Archive for Writings

Happy New Year!

I wish you all a very happy 2016, and I hope you had nice holidays!

Happy 2015

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2015!

Camping food

I’ve thought about writing about camping food before, because it is completely different than normal, everyday cooking, but doing a post about such a summery thing in the middle of winter seemed a bit weird to me, and after that I forgot about it. Until last week, when I saw an episode of “De Makkelijke Maaltijd” (the easy meal) on 24Kitchen (a Dutch food tv channel) about camping cooking. They claimed that the dishes they made would be perfect as camping food, which annoyed me massively, because they obviously weren’t. There were problems with hygiene and food safety, utensils and pantry ingredients, prep work and the amount/time of cooking. This inspired my to do a post on camping food after all.

A few things to take into account with camping cooking and camping food:
– Hygiene and food safety: usually you don’t have the possibility to refrigerate anything, so you need to buy stuff that doesn’t spoil during the time between buying it and cooking it. For example, seafood is out of the question, unless you can buy it very fresh and prepare immediately (i.e. when you are at the seaside and there is a seafood stall nearby). Also, you don’t have running water/hot water near your tent, which makes handling raw meat and poultry quite tricky. That is why I only buy meat and poultry that I can dump straight into the pan without having to cut it or anything. This way I don’t have to manoeuvre myself to a toilet building with chicken on my hands without touching anything while taking soap and a towel with me (try to open a tap and put soap on your hands without contaminating them…. its impossible). And I don’t need to worry about getting food poisoning the next time I use the cutting board either (usually the hot water at campings isn’t very hot, which makes it quite impossible to clean your cutting board well enough).
– Utensils and pantry ingredients: usually you don’t have lots of space to take lots of utensils and pantry ingredients with you. 24Kitchen assumed you would have a grater and a garlic press with you, which is quite absurd, as using garlic and ginger is as well. We take plates, mugs (that double as bowls), knifes/forks/spoons, a small cutting board and a small cutting knife, a can opener, a bottle opener, a set of nested cooking pans, a frying pan and a wok. Furthermore salt, pepper, paprika, curry powder, garlic powder, dried Provençal herbs (all in small canisters) and a few stock cubes.
– Prep work/cooking time: after a long day of fun (or laziness) you don’t want to spend lots of time on cooking. Either because you are tired and hungry, or because you are lazy (being lazy is an important part of vacation!). So the things you make need to be easy and fast. Also, you don’t have a nice countertop to work on, you either have a wobbly table, or you need to work on your lap or the ground. So the less prep, the better. The less cooking, the better as well, because you only have 1 or 2 burners and usually the gas cans empty quite fast. So use any shortcut you can think of, at home you can make everything from scratch again, but now it is vacation.

A few ideas:
– eating out
– bought rotisserie chicken and salads (also perfect for picnics)
– omelettes (egg, bacon, mushrooms, onion, paprika, spices/herbs) and bread
– cheeses/sliced cold meats/canned fish/rillettes, mayonnaise, cucumber, tomato and bread
– pasta with crème fraîche (or equivalent), a can of tuna or sardines, a can of vegetable macedoine
– fried potatoes (precooked), a hamburger (or other kind of meat) and bought salads
– rice with bacon, onions, mushrooms and curry powder

A final note: what fun is holiday if you don’t eat like the locals? Take a look on markets, in deli’s or the supermarket and be amazed. There are so many delicious things available!

Some perspective on chemicals and additives

Nowadays, some people are extremely fearful about chemicals, additives and “unnatural” things. We’re advised to eat only things with a maximum of 5 ingredients, and to avoid things that have ingredients that you cannot pronounce on the ingredients list. Although I agree that it is healthiest to eat mainly unprocessed food, I think it is not right to fear things just because they have names that you cannot understand or pronounce. Actually, natural products also consists of molecules with names that can be extremely difficult to pronounce, and most of them even contain a few E-numbers. Take a look at the ingredients of a passion fruit, egg, banana and blueberries. The take home message: it is healthy and sustainable to be conscious about what you eat, but don’t determine healthfulness by how complicated it’s name is.

Happy New Year

I wish you all a very happy and culinary 2014!

Measuring cups

If you’re Dutch and still looking for a set of measuring cups to be able to make recipes given in cup measurements without converting them first: they are temporarily available at the Albert Heijn. I already saw them in the Allerhande of this month, but they were called “measuring scoops” so I wasn’t sure if they would be real measuring cups. Officially they are available from 16 till 29 of September, but they were only available since today at my local Albert Heijn, together with some other baking utensils, tins and accessories.

US versus UK names

A handy reference, certainly because I tend to mix them up because I’m not a UK/US native speaker and read a lot from both countries. To make it more difficult, Australians also have different names for a lot of these ingredients…

UK                             US
Aubergine                    Eggplant
Bicarbonate of soda     Baking soda
Broad beans                Fava beans
Celeriac                      Celery root
Chickpeas                   Garbanzo beans
Chicory                      Endive
Coriander                   Cilantro
Cornflour                    Cornstarch
Courgette                   Zucchini
Double cream              Whipping cream
French/green beans     String beans
Groundnut oil              Peanut oil
Haricot beans             Navy beans
Icing sugar                 Confectioners’ sugar
Pepper (capsicum)       Bell pepper/paprika
Polenta                      Cornmeal
Rapeseed oil               Canola oil
Rocket                      Arugula
Soya                        Soy
Spring onion              Scallion
Swede                      Rutabaga
Treacle                     Molasses

Cooking on a Budget

Last week I saw the programme “Great British Budget Menu” on the BBC. Normally, in the Great British Menu Great Britains top chefs compete for the chance to cook a four-course banquet for a high-profile figure, and often these meals are quite expensive because of the ingredients (both lots of different ingredients and pricy ingredients make it expensive), but also the work that goes in them. In this budget special focussed on food poverty, three of Britain’s leading chefs go and live with three households who are struggling to feed themselves properly and eat nutritiously limited by their very small budget. The chefs have to eat just like the families do and need to call on every ounce of their professional skills when challenged to shop and cook on their households’ budgets. The chefs’ Budget Banquet challenge is to cook cheap nutritious meals on next to nothing for the Great British Menu judges. Invited to taste the chefs’ food and discuss the issues are politicians, high street supermarket representatives, well-known faces and movers and shakers from the charity world. Together with other well-known British chefs they make a list of basic products and a range of recipes that are cheap to make.

This link will bring you to the list with ‘basic’ products, cheap recipes and tips to eat nutritiously.These tips and recipes might be useful for you, even if you’re not on a tight budget.

Another great tip is combining buying in bulk with good planning. For example, buying 5 kg of potato or a kg of chicken breasts is a lot cheaper (looking at the kg price) than buying 1 kg or a single breast, but because the total prize is higher you need to plan this to fit in your budget. And of course you need to make sure that you eat it before it spoils, and within the time range of your budget. It might be quite some work to plan everything, but it will help a lot with eating well on a tight budget.

Meal planning: masterlist

I wrote before about meal planning on this blog, but nowadays it is even more important because my husband and I are both quite a bit more busy. Often, in the weekends we are completely uninspired about what to eat, so we end up not planning anything and eating junk all week. Luckily I stumbled upon a pin on pinterest that linked to someones meal planning system. I only plan our evening meals, but she also planned the breakfasts, lunches and snacks, which is indeed very useful when you’re not like us (we eat the same breakfasts, lunch and snack every day, so not much planning involved). But the brilliant thing she suggested was making a masterlist of your meals. I already had an overview of what we ate the last 2 years, because I kept the planning, but this is not something you can easily use to decide what to eat the next week. So I took the old planning and wrote down every dish we like and eat regular. Then I divided them into categories (rice, pasta, potatoes, couscous/grains, protein, hot vegetables, cold vegetables/salads, bread, soup and other), and divided each category in dishes that are complete and dishes that need sides (or that are sides). I also added a page for recipe ideas and things that I want to try out. Then I printed the whole thing. So now we can just check the list when we feel uninspired, and usually there are enough things on there that we fancy. This method works great to remember dishes that you like, but don’t cook that often. For us it is really an improvement of our meal planning strategy, we eat healthier and more varied, and it also helps to keep the budget in check.

Pre- and post-workout meals

Did you know that you can maximize the results of your workouts with food? You may think that eating the right foods is only important when you are a big and bulky bodybuilder or an elite sporter, but actually it is beneficial for everyone to think about what you eat before and after exercising, because it is an easy way to get more out of your workouts.

There are several factors important when considering food and exercise. What your body will need pre- and post-workout depends on what kind of exercise you will be doing and for how long.
Hydration is very important in all sports, without enough fluids you will perform considerably less. Water is perfectly fine, because you don’t need extra sugars and the electrolytes you lose can be replenished by the food you eat. Only when you exercise very intensive, for a long time, or on a very hot day, a sports drink can be beneficial to prevent the loss of too much electrolytes. So make sure that you are hydrated before you start with exercising, keep drinking small sips of water during exercising (large glugs can give gastrointestinal trouble) and make sure you keep drinking enough after exercise.
Pre-workout food is meant to make stock up on the important nutrients for exercising. When you’re doing mainly cardio, you need carbs to have enough power/energy to complete an intense workout. Carbohydrates are metabolized quickly into glucose, which is the fuel for your muscles. This also means that you cannot eat them too long in advance, the optimal window is 30-60 minutes before exercise. For a steady energy supply eat some protein and fiber as well, this also prevents a sugar dip. Whole foods like fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains are best, because they are nutritionally rich and release energy more slowly than processed/sugary foods.
When you’re mainly doing strength training, you need carbs to have enough power/energy to complete an intense workout but you also need enough protein to for tissue repair/to build up muscles. Because protein takes longer to digest, eat 1-2 hours before workout. Lean proteins like eggs, skimmed milk products and chicken are best.
Make sure you eat not too much, not too fat, and not just before exercising: your body will be busy with metabolizing, which will make you feel tired and will give you gastrointestinal troubles during workout. For the same reasons, don’t eat during exercise. Only during something like a triathlon you will need extra fuel during exercising, special products for such purposes exist.
Post-workout meals are important to supply the body with protein (within 2 hours) for muscle repair and to replenish carbs and electrolytes (within 30-60 minutes) that were used/lost during exercise. The good choices are the same as the pre-workout meals.

I always do a combination of cardio and strenght training when I exercise, so I eat carbs as well as proteins. Because I usually exercise in the evening, just before my evening meal, I really need to make sure that I eat enough before workout. When I don’t, I feel sluggish and tired and cannot do as much as I like. But, when I eat too late or too much, I will feel sluggish too, so I need to eat about 1-1.5 hours before exercise. Try to keep in the advised time ranges, but make sure you listen to your body too, as not everyone works the same. My evening meal is my post-workout meal, that I prepare in advance to make sure that I can eat it when I get home from workout. I make sure that it contains enough protein (a bit more than I usually eat), lots of vegetables, not too much carbs and only a little fat (you do need some fat!); it tends to be a smaller meal than my normal evening meal because I already ate the extra afternoon snack.

When you’re doing mixed exercise, the pre-workout (small) meals and post-workout snacks can actually be quite similar. Here are some ideas:
– Omelette with spinach (or other veggies) and whole grain toast
– Smoothie (with Greek yoghurt, fruits and flaxseeds)
– Greek yoghurt with fruit and a little honey (optional: home-made granola)
– Oatmeal or quinoa made with (coconut) milk, served with (dried) fruit and a little honey
– Whole grain bread/pita/tortilla with vegetables and houmous
– Whole grain toast with nut butter (almond, peanut, etc, choose a natural variant with no additions) and fruit (apple, pear, banana)
– Whole grain toast with fish (canned tuna, canned salmon) and tomato or grilled paprika
– Sandwich with slices of chicken (or ham or turkey) and tomato (optional: cheese)
– Cooked eggs with cajun seasoning (or another spice mix you like)
– Homemade quesadillas
– Baba ganoush with grissini
– Tortilla with ham, (cream) cheese and garden cress/alfafa sprouts
– Tortilla with raw ham, mozzarella and (dried) tomato
– Tortilla with smoked chicken, cream cheese and rocket
– Tortilla with guacamole, tomato, lettuce and smoked meat/pastrami
– Tomatoes or dates filled with goats cheese
– Small portion of leftovers like pasta or rice salad