Friday, July 24, 2009

Mmmm

I've just made pita bread from scratch and it turned out so well! I follow Serious Eats on my Google reader and they linked to this recipe. The link only shows US measurements, so I'll copy it on to the bottom of this post with the metric conversions I used.

I can't find pita bread outside of a specialty shop here, with the exception of one type of pre-packed sandwich they sell at the convenience store, and the recipe looked so simple I decided to give it a go. My dough ended up a touch too salty for my taste, but I think that may have been my converting it wrong, so the next time I do this I'll half the salt (recipe below shows the halved amount).

Each batch of dough makes 8 pitta breads, coming in at 66 calories each (changeable subject to brands of ingredients you use I suppose), and aside from the kneading time requires very little effort. Most of the time you need is spent waiting for the dough to rise, so you can go off and do other things during that. You could also make this healthier by using wholewheat flour or a half/half mix, but I don't know how that would affect rising/baking times (if it would at all). The dough keeps wrapped in the fridge for up to a week, so you could take a portion off as needed and bake it (they only take about 3 minutes in the oven)

Pita Bread

1 cup/236ml warm water (not hot or boiling)
2 teaspoons/12g active dry or instant yeast*
3 cups/375g flour
2 teaspoons/5g salt**
1-2 teaspoons/5-10ml olive oil (optional)

1) Combine water and yeast, let it sit for 5 minutes. If using instant yeast I think you can skip this.

2) Add 2 1/2 cups (approx. 310g) flour (save the rest for the kneading time), salt, and half the olive oil (if using) to the yeast-water. Stir until it comes together as a rough dough.

3) Sprinkle some extra flour on the work surface, turn out the dough onto it. Knead (or in my case, bash at and hope for the best) the dough for about 10 minutes until it has been properly cowed into submission and has gone smooth and elastic. It will probably still be kind of sticky (it was for me) so grab the flour you saved and add a little at a time as needed. Try not to be too enthusiastic with this, it's easier to add more than it is to take some out later. If you get tired, stop and let the dough rest for a few minutes before finishing kneading. Smirk when you realise you can totally count this as your exercise for the day.

4) Clean the bowl you used to mix the dough and film it with a little olive oil. Set the dough in the bowl and turn it until it's coated with oil. I don't know if you could get away with using a spray for this and saving calories? Worth a try. It's only a very light film though so I don't think it will make that much of a difference.

6) Cover the bowl with a clean dishcloth or plastic wrap, and let the dough rise until it's doubled in bulk (about 1 - 2 hours).

7) Pre-heat the oven to 450°F/230°C. If you have a baking stone (Ha! Sure I do, yeah), put it in the oven to heat. If you don't have a baking stone, place a large baking sheet (that's more like it) on the middle rack to heat. Definitely do not get so distracted watching So You Think You Can Dance that you go to grab it out of the oven later without thinking about putting on oven gloves.

8) Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. For me it deflated itself while I was trying to turn it out of the bowl because a bit got stuck to the sides.

At this point you have a choice, you can divide it into 8 pieces and bake them all, or grab as many pieces as you need at this particular time. If you don't want to use all the dough now, it will keep in the fridge for up to a week wrapped in cling film/plastic wrap. If you're keeping it, allow the parts of the dough you use later to come up to room temperature again before you bake them, then follow instructions as below.

9) Divide into pieces and gently flatten each piece with your hand. Sprinkle the pieces with a little more flour and then cover them with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap wrap until you're ready to bake them (I was only making two so I skipped this, they weren't going to be hanging around in the open air long enough to warrant it. If you're making batches you might want to go with it though).

10) Using a floured rolling pin, roll one of the pieces into a circle 8-9 inches wide and about a quarter inch thick. Make sure the dough isn't sticking to your counter and sprinkle both the dough and the counter with a little flour if it is. Roll out as many pitas as will fit in your oven at once.

11) Place the rolled-out pitas directly on the baking stone or baking sheets and bake for about 3 minutes. It seems to be most effective to lay the pita flat on the palm of your hand and then flip it over onto the baking stone. The pita will start to puff up and is done when it has fully ballooned.

If your first pitas don't balloon, don't worry! Pitas are a bit like crepes in that the first few don't always work (mine ballooned perfectly, if yours don't, I point and laugh!). Un-ballooned pitas are still delicious and can be folded in half to create a pouch for fillings.

*I used active dry yeast, which requires a few minutes combined with the water at the start to get it going. If you use instant I think you can add it with the rest of the dry ingredients and skip the wait. There were mixed answers on exactly how much yeast it converts as, but my supermarket sells it in 6g packs so I used two and it turned out fine.

**I used 10g as that is what it converted to, but as I said I think I would prefer less next time. It was still fine to eat though, so I guess it's down to your personal taste.


My little microwave/convection oven fits two of these little babies on a baking tray, so that works out perfectly for meals as I live by myself. People with actual people-sized ovens can obviously do more at once. Next up I might try some of these flat breads that I can try in a pan on the stove-top.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Be cool

I'm trying really hard not to jinx this... but I think I may be back on track. The last three days I have finished reasonably healthy and under calories, and I have forced myself to do proper amounts on the bike (20, 25, and 25km respectively) instead of the 10km I was half-assing when I exercised at all. Right now all I'm shooting for is to get to Tuesday (the day of my medical check-up) exercising every day and under control.

I'm not going to tell you what I weigh right now, but I will tell you that in the last few weeks I managed to undo months of progress. Literally, months. The scale is heading in the right direction now though so I'm relieved, but I'm trying not to step on it too much as it really affects my mood. If it's high it triggers a binge and if it's low all I can think about is my food intake and all the info surrounding it, which makes me burn out. Hence I've been taking it slow with the blogging, I'm trying not to fall into the trap of overdoing it again.

I changed my title picture. I actually signed up for a wordpress account, intending to change pages entirely, but then decided to scale down the idea a bit. I can keep the account for the next time I get itchy e-feet. I wanted some kind of food theme, but the downside is that most of the food blog layouts make me really crave unhealthy food! Slightly counter-productive no? I settled on sushi because I like the look and the food, but not so much that seeing a picture makes me what to dive head first into the nearest kaiten sushi place.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hi

Anyone still here?

I've calmed down a little but I'm still not eating healthily, I was going to get back to it and then start blogging when I got it under control, but I keep putting off starting so I'm wondering if blogging will get me moving again.

(all pics can be made bigger if you click on them)

So what have I been doing while I've been away? Today I went to an amazing unagi restaurant. Unagi is freshwater eel, and as the day to eat eel is coming up so I went out with some of my private students to have some. It is believed that eating eel gives you stamina, so it's often eating during the hot, hot summer. Sadly I forgot my camera, so I only have a fuzzy camera phone pic, for that reason I'm grabbing a pic off the Internet to better illustrate how good it is. I'm always shocked how mild the flavour is. I've only ever eaten unagi nigiri (sushi) but fresh off the grill it just melts in your mouth.

The soup next to it is not miso, but kimosui, a soup made with the eel liver.

In other picture news, I was in a restaurant last Tuesday and got a snapshot of the menu, we're not entirely sure who they're referring to (the South of China maybe? Korea?), but jeez Japan, say what you really think!

'Source of chicken' should be chicken in sauce, translations occasionally go awry.

A much grosser thing we found in the 100円 shop, can you guess what it is?
No? How about now?

(putting aside the 'Oh God Whhhhhhy?!' of the existence of this product; if you were going to use it, why would you trust one from the Japanese equivalent of the dollar store?)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

My reader has been piling up because I've been 'off' reading blogs for the last few days. I thought I had myself under control but then I lost it a little in Nagoya.

Well, no, not lost, because I went saying that I could have anything I wanted because it's not somewhere I go often and that was fine, but then Friday turned into Saturday, Sunday, yesterday and today.

I'm getting really sick of this, and my trousers are getting tighter. I really want to be here saying 'oh, no worries, I'm fine now - back to it!' but I've done that so many times it just doesn't mean anything anymore. I honestly don't believe I can lose this weight. I think I'm going to struggle like this forever and that depresses me so much you have no idea. Even if I get into a rhythm and things go really well for a while, which I don't see happening any time soon, I'll have a couple of months of that and then be back here again, just like always, and it really makes me wonder why I'm bothering.

Just now I spent a good 10 minutes in my kitchen trying to convince myself to go to the grocery store. I was going to get sushi for dinner because I don't want to cook, but I know if I go I'll just grab anything I can get my hands on to put in the cart. I sat down and thought about how awful I was going to feel afterward, about how gross I felt this morning from going to bed so overfull and waking up still feeling the food sitting in my stomach. I felt panic rising and my brain shouting at me to Go Now! Quick! Don't Think About After! That panic is still with me now as I type this, unable to stop tapping my foot in a need for some kind of outlet.

I have a fridge full of healthy food and a sink full of dirty dishes and I have to do something about one before I can do something with the other, but it's not enough to get me up and moving. The memory of how good it feels not to be like this isn't enough to stop me.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I bought the bag

I know, I know, I said it was a goal bag, I did, and that was my intention. But the, on my way home from work the strap on my bag began to unravel, and that moved up the urgency rating from 'hmm, this is getting a little beat up, I should probably get a new one', to 'crap! this could break any day and leave me at the side of the road juggling all the piece of stuff I have to haul 20 minutes to home!'. So into the virtual shopping bag it went.

I know this sounds like an excuse, but there we go.

I wish I were ordering it because I had magically woken up this morning at 102, but sadly that's not the case. It will probably take a couple of weeks to arrive though, so maybe I could be by the time it gets here? Who knows, but I'll give it a shot.

For anyone who was admiring the bag, I got it from Etsy, there is a great bag designer called Janine King Designs. My last laptop bag (this one) was from her too, and I can't tell you how I've abused it the last couple of years. I carry it, overstuffed, to and from school every day. I've used it for hand luggage, I've used it for grocery haulage, this bag has paid it's dues and held up well. She has some awesome patterns and I highly recommend her. It's a little pricey, but definitely worth it in my humble opinion.

Tomorrow I'm off to Nagoya, I'm having lunch at Hard Rock Cafe and can't find their nutritional info anywhere. I'm beginning to think I'm better of just going and enjoying myself, rather than worrying about it. It would be, well, not niceper se, but informative at least, but I don;t think ti will hold any good news for me. Does anyone know where I can find the info for future reference? The usual calorie places don't seem to be turning it up.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Day off

I took the day of work today. I had no classes (and won't have any until after the exam finishes in a couple of weeks) and wanted more sleep this morning, so I texted my supervisor to tell her I was taking a vacation day and went back to bed. It was nice.

I failed in my initiative to only go to the supermarket once this week. I ran out of oatmeal and broccoli so I nipped to the store and grabbed a few things. I only spent 1300 yen though, so that was good at least. I also called my friend and canceled our plan to hit up Osaka so we could go to Ikea. I had gotten the impression she wasn't as keen to go as I was anyway, and after updating my bankbook (we don't get statements here, you have a book you update at the ATM that lists your transactions) and realised that with the bills still to come out I didn't have the money to fit it in without causing myself trouble. After thinking about it for a while I realised if it was going to cause me that amount of worry it wasn't worth it. We're going to try and squeeze it in on the 24th because my friend is visiting home for the summer and will leave on the 30th, and we also get paid on the 21st, so it would work out much better. I'm feeling much less stressed about things now, so I think it was the right decision.

My dad got a new kitten! Obviously I haven't seen it in person yet, but my sister got a few pictures of it so I can share:

The kitten, apparently, thinks it's a parrot and likes to sit on dad's shoulder:

And so a new month cometh. I updated my sidebar and exercised today, I seem to be getting into the swing of it again. I'm not so into it at the moment that I feel I can take a day off without losing it again, but it's not bad. I'm hoping that it will start making a difference to the scale soon, but I know from past experience that when I start biking again my weight usually sticks for a week or so before moving. I am saying now that July will be better than the June before it. My annual school medical is at the end if the month so I have something to look towards.