30+1 and other great things

What’s been happening around here lately… asides from my vegan adventures.

Let’s get over the negatives quickly… I haven’t been running. I only have myself to blame really as I pushed it at the Romsey Beer Race when realistically I should have sat it out.

My hamstring was just on the mend and then ehhh I pushed and it became worse. I’ve been seeing my physio (if you’re in need around the Portsmouth area he’s great) and it’s been helping.

It’s a tough one really as it’s the upper part of my hamstring (“high hamstring”) and this area notoriously doesn’t get much blood flow. Then coupled with sitting making things worse (hey day job..), means that healing is slow.

It’s hard to know how to help the situation. Obviously I’m not running. But I’m a big believer in strength training to help and doing strength work does improve blood flow to the area. It’s just finding that balance of pushing and protecting the hamstring. Gentle single leg glute bridges and being conscious of the muscle (i.e. making sure it’s the hamstring working and not my back or glute taking over). So that’s that right now.

But on to more positive things.

Podcasts

Oh my god, if you have not tried Sh**ged Married and Annoyed podcast from Chris and Rosie Ramsey you NEED to. It is so funny. Laugh out loud while walking Alfie kind of funny. I love their Geordie accents, how relatable they are and their humour. It’s my new favourite and I’m trying not to binge listen to them because I like having lots ready to go.

Birthday

Ahh another year has passed. It has FLOWN by. And a lot has happened in that time. I’ve been and done a number of cool things, eaten A LOT of cake and chicken wings (40 is my new PB), ran a lot (5 marathons!), got myself a cheeky 10k PB (who’d have thought eh!), and spent a lot of time with a guy who’s become somewhat important in my life…

So yeah while I might be older, I’m definitely not wiser but happier, and that’s something eh!

Birthday Cake

Kyle’s lovely sister, Lucy, is AMAZING at baking and for my birthday she made the most amazing cake.

It’s INCREDIBLE. She kept the design a secret from me and when I saw it I just could not believe the detail! So chuffed.

It’s a fruit cake which is cool and means it’ll last for a bit (ha..well we’ll see).

As it was Lucy’s birthday the day before mine we shared celebrating it at Kyle’s house with his family and had the most awesome spread of food. Chicken wings, ribs, spring rolls, crisps, chocolate, token salad.

It was fantastic and such a fab way for me to re-enter into the world of eating meat again.

I will say though that ordinarily I’ll be reducing my consumption of animal products but it was a celebration so I did eat quite a lot it must be said!

Presents

I got so many lovely gifts for my birthday, I was very (god I hate this word so much) blessed.

My lovely friend Louise even made me an amazing sign. She’s just started a new business of handmade crafted items (carvings in glass and wood) and her gift to me was just perfect.

Check out her Facebook page here if you’re interested.

Merchant House

On Thursday night my work team and I went out for a meal and drinks at The Merchant House in Southsea.

I’ve seen so many good things on their Instagram and it didn’t disappoint!

I went for the pork belly burger (with maple bacon and cheese) with burnt end loaded fries and deep fried vegan cauliflower bites.

Their vegan menu actually looked really good! I was tempted to try their seitan burger but in the end was too tempted by pork belly. It just means I need to go back!

It was a really fun evening. I really like the people I work with, the food was fantastic and I love Southsea. It feels like a mini Brighton 🙂

So despite not running, there’s still a lot of good stuff happening round here!

What kind of burger is your favourite?

What’s your favourite food at a buffet?

Do you go out with your work colleagues?

Two week vegan challenge – done!

So I completed my two week vegan challenge.

I didn’t eat meat, fish, cheese, milk, chocolate, basically anything that contained animal products. This also included milk powder, honey, gelatine… oh yes, I went all in (or all out…). I wanted to do a recap post of how I found things, things I liked, didn’t like and what happens now.

Let’s start with the bad stuff.

Bloating

I did not get on with chickpea or lentils. This is possibly because I went from full meat-eater to full legume consumer in a short amount of time. On my first few days I ate a lot of chickpeas. I saw them as a fantastic source of protein and something I could use to basically replace meat, cheese and eggs.

What I didn’t see coming (foolishly) is how that would hit my digestion. Within hours of eating I was VERY bloated. To the point that I went to bed looking pregnant. I’m lucky that I have a boyfriend that is apparently blind because although he couldn’t tell (pffft mere mortal man that he is) I could 100% tell and it made me feel quite low in self-esteem (I’m only human).

Vanity aside, I felt incredibly uncomfortable. My diet was never bad beforehand. I ate a lot of fruit and veg so adding more fibre-rich foods just overloaded my system. Getting real here, before the vegan diet I had a very nice regular toilet routine and rarely had any issues. Call me perfect poo Anna 😉 But add in a whole bunch more fibre and gaseous legumes and everything went out of whack. My system just was not happy and suddenly I felt very, well, backed up. I felt uncomfortably full all the time.

Potentially Expensive

So quickly chickpeas and lentils were removed. This massively improved things, but it did cause me a somewhat annoying issue of having to buy more expensive food items to fill in the chickpea holes.

I bought Linda McCartney sausages (GAME CHANGINGLY GOOD), kebab-style fake meat and relied more heavily on tofu.

Now I know that protein isn’t the be all and end all and we don’t need as much as protein powder companies and gym buffs would have us believe, but personally for me I work better on a higher protein lower carb diet. This new vegan diet however was a lot higher in carbs and a lot lower in protein. It was hard to find protein to slot in. But don’t get me wrong, meat is expensive too. I guess my issue is more than I couldn’t just throw cheese on things or have eggs – both are very cheap forms of protein/fat.

A Bit Boring

I found tofu very dull. I mean this is highly likely to be an experience thing and over time I’d get better, but honest to god it was dull. Not matter how many spices I threw on it, it just tasted very boring and the texture was a bit ehhhh.

I’m not a huge bread, pasta or rice eater so this left a lot of salads to eat at lunch…and salads that didn’t contain a huge amount in my eyes. Or soup. I got to eat a lot of soup as an easy filling lunch. Again this is down to experience but to make something I was going to enjoy required a lot of effort and thinking.

As a non-vegan I can whip up very boring and fairly bland meals but still really enjoy them – scrambled egg… chicken… tuna salads… I can eat this stuff for days. But without those options I was left a bit lost. I used butternut squash and sweet potato A LOT.

Hard Work

Now I know this would get better with experience and learning but for my two week stint, eating was hard work. Checking ingredients for anything non-vegan. Trying to find items that would be filling and not too fibre rich and not too expensive to add to meals. It just made eating difficult. It was a pain each night to think of exciting meals that would fill me up and not bloat me.

One of my favourite go-to meals was a sausage sandwich. But I missed eating lots of vegetables and not worrying about their compounding affect on my digestion.

Vegan Protein Powder

I tried two types. One upset my tummy (I tried Form Protein three times, and it just sat in my stomach like a rock) and one just tasted meh (MyProtein Vegan blend). It made eating porridge a bit sad for me.

Now onto the good…

Oat Milk

This is INCREDIBLE in tea. It really has changed my ways for good. I love it! It just upgrades a cup of tea. I probably won’t go out of my way in cafes to ask for it but if I notice they have it I’ll be getting it.

Linda McCartney Sausages

These are in my life for good. I used to eat a lot of the Heck chicken sausages but I’ll be replacing them with these one now. So tasty, so much flavour and FULL of protein.

Nutritional Yeast

Man this stuff is good. I was sprinkling it on everything. A small amount contains so much protein and B12 and FLAVOUR. Cheesy savoury goodness.

Vegan Meals Out

I enjoyed trying pulled BBQ jackfruit and I loved the seitan “chicken wings” I had at the Rockstone pub in Southampton.

Omg so good! Choosing something off a vegan menus is something I would NEVER have done before as I was worried it wouldn’t fill me up or be that exciting but after three different vegan meals out I can say that wasn’t the case.

And vegan cake is damn good too!

The only thing is, vegan cheese is not good. I’m sorry but it isn’t. I’m a blue cheese kind of girl. Strong mature cheddar. Goat’s cheese. Vegan cheese was literally fake cheese. Horrible. It didn’t taste of anything and it made me feel slightly queasy when I thought too hard about what it contained (you could argue that cheese made from animals should make me feel the same but as I don’t see eating animals as an issue this argument doesn’t work on me).

I Didn’t Miss Meat that Much

This was an eye opener. I didn’t crave meat. I didn’t miss it. The only times I missed it was really when I couldn’t think of something to throw together. Ordinarily I’d be throwing chicken into something and boom there’s a meal. But it was more the convenience of it than the taste (don’t get me wrong though, I bloody love chicken). What this has shown me is I can think outside the box and not just be lazy and reach for meat. I can eat a non-meat meal and still be full.

It has shown me though how much I love cheese. That I won’t be reducing! But meat, definitely. I can see several days in the week being meat-free. Chicken wings aren’t going anywhere though – if they’re on the menu, it’s likely I’ll be ordering them.

Overall, the two weeks taught me a lot. It helped me become more conscious of my animal product consumption. Showed me vegan food isn’t terrible (chickpeas aside) and helped me assess my diet going forward to a be a bit more environmentally conscious.

I raised a little bit of money for a local animal shelter too, so that’s bonus! (HERE’S the link if you’d like to sponsor!)

Have you ever changed your diet in a big way before?

Do you eat a lot of meat?

Do you eat a lot of cheese?

Week one of being a vegan

I went into my vegan challenge feeling quite smug and happy. I’d meal prepped like a boss. I had replacement snacks. I was good to go. 

As someone who is very routine-based with the meals I eat during the week (same breakfast, same lunch, similar snacks) I just had to replace them with vegan alternatives. I had my meal pan for the week and felt confident.

Breakfast was easy. I just swapped my whey protein powder in my porridge with a vegan version. I used almond milk already so that was fine.

The Form vegan protein I tried initially (chocolate salted caramel flavour) was delicious and gave a good consistency to my porridge (super stodgy, which I love) but I didn’t feel great afterwards. I felt a little sick and like it was a rock in my tummy.

The MyProtein Vegan protein powder however sat far better in my stomach. Sadly the taste was far inferior (I had the chocolate flavour). For feeling better afterwards though, I’ll stick with the MyProtein.

For lunches at work I’d meal prepped a roasted beetroot, butternut squash salad with an olive oil based dressing (getting my calories wherever I can!) for two days and a lentil chickpea curry for three days. The beetroot meal was delicious, filling and left me feeling good.

The curry was a different story. While very tasty and filling, it left me feeling extremely bloated and very, well, windy. I probably further compounded this issue by then having a vegan salad on the same day when Kyle and I went to the cinema. As it’s only around 220 calories I decided to throw in a load of chickpeas to bulk it out and up the protein.

This meant that on Wednesday I felt dreadful. I don’t mean to go too much TMI here but I was literally needing to fart ALL THE TIME. This is awkward when you work among people in an office. I kept having to go to the loo or just hold them in which just made me feel even worse. I looked pregnant as well how much my stomach was bloating.

For Wednesday dinner Kyle and I went to a pizza place called Popsi’s in Southampton before we saw the Bodyguard music show and I was able to have something non-bean related.

I had a mushroom fake cheese bread starter, followed by a pizza with fake pepperoni, chicken and cheese on it and then churro nuggets with a hazelnut chocolate sauce (all vegan of course).It was quite nice (to be honest, at this point I was happy with anything that wasn’t a salad or a chickpea) but it tasted very “samey”.

Like the meat was all very tasteless and the cheese wasn’t cheesy at all. I enjoyed it don’t get me wrong, but it definitely was more of a “better than nothing” rather than a “better than the real thing” kind of meal.

The churros though were GOOD. Blobs of sugary chocolaty goodness.
Sick of feeling bloated, the next day needed a change. I had my lentil curry lunch planned but I couldn’t face it so popped it into the freezer.

My dad gave me an onion soup he had in the fridge and I made a little salad to go with it (#health). I felt SO much better. It wasn’t the best lunch in the world and it contained minimal protein but I enjoyed it and it caused ZERO bloating issues.

I caved by Friday and bought a fake meat substitute to throw in a salad. A kebab style meat thing from Vivera. Their range looks really good and it was really nice. I’d go as far to say that I’d eat this after my vegan challenge. It’s quite expensive though (£3 for a pack and I ate it in one…).

Unfortunately I didn’t read that you had to cook it before eating!! But it tasted fine and I had no ill effects… it’s entirely plant-based so?

Dinner-wise, well I’ve been out twice so that’s helped. Monday night I didn’t fancy what I had planned so ended up with soup with added chickpeas (the start of the chickpea saga…).

Thursday night I had a tofu based meal. I threw in lots of veg and peanut butter to make a sauce and bulk it out a bit and it worked well. But the tofu was a bit bland and sad. I need to work on this as I know I can make it better.

The weekend is where it got tricky. I’m used to having exciting and fun meals… I’ll usually have an Indian takeaway (I love tandoori chicken on the bone) and I’ll probably go out for a meal or two.

Well we still went out for food on Saturday but I just made sure it was vegan-friendly. This did mean we were limited on where we could go and when we turned up and it was absolutely rammed we had to wait for about 20 minutes for a table instead of just going somewhere else like we would normally have done.

The restaurant was the Southsea Village which, after eventually getting a table, was really nice. I went for BBQ pulled jack fruit burger and BBQ pulled jack fruit loaded fries, having been told jack fruit was amazing.

And it was! It was so tasty and had a meaty texture. It was lovely. But because it was essentially the same thing for both it quickly became very samey. I should have chosen a different burger (there were a few vegan options) but I wanted to avoid anything bean-related.

A big upset was getting a cafe we know and love and finding out that the vegan cakes had sold out. Kyle was lovely and offered to not get anything but I told him one of us had to enjoy a slice of cake at least!

Honestly this was the hardest part of the week, watching him eat a slice of cake I could have happily destroyed. I did have a very silly moment of wanting to cry when I saw how good it looked but I quickly pulled myself together. It’s just two weeks, Anna!

Anyway, on to week 2. I’m still going strong, though I have to say it’s a lot harder than I thought.

Have you ever gone vegan?

What’s your go-to easy meal?

Have you ever tried a vegan cake?

Going vegan

If you’ve read my blog for a while, or know me even a little bit, you’ll know when it comes to food that I’m a) very greedy and b) a big meat lover.

Chicken wings, ribs, bacon, sausages, gammon, roast dinners, BBQs… I love it all. I openly admit that I eat a lot of meat. I have quite a bit appetite and am definitely more of a protein fan than a carb fan. That said, it’ll be a rare occasion that I’ll say no to cake. God I love cake.

Eating 40 chicken wings…

I know that eating a lot of meat is not great for the environment. I don’t live in a box. I know this. As humans, we eat too much of it. The way we farm animals isn’t great either. Animals are not treated with the respect they deserve. Though I won’t go as far to say we shouldn’t use animals as food, I do believe we could be doing it better for the animals’ welfare. And I’m guilty of putting my head in the sand on this front. Sure I’ll try and find free range products where I can but sometimes I’ll reach for whatever’s cheapest or easiest, and I eat out in restaurants a lot and many of them I’m sure are not ethically minded (Nando’s I’m looking at you).

So I decided to see what it would be like to be vegan for two weeks. It would be a (big) challenge to myself and also I could raise some money for a local animal shelter (the Stubbington Ark) –> please sponsor me if you can HERE. Yes of course I could do this in stages and gradually reduce meat and dairy etc. but I want this to be a shock to the system. Force me out of my comfort zone and hit my hard. I need a big shake up. Something to get me thinking, researching, planning and reinvigorating my love of cooking.

Supermarket haul

I also want to be see if I can take anything away from my two weeks. Make any long term changes. Changes I wouldn’t normally try because I’ve become so dependent on animal products. But now I can really test things out and force myself out of my usual routine and habits and open my mind to other options.

I knew going into this I had to be prepared. I researched what I could and couldn’t eat. I found recipes, created myself a Pinterest Board (check it out HERE), planned my meals for the first week and meal prepped like a boss on Sunday. If I was going to succeed and do this properly I needed to have a plan.I planned out the meals I’d be eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next five days.

Breakfast was easy. I always eat porridge with almond milk. I currently add whey protein to it but I obviously wouldn’t be able to use that anymore. So I did a little bit of research online and decided that though I’d heard amazing things about the Awesome Supplements Vegan Protein it was just too expensive. Spending £26 (plus postage) for a tub was a lot. I’m used to spending about £12. So instead I went with the MyProtein Vegan Protein Powder. I’m happy to give it a go for the cost – I hate food waste so I’ll be using it up even if it’s not that great, don’t worry! Who knows, I might even change my whey protein habits.

Lunches I meal prepped on Sunday… lentil, chickpea curries and a beetroot and roast vegetable salad.

Dinners this week are actually easy as we went to the cinema on Tuesday night (we always get a Subway to eat during the trailers and they have vegan options now) and Wednesday we’re out and I’ve found a vegan-friendly restaurant.

I’ll do a post in more detail of how I’ve found it and the things I’ve been eating soon…

Again, HERE’s my sponsor page for a very good cause.

Are you a vegan/vegetarian?

Have you ever gone vegan?

Would you struggle?

Vegan delights, running late and too much cake

This weekend was both super busy and super chilled. A good mixture I think!

On Friday night I stayed at my parent’s house as I’d planned on running to Lee-On-Solent parkrun the next day in order to kill two birds with one stone. I haven’t done parkrun since before Austria because of my injury, but I wanted to get back to it. Equally I wanted a long run and as I’ve been playing it super safe only running three times so this meant combining the two on Saturday as I’d already run Tuesday and Thursday. Lee-On-Solent parkrun isn’t very far from my parents so was a safe distance to add on before the 5k.

I was feeling quite tired so decided that I wouldn’t set my alarm too early. 7.30am seemed about right. As long as I was running no later than 8.10am that would give me a good amount of time to run 5 miles and have a bit of a buffer just before parkrun. For reasons beyond comprehension, when I’d planned my run I hadn’t really spotted that it was longer than 5 miles to get to the actual starting area of parkrun. And, as always, I wasted a bit of time in the morning faffing around… meaning by 8.15am I was still trying to locate satellites and not having much luck.

But, ever the positive and optimistic, I set off without a care in the world at 8.20am. The run felt good and I zoned out listening to a podcast as I plodded along. Funnily enough one of my non-running friends said they saw me running and got confused why I was running in the opposite direction to the Lee parkrun. They didn’t understand why I didn’t just run directly there. I had to explain about trying to get the extra miles. They didn’t quite get it. Non-runners, eh 😉

As I was running a route I often do when I run a long run from my parent’s house I know how many miles roughly there was to go until I got towards the Lee-On-Solent area. I realised I’d made a mistake somewhere in my planning. It was now closing in on 8.45am and I still had about three miles to go. I sped up a bit. As I was running along the coast I could see in the distance where the parkrun would begin. I was still so far away!As it got to 9am I was about 0.5 miles away and started passing some of the marshals. As I legged it past I shouted “Don’t think I’m going to make it!” and they laughed and said I better hurry up. I was somewhat banking on there being lots of messages at the start to delay it a bit but it seemed unlikely to be delayed so much after 9am. When I got to the start area of course they had already gone as it was now almost 9.10am. I ran past my friend Rebecca, who was marshalling and celebrating reaching 100 times volunteering (!), and she laughed at my lateness. I debated not doing it and just supporting and then getting my extra miles by running home (which would be about three miles) but I could see the runners ahead and decided just to try and catch up as much as I could and have a slower time.By this point I’d been running a lot faster than I intended so attempted to slow down a bit. I was now at parkrun so could chill. It was a shame to be late because my friend Ben was going to run with me at parkrun. I saw him fly past me in the other direction as he’d reached the turnaround point ages ago. I shouted I was late and he laughed at me (a theme for this run). Though it was quite a satisfying run because I could pick so many people off and feel like I was really gaining on the field. I wondered idly how many miles it would take to catch up with people running similar speeds to me… more than parkrun I thought. In fact the maths of it confused me a little – could I ever catch up to people running at my speed? No, I’d need to run faster wouldn’t I? The random thoughts of a runner…Anyway, as Ben had finished a lot before me he came back for me and ran the last 0.5 mile with me. I was pretty puffed by this point as I was still running faster than planned. I was still feeling a bit stressed about the whole thing! It was nice though to feel a bit of speed in my legs and I tried not to dwell on how much I’d lost since getting injured. Such is life! I finished, on my watch, 23:26 which isn’t too shabby at all given the time off I’ve had (my actual time was 30:18 tho). And a total of 9.6 miles. I was tempted to run it up to 10 but by that point I was done. I chatted with Ben (he’s working his way up to 50 marathons!) and Rebecca. She’s such a lovely, lovely person and it’s such an incredible achievement to have volunteered so many times.She seemed to be under the impression that it might seem a bit “sad” but I fully disagreed with her. It’s a fantastic thing to do and she should be really proud of herself. Volunteering is so important in the parkrun world (and life in general). You could equally call runners “sad” for running so many of them too. So enough of that nonsense Rebecca!

As I headed off I noticed a vegan burger van and had to get a photo as it looked very quirky and I’d never seen one before – also selling churros randomly. I tried to discreetly take a photo but one of the vegan runners who was stood next to it spotted me and did a great pose. It was very amusing!My parents helpfully picked me up and then I had to race to get ready as I was meeting Andy for lunch and time was a’ticking! He picked me up with his parent’s adorable Cavalier, Tilly (the same black and white colouring as my parent’s dog Dylan). Tilly is very sweet and well behaved. And luckily the place we were going for food allowed dogs inside. To balance out our recent burger exploits, we decided to go to Off Beet in Wickham, which is a fully vegan cafe/restaurant. And honestly if you’re in the area and like good food – even if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan – you must go there. The food is INCREDIBLE. It’s so reasonably priced (£9-12 for a main meal), sustainably conscious and amazingly inventive with their ever-changing menu. I’ve been there before with the lovely April so I knew I was in for a treat.

Tilly chilled out (though was ever aware of any food that would come her way by ‘accident’ under the table) as we debated back and forth of what to get… it all sounded so good! In the end Andy went for tacos (with harissa charred cauliflower and blackbeans on handmade gluten-free tacos).And I went for the Thai Green curry and tofu-fried rice. We also got some polenta chips…just because!It was so tasty. Now though I know I always seem to be eating ridiculously amounts of meat, I’m a food lover in general and can appreciate good food, regardless of whether it’s vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free or whatever. If it tastes good, I’ll eat it. I’m always happy to try different foods and give things a go. Yes I love meat but I’m happy to not eat it if the dish is good enough without. And it was DELICIOUS. And very filling. Well, not too filling… there was still room for pudding.

There are so many different kinds of vegan cakes we were really spoilt for choice. When Andy went to the till to order I’d told him if the one slice of brownie cheesecake was still there I would have that otherwise a peanut butter-based cheesecake. Well, he came back with three options! Definitely the best decision right there.

We shared (yes I know, I SHARED. Can you even imagine?) the three pieces. They weren’t overwhelming sweet like regular cake but they were very tasty (no refined sugars and all that jazz). They had interesting textures from the crushed nuts and creamy bits. I can’t really tell you what we had… one was probably chocolate chip banana bread, one was Nutella based and the cheesecake looking one was the peanut butter. My favourite was last one I think. But it was a tough call!

After filling our boots, we headed out for a walk down the bridal path of Wickham. It was a lovely day and a lovely walk. Tilly was pooped by the end!

That evening I had my friend’s 30th birthday party BBQ to go to (well, my married couple friends were both celebrating their 30th if that makes sense). By this point enough time had passed and I was hungry again. There was a fantastic spread of food and I loaded up a plate of vol au vents, pulled pork (winner right there), sausages and salad. Later I also had a burger and more pork. I guess I kind of undid all the good vegan work I did earlier I’m afraid!

Then trifle and chocolate cheesecake appeared… Well the BBQ went on well into the evening so a lot of this food was spread over a good amount of time. And of course I had to have some of this AMAZING unicorn cake. Some of it was coffee-flavoured (not my favourite admittedly) and rainbow sprinkles ‘flavour’. It was incredible. I felt well and truly pudding’ed out by this point!The BBQ was such good fun with my friends. Lots of games, banter and chilling out. A perfect end to a great Saturday.

Sunday saw a gym visit, chores and finally some relaxing! Whew.

How was your weekend?

If you’re not a vegan, would you ever eat at a vegan restaurant?

Have you ever been late to a parkrun?