Saturday, 31 March 2012

Raspberry baked oatmeal for a long run...

Have I mentioned that I'm running a half marathon tomorrow? I have? Oh, good.

I've made quite a bit of progress in my running in the last year or so, mainly since joining my local running club, but organised races still scare me. My last one was the Bath half in 2010, where I'd trained for 2:30 but crashed and burned at mile 9 (for some inexplicable reason, the trainers I'd worn for months with no problems whatsoever suddenly gave me blisters) and ended up with 2:35. That shows how far I've come since, of course, because my target for tomorrow is (whisper it) to finish in under two hours, but the idea of an organised race still takes me out of my comfort zone.

One of the things I'm most worried about (now I'm reasonably certain the weather's going to be nice and cool rather than stupidly hot like last weekend) is eating. I'm not one of those people who can get up, have a bite of toast and go and run 10 miles. I need to eat properly before a long run. Usually, I get up an hour before my run and have a bowl of porridge, and then I'll have a banana or a nakd bar about half an hour later. That seems to see me through anything up to 12 or 13 miles, so it's perfect for a half marathon. But of course tomorrow, I'll be getting a lift to Reading at 7am, and I won't actually be running until 10am. So what to do? The number one rule of running is that you don't try anything new on race day, so I wanted to find some way of being able to eat porridge and banana while standing around in the race village waiting for the start.

Then my sporting guru friend Nic suggested baked oatmeal, which sounded perfect, and coincidentally just a couple of hours later this recipe for strawberry and banana cream baked oatmeal popped up on my Google Reader, so I definitely had to give it a go. I made some last night, so I could try it this morning and make sure I liked it, and I had it for breakfast this morning.
Success! I took my inspiration from the recipe on How Sweet It Is but obviously I used raspberries instead of strawberries, and I used my usual porridge mix of oats and millet flakes. I also wanted to make it a bit healthier, so I just used almond milk for all of the liquid and I didn't add any sugar as I thought it'd be sweet enough with the banana and raspberries. First of all I tried a piece cold, as that's how I'll be eating it tomorrow, and it was lovely - like an oaty banana flapjack with bursts of raspberry every now and then. Yum yum! Then I warmed some up in the microwave and had it as the original recipe suggested, with extra raspberries and cold almond milk. It was amazing - it feels really naughty and decadent, like eating cake or flapjacks for breakfast, but in fact it's ridiculously healthy! I have a feeling it's going to become my new favourite breakfast, as it'd be so easy to make a batch on a Sunday and take it to work during the week.

Fingers crossed it'll fuel a good run tomorrow! I'm off to stretch my hamstrings...

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Pasta, pesto and potatoes...

...and other things beginning with P, I shouldn't wonder!

As you may remember, I got a bag of rocket in this week's veg box, and obviously it needs using up fairly quickly. I fancied the idea of making a sort of pesto with it, and then I remembered this recipe for pasta and pesto with green beans, from Hugh F-W's amazing River Cottage Veg Every Day. I've had the book for a while now and it's gorgeous, but this is the first thing I've actually made - well, the first thing I've made my own totally bastardised version of, anyway. My sister pointed out at the weekend that I never actually make a recipe as it's meant to be, I always mess around with it!

Anyway, I didn't have any green beans, so I didn't use those, and I made my 'pesto' by whizzing up a big handful of the aforementioned rocket, some toasted sunflower seeds, a big clove of garlic, a big squeeze of lemon juice, some salt and pepper and a little bit of olive oil (and I mean a little bit, not like when Jamie Oliver says '...and a little bit of olive oil' and then slugs in half a bottle). Then I cut a couple of small potatoes into cubes and boiled them for about five minutes before adding some spelt spaghetti and letting it all cook until the potatoes were soft and the pasta was done. And then I just stirred the pesto into the hot pasta. It was really nice, and perfect for my pre-half-marathon diet, as it involved two forms of carbohydrate!
Look! It's light enough in the evenings to take photos of my dinner without crappy lamplight!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Veg Box Day: 27/03/12

It's veg box week, hoorah! This fortnight's box had cauliflower, leeks, rocket, spring greens, cucumber, potato and carrots. I was a bit worried about ending up with a potato mountain, as I already had half a bag left from two weeks ago, but this time I've got four large baking potatoes rather than the smaller red-skinned ones I had last time, so I can use them for different things.

I'd found this artichoke, leek and potato casserole on Pinterest a while back, and it was perfect for tonight's supper - I already had a tin of artichoke hearts, so all I needed to buy was cream cheese and lemon! The recipe was great, but I think it could do with lots of garlic (I added a clove, but I'd probably use at least two next time) and maybe some rosemary. Nevertheless, it was gorgeous and as you can see I had a suitably enormous portion, with some of the rocket and a bit of balsamic dressing.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Sunshine and chocolate pie!

It's been a lovely weekend. British Summer Time arrived in style, with wall-to-wall sunshine and lovely warm weather. It feels like spring has really arrived! Personally I'd like it if spring could bugger off again for the day next Sunday, because I hate running in warm weather (yesterday's 12-miler was utterly hellish and very slow) and I'd like to not die halfway round the Reading half marathon, but for the time being I'm enjoying the sun!
My sister also came to stay this weekend, and as usual I wanted to find a suitably delicious Suze-friendly recipe to make. Especially this time, as I hadn't seen her since November! I eventually decided to have a go at this chocolate pie from Post Punk Kitchen and I'm really glad I did, because it was brilliant. I made my own buttery biscuit base from 1 1/2 cups of biscuit crumbs (I used a pack of Doves Farm hazelnut and orange cookies and a few TruFree digestives as there weren't quite enough cookies in the pack) and 1/4 cup of dairy-free spread, which I melted and mixed with the biscuit crumbs before pressing it into a 9" non-stick shallow cake pan (I don't have a pie dish that size) and baking it in the oven for about 10 minutes. Then I made the chocolate filling as per the recipe, except I used Alpro hazelnut drink instead of almond milk.

We were SO impressed with the results! The hazelnut biscuits were perfect for the base, and the hazelnut milk in the chocolate filling made it taste ever so slightly Nutella-like. Yum yum! You absolutely would not know it was gluten- and dairy-free. It was amazing, if I do say so myself!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Sorting things out!

I'm having one of my periodic financial crises. I get paid on the 22nd of the month, and thanks to a few birthdays, trips and a bit too much shopping, this month has been a real struggle and I've had to dip into my (already quite meagre) savings just to get through to Thursday. Not good! I've also been struggling to eat as well as I'd like to - I've fallen into the 'too much wine at the pub followed by a dirty takeaway on the way home' temptation trap far too many times recently, which isn't good for either the waistline or the bank balance!

So as it's now officially spring, which seems like a good time for a fresh start and some positive thinking, I'm going to attempt to sort things out and get back on track. To that end, I've joined the excellent Shoeperwoman's Wardrobe Challenge. She does a Shoe Challenge every year, where you have to 'save' your shoes by wearing them - at the end of the year, any pairs you haven't worn have to be thrown away or sent to the charity shop or whatever. And now she's doing a similar thing with her wardrobe. It's such a good idea - I'm frequently guilty of buying new things for the sake of it (do I actually need another dress with birds on it?) rather than wearing the perfectly good clothes I already have, and I do have far too many items of clothing in my wardrobe. So I'll be attempting to 'save' my clothes by wearing them, and I'll be trying not to buy new things.

I'm also going to put a stop to the post-pub takeaways! My veg box has really helped to keep me away from the supermarket over the last week or so, and I've made some lovely healthy things, so it really is just this awful 'must get something to eat on the way home' habit that I've got to kick into touch. It's embarrassing, because everyone thinks of me as this ultra-healthy runner who eats lots of vegetables, and there I am shoving a horrible greasy pizza into my mouth at half past midnight. Yuck. Unfortunately after a couple of glasses of wine my self-control tends to go out of the window, but I'm going to try my best!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Oaty banana pancakes...

For the last couple of weeks, I've been running on Saturdays instead of Sundays, doing a brilliant 12-mile trail run with a few others from the running club. It involves lots of hills and it's been fantastic - not only is it something completely different and a great addition to my half-marathon training (two weeks today, eek!) but it means I get my running out of the way at the start of the weekend and I can do whatever I want with my Saturday night and my Sunday!

Last night I was out at a friend's 30th birthday do (there was an 80s TV characters theme and I went as Velma from Scooby-Doo...check it out...)
...and so this morning I fancied a bit of a Sunday treat. I came up with these pancakes - they were really easy and really tasty!
Oaty Banana Pancakes
(serves one)

1 small ripe banana
30g oats
15g buckwheat flour
Enough milk (I used almond) to make it into a thick batter

Mash the banana really well, then stir in the oats and flour to make a thick paste. Then whisk in the milk until you get a thick batter, and dollop spoonfuls into a hot pan. Make them quite thick, as they'll be quite delicate, and make sure you let them cook thoroughly on one side before turning them over. Serve with maple syrup. Yum!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Gnoc 'n' broc 'n' cheeze...

The veg box cooking continues! I was trying to work out what to do with my lovely bag of purple sprouting broccoli, and then this recipe for gnocchi and cheese with PSB turned up on my Google Reader! How fortuitous - I've had a vacuum pack of gnocchi sitting in the fridge for months! The only sticking point was that, although I love and adore cheese, I can't keep it in the house because I will just end up eating great slabs of the stuff. Mmm, cheese...

Anyway, I decided to give it a go, and I set about finding a cheese sauce alternative. And that's how I ended up with my second recipe from Oh She Glows in a week - the amazing five-ingredient vegan cheeze sauce. I had all the ingredients except Dijon mustard (I'm a bit scared of mustard) so I decided to go for it, and I'm so glad I did.
It was ridiculously easy to make, and really tasty. Did it taste like cheese? No, of course not. Was it creamy and delicious and perfect with the broccoli and gnocchi? Yes. I even added the suggested amount of mustard, and the mustardy flavour went amazingly well with the broccoli.
Doesn't that look lovely? I steamed the broccoli in the microwave (I just put it in a plastic takeaway tub with a splash of water and microwaved it for about a minute and a half) and cooked the gnocchi as per the packet instructions, and then I mixed the broc and gnoc with the sauce and baked it all in the oven until it was golden brown and bubbling...
And it was beautiful. I could easily have eaten the entire dish, such is my greediness, but I managed to restrain myself and put half away in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch. I can't wait!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

WIAW: nine miler

Yet again it's been ages since I last participated in What I Ate Wednesday, but never mind, here I am again!

Today kicked off with my current breakfast of choice, which is still Activia yogurt (vanilla this morning) with Mesa Sunrise cereal. This was the last bit from the bottom of the box, hence all the crumbly bits!
Then at about midday I had this lovely juicy apple...
...and lunch itself was my new favourite food for running days, a Tilda microwave basmati rice pouch thing (this one was brown basmati with butternut squash) with my customary broccoli and Brussels sprouts! WIAW this month is all about the vegetables, and as you probably know by now, I have a bit of an obsession with those little packs of veg that you can get in M&S and Waitrose. They're perfect for lunch because you can just steam them in the microwave for a minute or so (our work kitchen only has a microwave, toaster and kettle) and you've got lovely fresh veg. I eat them all the time.
Delicious. I then ate a few too many mini flapjack bites, but we'll gloss over those and call them 'fuel' for this evening's run! I also had a banana and some rye toast as further fuel before I headed out with the running club - and it seemed to work, because I ran 9 miles in 1:22.37 - an average pace of 9:06/mile. I was really pleased with that, because the first four miles were really hilly and there was a fair bit of waiting around at traffic lights, and my race pace is meant to be between 9 and 9:05/mile, so I was pretty much there! It felt like a really good run, too - I felt like I easily had a few more miles in me at the end. Good job, too, because this arrived today...
Not long to go now! My first organised half-marathon since March 2010...!

Then when I got home I settled down in front of Masterchef (I still don't know who I want to win!) with a bowl of leftover tomato and barley risotto, a poached egg, and some oatcakes. A slightly odd supper, but very nice and just what I needed after my run!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Return of the veg!

A couple of years ago I had a go at having veg boxes delivered from Riverford. I posted about it at the time - go and have a look if you've got nothing better to do! They were great, but I was a bit overambitious and went for the 'seasons' boxes - they were really exciting, because they involved all sorts of unusual seasonal veg like wild garlic and kohl rabi, but realistically they were too expensive and there was just too much veg for me. I found that I couldn't use it all before it went manky. So I stopped having the boxes delivered, but recently I'd been thinking more and more about how nice it would be to have a veg box again, so I decided to go for it.

This time, I've gone for the 'mini' box - you get seven varieties of veg, usually including potatoes and onions. Much more manageable, I hope! I've gone for a fortnightly delivery, which I'm hoping will work well, and I'm also hoping it'll get me more into meal planning so I don't end up grabbing stuff from the supermarket every evening.

This week I've got a lovely little bag of potatoes, two onions, two avocados, two parsnips, a punnet of cherry tomatoes on the vine, a bag of purple sprouting broccoli and three lovely big portobello mushrooms. Yum yum! And everything except the avocado and tomatoes is British. So this week, I'll be using the perishable bits - the tomatoes, the avocados (although they're still quite solid so they should last a good few days yet), the broccoli and the mushrooms - and then after that I can use up the potatoes and parsnips, and I'll use the onions as and when.

My first veg box dinner used the tomatoes, which I'm not a huge fan of in their raw state. So I decided to roast half the punnet, and then I made this lovely creamy tomato and barley risotto from Oh She Glows. I had all of the other ingredients in the house already, so it was absolutely perfect! I used pearl barley rather than pot barley, because that's what I had, and I roasted some garlic with the tomatoes and added that to the risotto. Apart from that, I stuck to the recipe, but I halved it and got two nice portions.
I topped the risotto with my roasted tomatoes, a bit of balsamic and some sunflower sprouts for added crunch and healthiness! It was creamy and comforting and totally gorgeous. Veg success!

Sunday, 11 March 2012


Despite having lived in London for nearly 12 years, I'd never actually been on the classic day trip to Brighton - a fact that has always shocked people! So when my friend Liz suggested popping down to the seaside for the day, I jumped at the chance. And I took some suitably poseur-ish arty fake-Polaroid photos while I was there!

We had a wander along the beach, went to the pier (and went on the Waltzers), had a seriously lovely lunch at Alfresco, and wandered around the Lanes.

 Then we went for a drink...
...and spotted this on the way back from the station, which amused us greatly!

Friday, 2 March 2012

Uniqlo and Laura Ashley

I'm a big fan of Stylist, the free magazine given out once a week at Tube and railway stations across the capital. It's got a great mix of fashion and features and it's the perfect length for my morning commute! Last week, I spotted an advert for a special event they were hosting with Uniqlo to celebrate the new Laura Ashley limited edition collection. A few of the girls from work and I all signed up for free invites, and I'm glad we did, because the event was great fun!

The evening had a Forties tea party theme, and we were greeted by some lovely ladies in vintage frocks bearing cocktails in teacups...
Apparently they were a mix of vodka, elderflower, cranberry and Chambord - they were very sweet, but quite moreish! There were also cake stands with mini Bakewell tarts and little brioche rolls with goats' cheese and sundried tomatoes. Yum yum! And there was live music and a DJ playing Forties and Fifties swing and jazz. Not only that, we got 20% off everything instore, including the lovely Laura Ashley collection - tops, tunics and scarves featuring prints from the Laura Ashley archive. I treated myself to a couple of the scoop-neck t-shirts and I'm really pleased with the quality and the fit. I couldn't resist wearing one of them today!

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