It's still cold over here.... poor TS is stranded south because of ice on the train tracks....and getting cold for my readers elsewhere!
I actually don't mind the cold. I am used to it somewhat, having lived in Tasmania most of my life (I think that fact helped me acclimatise to the UK a lot better than friends from Queensland, etc!) and I find cold weather almost comforting, in a weird way. I love being curled up in a warm flat with a glass of wine or a mug of something lovely and reading a favourite book. I love winter fashion - cardigans, turtleneck wool jumpers, gorgeous coats, long sleeved dresses, sexy skirts and knee high boots. I love running in the cold, because I run so much harder and faster and get a much better workout! I guess it's not the cold that bothers me about winter in the UK, but just the darkness, the perpetual darkness, that one seems to live in! When the sun is out, everyone seems so much happier!
It can be very easy to succumb to the various barriers that cold weather can bring about in your healthy eating and exercise routine. Letting yourself have a day off once in a while really isn't the end of the world. It's when that one day turns into a whole week that you might have a problem! And, at the end of the day, there's always an alternative around the obstacle, if you really want to do it badly enough. For example:
It's raining/snowing/too icy/too cold outside to exercise. Do a yoga or aerobics DVD in your lounge room. Do strength training with weights, if you have them. Go to an indoor swimming pool or gym where you can exercise in warmth and (if it's icy outside!) safety.
It's too dark when I get home at night to go for a run/walk. Go for a walk or a run in your lunch break during the day instead. Or, choose to walk/run with a partner so you don't feel so vulnerable at night. And make sure you wear bright, reflective clothing! Safety first!
It's too cold to have salad. Make a warm salad - roast some vegetables, wilt some spinach leaves, steam some couscous. Or, make one of my delicious cold comfort recipes (following!)
I really crave fatty comforting foods when it's cold. Don't we all :) Stock the cupboard with alternatives so you don't feel deprived. Make my caramel banana pudding or a fruit-based crumble (make it more fruit than crumble!) and have a small serve with low-fat cream or greek yoghurt if you feel like pudding; make a thick soup, casserole or stew based on vegetables for a satisfying dinner; have low fat or soy milk on hand for hot chocolate cravings, and make it in a small mug, not your giant Shakespeare Starbucks mug that holds a litre or something (yes Phil, I'm talking to you!). You really don't have to miss out on everything, just try and think about it before you head to the kitchen or the M&S Dessert section! Think about what you really want, instead of just grabbing and stuffing things in because they're there. My number one tip: if you're cold and want comforting, have a cup of tea first before diving into food.
It's too cold to drink heaps of water. I personally love water and don't feel right if I don't have a couple of bottles a day, regardless of the weather! If it really is a problem, drink herbal tea instead, or hot water with lemon in it.
But....meh.....it's too cold! I can't be bothered! Well, I can't really help you, can I? :P
Here are two delicious, comforting and healthy recipes to keep you going as the weather gets colder (but hopefully warmer for us in the UK!):
Watch Your Weight Lasagna
From the original Skinny Latte blog (before I went vego!). If you're vegetarian, make with meat-free mince. 6 WW points a serve.
You will need:
9 dried lasagna noodles or 3 large fresh lasagna noodles
500g lean minced beef
teaspoons minced garlic
1 large onion, chopped
1 small or 1/2 large red capsicum, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
1 large jar tomato based pasta sauce
1 sachet tomato paste
3/4 cup wine
Pepper and salt, to taste
1 x 375g tub light ricotta
1/2 cup shredded low fat mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup low fat cheddar cheese (or parmesan)
Cook the lasagna noodles if necessary and set aside.
Spray a large pan with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat.
Add the beef, onion, garlic, capsicum, zucchini, carrot and celery. Cook, stirring well, until the beef is brown. Add the fennel seeds, pasta sauce, tomato paste, wine, pepper and salt (nb: instead of salt, I use Masterfoods Tuscan Seasoning in Italian cooking - it's a mixture of salt, garlic, rosemary and some other herbs). Stir everything well, and bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for at least 20 minutes, but an hour is even better. The longer it cooks, the more concentrated the flavours will be.
Preheat the oven to 200 C. This bit is optional: I like to puree the sauce just a little, so it's smooth but still chunky. Be careful though, as the sauce will be hot. A hand held blender is great for this - just stir it around the pot once or twice until it's how you want it. It's great for breaking up the bigger lumps of meat. If you're making this for children who don't like vegetables, it's a great way to disguise them!
Pour about a quarter of the meat sauce into your lasagna dish (about 9 x 13 inch is an ideal size). Top with 3 lasagna noodles (or 1 fresh, trimmed to fit), spread with a third of the ricotta. Repeat this layering twice and end with the meat sauce. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil and sprinkle with the cheeses. Bake until heated through and the cheese are slightly browned - about 20 minutes. Let it stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6.
I think lasagna is best served with simple, green vegetables - I like broccoli and green beans - or a salad. You could also add interest with a layer of lightly cooked spinach or with slices of grilled eggplant.
Practically Vegan "Chicken" Supreme Pie with Swede Mash and Spring Greens
This was an invention of mine, based on TS's nostalgia for something his mother used to make before the family went vegetarian. It is seriously good stuff. I think I might have said the words, "I am a bloody genius!" when I tasted the filling. You can make it with meat and dairy equivalents if you wish. I think this version is so good though! It's rich but not in a sickening, gut-churning way!
I call this "practically" vegan because I don't think the chicken pieces are completely vegan, they are made with egg-white or something. Pastry might not be vegan either, if it's made with butter, but as I'm not a strict vegan I can let that go if I have to!
It's not an every day meal, in fact I think it would be good enough for entertaining, but if it's cold and you feel like something comforting without completely blowing it, a small piece of this pie is just the ticket. Balance it with swede mash and just cooked greens, and comfort food doesn't get better than this.
1 sheet puff pastry or fillo pastry (I would prefer fillo but my local supermarket only does puff or shortcrust, so puff is the lesser of two evils there!)
1 leek, washed and chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 large courgette (zuchinni), chopped
Any other small amounts vegetables you might have (I have used leftover roast potato and pumpkin in it before)
Small bunch fresh thyme or parsley
1 x 400g packet chicken style pieces (I use ASDA Meat Free range)
2 tablespoons dairy-free spread (or butter)
4 tablespoons plain flour
2 tablespoons Swedish mustard (can substitute any sweet mustard)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 or 3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup white wine
500ml soy milk
Extra soy milk, in case it gets too thick
1 vegetable stock cube, crumbled
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large swede (rutabaga or yellow turnip)
1 medium potato
Dairy free spread
Salt and pepper
1 packet of mixed spring greens, kale, spinach, or any other green vegetable you fancy
Preheat the oven to 200 C. Spray a square baking dish with cooking spray, and lay the pastry in, trimming the sides, but making sure the bottom and sides are covered. If you have enough you can put pastry on the top as well, but you don't have to.
Place the pastry in the oven to "bake blind" for about 10-15 minutes, just until it's looking cooked, but not too golden.
To make the filling: coat your stock pot or pan with cooking spray, heat and then add leek, garlic, courgette, chopped herbs and other vegetables (if using) and saute gently for a few minutes until softened. Add the chicken pieces and cook for a few minutes until they start to lose their "frozen" look [the great thing about using vegetarian protein is you can use it straight from the freezer!]. Add the dairy-free spread (or butter) and let it melt into the mixture. Add the flour and stir to coat everything well, try not to have any lumps if possible. Crumble the stock cube and add to the mixture. Then pour in your soy milk and white wine and stir everything really well. Add mustard, mayonnaise and vinegar, season with salt and pepper. Stir everything in and allow it to thicken and come to the boil. Add more soy milk if it's too thick. Reduce heat to a simmer and leave to cook for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables and chicken are soft and cooked through and the sauce is thick enough for your liking.
Take the pastry out of the oven and allow to cool slightly. Carefully pour the filling into the pastry case. Either top with a lid of pastry (if you have enough) or leave it as an open pie (both ways are delicious).
Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden and the filling is browned and bubbling.
Swede mash: peel and chop swede and potato. Boil until softened. Drain and mash with dairy-free spread, salt and pepper, and add soy milk to taste.
Greens: either microwave in their packet, or saute them quickly in a non-stick pan with cooking spray.
Serve and enjoy!