Monday 28 February 2011

New TOTAL yoggits

TOTAL have brought out some new snacking yoghurts.  Being something of a fan of their plain Greek range (I scoff a bowl of 2% most mornings with fruit compote and added whey protein), I was eager to give them a go.  They're sort of like Muller's "Fruit Corners" and build on the existing TOTAL 2% with honey corner, but these new ones are 0%.  Flavours so far are Blueberry, Strawberry, Tropical Fruits and Honey.

This is the yoghurty bit of our fridge... :o)

So far, we've tried the Blueberry, Honey and Strawberry and the Strawberry is pretty darned nice, though I found the fruit to be over-sweetened (thankfully it is actually sugar and not aspartame or anything else in that vein).  Apparently the Blueberry one was really sour and grainy, but I've not tried that one yet, so.  The Honey one suffers from being yoghurt and needing to be in the fridge but having honey which pretty much solidifies if you do that so you need to leave it out for a bit before trying to eat it otherwise you just end up with a hard lump of honey with a thin covering of yoghurt on it and it just won't mix in.

I think it's going to be handy to keep a pot or two in the fridge at work for those times I cycle in and had something else before I left the house and need a top-up when I get in to the office.  Given that it's low fat yoghurt with fruit compote, all I need to supplement is some whey powder as that makes it exactly what my normal breakfast would be anyway.  More convenient than keeping a large pot of plain yoghurt and a tub of compote and not really getting through them and ending up throwing some away.  And I'm all about the not wasting food (I really can't believe how much most people throw away; utterly shocking to me).

In the mean time... I need to try one of those blueberry ones myself to see whether my views on it are the same as Mr TOTKat's views.

Sunday 27 February 2011

New recipe books - Weight Watchers Pro Points

I've been having loads of fun and success with the Abel and Cole recipe book and on Friday got a couple more recipe books to poke through.  This time they're new edition Weight Watchers ones, using the Pro Points system, so it means that the recipes are more focussed around higher protein, lower carb, higher fibre recipes to help give a nutritionally more even meal with consideration to lowering overall empty kcals than would normally be found in a "diet" recipe book.

The two books are "Seriously Satisfying"  and "Oriental Express" (so new you can't buy it just yet) and on first flick through I'm really very pleased to see that nearly every single recipe calls for nothing that's pre-made (no jars or pots of pastes or sauces bar one recipe which asks for Balti curry paste) and I've only seen one recipe out of all of them that calls specifically for a Weight Watchers product (low fat cream in one of the desserts).  "Oriental Express" is published in a nice, clever design of ring binding and a built in stand so you can prop it up easily in the kitchen when cooking, rather than leaning the thing against the toaster or kettle and having it slide down and get in the way during cooking.

I really love flipping through recipe books to get ideas so I'm probably going to spend some time this morning poring over these two and working out what I'm going to try for lunch tomorrow.  Maybe something fresh and salady that's not utterly boring.  We've got a hare (from Abel and Cole) to roast for dinner, so that's already sorted and I don't want to leave that until it's been hanging around in the fridge for ages and then has to be cooked in a hurry.

Saturday 26 February 2011

Lower calorie chips - take 2

It's been a(n even) tough(er last) couple of weeks so trying new things in the kitchen has been a real low priority.  But today I've decided to have another go at making chips.

Peel and chip the potatoes to around 13mmx13mm cross-section.
Wash the chips thoroughly for 10 minutes in (preferably running) cold water.
Dry them thoroughly.

Pop them into the ActiFry with a drizzle of oil, set the timer and leave them to cook while I cook a couple of stunning looking rump steaks.  With some pumping chooons to drown out the fan noise ;o)

When the timer goes beep - take them out and lookee lookee, they're, well, a bit less soggy than last time.  

Serve with the steak, carrots and peas and enjoy.

Not sure why they're still not crispy, maybe it's the potato variety?  The steak was great though.

Aww - my little boy!

He does love his little plastic ball that holds kitteh treats:-

It's got a plastic screw through the inside and a hole at the top, so you drop treats in it and rotate the lid so there's a much smaller hole in play.  The treats disappear down the screw to the bottom so the cat has to roll it about to extract them.  He -loves- nosing it about the floor and patting it with a paw and occasionally rolling around on his back, wrestling with it.

Saturday 19 February 2011

Delicious DOMS

I has them :o)

My cobbled together routine from my first real session with Geoff does the business:-
  • Warm up (500m on the rower at L7, aim for under 02:00)
  • Squats - 3x10
  • Kettlebells - Dual arm swings, 3x15
  • Kettlebells - Single arm swings, 3x10x2
  • Cable lat pulls - dual arms, 3x10
  • Cable push down rows - single arms, 3x10x2
  • Kettlebells - walking lunges, 3x12
  • Straight leg raises with twists - 3x20
  • Weighted plyometric squats - 3x8
  • Arnold presses - 3x10
 Shoulders, back and thighs are acheing really nicely from doing that on Wednesday and Friday.  I didn't want to go any earlier in the week due to being exhausted and more than a bit broken.  Gymming in that state would have been a very bad idea.

Amusingly or not, we went to bed at 2am after me being on a work call until 11.30pm and got woken up early by the bedroom being stiflingly hot.  I opened the windows a bit and turned off the radiator.  Then the shopping came.  Then I had to be on another call at 9.30am.  The short of it was that the thermostat button got stuck on "+" and was reading "30C", which explained the insane heat.  And then we had a nap at 3pm.

The chicken is roasting and the veggies are about to go on.  It all smells incredible in the kitchen and we're going to watch a film and I'm not doing any more work this weekend.

Friday 18 February 2011

Abel and Cole comes through again

After a weekend of mostly random and uncontrolled food, I decided on a salmon dinner so got out a couple of fillets in the morning to defrost with the plan of having them with some couscous and peas in the evening.  However,  this week's Abel and Cole box had a head of Swiss Chard in it.  I've never knowingly had that before and after a couple of days it was starting to droop and really needed using up.  So when I got home I was a bit worried we'd end up throwing it away.  Not knowing what it was going to taste like, I decided to have a nibble on a raw stalk to see.  I expected something sweet, clean and maybe with a hint of celery flavour, so the really quite salty flavour of the raw stalk was quite a surprise.  It worried me a bit, but decided to carry on and try to do something with it.

Flicking through the Abel and Cole recipe book to see if there were any chard recipes, I came across one for salmon and chard!  Cha-ching!  Perfect!  And we had all of the other ingredients in the house (except coriander leaves 'cause I can't stand the stuff anyway), onion, ginger, coconut milk, fresh tomatoes...

Thank you Abel and Cole, you saved the day again!  A great recipe, something new and different to break the monotony, and it's all seasonal and tasty.

Monday 14 February 2011

Too tired

Sorry. I'm not going to be around much at all for the foreseeable future (anything between a few days and a few weeks). Work has been getting busier and busier, culminating in a 73 hour week last week (plus a total of 12 hours commuting to and from work). This week has kicked off in similar vein, so I'm still very tired and have no time for much more than a little sleep, eat, commute and work. And the work is very intense.

I will have a couple of reviews when I'm back and I'm hoping to get even a little exercise in. See you all on the other side!

Saturday 12 February 2011

Plyometric squats

They're all the rage, or so it seems.  My new trainer had me doing them with a Bulgarian Sack in our first full session and this afternoon, in the gym where I used to train with my old trainer, I found two trainers doing them with 2x28kg dumbbells.  Despite neither of them being my old trainer, they persuaded me to have a go and with 2x16kg dumbbells.  I managed 6, 8, 8 without huge strain and I reckon I could have done better by myself.  Oddly, I find that I need to try something by myself a couple of times, without an audience, before I can really get stuck in to it.  This does not seem to apply with my new trainer though, which is good.  He manages to really push me without me having the oddness I usually have.

Thursday 10 February 2011

Blueberry liquorice

No, really!

Panda have brought out blueberry flavoured liquorice.  Seriously!  And it's made with real blueberry purée.  Now, I'm not really a fan of liquorice, but this stuff is quite different.  Yes, it still has a liquorice flavour, but the blueberry stuff is a lot more subtle, does have a taste of blueberry and is really lovely and soft.  They do smell quite a bit like jam and one or two pieces is quite nice.  Any more and, well, I'm just not that keen.  I'm not much of a one for sweets anyway, so I wasn't expecting to like them, but was willing to give them a go.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I can see that some people will like them.  I'm just a bit "meh" about them.

They're plugging this as a healthy, low-calorie snack, but I'm not so sure with the first ingredient being molasses syrup.  That said, if you're after a sweet taste that's not too hideous or one of those "good for you" things that just taste vile, you're onto a reasonably good thing here.  If you're me, there's no way you're going to scarf the whole pack ;o)

Tiring and long day coming up tomorrow

The busyness of work is reaching a localised peak this weekend.  Tomorrow, I'll be at work from 3pm to 6am the following morning.  This will thoroughly break my weekend, but I knew that would happen and I accept it as part of work that's been in-progress for the last 18 months.  What the huge peak this week has meant is that I've made it to the gym once so far (Tuesday) and run home from work (also on Tuesday).  However, I'm going to have quite a bit of fun cycling in to the office at around midday, then nipping to the gym at work, rather than at the morning peak and then back home again in the very early morning on Saturday.  OK, teeny tiny detail of 15 hours in the office in between.  And if things over-run, perhaps longer.

Still, it'll be very interesting to cycle well away from normal peak hours.

I just wish I was able to have a bit of fun with my new racing bike.  *cough*

Monday 7 February 2011

Carrot and Parsnip Soup

What to do with some past-their-best root veg?  Make soup!  (hoorah for the StarChef :o))  I had a huge parsnip and some carrots to use up this time...

Carrot and Parsnip Soup (serves 4; 126kcals, 18.5g carbs, 2.6g protein, 5g fat, 5.7g fibre, 2 portions fruit & veg):-

  • 1 enormous or 2 medium parsnips
  • 1 fat garlic clove
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • about 250g carrots
  • 15ml extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ Tsp Thyme
  • 1 medium onion
Roughly chop the veg, an onion and slice up the fat garlic clove.

Sweat the onion and garlic in some olive oil and add the vegetables and thyme, mixing through thoroughly.

Add made-up stock (using 1 litre of water) and cook on a low heat for an hour, minimum.  (I use the "soup" setting on my JML StarChef jobbie which uses a low and consistent heat, having used the "vegetables - fry" setting to sweat the onion and garlic - only 1 pan to wash!)

Blend everything with a hand blender.  Heat and serve or portion up and chill for later.

It's really smooth and creamy.  I'll be using this as a hot lunch with a roasted chicken breast either on the side or as a snack later in the afternoon for a protein boost as this is quite a low protein recipe for my liking.

Friday 4 February 2011

Weight loss: but I'm eating practically nothing!

It's a common cry; "I'm eating practically nothing, I'm starving, why am I not losing weight?", most usually heard part-way through a weight loss regime that involves reducing calorie intake.

Quite simply, the human body is pretty clever.  Have you seen those documentaries on anorexics who survive on 600-800 kcals a day?  They, even though they weigh very very little, exist on way below the number of calories required to maintain their weight and yet it takes significantly longer for them to lose any further weight than it should do given the deficit they're in.  OK, they're a pretty extreme case, but it does illustrate what the human body can do when put under those kinds of conditions.

If you restrict calories significantly for a period of time (the length of which appears to be dependant on the individual) your body starts to become more creative about using those calories.  The one I noticed more than anything else while I was losing weight was that I got cold.  Not just because I had less fat to keep me warm but because my metabolism slowed down!  My body decided that rather than using up fat (oh yes, and muscle too!) to fuel my needs, it would cut down on generating warmth.  It wasn't a huge amount of temperature drop and I was still losing some weight but there was certainly a trade off there and I got oh so very very cold and had to wear many layers more than I was used to just to stay warm.

Other ways your body will adjust to the continued lower calorie intake is to stop laying down as much glycogen for ready energy for your muscles, so you'll get fatigued more quickly when doing anything physical; like getting out of bed in the morning perhaps...

Tuesday 1 February 2011

I don't believe the saying

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail".  It's just so black and white.  Hypocritical as all hell for me to say that as I'm usually hugely guilty of black and white thinking.  Yet, I utterly do not believe that saying.  I've proven it to myself pretty much all of last year that I can get by and even improve with little to no plan at all.  I have this forward schedule of races to look forward to throughout the year but I have no training plan as such.

Yes, I'll cycle to work and back a reasonable number of times and maybe at weekends if the opportunity arises.  Yes, I'll run a bit when the opportunity arises.   I'll avoid going for a swim if at all possible at the moment as I'm really just not loving the swimming still (despite it being My Sport in my childhood).  So I'll probably drag myself for a dunking a few times before the first sprint tri, but there's no actual plan.  I know I need to extend my runs a bit to have more confidence in completing the half marathon later on, but I also know that I could probably get through it right now if I really had to (dammit, I ran 14km with a rucksack on after a crappy day at work, I don't think another 6km would be a huge stretch, especially not having to dodge street furniture, traffic crossings and random other pedestrians dithering about).  I also know from last year's experience that my sprint tri times will almost certainly improve even on last year's times because I'm just a bit fitter than I was last year and more used to doing triathlons, especially the transition bit, even though I've only done 3 in total.

What won't happen is that I will come even close to top of my category ranking.  Not without some real dedication and proper training rather than playing at it.  But despite having no concrete and detailed plan, I'm not going to actually "fail".  I know I won't.  It's not over-confidence or conceit, it's based in (albeit limited) experience.

My god.  Perhaps I'm mellowing...  Or perhaps I've just not got anywhere near my limit yet.

Jerusalem artichokes

Most of the time, in my Abel and Cole preferences is set "dislike" for potatoes.  We don't eat them (or rice or pasta or bread) all that often so it's easier to occasionally unset dislike when we want some.  SO we often get a surprise in the substitution for the potatoes that would normally some in the weekly veg box; and this week it was Jerusalem Artichokes which I've never knowingly eaten.  Thankfully I'd just been reading through the Abel and Cole cook book, in the Winter section (seeing as how it's Winter and that's the veg we'd be getting at this time of year) and already decided I wanted to try artichoke and almond cakes.

Artichoke and Almond cakes - serves 4 (175kcals) as starter or 2 (350kcals) for main course:-
  • 250g Peeled Jerusalem Artichoke 
  • 1 tsps Fresh Rosemary, chopped
  • 25ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 30g Flaked Almonds
  • 30g Plain Flour
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to season
Grate the artichokes and squeeze out the excess juice in your hands.

Chop the rosemary finely and add to the artichokes.

Add the flaked almonds, flour, lemon juice and seasoning.

Mix thoroughly but gently so as not to break up the almonds too much.

Split the mixture into 4 and form into balls.  This will be tricky and they may fall apart a little but stick with it and squeeze them together in your hands.  Flatten the balls a little then leave to rest in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to firm up a bit more.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the flattened balls, squashing them a bit flatter with a spatula.

Fry gently in the pan, turning once, for about 15-20 minutes depending on heat and thickness.

Serve and eat.

In this case with a baked chicken breast on top, which went really well with the textures and flavours.

These are absolutely -gorgeous-!  Really really tasty and a great texture.  Thanks again Abel and Cole!  I may even specifically order some artichokes before the end of the season so we can make more of these.