Slow cooked beef brisket but not as you know it!

This weekend we had a family trip to Filey. We love to sit down to a nice meal and some nice wine, as it is not often all eight of us get so much time together. It is the perfect excuse for me to spend some time cooking different meals.

We always plan meals before we go away, then have a supermarket food delivery once we have arrived at our beach retreat. Inevitably, we forget a few things, or don’t order enough of something. This would usually mean reverting to the same old same old, especially when it came to making the Sunday roast. We had ordered a mighty piece of beef brisket, and I had brought my slow cooker along. Normally I would pour bottle of red wine over it, maybe add some onion and seasoning and let it do it’s thing. But the evening before I had made a lamb ragu to serve with pasta. That had been a heavy red wine and tomato based sauce and I thought it would be a it boring to have similar flavours again. So I found myself having to improvise with other ingredients I had in. Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention.

The beef went in the slow cooker with a bottle of white wine, chopped celery, two chicken stock cubes and some rosemary, low and slow for 8 hours just as brisket should be cooked. The end result was incredible. I was blown away by the sweetness of the meat, and how this combination had somehow made the beef a less dense texture. It still made a comforting Sunday dinner but the taste was a real revelation.

It got me thinking about how if I had stuck to my fail safe options using a recipe, I might never have tasted this dish. So from now on I think a little more experimentation is needed.

 

 

 

Why can’t I find my running mojo?

I don’t consider myself brave writing this post, but I do consider myself to be honest. Social media today is filled with pictures of people’s healthy meals, but they somehow neglect to post the pictures of the not so healthy food they consume in between. You will find pictures of people in their underwear… yes underwear, comparing their body shapes over time. Every day of the week seems to provide an alliterative excuse to display pictures of yourself and declaring how much better you look, how much you love yourself now. Call me old fashioned, but this is a trend that isn’t for me. Since when did we think posting partially naked pictures of ourselves was something our friends and family would want to see, never mind the rest of the world? People forget, once it is on the internet it is there forever!

Anyway I digress, the point of this is to highlight that when trying to achieve something, or trying something new, the road is not always smooth, as social media would lead you to believe. I think acknowledging this is just as important as telling everyone how great you are doing.

I set myself the challenge of running 5k on Valentine’s Day. For the fit and healthy amongst you, this is nothing I am sure. But for me it would be like running a marathon. Not because I am completely unfit, or that I am delusional to compare the two. It is the mental barrier I have to cross to do it. I have tried to take up running on and off for years, and always end up giving up. I never seem to have found that place that people talk of where they enjoy it, find it addictive and can keep pushing themselves to run faster or further or competitively.

So when I am on yet another run where I can’t find a breathing pattern, every muscle is tight and on the verge of cramping (or so I think) and I am having to set myself the tiniest of goals to get through it (get to that lamppost, run to the corner), eventually the temptation to give up takes over and my running programme I spent hours creating is tucked away out of sight.

This time I cannot find the will power to even go out for a run. I find excuses to put it off, convince myself a nice long walk with the dog is doing just as much good. In terms of my health and well being, the walks are having the desired effect as part of my eat less move more mantra. However the need to be able to achieve this running goal, I have now realised, is a mental one not physical.

Now that I have acknowledged that, and realised my goal might not be that realistic, I am prepared to admit I need to change things a bit. Better that than give up completely I hope. So I am going to give myself more time. Take things slower and build up in a way I can manage and aim to run 5k by the end of March 2017.

Yesterday I started with a jog with my dog. It was really nice. I always feel conflicted about whether I would like company on a run. Would it motivate me to keep going or will I feel pressured to keep up and then give up? It turns out the dog was the happy medium. He goes at my pace, since he is on a lead, and it feels like you are not alone.

So there you have it. Goals should be set to push us and help to us overcome things, and it is healthy to admit that this means it is not always easy. Its healthy for both body and mind to understand why it is hard and confront it. Small steps and trying new approaches to achieve your goal is great. Let’s start talking about that more to balance out the gratuitous self adoration on social media which can make others feel like failures. Remember social media is a facade. As we now have the power to filter our images on these platforms, essentially using photoshop style technology to improve our images, social media itself is a filter. It allows you to only showing what you want people to see. Skewing the image of what is real.

So I will build up my mental running stamina gradually, but I won’t be posting images of my sweaty face or a screen shot of the distance/ time/ calories I have burned. However I might still bore you with the incredible views I see while I am out and about!

Nxx

Is a diet the answer?

It is that time of year where we start to regret the Christmas over indulgence. A friend said to me the other day ‘Christmas ended up being the whole of December for me’. This is so true. These days we have Christmas parties, work gatherings, and generally find any excuse to start buying all those delicious festive treats that have adorned supermarket shelves since late October.

Once the decorations are down, and we do not sit in the soft glow of fairy lights, the truth emerges. We might have put on a few pounds, our skin might be a little dehydrated or had a break out of spots. However it effects you, we all have that guilt complex that makes us vow to do something to reverse what we have done to ourselves.

Slimming World, Weight Watchers, Lighter Life, Slim Fast. These are just a handful of the ‘diets’ we hear about today aimed at helping people to lose weight. What do they have in common; they provide you a snippet of information for free to entice you to buy a membership to an exclusive club with all the secrets to lose weight or buy their specially designed weight loss products normally at an extortionate price. Each provides a unique methodology for weight loss over a period of time, but are any of them actually sustainable? Does anyone enter into a diet with the intention of following it for life or is it a temporary change in their habits to reach a goal?

As anyone who has experienced one of these diets will tell you, they work for a while but as soon as your body accepts the new portions and combinations of food you eat, your weight loss will plateau. The only option is to continue to reduce portion sizes and cut things out, on these such diets, and then what; we just eat nothing? Latterly you reach your goal and start to introduce food into your diet again that was ‘banned’ or restricted. Inevitably weight creeps back on.

Nowadays these diet regimes will talk about exercise too. But they all miss the main principle… most likely to keep you paying for their advice and buying into the corporation.

The simplest advice out there is; Eat less and move more. I got to thinking about this, is it in fact that simple? Calories in versus calories out will determine your weight loss, gain or maintenance. That is all you really need to know to make this work. The more you eat, the more you need to burn off to avoid fat gain. If you can combine the idea of eating less and beginning to move more then you should be able to lose weight.

I have a good understanding about food groups and what these foods mean to your body, but you don’t really need to be an expert to make this work. You will hear people talk about empty calories, good fats, bad fats, super foods and so on. Ultimately energy (calories) is energy and fat is fat. Take in more energy than your body needs for the amount you move, the more will convert to fat that then needs to be burned off. You will not burn fat until you have burnt the energy surplus in your body. Hence why weight gain is easier than weight loss.

Weight loss/ gain is merely a simple equation. There are many apps these days with databases that will calculate the calories you have eaten and what you have burned. It puts the control in your hands to be the maker of your own destiny. If technology is not your thing, food labels display the calorific content of the food contained.

Exercise is moving, in whatever way works for you. You don’t need to get an expensive gym membership, buy an exercise bike or the latest celebrity DVD. Start small, make a little change to your habits; go for a walk, join an exercise class, maybe a steady bike ride. Build up your enthusiasm for exercise, don’t overwhelm yourself by setting unrealistic expectations of yourself. If you haven’t run before perhaps aim to get to 5k rather than a marathon and so on. You should only exercise for you and not compare yourself to others. It will be your biggest downfall. The internet has a vast array of free videos to introduce you to new exercise too. Everything from aerobics, to HIIT exercise programmes and yoga, there is something to suit everyone.

Using this principle I am starting the year eating smaller portions and reducing the ratio of carbs in my diet. I am drinking more water and a little less caffeine too. I am not depriving myself of any food group or treat merely moderating what I have. Exercise wise, before Christmas I would have considered myself to undertake light activity. I walk my dog at least once a day, and went to Pilates once a week. Now I will continue with both, adding in a dance aerobics class once a week plus a 6 week training plan to be able to run 5k by Valentine’s Day.

So if you feel you have more pounds on your person than in the bank in January, don’t subscribe to a profit making diet plan but simply eat less and move more. It is far more sustainable as it is habitual change.

Good luck to all you post festive fitness fanatics in the making 🙂

Nxx

 

 

Phase Two


hello-janSo here is 2017, the big 3-0 is a mere 9 months and 2 days away. I was lucky enough to have a nice long Christmas break and feel refreshed. It gave me time to reflect on the first three months of Project Fab 30 and plan the next three.

So how did the first three months go? The blog posts were less frequent than I had anticipated but between all the fun I was having and a heavy work schedule it was hard to fit them in.

However it went rather well. I started Pilates and continue to go weekly. I am better at it than I thought I ever would be and can feel myself getting much stronger. Did it help me lose 1 stone? Well, almost but not quite. I fear the Christmas indulgence might have had an adverse effect too.

The cook-up-and-freeze meal planning has been a great success and I will be continuing with that up until the summer months arrive. It has been such a time saver and a money saver too! It is also nice to know, after a long day at work, there is a healthy and tasty meal already half prepared.

I am continuing to cook new dishes, albeit not every week and my passion for baking is growing. Christmas brought new recipe books and some fabulous new baking equipment.

I have been to lots of lovely and interesting new places. I am not talking world travel of course but exploring the area we now live a bit more, new places to shop and eat. This year I hope to branch out a bit further.

I am still working on the volunteering but think I have found a few feasible options. I want to focus my efforts on the local community for now, but there is another charity close to my heart but not too far from home I am looking to contact.

All in all the first three months have had the desired effect, making time for the things I enjoy and spending time in our new home.

So its time to think about what I want to achieve in the next three months and how it can contribute towards my goals for 2017. Here they are;

  1. 5k by Valentine’s Day
  2. Write first short story
  3. Lose first stone
  4. Start new dance exercise class
  5. Food prep for breakfast and lunch (like dinner)
  6. At least one blog post a week
  7. Keep baking!

Nxx

fab-30

Hello 2017

 

hello-2017I am not a fan of the word resolutions. It suggests something needs to be resolved, as if all that has gone before in the previous year needs correcting. I prefer to think of goals. I have four categories for my goals; a specific achievement something that will challenge me and make in a more rounded and better version of myself in body and mind. Refrain from something/ give something up, test my strength of character. Start something new and kick-start something I have avoided/ stopped doing that I love.

I also start a little later than 1st January. Inevitably I am still in holiday mode since it’s a bank holiday. This year I am starting on 5th January, exactly 9 months until my 30th birthday.

So my goals for 2017 are;

  • Lose 3 stone for 30 (by 5th October)
  • Not eat sweets, biscuits or crisps (the classic office snacks)
  • Learn about gardening and make my garden beautiful
  • Start writing short stories

I achieved a lot last year and have a lot to be proud of, but some goals, passions and issues were ignored and left behind. This year is about picking those up and starting again. Project Fab 30 will be designed to achieve these goals and bring more focus on fun and hobbies.

Wish me luck

Nxx

 

 

 

Homemade Christmas Garland

I am super excited to be decorating our house for the festive season at the weekend. Our kitchen has a window that was crying out to be adorned with a garland. Mostly because there are some hooks perfectly placed from where a seemingly dated net curtain used to hang. But also because against the cream walls, it is a blank canvas crying out for some colour.

So it turns out garlands are rather expensive, so after a little research I visited my trusty supplier of all things wonderful (Amazon- obviously) and bought all the component parts for a LOT cheaper. The beauty being I will get the exact look I want without compromise.

It was super simple to make and lots of fun. Check out the before and after pictures! garland-1

The sad looking artificial tree branch was transformed into a traditional festive delight. The warm red and copper tones fit perfectly with our kitchen and the dried oranges and cinnamon sticks are starting to leave a lovely aroma has they start to warm up above the radiator. I would highly recommend saving some money and investing a couple of hours time to make something perfect for your own home.

garland-2Here it is in a bit more detail. There is no real skill involved. I did however use Chefaid twist and tie (the wire like stuff you use to tie sandwich bags) to attach the baubles and oranges as it was a little more sturdy than the fine string they come with.

It has really got me in the mood for Christmas. Next stop some festive baking and creating my wrapping theme for this year…oh yes there is always a theme!

The festive season is upon us

Ah how I love Christmas. I never tire of the warmth of the season, how we brighten up the winter with rich colour, rich food and stopping to spend quality time with our family and friends. Celebrating those relationships and what they bring to our lives all year round.

For me the charm of Christmas is not the religious aspect, it’s not the childhood charm, but it’s the effort we go to in society to make it such a magical time.

This time last year was particularly special as we prepared for our wedding on 5th December, but it did mean my usual focus on preparing for festive celebrations was put to one side. This year I am going all out!

Look out for recipes, craft ideas, and many more hearty adventures over the next few weeks.

 

Nxx

Project Fab- A busy few weeks!

It has been a busy few weeks full of fun and jam packed with work but Project Fab 30 is still going well.

New experiences and places pop up every week. I have been to watch a car rally, explored lots of new parts of the forest and found some truly stunning places with the dog.

I ended up accidentally trying a new exercise class, when I turned up at the wrong time for my make up Pilates class. Instead I found myself whizzing round the floor like a dancer on Strictly Come Dancing at ‘Fitsteps’. It was so much I have decided to keep going.

In the kitchen the fortnightly cook ups are still happening. I cannot tell you how much easier it makes our week-day evenings. It also means I enjoy cooking those more indulgent meals at the weekend as it feels less of a chore. The money we are saving is unbelievable which is an added bonus.

I have not quite stuck to cooking meals from my cook books but have tried out some new recipes. Halloween weekend we made posh pizzas. I am lucky enough to have a bread maker so whipped up some fresh dough and made; one smoked salmon, artichoke and blue cheese pizza and one pulled beef brisket. They were well received.

I have exceeded my baking target making both a triple chocolate and cherry tiffin and a classic pineapple upside down cake (complete with decorative glace cherries), apple tart and most recently a cinnamon and nutella cake which is a big hit! With the festive season coming up I intend to keep baking and see what treats I can make for family and friends.

I have been in touch with a charity organisation and waiting for them to get back to me with a view to joining and supporting their work. It will probably be in the new year now but it is something I am looking forward to.

The weight loss target is not going so well… it might be all the cooking and baking at weekends that is conflicting with that one. So with it being the most indulgent time of the year, I have decided to focus on this in 2017. Which gives me time to plan a bit more.

However I did manage to achieve one of my new years’ goals (resolutions didn’t really define it so well) for 2016 a couple of weeks ago and secured myself a new job, a promotion in fact. After everything that prompted Project Fab 30, this was the boost and achievement I needed.

On that note it is time to start thinking about the next set of goals for Project Fab 30 and 2017…

 

 

 

 

The Old Station Tintern- Afternoon Tea

My husband is a big fan of afternoon tea. So when I found a place that does afternoon tea in an old railway station, I knew it would be a winning birthday present.

Tintern is a beautiful village which sits on the border of England and Wales on the banks of the river Wye. It is famously known for it’s Abbey and the impressive ruins that still stand hauntingly next to the river. We pass through Tintern on our commute to work, and always comment on the fact we need to come down and explore. Having booked afternoon tea in advance, we decided to spend the afternoon there looking round.

We parked at the north end of the village and wandered down along the river towards the abbey. It was a beautiful crisp day and we found that Tintern was not daft and had expertly located a pub, with a lovely garden, facing the Abbey across the road. The Anchor Inn is a a surprisingly big pub with a fabulous food and drink selection. I tend to judge a pub on the wine it serves and this was a winner! Who would have thought in late October we would be sat outside having a cheeky Sunday afternoon tipple, warmed by the sun with such a stunning view? 

Then it was on to the Old Station for the main event. This is a simple, small cafe, in an old railway station waiting room. It has been preserved well, the only modifications being the modern amenities needed to run a cafe. The staff were so friendly. They ask you to book afternoon tea in advance so there is no wait and no unexpected preparation for them on the day. Which works well in the customer’s favour too. The cafe is small with plenty of outdoor seating but on a cold day, you would not want to be lingering over your afternoon feast outside. A table was reserved for us and we were immediately offered drinks while the finishing touches were added to our cake stands.

I was trying to work out what it is about afternoon tea that us Brits love and I came to the conclusion it is your own personal buffet where you don’t have to limit what you have because there is a queue of people behind you, you can have everything on the buffet and more!

tintern-2

We were overwhelmed with the generosity of the portions. Two separate cake stands arrived, one each! There was enough food on one stand for two people, but we were not complaining. The scones, jam and clotted cream were brought out on another plate. The sandwiches were so fresh and the variety was excellent; beef and horseradish, egg mayo, smoked salmon and cream cheese and brie and cranberry. Four different cakes were offered (8 bite size pieces per stand), these too were outstanding. Lesley, the lovely lady who looked after us, kindly offered to wrap up the scones for us to take home, noticing we had stopped eating and were both looking a bit full! The tea and hot water kept coming and we were so well looked after we did not want to leave! Alas with full bellies we headed home for a nap in front of the fire.

It is definitely one to visit for value for money and incredible quality and lovely views of the river. http://www.tinternvillage.co.uk/seedo/tintern-old-station/

Week Two- Project Fab 30

What a week it has been! We were building up to our week off and I wanted to start it with a bang. So Friday evening was French night in our house. After sipping champagne we sat down to a lovely meal, and I hit two of my goals; cook something new from a cook book I own and baking once a fortnight.

Neither dish was complex but James Martin’s Tartiflette was a hit with roast duck legs and fresh steamed asparagus. I halved the recipe and, anticipating I might not get Reblochon in Asda, looked up good alternatives and went with Port Salut. It was an indulgent cheesy treat!

My baking was not exactly GBBO level of technique or creativity, however it was a success (which more than we can say for some of the GBBO contestants). I made an Apple and Vanilla tart. Using pre-made puff pastry this was a simple dish, but provided and light, sweet and refreshing dessert after a rather heavy meal. As ever I modified the recipe slightly and added cinnamon to give it that wintry taste.

At the weekend my new experience/ place to visit was to watch our local rugby team play. This was a lot of fun and it reminded me how much I love to watch live sport. We stood in the cold, wrapped up in our winter jackets drinking a pint out of a plastic cup. It had all the feel of an autumnal Saturday. Our local team lost the match but we will be back to cheer them on again at their next home match.

Back to the kitchen now… I had another cook up this week, and this one might be even better. For less than £25 I have made meals for 11 nights. As we tend not to plan our weekend meals this means we have food for almost 3 weeks of working days (Mon- Thurs). I made a beef stew, a pork chilli and a spicy tuna and vegetable pasta sauce. Each dish is so versatile so different sides can be added to  make it feel like a different meal. I stocked the cupboards previously so we are not short on pasta, rice, potato, sweet potato or vegetables. But when you have prepared the main part of your meal so cheaply, picking up the fresh ingredients to go with it does not seem such an unnecessary expense.

This way of keeping organised is helping with my other goal, to lose weight. I was pleased to see the number on the scales getting smaller and this is down to more controlled portions and not having excess food in the house to tempt me into snacking.

So here is to another great week. I am off work so have lots planned to keep it fun and interesting.