First time back to running

Last year I ran the Swindon Half Marathon. I had intended to run the MK winter half as well but my ankle was injured so running 13.1 miles wasn’t an option in December. Then I was working a physical job and I was only running for parkrun on Saturdays.

By the time lockdown started in March I was down to walk / running parkrun as I had already lost so much fitness. For the first couple months of lockdown we did nothing physical. I did run, barely walked at all and only did one cycle ride. We knew we had to get back to exercise and that is while I got back into walking. At that point running just was out of reach again. We had one go at running a bit several weeks ago but with Alan having a bad hip and me just not feeling enough motivation it was just a one off.

This time we went back to Millennium Country Park to finish the circuit and get back to running. You will remember that last week we got rained out of our five mile walk and cut it short at a bit less then half way. My jeans were so wet from the downpour we had that day that my legs felt like I was walking through cement. This week was lovely and dry if a bit chilly but that is a good situation for running.

My first time back to running was probably only about 1/3 or so of the 4.8k of the circuit. We walked for a while to warm up and then ran for probably no more than about 200-300 metres before walking again. Just repeated that over and over again. By the end of the circle the running was probably only about 100 metres at a time but I tried to keep the walking to a similar amount as each running shift.

I am actually really pleased with this as it has been about 11 months since I was last seriously running and 6 months since I had regularly run at all. If I judged myself on my previous ability I would feel terrible but life is a fluid thing. I have to judge myself against my current situation which in honesty is rather poor. I feel like I can do better as well and plan to get my running into a bit more of a habit again.

I can’t leave you without pictures of this lovely park. If you can find the time visit the park and do a full circuit it is worth it. Wonderful trees, beautiful views , and a gorgeous little lake.

Country potatoes

Emily loves potatoes. She would live on potatoes alone if I let her….just mashed potatoes! Country potatoes are more of a cross between mashed potato and chips in my opinion. Em plans to put her potatoes in a wrap with sausagemeat, eggs and salsa as breakfast burritos like w had back in the US. Alan and I being plant based our use is a bit different but don’t put it past me to make a burrito with faux sausage, tofu scramble and salsa.

Alan and I had the potatoes for our lunch with shredded Brussel sprouts. Our brussels were flavoured with sriracha and maple syrup just like I did my roasted chickpeas from the other day. In fact I did both of these recipes at the same time so half of my marinade was actually the leftover from the chickpeas and I ate the chickpeas with the lunch.

For the brussel sprouts you just need the finely slice the sprouts (I use a food processor) then drizzle over the marinade and stir up. Place in the oven at about 190C / 375F for about 10 minutes or until as crispy as you like.

Country potatoes

  • 800 g white potatoes (diced)
  • 2 medium onions (diced)
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 300 ml vegetable stock for cooking

Method

Heat a small amount of vegetable stock in your lidded pan. Add in the potatoes, onion, and spices. Add a bit more stock and stir it up. Bring the liquid to boil then reduce to minimum with the lid on. Stir every few minutes and add more stock as needed until the potatoes are soft. make sure you have cooked off the liquid. Serve with the brussels on the side.

Potatoes are a wonderful, healthy starch that is high in vitamin C and has significantly more potassium than any other vegetables. I must admit that potatoes are my favourite starch and I would happily base every meal on them if other family members didn’t complain.

As the summer here seems to be over now you will find me making mostly autumnal and wintry meals for a while. I hope you all enjoy my recipes. Like and please, please share my posts so I can grow. I love sharing my recipes and adventures with the world.

Weekly Menu 1/9/2020

I plan my meals and buy as per my menu….then I go off on a tangent and do something else completely. Last week’s plan went out the window when Alan and I realised we had two nights in a row of just the two of us for dinner. Two people were away and two were working evenings so dinner for two it was.

I was not about to make a six person dinner two nights in a row and deal with all those leftovers. What did we do instead? Sushi for the first time happened on Friday and Saturday we had a cheeky takeaway. The takeaway was naughty and though plant based it was surely full of oil and not healthy. The sushi on the other hand I am very happy with having done.

Sushi rolls went quite well and two was enough to stuff me to my gills. Should have used brown rice I guess but sticky rice was fun to have a go with for the first time. We filled them with shredded cucumbers and carrots and a bit of mashed avocado. Alan topped his with wasabi which I suspect was a perfectly healthy enough choice. I had a vegan sriracha mayo that was very spicy and yummy but probably not healthy.

Between the takeaway and a few unhealthy snacks this week I am up a couple pounds. Best laid plans and as that but I always get distracted by the shinies along the way. More than half healthy choices for the week it was. Oh well.

This week is planed to be simple. The funny part about that is the reason for having chosen simple things. My last assignment for my course is due on the 10th so I wanted to have as little to do outside of my university course as possible because….shinies. Why is this funny? I am writing this all out about 20 minutes after having submitted my assignment early. I got several hours on my own with no distractions and I got on with the work. I am not at all confident with my work but it is done and over and I can move on.

Meal Plan

sushi
  1. Roast vegetables with mash and gravy. Yup, again because sushi. I already bought everything so it must be done.
  2. Sushi. It was so good and the others love sushi. One even requested we do it again as a family as he wanted to have a go. I think I have some prawns still frozen in the freezer that the meaty ones can have. I want to try a few more filling options so will have to search for some inspiration.
  3. Dhal and rice. It is cheap and I enjoy it. It is also quick and takes very little thought for me to put together anymore. My kids are not as big a fan of it as me but guess what…they never cook dinner.
  4. Vegetable Soup with barley. Was also planned for last week and I have everything I need for it. It is not warm here anymore so warm dishes are nice and I want barley.
  5. Country Potatoes and Brussel sprouts. Can’t link to this recipe until that one publishes but will have to go back and do it later. I did this the other day when doing my recipes for the blog. It was an on a whim thing while doing the roasted chickpeas as we needed lunch. I used the marinade from the chickpeas on the brussels and had them on the side of potatoes and onions cooked on the stovetop with stock and spices. This one takes a few extra minutes though I suspect I can make the potatoes as well in the oven so mostly just chopping time.
  6. Baked potatoes. I will probably have mine with baked beans but who knows. Eldest does tuna, sweet chilli sauce and mayo. Alan like salsa but not sure what else he might do. The great thing about baked potatoes for dinner is that everyone does their own. I just make my own food. sometimes you need to just let the young adults (and husband) take care of themselves.
  7. We have a birthday happening this week. His plan is either a BBQ with the grandaunts or a takeaway. I think the BBQ will happen and the grandparents are in charge of the meat eaters food. That means I need to just plan for three people. I will likely go for the plant based burgers from Asda, salad with new potatoes and some asparagus. Being too ‘different’ would probably cause discord and we like the burgers. The salad is a typical staple of the family bbqs. Asparagus I have found grills very well.
Country potatoes and Brussel sprouts

I am going to buy a 25kg bag of potatoes again this week. I had been trying to buy them at Aldi but the price is higher and the potatoes are usually smaller. Because I am getting a giant sack of potatoes, lunches will likely be baked potatoes most days as well. I will have to search out a few different toppings for the potatoes as no-one wants to eat the same thing everyday.

Roasted chickpeas

Snacks have been a frustration for us at times. I really love crunchy snacks and this has been a struggle. Popcorn is an option but plain is boring. Veggies and hummus is nice but doesn’t quite hit that chruchy snack craving for me. Roasted chickpeas have been a great option.

You can do a slew of different flavours to suit you personal tastes. I have done barbecue and another time nooch with a splash of veg stock. This time it is sriracha and maple syrup. I think this one is my favourite so far.

You can make these from dry chickpeas for a bit of money savings but more time or just buy your chickpeas in cans. This time I used my canned chickpeas for a quick snack.

Ingredients

400g can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)

1 Tbsp sriracha

1 Tbsp maple syrup

Method

Drain and rinse your chickpeas and place in a bowl. Mix sriracha and maple syrup then pour over the chickpeas. Stir and coat well. Place on a lined baking sheet. Place in a preheated oven at about 190C / 375F for about 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on the chickpeas and stir them around a bit occasionally to make sure they don’t burn.

Get chickpeas as browned as you can without burning them and when they are well cooked turn off the oven and open the door just a bit to release the steam and allow the chickpeas to dry a bit.

Tasty and healthy. Lots of protein and flavour. There is no guilt eating this snack at all. I get my crunch but not extra fat. Yummy!

The Forest Centre & Millennium Country Park

This walk ended about half way from our plan. Rained out it was. Alan wanted to show me this park he found while on a cycle ride. We knew it was there because it has a Parkrun in normal times but we had never visited it before. The plan was to do the whole perimeter walk shown on the map below which would have been 5 miles but that didn’t happen..

This is the map we followed

First we turned right toward the windmill when we should have gone left really. This sent us around the bottom half of the park. Not a problem at all though we thought. We were just going to get back to the start and do a second loop of the top to get the whole thing in. Oh well, we will have to go back another day and do the rest of the walk.

I don’t have lots of pictures I am afraid. It was just a lovely, relaxing place to walk. Nothing exceptional to take for pictures. The paths were wide and open for walkers, wheelchairs, proms and bicycles. The only other thing we really saw were lots of trees.

If you are looking for a quiet walk near to the Milton Keynes /Bedford area this is a good choice. There are toilet facilities as well as a cafe there. In addition to the walks around the lakes there is also a sensory garden near the cafe. You do need to pay for parking which is only one pound for an hour or two for three hours so not horribly expensive.

One day in the future, we want to do this Timberland Trail walk we discovered when we visited the park. It is a 13 mile walk so I need to build myself back up for that. Love finding new possibilities for the future.

Day out in Nottingham

It was quite a drive to get there but it was great to have a day out mostly on my own in Nottingham. I have not had more than an hour on my own since the beginning of lockdown in March. I am not a people person. I like to have time to myself. My home has not been that for months and I have been overwhelmed.

We went to Nottingham because Alan had an appointment there. Because of all the COVID stuff, I couldn’t go to the appointment with him but I could go for a walk. The original plan was for me to have a walk in Sherwood Forest but the weather was threatening rain and it was VERY windy. Since the weather was icky I decided to have a walk around the city centre.

I haven’t written up a turn by turn walk because I just wandered. I had read that there was a castle to see so I walked to that. I saw that there was a river or canal so I made a point of walking down to that as well. I am very sure there were other things to see but I didn’t think I was going to have all that much time. Turned out I had three hours to myself.

Most of the time I just meandered around the centre. There are some beautiful buildings there and all the shopping one needs. One of the unusual things was that there was a big fun fair thing in the middle of town and it looked like it might be a permanent thing. There is lots of public transit including a tram line. I was there over two hours before I actually saw a tram (then saw three in minutes). There was the usual high street still shopping as well as a shopping centre. I also noticed Nottingham has quite a few bars and cafes often with outside seething.

The castle was about a half mile away from the shopping if that. There are a couple of old pubs around it. One of those pubs is apparently the oldest pub in England. The castle was closed though because of COVID so I can only give you a taste of the outside of it. I fond this castle a bit different from most. It is built on a sandstone rock that towers up from below. Also, you can walk around the full circumference of the castle. That oldest pub is actually built into the same castle rock the castle is on.

The water I saw on a map was the Nottingham and Beeston Canal. It goes through at the bottom of town near the Court of Justice. There are three canal side pubs with lots of outside seating. I can imagine on a typical summer day with good weather that area would be packed.

I can see why people would like Nottingham. It has a nice feel to it. I understand it is not the most well off area but it didn’t feel deprived at all. You could feel that the town has pride in itself. I can imagine that one day we will visit Nottingham again when e can visit the castle and caves properly and enjoy the pubs. I think it could make a nice little weekend city break.

I hope you have enjoyed my pictures. I enjoyed having some time on my own. If you find yourself in Nottingham have a nice wander about yourself.

Weekly Menu 27/08/2020

Last week I promised a review of how my menu plan worked along with my plan for this week. I will go over breakfast, lunch and dinners separately.

The breakfasts were completely different to my 0lan. I had spotted bagels at the store and had that with peanut butter. The plan was smoothies but when it came down to it I just didn’t want that. I don’t think bagels are a great choice to be honest but I find that if I ignore a craving I tend to overeat everything else until I give in to the craving. I never stood a chance with cereal either as Joey ate all the cereal it Hin two days.

Lunch I planned much better. We didn’t do that well with our salads to be honest which was a bit of a surprise. Normally this is a easy option but it just didn’t happen this week. We were busy some days so had to find something while out. That day I found a reasonably ok vegan salad from Mark and Spencer’s which I mixed with beans and had with melon slices. Other days it seemed sensible to go with the leftovers option to make sure they didn’t build up in the fridge. Two of my kids are back to work so evening meals are often too big when they are eating out.

Dinners did mostly go to plan. One night we had something different than planned but still within the healthy plant based category. You will have seen the recipes for the chick’n noodle soup and asparagus risotto both of which came out really well. I still need to write up the recipe for Spanish omelette but that came out pretty good too. The potato and cauliflower pie didn’t go as well. The filling was fine. Just roasted potato and cauliflower then covered in my nacho cheezy sauce. That part was great but the pie crust didn’t work out. It was more like a naan crust than a pie one. Some experiments work and some don’t.

This week is not planned with lots of new recipes in mind. I just needed to plan an easier week because I need to finish my final assignment for my Open University course. I can’t overwhelm myself and get this done as best as I can. That doesn’t mean we revert to junk food though. It just means a bit less experimenting.

1. Burgers and chips. This might mean some sweet potato chips for me. I am not sure but I have sweet potatoes and need to use them. I have Vegilante Zinger burgers for Alan and I but for the others I am going to make burgers from scratch. I might get fancy and have a go at making the yeast rolls from my grandmother’s recipe. I have been meaning to do that and I do find bread making calming.

2. Roast vegetables with mashed potato. Pretty straightforward I guess. I have some turnip in the freezer which I can add some onion, carrots, and maybe some courgette. When I do mash it is very easy. I don’t even peel the potatoes first. Just chop up the potatoes and boil. Sometimes I add onion to the potatoes at the beginning. Mash it all up with a bit of soya milk and lots of nutritional yeast, black pepper, a bit of salt, and some paprika. I am thinking about having a bit of cabbage on the side as well. I could add cheezy sauce to the mash as well.

3. Baked Beans and cornbread. This one was a request from Joey. Personally, I think this one should be a much more occasional meal as it does have too much sugar in it but I do like to make sure everyone is happy with something. Joey is one of my meat eaters so the fact that the only meal request from him was for a vegan recipe seems like a win to me so I am going for it.

4. Pasta with veggie sauce. Just your typical pasta sauce with lots of veggies added and a bit of lentils. The great thing about my pasta sauce is that it is a good basic sauce which can be filled out however your like. Just this on wholewheat pasta with a bit of nutritional yeast. Quick, easy, filling and good.

5. Curry and rice. Not sure what the main ingredients will be. Chickpeas and spinach? Maybe. Sweet potato maybe. Probably not. There will be onion, tomato, perhaps some peppers. Curry is great because it can adjust to whatever you need. This will be a hodgepodge of what I have to work with. Matching it with rice means I don’t have to do anything extra.

6. Vegetable soup. I have some barley and I love vegetable soup with barley. I love barley. I don’t know what I will do with seasoning. I just want barley vegetable soup. You will have to follow me on Instagram (five_bean_soup) to see how that comes out.

7. Sausages and mash. Yup, mash again. Emily loves mash. Everyone loves sausages. Alan and I will have the Richmond vegan sausages. In fact I think everyone will get those vegan sausages this time and I don’t think anyone will mind. We can have some store bought baked beans with it.

Other than my weekly Thursday burger night, the plan is not labelled to a night because I want to be able to change my mind. If something in life changes then the meal plan can change too.

Asparagus Risotto

Quick and simple meal. This can be used with just about any vegetables in place of the asparagus if you are either not a fan or just don’t have it to hand. I love a mushroom risotto and this can be substituted if you desire.

Risotto really is a simple meal to make. Only took abut 30 minutes to make with quite minimal prep work to do. Things to note are that the liquid is approximate as you might find that you need more or less to get your rice fully cooked. Last time I made this recipe I only needed about 1.5 litres of stock while this time I used a full 2 litres. This is the reason you add only a bit of stock at a time so you don’t accidentally make rice soup.

I have tried adding the directions as a photo so you can print it off without the photos if you prefer. I have yet to find a way to make my recipes be able to pop up as a printable version but you should be able to open the directions as a separate picture to print. Let me know if this is worth my extra effort.

I think the next time I make this I might do something with sun-dried tomatoes and spinach. I like to change things up in my recipes on a regular basis and I hope you do the same. It really helps to avoid things getting too monotonous.

If you make my recipes I would love to see them so upload a picture to Instagram and tag me in it @five_bean_soup. Don’t forget to like, share and follow me for more recipes and healthy living.

Chick’n Noodle Soup

Before going plant based this was a family favourite with chicken…in fact it is Emily’s favourite meal. I have a bit of a twist on the traditional recipe though as I use paprika for flavour. Originally, this was a Chicken Brunswick Stew I found in a cookbook but I didn’t like this bit and added that bit and now it is not at all the original recipe though the inspiration came from there.

I have tried it with chickpeas but it was not as good though a reasonable substitute. It also turns out that Emily hates chickpeas so back to the drawing board. Most of the faux chicken pieces we came across seemed like they would just melt away in the soup and red lentils was a thumbs down from Emily as well. I had just about decided I would have to make a chicken soup for her and a chickpea soup for me. Then the other night she decided to make orange chicken and as I always loved that we got some faux chicken to attempt that recipe. That product was This isn’t Chicken and it looked like the real thing. It tasted almost like the real thing (my husband thinks it could trick his father who is a butcher). The big question was if it could stand up to being in a soup without falling apart. It can. I did put it in at the end to be safe but I suspect I could have added it earlier if I had wanted.

What you should have seen was my wild searching for my pasta. See I reorganised my kitchen and cleared off my worktops a bit. I had put my jar of pasta in a safe place. For the life of me I could not find my pasta. All I could use was two leftover noodle nests from when I made miso soup a couple of months ago. I crushed up those noodles and added them to the soup. It worked and looked ok but I usually like fusilli or orzo. Fusilli collects up the sauce wonderfully which is why I like it but the orzo is just the perfect shape to have a bit of everything on each spoonful.

One little trick I like to so for a thicker soup is that I squish up the squash as best I can with the cooking spoon so that it mixes into the broth. It really helps to get a better texture in my opinion and means the pasta have a little more thickness to hold the sauce on it. It is not a required step and you can skip that but it is something I like to do.

With pasta and the faux meat in there it is very filling so I rarely make it through more than one bowl. My husband, aka the bottomless pit, can eat two of three. Usually we do not need anything more with it.

Like I said, it is a family favourite and I hope it can be for you as well. Great on a cold night. Easy to make. Lots of flavour to satisfy the taste buds. No chickens were harmed in the making of this dinner. Enjoy!

Rushmere Park

The forecast was rain. 80% chance of rain with a nasty little lightning threat on it. You can imagine I was NOT impressed. One day I will find a wonderful solution for the rain on glasses issue but so far it has alluded me. Contacts seemed the obvious choice but, alas, my eyes are just messed up enough that there is no match to my eyes. I have some close to matching contacts but I HATE them as nothing is quite right.

Solution? We got out of the house as quick as we could to a nearby country park with enough trees to give a bit of protection for when the downpours arrived. Rushmere Country Park near Leighton Buzzard was the nearest choice. It is a great choice as well though and you might remember that it is the parent park to Stockgrove where we walked a few weeks ago. This time we only touched on Stockgrove and most of this walk was not part of the previous one. We did manage to walk most all of the Parkrun route but not in the order it happens at Parkrun which made it very interesting at times.

Being the fly by the seat of our pants types, we picked up this handy dandy map at the visitor centre on the way out.Might I recommend getting your own little map but on the way in rather than out. Would that have changed out route…probably and that would have been sad. We only went off map once between Baker’s Wood and the Britis Legion Building in Heath and Reach. On the map you can just about make out an unmarked entrance between pictures 3 and 8 on the right hand side of the map.

We started at the visitor centre. You will not that they have toilet facilities and a little outside cafe where you can get teas and coffees at least. Normally the centre has a lovely big cafe but we are still doing the socially distancing thing. When standing facing the visitor centre turn left to go dow the path next to the small outdoor cafe. On the map this is marked with a big green 1. Follow this path all the way down to the end of the path. You will see a fence and a gate. Go through the gate and turn to the right but up the hill.

You are going to follow the path along with a fence on your right for much of the way. eventually you will come to a clearing with a sundial in the middle. At this point you are on the Woodpecker trail and it will lead you down to Stockgrove Park visitor centre. You are only about a mile into this walk but do make not that this visitor centre also has toilet facilities behind the cafe building.

Make your way across the carpark to the path back into the trees. We turned right and then shortly on left into the first turning for Bakers Wood. Continue on this path until you come to a junction with a left / right option and turn right. This is the one part that leads out of Rushmere down to the British Legion building and then back into Rushmere when you go down the footpath next the the bins. I know….such picturesque bins they are!

Continue along this path until you come to a four way junction. There should be a cycle route in blue in front of you and a white footpath to the right. Take the footpath marked by a white post. We went up between Shire Oak Heath and Lords Hill. Then down to the left along the left side of Lords Hill next to Heron Valley. Following along the path we saw a curved line of log seats that looked designed for group meetings. We continued along the white marked path down a steep hill that joins back up to the blue cycle path where it curves to the right that takes both the blue and white paths away from the orange bike path and leads on to the entrance road.

The picture above shows a gate in the Lower meadow. We considered turning here but luckily we did not. The path to the left just goes out of the park. We went straight on and crossed the road baring right on the far side. Now you are on the white path that goes all the way up to the Greensand Ridge Walk.

Turn right onto the Greeensand Ridge Walk and at the next large junction with a four way option you will turn right. Turn right and head for the next large junction. You will recognise this one as the fence and gate where you turned to go to Stockgrove the first time. This time we turn right and head back to the visitor centre.

This is the map from Alan’s Garmin.

You will notice that there is a small circle near the bottom left. We were a bit naughty and walked on the horse loop. Nothing here said we couldn’t do it at the time but on the big map we now have it says not to walk on the horse paths.

The total walk was around about 4 miles. That at least got us our of our 5k rut we were in. The weather held out right up until we reached the carpark. The fine drizzle turned to a significant sprinkle as we approached out car. We got in and the rain picked up a bit more. By the time we reached the main road out of the park it was a full on downpour. We could not have planned our timing any better.

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