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
Yes, that’s right, I’m back after a bit of a blogging break. It wasn’t necessarily intentional – but my mind was telling me I needed to stop talking and just knuckle down and get on with life.
Over the past two weeks many things have happened. I have eaten lots of yummy food, had a lot of fun, exercised a lot, and spent quite a bit of time planning for our wedding. As of today, it’s six months and four days away – to be precise.
Last weekend, I finally got measured for my wedding dress! It’s been ordered and will probably be here in early September. I have to say, despite enjoying the process of venue shopping, entertainment selection, buying the most amazing shoes and chatting to my fiancée about everything from table decorations to wedding music selection, the ceremony and … of course … our excitement about getting to select and taste our menu for the day – hearing that my dress was on the way made me think – “yup, I’m excited”!
Losing 18 kilos and being able to stand on a little box in a wedding dress shop and look at the reflection looking back – and not feel repulsed (no, it’s not too stronger word – that’s how I used to feel) – was a great feeling. Not only that – I felt beautiful. I felt happy and like I had really achieved something. It was a pretty cool feeling, to say the least! I have been waiting to feel that sence of achievement and happiness. It was worth the wait 🙂 Sadly, I can’t share a photo with you as my future husband does sometimes read this blog. I’ll have a ball sharing my dress photos – from first trying it on in September of 2010 at 112 kilos – through to now after losing 18 kilos … who knows here I’ll be when our wedding day arrives! One thing I do know is that I will be 100 per cent focused on marrying Matt – and not on being paranoid about how I look. That will be a first!
I have also taken up swimming over the last few weeks, and I’m going great guns! While I’m still uncomfortable parading around in a swimsuit (which is getting loser and loser) it’s worth it. At the end of my swim I jump in the sauna and steam room, both which help relax my muscles, and I have found my recovery from my two personal training sessions each week has improved incredibly! I’ve also started walking, and my fasciitis has improved as well. Go me!
However, one thing that has suffered a little is my food intake. No, I haven’t fallen off the rails and started drinking coke and binging on evil things – but I have become more relaxed. I ate brie cheese at my friend’s house, and some chips too. I go to Matt’s parent place and enjoy a glass or two of bubbly, sometimes I drink too much coffee and I feel like my portion sizes have been increasing since the weather has turned bitterly cold. My committment to exercise almost everyday has helped combat any dramatic weight gains – but in saying that, I haven’t lost anything dramatic either. But hey – it’s ok. This isn’t a race to starve and deprive myself. So, I have been a bit more relaxed … I don’t feel guilty about that.
But, I do feel like it’s time to look at my food again and just tighten up. I need to get to that 20 kilo goal and keep moving! The 90’s, like the 100’s before them, are getting old. It’s time to get into the 80s!
But, before we go tightening our belts – here’s the recipe for crispy pork belly, inspired by Jamie Oliver, which I cooked for my mum for Mother’s Day dinner. It went down a treat with roasted beetroot and braised cabbage. YUM!!
Crispy Pork Belly
- 1.5kg pork belly
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 red onions, halved
- 2 carrots, peeled and halved lengthways
- 2 sticks of celery, chopped in half
- 1 bulb of garlic, skin on, broken into cloves
- a small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked
- 600ml water or stock
- 1 tbs of flour
Preheat your oven to 220 degrees. Place your pork on your chopping board and make scores about a centimetre apart through the skin into the fat, but not so deep that you cut into the meat. Chances are you will buy it from the butcher or supermarket already scored … and if so, you can skip this step!
Rub a generous amount of salt into the scores on the skin and then brush off any excess. Season the underside with salt and pepper and pop the belly in a baking tray, skin side-up and place in the oven.
Roast for about half an hour – you will hear it sizzling away in the oven and after half an hour, you will see it start to puff and crackle. Turn the heat down to 180 and roast for another hour. I found half way through that the bottom of the pork was getting a bit dark – so I popped some of the onions I had cut up under it to just lift it off the hot pan.
After the hour, take the pork out of the oven, remove it from the pan and pop it onto a plate. Add all the veg, garlic and thyme to the tray and then place the pork on top of everything and put it all back in the oven.
Cook for another 45 minutes to an hour, keeping an eye on it to ensure that the crackling doesn’t burn. Carefully move the meat onto some foil. Wrap the bottom, but leave the crackling visit. You don’t want to steam from the foil to soften it, but you want the meat to keep warm and rest.
To make the gravy – spoon away any fat in the tray, put the tray on the stove top over a medium heat and add the stock. Sprinkle with the flours and stir, using a whisk until all lumps are gone and bring the sauce to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to scrape up all those lovely sticky tasty bits on the bottom of the tray.
When you’ve got a nice, dark gravy, pour it through a sieve into a saucepan and continue to reduce until you are happy with the consistency. Take this opportunity to skim any impurities from the top as well.
Taste it as this point and check for seasoning. Add salt and pepper, as required.
Serve the pork with the crackling, gravy and a bit of Dijon mustard on the side.
I also served this with braised cabbage and roasted beetroot with a balsamic vinaigrette. I’ll post these recipes soon, but until then, enjoy this special little treat. Your portion sizes need not be huge – pork belly is very filling!
This is me, my mum and my brother enjoying our evening together for Mother Day:
I might only be a mummy to three furbabies – but my wonderful fiancée still did the dishes for me. I’m just luckier than most women – Matt almost always does the dishes, it doesn’t need to be a special occasion. Spoilt!
Hope all the mothers out there had a wonderful day!
As much as we are told that eating chicken skin is bad … isn’t the skin just the yummiest bit?
Provided it’s cooked right and lovely and crispy, the skin is something people fight over – just like really good pork crackling.
But, like crackling, perfectly crispy skin can be a bit of a challenge to achieve.
The trick is to bring the chicken to room temperature before roasting, and to ensure the skin is really dry by patting it with some kitchen towel. Where did I learn this? Neil Perry, of course 🙂 This dish is inspired by a recipe of his on the Rockpool website. The chicken is flavoured with lemon and thyme and served with his beautiful aoli – which you can buy in the fresh food section at the supermarket. YUM! I also roasted potato, parsnip, swede and carrots making this an amazing one-pan dish.
Crispy-skinned roast chicken with lemon, thyme and roast potatoes
- 1 x 1.6 – 1.8kg chicken
- Extra virgin olive oil
- A few knobs of butter
- ½ bunch thyme
- 1 lemon
- 2 carrots, washed, cut in half and then sliced lengthways
- 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into rough pieces
- 3 potatoes, washed and cut into rough pieces
- 1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 punnet cherry tomatoes
An hour before you begin cooking take the chicken out of the fridge and pat dry with paper towel. Place the thyme and lemon inside the chicken cavity. Drizzle all over with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Preheat you oven to 220°c.
Heat a roasting pan in the oven. Add enough olive oil to barely cover the tray and a few knobs of butter, then add all of your vegetables except the tomatoes and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, toss well and place the pan in the oven. Cook the vegetables for about 20 minutes – they should be just starting to brown.
Remove the tray from the oven and add the cherry tomatoes and whole garlic cloves. Place the chicken face up into the pan and return to the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked. I found I needed to cook my chicken for an extra 10 minutes, as it was still a little pink.
Remove from the oven, lightly cover with foil and allow to rest for 20 minutes before serving. This step is really important as it allows all the juices to calm down from the cooking, making it lovely and moist.
Cut the chicken into quarters, and serve with the roasted vegies and Neil Perry’s fresh aoli on top. Some crusty sourdough bread is perfect too 🙂
My dog, Angel, got the leftovers. After a good feed, he was feeling pretty tired 🙂
As for a groovy tune to go with this delicious Sunday roast – I’d suggest this track by the Freelance Whalers. I came across this song on the Offspring soundtrack. I am totally addicted to this show and thought the music was amazing too! It’s kind of chilled and yet has this really cool rhythm to it. I think I love this song too, because it’s called Hannah, which is my favourite name 🙂 Hope you enjoy it as much as I do – although the video clip is a little weird 🙂
I have been experimenting with different methods for cooking roast potatoes for many years now and after much trial and error – I’m very proud to say that I have nailed it with a method that works every time.
But it’s been a long road to get to this point and I have tried so many different ways including heating the oil in the pan before adding the potatoes – a method that is quite a hazard with hot oil spitting everywhere.
I have par boiled, not par boiled, microwaved and steamed the potatoes before roasting. I have tried peeling and leaving the skins on. I have even cooked “roast” potatoes in the frying pan hoping this would make them crisper. It kind of worked, but if you fry them, they aren’t really roast potatoes, are they?
I have even tried many different varieties of potato in my pursuit for roasting bliss – Pontiac, sabiago, deseree, coliban – you name it, I’ve tried it!
As a result I’ve had potatoes that have turned out everything from burnt on the outside, but hard in the middle – soft on the inside, but with little colour on the outside etc
Being such a lover of roast potatoes, I knew I had to get it right. I mean I would skip a roast meal all together if I couldn’t have these little golden pieces of deliciousness with them.
But I’ve found one that gives me a crispy on the outside and soft in the middle result every time – but I won’t keep the secret to myself, especially seeing as Christmas is almost here and most people’s festive table is not complete without this side dish.
So, here goes!
Lisa’s Perfect Roast Potatoes
- 2 kilos of deseree potatoes
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 whole, unpeeled garlic cloves
- 3 sprigs of thyme
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees (c).
Peel and cut 2kg of desiree potatoes into 4cm pieces. Place potatoes in a large saucepan and pour over boiling water.
Once the water has come to the boil, cook for 6 minutes over medium heat. Drain.
Return the potatoes to the pan, place a lid on the pan and shake vigorously (this roughs up the surface and is the key to getting nice crispy bits on the finished product. I sometimes also run a fork over the potatoes to rough them up gently.
Place in a roasting tin and season with generous amount of sea salt and pepper.
Drizzle the olive oil over all of the potatoes and them add the garlic and time. Using your hands, toss the potatoes though the olive oil and herbs, ensuring every part of the potatoes are covered. Use a little more olive oil, if required.
Place the roasting tin on the middle shelf of your oven and cook for 40 to 50 mins, turning occasionally.
For the best results, serve the potatoes immediately. If you allow them to sit, they will become soggy.
I promise you, once you try this recipe, you’ll never search for another. Perfect every time!! YAY!
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