The return of porridge

September 16, 2015 § 4 Comments

I have always been a big lover of porridge. Something about its creamy, dense texture and almost neutral taste made me fall in love easily with this type of food. Actually, back in the day when I would spend summer holidays in the countryside my grandma would make me something similar, but based on a coarse corn meal. I remember waking up to the smell of breakfast cooking on the stove and I could not think of a better start to my fun-filled summer days.

I also associate porridge with London. First, I would eat it in the canteen of Goodenough College where I spent a good part of my master’s. I remember the steamy hot porridge coming out of a big pot and drizzled with honey or adorned with raspberry pure. After my student days were long over I would buy porridge from Eat or other cafes in the morning. That pot of porridge was the perfect accompaniament to what were very stressful mornings. At some point I realized I can really make porridge at home! I quickly perfected ‘the recipe’ and would often add grated apples, cinnamon, vanilla or hemp seeds. I spent many a mornings pouring over my perfect, albeit a little conservative breakfast.

porridge 3

Then came Geneva. Obviously porridge is no longer an option when you’re travelling like crazy and so porridge was forgotten. Switzerland is also partial to Bircher muesli (of which I need to give a full rendition) and you will not see anyone here eating porridge. In fact, my feeling is porridge is very much a British and partially, a Nordic thing. I will never forget the beautiful porridge that was served to us together with maple syrup or brown sugar in Iceland and Norway.

But we’re in Switzerland these days and with the coming of fall, I have felt the need for a warmer, more substantial breakfast. Emphasis on warm. I don’t imagine eating a cold, green smoothie when outside it’s pouring and the skies are grey. A bowl of porridge gives quiet mornings their comfort and cold evenings, a touch of gentleness and settling down.

The why

Still not convinced? Here are some facts and figures about porridge and oats in general:

  • Great source of vitamins B, E and folate
  • Every 1/4 cup of steel cut oats provides 4g of protein
  • Great source of fiber which slows down digestion which, in turn, will keep you sated for hours
  • It’s cheap. And yes, this matters
  • Although it does take longer to cook, it can feed an entire family. Make one big pot of porridge and that can be your breakfast for a whole week
  • It is infinitely versatile – make it with with water or milk or both, add fresh or dried fruit, any spices you want, or chia  and hemp seeds or any nut butter. Or make it savoury by adding a bit of pecorino and pepper
  • It’s portable. You can make porridge ahead, put it in individual containers and store in the fridge, then grab & go in the morning. It also keeps very well

The how

I like my porridge creamy, so I use half water, half milk and then a splash more milk when I reheat it in the morning. I like to cook it a long time at low temperature on the hob. This is a very restful ritual for me.

Below is the version with Greek yogurt, which lended it even more protein and made it a tad tangier. There was a grated apple in there too.

porridge 1

And a seasonal porridge bowl, with grapes and pumpkin seeds. Loved this, as it had the right balance between sweet and earthy flavours.

porridge 2

Will you try porridge and let me know what you think?

How list-making and organizing improve quality of life

September 15, 2015 § 4 Comments

I love lists and list-making. Because I’m thinking 5 thoughts at the same time, this means I need to write things down, otherwise I either forget what I was thinking or I tend to get overwhelmed.

Apart from daily to-do lists, I also write:

  •  Shopping lists – sufficet to say Elvin doesn’t go shopping without a shopping list :). This comes very handy!
  • Weekly menus – this is work in progress, but it does make my life easier
  • Scheduling my work out sessions – this is a new addition, and very much work in progress
  • Wardrobe planning – that’s right, I think about what I will wear a long time in advance. This way, if I need to organize a last minute trip I already have combinations of clothes and jewelry created and all I need to do is pick out those pre-defined items from my wardrobe. I can’t even begin to tell you how helpful this is!
  • Special occasion menus – if I know we will be entertaining guests, I think in advance about what I would like to cook. Naturally, I have a million ideas so thinking things through helps me make a selection
  • Lists for gifts – yes, you read that correctly, I think in advance about what a certain friend or family member might need or jot it down immediately if I hear them mentioning something. Because I hate shopping at the last minute, I try to do it in advance.

So, why is list-making helpful?

  1. Helps alleviate stress – what is down on paper is no longer messing with your mind. You also make sure you address any critical items and don’t miss any important appointments etc.
  2. Saves tons of time – we spend a minimal amount of time around supermarket aisles because we know exactly what we need to buy. In a similar vein, I have reduced the time I need to pack my suitcase to a minimum because I already know what I want to wear
  3. Predictability – if you know you have x, y, z items on your to-do list this helps compartmentalize your day
  4. Streamlining and simplifying – knowing the details of what you need to do eliminates the guesswork and the associated stress
  5. It creates space for fun – list-making and organizing is not a dry and boring activity. You can actually plan for fun – what special dish will you cook? When will you book a massage? What cute present will you buy for your mum?

How do I organize my lists?

Although I’m very much a pen and paper girl, a lot of my planning goes into my outlook calendar – simply because that is the calendar I use most during the day. I tag appointments or to do lists there and the added advantage is that I also get reminders throughout the day.

When I have random ideas about blog posts I want to write, dishes I want to cook etc. I just jot them down in a blank email and save them as drafts. This way, I can easily access them and make any edits at a later point.

What is your favourite way of organizing your thoughts, lists and to-dos?

Because I can!

September 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

I mentioned in my last post that some things have been really frustrating lately. After playing tennis with my own mind for a while, I have decided that:

# I am over it. I’ve learned the lesson and am ready to move past. No reason to dwell on this anymore or frown about it.

# I will not allow this to hold me back. There is literally nothing that can stand in my way. I’ll go under the wave, over the wave, or sideways if I have to but I will overcome it. Also… what wave?! 🙂

# The nice girl has left the room.

 

When things don’t go as planned and how to stay on track

September 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

As I’ve mentioned before, my job and professional life tends to be quite unpredictable and intense at times. That translates into craving more structure and a ‘red thread’ in my personal life. I’ve recently started ‘partitioning’ my week-ends to make sure I include all the to-dos but also the things I love and feel passionate about. Needless to say, this covers nutrition and sports. On Sunday I had drafted a plan which looked really great – don’t all plans look that way?

Monday was great. I stuck to the planned breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. I went to a great yoga class and in the evening made an amazing lentil pancetta soup (recipe to follow). But on Tuesday things started going south. I had lots of client commitments, some draining meetings and some frustrating news. I had been in the office since 7.30am and by the time I left I had already been working for 12 hours. Needless to say by the time I arrived home I was too beat to go for a run, hungry and cranky and most of all… exhausted. I could see the pressure rising in me as I collapsed in bed. I fell asleep around 21.30 (this rarely EVER happens) and set my alarm for 6am with the intention of going for a run and getting in a healthy, filling breakfast.

Except the run didn’t happen and neither did the breakfast.

I slept through the 4 (four!) alarms I had set. I woke up feeling like I could sleep at least 3 more hours. I didn’t eat breakfast at home because I didn’t have time. I didn’t pack lunch. Instead, I stormed out of the door feeling the frustration of yesterday surfacing again. A string of bad choices, I thought.

But as I was running to the tram station, I stopped. I paced myself. I decided to stop beating myself up and instead forgive mself. I promised I will not allow one day to ruin everything. And I promised to prioritise my own wellbeing over anything else. This is new to me but I’m getting better at it. So today my to-do list looks like this:

    • Go to bed early
    • Eat well
    • Move thy body in a way that feels good
    • Smile! 🙂

bridge

The whys and hows of meal prepping

September 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

I think I’m getting into a good groove with food. Here are 2 essential elements to nutritious eating:
(a) making sure you have the right ingredients on hand (how many times did you find yourself in the middle of a recipe development and realized you were out of a key ingredient without which your dish will turn out… meh?)
(b) prepping food ahead of time. There is nothing worse than coming back home from work ravenous and diving straight into a bag of chips or leaving home in the morning on an empty stomach and resorting to croissants on the way to the office.

So I went back to good old meal planning. I’m not the sort of person who cooks meals that will last our little family 2-3 weeks, that is simply too extreme. But having my fridge well stocked for a few days, knowing food making is out of the way does give me a chance to focus on other important slices of life.

So here are 2 late discoveries:
§ You can build a delicious meal around a salad – you do need good ingredients. A nice mozzarella and good quality olives will make all the difference. And so will getting the dressing just right.
This salad had all sorts of green leaves, red pepper, onion, mozzarella and olives, with a dressing of olive oil from Provence and (a tad too much) balsamico.

§ Filling and delicious lunch. This can be made in advance and is highly portable. Essentially I used a can of beans (cannelinni work best), mixed it with a nice can of tuna, a lot of mustard, some Greek yogurt and a diced yellow pepper mixed in. I served this with pepper sticks and it was lovely.

Some variations: mix the tuna with hummus and a sliced boiled egg and add dill or green onions for good measure.

tuna pastye

As for meal prepping, last night I had a Skype date with my friends. As we were chatting away I managed to make the following: pan-seared steak, roasted sweet potatoes, baked salmon and veggies and my breakfast for this morning. This food should last us for a few days and it is ohhh, so delicious! I also did the dishes. 🙂 It was fun to catch up with my girls, but I also felt productive and accomplished at the end. 🙂

To be repeated soon.

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