Complicated Eating

1 Jul

In one month and ten days I am going to be 26 years old. It will be ten years since I first developed a real, quantifiable eating disorder. Right now it is a year and three months since the last time I acted on disordered thoughts. This post isn’t about recipes, food pictures, or restaurant reviews, but it is important to me. It is also sappy and more than a little embarrassing. For everyone.

By some bizarre accident, and completely naturally, I was the fattest baby known to mankind. Look at this roly poly one-year-old:

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My parents didn’t overfeed me, I wasn’t one of those children who refuse to eat anything other than doughnuts and sugar water. I was just a fat little bug. Doctors told my mother that she should worry, and she did. As a child I ate a lot of diet foods – Go-Ahead low-fat snack biscuits, Snackwell 50-calorie devil’s food cake bars, various types of ‘healthy’ crisps, all carefully measured out into appropriate serving sizes. I firmly believe that diet foods of all kinds are helpful to no one. They are packed full of chemicals and carcinogens; they taste terrible; they never, never fill you up. What I learned from these snacks was that I was different from the other kids, who could eat those packaged peanut butter crackers or the lunch trays full of salami and cheese or even bags of Cheetos. I learned that although I was always hungry, I never deserved more. There were treats in my childhood, too, and I remember them with almost pitiful glee. Eating pizza slices outside Price Club. Going to McDonald’s for breakfast with my dad when my parents split up. Being allowed a second cheese string at my grandmother’s house (amazing!). The long and complicated process of choosing my daily ice cream in Jersey, only ever allowed when we were on holiday. I remember also the utter, absolute, debilitating fear of still being hungry.

By the time I was seventeen years old I had a full-blown eating disorder. I lost sixty pounds in a little over two months, and spent the next forever trying desperately to lose more. I was cold all the time. I wrote the most awful poems and short stories about girls growing so thin that they turned into empty houses, or girls eating the flesh from their own skeletons. I passed out over and over and drank diet Coke endlessly and lied to everyone and cried about eating two small chunks of pineapple from the fridge and called myself grotesque names in my notebooks. On my best, most clear-headed days, I ate half a bowl of Bran Flakes with skimmed soy milk, and three egg whites, and one slice of brown bread, and nothing else. And I was so, so sad.

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I’d like to make it clear that I did not lose enough weight to make me a twig double zero. I got to a certain point, the weight loss stopped. No matter what I did I couldn’t lose any more. It took me two years to accept that. Eventually I came to this conclusion: my body never wanted to be skinny. My body is one that loves food with all its heart. It loves exercise, too, and I was happiest when I was running, but not for hours on nothing but egg whites and self-loathing.

What does all of this mean for me now? It means that I am a whole hell of a lot bigger than I was when I was sick, and that it took ten years, but I don’t abhor my body. It means that I go to food extremes way too easily, and that I had a mini relapse last January and will probably have another one someday soon enough. It also means that I – for the most part – like to eat good-quality things that are exactly what I want at any given mealtime. Vegetarianism plays a big part in this, for me. By not eating animals, which I love, all of my meals matter a little bit more. Everything makes more sense to me when it’s explained in terms of bears, so I like to think about it like this: bears, the best animals of them all, are ginormous. They can weigh up to 1500 pounds, if not more. Why the fuck would they care about that? They care about providing their families with the food that nourishes them. Bears know where it’s at.

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I try to have patience with sixteen-year-old Becca, but it’s difficult. I want to say look at all this freaking amazing produce grown to delight and sustain you! Stop being an angsty brat and pick up a plate of sushi. If someone had said that to me at the time, though, I would have punched them in the face. All I can do now is love what I eat and how I prepare it, and realise that each and every second I spend cooking is spent because I want to keep the big machine of my body cheerfully ticking along.

Zorbing Adventure (with Granola Bars)

18 Jun

Yesterday three of my friends and I went on a zorbing excursion at the Outdoor Discovery Adventure Company in Corkagh Park. Zorbing, if you don’t know, is a bizarre leisure activity where you are stuffed into a giant plastic ball, and either strapped in and rolled down a hill, or allowed to wander freely around a field like a gigantic hamster. The field variety looks like this:

The others also tried aqua-sphering, which is like zorbing except that you are on the water. To illustrate, iMovie and I made this incredibly obnoxious video:

 

Obnoxious, right? To keep the blood sugars up for this excursion I made no-bake granola bars.

No-bake Granola Bars

– 2 cups oats

– 1/2 cup raisins

– 1/2 cup dried cranberries

– 1/2 cup walnuts and pecans

– 1/4 cup soy butter, or butter substitute (I hate using real butter)

– 4 tbsp agave syrup or maple syrup

– 2 tbsp honey (I used Sarah’s Honey, lemon flavour!)

– 1 tsp vanilla extract

– 1/4 cup peanut butter

– other ingredients you might consider using: dried blueberries, dried apricots, dried figs, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, chopped almonds, cashew butter, wheatgerm, dessicated coconut, or just about any high-energy, dried or pureed natural product you can imagine.

1. Toast your oatmeal in a hot, dry pan for 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove the oats and toast the nuts for another minute or two.

2. Mix all dry ingredients in a big bowl.

3. Melt the butter, honey, syrup and vanilla together in a saucepan. Remove from heat and mix in the peanut butter. (It will begin to look extremely unpleasant at this point.) Add to the dry ingredients and thoroughly mix.

4. Spread the mixture into a square cake tin lined with baking parchment. Place another layer of parchment on top, and press down with all your might. The goal is to make the granola compact, firm, and even, so it won’t fall apart later. Chill in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. Remove from the cake tin and carefully slice into equal bars. Wrap individually in aluminum or baking parchment and enjoy on the go!

Lunch Date

16 Jun

The non-stop rain has been an unpleasant addition to the summer. I defied the weather and wore flip-flops yesterday. It was a mistake.

But my sister and I went to Wagamama’s for a lunch date, where we ate Japanese pickles. That makes up for rain.

And rice noodles and tofu in a coconut-milk and lime broth. I am going to make this very, very soon.

I was happy.

On my way home I saw a living statue covered with pigeons (a common sight, my sister says, but it made me joyful). Are the pigeons part of the look? Does he bring them to work with him from his trained pigeon menagerie? So many unanswered questions.

Soon to come:

– actual recipes!

– actual content!

– tales of my zorbing adventure tomorrow afternoon!

Easter-ish Cookies

11 Jun

Side note before cooking talk begins: yesterday I saw that someone reached my blog by Googling “sarcophagus plant tattoo”. Do those words even go together? Apparently I said all three of them in my Recovery Tea post, but certainly not in sequence. If you are reading this, kind Googler, I’m sorry that Hungry Veggie wasn’t able to help you in your quest. Whatever you were looking for, you couldn’t possibly have found it here.

Moving on. Last night I knew that I needed to eat cookies and watch Hostel Part III. Only one of these things was a good idea. Hint: it was the cookies!

These cookies are based on Greek koulourakia, shaped cookies made at Easter. Based on, because they don’t have the typical sesame seeds, and because I used brown sugar, orange rind, a lot of cinnamon, and an icing-sugar wash before baking. Perfect for dunking in tea, coffee or a glass of milk, these cookies are dense and not overly-sweet. The best part is the designs you can make.

Not-Quite-Easter Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen.

– 2.5 cups cream flour

– 1/4 tsp salt

– 1 tsp baking powder

– 1/2 tsp baking soda

– 1 tbsp cinnamon

– 3 egg yolks

– 1/4 cup butter, or soy butter, or whatever butter-substitute you like. I used Benecol.

– 1 cup brown sugar

– rind of 1 orange, finely grated

– 1 tsp vanilla extract

– 1 tbsp icing sugar

– 1 tbsp milk

1. Preheat the oven to 175°C. Mix flour, salt, baking powder and soda, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat two of the egg whites together with the butter and the sugar until smooth. Add the orange rind and vanilla. Gradually fold in the flour mixture until you have a pretty yellow dough.

2. Gather up a rounded tablespoon of dough, and on a floured surface roll out with your hands into a rope the thickness of a pencil.

3.  Get twisting! I shaped my cookies into little twisty ropes like so:

And roly-poly Danish pastry shapes:

. . . As well as the S-shapes you can see in the first picture, which I for some reason did not photograph separately. Make these by rolling the two ends of your rope in two opposite directions. Simple!

4. Place the cookies about 2 inches apart on an oven tray lined with baking parchment. Mix the third egg yolk together with the milk and icing sugar, and brush over the cookies.

5. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until hard and golden. Let the cookies rest on a cooling rack for ten minutes, and then enjoy with your favourite hot beverage. They will last for a week or two in a sealed container, if you can go that long without eating them all.

Tasty Tostadas

10 Jun

After a break for extreme laziness I am returning with a recipe for tostadas made entirely from scratch. Tostadas are a traditional Mexican dish, involving a fried tortilla which is then most often topped with Mexican-y type things like beans, salsa, cheese, and some form of shredded meat. You could very easily make your own tostadas in half the time with store-bought corn tortillas, tinned refried beans, lettuce and cheese, but why do it the easy way when you can put in twice the time and effort? Why indeed!

For this recipe you will need masa harina, fine-ground maize flour used to make tortillas and tamales. I purchased two kilos of Maseca-brand masa from MexGrocer.co.uk a while ago, and paid an astronomical shipping price. A week later I discovered that you can buy it in Fallon & Byrnes in town for about five euro. It was a sad time for me. The brand I use now is from the English company Cool Chile Co, and looks like this:

There is also the new (to me) Irish online Mexican shop, MyMexicanshop.ie, where you can buy the popular Maseca masa, as well as horchata, chiles, Mexican candy, tortilla presses, and my favourite Mic’s Chilli, among other treats. I haven’t checked out their shipping rates, but it’s bound to be cheaper than ordering from the UK or the States. Their flour selection is here.

Tasty Veggie Tostadas

– 2 cups masa harina

– 1.5 cups vegetable stock, home-made or from a jelly-based stock cube such as the one made by Knorr

– 2 sweet ramiro or red bell peppers

– 1 onion

– 1 tsp cumin

– 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

– 1/2 tsp ground coriander

– 2 tins kidney beans

– 1 lime

– 2 tomatoes

– fresh coriander

– shredded mozzarella

1. Mix the masa and the stock together in a large bowl, until it forms a thick, stiff dough. Set it aside.

2. Sauté the onion and peppers together with a splash of oil. Add the cumin, paprika and dried coriander, turn the heat down to low, and let them gently cook away.

3. Drain and rinse the kidney beans, and add to a saucepan with 3 tbsp of olive oil and the juice of half a lime. Mash lightly with a fork and leave to cook. If it looks like the beans are getting too dry, add another splash of oil or a squeeze of lime.

4. Take a plum-sized lump of the masa dough and roll it into a ball.  Now, flatten the ball, using the palms of your hands, into a rough circle shape – if you want your dish to be more aesthetically pleasing, you can roll the dough out on a lightly-floured surface, but we were going for the rustic look.

5. Fry this ungainly tortilla in 2 tbsp of rapeseed oil for around 2 minutes on each side. As you can see, ours fell apart a bit. This just adds to the homey delight! Leave to drain on a piece of paper towel or brown paper.

6. Repeat with all of the masa dough, until you have around eight fried tortillas. Top each with the beans, onion and pepper, chopped tomatoes, grated mozzarella, some torn coriander leaves, and a squeeze of lime.

Enjoy!

Rainbow Potato Salad.

29 May

Summer has come! And there is nothing more summery than rainbows. Rainbows are like the epitome of summer. Why have a normal potato salad, when you could have one that is a rainbow?

Rainbow might be a strong word, but it sure is colourful.

Rainbow Potato Salad

(with fennel, Tomberries, and yellow courgette fritters)

These numbers serve three with leftovers for lunch the next day.

– 10 small purple salad potatoes

– 1 French onion

– 1 fennel root

– 1 punnet of Tomberries, or orange cherry tomatoes

– 15-20 large green pitted olives, stuffed or unstuffed to your preference

– 6 artichoke hearts

– a few sprigs fresh rosemary and thyme

– 1 yellow courgette

– 1/4 cup flour

– 4 tbsp milk

– 2-4 tbsp crumbled feta

Chop the potatoes roughly into quarters.

And boil for 15-20 minutes, until tender.

Meanwhile, sauté the onion and fennel together in a splash of olive oil until soft.

Place the Tomberries into a salad bowl with your olives and artichoke hearts, chopped.

Drain the potatoes, and mix with a good glug of olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste, and chopped rosemary and thyme. Add to the salad bowl.

Cut the courgette in half and, using a vegetable peeler, cut it into long, thin strips.

Make a thick batter from the flour and milk (I used gluten-free wholemeal flour and soy milk) and dredge the courgette slices through.

Fry the courgette fritters in a small amount of olive or rapeseed oil.

And let them drain on a piece of paper towel.

I was going to make a complicated dressing for this potato salad, but just in time I realised that it really doesn’t need one. The purple potatoes are sweet, offset perfectly by the salty olives and tangy artichoke hearts. The fennel and onion are slightly smokey, the courgettes crispy and battery. This salad needs nothing else. Serve topped with the fritters and some crumbled feta (or seasoned and sauteed tofu to make it vegan), and eat somewhere close to fresh air and sunshine!

Note: this salad would work just as well (and the taste differences would be fairly minimal) with normal variations of all the vegetables. New potatoes, cherry tomatoes, courgette-coloured courgette. But where’s the fun in that?

Winner! And Udon Vegetable Broth

26 May

After great deliberation – and a visit to Random.org – I have randomly selected the winner of two Mic’s Chilli hot sauces! Congratulations Ína Love, your mouth will soon be filled with the sizzling fire of a thousand habanero peppers! Let me know which two of the four Inferno Sauces you desire most.

Yesterday was beautiful, hot and sunny, and so I decided to honour the weather by making soup. Sure, it wasn’t the world’s brightest idea, but it was totally amazing. And sure, afterwards I might have been sweating, but it was the sweat of the righteous.

This broth would be pleasant with any kind of noodles, but it is perfect with fresh udon from the Asian market. Plus I bought all the vegetables, tofu, two packets of noodles and some bizarre peanut pastries for only ten euro. I was impressed too.

Udon Vegetable Broth

– vegetable stock; preferably homemade, but I like the jelly-tastic Knorr Stock Pots for quickness, and about 2 litres served 3 people

– fresh ginger

– 1 tbsp soy sauce

– 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

– black pepper

– 1 package silken tofu

– a bundle of spring onions

– lime

– fresh udon, one packet per person

 

1. This may be the simplest recipe I have shared yet. Heat your stock to a simmer; add a 1-inch knob of ginger, grated, and both the soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. Squeeze in the juice of about a quarter of a lime. Slice the tofu into 1-inch cubes and add to the broth. Season with black pepper to taste – the more the better!

2. Cook your udon according to the package instructions. Mine needed to be boiled for one minute, and because this meal was also serving my gluten-free mother, I cooked the noodles separately and added them to my and my sister’s bowls after. Just before serving, top with chopped spring onions.

3. That’s it! You could add seaweed, if you wanted, or pok choi, or any other kind of Asian green.

Yum. Perfect for a summer day!