Christmas in July and a birthday. Is this a time to say “no” to dessert or a little extra food on your plate? I say, hell no!
If we spend our whole lives depriving ourselves of tasty goodness, or the odd indulgence, then what’s the point?
To completely deprive yourself is unsustainable. I reckon that is my key weight loss tip. It’s as simple as that.
If it’s your birthday or if you go to a wedding, I think you should feel totally guilt-free about eating some of the yummy delights on offer. Enjoy it! Life is about gatherings and celebrations. It’s what makes all the effort we put in at work, at home, in the gym (insert something that is important to you here) worthwhile.
Last weekend was a massive indulgence for me. It was my 29th birthday, and so in preparation for my final year as a 20-something I decided to hold what I like to call a Christmas in July/Birthday Party Soiree. Sounds fancy right? Well, it wasn’t necessarily fancy, but it was a whole lot of yummy fun! Other than great food there was some other exciting birthday news. I set myself a secret goal to be in the 80-kilo range by the time the big 29 arrived. Well, I’m very proud to say, I made it! Yup, I now weight 89.7 kilograms. That looks a whole lot better than 111.7kilos! Woot!
Anyway, I’m not weighing myself this week because I think my weekend of indulgence will have ruined my good work. But, I’m not feeling guilty about that, for all of the reasons above!
Anyway, on to some recipes!!
I know, July is over and Christmas is still 144 days away but these recipes are great for any time of the year. Some of these will be kind to your waistline (like the segments of yummy goodness I am about to tell you about) but others aren’t. The latter are what we call ‘sometimes food’, so when it comes to special occasions that come along only sometimes – I say, go for it!
Roasted beetroot with balsamic glaze
- 3 large (or 5 medium) fresh beetroots.
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- 2 tbs of balsamic vinegar.
- 3 tbs of olive oil.
- 1 clove of garlic, finely grated.
- A few sprigs of fresh rosemary.
Preheat your oven to 180C. Wash the beetroot thoroughly and cut the stalks off. Lay-out a square of aluminium foil for each of your beetroot. Place each beetroot on its foil and sprinkle with a little water, salt and pepper. Wrap the foil around the beetroot and cook it in the oven for 1.5 hours or until beautifully tender (smaller beets may take less time, so keep an eye on them). Remove from the oven and allow to cool until they can easily be handled.
I recommend wearing gloves at this point. Beetroot juice stains like you would not believe!
Place unwrapped beetroot on a plate (not your chopping board because it will stain that too) and using your gloved hands, remove the peel from the beetroot. It should come off really easily. Discard the peel. On the plate, cut the beetroot into wedges and place in a medium-sized baking tray. Add olive oil, garlic, balsamic, rosemary and salt and pepper and, using your hands, toss the beetroot with all the ingredients. Place back in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. This cooking time helps the dressing soak into the beets and caramelises bits of the beetroot giving it a yummy roasted flavour rather than it just tasting boiled.
There you have it. This is the kind of dish that is so diverse because you can serve it with grilled or roasted chicken, a steak, or even the Sunday roast I am about to tell you about. While I can never go past potatoes, carrots and pumpkins, sometimes it’s nice to mix things up!
I did all of the below vegies to accompany a massive seven kilos of turkey!
But, seeing as Christmas is so far away, I am modifying this so you don’t need to wait until Christmas to give it a try! So, here’s a chicken recipe which will leave everyone feeling festive – without the hassel of sourcing, preparing and cooking a whole turkey! This is special occasion stuff, inspired by Jamie Oliver.
Festive chicken with cranberry and herb butter
1 large, preferably free-range, chicken.
125g of butter.
35g of dried cranberries (usually named craisins, you’ll find these in the dried fruit aisle).
A few fresh sprigs of thyme.
2 fresh sprigs of rosemary.
5 fresh sage leaves (or 1 tbs of the dried stuff).
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
The zest of half an orange.
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
Soften your butter before placing it in a small food processor along with the rest of the ingredients. Blitz until smooth. This should be fairly easy, if your butter is soft enough.
Using very clean hands, starting at the back of the bird use your fingers to separate the skin from the meat to create a cavity. Be gentle so as not to break the skin. Work gently up towards the breastbone. Once you have done this, pick up half of your butter and push it into the cavity you’ve created. Use your hands to push the butter through the skin right to the back so it coats the breast meat as evenly as possible. Do the same on the other side then rub any leftover butter all over the outside of the bird.
Chop the zested orange into segments and place inside the chicken.
Cover with foil and roast at 180C for an hour. Remove the foil and place back in the oven. Continue to bake for about 30 minutes or until the bird is cooked. To test, pierce with a knife and ensure the juices run clear. If they are clear then pull the bird out of the oven and rest for about 5 minutes before carving. This will ensure the meat retains the natural juices when carved, keeping it tender and juicy for your eating pleasure.
Now finally, here’s something refreshing to round everything off. This was a little salad I just couldn’t go past because it’s so easy, light and yummy making it a great accompaniment to heavy dishes.
Fennel salad with lemon vinaigrette
2 tbs of olive oil.
- The juice of half a lemon.
- 1 tbs white wine vinegar.
- 1/4 tsp of sugar.
- 1 large fennel bulb, very thinly sliced (use a mandolin, if you have one).
- 2 tbs of flat-leaf parsley.
- 2 tbs finely chopped chives.
Whisk together the olive oil, lemon, vinegar and sugar. Toss it through the fennel. Taste and season with salt and pepper if you like. Garnish with chives and parsley.
This is just a little taste of all the things I made over the weekend. Suffice to say I now vividly remember how much work Christmas lunch really is! As you can see – it was all worth it though what with a few drinks and some crazy Christmas hats – we had a great time. You may even have spotted one of Uforic Food’s new team members, Ruza, on the right 😉
The rest of the weekend was lazy and enjoyable. Here are a few pics from my birthday which included a drive to one of my favourite places ever; Daylesford, Victoria. There was brunch at Frangos and Frangos, some leisure time at Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa and a look around the Mill Market. Later, back in Geelong, I enjoyed dinner with my family at Lord of the Isles. Yum! Thanks to my friends and family for making my birthday weekend so special. I’m the luckiest girl in the world!
Have you done Christmas in July before? Or do you think it’s just a weird concept? Share your festive, or not so festive, opinions in the comments section below!
Recent morsels from Uforic Food
Today started at 4am this morning. Matt headed straight for the kettle and I went for the shower.
Ever since we met, Matt has always made me coffee in the morning. It’s a simple gesture – but I just love it, especially on days like today when we were both running on less that five hours sleep. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had trouble sleeping the day before holidays. Last night was no exception.
Anyway, with the suitcase in the car and the sandwiches made bearing all the Christmas leftovers we pinched from my brother’s house – we were on our way to Adelaide. The city of churches and home to my Nanna and extended family.
I have spent a lot of my life traveling in cars around Australia – I have also driven up and down the middle of this massive country a number of times now – but I have to say there is no drive as boring as the one between Geelong and Adelaide. Overall, it’s pretty bland.
After 8 hours on the road we were relieved to arrive at our hotel – The Rendezvous. We got it cheap with one of those mystery deals and it just so happens I stayed here with my best friend and her now fiancée two years ago. Matt and I had only just met, and so he didn’t join me last time – I knew he was going to love it!!
We have been treated to a corner suite we could never afford without this awesome deal – so we are living it up here for four days. Seeing as this is our first night, and being exhausted after our long drive – we decided to have a nap and enjoy room service for dinner. It was delicious!!
I had the squid with a citrus salad and chips. I do wonder why everything must come with chips. They really aren’t an alley of mine. But, never mind. This meal was lovely!!
In saying all that, I did make some fairly bad decisions on the road today and my stomach isn’t thanking me for it now. I feel bloated and awful and have promised myself to make good decisions tomorrow. I don’t think my body can handle any more heavy food.
As for the rest of our stay, we have enjoyed the views from our room – throwing open all the curtains to enjoy it.
Well I certainly got my Christmas wish this year – and that was for my family to come together and to have a really nice time together.
A lot of work goes into hosting Christmas lunch and it was done in fine style at my brother’s house. His girlfriend, Ash, has a real flair for decorating – the table looked awesome, the turkey, ham and vegies were great, and she made these delicious Christmas trees out of an Oreo and rum mixture. I so have to get that recipe!
I also thought it was a genius idea to ask everyone to bring a meat. We like to have almost every meat on Christmas day, so I cooked a rolled sirloin beef roast with a sourdough breadcrumb crust flavoured with dried porcini mushrooms, parsley, garlic and salt and pepper. I was rapt with how it turned out. Mum came with lamb, and dad, the prawns. It was a great meal and I was sooo full afterwards, although I couldn’t fit anywhere near as much food as I used to, which is actually nice 🙂
Christmas eve also proved to be an awesome day and evening, with a visit from my awesome friends AJ. We met in high school, and have been best friends ever since. We took him down to Anglesea to visit the rest of my family at the shop, Anglesea Fruitz. It was a surprise for my mum and I swear she was so excited to see him that she nearly broke a few of his ribs when she gave him a huge bear hug!
And AJ even came bearing gifts!
Dad and Dave were hard at work – and it was great to be down at the shop and really get into the crazy Christmas atmosphere.
AJ was soon on his way to deliver the rest of his presents, doing a very cool impersonation of Santa 🙂
We spent the night with Matt’s family, watching carols by candlelight and eating party pies and sausage rolls – Matt’s favourite!
The other awesome thing about Christmas is seeing the excitement of kids getting pressies – and our nieces and nephews were having a ball. We really enjoyed spoiling them and we got each of them a Christmas teddy. I was so into getting a stuffed toy every Christmas and Easter, that I thought they’d like them. The girls got white bears, and the boy got brown.
It was really nice to spend Christmas night with Matt’s family too. But after a long day, we were all ready for bed.
It was one of the best Christmases I’ve ever had. How did you spend yours and what made it memorable for you?
Now we head to Adelaide for a few days away. I know food is going to be a challenge because I can’t cook where we are staying, but I will do my best to make good choices. I also have my gym program in my bag and will be hitting the gym a few times while we are away. Seeing my extended family will top off an awesome festive season. Not only that, but I don’t have to go back to work until the second week of January. Woo hoo!!!
See you in the new year with heaps of inspiring and healthy recipes. 2012 promises to be a very awesome year – not only will the blog be growing, and I’ll continue my exciting weight loss journey – but Matt and I will be getting married on November 18! Excited doesn’t even cover it! 🙂
If there was ever a challenging week when it comes to food – this one was it!
Our office has been bombarded by gifts containing the very best chocolate money can buy – for me, Ferrero Rocher and Lindt balls of chocolatey goodness all count in that category.
My finacee and I also celebrated the anniversary of when we met on December 20. And, guess what he got me:
Yum! But, another temptation. I’ve obviously been doing ok so far. As of today I have lost almost 6 kilograms, including 10 centimetres around my waist – 5 off my hips and also bits and pieces from my calves, thighs and arms. My clothes are starting to feel loser, and even my watch and rings are getting looser too. I’m loving it!
Speaking of food – we also went to Geelong’s Empire Grill for dinner to celebrate – and there was no holding back.
I had pork belly with butternut squash puree and mushroom vinaigrette for entrée and Matt had gnocchi with duck and cherry tomatoes. I have to admit I was so hungry, I forgot to take a photo, but it was absolutely delicious!
Next, we had steak – I had Wagyu rump, with house-made chips and a asparagus and avocado salad.
I’m not sure if it’s all the healthy eating I’ve been doing, but I actually only had a few of the chips. Not that they weren’t fabulous – I just seem to have lost my desire for them. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me because chips were definitely my weakness! Not chocolate or lollies or cake, but chips. The steak was perfectly cooked to my liking, which as you can see, is medium to rare. It was succulents and juicy and tasted like steak should.
Matt has rib-eye on the bone with chat potatoes (which I would have preferred on my plate – they were very yummy) and a cafe de paris butter. Every mouthful was heaven and that is something coming from me, who swears by Neil Perry and his Rockpool Bar and Grill.
We pondered dessert – yes we will – actually no, we’ll just get the bill – but at the end of the day, it was our anniversary and there’s nothing quite as romantic as sitting in the corner of a restaurant and sharing dessert. So, we did.
We had the chocolate trilogy (anything with that name would have to be amazing!) – chocolate brownie, white chocolate panacotta, dark chocolate sorbet. The panacotta was by far my favourite – and Matt adored the sorbet. We definitely weren’t fighting over the same thing – which was nice 🙂 And you have to love the sweet, white chocolate message they left for us.
And it was delicious too!
I know what you’re thinking – what about the diet? Well, my answer is, I’m not on a diet. I’m good most of the time, and then on special occasions, like this one, I get to just enjoy myself. I have been very public about my pursuit to lose weight – and sadly this means if you decide to eat out, or God forbid eat a piece of chocolate, then some people chose to make guilt-inducing comments.
But, I’m not going to let that get to me. I said from the outset – if I can’t enjoy myself from time to time and still eat wonderful food that I enjoy – then I’d rather be fat for the rest of my life – and I would be because any eating plan where you can’t eat things you enjoy isn’t sustainable. That’s why people fail.
What did we do after our amazing dinner? We went for a walk down along the foreshore where we went on our first date. It was so special to retrace out steps and to recall the things we talked about the beautiful Sunday afternoon in 2009. It just so happens that there is a huge ferris wheel on the bay for the summer – and so we decided, why not, let’s have a ride.
Once I paid for our tickets – my nerves really started to kick in. I don’t go on rides – at all! I knew going on a ferris wheel was meant to be romantic – it seemed like the perfect end to an amazing night – until it started to move. I held onto Matt’s hand and buried my face into his shoulder, telling him I couldn’t look knowing we were going higher and higher. He kept reassuring me and saying how beautiful the view was. I peaked, holding on even tighter.
As always, Matt was right – the view was amazing and by the time we had gone around for the third time, I was having an absolute ball. I felt like a kid again!
Matt was as cool as a cucumber the whole time, except for nearly hitting his head on the way off the ride – now that would have hurt!
I was up at 6am the next morning with gym gear on running like a mad woman on the cross trainer and counting the flights on the step machine. Life is all about balance, I think. There’s no point depriving yourself – or being too indulgent. Me = 1 Guilt = 0
This time next year, Matt and I will be married and about to celebrate our first Christmas as husband and wife. I can’t wait!
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