Learning To Cook From The Ground Up

I have another food-related post for you guys. I am a HUGE lover of cooking. I find it relaxing and I really enjoy it. Also there is something so satisfying about creating a meal from scratch and eating it. And of course cooking for people you love. So here’s an article to help if you’re new to the cooking world and how to get started…

If you would like to learn how to cook good, simple meals, but you are not yet proficient in the kitchen at all, then it might seem all to be a little overwhelming. However, it is going to be perfectly possible to learn to cook as well as you like, as long as you make a point of doing so step-by-step and from the ground up. In this article, we are going to suggest just one route that you might want to take in order to do that. If you follow these suggestions, you should find that you are effectively learning to cook much better in no time at all, and providing amazing meals your friends and family will love.

Starting With The Basics

It’s a good idea to start small if you can’t really cook at all. That means just learning to cook some simple meals that you can practise some basic cooking skills by doing. There are a huge range of dishes you could try, but the aim is to stick to something that only has a few ingredients – and yet produces a wonderful result on the plate. You might even start by cooking some basic sides, such as looking up how do you make shredded cabbage and trying that out. Start with the basics, and you will have a much better foundation going forward.

Follow Your Nose

If you want to do well in this, you are going to have to make sure that you are enjoying it, and there is one sure way to make sure of that: cook meals that you know you love to eat. If you do this, you will find that it is much more of a joy cooking in the first place, and you will be proud knowing that you can produce those meals that you have always loved to eat, but never known how to put together until now. Following your desire in this way is always going to be a good way to go.

Buy Good Equipment

The equipment that you have to use in your kitchen really does make a huge difference to how well you can cook. You need to make sure that you are going to buy good equipment, as that will make it so much easier to cook as well as you would hope, so that is something that you are going to want to think about at some point too. For now, you might just want to look into getting a decent set of kitchen knives and doing with that. But later on, specific gadgets might become more desirable, in which case you should get them.


Remember that, like everything in the world, it is going to take practise, but that as long as you are happy to put in the work, you will get the rewards you are looking for in the end. No matter your reason for wanting to learn to cook, you will find that it is hugely rewarding, and opens you up to many possibilities in the kitchen.

Do you enjoy cooking?

Do you have a meal you’re known for?

3 Veggie Recipes to Boost Your Energy

I have a great post for you today which I think will definitely help balance out the very meat-focused posts I’ve been doing lately. Now obviously I love my chicken wings and meat, but realistically I don’t eat like that all the time and try to have meatless days throughout the week. I love my vegetables so for me it isn’t a hardship. Anyway, hope this article inspires you 🙂

When you’re in need of an energy boost, it’s important to have something on hand. With these fab veggie recipes, you’ll be brimming with energy and bursting with goodness…

1. Vegetarian Parm Sandwiches

If you need a pick-me-up in a hurry, this recipe for veggie parm sandwiches is always a winner. Heat some oil in a pan, add a can of pureed tomatoes and a little garlic. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and cut some seitan into slices that are around 1 ½ inches thick. Mix half a cup of flour with half a cup of cola, dip the seitan into the mixture before browning in a pan. Place the seitan slices on top of a roll, add the tomato sauce and some mozzarella. Bake for around 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted and be prepared to fight over these spectacular sandwiches!

2. Chili Bean and Bulgur Cakes

Add ½ cup of bulgur wheat and 1 ½ cups of water to a pan. Bring to the boil and then gently simmer for 10-12 minutes, before draining. Heat some oil in a skillet and add 1 tbsp tomato paste, 1 tsp chilli powder, ½ tsp of cumin and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Whisk for around a minute, then take it off the heat and let it cool.

Add a can of drained kidney beans to a bowl, along with the bulgur wheat, tomato paste mix, ½ cup of cheese and ½ tsp of salt. Grab a masher and combine the ingredients, then split them into cakes around ¾ inch thick.

Place the cakes on a cooking sheet, spray with oil and put them in the broiler for around 3-4 minutes. Flip them over, spray with oil and put them back in the broiler for another 3-4 minutes. When ready, top with some guacamole or sour cream and serve with fresh salad. Remember – you don’t have to cook the cakes straight away, so it’s easy to prepare this dish in advance and pop them in the broiler when you’re hungry.

3. Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry

Cook some rice (or noodles), according to the instructions on the packet. Combine grated ginger, ¼ cup soy sauce, 1 tbsp garlic chilli sauce and 1 tbsp of sesame oil in a bowl and whisk. Pour into a large pan on a medium to high heat and add pieces of tofu around 1-inch x ½ inch thick. Coat the tofu in the marinade and then remove from the pan. Add a little oil and any veggies you like. Cook for around 5 minutes or until the vegetables are almost ready to eat. Add the marinated tofu to the vegetables with 2 tbsp of water. Cook until the tofu is warmed through; usually around 1-2 minutes. Then, serve and enjoy!

Energy Boosting Veggie Ingredients

Protein is a great way to increase your energy, so choose veggie dishes which feature tofu, seitan, lentil and chickpeas when you need something to keep you going. With plenty of combinations to choose from, you’ll never run short of fuel again!

Do you eat a lot of vegetables?

Do you enjoy cooking?

100th parkrun

Saturday was a really special day for me; it was my 100th parkrun. If you don’t know, parkrun (always small ‘p’) is a free weekly 5k that takes place on a Saturday all over the UK, as well as many other countries. You just register online, print out your barcode and then take it with you to your nearest parkrun (you can find out which one is nearest to you using their events page).

You then run (or walk!) the 5k, go through the finishing funnel where you’re handed a finisher’s chip. You take that and your personal barcode and get it scanned by a friendly volunteer. Later on you’ll receive an email with your results. It’s simple, free and super friendly. It’s one of my favourite parts of running. I go every Saturday I can, usually to my local Netley one, and I love it. You don’t have to run fast or PB every week, you can plod along, take selfies, natter to other regulars and just enjoy it. Marshals are different volunteers each week and will cheer you on as you run past.

Before Saturday I had run 99 parkruns, mostly at Netley but I’ve also done others (15 different ones in total). It’s traditional to bring cakes to a milestone parkrun so I decided on two very simple cakes: rocky road and marshmallow crispies. Essentially it just involved melting and mixing. I am notoriously bad at baking so I thought I could handle this.


The rocky road was easy peasy and involved melting chocolate, butter and golden syrup and then mixing crushed digestive biscuits and mini marshmallows into it. There was an iffy moment when I thought I was close to burning the chocolate but thankfully this didn’t happen. After putting it in a large casserole dish it went into the fridge.

Then it was on to the crispies. I melted butter and then added marshmallows and began mixing together.


Simple. Then it suddenly became very difficult. Have you ever tried mixing the sticky gloop mess of melted marshmallows with light little rice crispies?? It is a sticky NIGHTMARE. The marshmallow starts to harden, your spoon gets stuck, you get stuck, there’s pink Spiderman-style webby marshmallow glue everywhere…it’s ridiculous. Then trying to put the damn thing into a dish… Jesus, never again. Anyway they too eventually went into the fridge to later be chopped up the next morning.


But in the end it all turned out OK. Hurrah!


As normal I helped set-up parkrun. I took Alfie with me as my dad was going to pop down to cheer me on and celebrate with me so when I ran he could look after him. It’s always nice to bring Alfie along as he runs along next to us as we walk the course and gets on with everyone.

Despite the weather being overcast, it was a lovely parkrun. My fellow setter-uppers, Chris and Geoff, were celebrating their 50th and 200th parkrun, respectively, as well. So there were a lot of good spirits.

IMG_1388Thank you, Kirsty for the photo

Hedge End Running Club’s female team captain, Kirsty, also arranged for the Southampton Echo to come down and take some photos which was all very exciting. Though we did have to do some cringey running shots. They’re in the Echo today (we even had to give a little interview!).

parkrun 100 (1)(Source)

My dad arrived and we got ready to start actually running (after a lovely mention of us in the speech at the beginning).

IMG_0439Wearing my purple 25 Volunteer parkrun t-shirt

My dad cheered and took lots of photos and Alfie stood a bit confused watching all the crazy people running Winking smileIMG_0442

I ran with my friends Mike and Mark and though I wasn’t pushing it, I found it really tough. I felt like my legs had nothing in them and that three miles felt ridiculously long.

IMG_1386Mike and me (Photo credit: Ken Grist)

To be honest, I was just really glad when it was done, though I did have fun at the end doing the ‘aeroplane’. Got to be done!

IMG_0472Mark storming ahead “taking it easy” with me

And then the cake feeding frenzy began! All three of us celebrating our milestone run had brought cakes so pretty much everyone at parkrun was eating cake afterwards. It was fabulous. And I must say, my rocky road went down a storm Winking smile and was exceptionally tasty, if I do say so myself.

My dad enjoyed himself too. We had our photo taken in a similar place that we’d had a photo taken on my 50th parkrun (ahh the consistency…).


My dad said he enjoyed it so much that he’s going to register and do a parkrun walk next week! He’s done a 5k before (in around 47 minutes) and he does walk a lot so he says he feels capable of doing it. He felt encouraged that Netley has a number of walkers so he wouldn’t be the only one. He also has a heart rate monitoring watch so he can be sensible too (though he actually doesn’t have high blood pressure surprisingly – but best to be safe! And my mum won’t let him go otherwise…). And because Netley is laps if he doesn’t fancy doing it all he can stop when he wants. I’m very proud of him Smile 

My time was 23:16. It didn’t feel like a good, easy run but I’m still pleased with the negative split.





It felt mentally wearing and like a slog. But the cake, the lovely parkrun community who made me feel very special and loved and my dad being there made up for it. Despite having a pants run, I couldn’t stop smiling and I went home very happy. And that’s the thing, parkrun is not just about the running.

What would you bake for a milestone celebration?

Have you ever been interview by a paper before?

Do you like your photo being taken?

Sundays were made for sunshine, long runs and roast dinners

There’s nothing like some sunshine to make everyone happy and full of good vibes. Spring is definitely on it’s way, thank god!

Dowds Farm

Saturday morning I was back at Netley Abbey parkrun. It feels like ages since I was there last having spent the last two parkruns elsewhere. It was a chilly morning but sunny. Because of an event on our usual course we were on our backup course, the cricket pitch. The cricket pitch is a Marmite course as it’s five flat laps which makes it great for PBs but boring as hell.Netley Abbey

Setting up the course is also a lot easier as it’s just one 1km-ish route we need to walk – rather than the mile of the other course. I spotted a rope hanging from a tree and couldn’t resist a bit of monkeying around…

Netley parkrunPhoto credit to Mike Head

One guy said he’d pay me a £1 to get to the top… I didn’t quite make it to the top but I did get a fair way up. I used to love climbing trees and stuff like this when I was younger.

As we got ready to line-up someone asked me what my aim was and I said nonchanlantly “21 minute something would be nice” as that’s what I’ve been achieving on other flat courses lately. I genuinely didn’t think it would be an issue. Until I started running. My legs were heavy and it felt like running through treacle. I literally felt terrible. My friend Mark ran up next to me and said “What happened to 21 minutes then, Anna?”. Yes, thank you Mark for pointing on the blaringly obvious Smile with tongue out Not my day! So I decided to just do what I could and get through it. To be honest, I probably deserved it considering how blasé I’d been about 21 minutes being achievable.

IMG_9173Photo credit to Mike Head

I felt cold (despite having warmed up) and just demotivated. The three miles just draaaaaagged on Mark kept me company until he raced off at the end to “stretch his legs”. No hard feelings (she says bitterly Winking smile).





I wasn’t bothered too much as these things happen – some runs are good, some aren’t. What did make me sad was because of my parkrun tourism I had previously dropped to third place in the overall female points table for Netley and there was only one point separating the second female and myself…As it as the last week for this year’s points to count until it resets for next year (weird split I know) all I had to do was beat the second lady at parkrun that day. Normally I’m speedier than her so I didn’t think it would be an issue.

My time was 23:03. Hers was 22:49. So I’ve come third, despite so much of the year being in second place Sad smile Ahh well. Just too much time off from injury last year and too many tourisms! Third is still good.

I got home after parkrun to find I had no water in my flat. I checked with others in my building and it was the same. So annoying as I obviously wanted to shower and do some chores. I also needed to cook some food for an evening at my friend’s that night. Luckily I always have a couple of bottles of water in my fridge so I could have breakfast but then I just had to pack my stuff up (clothes, ingredients, Alfie, etc.) to head to my parents to utilise their facilities. Thank god they live close by!

After showering, I prepared some BBQ ribs with a homemade sauce and some Buffalo chicken wings (original recipe HERE). The wings sauce was amazing. I’m definitely doing them again! This is what I used:

  • 3 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 4 tbsp. Tabasco
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 1½ kg chicken wings

I marinating the wings for a few hours in the fridge before baking them in the oven for 25 minutes (170C). They turned out awesome.Chicken wings

The ribs, however, were a disaster. I basically threw together a sauce as I couldn’t decide on any specific recipes… Pretty much Heinz BBQ sauce, tomato ketchup, salt, garlic, cider vinegar, bit of Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce. As my parents and me were heading out for a coffee and a spot of shopping and the ribs would take three hours my dad suggested I put them in on a timed setting so the oven would turn off automatically. I said to him they needed to be on 170C but he was faffing around with the timing settings and must have misheard me (and I didn’t check). So they roasted away at 220C for three hours instead.

Burnt ribs

What was the worst part was just how bloody amazing they smelt as they cooked and when we got back. I excitedly opened the oven…to charcoal. Devastated doesn’t quite cover my emotions at that time.

It didn’t really matter in the end as my friends had done two rack of ribs, a whole turkey leg and homemade chips so really it was fine in the end. We had a nice evening just chilled out chatting and enjoying some good non-burnt food.

As I had a fairly late night (for me) I decided to set my alarm for 8.45am. Normally I’m up 7.30-8am so this was amazing. I did wake up at 7.30am but rolled back asleep and it was glorious. I then got up and headed out for my long run. I’d planned a route for 16 miles and felt really quite relaxed with that distance looming ahead. In the back of my mind though I knew I was actually going to run 17 miles as I had an easy way to add on a final mile at the end if I fancied it. It was such a good way of doing it because I still told myself I was doing 16. If I didn’t fancy 17 I wouldn’t do it.

The weather was fantastic. Sunshine and not too hot. Perfect. A little wind but nothing horrendous. I headed off listening to a podcast and felt so much better than the day before. My legs seemed to glide along. So many people were out and about: cyclists, dog walkers, normal walkers. It was lovely.

(Ave. pace 7.55mins/mile)












There was a big hill on mile three (with a good downhill) but otherwise it was generally fairly flat. I added on the final mile as I still felt good, though I was quite thirsty. It brought back memories of hot summer long runs.Post long run

At the end my dad got me a glass of water and I sat down outside on their apple core that sits outside their front door. I love that apple core (obviously). For the rest of the day I was on an amazing high. Good weather and good running!

As it was fairly late in the day now I had to shower quickly and get myself together. I also forwent breakfast as we were heading out for Sunday lunch fairly promptly. We went to the Solent Hotel Spa (where my mum is a member of their gym) as they have a lovely restaurant there. My parents get a discount due to the membership which is great.Family Sunday lunchAs a starter I had a salad bar selection which including so many different types of seafood (smoked salmon, prawns, mackerel, etc.) and cold meats along with olives, stuffed peppers, cheese and salad. I unashamedly stacked my plate high! For main I went for the roast beef with a Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and vegetables. Perfection. Then sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream to finish.

Sunday lunch Solent Hotel Spa

I was well and truly re-fuelled! And ready for a nap…

I headed home, walked Alfie in the still beautiful sunshine and then chilled out. I think it should be mandatory for roast dinners and pudding after every long run!

How was your weekend?

What’s your favourite roast dinner?

Have you ever had a cooking disaster?

Feeling a bit drained and flat

There is nothing like a long weekend to really kick start out back into life. Though I know not everyone got to enjoy a day off yesterday!

It was a fairly quiet weekend I must say – but sometimes you just need a bit of ‘downtime’ to try and recharge your batteries and, in my case, get into gear with sorting and organising the house. I still don’t have a date for when I’m moving, which is annoying. Especially because it’s already September now and my weekends coming up are getting booked up with seeing university friends, races and a holiday at the end of September. Whoops.

Anyway, rolling back to Saturday I went to parkrun as normal. Because I spectacularly positive splitted last week I wanted to have a strong negative split this time. I find it really hard in a 5k to pace myself. It’s funny because in a marathon I’ve found I can stick to my set paces almost perfectly and have a really controlled race, but when it comes to any shorter races it all goes to pot.


It was quite a chilly start to the day as we set up all the flags for the course, but at 8.30am the sun came out and it suddenly heated up. I wore my new skort (only £12 from Forever 21 – and very comfy and flattering, it has proper shorts underneath as well) and my Paris marathon T-shirt but by the time we got ready to start I decided to forgo the top and just run in my sports bra (I noticed a few others had done the same so I didn’t feel quite so naked). This was perfect.


I started the first lap slightly more conservatively than I would usually but still found it tough going. I managed to hang on to one of the guys from the running club, Berni, who does a lot of our coaching and leading runs. He was great as his pace was so consistent and we chatted a bit which kept my mind off the effort. On the final lap he told me to push on and I suddenly felt I had more energy knowing I only had one more lap to go.


Check those splits out! A nice negative royal flush. OK only three miles worth but I’ll take it! I came second female with 21:14. Happy days.

I also tried my very first blondie afterwards which honestly rocked my world. I think I’ve never gone for them as they’re white chocolate and I’m not a huge white chocolate fan but when a small child offers you a blondie, you take the blondie. And I’m so glad I did!

Later on I needed to pop to the shops quickly to top up on apples and came back with…well, more than apples.


I spotted some tasty looking pork belly and lamb koftas which I just couldn’t say no to, and then spotted the Ben and Jerry’s BLONDIE brownie core. And some frozen berries which I always love having with Greek yogurt at work.

That evening I was round my parent’s house for dinner with family friends. We had smoked salmon to start and steak Diane and roasted sweet potato wedges for main. If you’ve never had steak Diane it is AMAZING. My dad doesn’t even follow a recipe anymore he’s made it so often. The sauce is a cream based sauce with brandy, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce with fried onions and mushrooms. It was delicious.

For pudding there was a choice of Carte D’or ice cream or my Ben and Jerry’s. I went for the B&Js and it was just as good as it sounded.

The next morning was my long run and I was meeting running club guys to join them on a 10 miler. I ran to the meeting point and back to make it up to 14 miles. I’m still trying to be gradual in my build-up for Bournemouth as I’ve only just run Cheddar Gorge. Next week I’m hoping to run 16-17 miles and then 18 the week after and then taper.

It was really humid and from the start I found the run quite draining. I don’t know if it was the heavy meal the night before, tired legs in general or the humidity but it just felt tough. It was nice running with the others though as chatting to them took my mind of my fatigue. I need to be careful to not overdo things as I know recently I’ve done so much. After Bournemouth (providing I get there – I never take these things as a given!!) I’m planning on taking a break from the longer distances. In fact I might take a couple of weeks entirely off of running to just chill and then focus on some 10 milers and a half marathon race instead.


The route we took was fairly undulating as well in the middle section so this was tough going. Thankfully I’d taken water with me as it was really warm!

IMG_3588 The photo on the left is before I headed out – I look very fresh and unsweaty!

For the rest of the day I felt drained and tired. I’d made sure to have something before I went running (which I never normally do) to help keep my nutrition topped up for the day as I struggle with long run days to refuel. It was one of those Chia Pods which had an ‘interesting’ texture but tasted nice.

I ate lots through the day and think I refuelled like a pro. For dinner I had the pork belly and roasted sweet potato and it was delicious.


High in calories, fat and protein it went down nicely! I know there’s some dispute about animal protein and fat being the best thing for you, but it definitely filled a hole and left me satisfied. I’ve been tracking my calories and macros using MyFitnessPal to keep me on track of my goal which has been really helpful. I won’t use it forever or get too fixated on it but I need something to give me an idea of what I’m eating as I don’t track calories or macros normally. It also links to my Garmin account so gives me a good idea of how much food I need to refuel after a run. I’ll do a post about it later on what I’ve been eating and how I’ve been tracking things if people are interested!

As I had Monday off (as it was a Bank holiday in the UK, apart from Scotland) I had a luxurious lie-in (I woke up at 7.30am naturally and lazed about until just before 8am, how indulgent) and then headed to the gym at the far more reasonable time of 9am (not my usual 5.30am!).


I’m still following the New Rules of Lifting for Women and I’ve probably got about two-three weeks left (I tend to do three sessions, sometimes two a week) of Stage 1. I’m so pleased with the progress I’ve made. My deadlift and squat weight has gone up significantly and I feel really strong. I still supplement the listed workouts though with my own stuff though as I want to cover running-specific strength training as well (click the link for a great list of moves).

Then the rest of the day was spent doing the fairly depressing task of sorting through some stuff in the loft and house bits and pieces. Nothing like sifting through wedding cards and old photos to really end your long weekend on a high!

How was your weekend? Did you have the Monday off?

What do you eat before a long run or workout?

Do you track calories and/or macros?