Exercise and Anxiety: Social Media and the rise of the super fit.

Social media is a double edged sword for me. I use it every day, and I post quite a lot. I blog (obviously) and a lot of what I blog about and read about and the people I follow are food/fitness professionals making their living through their food and fitness guides. I don’t do that; I am an amateur. While they can be inspirational, and I have learnt a lot through following different people, sometimes they make me anxious and insecure, depressed that I am sitting on the sofa eating mayo that somebody else made, and I forgot to check whether my cashew cheese was grown by organic virgins and whisked under the light of the new moon. Not all fitness/food blogs are like this, but enough that I think they can have a negative impact, if you are that way inclined.

So this is why I sometimes want to punch social media in the face:

  1. Motivational quotes: see my blog on positive mental attitude for a deeper exploration of why positive mental attitude quotes actually really piss me off. But basically when related to exercise I think they can set up more barriers than they break down.
    1. You choose your life. Actually, a lot of the time you don’t. I don’t choose when school decides it is parents’ evening (and when it is supposed to finish at 7 but I am still talking to parents at 8.45), when a student has a melt- down, when my dad died. Seriously! So I didn’t get my work out in today, or yesterday and it won’t fucking happen tomorrow because life. Whoopdedo for the amazing X who chose to turn her life around by doing 20 minutes of HIIT every day and now her life is amazing and as a by-product of changing her body shape she has also become a millionaire with the self-confidence to scale Everest.
    2. If you want it, you will make time. So humans can create time now? Seriously? I read a motivational post about exercises you can add to your daily run to work- see you can fit in some HIIT into your cardio which will make it super effective. My daily run to work? WTAF? How many assumptions in that sentence?
      1. You run to work every day?
      2. You can run to work every day? Well, I can’t. There are no shower facilities where I work, so turning up a hot sweaty beetroot coloured mess and then spending all day worrying if I am going to be nicknamed Miss Smelly by students is not happening. I tried. It didn’t really work. What if you live too far away? You have to drop children off at nursery? You work two jobs?
      3. A lot of these posts come from people who work in the fitness industry. If you work in a gym then forgive me for pointing it out, but of course it is easy to fit a workout into your break. You are ALREADY THERE. When I belonged to the gym, it took at least 20 minutes to get there. Do I have time to get there and do a quick lunch work out? No I do not. Also I am expected to be available throughout my lunch hour, so no go.
    3. They make you feel rubbish about yourself, so why even try? This one explains itself I think.
  2. Photos of fit people looking fit. There is a wealth of articles on this, but basically look at the lighting, the pose, the breathing in, the outtakes you don’t see, the camera angle. However, we often don’t think about those things because look at that person! Look at those abs, muscles, flex. Of course these people have put the hours in, but try it yourself. Flex your leg muscles, point your toes. Oh look, your leg looks different. High heels work on a similar principle- they force you to tense your muscles so your legs give the appearance of being slimmer and more toned. Sometimes these photos might be inspirational, but too often they look unobtainable. Learning theory suggests that we can learn through vicarious reinforcement- seeing someone else achieve what we would like to, however, there are also factors that affect this. If we can’t identify with someone then we are unlikely to see them as a role model. This means posting pictures of your muscular self in a bikini can make it pretty difficult for someone to identify with you. I’ve also noticed that where client journeys are posted, the client looked pretty healthy in the first place, so this means someone who is struggling with even starting to exercise or change their eating patterns can be put off even more
  3. Money: not only do you need time to invest in health and fitness on a regular basis, you also need money. You know which food is cheap? All the food that is verboten- processed white bread, value ham, margarine, biscuits, turkey twizzlers. How guilt inducing must it be to be told that if you feed your children any of the above, you don’t love them enough to care about their health? FUCK OFF! I shop at Aldi and sometimes Asda, very occasionally Waitrose when I am feeling flush. But, as someone living on their own in London, my rent forbids that I can buy grass fed organic beef massaged by Argentinian virgins until it contains extra nutrients. I can buy cheap ass coconut oil from the world foods aisle (it’s cheaper than the coconut oil in the oil aisle because that is made for wanky pricks, rather than normal people who have been using this superfood forever), and I can buy fresh fruit and veg- seriously the Aldi weekly offers are great. Exercise gear! Of course you can go running, you just need some trainers. Well, what if you can’t afford them? Yoga classes? Gym membership? Dumbells? Resistance bands? This might not be something that plagues everybody, but it can be a barrier, and to be made anxious about the fact you can’t afford the time/money to provide home- made protein balls for your kids is something I haven’t got time for.This also goes for kitchen equipment. I’m feeling it. I lost custody of the magimix in my recent breakup. Foolishly I hadn’t thought to ask my parents to spunk £200+ on a mayonnaise maker. Doh! Although I am not entirely to blame- I don’t have parents. Too dark? Maybe. Anyway, I don’t have £200+ knocking about to splurge, nor do I have the £150+ for an insta-pot, or £100 for a decent set of knives. I have one sharp knife in my kitchen, and my diy magimix consists of a bowl and a wooden spoon. So, how many recipes on the fitness food blogs that I follow can I actually make? If I wrote a cook book, it would be about how to make stuff with one knife and a pan. It wouldn’t contain a two page list of what the ‘basic kitchen’ needs. Nor would the recipes contain references to oddly expensive substitutes to make them inaccessible to many.

So, I am occasionally left feeling anxious, but more often angry when I read posts full of assumptions about other people’s lives and how much choice we have available to us. I decided yesterday, if you want to be a bit more active- go for a walk. It might not be 5 rounds of HIIT in a gym in a £50 pair of yoga tights and designer sports bra, but you can do it in clothes you already own, and it is definitely more active than sitting on the sofa. If you’ve got time of course.

Disclaimer: I know this says more about me than the people I am angry with.

Advertisements

Exercise and Anxiety: My experiences.

Disclaimer 1: This bit isn’t really that funny. I have suffered from severe anxiety and depression, been diagnosed, had cbt and now I mainly function without it overwhelming me as it has in the past, although I still get moments of almost uncontrollable panic, I am better at realising what is going and dealing with it early, using my cbt tricks. It doesn’t just affect my exercise- I sometimes have difficulty in crowds if I can’t see an easy way out (and being seriously short this can happen quite a lot), and sometimes it just looms up in a kind of everything about tomorrow is going to be awful so let’s stay awake all night worrying about, or that let’s worry about everything that you have ever done in the history of time. Because that’s helpful, wishing you could change the past. Top tip- it’s not.

But this post is specifically about how it affects my exercise. Exercise is a great stress reliever- I know that, but it can also be a great stress inducer, and telling yourself to get motivated, be consistent and start a brand new day blah blah positive mental attitude blah blah you choose how you see your day blah blah blah. Well, yeah, this post isn’t about that. Although I will talk about what I do to get myself out the door, here is the disclaimer (number 2 if you are counting). It doesn’t always work for me, it might not work for you. But, I want to normalise this, I want to say it is ok, and if some days you don’t exercise and you stay on the sofa eating cake and drinking gin watching re-runs of the Golden Girls, then not only is that ok, it’s a fucking awesome day. Balance! Fuck yeah!

Disclaimer 3: there will be swearing.

Performance anxiety: This little bastard attacks me in several forms.

  1. Firstly, it whispers in my ear, you won’t be able to do it you know.

I whisper back, But I’ve done this shit before, I ran 4 miles last week, I can run two this week.

Pause. Louder, yeah, but you spent the weekend drinking wine and eating like you are carrying octuplets, plus, you exercised yesterday and your muscles will hurt and you will have to stop and walk after 500m and that is SO EMBARRASSING.

Me: But nobody will know I have only run 500m. Wait, what if they have been walking up the road behind me. PANIC!

How I try solve this problem: I decide that I will only run 500m, and if I decide I can’t go on, I will stop. At least I had a go. If I have to reduce this to 200m, 100m, stepping outside the front door. That’s what I do. At no point should you try to solve this problem with wine or food, at least until you have definitely decided you are not leaving the house.

  1. Other people can see my performance and know exactly how far and how fast I have run.

This comes from using running apps. Now I know running apps are useful, I like to know how far and fast I have run- sometimes it explains why I am breathing like an asthmatic pug in a pea souper, other times it explains why I danced through my run like a lamb frolicking in a field of cocaine (both usually related to running very fast or very slow). But, it tells people what you did. Admittedly, I added some friends, but I am not entirely comfortable with it, and sometimes I find it difficult to either start, or indeed stop a run. I know that today was a slow recovery run, but what will it look like to everybody else?

How I try to solve this problem: Not adding to the app. Ha! What a fucking brilliant solution! But how do I know how far and how fast I have run. Sneakily I know that distance of a couple of loops near my house, and my phone has a timer. Job done. Of course then I worry that people will think I haven’t been running at all… the solution to this is to remember nobody else really gives a fuck about your running, they are too busy worrying about their own. Seriously, the only conversations I have ever really had with other runners goes like this:

Runner 1: I ran two miles today.

Runner 2: That’s awesome! I haven’t been running in like….ages!/ That’s awesome. I went running this week too. What are you thinking of doing next?

Runner 1: I haven’t been running for ages.

Runner 2: Yeah, that happens sometimes.

Appearance anxiety: I worry I look like a dick (figuratively not litereally). I worry I look fat. I worry all my wobbly bits are bouncing out of control like a bouncy castle who just discovered house music and ecstasy.

Yeah, all of those. Sometimes all at once. As soon as I start any form of exercise I immediately turn as bright red as a beetroot blushing as badly as though it just got burned. Seriously, I have had gym people come and ask if I am ok when warming up on the treadmill. Looking like you are about to have a heart attack from the start of every workout to about an hour afterwards is not a good look, but it is one I have perfected.

How I try to solve this problem: Well, sometimes I wear baggier gym clothes. You are not going to catch me prancing around in one of those bras with the 18 straps woven together in some sort of complicated pattern. My sports bras are not there to be pretty, they are not going to be seen. They are there to one job and one job only and that job? Keep my tits immobile during all and any exercises. If you can do your thing in a Victoria’s secrets bra and be comfortable then please do. If you want to go jogging half naked, nude with your bits swinging free, that is up to you (although the police might object). For me, I’ll stick to the gym clothes I feel comfortable in because those are the ones that get me out of the house. Also avoid group exercise at all costs- I mean face your fears if you like, but for me group classes? I’d rather remove my own eyeballs with a rusty spoon.

It’s also worth remembering, most people won’t notice. And if they do, what are they going to say? And if they do say anything, then they have a serious fucking problem and you may drop a heavy weight on their toe, and apologise sweetly by stamping on said toe.

Falling over anxiety: This might be quite an individual thing, I don’t know. But I have a fear of falling over, which combines performance anxiety with appearance anxiety i.e. I can’t do it, and I’ll look like a dick. Plus, it will probably hurt. Falling over has only ever actually occurred to me while I have been wearing high heels, drinking wine, and not paying attention to the existence of kerbs because I am far too busy being witty and interesting. When I have fallen over, I have been embarrassed (despite the wine), muttering something about it being so undignified. Friends generously refrain from pointing out that loud witch like cackling at my own wit, is not the epitome of dignity. But… it has never happened to me while out running. Still, I watch for kerbs and potholes and possible tripping hazards like a hawk, and there isn’t much else I can do.

Slug anxiety: This I am pretty sure is totally individual. I panic at the sight of slugs. Yeah I know they move at about 2 millimetres an hour and are unlikely to develop the motivation, physical prowess and mental acuity to launch themselves at my face and slime all over me, but so what? Once I got one stuck on my hand and I couldn’t get it off. My dad ‘helpfully’ found this hilarious, rather than terrifying. Terrifying is the most appropriate emotional response, just in case you were wondering.

How I solve this problem: Accept that most of my run will resemble a gazelle pronking as I avoid those slimy little shitbags with their weird antennary eyes, rather than the graceful lope of co-ordinated human being.

Lucky this only happens when it has been raining. Unlucky I live in England.

Kick Ass Chipotle Ketchup

Kick Ass Ketchup

I have a love hate relationship with ketchup. Like I love it, but it is just sugary gak that have been near a tomato at some point. Plus, I personally prefer mayo or tartare sauce on my fries, but I am currently sans food processor (insert crying emoji here), so making my own mayo will have to wait until I rectify that situation. But dry fries are not my favourite either, and I make a lot of fries if you count baked sweet potato, baked parsnip, baked carrot, baked celeriac, baked any root veg as fries. I do. Calling them fries instead of baked veg makes them seem sexier and more indulgent. Language is important. Plus they all taste delicious, better than actual fries in some cases. Plus, they are did easy- heat over, melt oil in baking tray, cover sticks of veg in oil and salt. Put in oven. Take out. Done.

I have tried spicing them up with chilli flakes and other spices- ras al hanout or smoked paprika, and that works well, but I am missing dips, so I thought, why not make my own ketchup? Well, because I don’t have a food processor I am never going to get the smooth texture of shop ketchup, but I could something like the flavour? Yes, as it turns out. I read a lot of labels to see what people like Heinz were putting in their ketchup, and checked out some recipes online from paleogrubs and paleo leap, and then I put in the flavours I like. For my birthday I got a pot of chipotle chilli flakes, amongst other things, so I decided they would definitely be going in. This makes a chunky satisfying and slightly spicy ketchup that I have eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and it will definitely become a regular food prep feature.

Ingredients

400g tinned chopped tomatoes

1 Tbsp. tomato puree

2 tbsp. agave syrup (I use The Groovy Food Company light- in colour)

2 tsps. Garlic granules

2 tsps. Salt

2 tsps. Onion granules

A couple of pinches of chipotle chilli flakes.

 

All of the above can be adjusted to suit your taste- salty, sweet or spicy.

Put all of the ingredients in a pan and warm over a low heat. Let it simmer until thickened to the desired consistency.

Put in a container.

You are done. It’s basically as easy as walking to Tesco and buying some ketchup, and my nearest Tesco is a two minute walk.

 

 

Rants and recipes: chocolate chilli with veggie option

I have been writing a lot this week- two whole blogs! One I wrote about my issues with the constant flow of positive mental attitude quotes and memes in my social media. While I fully accept this is my fault because I follow a whole host of people who make their living from being motivational, I also have concerns about the impact of seeing this kind of thing every day. Secondly I wrote about the importance (or not) of measurable targets in education. Both of these things are things that make me mad, irritate me, grind my gears, but neither of them, obviously, are about food. When I first really started blogging, it was all about food. But now it isn’t, and I started to think about why. It isn’t as though I have stopped cooking delicious food- check my Instagram account, which is essentially just food, but I have stopped writing about it. I have been added to a group of UK Health Bloggers and I am feeling a bit of a fraud, as I haven’t blogged about food in forever. But why? I think the answer comes from the role that food, and cooking, plays in my life. My relationship with actually eating food has and continues to be a difficult one, but my relationship with cooking has always been easy. It is my meditation, my place of mindfulness and my stress releaser. It soothes me, and in times of stress or difficult situations and experiences it is my go to thing to do. That and wine, but cooking is healthier really. So I started blogging about food last year while I was dealing with my dad dying. For a long time my relationship with dad has been, at best, complicated, and at worst non-existent. I had boxed up my feelings and put myself in a place of emotional safety for a while by doing so, but I had never really resolved any issues, and with his death, that suddenly became impossible, at least impossible for us to reconcile together. So, as usual I turned to food and the cathartic element of writing about it really helped me to move through the days.

But I write my best when I am angry, pissed off, irritated and a little bit (a lot) sweary. And food just doesn’t make me feel like that. By the time I have cooked my mind is settled, I feel better, and the need to write/rant has disappeared. So, what’s the solution? Delete my foodblogger status and just use Instagram for its only real purpose- pictures of food, exercise videos and cats? Or change my attitude like all those fucking memes tell me I should be doing? Funnily enough it is the second one. Many food blogs I read (ok I don’t read that many) actually don’t write that much about food. It is all about other stuff happening in their lives- fashion, tv, travel, yoga, daily frustrations. So, why shouldn’t I blog like that? A sweary rant and then a recipe? Maybe I should rename my blog? Rants and recipes is so pleasingly alliterative.

So there you go, from now on I will be ranting before my recipes. I’ll enjoy it, and if nobody else does…meh.

Chocolate chilli. I made huge batch of last week, ate some and froze a load so I have ready meals agogo in the freezer. So much easier to stay healthy that way, resist temptation blah blah blah. Except I pass Tesco on the way home and if I feel tempted it’s really not that hard to succumb. But yeah, if I can resist going into Tesco, I’m all good.

Ingredients:

1 red onion cut into chunks

1 yellow pepper cut into chunks

2 green chillis sliced (add more or less depending on your spiciness tolerance)

250g pork mince (mine was 5% fat if that kind of thing interests you) If you want to be veggie then this ingredient should be omitted, obviously.

100g chestnut mushrooms

400g kidney beans (not paleo so don’t include if you are living the caveman life)

2 tbsp cocoa powder

2tsps garlic powder

2 tsps cumin

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp tomato paste

200ml stock (I used beef, but you could use veg or chicken if that’s what you’ve got).

1 tbsp coconut oil (or whatever oil floats your boat)

Method:

Add coconut oil to a large frying pan over a lowish heat. When it has melted add the onions and fry until softened. Add the pork and use a spoon or spatula to break it up. When it has browned through, add the rest of the ingredients to the pan. The order doesn’t really matter, you are only going to stir them altogether anyway. So, once they have been added, you should stir until they are all mixed up, and then turn up the heat a little until it is simmering along the lines of the Goldilocks principle- not too little, not too much, but just right. A Baby bear porridge of a simmer if you like. Then just leave it for about 20 minutes. You might want to stir and check at some point like I always do. Once the stock has reduced and thickened to your desired consistency then you are good to go.

I have served this in the following ways:

  • On its own. Simple.
  • With avocado.
  • With fried plantain.
  • With cauliflower rice.
  • With white potato chips.

You can serve it however you like. Over a big plate of green would be good, sprinkled with feta if you do dairy, or with squash or sweet potato.

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally

This acronym is something I remember being taught in maths at school, something to do with the order of operations. I don’t actually remember what the acronym means, so … either the maths teacher was crap, acronyms don’t work, or I have never had to use order of operations since I was sixteen so my memory couldn’t be bothered to store this once vital information. How can we tell? What factors decide what information we hold onto and what we forget?

Oh God with a capital G who lives in the heavens, I would believe in you if you could answer me this. And not just in one context, with one class, one student, just for one year. If you could give me the holy grail of education- getting students to recall the relevant information at the right time, in the right context, I would worship you every day. It is the foundation of learning, the building block of abstract thought and without it we are lost because we can only build on the knowledge we have, so I need my students to remember the basics before we can get onto the complex. But, what we know about how this works is exceedingly limited. There is very little educational research that can be generalised across society because education involves humans, and for me it involves teenage humans who are notoriously fickle (according to my schema). Humans are difficult to pin down, they bring their emotions to the situation, their cultural associations, their upbringing and everything that is happening to them and has happened to them. Is it surprising that what works in one case, does not work with another? Teachers are also bringing elements of themselves to the situation. Believe me, teaching the role of the father in the psychology of attachment is a real bitch when your own father is dying, then dead and then you attend his funeral. It makes answering students’ questions about dads an emotional rollercoaster. I taught that element of the spec. really badly that year, really badly.

So what has this got to do with good old Aunt Sally? Well, working out what works in education is really hard. If anybody tells you they have the answer with any certainty, immediately check how much money they plan to make, and then tell them that they are wrong. Education is littered with the skeletons of the dead and expensive ideas that teachers have been told were the panacea. They weren’t, hence their skeletal status. Although some of them still lurch around us like zombies, biting into your pedagogy and killing your brain (see learning styles). So instead of facing these difficulties, acknowledging that when one thing works in one context, it might not work in another, and understanding that it isn’t just because the teachers are a bit shit, we do something else. We create something, something easy to measure and easy to correct- it might be attendance and punctuality for example. Who cares if it is only an issue for a small number of students, particularly if you are looking at attendance and punctuality to lessons? Well, those who can measure it care about it. Attendance and punctuality slots neatly into a spread sheet, and when it decreases it is a victory for a policy implemented to solve a problem that didn’t really exist, but Aunt Sally came to visit. Albeit briefly. Because what is the lasting impact of this policy? Will it improve student attainment? Will it improve student well- being? It certainly doesn’t solve the problems of students who are desperately struggling with mental health issues, being carers for parents, or even those struggling academically with how to write an essay. But hey, the data on attendance and punctuality now looks awesome. So instead of excusing Aunt Sally, I’d like her to fuck off. Totally fuck off out of education. Then we might look at the real problems, with outcomes possibly unmeasurable until years later, and then we really will be doing something that approaches the needs of the students we work with.

P.S. Oxford Dictionary definition of Aunt Sally

1A game played in some parts of Britain in which players throw sticks or balls at a wooden dummy.

1.1count noun A dummy used in the game of Aunt Sally.

1.2count noun A person or thing set up as an easy target for criticism.

Your PMA is PMO!

Good evening! Is it? Maybe, maybe not. But with a positive mental attitude, it definitely will be. You choose your mood, you choose to have a good day, you make things happen. And some days you do, but other days, you don’t. I follow lots of people on social media, and many of them are to do with food, fitness and well-being. They frequently contain motivational messages about how to feel good about yourself, to motivate yourself, and often give the impression that the person sending the messages lives a charmed life, and always, always, always get that workout in #noexcuses. But, of course they don’t, not all the time. But that’s ok, because you can just choose to be positive and focus on the good- just be fucking grateful to be alive for fucks sake! #soblessed. #winning.

But, you know what, not everything in life is a choice. Sometimes shitty things happen, and what really pisses me off (pmo) about these pma (positive mental attitude) messages, is that they can shut down conversations, shut down emotional honesty and shut down a person’s ability to ask for help, to admit that things are shit, and they feel shit, and a fucking HIIT workout is not going to solve their fucking problems. Nor is eating an avocado, unless your problem is you are really craving guacamole.

Why? Because saying that all of your emotional experience is a choice, invalidates feeling negative, it makes feeling upset, angry or anxious something you have chosen, not a reasonable reaction to a fucked up situation, or an extremely stressful life event, or even just a shitty disappointing day because they just happen sometimes. By making emotions a choice, we make people who are feeling shit feel even shitter. And also they make me feel like punching you in the face, and screaming, feel good about that you self- satisfied prick. Instead of acknowledging that sometimes it is alright to feel unhappy, we tell people it is their choice they are feeling unhappy. So what needs to change? Not the situation, but the person. Individualising happiness and making it something we simply have to pick off the shelf of our emotional range like that sparkly top from the rack in H&M, means that feeling bad makes us feel bad for feeling bad. That is not helpful. In fact, it can end up being downright dangerous. Culturally conditioned to present a positive face to the world, when we feel we can’t, we might get stuck inside our own heads instead of being able to say- you know what, things are all a bit shit.

Some days you do get out of the wrong side of the bed, as my mum used to say, along with other helpful phrases like, were you born in a barn, and don’t just stand there like one of Lewis’s. And maybe you can focus on the good, eat a healthy breakfast, practise yoga in the sunshine and list the great things about being you before bouncing out to the day like Tigger on crack. But maybe some days you can’t. Being Tigger on crack takes a fuckton of energy and if your energy is sapped by things going on around you, maybe you just scrape yourself out of bed, drink some coffee, prop your eyes open with matchsticks and promise yourself if you make it through the day you can definitely drink all the gin/eat all the chocolate while sitting on the sofa in your fat pants with tears rolling down your face. And if anybody even says something about yoga, a positive mental attitude or looking on the bright side, you have permission to fuck them up. Like really fuck them up. Or just say ‘fine’ when they ask how you are. Whatever feels right in the moment.

What I am trying to say, is that your feelings are for you. They need to be examined, they need to be considered and if the voice in your head has a one sided nasty view of everything you do, then you don’t need to listen to it. But nor do you always have to listen to the pma messages about deciding to have a good day. It is alright to feel fucked up, angry, upset and anxious. Many of these emotions a safety valve, a trigger to ourselves that something needs to change, but not necessarily the emotion in that moment. We need to listen to those emotions and sometimes we need to let them happen, or we become out of touch with what we feel and why. We lose emotional honesty and ultimately intimacy because we feel obliged to choose happy. And that really pisses me off.

 

Italian? Pasta? Yes please!

This is not a cuisine I usually pay much attention to, but something must be changing because I had pizza on Friday and tonight I ate pasta. The pizza was delicious and if you are in London and you can get to Franco Manca then you should do so. I can eat gluten without any obvious reaction, unless I eat too much at once and then I feel bloated, but that goes for eating too much of anything. If you don’t like to eat gluten, or it actually makes you sick because you have Crohn’s or celiac’s then clearly pizza is not for you, even Franco Manco pizza. I am doing a sad face as I type. But there is pasta that is for you (and for me) created and made by Nomad Food- it is gluten free and fits in with a paleo diet (if that is what you like). I tried the sesame pasta tonight which has 3 ingredients- sesame, tapioca and egg. Vegetarian but not vegan. It ticks a lot of boxes anyway! Super simple to cook- drop in salted boiling water for 3-5 minutes and drain. Done and dusted. It kept it’s shape, with a pleasant firm texture and a slightly nutty and delicious flavour. Had someone served it to me without me seeing the packet I wouldn’t have known it wasn’t just pasta, although the fusilli shape is slightly less chunky than I remember. As I am currently training to do a half marathon, I am quite excited to have a really quick and easy option to add to my diet- nobody wants to be hanging about waiting for food after a long (and at the moment, very cold) run. So I recommend you grab some for yourself and let pasta be a part of your life again.

I served it with my new favourite Italian ragu recipe which is rich and tasty and paleo and whole30 and glutenfree and all those things! Youi can also get ahead on making this if you make up the base from my last blog, as that is where it all starts.

Ingredients (serves 2):

250g turkey mince

1 red onion diced

4 cloves garlic minced

1 ½ fresh chillis chopped small

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

300ml stock (compliant if doing whole30)

3 tsps dried oregano

3 tsps dried basil

Olives (optional)

Coconut oil

Method:

Melt the coconut oil in a heavy frying pan over a low heat and then add the red onion, garlic and chilli and cook for a few minutes until softened. Add the turkey mince and break it up with a spatula, pushing it around the pan and cook until lightly browned. Add the balsamic vinegar, sometimes I add more because I love the richness and piquancy it gives, and the herbs. Add the stock and bring to a vigorous simmer, then turn down the heat so it is a more relaxed simmer. Leave for about 10-15 minutes, depending on how much ‘juice’ you want. If you are going to add the olives, then add them at this point. Once it is simmered to your liking it is ready to go. Buon apetito!

PS Please check out my insta @experimentalmonkeyfeeder for pictures! My computer is playing up and won’t let me upload them 😦

 

Variety is the spice of life: meal prep.

Turkey and Butternut Chilli

turkey-and-butternut-chilli

It feels like I haven’t really done any proper prep and cooking for a while. I was cat sitting over Christmas and New Year (looking after a cat rather than literally sitting on it), and for some reason living in someone else’s place for a short time makes me really lazy, even though they clearly have all the same things in their kitchen I do, plus a fridge as standard, and a local supermarket that sells all the food I would usually buy. I ignore all of that and buy fripperies and snacks and camp out. It has also been a difficult and confusing start to the year- 2017 is definitely going to be one of change. Then last week I was ill and food was the last thing on my mind, unless I wanted to vomit. But this week, I decided I have to get my shit together. I enjoy cooking, I enjoy the process and the eating and having healthy stuff all around. Plus, when I eat it, I feel better. So I went shopping and I prepped. One thing I have stolen from somewhere- I can’t remember where because it was a random video on my facebook was about prepping mince. Normally I would just make a load of burgers, a massive bowl of chilli or some stir fry and that is what I would be eating for the week. I know some people can do that for weeks on end, but I cannot. I get bored and then I go out and buy something different for dinner, which results in food waste and pointless prep. But if you make a simple base that you can add different flavours to throughout the week, then you can still have quick n easy meals on demand, but you also get to mix it up according to your mood.

Base:

Minced meat (I believe it is called ground in the US). You can use beef, pork, chicken…I used turkey this week because it was on offer. It was 500g but you can use different amounts and adjust your flavours accordingly. It depends on how many people you are cooking for and how spicy you like your food.

Fresh chilli chopped up small (I used one and a half).

Red onion or shallots (I used one).

Garlic crushed (I used 4 cloves).

Coconut oil (I used about a teaspoon full).

Heat the oil in a heavy based frying pan (skillet) on a lowish heat and add the onion garlic and chilli. Cook for a few minutes, stirring, until they are softened. Add the meat and turn up the heat a little. Use the spoon to break it up and turn until it is cooked through.

Your base is done- well done you!

At this point I emptied about half the meat into a storage container and stuck it in the freezer.

Turkey and Butternut Chilli:

To the base add the following spices:

  • Cumin
  • Nutmeg
  • Smoked sweet paprika
  • Hot paprika
  • Cinnamon

I usually add about equal amounts of each- about a teaspoon, but feel free to omit any you don’t like, or add any you do.

Add 400g of tinned tomatoes and a big squirt (about a dessert spoon) tomato paste to the mix and then about 200ml of water and stock cube. Stir over a low heat and leave to simmer.

Dice up about half a butternut squash and add to the pan, cover with a lid and leave for about 20 minutes until the squash is tender. Meanwhile dice up a yellow pepper and add to the pan after the twenty minutes is up. Leave uncovered about let simmer until the sauce is at your desired consistency. There you go! One more meal. Mix it up even more by serving it with different things e.g. cauliflower rice, zoodles, lettuce scoops, cabbage ribbons…. You know what you like!

Meal 2: Asian cabbage rolls.

You will need:

1 Lime- zest and juice. I used half the lime zest and half the juice.

Cashew nuts

Fresh chilli- I used about a quarter

Red onion thinly sliced

Fresh herbs- your choice! Lots of people go with coriander (cilantro) but the taste makes me want to puke, so I don’t. You could use basil, mint…

Cabbage leaves (I used sweetheart cabbage).

If you froze the other part of your base then defrost it. I was cooking for one tonight so I only used half the base (leaving me another meal for tomorrow). Add to a small pan with a splash of water and heat. Add the lime zest and half the juice to the pan and stir through the base. Leave it to simmer until the water is almost gone and the meat is hot.

In boiling bubbling water cook the cabbage leaves for about a minute and then leave to steam dry, or pat them dry.

Lay the cabbage leaves out on a plate and pile up with the base, top with a sprinkle of fresh chilli, cashew nuts, red onion and fresh herbs.

Wrap the rolls and eat- messily!

Tomorrow I will probably make up something more Italian inspired with the leftover base I have left. But let’s see how I feel!

 

 

Spicy green chicken and cashew nut salad

So I was going to follow someone else’s recipe for buffalo chicken salad (paleOMG’s recipe to give the credit) because it sounded delicious, but when I read it again it said minced carrot. I don’t know why but this put me off, well I do know. I don’t really like grated carrot, and that is what minced carrot sounds like, so I checked the fridge. The fridge is full of green things, specifically, avocado, celery, cucumber, spring onions and little gem lettuce. Plus, there is spicy mayo that I made at the weekend, and there is always cashew nuts in the cupboard. Obviously I had chicken because I was planning to make buffalo chicken, and so the salad was born.

For two:

I had skinless and boneless chicken thighs. I prefer the flavour of chicken thighs to chicken breast, plus it is usually cheaper, but these came from Waitrose, so obviously I took out a mortgage in order to pay for them. You could use left over chicken, or ready cooked chicken.

Heat some coconut oil in a big frying pan, then roll the thighs out flat and place them in the pan. Sizzle until cooked through- turning them over once helps. Once cooked remove from the pan and place on kitchen roll to absorb some grease. I don’t like too much grease in my food. If you do like grease, then feel free not to place on kitchen roll.

At this point I added some parboiled sweet potato and parsnips to the pan because I like them.

Slice the celery, cucumber, avocado and spring onions and throw them in a bowl. This requires no skill or artistry, unless you are feeling flair then you could juggle the ingredients (juggling optional).

Slice the slightly cooled chicken and throw in the bowl with the green things.

Add as much mayo as you like. If your mayo is not already spicy (because you did not get a bit free and easy with the cayenne at the weekend like I did- sounds more exciting than it is), then add some heat with a few squirts of sriracha or a sprinkling of the aforementioned cayenne.

Lay out some little gem lettuce leaves on a plate. Fill each lettuce scoop with the chicken/green/mayo mix. Sprinkle with cashews, or not. Add the parsnips and sweet potato on the side, if you know, you made them earlier. If not, don’t.

Eat.

If you want to make your own mayo then check my blog, or google whole30 mayo.

 

 

Making mayo and other life lessons

When I was 15 I started my first diet. I was a little chubby maybe, curvaceous perhaps, even voluptuous (as one male friend described when I was staring at a depressed looking salad from the school canteen and complaining my jeans were too tight to eat chips). But I grew up in the era of heroin chic; a young Kate Moss was the ideal of female beauty, and my boobs were eminently unfashionable. Yes! Boobs can be unfashionable- Vogue said so. Not old enough to know better, I bought into this idealisation, and accepted that because I couldn’t meet the standards set by the magazines of the time (Just 17, Belle, even the occasional Cosmo) I was ultimately a flawed human being who would never ever be considered beautiful. All of this was, of course, utter bollocks. But it surprisingly difficult to get rid of these insecurities. I can still stand in front of the mirror for multiple outfit changes before leaving the house; sometimes I even think about not leaving the house. Objectively, this is ridiculous. I am a healthy weight, a healthy dress size, fit and I even have a little muscle tone here and there. I can do more than run for a bus and I can lift weights somewhat heavier than myself. But there is always that little voice that whispers (and occasionally shouts). I have mostly learned to tell it when it needs to shut up, occasionally over compensate, and sometimes I give in and where the baggiest clothes ever.

What the has this got to do with mayonnaise? I hear you ask politely, while in your head screaming get to the point, you insecure bint. The point is that just like my boobs where hugely unfashionable while growing up, so was mayonnaise- in my house anyway (and I wanted a rant about media based insecurity). Putting mayonnaise on your salad was the equivalent of saying I am really, really, really trying to be unhealthy here. Oddly the same did not apply if you wanted to make a pastie barm- this is a particular northern delight which is essentially a pie sandwich. The difference is that now, I am better at quieting the insecure voices and I am also going to eat all the mayonnaise I like, and never (well probably), eat a pastie barm.

Home-made mayo is delicious, takes about 5 minutes and adds an element of luxury to anything I eat with it. I particularly love to dip parsnip chips in it. It is also really versatile. Once you have your basic mayo, then you can add any flavours you like.

My mayo recipe is based on an amalgamation of Whole30 mayo and creamy sauce recipes. I make it in my magi mix food processor and it has never failed me yet.

1 warm egg (I put mine in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes)

1 dessert spoon of red wine vinegar

½ tsp. of salt

A couple of pinches of cayenne pepper.

1 tsp. Onion granules (if you like)

1 tsp. Garlic granules (if you like)

150ml of light Olive oil.

Put all the ingredients (except the oil) into the mixer and blast for a few seconds. Then, while the mixer is mixing, slowly, very slowly, like a tortoise moving through treacle slowly, add the oil. Do NOT panic if it doesn’t thicken immediately. If you add the oil slowly enough, then it will by the end.

Once all the oil is in, you should have a thick and creamy mayonnaise ready to use there and then, or to put into little pots to use each day.

The next step is to lick the bowl. You will want to and that is ok. Good fats right?