Monthly Archives: January 2012

Carbophobia II: Green Pizza


Wholewheat pizza dough
Goat’s cheese
Walnut pesto

For those who aren’t partial to a bit of pomodoro, or just fancy a pomodoro-less pizza today. Or if, like me, you have loads of green vegetables in your fridge just begging for their vitamins and minerals to be put to good use. Or if your favourite colour is green (mine is !)

You can use any pesto. It just happens that I have walnuts, and no pine nuts.

Makes 1 medium pizza – make sure you roll the dough out nice and thin, not just to ensure it cooks properly but in order to fit more tasty tasty vegetables on top ! At 640 calories for the lot this pizza is so angelic you can eat the whole thing in one go, and it’s nutritionally complete so you can have it on its own, or with a rocket salad to garnish (in case you hadn’t already reached greens-overload).

How to make Green Pizza

For the dough:

65g wholemeal flour

Pinch of salt

1 tsp yeast

Sprinkle of sugar

1 tsp olive oil

40ml warm water

For the topping:

25g soft mild goat’s cheese

1/2 mozzarella ball (about 60g)

Handful each of broccoli and asparagus, roughly chopped

¼ jar artichoke hearts in oil

For the pesto:

15g walnuts

1 small clove of garlic

2 or 3 generous pinches of fresh basil

2 tsps olive oil

2 tsps parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

To garnish:

Rocket salad

What to do:

Add yeast, oil and sugar to hand-hot water (between hot and lukewarm), stir and leave to stand

Mix flour and salt, pile up in bowl and make a well in the centre

Pour liquid into well and bring in flour from sides with a fork, then use your hands to form a dough

Knead until springy and no longer sticky (add a dusting of flour if too wet; a drop of water if too dry but don’t overcompensate !)

Place in floured bowl, cover with damp cloth and leave to rise for 1 hour

After an hour the dough should have doubled in size. Knead again and roll out onto floured surface

Transfer to foiled and oiled baking tray

Preheat oven to 190 degrees

Make the pesto. Crush walnuts and garlic finely. Blend with other pesto ingredients

Spread thinly across pizza base (it may not look like a lot but don’t worry, pesto has a very rich flavour)

Tear mozzarella and lay over pesto base

Brush broccoli and asparagus with a tiny bit of olive oil and scatter onto pizza

Dot goat’s cheese and a few artichokes around surface

Season with black pepper

Bake for 10-15 minutes

En-to-the-joy, my pretty ones.

Amy x


Carbophobia I: What I Ate on Sunday

What Amy Ate Today: Sunday 29th January, 2012

Vegan oat pancakes

15g wholemeal flour
10g oats
Pinch of salt
Pinch of baking soda
50ml soy milk
Squeeze of lemon juice
Drop of vanilla extract
Vegetable oil

First thing: add the lemon juice to the milk and leave to stand. Apparently this substitutes buttermilk (what is buttermilk ?)
Combine flour, oats, salt and baking soda
Add vanilla extract and a tiny amount of vegetable oil to milk and stir into dry ingredients
Heat a pan with a drop of vegetable oil
Pour in batter and cook 2-3 minutes on medium heat; flip with spatula when done and cook other side the same

150 cal for the lot; yields 1 large or 2 small pancakes (I find 2 small ones make me feel less ‘cheated’ than just having one pancake !)

Serve with fruit, honey, whatever ! I had two spoonfuls of natural yoghurt and a handful of blueberries. Also a coffee with skimmed milk.

Total: 225 calories

Toasted butternut squash bread with goat’s cheese, pear-and-walnut chutney and rocket

½ a butternut squash
260g wholemeal flour
60ml water
120ml olive oil
2 eggs
Pinch of salt
90g brown sugar
Pinch or two each of cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom
Salt and black pepper
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 175 degrees
Brush squash with olive oil, sprinkle with a little cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper
Bake for 1 hour
Make an elaborate coffee to pass the time
Scoop out squash innards from skin and blast in food processor. Try not to confuse ‘food processor’ with ‘mouth’ while you do this.
Mix purée, eggs, oil, sugar and water
Mix flour, baking soda and spices separately
Combine wet and dry ingredients – be careful not to over-mix
Pour into lightly greased loaf tin and bake for 1 hour

Providing you can get 20 thin slices out of one loaf, each slice contains just under 130 calories, so you can have 2 per serving. If you can’t slice it thinly enough, make 10 and only have 1 for a serving.

Garnish with chopped walnuts in the rare absence of pear and walnut chutney...

Serve 2 small or 1 large slice toasted and spread with mild, creamy goat’s cheese and chutney of choice. Garnish with rocket, salt and pepper. The sweetness goes wonderfully with the peppery rocket, but because it’s almost cake-like, it can equally be served as a sweet treat with your afternoon tea.

Total: 380 calories

(Recipe courtesy of My Baking Addiction)

Spinach trottole alfredo with artichokes and grilled asparagus

For the alfredo sauce:
1 teaspoon olive oil
30g (Philadelphia Extra Light) cream cheese
50ml skimmed milk
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp parmesan cheese
Black pepper
(all this for 150 calories !)

Other ingredients:
85g spinach trottole (although it doesn’t have to be spinach, or trottole for that matter)
Artichokes in olive oil, 1 jar
5 stalks of asparagus

Preheat grill to medium heat
Put pasta on to cook (6-8 minutes)
Brush asparagus with a little oil from the artichokes and sprinkle with salt. Put under grill
Heat oil in pan
Cook garlic
Stir in cream cheese
Add milk a little at a time
Stir in parmesan
Drain pasta
Stir in grilled asparagus and sauce, and about a quarter of the jar of artichokes, drained. (I like to keep the saucepan on a low heat to ensure pasta does not cool during this process. If you want you can season again with salt and black pepper before transferring to bowl.)

Total: 505 calories

= 1110 calories

+ snacks (1 apple, 1 tangerine, 1 carrot, handful of mange tout, 1 Graze punnet of peanuts: 360 calories)

Sunday grand total: 1470 calories

So I have somewhat upped my calorie intake since my first carbophobia post because I was just feeling so goddamn awful, and to be honest on the point of giving up. I ran 8 miles without stopping for the first time in my life on Friday. And I feel INCREDIBLE. Really it all came down to this: eat more or fail, and I’ve given up failure this year so I had no choice. Even when I don’t look it up I can still tot up a rough calorie total in my head because from years of obsessive counting I know pretty much the calorie content of everything I eat. And if I don’t, I just check the packet (my sad life…). This is a non-training day so I’m happy with 1500 cal; on the days where I run I’ve been consuming between 1700 and 1900. Before I started training I would have balked at these numbers, but I’ve never done this much exercise before so I kind of feel okay about it.

BUT there is just this one thing…

Apparently day for firsts, Friday was also the first time in a very long while that I did not feel hungry. Already having been for my run in the morning, I got in from a cello practice session assuming I was ravenous, as I usually am. I cut up an apple and half a mango and put the kettle on. The unfinished bowl of fruit sat next to me for the next few hours; the milky tea all but finished me off, I felt so full ! It scared me a little bit. Is this what it feels like to eat properly ? When the realisation occurred I immediately jumped to the conclusion that my body was too full and was therefore going to start STORING ENERGY AS FAT. But I decided that was as far as I was going to lament it. This is a good thing ! The 8-mile run (according to the Endomondo app on my phone) burned 700 calories – how could anyone possibly gain weight doing that of a day ?! Encouraging.

Eating more and running more definitely tops eating the bare minimum, burning out and ultimately feeling pants.

I feel happier.

Amy x

Moleskine Notebook

I own one…

Carbophobia: An Introduction

In case you hadn’t already been made aware, I’m training for a marathon, and let me just say this:

The sheer amount of food that it is necessary to pile into my mouth in order to not collapse mid-run is TERRIFYING to me. I feel like I’m eating bucketfuls, but I don’t know how much is enough because everything that isn’t next-to-nothing feels like too much. Whilst I have been able to complete every session so far in my training programme, it is leaving me constantly fatigued; I am dizzy, my head aches, my muscles feel empty and stiff and I’ve been sleeping for extended periods of time during the day. And yet I cannot bring myself to up my calorie intake any more than I already have, never mind consider increasing my carbohydrates, despite having read to saturation point on the importance of carbohydrate for energy when training for a long bout of cardiovascular activity. I still genuinely believe that food = failure. Food = weight gain, regardless, and I cannot get this notion out of my head.

It’s been about 2 weeks and the scale has stayed more or less the same, but the fact remains is that l am very slightly up on when I started. Is it water ? Stored glycogen ? (apparently that makes you retain water). Is it muscle ? What if it’s FAT and I’m over-compensating ?

The thing is, I’m still paranoid that everybody secretly thinks I’m not capable of finishing this 26.2 mile monster of a physical feat, but whether or not they do, I guess I need something to push me harder than the food demons are pulling, so to speak. If I eat more, I may gain weight (the sensible side of me says, ‘Don’t be ridiculous, you’re clearly going to run it all off), but if I don’t start upping my intake I’ll burn out and won’t be able to train anymore, or worse, I’ll injure myself. And then everyone who said or thought I wouldn’t be able to do it because I’m unable to bring myself to eat properly will tut and say condescending things like “I told you so, poor, silly, mental girl.” I think I just about want to prove them wrong more than I am fearful of the pretty much non-existent possibility of gaining weight over the next few months.

(Obviously there are those friends and family members who have been nothing but supportive over the short time I’ve been training and I appreciate that, thank you.)

But so what if I do gain weight ? I know the scale will go up, I know it’s likely to be muscle, I just hate seeing the numbers increase ! (Anyone wants to come round and confiscate my scales, that’d be great.) But ultimately I’ll be super-fit by the time April rolls around, and isn’t that how this whole thing started in the first place ? An obsession with healthy eating and healthy living that got a little bit out of control. I need this marathon to get my life back.

So whilst I’m on the subject of food, energy, glycogen, carbohydrates (let’s face it, when am I ever not ?), let’s do a post about CARBS. I put caps lock on because, for any diet-conscious person, CARBS are SCARY and are to be AVOIDED, and that’s how they say it. Nobody ever says “carbs,” with an equal ratio of emphasis on words that are “carbs” and words that are not; they always say “CARBS” as though the word had slept with their boyfriend and posted the pictures on Facebook, complete with a thumbs up to the camera. Carbohydrates have a bad rep due to the apparent success of diet programmes such as Atkins (it’s all lies – another rant altogether) but the truth is – and here’s where I get preachy again despite never ever following my own advice – even if you’re not doing a cripplingly high amount of exercise, carbohydrates are our bodies’ main source of energy. They are the easiest nutrient (as opposed to say, protein or fat) for your body to convert to glucose, which is essentially fuel. What happens when you don’t refuel your car ? It won’t go. It breaks. It feels sad and tired and gets a lot of headaches and snaps at its loved ones (okay, maybe I’m taking the analogy a bit too far but you get my point, right ?).

So this post is for everyone who has ever said “I’ve just been eating SO MANY CARBS lately,” and clutched at their bellies in an attempt to prove that this has caused them to gain soo much weight. It’s like complaining that your car is full of petrol ! So let’s just forget for a moment that I am a Freaky Eater, and listen to me as though I were a reputable nutritionist, because they’ll tell you the same thing:




Make you.


Say it ! Doesn’t it feel great ?!

There is a bit of a catch, as there is with anything. The reason people think that carbohydrates make you gain weight is that if you consume too many your body will have excess glycogen; when this fuel is not needed for energy it gets stored as fat. So the first thing is to make sure you monitor your portion sizes – check the packet for the recommendations.

The second part of The Catch is that there are two kinds of carbs: simple and complex. In order to make carbohydrates your friends, you need to munch more on the complex ones, and less so on the simple ones. Complex carbohydrates include:

Brown bread
Brown pasta
Brown rice
Anything wholemeal/wholegrain

These foods release their energy slowly, which allows you to feel fuller and more energised for longer, helping to boost mood and reduce sugar cravings throughout the day. Because the starch in these food items hasn’t been refined (to make it white), our body has to do it, which means you actually burn more energy just by digesting a slice of wholemeal bread than you would a white one – they do the exercise for you ! (Obviously you have to take a walk every once in a while too…)

In contrast, these foods containing simple carbohydrates will spike your insulin levels, resulting in a crash that can cause mood swing, fatigue and ultimately increased cake-desire. Try to steer clear of:

White bread
White pasta
White rice
Fruit juice
Fizzy drinks
Some cereals (check the sugar content: 7g or more per bowl, usually 30 – 50g, is too much !)

Obviously you don’t have to give up these things altogether. It’s hard sometimes – some restaurants don’t even have wholemeal pasta, bread or pizza options. One time isn’t going to result in weight gain – it’s constant consumption of simple carbs that leads to subconscious excess calorie consumption. So if you’re trying to lose weight, see what happens if you try just converting to wholemeal and cutting out fizz (even diet – the sugar-replacement chemicals work in exactly the same way as sugar, there’s no excuse !). It’s all about finding and maintaining balance, which is evidently what I’m going to have to learn, possibly with a bit of trial and error, during these next few months. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m even afraid of ‘good’ carbs, which needs to be remedied.

So tomorrow I’m going grocery shopping, stocking up on wholemeal flour and I will spend next week marathon-training my way through pizza, calzone, and some intriguing bread recipes I’ve managed to stumble across recently…

…watch this space.

Amy x

Potato Gnocchi and Marathon Training

More on these later...

I appear to have taken an inadvertent Christmas break from blogging, mainly because I’ve been working over the holidays and subsequently not cooking, which certainly is a tragedy. But I intend to remedy that; now I’m back at uni and back to my own kitchen, I have free reign to buy/cook/eat whatever I want sans interruption.

Many things have occurred since I’ve been away from the blog ! These are them…

1. My recent announcement that I am to attempt the Brighton marathon this April was met with surprise and a fair amount of scorn from my friends. I applied on a spur of the moment fitness frenzy after reading a beginner’s training programme and thinking, I could so do that ! Notwithstanding those peers who have been very supportive (thanks !), it wasn’t until I revealed my plans to everyone that the looks of horror and derisive comments began to spark a panic that I’d signed up for something dreadful. But I am a runner and I started training last week so fuck you all, I can do this. (I do realise that just maybe no one was being sarcastic or doubtful in the slightest and it’s just me not thinking I’m capable that’s causing me to project my own fears onto my friends to make myself feel better about being nervous, but then I decided that pushing myself out of my comfort zone can only ever be a good thing. So it’s settled. I’m running it, bitches.)

2. Two words: Punch. Fork. If you’re not that into porn but really, really, REALLY love wasting your time looking at artful pictures of food, well THIS is what the internet has to offer YOU, my friend !

3. I’ve been listening to Beyoncé. She makes me feel so EMPOWERED… on the inside. On the outside I’m just hopelessly white with no ass and really bad at dancing. I know this because after being particularly seized by Beyoncé’s personal brand of diva-attitude I was compelled to, er… booty-shake my way across the kitchen, all the time watched by my incredulous housemate. Tom’s face said it all really.

4. I’m growing an avocado tree ! See how you can too here.

5. I made potato gnocchi. As with many of my edible concoctions, it was because I had a load of new potatoes that I got sick of (turns out my taste buds’ collective attention span isn’t capable of getting through an entire bag in a week) but couldn’t bear to throw away, and I’m pretty sure you’re not really supposed to use new potatoes for gnocchi but hey, I’m not picky. And all you need for these little Italian potato dumpling-y wonders is potatoes and flour! Some recipes call for olive oil and egg, which would probably make them tastier but hey, I just love them for their doughy, squishy, comfort-giving properties. And they are fantastic in pomodoro sauce. Actually I did put a bit of olive oil in the dough because it’s good for your heart and stuff. (Hey, I’m training for a marathon, don’t you know…*)

I KNOW they're lumpy... I am impatient

* expect an increasing tirade of righteous comments like this from now until April, where I’ll likely be reduced to something along the lines of “HELP, I’M RUNNING A MARATHON SOON, KILL ME NOW.” Or just mere expletives.

So anyway, gnocchi ! I have, until recently, remained fairly gnocchi-unaware. I can still count the number of times I’ve eaten them on one hand, the first time being in the shared kitchen of a delightfully kitsch youth hostel with brightly coloured walls in Naples, 2009 (how long ago that seems now). They were in a cheesy tomato sauce and I think that is the way I will always enjoy gnocchi. Once they’re made you can poach them in a saucepan of boiling water – they sink to the bottom and after about 1 minute rise to the top, that’s when they’re done and you can douse them in sauce. Or you can bake them with some fried onions and garlic, tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil topped with breadcrumbs and parmesan.

Some other gnocchi pairing ideas include: cheese sauce of your choice plus vegetable (spinach and ricotta; blue cheese, artichoke and walnut), pesto, or simply toss poached gnocchi in olive oil, salt and parmesan. I’m practically drooling right now.

How I made gnocchi (the implication that this is not how you are supposed to make gnocchi is entirely intentional, I must assure you; nevertheless gnocchi did indeed occur at the end of this recipe):
Boil about 10 new potatoes for 15-20 minutes
Drain potatoes and leave to cool before peeling.
Mash them like a mother-bitch. (Seriously, I left lumps and it wasn’t cool. The gnocchi are still nice but… just mash those ‘taters…)
Add some all purpose/wholemeal flour and knead until dough happens… maybe about 300g ? I honestly can’t remember. (Wow, this is turning out to be a useless recipe post…)
Add a dash of olive oil during kneading
Roll out dough into slim worms and cut into 1cm pieces on a lightly floured surface
Roll into gnocchi dumplings ! (See here for a cool video on how to do this, I promise it’s not as hard or as weird as it looks… I did not use this recipe to the letter, though it served nicely for inspiration.)
Poach, bake, or freeze until you are ready for glorious gnocchi-comfort and wonder. Can you handle it ?!

You can also make them in the same way with sweet potato, apparently. Delicious !

6. I’m running the Brighton marathon. Sorry, did I already mention that ? I did ? Okay… just making sure…

Best wishes for 2012, make it a good one. Eat more good stuff, eat less filth, go for more walks, stop wearing fairisle print, change the things that bug you and learn to accept the things you can’t change.

Amy x