Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Barbecue sauce

This recipe is taken from my Ultimate Low Fat recipe book. It's intended as a glaze for chicken (or would work well with pork sausages too), but it's so tasty my husband demands I make double so he can have it as a sauce!

Serves 4

3 tbsp tomato puree
3 tbsp brown fruity sauce (we all know they mean HP!)
1 tbsp wine vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed (optional if you don't like garlic)

Mix all ingredients together well.

If using as a glaze, brush over chicken pieces and cook in the oven or on a barbecue until the juices run clear.

If making to serve as a sauce, place mixture in a pan. Heat gently until thickened slightly.

Sweet and sour chicken wings

This recipe is taken from Ultimate Low Fat: healthy cooking for you and your family. It's got some excellent recipes in and is well-used in my house!

Serves 4

4 tbsp wine vinegar
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 garlic clove, crushed
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
Juice of 1 lime (optional, this gives the chicken a tangy flavour)

Mix all the ingredients together and pour over chicken pieces (remove the skin if you want to reduce calories and fat). I've used drumsticks and wings in the past but I'm sure this will work just as well with thighs or legs.

Leave to marinate for an hour in the fridge. Cook in the oven or on a barbecue until chicken is well browned and the juices run clear.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Diet meal plan: shopping locally

Last week was another good week diet-wise. I reached and surpassed my weight goal (I lost 3 lb), so I'm now on maintenance. This means, more calories in and, hopefully, no weight lost or gained! Easier said than done though. My in-laws were visiting this weekend and I ate chocolate, cake, and crisps, and drank wine and cider (I NEVER drink cider).

The meals all went to plan last week. I was a bit worried about defrosting and reheating the Thai green curry--the coconut milk looked as if it was separating at one point--but once heated through it was fine and tasted lovely. I managed to clear enough freezer space to buy two tubs of ice cream too!

The sausages bought from the local butcher were so good that I also bought a joint of beef for Sunday. What a delicious meal! The beef was so tender. I've decided this week I'll try to only shop locally to see what else is available. Also, allotment and garden produce is appearing!

On to this week's plan.

Summer salad with prawns. My children refuse to eat prawns, so I'll poach a piece of cod for them.

Grilled chicken with tomato, olive, pepper, and cucumber salad, in pitta breads.
I'm on a Ladies Night out tonight, at The Two Brewer's in Stotfold (eating locally...), and my son is at his friend's house.

Sweet and sour chicken wings, vegetable egg fried rice, and BBQ sauce (for my husband, who NEEDS sauce when he has rice) - will blog these recipes on Wednesday.

Beef enchiladas.

Gammon steaks, chips, and sweetcorn cobs, with a tomato salad.

Oriental-style salmon with noodles and sugar snap peas.

Roast pork

Don't forget to check out Mrs M's blog for more weekly meal plans.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Lasting impressions

As I overtook a cyclist this morning in the car, I was reminded of my driving instructor. (Gamil Gattase: he worked for the AA driving school and was teaching his daughter to drive at the same time as me. I was better than she was.) He always told me when we passed a cyclist "Now check your mirror to make sure you didn't run him over". It's a silly memory, but something I always mutter to myself as I overtake cyclists.

When I was making my children's packed lunches later, I was buttering bread and thinking of my old Brownie pack leader (RIP Penny Cook), who I remember telling me to "butter right up to the edges because no one wants dry bread". I seriously remember her every time I butter bread.

And sat at my desk while working before lunch, struggling to see out of one eye because my contact lens had gone blurry, I remembered my husband's Auntie Pamela. Many many years ago (when I was VERY young!), I was telling her about a night out when I'd had contact lens issues and been unable to see all night. Thus, she passed on her vast contact lens knowledge. "Stick the lens in your mouth and give it a gentle suck, it'll do the trick. Better to use your own mouth than go blind." Priceless, classic, I've fallen on this emergency tip many a time.

I was wondering a while ago about my children and what their abiding memory of me would be. Will they remember the bad things, when I get cross with them for example? The fact I ALWAYS seem to be going running. Or the nice things, like when we make cakes or I "let" them go to the park. Or will I manage to pass on some priceless tip they remember forever? I sure hope so.

What random lasting memories do you have? How do you remember your parents? Please feel free to comment. (My mum taught me how to fold flour into cake mix, how to iron a shirt, the correct way to peg out washing, and never to eat chicken twice in one day. My dad taught me never to give up.)

Monday, 20 June 2011

Diet meal plan: soup overload!

After a successful week diet-wise for me (I lost another 3lb), I've raised my calorie intake from 1200 per day to 1400. This means I can eat a bit more (or reintroduce treats such as cake or ice cream!).

As far as this week goes, it's a bit hectic. My son has 2 school concert performances in the evening, so we need to have quick and easy meals that will keep him going. I also have a freezer stuffed to the brim with healthy meals and leftovers, so I'm focussing on using those up (and building up my Tupperware collection again!). We have family staying from Friday to Sunday, so we'll eat out one day and perhaps have a BBQ if the weather is good.

Lunch (for me): stuffed vine leaves and salad (bought at the Father's Day Chilli Fiesta we went to yesterday)
Dinner: Turkey bolognaise sauce with pasta (soup for me)

Lunch: Cheesy pasta and garlic slices (from the freezer)
Dinner: Thai green chicken curry and rice (I'm running, so I'll have [more] soup later)

Lunch: Soup [I have at least three homemade varieties in the freezer!]
Dinner: Baked potatoes, various fillings to choose from

Lunch: Beans on toast
Dinner: Fish fingers and chips (late dinner for me and hubs so probably mussels in ratatouille for me and a burger for him)

Lunch: Egg salad
Dinner: Chicken and sausages (bought from our local butcher, Beale Bros, supposedly the best sausages around and low fat too), homemade potato wedges, and salads (cooked on the BBQ if weather is good)

Eating out

Lunch: Roast beef

Don't forget to check out Mrs M's blog for more meal ideas for the week.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Heart rate monitoring: the science bit

My last post on heart rate was about training with a heart monitor, and I talked about running (or working out) to your 70% recovery heart rate (an "easy" day) three times a week and to the 85% threshold ceiling (a "hard" day) once. But why is this strategy important? (Here follows a VERY simplified explanation of muscle metabolism and biochemistry!)

Energy sources
Our body contains two types of energy source: glycogen and fat. When you begin a run or workout, your body "fires up" and starts to burn glycogen without oxygen (anaerobic metabolism). This warm-up phase lasts a maximum of 2 minutes, after which your body begins to burn the glycogen with oxygen (aerobic metabolism). After 30 minutes of your run or workout you begin to burn fat aerobically; this process is the most efficient way to produce energy and is what will get you through an endurance race. You still need glycogen as a back-up (for dealing with hills and a sprint finish!), so training your body to burn fat rather than glycogen (and therefore saving this vital energy source for "emergencies") is important.

Muscle types
Muscles are formed of two types of cells (or fibres): slow-twitch and fast-twitch. Slow-twitch cells have a high oxygen content (for aerobic metabolism) and burn fat; they are therefore most important for endurance. Fast-twitch cells create energy from glycogen without oxygen (anaerobic metabolism); a by-product of this process is lactic acid, which creates that painful burning sensation when you train hard. Increasing the amount of fast-twitch muscle cells will help you deal with this burning pain (sprinters have a lot of this muscle-cell type).

How the science fits with training
"Easy" training days at 70% recovery heart rate increase the number of slow-twitch cells, thereby teaching your muscles to burn fat (and saving your glycogen for another day). By increasing your muscles' fat-burning potential you are not only getting fitter but also boosting aerobic capacity, the ability to burn energy with oxygen.

But you do need some capacity for anaerobic metabolism (without oxygen, glycogen-burning); anaerobic metabolism is going to get you started on a run or workout and will propel you up a hill quickly, but will make your muscles burn from the pain of lactic acid build-up. A "hard" training day or interval training---when you run for short distances at your 85% threshold ceiling heart rate---helps your body develop more fast-twitch cells to deal with the pain of lactic acid build up.

"Hitting the wall" (basically, when your legs stop working) happens when you've run out of glycogen. So easy training days---teaching your muscles to burn fat---are really important so you have glycogen available when you need it.

So, that's a very simplified explanation of why it's important to run or workout at these two different heart rate zones. For more details I suggest you read Heart Monitor Training for the Compleat Idiot by John Parker (which a friend very kindly lent to me---he can have his copy back now!) or borrow a book from your library on sports biochemistry or muscle metabolism (there are lots out there).

My personal experience
I've been running with a heart monitor and following these principles for about 6 weeks. I have really noticed a difference in my ability. When I started running at my recovery heart rate my average pace was 11 min/mile and I was running 7 miles; now my average pace is 10 min/mile and I can run 9 miles. Also, I ran 10K in early April in just over 57 minutes. Last week I knocked 2 minutes off that time. Who knows where I will be in another 6 weeks?

If you have any questions please let me know in the comments. I will reply!

Cabbage and potato soup

Today's lunch is Cabbage and potato soup, a dish I adapted from a recipe on the BBC Good Food website. Here's the recipe if you would like to try it yourself.

Cabbage and Potato soup

Serves 4

1 stick of celery, chopped roughly
1 onion, chopped roughly
2 carrots, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
450 g potatoes, small dice
1 L vegetable stock (I used 4 tsp Swiss vegetable bouillon powder)
1 savoy cabbage, thick stalks and core removed, sliced thinly

Place the celery, carrot, garlic, and potatoes into a large pan and cover with the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 mins until all the vegetables are tender. Blitz with a hand blender until fairly smooth. Add the savoy cabbage and simmer until just tender. Check seasoning and divide into four portions.

I froze this soup so it's available for an easy lunch. The Good Food website suggests serving with grilled bacon on top, which sounds lovely and would provide extra protein (but extra fat too!).

Per serving:
133 calories
29 g carbohydrate
1 g fat
4 g protein

It's simply delicious, and very healthy. I haven't used any oil in the recipe, although if you wish you could fry the vegetables in a little olive oil to soften them before adding the stock (I don't see the point of adding fat).

If you try this recipe please let me know in the comments how it turns out and if you liked it.

Diet meal plan: week 2

Welcome to week 2 of my family-friendly diet meal plans.

Last week went mainly to plan. Saturday was a diet disaster: with two parties to go to it was inevitable really! We scrapped the roast dinner on Sunday because of our overindulgence and had beans on toast for lunch and takeaway kebabs for dinner (I had run 9 miles, it was deserved!).

This week my son has requested cheesy pasta, and I'm always open to requests :)

Lunch: Cabbage and potato soup
Dinner: Cod with pea and watercress purée and new potatoes

Lunch: Beans on toast
Dinner: Thai chicken and vegetable curry with rice

Lunch: Baked potato
Dinner: Thin cut pork steaks, chips and ratatouille

Lunch: Prawn salad sandwich
Dinner: Cheesy cauliflower and pasta bake

Lunch: Spicy dal and carrot soup
Dinner: Stir-fry beef and broccoli with egg fried rice

Dinner: Baked potatoes

Lunch: Roast chicken

Don't forget to check Mrs M's blog for other ideas. 

Thursday, 9 June 2011

My Fitness Story

If you've arrived at my blog via The Five Fs then "hello and welcome". Since you've probably read (and hopefully enjoyed) my fitness story, I thought a list of other relevant posts might be of interest, to save too much random clicking.

  • I blogged in early January about my initiation into the local running club.
  • At the beginning of March, I had a look back at the past 2 months to see how far I'd come with respect to my weight loss.
  • Although I had been tweeting since January about my weekly Wii Fit weigh-ins, my blog followers were no so fortunate. This post introduced it, and I sounded off about a bad week I'd had.
  • I dusted my weighted hula hoop off and attempted to find my waist.
  • After a family holiday, I discovered the joy of splurging and getting away with it.
  • At the end of March I had reached the ideal BMI range; I blogged about my achievements, why I thought I was doing so well, and my love of toast.
  • In April, I ran a 10K race and wrote a piece about panting women and jelly babies.
  • Most recently, I've blogged about my new Garmin Forerunner and training with a heart monitor.
Hope you enjoy reading any or all of these posts. Feel free to leave a comment, I will reply!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Heart rate monitoring: training yourself

As a follow-up to my post on heart rate zones, this post is about training with a heart monitor.

Earlier this year I signed up to run a half marathon in August. The prospect of running 13.1 miles was daunting when previously the farthest I'd ever run was 6.6 miles. I needed a plan!

I had a look on the Runners World website for training plans and found SmartCoach. Here, you enter a few details (a time for a recent distance, how often you train, how many weeks before your race, etc) and the online system calculates an individualised training plan for you based on your ability. The plan is based on pace. So for example, if you run four times a week the plan will have you running probably three times at a slowish pace (for me, about 11:04 min/mile) and once at a faster pace (eg, 9:30 min/mile).

Heart Monitor Training
Some Twitter friends (@britsonpole) very kindly sent me their training plans for running a half marathon (they recently ran the inaugural Greenway Challenge). Their plans were based on heart rate zones, with three weekly runs at or under recovery (70% zone) and one at threshold (85%).

I decided, since I have a heart monitor and have been reading Heart Monitor Training, that I'd use the SmartCoach plan for distances but replace pace with heart rate zones. It was a good decision; my first training run was to pace (11:04), whereas my second (and subsequent) run to my recovery zone meant my pace varied from 11:04 to 9:30 min/mile (depending on elevation and wind resistance I expect!).

I'll update on my training progress in August, and perhaps I'll explain before then why varied runs are best :) If I can summarise succinctly and accurately that is...

Monday, 6 June 2011

Diet meal plans

Ever since I began dieting back in January, I've planned the family's meals for the week. Planning has several benefits: it reminds me what I should be eating (and stops me snacking in-between meals); I can keep track of how many fish/chicken/pasta dishes we've had (or not had!) in the week; and it helps keep the shopping bill down (and prevents wasting food because everything gets used).

So many people ask me what I eat to lose weight, so I thought I'd post my diet meal plans here once a week. I'm also going to link them to Mrs M's weekly blog post, which has lots of other ideas and linked posts. It's a great resource, so go and check it out.

I try and eat what the rest of the family eat, simply to avoid having to cook too many different meals. However, I don't like to eat carbohydrate for dinner (unless I've been running before), so sometimes I might save some pasta sauce for the next day and have it for lunch.

Here's this week's plan. (Please note that I'm currently aiming to eat 1200 calories a day! The family are not.) Lunches are for me only, dinners are for the whole family (unless stated).

Lunch: Spicy Dal and Carrot Soup
Dinner: Grilled chicken breast, roast new potatoes, and salad

Lunch: Turkey bolognaise sauce with wholewheat pasta
Dinner: as above for family; veggie version of Cabbage and Potato Soup for me (after running club PM)

Lunch: Chicken, sun-dried tomato and mushroom risotto (from the freezer)
Dinner: Breaded fish, chips, and mushy peas (post swimming lesson). For me, melon, proscuitto, and a tomato, basil, and onion salad (after circuit training PM).

Lunch: Bacon, rocket, and tomato on a seeded deli roll
Dinner: Salmon, boiled new potatoes, and green beans

Lunch: Moroccan chickpea soup
Dinner: Thin-cut steak and/or tomato and basil chicken (Tesco BBQ range), homemade potato wedges, and salad

Two parties today! Will eat whatever we are given :)

Lunch: Roast chicken and all the trimmings!
Dinner: Sandwiches, salad, any leftovers
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