Syn-Free Beef in Peking Sauce

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It’s been a while since I posted any recipes, so thought I’d get my finger out! After a few weeks at Slimming World, a lot of people get a bit fed up with eating the same things. It’s a trap that everyone falls into, myself included. The amazing weightlosses in the first weeks are so exciting, you usually end up eating the same menus to ensure the same results. It’s fairly logical and it does work for a month or so, but your body gets used to it and you get fed up with it. You need to shock your system! Mix it up a bit and you won’t be tempted to hurl yourself off the wagon.

Slimming groups will always give you great ‘meal suggestions’ to inspire you, and a lot of these take the form of fast food imitations/alternatives. These are great, but they are no substitute for the real thing. An extra lean burger on a wholemeal roll will not taste like a burger from a chippy. Oven baked salmon with potato wedges is not the same as fish and chips. It can’t be the same! If you want to recreate a fast food favourite accurately, you need to spend a bit of time on it and use a lot of different ingredients. For example, stir frying some beef strips and vegetables with soy sauce will not taste like a chop suey from the Chinese. That’s because soy sauce is only one of a whole host of ingredients the guy in the Chinese uses. He uses salt, sugar, sesame oil, bean pastes, MSG……the list goes on. In short, he uses syns! Anyway, I’m rambling. Here is my recipe for Peking Sauce. This is a sweet sauce, with a little bit of heat to keep it interesting. From my vast knowledge of Chinese cuisine (eating, not cooking), every restaurant is different. One man’s Peking is another man’s Cantonese. So call it what you like, I call it Peking cos that’s my weapon of choice when I hit the Chinese.

You will need:

A medium sized saucepan
A hand blender
A sharp cooks knife

Six cloves of garlic, peeled
A large piece of fresh ginger (4 inches), roughly chopped
Some fresh coriander
Red or white wine vinegar
Sweetener – Splenda/Canderel/whatever
Fresh chillis
A large onion
Chopped tomatoes
Chinese five spice powder
Soy sauce

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Get all your stuff together before you start. Then start!

1. Peel the garlic cloves, roughly chop the ginger and a small amount of the coriander. Cut an end off the onion and chop roughly too. You’ll be blending all these things, so you don’t need to be too precise.

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2. Spray the saucepan with some Frylight and throw in your wee garlic/ginger etc mix. Sweat this off over a medium heat til the onions change colour and til your kitchen smells amazing. At this point, throw in a good shake of five spice powder. This is a slightly aniseedy mix of spices, but it doesn’t taste as strong as it smells. As always though, approach with caution and remember that you can always add – but you can’t take away! Stir the mix and coat the onions etc with the five spice. Add more Frylight if you need to.

3. As the contents of the saucepan start to cook dry, throw in the red wine vinegar. You can also use white wine vinegar, or indeed bog standard malt vinegar if you want to. It doesn’t matter how much you put in, you will be using the sweetener to balance it out, but at least put in enough to cover what’s already in the pan completely. You should end up with something like this:

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4. Grab yourself a spoon, as you’re now going to use your palate to dictate how you like your sauce! At this stage, your nostrils will be feeling the effects of the steaming vinegary concoction in the pan. This pain is temporary. Start adding the sweetener to the pan, stirring as you go. Don’t be shy, you need to kill the sourness of the vinegar. Keep tasting. Find your own level. Remember that the dish is supposed to be tangy to some degree! Once you start getting a taste you’re happy with, introduce a few decent glugs of light soy sauce. Again, keep tasting. There is no right or wrong taste here, just your preferred taste. You have three tastes here – sweet, sour, salty. Find your own balance!

5. Add the chopped tomatoes. Again, keep tasting. You should have something like this:

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6. Now! Blend this bad boy! Blend blend blend until its smooth. Its essentially a Peking soup! You should now have something that looks remotely like a slightly darker tomatoey sauce.

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That’s pretty much it! Now if you really want to be fancy-schmancy you can strain the sauce. Because of the chopped tomatoes and the blending, the sauce resembles something more curry-like or Italian. But the taste is very much Chinese, I assure you! I began to strain my sauce (heehee) earlier, but this leaves you with a thin sauce that won’t cling terribly well to meat or rice and will need thickened in some other way. I considered experimenting with Xanthan gum, but my rumbling stomach told me to stop being stupid.

So your sauce is done. If you have the luxury of leaving it overnight, do so. The flavours will develop and will leave you with an epic tastefest. When it comes to the time you want to use it, simply stir fry your meat of choice, add some crunchy veg, then add the sauce. Bingo. This evening I went for some rump steak fillets, sliced thinly and stir fried with the remainder of the large onion, some green and red chillis, and some water chestnuts. I also added some more garlic, as you can never have too much garlic! As I was tweeting my progress with the feed, @mama_mooo suggested ribs – this sauce would be fantastic with some well trimmed pork ribs. Kudos to you Juls! Will definitely have to rustle that one up soon.

I ended up with this in my wok:

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….and it was good. Syn free, and very good. I would go so far as to say that it’s easily as good as any I’ve had from a Chinese takeaway. It could pass for a carry out, but the consistency of the sauce might be a giveaway. If I strained it and thickened it again, I’m fairly confident even the most discerning fast food devotee wouldn’t know the difference. If anyone out there tries this, or any of the other recipes on here, please give me some feedback! I know as recipes go, these are a tad haphazard, but y’know. When in Rome and all that.

Toodles for now!

Five Reasons I Hate Running

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In the interest of balance, a little spoonful of negativity after yesterday’s explosion of upbeat blogging. Still short, not so sweet maybe!

1. It interferes with laziness

Sometimes it’s supercool just doing nothing. Running disrupts this slothful harmony. It’s not just the time spent running, it’s the effort involved in getting ready, getting warmed up, and getting your arse in gear. Sometimes my arse prefers to be in neutral thank you very much.

2. You look like a douchebag

On the rare occasion you look like a hard bastard, running is a good look. However, the majority of time spent running is spent looking like a sweaty, red faced, out of puff goon – half on the brink of death, half on the brink of puking. Attractive at any speed.

3. People LOOK at you

It’s like they’ve never seen another human in motion before. And they don’t just look – they LOOK. Though perhaps they do so because of the point above. I like to think they’re jealous, but I soon realise that looking like a boiled sausage in ill-fitting capris is an unenviable claim to fame.

4. The guilt when you don’t run

Everyone needs a rest day. Or two. But after the initial euphoria of knowing you don’t have to pull on those trainers fades, you feel like guilty. Like you’re purposefully undoing all your good work and when you run again, it’ll be like starting from scratch. Plus you are wary of everything you put in your mouth (gigitty), as you know that the old metabolism has shifted down a gear.

5. Overproduction of bodily fluids

Who knew the human body could produce such a varied amount of icky things in the pursuit of fitness? Sweat, snot, phlegm, tears – sometimes all at once! Seriously unattractive. And that’s just in the non-hayfever months! The only good thing about this? There is nothing more satisfying/cleansing than blowing your nose into your sweaty top when you get in from a run, before balling it up and firing it into the washing machine. Unapologetic trampiness. Bliss.

Feel free to share your loves and hates about running here, or blast over to Twitter – @bigfatmarathon

Five Reasons I Love Running

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A short and snappy post for a change!

1. The smug sense of satisfaction afterwards.

Nothing beats strolling around town, basking in the warm afterglow of physical exercise; knowing that you’ve already done more in the last few hours than most people will do all day.

2. It makes you look like a hard bastard

Unless your running style is akin to Phoebe from Friends, you can be pretty sure that people watching you think you are a badass. Adopt the appropriate scowl and you’ll be positively frightening. Mere mortals will flee.

3. Semi guilt-free munching

There is less to fear from the allure of baked goods and general naughties when they are preceded by a run. Imagine your metabolism is like a waste disposal unit in your tummy – after a run, it obliterates the tasty treats faster before they make their way to your hips/arse/spare tyre!

4. Legitimate public expulsion of bodily fluids

Athletes care not for Kleenex. They are a sign of weakness. I am running, I am machine, a speed demon with no time for mucus etiquette! Now move! Before I spit in your eye and blow snot forcefully from an open nostril in your general direction. Like Wayne Rooney, with less finesse – but more hair.

5. I can purchase and wear sports clothing without being a chav

No explanation needed.

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Today Is The Day…

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After all my many weeks and months of talking the marathon talk, it is time to walk the walk. Or run the walk, if you will. Today sees the beginning of the sixteen week training programme, culminating in race day on Sunday 4th November. It’s starting to feel more real now, and I’m getting nervous! Hopefully nervous energy is good, and I can funnel some of it into my fundraising effort.

As I’ve said before, I’m running this marathon for me; so I’ve paid for the trip and the race entry myself. Given I only intend to do this marathon once, it makes sense to try and raise some money for charity – so at least when I’m vomiting in Central Park and hating everything to do with marathons, I’ll know that some good has come from my sweaty endeavours!

In order to spread the love, I’ve decided to raise money for two charities, one local and one national. The local one, as most of you know, is Southern Area Hospice Services. This hospice provides exceptional care to terminally ill patients and relies on donations to keep going. My grandmother, who had cancer, was nursed here so the Hospice has always been a charity very close to our family and it was a natural choice. The national charity is the Alzheimer’s Society, the leading UK care and research charity for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. My grandfather suffered from Alzheimer’s and though his symptoms were relatively mild, it did put strain on the family, and caused him a great deal of unhappiness. There are hundreds of equally deserving charities that can be, and should be, supported; but these two made the cut because of the personal experience and due to the fact that I’ll most likely inherit one or both of these conditions!

I’d love to get a good total raised, so I’m asking politely for your help. I have no intention of badgering anyone, so this will be my first and last post about this on here. If you’d like to donate, you can hop on over to www.justgiving.com/teams/bigfatmarathon
As you can see, the BigFatMarathon team consists of me and Grainne Moody, hence the two pages – one for the Hospice and one for Alzheimer’s, so you can pick and choose your charity. Similarly, you can donate via text and choose your charity that way too!

To donate to Southern Area Hospice Services, text BFMA99 to 70070 followed by the amount you wish to donate

To donate to the Alzheimer’s Society, text BFMA88 to 70070 followed by the amount you wish to donate

Simple! Well, it could be simpler, but JustGiving decided to complicate things a bit. Anyway….. For those of you who like to keep it old school, there will be some sponsor cards floating about too! All cash donations will be split evenly between the two charities.

I think that’s about it! I hope I haven’t bored you with this one, but I thought I better get it out of the way. Speaking of which, I need to get my first days training out of the way too as I have an evening of creating sponsor cards ahead of me!

Toodles for now,
McCooey

Red Days for Dummies – an Original Post!

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I thought I’d dedicate a post to Slimming World’s Original plan as it is so damn effective, yet those used to the Extra Easy plan are afraid to deviate and say they don’t understand it. As is my mantra, if you want to understand it – you will. I will do my best to explain it simply! Last week, I lost six and a half pounds following the Original plan; with a wee Extra Easy day on Saturday as I fancied chips! Original, also known as Red, is a great plan to follow if you want to give your weightloss a boost. However, it does take a little extra planning and time to adapt. If you really embrace it though, the rewards are handsome! Speaking of handsome, a post about Red Days also allows me to include a picture of meat enthusiast and absolute swoonfest – Adam Richman from Man v Food.

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I swear, men don’t really do it for me, but he is all kinds of sexy. Easy on the eye, and passionate about food. Unrepentantly so. My kind of guy! Not only has he reminded me that men can be attractive, but he has stoked my love of cooking. I’ve been experimenting with different cuts of meat, and I’m on my way to perfecting a syn free BBQ sauce. But more about that later.

The basic rules of Original Plan/Red Days

Free foods include:

All lean red meats
All lean poultry and pork – including bacon
Fresh fish/seafood
Eggs
Quorn mince/Quorn pieces
Vegetables*
Fruit
Some fat free yogurts (ie most Mullerlights)

These are the main foods that can be eaten freely, meaning in UNLIMITED AMOUNTS. As with Extra Easy, the proviso is that you do not add fat to these foods – during cooking or afterwards. Always trim off all visible fat prior to cooking.

* A small exception here. There are some starchy vegetables which cannot be eaten freely, including potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, sweetcorn and parsnips.

Next up: Healthy Extras

As you can see from above, Red Days mean meat. You are sacrificing pulses, potatoes, pasta and rice as Free Foods. But even though you are making this sacrifice, you receive a reward in the form of DOUBLE Healthy Extras! For example, you can have four Alpen Light bars instead of two. You can have two servings of Nimble bread instead on one – meaning you could have toast for breakfast and a sandwich later in the day. Or, you could have Weetabix in the morning, and a Kelloggs Fibre Plus bar with a cuppa in the evening. The same rule applies to Healthy Extra A choices (dairy products). This could mean a full 250ml of semi skimmed at breakfast, with 45g of mozzarella melted over some grilled chicken and bacon at dinner. There are lots of ways to use your extra Extras to perk up your menu throughout the day. If bread/cereals aren’t your thing, you can have MEASURED AMOUNTS of potatoes/pulses instead. For example, with your huge steak and salad, you could have a jacket potato weighing 227g. Or with your morning fry, you could add 142g of baked beans.

Admittedly, when you begin in introduce the concept of weighing items that you are used to eating in unlimited amounts, it does begin to feel restrictive. But bear in mind, this plan will more often than not accelerate your weightloss – so at least give it a go. Soon, weighing will become a natural thing.

Finally: Syns

As with Extra Easy, you are allowed between 5 – 15 syns a day.

A typical Red Day for me would go like this….

Breakfast:

A huge bowl of fruit! Raspberries, blueberries, pineapple, grapes, banana – with a slightly frozen Mullerlight on top.

Elevenses:

Two Alpen Light bars and a big cup of coffee

Lunch:

A massive crunchy salad topped with chicken and bacon, dressed with Frylight Caesar Salad spray
A bag of Walkers French Fries if I’m feeling frisky (5 syns)

Dinner:

Steak burger topped with bacon and melted Cheddar (28g), served on a toasted brown roll with ketchup – 1 syn per level tablespoon. Or I can ditch the bread roll and have chips made from a 227g potato if I’m feeling energetic.

See? It’s doable! Summer (such as it is) is a great time to try out the Original plan, you can embrace the whole lean meats and salad thing. Having said that, a few thick slices of turkey and ham with a plate of vegetables and some gravy is a wonder to behold at any time of the year. And a Saturday brunch of a ham and cheese toastie followed by two Alpen Lights and a pot of coffee is so delightful it makes me want to cry!

That’s me done for now, I’m off to watch more Man V Food and pick up some tips on the perfect bit of beef. Feel free to insert your own dirty joke here. If any SW types decide to give Original a go for a week, let me know how you get on! Tweet me for the craic sure! You can follow me @bigfatmarathon

What a Difference a Week Makes

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Wahey! When we spoke last, I had freshly joined Slimming World online – due to standing on the scales and suffering a mild stroke when I saw my weight creep perilously close to thirteen stone. Yesterday, I weighed in at 12st 6.5lb, a loss of six and a half pounds! That’s the great thing about Slimming World: it works. If you spend a little time reading (in my case, re-reading) the plan, keeping a record of what you eat and generally planning ahead, the results will come. I set myself a target of 11 stone 2 pounds, so I still have a bit to go. Almost 19 pounds in fact, which seems small in comparison to my total loss, but I know is going to be difficult. Particularly as I still can’t control myself on ‘days off’. It’s a well known fact that after weighing in, most people have a treat – its a running joke! How do you celebrate a loss/commiserate a gain? Head for the nearest takeaway! I know I did it, every week without fail. I was able to eat whatever I wanted, without exception, after weigh in and the next day I’d return to plan. More often than not, I’d still have a good result the next week and the cycle continued. The wreckless abandon with which food was embraced on that day really was a sight to behold! These days, the wreckless abandon is still there, but I know it has a greater effect on my loss in the coming days…… I find it hard to truly let go and enjoy the food I eat. I still am of the mindset that the ‘day off’ is just that – a day. So my instinct is cram as much in as possible, blind to the fact that my next day off is only a week away. ‘Naughty food’ will always be naughty to me, and I can’t behave rationally around it! I want to steal it and lock myself in a dark room full of soft furnishing to eat it. Eat it all! One day at a time McCooey….one day at a time.

So to those of you who get an attack of the guilts for having a post weigh-in splurge, don’t! Enjoy it. And when you’re done enjoying it, stand back and look at the empty packaging and laugh! You have the whole week to go, just be sure to get back on the horse – and stay on it – as soon as you put all those empty wrappers in the bin. Cos once they’re in the bin it’s like they never happened, right? Right. Keep calm and party on. What a difference a week makes.

Life After Juneathon!

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I have to say, Juneathon really was a pain in the arse. The thought of blogging really had started to make me feel ill, hence my not posting in almost six days. Better get back to business!

I awarded myself three days off any form of exercise at the start of the month, as I was pretty knackered after the exertions of June. That, and my hay fever had progressed into a chest infection, so I was feeling pretty lousy in general. I got myself back into the gym yesterday for a 5k on the crosstrainer and a wee disco mile on the treadmill to test out my new toy – an iPod nano! I decided to get myself one as it means I’m not as reliant on having pockets in my outfits to house an iPhone, I can simply clip the teeny-tiny noise box to my vest/keks and jog on. It also means I don’t have to have a pair of Nike+ trainers as the new Nano doesn’t need a chip to collect the info. Having said that, I’m quite happy with my Nike Pegasus 28s, they’re comfy and snazzy so that’s good enough for me! I have no idea how the bloody thing manages to gather the info accurately, but it does – I even sent the other half away yesterday evening with it to test it again on a known distance. It was spot on. Well worth the money but, knowing me, I’ll find something wrong with it once I start using it regularly!

Like I said in my last post, Juneathon had bugger all effect on my weight. During the last week of it, I stuck religiously to the Slimming World plan and I still lost nothing. On Saturday and Sunday, I went pie CRAZY! It was epic. But on Monday morning, I almost fell out of my pantaloons when I stood on the scales…..I was 12st 13. Holy Jesus. I was six pounds over what I now consider to be the upper limit of acceptable splurging. Rather than mope and wail, I decided to join Slimming World online! It’s not something I’ve ever done before, and I had toyed with it in the past, so I just went for it. I shall weigh myself again on Monday coming, and please God I will be lighter by then. Actually, I kinda know I will be, as I’ve been ‘sneak weighing’ myself already! Need to knock that one on the head though, it can lead to obsessive behaviour. Anyway, going back to basics and keeping a food diary has been very useful. Also, having access to a full database of syn values etc has been extremely enlightening! Despite my sterling advice in a previous post about guesswork and being complacent, I discovered that the hot and spicy chicken I have been enjoying freely from Sainsburys actually has one syn! I know one syn isn’t a big thing, but it’s things like this that can add up. Whoops. Even after three years of Slimming World, I still don’t know everything. Nobody does! Which is why I grow weary of the pedantic know-it-alls on SW Facebook pages and weight loss forums who dictate often incorrect information to other users. A closed mouth gathers no feet!

In other news, I spent the early part of this morning being gripped tightly by a bearded man! His touch was firm but never rough, leaving me exhausted but wanting more…….. Fifty Shades of LIES! I went to see an osteopath. Much less scintillating than soft porn for menopausal women. Having being troubled with lower back pain in ‘the fat years’, I went to see a very nice man called Dr Richard Rebain. He diagnosed me with a misaligned pelvis! He reckoned I had had a fall or a heavy knock as a child, thus giving me a jaunty pelvis. Upon reflection, I remembered I had been in a car accident in primary school; but because there was no blood and nothing broken, nobody went to hospital. Perhaps this was my ‘heavy knock’. Anyway, a couple of swift manipulations later and I was right as rain! Seven years later, nine stone lighter, 10k runs – sore back again! Boooooo! Until I’m kosher in the joints department, I will be sticking to no/low impact exercise.

So that’s all the craic for now. I’m fat and sore, but back to basics again. Hopefully by Monday I will be thin and pain-free! Here’s hoping!