Breakfast: Toast with jam (fruity but doesn’t count!) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Sausage roll -> 0 portions
Carrot, orange and ginger smoothie -> 1 portion
Dinner: Pizza with courgette and aubergine -> maybe ½ a portion
Panna cotta with a few bits of fruit -> 0 portions

Total: 1½ portions

Day 5:

Breakfast: Bread rolls with jam and chocolate spread -> 0 portions
Blood orange juice -> 1 portion
Lunch: Bread roll with cheese -> 0 portions
Dinner: Roasted butternut squash risotto
– Butternut squash -> 3 portions (it was a big vegetable!)
– Leek -> possibly ½ a portion
Snacks: Magnum ice cream (and I regret nothing!) -> 0 portions
Apple with almond purée -> 1 portion

Total: 5½ portions

Day 6:

Breakfast: Toast with jam -> 0 portions
Blood orange juice -> 1 portion
Lunch: Some just-add-water couscous thing -> 0 portions
Mango -> 1½ portions (I think)
Dinner: Corned beef hash. I always make it with baked beans, and this time I added borlotti beans as well to stretch it a bit since there weren’t as many potatoes left as I thought. -> 1 portion
Snacks: Mini packet of gummi bears -> 0 portions
Chocolate chip cookie -> 0 portions

Total: 3½ portions

Day 7:

Breakfast: Porridge (apple & cinnamon flavour, but not enough apple to count!) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Lemon pepper fish with potato croquettes -> 0 portions
Dinner: Pepper stuffed with a quinoa/bulgar wheat mix and feta cheese -> 2 portions
Served with salad consisting of the remaining feta cheese plus:
Lamb’s lettuce -> ½ portion
Apple -> ½ portion
Avocado -> 1 portion

Total: 4 portions

Day 8:

Breakfast: Nothing -> 0 portions
Lunch: Leftover stuffed pepper -> 2 portions
Orange juice -> 1 portion
Dinner: Sausage casserole containing:
Cannellini beans -> 1 portion
Carrots -> 1 portion
Tinned tomatoes -> 2 portions?
Served with sweet potato mash (counts as veg. Yay!) -> 2 portions
Snack: Chocolate brownie (and now you also know why I’m failing to lose weight…) -> 0 portions

Total: 9 portions

Day 9:

Breakfast: Chia & cashew muesli bar (contains raisins, but not enough) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Lemon pepper fish (yes, again!) -> 0 portions
Crackers with hummus -> 1 portion
Dinner: Chicken enchiladas made with;
Kidney beans (don’t count because of hummus for lunch) -> 0 portions
Courgette -> ½ portion
Tinned tomatoes -> 1 portion

Total: 2½ portions

Day 10:

Breakfast: Crackers (what? It’s a perfectly good breakfast 😉 ) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Orange juice -> 1 portion
Leftover enchiladas. I had half the amount I’d eaten the night before but I then had the other half for dinner since Jan didn’t eat his before he left for the weekend soooo….
Dinner: Leftover enchiladas. Dinner + lunch enchiladas combined -> 2½ portions
I ate my dinner enchilada with an avocado -> 2 portions
Snacks: An apple with almond purée -> 1 portion

Total: 6½ portions

So, what have I learned? Well, nothing that I didn’t already suspect: most of the time I fail to get up to 5 portions, never mind 10! I actually managed 5 portions 4 times (less than half the days *sigh), and all of those days were actually over the 5 (although once it was only over by half a portion!). I came closest to 10 portions on day 8 – should have replaced that brownie with an apple 😉

In the interests of full disclosure, I should tell you that I drank more juice this week than I usually would because I bought for breakfast when we had guests and I needed to get it used up, so apart from on day 3 (when I had a small carton) every day that I had juice I would normally have had one portion less. Usually I tend to shy away from juice because I feel calories that are used for drinks are wasted calories (mostly I drink water and tea – the tiny bit of milk in tea doesn’t make much difference to my calories). Juice is an easy way to get an additional portion though, so maybe I should consider drinking juice every day and getting extra exercise to make up for it? I do sometimes drink smoothies

So, what can I do to improve my fruit and veg intake? Well, apart from consistently drinking a glass of juice, I need to replace some of my pulses with other vegetables since I now know hardly any of them are allowed to count. There goes my lazy tuna pasta bake that doesn’t require me to chop any vegetables *sigh*. I could also replace most of my snacks with fruit – in February I ate an apple with almond paste most days, and that’s something I should probably try to get back into. An apple a day and replacing half the beans in meal with another vegetable would add two an extra portions and hopefully push those days that I do exceptionally badly at least up to the 5 mark! Finally, during these 10 days I ate leftovers for lunch three times (because Jan had forgotten to take them to work with him – which is why I ended up being left with 2 day old tuna pasta bake!). So another idea would be to make enough dinner for both of us to have some the next day and have leftovers for lunch more often instead of shoving some fish in the oven or eating a convenience meal containing few or no vegetables.

Do you eat 10 portions of vegetables a day? Would you be willing to take this challenge?

Check out Kezzie’s post for an example of someone doing a much better job at healthy eating 😉
And if you’ve actually read all this please feel free to award yourself a virtual gold star!

Tuna Pasta Bake – for days when you REALLY don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen!

I had plans to make some elaborate meal involving chicken and garlic sauce for tea, but my local supermarket foiled me by having no chicken breasts left – the supermarket running out of things is a common occurence when I’m forced to go shopping after work! I had no plan B, and after dragging my disappointed self all the way round the supermarket then carrying the far too heavy bags home in the dark I really wasn’t in the mood for slaving over our evening meal anyway, so we’re having my usual “can’t be bothered to cook properly but don’t want to just shove some crispy chicken in the oven (plus there is no crispy chicken in the freezer)” fallback meal: Tuna Pasta Bake. Here’s how to make it:

The ingredients:
Pasta – something like penne or farfalle works best
Whatever vegetables you have to hand and can be bothered to deal with (I used courgette and leek today. On less lazy days, I might chop an onion. Lazier days involve a tin of peas or kidney beans)
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Tin of tuna (in water/juice, not oil)
Freshly ground black pepper
Mixed herbs
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Cheese (preferably Cheddar, but any strong cheese will do. The mild type where you need practically a whole block just to be able to taste anything won’t work here!)
Ready salted crisps

The method:
1. Place enough pasta for the number of people you are in a pan and add boiling water. Cook for about half the time the packet says to – it will continue cooking in the oven later and you don’t want it to go mushy!

2. While the pasta is cooking, chop up your vegetables – or just open the tins if you’re going for the really lazy method – and place them in an oven-proof dish.

Vegetables
Vegetables

3. Add the tinned tomatoes and tuna and stir everything together, then add herbs and spices.

4. Add the pasta and stir until most of the pasta is covered with tomato. If there isn’t enough tomato for all your pasta, add another tin (I make pasta for 2-3 people and one tin is enough for that)

Pasta
Pasta

5. Grate cheese all over the top of your pasta/veg mix. Or use ready-grated stuff.

Cheesy!
Cheesy!

6. Crush a handful of ready-salted crisps and sprinkle them over the top of the cheese.

Ready for the oven
Ready for the oven

7. Place the dish in the oven at around 180° for about 20-30 minutes, until the cheese has melted and top is starting to go golden brown.

8. Dish out and enjoy

If you’re vegetarian or just don’t like fish, you can leave out the tuna and add extra vegetables for a vegetarian version – I’ve done it before and it works well. Oh, and the usual reaction I get when I mention the crushed crisps is a look of disgust, so if you’re currently sitting pulling faces at your computer then I would like to say try it first! It’s nice, honest!

Turkey mince and vegetable pasta bake

I had planned to make vegetable enchiladas for last night’s tea, but when I went to Karstadt, I discovered that they had turkey mince in (something that has happened so few times I would only need the fingers of one hand to count!) so I decided to grab some while I could. At home, after a quick look at what I had in the cupboards/fridge, I decided to make a pasta bake with turkey and vegetables.

To make this, you will need:
Turkey mince (obviously) – 500g was what I had
An onion, chopped
Garlic – 1 or 2 cloves, depending on how big they are and how you like it
Any vegetables you fancy/want to use up – I had a courgette, 2 carrots and a small tin of peas
A tin of tomatoes or tomato passata (I would have preferred the tin of tomatoes, but it turned out I had none left…)
Pasta of your choice (small ones, like farfalle, will work best) – 300g went into mine to use up a packet

Garlic and onions
Garlic and onions

Start by frying the garlic and onion together in a frying pan, then add the mince and fry until it’s cooked through. In the meantime, boil some water for the pasta.

Add the vegetables to the pan, putting in those that take longest first (in my case, courgettes and carrots – peas went in after a few minutes). Also add the pasta to the water once it’s boiled.

Turkey mince and veg
Turkey mince and veg

When the vegetables are starting to get soft, pour in the tomatoes and stir everything in together. Continue cooking until the pasta is ready (you’ll want to cook the pasta for slightly less time than usual).

Place the pasta and turkey/vegetables mixture in an oven-proof dish and stir everything in together.

Almost ready for the oven...
Almost ready for the oven…

Now grate some cheese over the top of the pasta mixture – I’m trying to be healthy, so I used much less than I usually would. (Even better would have been to use low fat cheese, but the shop I went to didn’t have any so I stuck with ordinary Cheddar).

Cheeese! Now it's ready for the oven...
Cheeese! Now it’s ready for the oven…

Place the dish in the oven and leave it until the cheese is melted – roughly 20-30 minutes should do, depending on your oven.

Fresh out of the oven
Fresh out of the oven

And there you have it… a healthy and fairly simple meal. The amounts here were enough for Jan and I plus and extra portion for me to take to work today.
Apologies for the crapness of some of my photos by the way… there’s a reason this is not a recipe blog!

Sooooup!

I bought myself a hand blender just after we came back from our New Year’s trip and I was dying to try it out, so yesterday I decided to make this Creamy curried carrot and butter bean soup from the BBC Good Food website.

I made a list of the ingredients I didn’t already have at home and headed to the shops directly from work. Once home, I logged on to the computer to print out the recipe only to find… no Internet! (I’ve since found it was a larger problem that affected 150,000 customers).  I was already planning to improvise as the place I went shopping didn’t sell butter beans so I bought a tin of something calling itself “white beans” instead (they looked like haricot beans to me). I still wanted my soup – and of course to use my new blender – so I decided to make my own version, based very loosely on what I could remember of the recipe. And so I bring you my own personal Curried Carrot and Bean Soup.

Curried carrot and bean soup
Curried carrot and bean soup, by me

For this recipe, you will need:
1 small onion, chopped
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, chopped or crushed
Some dried chilli flakes or a fresh chilli chopped small
400g of carrots, half of them sliced, the other half grated
1 large or a few small potatoes, diced
400g tin of white beans (haricot or cannellini)
About 200 ml vegetable stock
Curry powder
Ground turmeric
Ground cumin
200 ml tub of cream
(This amount served 2 of us as a main meal with plenty of bread. As a starter, it will probably do for 4-6 people)

Method
1. Fry the onions and garlic in some oil (I used olive oil) for about a minute
2. Add the chilli flakes (or fresh chilli if you have one – I didn’t) and fry for about another minute or 2
3. Add around 1-1.5 teaspoons each of curry powder, turmeric and cumin, depending on how spicy you like it, and stir well until everything’s mixed together

Onions, garlic and spices
Onions, garlic and spices

4. If the spices have soaked up all the oil, put a little more in the pan then add the chopped carrots and potato and fry for about 2-3 minutes, stirring once in a while
6. Add half of the tin of beans, stir in and fry for another minute or so

Vegetables
Vegetables

5. Boil the kettle and before making the vegetable stock pour a little boiling water onto any onion/spice mixture that’s stuck to the bottom of the pan. The stuck on stuff will come off and you can stir it in. Now make up around 200 ml of vegetable stock and leave everything to simmer for about 5-7 minutes until the vegetables have softened and most of the water has gone (I grated the remaining carrots while I was waiting)
6. Blend the vegetable and stock mixture to form a puree then return the pan to the heat (if you used a real blender, obviously return the mush to the pan first) and add just enough water to make it slightly runny again, although not completely liquid (about 30ml should do it)
7. Stir the grated carrots and the rest of the beans into the mixture then gradually add the cream until it reaches the consitency you want. I used all my cream, but you might not want to

Gradually add the cream...
Gradually add the cream…

8. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper (and salt, if you like. I didn’t bother as I thought vegetable stock would be salty enough). At this point, you might want to add more of the spices (turmeric, cumin, curry powder) if the cream has taken away too much of the heat. Add some chilli powder too, if you like.
9. Heat the soup through completely, stirring frequently then serve with buttered crusty bread (or if, like me, you forgot to buy decent crusty bread, with toast…)

Ready to serve
Ready to serve

This ended up being a really tasty meal. I liked the way the grated carrots and non-pureed beans gave it some texture while the blended ingredients and the stock/cream gave it a soupy consistency in the background. Also, I was rather proud of myself for inventing my own soup recipe (albeit loosely based on someone else’s – looking at the Good Food recipe, it seems I didn’t actually remember much though…).

The obligatory resolutions post…

Wow, fourteen  days into the new year already and I haven’t even mentioned resolutions yet! That must be some kind of record!  But, of course, I do have some. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t make some kind of resolution for the new year! And obviously they can’t possibly be official until the whole world knows about them. Or at least that part of the world that reads my blog…
After years and years of setting myself vague and probably not even achieveable goals (“be a better girlfriend”, “learn social competence”), this time I decided to go with things that I might actually be able to stick with. So here goes:

  1. Eat more healthily! This doesn’t mean giving up chocolate and cheese (mmmm, cheese!) and all the other yummy yet fattening stuff that I love. But I do want to make an effort to cook us healthier meals… ones that contain actual *gasp* vegetables. (To be fair, I’m not actually that bad to start with, but I do want to start making more meals in which vegetables are the main component rather than an afterthought). I’ve already got off to a good start on this one, as our meal of “vegetable ratatouille” from the other day will testify. Mmm, doesn’t it look delicious! And it was, believe me. I’ve got a whole load of other healthy recipes to try out as well. Last nights effort was roasted aubergine – basically aubergine stuffed using the bits of itself that I chopped out of the middle and yellow peppers with chunks of (low fat) goat’s cheese sprinkled over it. Sorry, no pictures of that one!

    Vegetable ratatouille
  2. Think before I speak! A large proportion of my problems come from me opening my mouth without engaging my brain first. Whether it’s an argument with my boyfriend, a sarcastic comment that came out sounding really, really bad (entirely unintentional!) or another instance of me interrupting someone without even realising… if I could just control my impulse to just say whatever pops into my head immediately many things would be so much simpler.
  3. Improve my translation style. I am a pretty good translator (even if I say it myself). My texts are generally correctly translated and read pretty well. But I quite often receive corrected texts back from my proofreaders in which most of what’s been corrected isn’t actual mistakes, but matters of style (using a different, nice sounding word, phrasing a sentence slightly differently…), and I have to admit most of the time their version really does sound a thousand times better. My goal for this year is to get at least one person to comment on how well one of my texts read, rather than just saying it was “fine”.
  4. Visit my friend in the Netherlands! I’ve been meaning to go and see her since she moved there 3 years ago, and now she’s planning on relocating to the USA I really need to get my act together and go see her! (I’ve actually started arranging this one as well. We’ll probably be going there in February, so I can use up my remaining holiday from last year before it gets taken off me).
  5. Keep up with my blog. I went through several periods of not blogging last year, mostly because I was busy actually having a life. Unfortunately this means I have no record whatsoever of some of the things I did last year. Obviously I still remember doing them (for now!), but I do like to have a written record that I can look back over occasionally. This year I really must try harder with that!

And that shall do. Five resolutions is enough for one year, don’t you think?