Friday, 18 July 2014

Cutting out the white stuff

I have been reading a lot – A LOT – about the evils of sugar over the past few months. And as a result, I’ve tried a couple of times to reduce the amount that I eat. I’ve always crashed and burned after a day or two. Until this time. I don’t know what I’m doing different, but I’m on day 4 and so far, so good.
Now, what I’m doing is probably the ‘lite’ version of sugar quitting. What I’ve been eating is:

Homemade ‘muesli’ (homemade by me, with oats and wheatgerm, dried fruit, nuts and ground cinnamon and ginger. How it differs to traditional muesli is that I don't coat it in maple syrup or apple juice and cook it). I soak this overnight in almond milk (I don’t know if this is sweetened, and I’ve thrown away the carton). I eat it with fruit and Greek yogurt.

A couple of Wasa crackers with ham, hummus, carrot sticks, homemade soup, salad…

Another Wasa cracker or two with a mashed banana and some almond puree, or a couple of dried figs.

I had homemade chicken tagine one night, dinner at the in-laws another night of goats cheese starter, boiled rice with a type of waterzooi, and then a night out in the local Japanese last night (gyosa and sushi if you’re curious!). I also had a glass of white wine two of these nights. Last night and tonight we are having a bbq (have you seen the weather!?!?!?) with some of these salads.

How this differs to a ‘real’ no sugar diet is that first, I’m eating fruit and dried fruit at that, and second, I’ve had alcohol. Yes, these are probably keeping my sugar levels up, but, I think that these natural sugars (as found in fruit, not alcohol) are not as bad as the processed white sugar that is found in cakes or biscuits, sweets, chocolate, etc. And I don’t drink fruit juice, and I haven’t drunk it for years. It’s just empty calories for me. Ditto breakfast cereals.
I’ve not had any cravings or any of the side effects associated with sugar-withdrawal (headaches, shaking and the like), but as I said, I am probably keeping my sugars up through the fruit and the couple of glasses of wine. But I *think* I’m eating less processed sugar than I usually do. I usually eat what I’ve outlined above, but lunch, dinner and the snacks are supplemented with chocolate and jellies.
I haven’t graduated onto reading packaging yet (apparently this equates to Halloween levels of scariness), but when I do, I hope to do it a bit seriously and not crazily. The difference? For example, milk contains sugar, so some no-sugar eaters don’t drink it, but I reckon that naturally occurring sugars are fine, right? I’m talking about cutting out the sugar that is added to processed food (not that I really buy it in the first place) and cutting out sweet foods. 
This is what I’ve been reading:
Sweet poison: why sugar is ruining our health (there is also a 5-question quiz to see if you’re addicted)

And a couple of blogs and websites:
This last one – I quit sugar – recommends cutting out fruit for the first six weeks, and absolutely no dried fruit. But she does allow alcohol.

I made this dessert last night and ate a portion, and OMG, did I know all about it! My stomach made the most incredible grumblings for the rest of the evening. The only thing I can link it to was the sugar (even though I used 25g of sugar instead of 50g, so over three portions, that’s not a huge amount of sugar, but it was the most processed sugar I’ve eaten since Sunday).

I’ll be making the dessert again tonight (Hubs had a version of it on hols recently and I’m trying to recreate it).

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Bar review: Champagnotheque

Some girlfriends and I rendez-vous’ed at the Champagnotheque last week for a few glasses of bubbly. I love Champagne, or any type of bubbly wine. Opening a bottle just adds a lovely sense of occasion to anything, even something as mundane as a Thursday evening. Even if you have nothing more to celebrate than the fact that a bad day is over or that it’s Thursday, mark the fact with the pop of a cork from a bottle of bubbly. ANY bottle of bubbly – you don’t have to spend on Moet and Chandon when less expensive alternatives are out there from all over the world.
Inside the shop

Anyway, we marked this particular evening in the Champagnotheque. It is a beautiful little shop, imaginatively decorated with (empty) bottle of the produce. You can make yourself at home one of the cinema seats and pull up to a barrel while sampling bottles.
The cinema seat seating

If you are planning on going there, you should reserve, or at least let Eric know that you are coming (details below). While I was there, I heard the hosts speaking a variety of languages, from fluent English to well, fluent Italian (or at least better than mine).
Six of us wracked up and deposited €50 each. With this, we were proposed a selection of three bottles, including one for €150!!! We asked if we could change this one for two that came to the same amount. No problem! For our money, we got:
  • Patrick Buache brut blanc de blancs U.V.
  • Henri Goutorbe Cuvée tradition brut U.V.
  • Max Cochut Cuvée Selection brut premier cru 2008
  • Jean Pierre Launois Brut Blanc de blancs 2008.

The evenings' drinkies

All of them were delicious and tasted very different to each other, just showing the variety of choices and flavours that Champagnes can offer.
While we opened the first bottle, the other bottles were put of ice. The shop was open while we were there, and so the host was occupied informing and serving people buying bottles while looking after us at the same time. We were under a slight time constraint, and we had to ask – once – for the next bottle. We also got some cheese and bread to help line our stomachs. It is important to note that the Champagneotheque does not serve food, so please be responsible and eat something before you go there (like we did).
The shop window from the inside

Overall, the Champagneotheque is perfect if you want to do something a little different with your friends. You can also drop in and enjoy a glass on its own (prices start from about €15 a glass though!). But as you would have to eat beforehand, it could end up being a bit pricy should you not eat at home. You can set your own budget though – we chose to contribute €50 each. 

11 rue de la Madeleine
1000 Brussels
(between Gare Centrale and the Grande Place)
T. 32 (0)2 223 20 20

Some of the inside signs

Monday, 7 July 2014

BRAND NEW! The 365things diet – guaranteed* weight loss!

Here at 365things, I’m always eating. Ok, maybe not always, but regularly. But I am always looking for ways to counteract the effects this has on my waistband. So at the last Clandestine Cake Club, I shared some of my top tips with the other CCC guests. Everyone agreed that I was onto A Sure Thing. With this in mind, I now proudly present you with the brand new revolutionary 365things diet! Move over Atkins and Dukan: this is going to be The Next Big Thing. Yay!

1. Broken food doesn’t contain calories. 
The calories fall out. Simple! Now, we had a debate over whether the food had to be found broken, such as the inevitable last biscuit in the tin, or if the biscuit accidentally breaks when you're lifting them off the baking tray, VERSUS purposely breaking biscuits so that the calories fall out. I'll let you make up your own mind on this, but I fall into the former 'accidental' breakage camp. 

2. Food from other people’s plate doesn’t contain calories either. 
I’m not sure of the physics behind it, but the food is on someone else’s plate, that person consumes the calories even if they don't consume the food. This goes double for food from a child’s plate – children are so active, they burn the calories extra quick!

3. Calories consumed on birthdays and other occasions don’t count.
This could be your own birthday/wedding/christening/promotion or someone else’s. So, go on... enjoy that extra slice of birthday cake!

4. Particles that drop off your food contain more calories; don’t eat those.
Gravity is your friend! For example, if you’re eating a croissant, the little bits that flake off are heavier and so fall off. So enjoy your croissant or pain au chocolat in peace! Just remember not to pick up all the crumbs with your finger. 

5. Gravity has an effect on food. 
The heavier, fat-dense parts of the food drop to the bottom, so avoid the lower 0.5cm of your cake. And yes, the calories from any icing drop through the cake and accumulate at the bottom too. See the below photo of a peanut butter and salted caramel brownie for a detailed explanation.

ß gravity means that the heavier, fat-dense calories fall to the bottom, so you should eat all this bit

ß but not this bit of the cake.

6. Eat outside more often!
Ah, al fresco eating. You can’t beat it. In from my extensive research and studies**, I can conclude that eating outside can help you consume fewer calories. Why? Well, if it’s windy, the wind simply blows away some of the calories! And if it’s sunny, well the sun just burns off some. Is it raining outside? Well great! The rain washes away some of the calories.

7. Exercise is good for everyone!
We all know that exercise helps burn off excess weight, but did you know that this extends to your food? Now, it does take a bit of time, but with a bit of planning you can snack on-the-go and not worry about gaining pounds. Simply pop your snack of choice (a Snickers bar for example) into your handbag and carry it with you on your day-to-day business. Not only are you burning calories by being active, but so is your chocolate bar! Simple!

8. Food that comes in two or more parts, divides the calories.
Well this is just simple mathematics. Food that is divided obviously contains a fraction of the calories found in the whole. For example, take this slice of this 4-layer white chocolate and cranberry cake. Well, as there are four parts – or layers - to the cake, evidently there are a quarter of the calories in a slice! 

9. Home-cooked food contains fewer calories!
It's home-made so therefore it is healthier and better for you. Time to fire up that oven and bake some cupcakes. Food bought from artisan shops has a similar effect. Just mind the mass-produced stuff. That contains LOADS of calories. As for organic???? Go for it. It's total carte blanche. Calorie and fat-free! 

10. Food eaten in the dark doesn't contain calories either!
Gosh, at the rate we're going, we'll be looking for tips to gain a few kilos, as if you follow all this advice, you may just fade away! Tip #10 is thanks to WhyIamnotskinny who tweeted me her words of wisdom: food eaten in the dark does not contain calories. I'm going to expand this slightly to not only include food eaten in the dark (such as a cinema) but also food consumed in the after-/nearly-/semi-/almost-dark (so, twilight, late evening, with one side lamp on, a rainy day, very early morning, curtains drawn, room with a very small window, tents, marquees, etc) is also included. The more philosophical amongst you could further expand upon this to if you're in a 'dark' mood or dressed in dark colours. Honestly, the world is your oyster here.

So, over to you. Do you have any top diet tips to share? And let me know if you are following the 365things plan – I’d love to hear how you are getting on. You may also inspire others with your success stories!

* Guaranteed? Eh… Maybe not.
** that'd be none at all.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Restaurant review – Frunch

Every Friday from April, and until the end of the summer, several food trucks are meeting at bip at Place Royale to offer punters a communal lunch experience - Frunch. Four of us landed there last week to check it out.
There were three food trucks there: Mi Vida, Sinstreetfood, and Flagrants Delices.
All of us decided to go to Mi Vida for burgers, and they were pretty good! Very good actually. I had a cheesey, saucy, meaty burger (€7) and chips (€2.50) with mayo. The burger was served in a paper bag, so less mess. The system is very simple too – just decide what you want to eat and go order. Wait for your food to cook and enjoy! You can also buy drinks there, and beer (Hoegaarden and Juplier). 
bip has provided tables and chairs and a dj. The only thing I’d say is that it’s a bit noisy – dj! turn the volume down a tad!
Frunch - Mi Vida burger
We were there on a sunny day, but we were assured that there are contingency plans should the weather turn inclement. There were about 12-15 tables, and all of them were full.

I’d definitely go back for another go.