Last week wasn’t all bad…

Thank goodness for dogs and delicious food!

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In my last post I talked about being injured. That seems to have sorted itself out, probably because I haven’t moved much over the last week.

I had plenty of good intentions. Rest and relaxation last weekend, followed by a week of getting back on track with upper body strength training, some pilates, maybe a few sessions on the exercise bike if my ankle felt up to it. Easing back into running by going for a few walks after work.

None of that happened.

Last week was a total shitstorm. Problems with the house, problems with the cats. One bad day after another, and then a message to say that a relative was in hospital having emergency surgery (he’s out of hospital now and recovering at home). I think the only day I didn’t cry from the stress of it all, whether in the car or in the toilets at work, was Monday.

I know some people can exercise through bad times. I wish I could. I wish I could put on my trainers or grab some weights and use exercise as therapy. I can’t. If I start a workout in a bad frame of mind, whether angry or sad, it never goes well and I end up feeling worse for it. So I didn’t work out all week. I had early nights in bed with a book instead. I don’t feel particularly bad about that. Panicky because I have a 10k next Saturday that I’m completely unprepared for, but not guilty for slacking off.

Don’t worry, that’s the gloom over with. Last week wasn’t all bad.

Things did pick up at the end of the week, because Friday is my day off and I get to walk a gorgeous border collie while his owners are at work. He’s always so excited to see me – this week he actually knocked me over while I was trying to get his lead on! I took him for a drive to a park with some lakes, and it was just lovely.

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The park was once an old mine. This is the only bridge of its kind left in Wales.

Although there were some cars in the car park, I didn’t see a soul on the paths. We walked just short of 3 miles, and then I took him home to meet my fiancé, who was on his lunch break (and so that I could nip into the house to use the loo because I’d gulped down a 750ml bottle of water before the walk. Oops!).

I’ve been trying to calm my emotional eating down, and I had a pretty good week, food-wise. It even saw me drop a few pounds, which I’m pleased about.

I made a delicious mango & black bean salad to take to work for my lunches. It was so tasty, and kept me satisfied until I got home from work, without the need for me to snack.

On Monday night we had crispy duck and pancakes with hoisin sauce. It was out of the freezer, not made from scratch, but I chopped some cucumber and spring onions to go in the pancake wraps, and stir-fried some pak choi in garlic and soy sauce to go with it. We ate it whilst watching Game of Thrones. Nice little escape from the real world – what an episode!

Tuesday was the day I got the really bad news. Knowing I wouldn’t want to cook, Alex took me out for dinner. I had grilled halloumi on garlic bread with harissa hummus, followed by a Caribbean chicken burger. And wine. I had wine. And half a ‘sharing’ bag of salted crisps before bed, because I can’t turn off the need to eat my feelings just by clicking my fingers. At least I did stop at half the bag…

Wednesday’s dinner was a tuna steak with green beans, broccoli, olives and anchovies. I normally serve this with soft noodles that I can just throw in the wok. This time, I decided to try it with shirataki noodles, pan fried in the juices from the tuna, and I was pleasantly surprised. The texture was firmer than I’d been expecting, and once they’d soaked up the sauce and lime juice from the fish, they were delicious.

Thursday night I cracked again and we went to McDonald’s. I have to say, that was probably the nicest, freshest food I’ve had from McDonald’s in a long time. I enjoyed every bite. No photos because we all know what a cheeseburger looks like!

Friday night I made a bowl of soba salad. Supersonic soba salad, in fact. It’s from Dale Pinnock’s ‘Healthy Every Day’ cookbook. It’s really simple to make, and delicious, which was just what I needed.

So, I made some good food choices. On the days when my choices were somewhat questionable, I didn’t beat myself up over them. This is definitely progress.

Are you someone who uses exercise as a way to work out your emotions?
What’s your favourite lunch for workdays?

World Meat Free Day revisited. And I’m injured.

Again.

As the title suggests, I’m out of action. I suspect the problem is with my Achilles. I was meant to be seeing a doctor today, but woke to a text message from the surgery saying my appointment has been cancelled without explanation. I really need to change to a different surgery, because this happens far too often.

Anyhow, that’s meant no running and, aside from limping around at work, no walking this week. Combined with a shedload of problems in other areas of my life, it’s led to me having no drive to do anything productive at all. I’ve come home from work every night late because of traffic, stressed to the teeth, and just eaten junk food in front of the TV.

I’m going to use this weekend to try to just relax and reset my brain, as well as rest my stupid injury. I have a 10k coming up in a fortnight, so I need to get it sorted.

And now, a quick nod to World Meat Free Day last Monday. I meant to do a full-blown recap the day after, but Tuesday was really the start of my bad week and I thought if I couldn’t say anything nice, best not to say anything at all.

You see, I encountered a lot of negativity on Monday regarding World Meat Free Day. Personally, I didn’t find anything about the World Meat Free Day website preachy or pushy. If I had, I can guarantee I wouldn’t have been into it at all. I hate being preached at, whatever the topic. I’ve cut people off mid-sentence, unfollowed many people on social media, turned off documentaries, and stopped reading articles that I feel are trying to push something onto me or guilt me into doing (or not doing) something.
I felt that the whole thing was presented as more of a suggestion and a way of raising awareness of the difference people could make to the planet and to their own health. I found it interesting. Of course, how other organisations and individuals chose to present it may have come across differently.
Anyhow, that made me reluctant to tackle a blog post earlier this week.

How did my meat-free day go? Pretty well.

Breakfast was easy. I rarely eat meat with my breakfast; a bowl of cereal with strawberries (from my garden – so delicious), cocoa nibs and coconut milk is my usual breakfast at the moment.

Lunch was supposed to be mango and black bean salad. Slight hitch – I couldn’t get black beans. Welcome to the Valleys… I stood in the kitchen, running out of time to make something before I had to be somewhere, totally uninspired. I ended up throwing together a bowl of pasta with pesto, cherry tomatoes and pine nuts. It was delicious.

My snack was a Cadbury’s Caramel donut, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Dinner was my favourite meal of the day. I’d been looking forward to trying this dish since reading about it in this post on Peanut Butter Runner’s blog. Avocado and scrambled egg on toast…with sauerkraut. I hadn’t been able to get hold of sauerkraut, despite trying three different shops, but my parents got me a jar when they went shopping, so I could finally try the meal. It was amazing. I love it! So much, in fact, that I’ve had it twice more since. If I leave off the eggs, I can make it at work for my lunch. I’d forgotten how much I love sauerkraut. Fun fact: the first time I ever had it was on a hot dog on Main Street at Disneyland Paris.

So delicious!
All in all, an excellent food day, and easy to avoid eating meat for 24 hours. I often have days where I accidentally don’t eat meat, but I’ll be making more of a conscious effort to plan meat-free days more often.

Now I’m going to make another conscious effort to get myself back on track with exercise. I may not be able to walk properly, or stand for long, but I can grab some dumbbells and do some seated upper body work.

I’ll probably do it whilst listening to Yazz & The Plastic Population to try and remind myself that yes, the only way is up. Oh yes, I did…

Wild garlic

Sunshine, a good book, and a chilled out birthday

Today is my birthday, and what better way to celebrate than by trying something new?

I’m a big fan of garlic, both for the flavour and the health benefits. I use it in most of my cooking, and occasionally even when I make juices. I’m pretty sure that as well as potentially lowering my blood pressure and boosting my immune system, it’s going to keep the vampires away from me.

I’ve wanted to try wild garlic for a long time, and recently I’ve been thinking of going foraging for some. Imagine how pleased I was when my fiancé came in from the garden yesterday with a handful of the stuff! He had been tidying up the garden, which we’ve been too busy to touch since we moved in in February, and come across a patch of wild garlic growing to the side of the path.

Wild garlic – not as pretty as most I’ve seen

This stuff is pungent! The smell of the leaves was enough that we had to keep it outside overnight. We used a little last night, just chopped the leaves over some salad, which was tasty, but I wanted to save the majority of what he’d picked so that I could make garlic mushrooms today.

Garlic mushrooms, with or without cream, with or without Stilton, in a pot or on toast, are one of my favourite dishes. If ever I go to a restaurant and see garlic mushrooms on the starter menu, I rarely look at the other choices.

I’ve only made my own at home once or twice, but when Alex handed me a bunch of wild garlic, I knew that was what I wanted to do with it.

I served the mushrooms over a vegan schnitzel. Perfect birthday lunch!

Delicious! My food photography needs some work, though…

Creamy Wild Garlic Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 500g mushrooms – I used a mixture of closed cup and mini portobello
  • Wild garlic – I used a handful of leaves and 2 bulbs – of course, you could just use a few cloves of garlic if you can’t get the wild stuff
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 30ml dry white wine or sherry
  • A pinch of chilli flakes
  • 60ml double cream
  • A pinch of parsley – I couldn’t get fresh, so used dried

Method

Chop the mushrooms and garlic. I chopped mine quite roughly to give it a more rustic look, and because I’m a lazy cook.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan or wok, then add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for about two minutes, then reduce the heat.

Add the wine or sherry, lemon juice and the chillies. Stir through while the mushrooms cook.

When the mushrooms begin to soften, stir in the cream and parsley, and cook until the mushrooms are soft and the sauce has thickened to your liking.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve. This worked well on a vegan schnitzel, but would be great on toast or as an accompaniment to chicken.

 

Alex and I ate lunch in the garden, in glorious sunshine. The garlic flavour was more subtle than I had expected, given the strong smell, but it was delicious. I re-planted the bulbs I didn’t use, in the hope that we’ll get another crop of leaves and maybe some flowers (which I’ve read are also edible) next year.

I spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around in the sun with the cats, bee-spotting for the Great British Bee Count and reading a book that was recommended to me: Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey. I haven’t got very far with it yet, because I kept getting distracted, but so far it’s enjoyable and funny urban fantasy.

Magpie has enjoyed the sun today

Now I plan to get cut my very grown up birthday cake, and go back out into the garden to enjoy it with a nice bottle of cider.

Just because I’m another year older, doesn’t mean I have to grow up yet!

How did you spend your weekend?
Have you ever foraged for food or tried wild garlic?

World Meat Free Day 2016

Going meat-free for a day

Monday 13th June 2016 is World Meat Free Day.

I’m not vegetarian. I’m a meat-eater who struggles most days with her conscience. I realise the hypocrisy of calling myself an animal lover and then sitting down to a meal that includes meat. I’ve tried giving up completely in the past, and let’s just say it doesn’t work.* Placing that sort of restriction on my diet just makes me miserable and angry. I’m not pleasant to be around when I’m like that.

However, I do eat less meat these days than I used to. I probably eat a greater variety – in the last few years I’ve become far more adventurous with food – but less often than I used to.

I don’t eat lamb, simply because I can’t stand the smell of it cooking. And recently (65 days ago, in fact), I stopped eating pork. I love pigs, and I’ve felt a lot of guilt over the last few months about eating them. So I stopped. I won’t lie, it’s been challenging. Ever notice how many pizza toppings are pork-based? Most of them. And hidden pork in a lot of dishes when eating out has threatened to trip me up a few times. But I don’t feel as though I’m missing out, really. It’s a choice that I’ve made, and that makes it a lot easier to stick to than if I’d been told I must give it up. Plus I’ve discovered that Linda McCartney sausages are brilliant, so no worries that I’ll miss out on hot dogs when we have BBQs!

So, back to World Meat Free Day. What’s it about? Why are we being encouraged to take part?

According to the World Meat Free Day website, it’s about saving the planet. Population growth and the demand for meat is having a huge impact on the environment. If a family of four goes without meat for one day, the water saved will be the amount that one person would use in a month.
It’s also about health. That same family of four going meat-free for one day could save the amount of dietary fat found in 26 teaspoons of butter.

Check out the sustainability calculator to see how much of an impact one meat-free day for you, your family, or even your colleagues could have.

It may be easier than you think to go a day without meat. There are a lot of great vegetarian recipes out there, or you could simply substitute ingredients in your favourite recipes to make them meat-free. Here are some ideas:

Have an omelette for breakfast. They’re quick and easy to make, and you can fill them with just about any veggies you have in the fridge. My favourite is a simple omelette with warmed cherry tomatoes and a little sprinkling of cheese.

A big, filling salad at lunchtime doesn’t have to include meat. Try adding chickpeas, mixed beans, or eggs to your leafy greens. Give it a kick with a simple lemon, olive oil and garlic dressing, or try balsamic vinegar mixed with olive oil and some dried mixed herbs.

What about a wrap for lunch? Wrap sliced avocado and sundried tomatoes in tortilla smeared with cream cheese. Or make coronation ‘chicken’ with Quorn pieces instead, and pop that into a wrap with some lettuce.

Use mushrooms as a substitute for meat. Chopped mushrooms are great used in place of meat in casseroles, and big portabellas make lovely vegetarian burger alternatives.

Having chilli for dinner? Try using lentils instead of the meat. You can get quick-cook lentils that don’t require soaking, or use tinned, to make things easier.

Tofu isn’t for everyone (personally, I prefer it to be cooked for me in a restaurant), but if you haven’t tried it, it’s worth a go. Pinterest is a gold mine for tofu recipes that look mouth-wateringly good!

If you’re in a hurry, you could try a meat-free ready meal. I’m fond of a Quorn cottage pie, and their toad in the hole is pretty good, too. Linda McCartney kievs are on my ‘to try’ list, and lots of supermarkets have their own meat-free ranges in the chilled and frozen aisles.

Finally, here’s the link to a recipe that I absolutely love. Fiery Welsh Dragon Hash Browns, from Independent Kitchen.

Image courtesy of Independent Kitchen
It’s worth the effort to make them from scratch; a crispy, spicy hash brown topped with a poached egg is delicious, filling, and you probably won’t even notice there’s no meat on your plate!

So, are you in? Will you be going meat-free on Monday 13th June? You can pledge your support on the World Meat Free Day website. I’ll be updating after the day to tell you how it went in my household!

* Polite footnote to say that this isn’t an invitation for unsolicited advice on becoming vegetarian or vegan. You eat your way, I eat mine.

Goose eggs

…and the other highlights of this week.

One of the great things about our new house is that directly behind our garden is a smallholding. I love waking up hearing the chickens and geese, and it’s lovely to look out of the window and see them in the field. It’s also great that the owner sells us eggs. I eat a lot of eggs, and I love knowing they’ve come from the birds there. Truly free range. I’ve been a fan of duck eggs for a very long time, but never tried a goose egg. Until yesterday.

Alex managed to get us a goose egg each from the smallholding. Having done a little research, I’ve found that geese don’t lay often – only about 40 eggs per laying season. No wonder I’ve never seen one before.

Look at the size of this egg!

Goose eggs are much larger than chicken or duck eggs. I’d say these were almost three times the size of the chicken eggs we typically have. Their shells are very hard; I had to crack them with a knife, and the texture of the raw egg is a lot thicker than I expected.

We decided to try them very simply: scrambled on granary toast. I charred a couple of small orange peppers to go with mine. The scrambled goose egg was very rich in taste and texture. It was incredibly creamy and the sweet bite of the peppers was the perfect accompaniment to cut through that.

Perhaps I needed a smaller plate…

Goose eggs contain a lot of valuable minerals, including iron and selenium, and lots of vitamins, including B-12. However, they are high in cholesterol, so they’re best eaten as an occasional treat.

Next time we’re lucky enough to have them, I think I’ll try poaching. I imagine Yorkshire puddings or pancakes made with goose eggs would be fantastic.

Whilst the eggs were definitely the high point of my week (I’m easily pleased), I’ve also had a couple of nice things drop through the letterbox.

The first was my fitness instructor certificate. I should be far more excited about this than I am, but I qualified over six months ago and having to wait so long for the certificate has taken the shine off a little. Still, it’s nice to have it at last.

The second bit of post was my very first race number! It’s for the Tŷ Hafan Rainbow Run in July. That gave me a little boost. It hasn’t been a good running week fortnight and getting the number for one of the events I’m doing this summer has given me a little more motivation to get out for my next run.

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What’s been the highlight of your week?
Have you ever tried goose eggs? If so, what’s your favourite way to cook them?