Days 5,6 and 7: 50 miles in!

Sands of Forvie

Walking and/or running 50 miles in 7 days isn’t too bad! I must say that my legs are feeling it a little though.

Days 5 and 6 of my John O’ Groats to Lands End Challenge went pretty well. A few miles walking round at work and a 6 mile run from the nearest local town home each day helped bring in a few miles. Cue sunset number one…

Ythan estuary sunset
Ythan estuary sunset

Day 7 took me on a beautiful evening through Forvie NNR this time with camera in hand. I’m just going to show a few photos here to give you an idea. I’ll write a longer post with more images at a later date, but this will whet your appetite hopefully! The advantages of getting outside are now becoming evident to me….

Looking south towards Aberdeen
Looking south towards Aberdeen
Sunset over the sand dunes
Sunset over the sand dunes

These photos on this page were actually all taken with my phone. I never cease to be amazed by the quality of photographs that phones can churn out nowadays. Despite the fact that I had my big camera on me, most photos I took were in HDR mode on my phone.

It’ll be interesting to compare them to those taken in RAW on my camera, especially the ones looking down the coast.

Hopefully you had some nice walks outside too over the last few days!

Annette

 

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Day 1: John O’Groats to Lands End

Sun setting

The virtual version….

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The Overall Challenge

Well Day 1 went OK. I was on my feet all day teaching an analytical lab class (not feeling quite so rusty after session no. 4 today) so a few steps were counted there starting me off with 2.2 miles. I did a longer walk than usual, which added on a mile or two to my usual saunter home. This brought the Day 1 total to 5.3 miles! Not a bad start.

I have 233 days to complete the challenge and at this rate I’ll be finished in 175! But I’m going to finish sooner than that aren’t I?!

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First submission – woo hoo!

It was a really lovely evening, warmer and calmer than it has been in previous days therefore it was a pretty pleasant affair.

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Moon over ploughed fields

Anyone fancy joining me on this journey?

Annette

John O’ Groats to Lands End

This may seem like a ‘thing-you-must-do-at-some-point-in-your-life-but-probably-never-will-because-it’s-too-much-effort/been-done-before-anyway-so-what’s-the-point’ kind of challenge but tomorrow I embark on this adventure. If you can call it that. You see I have like 6 months to do it and technically you don’t have to leave the house if you don’t want to. It’s all part of my works’ efforts to make their peoples more healthy and fit etc. But in the efforts of good spirit and enthusiasm I am going to give it a go and start. Expect a few weeks of feverish blog posting and then nothing for 6 months as i fail miserably to actually complete something vaguely worth achieving, again. 

However miracles do happen. Meet the vegan cheese scone which actually rose and I felt actually could pass as, ‘a cheese scone.’

That aside, lets see what happens. No promises of anything apart from maybe, failure?

Have you done any challenges recently? Any chance of some motivational ass-get-in-gear to keep me going for more than a day?

Annette 

Yum Vegan Protein Pancakes

Who loves pancakes as a special treat on a Sunday – I do! Here’s my recipe for tasty vegan pancakes with a protein boost.

I bought some vegan protein the other week – this stuff from Bulk Powders. I had some just with water in the free shaker supplied (!) and it actually tasted all right. It was a little chalky but perfectly palatable. This time I decided to add it to this tasty pancake mixture for some added extra protein.

These were, I admit, pretty moist so if you are looking for something light and fluffy you may want to look elsewhere but what they lack in fluff they make up for in flavour.

Cinnamony, appley and peanuty chocolate goodness – what’s not to like here?

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Yum, yum yummy vegan pancakes

Here’s the recipe:


MDM’s Protein Packed Cinnamony, Appley and Peanuty Chocolate Pancakes

1 cup plain flour

1/4 cup Complete Vegan Blend Protein Powder in Peanut Chocolate flavour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/4 cup applesauce (like this yummy homemade one)

1 1/4 cup of almond/soya milk (I used 50:50 because that’s what I had left/open)

2 tbsp cinnamon and nutmeg infused sugar (I keep this in the cupboard – see here. Alternatively add 2 tbsp any sugar + 1/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/8 tsp nutmeg)

  1. Mix dry ingredients well together.
  2. Add in wet ingredients and mix to a loose batter.
  3. Spoon mixture into an oiled, cool to medium frying pan and cook for a couple of minutes on each side.
  4. Drizzle with maple or agave syrup, some more cinnamon sugar and serve with a selection of fruit. Yum!!

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Enjoy!

Annette

Rawsome Vegan Cupcakes.. Cake…

Rawsome vegan 'Super Sexy Cacao Cashew Cupcakes'

This tasty cake requires no cooking apart from the melting of the coconut oil, which I had to do in the microwave. Despite this slight flaw to the whole ‘raw’ subject it was really simple and easy to make (I suppose one could melt it in one’s hands?!)

I have made just a couple of things from this recipe book before, like these S’mores cupcakes. It really is a great book with ‘rawsome’ photos too. All the recipes are based around nuts, dried fruit and coconut (oil mostly but also cream/milk, flesh and shredded). Generally if you are lacking in any one of the three then you’re kinda screwed. Que me running out of peanut butter and coconut oil -nooooooo!

This was designed for four separate cupcakes but I decided to make it into one large sliceable cake as I thought it would be more appealing and go further. There was plenty of the base mixture of dates, almonds and cacao powder but not enough of the filling quantities recommended to cover the entire single cake. These need to be doubled.

Raw base for the vegan cake
Raw base for the vegan cake – I neatened it a little after this photo!

This would be fine if I had enough extra peanut butter to cover the base but I ran out half way…. I also ran out of coconut oil which is used in the chocolate-style topping so ended up having to substitute the remaining required with Vitalite which I guess is not really ‘raw’ either. Even though this modified mixture tasted a bit margariney when it was warm, once it had been in the fridge you couldn’t really taste the difference.

The completed cake before entering the fridge
The completed cake before entering the fridge
I'm calling this raw vegan and gluten free chocolate torte
I’m calling this ‘raw vegan and gluten free chocolate torte’

The recipe recommends cashew butter for the filling and I substituted it for peanut butter – the OH liked the half with just chocolate topping and base but I loved both. It tastes just like those chocolate tarts you get. Yum.

 

Annette

Another Vegan Brownie Recipe Tested

food.com vegan brownies

Doesn’t time fly? I have realised that since the beginning of August I have posted only six times – oops! Sorry readers. I have lots of photos ready but just haven’t done any writing. Well now that I am on holiday for two weeks I have less of an excuse not to write.

I did make a brownie recipe a couple of weeks ago and I forgot to add one of the ingredients therefore I didn’t think it would be fair to compare it. However I am very excited as it may have led to the most amazing vegan cookie recipe ever! Watch this space!

This ‘Rich, Fudgy, Vegan Brownies’ recipe comes ‘pollen’ from food.com. It tempted me because it said it was going to be fudgy and it had lots of coffee in it (do like a bit of coffee in brownies).

Vegan brownie mixture
Vegan brownie mixture

However, sorry to say, I was a little disappointed. They just didn’t have the depth of flavour required. They turned out very well, with a really good cakey texture, with a bit of fudgy-ness but they were a bit bland I found. I definitely need to consider coffee in my perfect recipe as an added flavour profile, but now I’m convinced more than ever that the recipe needs to have real chocolate and not just cocoa powder. I’m also tempted (Christmas list hint) to get some really good quality cocoa powder and investigate the impact that that has on the flavour.

Vegan chocolate brownie after cooking
Vegan chocolate brownie after cooking

I’m eager now to find something awesome that will blow my socks off! I’m thinking I might make something with some more complex ingredients…

Vegan brownies from pollen @ food.com
Vegan brownies from pollen @ food.com

Here’s my verdict for these:

So the verdict:

  1. Cakiness: 10
  2. Gooiness: 6
  3. Crispy top: 3
  4. Chocolateyness: 5
  5. Sweetness: 7.5
  6. Ease of making: 8
  7. Ingredient complexity: 9
  8. Overall taste: 6

And some others you should try:

Interested in the others I’ve made so far for comparison? Click on these links!

 

And finally it was our four year anniversary this week, so we went for a walk around Balmedie and the sand dunes. It was a very foggy day.

Balmedie sand dunes, Aberdeenshire
Balmedie sand dunes – could be in the Sahara desert, it was so misty

 

 

Ta ta for now,

Annette

Vegan Victoria Sponge – Another Challenge?

Another staple of the ‘normal’ cake baking world which indulges in eggs and dairy is the classic ‘Victoria Sponge.’ Whereas I have my challenge for ‘The Perfect Vegan Brownie’ I have not embarked on such a one for this classic.

I may have to though because the recipe I used the other day was OK, but I wouldn’t feel happy serving it up to any guests. Though as I speak several runners maybe indulging in the left overs….

It tasted…..different. Not bad but not great either. It needs work so therefore I may embark on another challenge of ‘The Perfect Vegan-toria Sponge…..’

This one was a recipe from Ms Cupcake: The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town.

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Vegan victoria sponge cake with strawberry jam and coconut icing
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A slice of vegan victoria sponge cake
Close up of the inside of a vegan victoria sponge cake
Close up of the inside of a vegan victoria sponge cake

I was definitely impressed with how light and cake-like it was but it didn’t really taste like victoria sponge. It just tasted like a slightly weird cake. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t bad I just think there is room for improvement. It needs something to replace the richness of the eggs and I’m not sure what that is yet…

 

Extra Refreshing Water

Infused water idea

So I saw this idea of Infused Water on another blog I follow: The Homemaker’s Life

Never really thought of trying it before but now I’m hooked!

Here’s my version with lemon, mint and a pinch of ginger. I have since gone on to add apple (adding lemon helps prevent it browning), raspberries, wild strawberries, plums….what am I going to add next?

Orange I think 🙂

Lemon, ginger and mint infused water
Lemon, ginger and mint infused water

I find it best after leaving in the fridge overnight. Also once I’ve drunk them I refill them a couple of times, and then you can eat the fruit afterwards too – no waste!

Finally I’ll end with this wonderful pompom Dahlia I have flowering at the moment. Unfortunately I can’t remember the variety.

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Simply Spiffing Semolina with Chocolate Cream

Semolina with dates, apricots, flaxseeds, cacao nibs and chocolate and almond sauce

This is a really great, easy breakfast idea. If the mixture turns out too thick, add some more milk. Too thin and add some more semolina.

Almond, Chocolate and Oat Cream

  • 40g dark melted chocolate
  • 100g almonds
  • 40g oats
  • 1 tsp hemp powder (or other preferred protein powder)
  • ¾ cup milk
  1. Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until almost smooth.
  2. Leave for 5 minutes for oats to absorb liquid and thicken.
  3. Keep in fridge until needed. It will thicken more in time.

Semolina

  • 2 tbsp semolina
  • 1 cup milk
  • Brown sugar or other preferred sweetener
  1. Add milk to semolina and mix until smooth.
  2. Put in 30 second bursts in the microwave and stir after each time.
  3. It is ready once it has thickened.
  4. Add your chosen sweetener to sweeten as desired.
  5. Add a big dollop of Almond, Chocolate and Oat Cream and/or any other toppings you would like. Here’s some ideas:

 

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Semolina with chocolate sauce
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Semolina with cranberry powder mixed in and fruit
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Semolina with banana, linseeds and berries

 

Looking for other breakfast suggestions? You could try ‘Overnight Porridge.’

 

 

Crispy Kale – an Easy, Tasty Veg

We quite often have crispy kale for supper. It’s easy to make, tastes great and is pretty healthy.

All you need to do is empty a packet of kale into a large oven tray. Next drizzle over a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and some salt. Then massage it all in with your hands until everything is well covered.

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Crispy kale before it goes in the oven

Put in an oven at about 150°C fan for 6 minutes, then mix around. Return to the oven for 4 minutes and stir again. After a final 3-4 minutes remove from the oven. You can easily put it in a hotter oven, you will just need to stir it around more frequently to prevent burning.

This is best eaten fresh as it tends to go a bit soggy if kept. However I do sometimes keep it in the fridge to add to salads.

Et voila.

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Crispy kale – so easy to make

 

Vegan Brownies – The Minimalist Baker

So, today’s brownies on my quest are brought to you by The Minimalist Baker and a Bombay Sapphire Gin and Tonic. They have simple ingredients, are easy to make and taste satisfyingly good…..separately that is 😛

I decided to make one large tray bake rather than individual cakes as on the recipe as linked above. Therefore I doubled the recipe to fill a 7×11″ tray, though I did end up cooking it for a similar time, just a couple of minutes longer.

Technically, I will admit, these weren’t entirely vegan as I had didn’t have enough Vitalite left to make the full double recipe. This meant I had to supplement this margarine with 1/4 cup of Stork which I’m trying to use up (it has a little buttermilk in it). I would probably have used oil but as I said I don’t want it to go to waste.

The mixture was a a lot thicker than I’m used to having and it did seem quite oily at this stage. I added 1/3 cup of roasted, chopped, mixed nuts and 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips. I like to roast nuts before I use them in baking as it seems to release so much more flavour and aromatics.

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As for the taste of these babies, they are completely different from the other ones I’ve made. These have a much darker intense flavour which I really like but the consistency is not quite right. They are too crumbly and dare I say it, not sweet enough, although very only just. The mixture was thick and I suspect that there are too much flax seeds in this recipe to be more fudgy. Using oil rather than margarine may also help in reducing the crumblyness. I don’t want to say I don’t like them as they have a depth of flavour which is not in the others which is worth giving strong credit. These would be good for someone who doesn’t like sweet brownies and prefers a crumblier, cakier option. However I personally won’t be making the recipe again as it is but I will be taking the depth of flavour on board.

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So for the final voting:

  1. Cakiness: 8
  2. Gooiness: 5
  3. Crispy top: 6 (the same as you would get on a sponge)
  4. Chocolateyness: 9 (it was a deep, dark chocolate flavour)
  5. Sweetness: 6
  6. Ease of making: 9
  7. Ingredient complexity: 8
  8. Overall taste: 7.5 (depth of flavour was great but they were too crumbly)

What recipe should I try next?

Annette x

 

 

Vegan Brownies from ‘Ms Cupcake’

I’m feeling lost now that I haven’t blogged in a week! The reason being I’ve been head first into my literature review first draft. However I was so excited to get the book: Ms Cupcakes – The Naughtiest Cakes in Town that I took an hour this afternoon to try my first recipe from it – the brownies.

I wasn’t intending to include any cocoa powder based recipes in my Quest for the Perfect Vegan Brownie but this one is an exception (and there may be more). I must admit, I wasn’t sure that it can be a proper brownie if it doesn’t have ‘proper chocolate.’ So I’m including this with caution.

You’ll have to buy the book for the recipe 😉 but for me its worth it (the other recipes look yum) because this is a deliciously light chocolate cake with a nice hint of fudginess . And yes I would call it that. I would call it a really great tray cake rather than a brownie.

 

I’m definitely going to make it again as a cake or muffins with creamy chocolate frosting with nuts, or maybe some crystallized orange peel and cinnamon icing and for that purpose I think it would be awesome. It’s such a light mixture for being vegan. I’m really looking forwards to trying other recipes in the book. And I may also try it again if I don’t have any chocolate around, which, is rare. I guess in the interests of repeatability one should try it again! If you’re more cake-brownie inclined then it’s a good one for you. For the chocolate-fudgy-indulgence-brownie you will need to look elsewhere, like here.

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Ms Cupcakes’ brownies – pretty moist
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Top down view – I love the chocolate chips on top.

Here’s the important bit:

  1. Cakiness: 9
  2. Gooiness: 6
  3. Crispy top: 6 (the same as you would get on a sponge)
  4. Chocolateyness: 5 (the chips on top helped though)
  5. Sweetness: 8 (despite a whole heap of sugar, these were pretty spot on)
  6. Ease of making: 9 (no melting of chocolate required!)
  7. Ingredient complexity: 8
  8. Overall taste: 7.5 (taste was pretty good, just weren’t quite brownies)

 

Interested in the others I’ve made so far for comparison? Click on these links!

 

Just thought I’d end with one of the hazards of photographing with someone who hasn’t had their supper yet….

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Baking + Cat = Cat – Baking

Got a recipe to suggest – let me know!

Annette

Let’s make and discover: Almond Milk

Is there a difference between ground, flaked and whole almonds when making almond milk?

I started hearing through various sources how great making your own almond milk is. I do like almond milk for a change, although I do largely prefer to stick to unsweetened soya.

Now I wasn’t really sure which type of almonds to use for making milk. Most recipes seem to use whole skinned almonds but I find the skins of these to be a little bitter. What better test therefore to try a few different forms of almonds and have a go at making some milk!

Here’s what I bought, all from Lidl for compatibility. Prices are very similar really. I suspect whole almonds at least could be got for a lot less elsewhere.

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Ground, flaked and whole almonds

The first stage is to soak them overnight or 24 hrs. I used 1/3 cup so that I wouldn’t end up with heaps of milk. You can rinse them if you like. Cover in water and leave to one side.

 

The next morning is when the fun starts. The almonds should have plumped up really nicely.

 

Next give them a really good rinse under the tap. You’ll need to wash the ground almonds through a cheese or muslin cloth placed on a sieve – this is obviously an extra step here for this one. I find this set-up works well. Some people like to use a Nut Bag.

 

Next get out your blender of choice. The almonds are quite soft so there wasn’t too much worry about damaging the blades. If you don’t soak the almonds then it may be an issue for dodgy blenders! Add the almonds and blend. Start with a small amount of water. I added 1 cup to my 1/3 cup almonds and it resulted in a far too watery a milk. I would recommend starting with equal quantity almonds to water and work your way up.

 

After blending I gave them a taste. You can clearly taste the skins at this stage and there were quite a few lumpy bits coming out with the whole almonds despite blending it for longer. The ground and flaked almonds were identical. Now you could just use them at this stage. But I decided to filter them for a smoother milk.

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Filtrate

Use the same set-up as before with the ground almonds except that this time you want to keep the milk. Give the cloth a really good squeeze once everything has gone through to get out all the last juices. You’ll be left with an almond cake which I found a bit tasteless but I’ll find something to do with it.

 

So this is what I was left with at the end. The amounts of left over almond bits were about the same in each case. I tasted the different milks again at this stage and they all tasted the same. So I mixed them all together and decided to heat them up to pasteurise them to make it last a little longer……

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I did this a little wrong as I boiled the milk – do not do this as it will split!! I’ve done this so you don’t have to 😉 I was thinking at the time that it only needs to go to 70oC or something but continued to boil it anyway! Still tastes alright though.

To be honest I need to work on the ratios a little. I found this far too watery but at least I can say that the ground, flaked and whole almonds all pretty much tasted the same after filtering! It seems to remove the bitter skins from the whole almonds if you aren’t so fond of them.

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Have you tried making your own nut milk?

Annette X

 

The Quest Continues – Vegan Richa Brownies

Chocolate almond and oat brownies

So today’s vegan brownies are brought to you by the gorgeous Vegan Richa. After my experiment with making my own Almond Milk, I have quite a lot of almonds to use in various forms. Therefore I decided to hunt down a recipe using almond flour. I’ve used it quite a lot in recipes as it adds a really great moisture and texture to baking. After a quick Google search, on the front page I found this Gluten Free Vegan Brownie and thought I had to give it a try. It wasn’t difficult to be tempted by the wonderful pictures and straightforward, if a little different than usual, method.

This recipe was very easy to make, though as usual I adapted the recipe a little to make it more my own. I put in over a 1/4 cup more milk and halved the vanilla essence. I also left the mixture for 10-15 minutes to allow the oats to absorb some of the liquid because they are thirsty little beasts. Brownie mixtures should be runnier than a traditional cake mix and should be quite glossy. I baked it for 5 minutes less than the recommended also.

 

 

For a change I used some really dark chocolate and that reminded me that the chocolate you use makes a huge difference on the resulting brownie. Note to self, do a trial one day of different chocolates in brownies to compare taste and texture. Second note to self, make sure and invite people round and go to the gym before and after said trial.

 

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These were surprisingly light considering the ingredients. The texture was pretty good if a little crumbly. However the OH and I agreed that the ‘mouth feel’ just wasn’t right. I think that there are things that can be taken from this recipe and used to enhance another. Here’s the verdict:

  1. Cakiness: 8
  2. Gooiness: 7
  3. Crispy top: 6
  4. Chocolateyness: 7
  5. Sweetness: 8 (the chocolate I used was possibly a little too dark)
  6. Ease of making: 8 (I like the idea of melting the chocolate in the hot milk)
  7. Ingredient complexity: 7
  8. Overall taste: 7 (taste was pretty good, just didn’t have the right feel)

There are factors worth developing in this recipe, namely the light texture but it’s not quite right as it is. Pretty spot on for being gluten free and vegan though!

 

Annette X

 

Really Easy Supper – The Key to Perfect Wraps

I don’t about you but sometimes it can feel quite challenging when it’s Friday night and there is nothing you fancy more than just shoving a pizza in the oven, if only it wasn’t for the fact that you have made a choice not to eat said pizza anymore.

I think it’s great, therefore to have a series of quick easy to buy/make things which are super tasty and fulfil that craving. Simple things you can turn to in that moment of need. Tonight I had really easy wraps for my supper. Really, the only critical ingredient for these is the wraps themselves (because then they wouldn’t be wraps right?!) Other than that you can pretty much put what you want in them. For me there are four key components to the perfect wrap:

  1. Wraps: wholewheat, plain, herby, spinach, mediterranean – choose what you want, it’s just gotta wrap it all up.
  2. A sauce or spread: salsa, hummus, mayonaise, guacamole, sour cream, chutney, tomato sauce out a tin, baked beans, whatever – it’s just gotta do some palatal moisturising!
  3. A protein source: Linda McCartney sausages (vegan yumminess, cook in around the same time as a pizza), a veggie burger, Quorn, eggs, chickpeas or other beans, falafel – this is for taste, texture and substance.
  4. Salad: lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, spinach, celery – anything fresh, healthy, crisp and crunchy.

Get these four parts right (more than one of each recommended!) and you will have yourself a super tasty really easy supper easily made in 15 minutes. OK I could include a 5th, which is cheese, but since I’m trying to avoid that delicious cheese-topped, salty, melty, cheesy goodness pizza I’m not including it……..

We love to get all the parts laid out in bowls to share but you could easily save on the dishes by not doing this. Cocktail sticks are ideal for keeping them from unravelling while you construct. They can be hot or cold or hot and cold. All I know is I don’t think I’ve ever had one which was not tasty.

And finally the best thing is? It’s so much better for you than that pizza (even if inside you cry a little when you see them in the supermarket).

Vegetarian wrap idea
Super easy vegetarian wrap and sooo yummy

Enjoy – I’d love to see your favourites!

Annette X

Loch Lomond in Black and White

Just thought I would share three black and white photos I took of Loch Lomond, in previous years, tonight. They are taken just north of Balmaha a little along the West Highland Way long distance path. It is a beautiful route achievable over 4-5 days. You can even get people to transport your bags around for you so you can fully enjoy the walk. It takes in some of the best views in Scotland including those of the Loch Lomond National Park seen here. I would highly recommend it as a ‘thing to do.’ Hope you enjoy.

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Looking out over Loch Lomond
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Loch Lomond view near Balmaha
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Loch Lomondside

Annette X

New Shoes and a New PB!

I was very excited to buy a new pair of trail running shoes last week. Fed up of the garish colours offered by many I went for a much more sensible black pair – Asics Gel-Sonoma 2. My reasoning for the purchase is that I ‘need’ a pair of trail shoes for the Lakeland 50 at the end of July.

ASICS Gel-Sonoma 2 Women's Trail Running Shoes - SS16

They cost £40 after a sneaky wee 15% discount on www.sportsshoes.com. I currently have a pair of road Asics Gel-105 shoes and I have always found them very comfy, therefore decided to go for another pair. I did go half a size smaller than previously though and as a result these are a little tighter but still fit well. To be honest I probably should have stuck to a size 6.

Now for a bit of shoe porn…heh heh.

 

Anyways I decided to take them out on a test run at the Aberdeen Beach Park Run. Not exactly trail but good for a wee trial jaunt and not too far from home if things go pear-shaped! For this inaugural occasion I even made an effort to co-ordinate…me co-ordinate?!

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Not too bad for co-ordination?

A lot of my running tops are throw outs from the OH so I also may have snuck in a new top in my SportShoes order – a PureLime seamless top. Their stuff seems really nice and I may find one or two other items in future magically dropping into my shopping basket! To be honest the top was a little warm for the weather on saturday but I never felt overly sweaty in it as it seems to be able to cool you quite well – it could be the magic stripes up the side. I did find it rode up so it needs to be tucked in. This is fine if you have a super sleek body but I do like something to cover up the squidgy bits!

They do say not to try out new kit during a race (not that Park Run is particularly a race) but I was pretty surprised to get a new 5K PB time of 27:08. This vegan-ish diet might be doing something? I felt pretty good throughout if a little warm. I did slow a little in the 3rd quarter but hey that’s just something to work on for next time isn’t it?

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Has to be done right? Tried to get the shoes in there…

So next time I’ll be looking for sub-27 minutes….follow my blog to find out if I make it next time (have to plug it).

As for the verdict on the shoes, they were pretty comfy. They resulted in a little bit of wee toe damage (photo by request :P) but that is probably expected in new shoes. Hopefully I will go out for a longer trail run in them next time and baptize them in mud.

BTW I’d highly recommend Park Run – it’s free and they are all over the country (UK). There’s a handful in the US but do support them if you can as they are great. They have a great community associated with them. All speeds turn up from fastest to slowest from fittest to never ran/jogged before. There will always be a great cheer for the last person home 🙂

Annette X

6 Reasons to Run and G.O.T

The formal gardens of Seaton Park

G.O.T.: Get Out There. As the infamous Nike slogan says – Just Do It.

It has taken me a while to get into running and even now it hasn’t yet become habit. Now looking back I suspect that was because in the past I had no deep down reason to run or do exercise or to G.O.T.

Just recently I have started to try and run for a reason. What I mean by this is that running we will generally do to keep fit – and that is a great reason, but alone it’s not enough for me. Each run has to have another reason.  It’s almost like it has to serve more than one purpose. I need a goal or an aim for each and every time I go out. It needs to be fresh in my mind and it has to be motivating. It’s almost as if I need my mental self to agree with my physical self.

Some of the reasons I have used to G.O.T. could be:

  • to explore a new place or take a new path – there are so many little paths which we would never go down.
  • to listen to music which I enjoy and others may not – then no-one else has to hear it. Cheesy pop tunes, why not?
  • to take photographs along a route – often we go out in the evenings or early mornings when the lighting is best. Grab your phone camera and don’t feel bad about stopping. Just enjoy it. Explore new places. Share.
  • to focus on something in particular such as a book chapter or blog post – generally my mind goes blank when I run but sometimes I can concentrate on one thing. Sometimes that mind zen time is what you want. It’s just you against the world.
  • to listen to the waves – get muddy, run in the sea. Run where you want. A path is just where everyone else goes, but you can make your own
  • to get out into the countryside – you can see more and get further, just don’t forget to enjoy it. Walk if you want. Breathe. Feel.

 

 

Now they may sound like mundane reasons but my point is that each run has a focus. It could be a fitness focus like ‘I’m going to get a PB up that hill” or “I’m going to really push myself today.” Or it could be, like for me today, wanting to take photos of the local park, Seaton Park, to capture the fresh vibrant new spring growth.

In the past I would have felt’guilty’ for stopping so often but actually I’m out there, running, and more importantly enjoying it while I was doing so. It feels productive both physically and mentally. Can’t get over that ‘guilty’ feeling? Use it as a sprint session between locations.

 

 

Find things you didn’t know were there. Know that just by being out there you are achieving something – after all the hardest part is taking the decision to get off the sofa, to put on your shoes, to go out into the cold and to G.O.T in the first place. Find out what it takes to do this, then grab it by the horns and knee it in the balls as you fly over that hurdle.

 

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Wallace Tower, Tillydrone
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New Box balls in the Formal Garden

 

Whatever your reason, enjoy Getting Out There.

Annette X

These Falafel Patties are Amazeballs

MDM's Butterbean, Coriander and Parsley Falafel Patties with Veg Relish

I had this really strong urge to make falafels on Saturday. Now I don’t know about you but I’ve never really come across a bought falafel, be it ready made or in packet form, which floats my boat. I find they all taste a little, weird. Maybe they have too much cumin in, maybe they are two dry, I don’t know. They just don’t taste right.

And now that I’ve made my own I’m not sure I will ever need to buy one ever again. They are soooo easy to make and soooo tasty. I actually ended up making two recipes – here is the first.

Firstly I looked up a recipe as one usually does and I realised that for once I actually had all the ngredients. Then I looked for chickpeas. As I looked through the cans of beans I wasn’t sure if I would find a can. I did but something within me thought, “but I want to use something different.” So as is the usual story with most of my cooking I kinda loosely followed the recipe but not really.

The mixture actually turned out a bit wet which is why I’ve called them patties, but say no more to dry tasteless falafels because these are the bees knees. So here we go:

MDM’s Butterbean, Coriander and Parsley Falafel Patties

  • One 400g tin of butterbeans drained and rinsed (240g beans)
  • 20g of wholemeal crisprolls (I’m sure toasted wholemeal breadcrumbs would be fine, I just didn’t have any)
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 large tbsp ground cumin
  • good bunch of fresh parsley
  • good bunch of fresh coriander
  • 2 tsp of homemade lemon-infused olive oil (you could use a shop bought alternative)
  • salt and pepper to taste
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Add all ingredients to a food processor
  1. Put everything into a food processor and blitz until ingredients are well-combined.
  2. Once smooth-ish put in the fridge for hour to let everything infuse. You could probably skip this step if you are tight for time. I used it to make another batch.
  3. Heat a large frying pan or wok with a little vegetable oil. Form mixture into small balls. Press slightly as you place on the heat. Cook for around 15 minutes turning a few times. I flattened them down as I made them to help them cook.
  4. Serve with a fresh veg relish. I used beetroot, tomatoes, celery and cucumber.
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Perfect for a sunny spring day

Aberdeen Baker Hughes 10K – Race Report

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I’ve always wanted to run the Aberdeen Baker Hughes 10k. Well, when I say always what I actually mean is for a good few years since I knew it existed. However, I have always been away at the Cateran Trail 55 Ultra Race on race support duties. This year I decided to enter. On my fitness spurt back in December and January, I thought this would be a great idea. Fast forward a few months on and how does two weeks of training sound? Yup.

I wasn’t worried about running the distance but I was thinking I should have put a few more months into the training. Still as things worked out, I just wanted to enjoy and feel the atmosphere – that was all I ever wanted to do. It was my first proper city race and what better place to run than at your local one.

The night before I must say, I was apprehensive. Why, I’m not really sure. Maybe it was the sense of potential personal disappointment, the fact that I was going on my own (not that I minded at all, it was just the sense of the unknown) or the fact that I might sleep in and miss it. I almost felt more apprehensive with this than I did the night before I had to give a presentation I hadn’t yet finished to 150 people….strange. However this morning I was absolutely fine.

My race pack arrived around the beginning of May. I always feel a little odd receiving a t-shirt before the event as sneaky people could wear it unearned. However I was determined to wear it, even if it didn’t quite fit in my ‘what I’m going to wear so that I’m not too hot or too cold plan’. Temperature wise I would probably have worn a long sleeve top and capri leggings so in modification I decided to wear this over a long sleeve top (it is quite thin) and shorts with some sports boxers which MikeR no longer wanted. That was until I discovered that both pairs of shorts and 3/4 leggings had just literally been put in the wash. Ooops. Oh well leggings it was!

My next dilemma was what to wear to get to the Beach Boulevard where it all kicked off. So I picked my oldest paint covered trousers and yet another couple of MikeR throw outs in an attempt to reduce their attraction for someone else while they sat in the changing tent. Luckily this worked and they were still sitting there when I returned.

Breakfast was my usual piece of bread with peanut butter or cereal and a bowl of fruit. Except that this time I had both! Wasn’t a day to be planning on changing things much. I took a piece of brownie with me to munch on before the start which I ended up not having. Breakfast did me well.

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At shortly after 8am with everything I needed on my person or not worth nicking I set out to walk the 2.2 miles to the start. This was a great warm up, just enough to get the blood moving around but not enough to be tired for the race. It worked for me in the same way my walk to the gym does every morning. Luckily the weather was dry and it was a very pleasant saunter along the beach front. It was great as it was deserted because the road was closed. There was hardly a soul to be seen.

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View out to sea

I arrived with about perfect time. People were milling about and there were loads of blue race t-shirts! I had to nip to the vegan cafe (I know, amazing right!), Bonobo, to get some change to put in the donations tub for the changing facility but at least now I had a delicious vegan chickpea, mulberry and something else brownie to look forwards to at the end. Extra clothes jettisoned, it was time for the warm up which was a quick 5 minutes of stretching exercises to get the heart going. After that we headed for the start pens. I decided to optimistically and confidently go for the 56-60 minute one. Was this the right choice…..? Read on and find out!

It was about 5 minutes after the start/gun time before our group got to cross the start line. It was really weird because within about 0.5km of the start there was almost complete silence save for the pitter-patter of trainers on tarmac. With it being a city race I was expecting lots of people cheering. I wasn’t disappointed from this, it just wasn’t what i expected. Overall the race went pretty well. A stitch almost made an appearance just before the 5km mark but it disappeared fairly quickly, possibly helped by the water stop at that point.

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Around about 5.5km

I did feel bad taking water bottles and having only three mouthfuls before discarding them to the side. However, having filled 100’s of cups with water and juice as quick as is physically possible before I know that this isn’t an option! Smaller bottles might have been less wasteful but standard ones are probably cheaper.

Anyway. It was pretty fun running down King Street along the road then round through the flats in Seaton. Or that could have been because it was only 2.5km from the end. There was a small but mean hill coming up to the finish just after Pittodrie Stadium.  Generally though it’s a pretty flat course. At the finish I put on the gas for a last minute burst. It was just as well I did because I finished in 59 mins 59 secs! What a close one that was. I was aiming for under an hour and that it what I got – by a hair! We got handed a medal, goodie bag, banana and bottle of water in the finishing chute. It was really well organised and as far as I’m concerned it went very smoothly.

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The walk back again was a great cool down though my legs were pretty tired by the time I got home – I realised I had done about 11 miles in total! I think it would be good training for a long distance race to do a walk, do a fast race and then walk again. Again it was blissfully quiet as the beach road was still closed. I could smell the gorse and hear the birds which was really wonderful. If you don’t do the race just go down for the peaceful walk. It makes such a change from all the cars and people there normally.

I was surprised at the range of food in the goodie bag. I wasn’t going to post a picture of it, but then Suri decided to make herself comfy so the picture is actually of her….really.

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Having just discovered that there is a pop up vegan cafe in Aberdeen, I checked out their Facebook page. Unfortunately they didn’t do as well as they had hoped in terms of selling food and were trying to sell off excess. It worked out well for me though – I got an awesome range of breakfast burritos, brownies, slices and muffins delivered to my door for a fraction of the price earlier in the day! And it all tastes sooo good.

If you get the chance pop along, they are open on Saturdays 11am-4pm at Aberdeen Wellbeing Centre, McCombie’s Court. I definitely plan on going there when I am in town next time. The food I’ve had so far is really great. Check them out on Facebook.

Did you run it this year? How did you get on?

Annette

 

 

Egg substitute – chia or flax seeds?

So one of the most challenging things about veganism is finding a substitute for eggs. I love eggs but until we get our own chickens I’m probably not going to eat an awful lot of them over the near future. A common addition to many dairy/egg free recipes are ‘flax eggs’ and more occasionally chia seeds are mentioned.

I was curious to know if there is any difference between the three because, between you and me, from a scientific perspective there is a whole lotta difference. The gloop which the seeds produce is a mucilage – namely long chain polysaccharides (essentially starch). Chia seeds produce a hell of a lot more of this than flax seeds do. The proof is in this picture and in the fact that we have used it as a model mucilage of a £500k soil-root research grant….

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Flax on the left and chia goo on the right. Chia seeds produce a lot thicker ‘egg’ than flax seeds which is very watery in comparison.

Egg albumen on the other hand is higher in protein and unlike the seeds is low in fat. So kinda the absolute opposite to be honest.

The idea is that whatever is added should support air bubbles and create a lighter structure in whatever you are cooking. Now this is my first venture with using these seeds in this way and this is how I got on.  The first experiment was with waffles.

The recipe I used was for Chocolate Chip Banana Waffles made by the Minimalist Baker. There is no added sugar over and above the chocolate and banana but these are plenty sweet enough.

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I split the recipe in half and made half with a chia egg and half with a flax egg each made up as 1 tbsp ground seeds + 3 tbsp water, then left for 15-20 minutes. The chia seeds were very kindly supplied by Tim @ Chia Charge.

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There was absolutely no difference in the consistency of the batter plus they cooked exactly the same on our waffle iron. They look a little different in the photo below but that’s just because they were cooked for different times. In the interest of consistency we made sure and did the blind eating test with ones of the same brown-ness.

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The verdict – they were the same. Neither of us could tell the difference. We also reckoned that we probably wouldn’t realise that they were egg free either hadn’t we known to begin with. The waffles themselves are super tasty though, in both cases, and you get the added benefit of nutritious seeds. In future though I reckon I will use chia seeds because they produce much more of the necessary gloop which may be required in the recipes. However the verdict is still out as to whether they compare favourably with eggs.

Grinding the seeds up is also a really great way of releasing all the nutrients as the hard shells usually don’t break down in your digestive system. It’s pretty much instant chia gloopy goodness!

AnnetteX

 

 

Week 1 – Running on veg

So the first week of pretty much veganism and getting back into a fitness regime seems to have gone without a hitch. I have had no lack of energy and other than feeling a bit hungry at times, food, or cravings more specifically have not really been an issue. I even made my first vegan cake – Jamie Oliver’s brownies and I must say they are pretty awesome! It comes highly recommended from me. Did feel like I spent a lot of time in the kitchen though.

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Free running magazine

Looking back on it i would say it has actually been a pretty successful week. I picked up a copy of the free runABC (Scottish Running Guide) at the Sports Village this morning and I may use it to pick one or two races over the summer! It’s worth a read if you can get a copy as it has a list of most of the races in Scotland around the 10k mark. In it I also found out about RunningHeroes (sign up via this link and I might get a free t-shirt :P)  It’s big in France apparently and is making its way over to the UK. Basically you can link your Strava or Garmin account to it (amongst others) to earn points for the runs you do. You can then use these points to ‘buy’ discounts from sports retailers. There are also competitions as well which you can only enter, for example, if you have run 10 miles that week. There is also Bounts as well (use code “raffan49884” and we’ll both get 100 points :P) which is like Nectar points for just going out and doing sport! What’s to lose?

I guess they could be open to abuse but for the majority of us it can be an incentive to get out there! Only time will tell if it’s a major success but I’m going to give it a go for now.

I managed to keep a food diary all week. I find the process of writing it down helps with knowing how much you are actually eating. Plus here’s the exercise log:

Sunday 1st May: 5.5 mile run in minimalist shoes – great to work on your calves for a change. Took me over an hour but saw some new scenery around Scotstown Moor. Note to self: Mud = fun.

Monday 2nd May: 4.4 mile run along the beach. Burning calves after this one! Definitely a bit of walking at the end and maybe the middle…. Didn’t help that I wore Merrell Trail Gloves again….It was a glorious evening and I enjoyed being out.

Tuesday 3rd May: 3.6 mile Krunce Cosmics challenge series at Tyrebagger hill. This is my baseline run. It’s important to have something to gauge yourself by. Parkrun is also good for this. My time was 43 minutes for this first one – to be repeated again next month! It was hard. Even UltraMikeR said it was hard. So that means it is actually, hard. I was really concerned about being last but I wasn’t. Note to self: I need to get over this fear. Saw the inspirational CarolW there.

Thursday 5th May: 5.5 mile run along the beach promenade. It was a lovely evening but man did I feel tired! Didn’t stop my Strava properly so ended up including my walk to work and back the next day….oops. Note to self: Learn to use Strava properly.

Saturday 7th May: Trip to the gym. 30 mins on the spin bike, 5 min cool down on treadmill plus a couple of weights equipment.

Food: 9/10; Mind: 8/10; Body: 7/10

Success=1; Fail=0

Let’s do this – goals.

So a while back, in December I started out on a fitness spurt and it actually resulted in me going to the gym or exercising almost every day almost to the end of January. Then in January I started on my diet. I was trying to start something new every month that would,  essentially ‘make me a better person’ if that’s the way of putting it. Then (you can decide if this is a valid excuse or not) I got a bad cold which dragged on for weeks and I lost the rhythm.  Then when I was just about ready to return to the concept I got another bad cold which I’ve only just shaken off now.
So what am I trying to say? Well it’s time to start again. And you are going to help me because this blog (another thing which I thought I would do to better myself) is going to document my confessions and successes. That sneaky little chocolate bar I had to have – it will be on here. Think of this blog like a psychiatrist’s couch. I want to go vegan and I know it will be a journey. It took me about 3 years to become a vegetarian. Indeed it wasn’t at all helped by the shocking lack of healthy options at my school but still, giving up turkey on Christmas Day was the last thing I did. What I did over those 3 years was train my mind to no longer accept that meat and fish are an option for me to eat anymore. For me it’s all about conditioning yourself and develping (good) habits which you no longer need to argue with or question but just accept. Developing habits are hard especially when they go against what we currently accept and especially when we are confronted every day by the devil. The devil of course being everything you are trying to avoid. In my case this is cakes and chocolate mainly! Yesterday I went for a run – 5.5 miles and it felt good. It felt right. I’ve come to accept that the only thing limiting you in life is yourself. We are all in different situations and we all have to make choices which often have to work round other people. My husband is an ultra runner so perspective is a little bit of an issue in this household. “He’s only got 20 miles to go” is a sentence used as commonly as “what’s for tea?” Does that make it more difficult when I’ve ‘only’ done a 5.5 mile run in a house where 50 is ‘normal’? It shouldn’t do because each of your goals and your limitations are individual to you. When I see overweight people out running or at the gym, I almost want to cry because they are achieving as much as that man who ‘only’ has 20 miles. They are pushing themselves and that’s what I want to do too. I set goals at work so why not at home too? I think there are two ways to blog – the one that leads us to believe that the writer leads a perfect life and the one that reveals our innermost fears and confessions. I certainly intend to do the latter. And so I must leave now as real life beckons. And the cat requires attention/is causing chaos because he that is real life. Until next time when we meet on the confessional couch.

Annette X

Let’s do this.

So a while back, in December I started out on a fitness spurt and it actually resulted in me going to the gym or exercising almost every day almost to the end of January. Then in January I started on my diet. I was trying to start something new every month that would,  essentially ‘make me a better person’ if that’s the way of putting it. Then (you can decide if this is a valid excuse or not) I got a bad cold which dragged on for weeks and I lost the rhythm.  Then when I was just about ready to return to the concept I got another bad cold which I’ve only just shaken off now.
So what am I trying to say? Well it’s time to start again. And you are going to help me because this blog (another thing which I thought I would do to better myself) is going to document my confessions and successes. That sneaky little chocolate bar I had to have – it will be on here. Think of this blog like a psychiatrist’s couch. I want to go vegan and I know it will be a journey. It took me about 3 years to become a vegetarian. Indeed it wasn’t at all helping by the shocking lack of healthy options at my school but still, giving up turkey on Christmas Day was the last thing I did. What I did over those 3 years was train my mind to no longer accept that meat and fish are an option for me to eat anymore. For me it’s all about conditioning yourself and develping (good) habits which you no longer need to argue with or question but just accept. Developing habits are hard especially when they go against what we currently accept and especially when we are confronted every day by the devil. The devil of course being everything you are trying to avoid. In my case this is cakes and chocolate mainly! Yesterday I went for a run – 5.5 miles and it felt good. It felt right. I’ve come to accept that the only thing limiting you in life is yourself. We are all in different situations and we all have to make choices which often have to work round other people. My husband is an ultra runner so perspective is a little bit of an issue in this household. “He’s only got 20 miles to go” is a sentence used as commonly as “what’s for tea?” Does that make it more difficult when I’ve ‘only’ done a 5.5 mile run in a house where 50 is ‘normal’? It shouldn’t do because each of your goals and your limitations are individual to you. When I see overweight people out running or at the gym, I almost want to cry because they are achieving as much as that man who ‘only’ has 20 miles. They are pushing themselves and that’s what I want to do too. I set goals at work so why not at home too? I think there are two ways to blog – the one that leads us to believe that the writer leads a perfect life and the one that reveals our innermost fears and confessions. I certainly intend to do the latter. And so I must leave now as real life beckons. And the cat requires attention/is causing chaos because he is causing chaos. Until next time when we meet on the confessional couch.

Annette X