Monthly Archives: July 2009

Broad Beans Galore

Broad Beans

Broad beans are a popular summer staple here in Britain, so it’s no surprise they’ve made regular appearances in our weekly veg box from Riverford Organic Veg. I have little experience with these podded beasts, so last night I decided to take the plunge and try a broad bean soup off of the Riverford website.

Dinner: Broad Bean and Mint SoupThe recipe appealed for both its inclusion of mint and its short list of ingredients. However, what it lacked in complication it made up for in prep time. The soup itself was a cinch, but podding the beans and then removing their tough outer skins was a beast. It’s definitely an exercise to be completed over a good podcast (or better yet, with the help of a few friends).

How to de-skin broad beans:

  1. Pod the beans.
  2. Cook them in boiling water for 1 minute.
  3. Plunge them into cold water, to cool them.
  4. Make a nick in the top of each bean, with your thumb nail.
  5. Gently squeeze the bright green bean out of the skin.

Fiddly, but worth it. The soup was fab, and everything (except for the mint) was made with ingredients from the box. Scroll to the bottom of this post for the recipe, and enjoy a bit of food porn along the way…

Food and Exercise Log | Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wednesday’s log is a bit “light” on the exercise part, thanks to a deluge of rain that made me more inclined to nap rather than walk. I hid inside for the most part, and with the exception of a couple skipping sessions in the home office, took it pretty easy.


Bircher Muesli with Carrot, Coconut, Pecans and Walnuts

Breakfast: Bircher Muesli with Carrots, Coconut, Pecans and Walnuts


About 10 minutes of skipping following “The Jump Rope” FIT workout at the Monkey Bar Gym.


Lentils and Greens with Tomato-Basil Garnish and Quinoa

Lunch: Lentils and Greens with Quinoa and Tomatoes

The “greens and beans” are another winning combo from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. Check out the recipe on Google Books: Beans and Greens .


Another 10 minutes of skipping following “The Jump Rope” FIT workout at the Monkey Bar Gym.


Broad Bean and Mint Soup with Toasted Bread and Salad

Dinner: Broad Bean and Mint Soup

No Knead Bread

Broad Bean and Mint Soup

This recipe comes from Anna Ross’s Green Cuisine, available for purchase on Amazon and Riverford Organic Veg.

500g (1lb) shelled broad beans
2 small onions
2 carrots
2 tbsp oil
1 litre (2 pts) vegetable stock
2 tbsp fresh mint
salt & pepper
  1. Peel and chop the onions and carrots and saute in hot oil for 10-15 minutes
  2. Stir in the broad beans and stock, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Stir in the chopped mint, transfer to a liquidiser and blend until smooth.

Dining Al Fresco

Lunch: Tomato and Avocado on Toast with Salad and Potatoes

When it hasn’t been raining, I’ve been enjoying the pleasure of dining outside on the patio. But it seems like there are some meals that work for al fresco dining (sandwiches, salads, that sort of thing), while others are better suited for indoors (for some reason, stir fry seems better suited for the inside).

Perhaps in the summer months, when there is the small possibility that England will be warm and sunny for long enough to enjoy a meal, I should take Nigel Slater’s approach…

I eat outside at every possible opportunity. Each meal is shopped for and cooked with the intention that it may become an outdoor treat, a meal spread out on the garden table and consumed in the open air.

Of all meals outside, supper is the one I like best, knowing that at some point it will be time to light the candles. Forget picnics and barbecues, the most romantic way to eat is in the garden by candlelight. I will eat this way till the weather insists otherwise.

Okay, so Nigel Slater is a bit of a wanker, but he’s got a great attitude towards food and some fabulous ideas for al fresco meals (check out the courgette cakes). The BBC also has some ideas for picnic recipes, including vegetarian nibbles like roasted red pepper bruschetta and butter bean pate.

What are your favorite foods for outdoor eating?

Food and Exercise Log | Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Bircher Muesli with Carrots, Coconut and Flaked Almond

Breakfast: Bircher Muesli with Carrots, Coconut and Toasted Almonds


Avocado on Toast with Salad, Chickpeas and Potatoes

Lunch: Tomato and Avocado on Toast with Salad and Potatoes


Tofu Stir Fry with Brown Rice and Veggies

Dinner: Tofu Stir Fry

Update: Anyone interested in making yummy veggie stir-fry’s should check out Mark Bittman’s book, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (yes, this book is my bible). He has a great description of how to make veggie stir fries and we use this basic technique for pretty much every stir fry we make. It’s always fabulous! You can read the section on Google Books: The Basics of Stir-Frying Vegetables.

Spinach, Strawberries and Salad

Food and Exercise Log | Monday, July 27, 2009


Bircher Muesli with Pecans and Fresh Apricots

Breakfast: Bircher Muesli with Apricots and Pecans

It’s been a while since I enjoyed my old friend, Bircher Muesli. It was good to be back, and this time with a twist – apricots and pecans, a new addition. I liked it!


No Knead Toast with Tahini and Honey

Snack: Toast with Tahini and Honey

Bike Ride

Trip to Cirencester – ~14 miles

Gmaps Pedometer.jpg

The fridge was looking pretty bare, but our car is in the shop and our next organic box doesn’t arrive until Tuesday. The nearest supermarket is almost 7 miles away in Cirencester, so I decided to take the opportunity to explore the country roads near our place. I was happy to find that the journey is overall extremely pleasant, following farms and fields for the most part. There is some traffic, but drivers were overall very polite and gave me plenty of room while passing. I’ll definitely be doing this again, whether the car is fixed or not, and now I’m thinking about other cycling possibilities in the area.


Grilled Veggie Sandwich with Cabbage Salad

Lunch: Grilled Veggie Sandwich with Cabbage Salad

The sandwich: grilled onions, red peppers and a portobello mushroom with tomato, avocado, salt, pepper, sprouts and pesto.

The salad: Cabbage Salad with a simple cider vinaigrette, spring onions and toasted almonds

Not shown: A couple sneaky potatoes that I snacked on while cooking (I was famished after the bike ride).

Grilled Veggie Sandwich: Round 2

Lunch: Tall Food

It’s not at all surprising that I was hungry just a couple hours later (such is the problem with


Brown Lentils and Potatoes with Spinach and Strawberry Salad

Dinner: Lentils and Potatoes with Spinach and Strawberry Salad

I love simple meals like these. And the salad is a special kind of awesome – super easy too. I’ve made a few of these now, adapting this recipe from Sometimes I use toasted almonds in place (or in addition to) the toasted sesame seeds. Raspberries also work well in here.

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

1 bunch spinach, rinsed and torn into bite-size pieces
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
330 g sliced strawberries
60 ml vegetable oil
30 ml white wine vinegar
50 g white sugar
0.3 g paprika
9 g sesame seeds, toasted
4 g poppy seeds

In a large bowl, toss together the spinach and strawberries.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, sugar, paprika, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds. Pour over the spinach and strawberries, and toss to coat.

Burger Bun Fail, Black Bean Success

We’re just over a week in the new place and even though things have been crazy with the move, we’ve still managed to fit in a whole lot of yummy food, and I’ve been snapping pictures like mad (as usual). This weekend’s veggie burger experiment was the catalyst I needed to get me back into my food diary posts. No Calories, though, just the food and good times…

Food and Exercise Log | Saturday, July 25, 2009


Vegan Cornmeal Crepes with Tofu Creme and Blackcurrant Sauce


I filled the cornmeal crepes with silken tofu blended with agave nectar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Then made a quick Blackcurrant Sauce by heating up a punnet of blackcurrants in a small pot with a crazy amount of sugar (and it still was unbelievably tart). I added some fresh banana, apricot, and toasted sliced almonds to the mix. It was yum!


Walk to Oaksey and back for some food and drink supplies for lunch/dinner. ~4 miles.


Chickpea Salad with Tahini and Lemon

I took a photo of this lunch but it was waaay overexposed. Here’s the story: I tossed chickpeas, cucumber, tomato and fresh parsley with tahini, lemon juice, salt and pepper, then served it on a bed of lettuce and carrots. Highly enjoyable, but I little under-filling. I was famished by the time dinner came around.


Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burgers with Cabbage Salad

Dinner: Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burgers with Cabbage Salad

So I tried a new burger bun recipe from Andrew Whitley’s Bread Matters book. The recipe was for “baps” which could be adapted for burgers, but the buns turned out totally flat – they looked like cookies! On the plus side, this recipe for Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burgers turned out the best veggie burgers I’ve ever made. They were still mushy, but I LOVED their flavor – lots of caraway seeds and chili. I’m still tweaking the recipe to achieve a less mushy burger, so I’ll forgo posting a recipe until I master it.

The cabbage salad, on the other hand, is always a hit. It’s uber simple and has infinite variations. If you’re in the market for a coleslaw that’s NOT mayo-based, this one’s for you.

Cabbage Salad

Cabbage Slaw

1/2 head cabbage, finely sliced or shredded
4 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
1/3 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
Combine the cabbage, onions, almonds, and sesame seeds in a large bowl.

Make the dressing by combining the olive oil, veingar, sugar salt and pepper in a jar with a tight lid. Shake really well.

Toss the dressing with the cabbage mixture shortly before serving. (You probably won’t need all the dressing, so pour on just enough to suit your taste and save the rest for round two!)

Variations: The original recipe calls for 1 package of ramen noodles crumbled into the salad. I don’t do this cuz ramen noodles are weird, but I confess, it’s tasty. Other tasty additions: shredded carrot, broccoli slaw, toasted sunflower seeds, raisins, apples, raisins… it’s versatile!

Skipping Rope

In my ongoing effort to stay young in body and in heart, I’ve decided to start jumping rope. Today, my new new toy arrive from Amazon (I love having stuff delivered!): a York Leather Skip Rope. I just had my first skip out on the patio (I love having a patio!) and I’m reminded how HARD skipping is, yet how EASY it seemed when I was a kid. Hard as it may be, it was way fun and I look forward to getting better at it.

So why skip? Here’s a few good reasons from the British Rope Skipping Association:

  • Improved cardio vascular fitness
  • Increased muscular strength
  • Better endurance
  • Improved body conditioning
  • Greater flexibility
  • Improved coordination
  • Stronger bones

Now I aspire to be like this guy…

Organic Fruit and Veg Boxes Explained

Riverford Organic Fruit and Veg Box

Last Tuesday we received our first deliveries to Orchard Cottage: organic fruit and vegetable boxes from Riverford organic veg. We’ve been looking forward to participating in an organic box scheme now that we have a patio for people to leave deliveries on. So far, the Riverford boxes do not disappoint.

Our first box came with a bunch of info pamphlets (and a good amount of dirt). I tend to glaze over brochures, but one of the pamphlets was actually quite useful. It explained how to plan your meals around the food you receive in the box.

Getting the best out of your box…

  1. Unpack and store the veg (see below)
  2. Plan your meals around the vegetables that need eating first
  3. Got something weird and wonderful-looking? Give us a call – we’ll tell you what it is and what to do with it (I love this – and it reminds me that I have no idea what to do with podded broad beans)

What to use, when to use it, and how to store it…

1-3 days

  • courgettes, mushrooms, sugarsnap peas, asparagus – store at the bottom of the fridge
  • fresh herbs, spinach – store in an airtight bag in the frigde
  • tomatoes – store at room temperature unless over ripe

3-5 days

  • broccoli, spring greens, sweetcorn, broad beans – store at the bottom of the fridge
  • salad leaves, chard, kale, runner beans, french beans, pak choi, rhubarb – store in a plastic bag in the fridge
  • apples, pears, avocados – store at room temperature

1 week or more

  • carrots, leeks, cucumber, peppers, fennel, cauliflower, parsnips, cabbage, sprouts, celeriac, bunched onions, swede – store at the bottom of the fridge
  • onions – store in a cool dry place
  • potatoes, beetroot, jerusalem artichokes – store in a cool dark place
  • squash, citrus fruit, bananas – store at room temperature

More on organic box schemes…

Organic boxes are pretty popular in the UK. The US has similar schemes with the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Check out their website to search for an organic box delivery near you.

A word on price – organic boxes are not cheap. We spent £26 on two boxes – one large fruit and one large veg – and received:

  • 6 bananas
  • 6 apples
  • 8 apricots
  • 9 clementines
  • 125g blackcurrants
  • 1 lettuce
  • 5 tomatoes
  • 1 cabbage
  • 5 portobello mushrooms
  • 1 cucumber
  • 3 courgettes
  • 2 red pepper
  • 300g sugar snap peas
  • 1 bunch carrots
  • ~30 pods of broad beans
  • 9 onions
  • 15 kg potatoes

We ate through this within about 4 days (pretty easy when you’re two people working from home subsisting on a primarily vegan diet). So we’re going to need to add a lot more veggies to our order if we’re going to rely on Riverford for all of our produce needs. This’ll add up, but at the same time…

  • We get to eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
  • We get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • Our food doesn’t come packed in a whole bunch of extra earth-polluting plastic like it does at the supermarket
  • We get to support local farmers
  • We get to feel good about the food we eat and where it comes from

Read on…

All Bouquet, No Flavor

skitched-20090724-161208.jpgThis is the problem I have with fruit teas – they smell nice, but they don’t really taste like anything. As Tim puts it, they’re “all bouquet and no flavor.” As a result, I’ve always shunned fruit teas… until I had this Blackcurrant and Hibiscus Tea from Jing Teas, which came with a tea sampler I bought for Tim’s birthday. This afternoon I took a chance and was pleasantly surprised. As Jing describes it…

Whole blackcurrants, berries and cracked hibiscus shells make this sumptuous herbal infusion absolutely delightful. Vivid, intense and lively with a rich spectrum of berry fruits. Refreshing, even bracing, and full of charm.

I don’t know if it “charmed” me, but it was definitely tasty, and would be delicious chilled with ice. Brad reckons it would be a “solid companion to scones or similar baked goods,” but then again, what kind of tea wouldn’t be a solid companion to baked goods?

If you’ve never tried Jing tea, I highly recommend the Jing Tea Explorer set. You get ten 10g samples of teas, enough to get about 3 small teapots of tea of from each sample. The sample includes various green, yellow, white and the aforementioned blackcurrant and hibiscus tea. At £11, this seems like quite a bargain to me (it works out to about .18p per cup of tea).

Get our tea on at

Get Your Grill On

The Fruit (er, Veg) of Our First Proper BBQ

Now that we have a place with an outdoor patio, I can finally enjoy the grill season in all its blackened glory. We’ve grilled the last four nights in a row, and some of those nights were even warm enough to dine al fresco.

When I tell people how much I like to grill, they often ask “what the hell does a vegetarian put on the grill?” Veggie burgers barely scrape the surface of possibilities. There are endless ways to cook vegetables on the grill and better still, it’s one of the best ways to make almost any vegetable taste really awesomely good. For a well-rounded, nutritious meal, add tofu and spuds to the mix.

At the bare minimum, all you need to grill vegetables is olive oil, salt and pepper. That’s all I’ve been using this week. Here are the results:

Grilled seitan, zucchini, tomato, and eggplant with boiled new potatoes:

Tim's Meal

Grilled eggplant and mushrooms with pesto and fresh parsley:

Grilled Eggplant and Mushrooms

Sandwich of grilled zucchini, onion, mushroom, red bell pepper, avocado and tomato with grilled sweetcorn

Dinner: Grilled Veggie Sandwich and Sweetcorn

Chargrilled broccoli with chili and garlic

Chargrilled Broccoli witth Chilli and Garlic

The chargrilled broccoli was a revelation – I found the recipe in Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, a book that makes heavy use of grilled vegetables and I predict will become a regular read now that I have a bbq. The dish is simple to repair and the chargrilling really takes the broccoli to a whole new level. If you’re looking to cram more veggies in your diet but you don’t know how to make them taste good, give this recipe a go, and check out Yotom Ottolenghi’s blog for more ideas.

Chargrilled Broccoli with Chili and Garlic

This is adapated from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. The only change I made is cutting down the chili to one, but feel free to use more or less according to your spice tolerance.

2 heads of broccoli
115ml olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 mild red chillies, thinly sliced
coarse sea salt and black pepper
thin slices of lemon (with skin) or toasted flaked almonds to garnish

Prepare the broccoli by separating it into florets. Fill a large saucepan with plenty of water and bring it to the boil. Throw in the broccoli and blanch for 2 minutes only. Don’t be tempted to cook it any longer! Using a large slotted spoon, quickly transfer the broccoli to a bowl full of ice cold water. Drain in a colander and allow to dry completely. In a mixing bowl, toss the broccoli with 45ml of the olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Get the grill nice and hot and throw on the broccoli. Turn them over so they get char marks all over. When the broccoli is finished, put them back in the mixing bowl.

Place the rest of the oil in a small saucepan with the garlic and chillies. Cook them over a medium heat until the garlic just begins to turn golden brown. Be careful not to let the garlic and chilli burn – remember, they will keep on cooking even when off the heat.

Pour the oil, garlic and chilli over the hot broccoli and toss together well. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve warm or at room temperature. You can garnish the broccoli with lemon or almonds just before serving.

Chronicle Your Journey in Shape Magazine

Heard about this through the tweetvine

Freelance monthly column writer wanted for Shape magazine

We’re looking for candidates to pen Shape magazine’s 2010 Weight-Loss
Diary column. It’s a great gig: We’ll hook you up with a team of
qualified experts—a personal trainer, registered dietician, and life
coach—to aid you on your year-long weight-loss journey.
You’ll be paid to chronicle your experiences and insights in a monthly
400-word column, as well as two weekly blog entries that will be posted
online at

You should be…
…a 20- or 30-something woman who needs to lose at least 20 pounds (more
is fine too). You need to feel comfortable sharing personal details such as weight, diet and exercise regimes. Living in the NYC area is preferred.

Email -current weight -height -age -marital/family status -occupation Give us a 1-page description of your struggle with your weight.

Read more about it on Ed2010

On the importance of good sleep

Gizmo on the ProLite 4 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!.jpg

We’re less than a week into our new place in the countryside and already I can feel the difference. Compared to London, one of the most noticeable differences is the noise (or lack thereof). Without the constant interruption of sleep noise, I’m finally enjoying the most restful sleep I’ve had in AGES! And no more earplugs! The remarkable thing is that we don’t even have a bed yet – I’m sleeping on the floor on a Therm-a-Rest Sleeping Mat, and will be for the next couple weeks, until our pimp new Superking-sized bed arrives. But even on the floor I’m sleeping much better than I did in London, and this is definitely feeding into the amount of energy I have during the day. It feels great to be rested. Now, I’m hoping that this great rest will inspire me to get out and explore the countryside, or at least, write a future post entitled “On the importance of good waterproof gear.” It rains a lot in England!

Photo credit: nguy0833