Don’t Forget Your Barko! #dfyb

The hashtag #dfyb is used by parkrunners around the world.  It is shorthand for “Don’t Forget Your Barcode”, the little scrap of paper which is scanned after you run, which the magical parkrun computer elves then match up with your time, and create a myriad of statistics. Serious parkrunners have extra barcodes stashed in their car or handbag, or have them laminated.  I forked out for a keyring barcode, but found it got worn away next to my keys, and nowadays have a black plastic wristband, which always scans, is waterproof, and is unobtrusive to wear.

I did jokingly sport a fake barcode tattoo when doing my own 100th parkrun!


Now to Minnie, my faithful running mate.  She’s accompanied me to parkruns in Wallace, Citypark, Armagh, Antrim, Ecos, Larne, Comber, Valley, Colin Glen, Falls, Ormeau, Victoria, Waterworks, Queens, and Bangor….where she memorably jumped in the water, obviously thinking it was a triathlon.

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She can be a little bit barky and apprehensive of people, and particularly dislikes being reached down to for a pat. If you do ever meet us, the best plan is to ignore her – she’ll come for a sniff and say hello when she’s satisfied that you’re OK.

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Where shall we go?

I knew we were approaching her 100th parkrun…sorry…barkrun…and thought that this momentous milestone should not go uncelebrated.


I’d encountered Murphy’s Barkery a few times at Waggy Races, and they had always been so lovely and friendly, as well as making some delicious doggy treats.  They were delighted to make a special giant cookie, complete with the parkrun symbol.

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Min isn’t too bad at dressing up: she has a Christmas jumper, a skeleton costume (which glows in the dark), an Adidog running vest and of course a Dog Lisburn vest. Simple outfits are best – the red bandana she wore as Muttley was easy peasy, but trying to get a 3rd eye on her head to be a 3 eyed raven was a disaster.


So of course I had to make her a milestone 100 Tshirt! I bought a small plain black Tee from M&S (size 8 gives her plenty of room for manoeuvre), and a fabric paint pen from Craftworld. If I’d had more time and patience, I’d have stenciled it, but as it was, hand written had to do – it wasn’t going to get a lot of up-close scrutiny, and it was only for lolz, after all.

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minnies 100th 005We arrived in good time, as usual, to be met by the Cummings family who presented her with a special chewy bone. Thank you!

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The T shirt attracted attention from other runners making their way to the briefing point, where we met up with the lovely Andrea and her running pooch, who gave us a bag of dog treats. Thank you too!

We got a special mention in the Run Director’s brief, very ably delivered by Brenda Harris.

The weather was OK – not too warm, and a hint of drizzle, but no actual rain, and no wind.  But my running form hasn’t been good lately – I have a niggly IT band, am carrying too much weight, and not doing enough training.  On top of that, my Garmin’s battery died after the first km! So as there wasn’t realistically a chance of grabbing a new PB, we just relaxed and enjoyed our run.  The marshalls and other volunteers were brilliant as usual, and gave us lots of support! And we did call out “Dare to Dream!” at a dog walker whose pooch was wearing a GAWA vest.


Photocall afterwards, and Brenda asked if I could pose looking as if I was shaking her paw saying Well Done.  Luckily, Minnie’s repertoire of  commands includes Sit! and Paw! so we were happy to oblige.


What can I say.  It’s an absolute delight to have her running with me, she gets me up Heartbreak Hill, and more importantly keeps the momentum going once we get to the top. She’s always game to run, and indulges my dress-up proclivities.  She helps me prove that – you don’t have to be mad to be a runner, but it helps!

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Home Alone 10: Fried Rice

OK, so 10 days later, and lots of the veg is starting to show its age.

I have 4 large mushrooms – I prefer chestnut mushrooms as I think they have more flavour, keep better, and don’t shrink as much in cooking.

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I have a rather skinny pak choi

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Some wizened beans, and some mini peppers.

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In a large fry pan, I sauteed the pak choi and peppers in a drizzle of local rapeseed oil and some garlic.

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I added a dash of tamari sauce, and some lemon juice.

I use a splash cover, which I find gives enough cover to create a steaming environment.

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I added my sliced mushrooms – they were so large that I only added 2 of them.  And a dash of mushroom ketchup.

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When they were all nicely softened, I stirred through my leftover rice, ensuring it was well mixed.

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I cracked an egg into a bowl and added some tamari.

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I whisked those together, and then stirred everything through the rice and veg until the egg was cooked.

I’d been toying with adding some seafood, but honestly, there was so much there already I had no room!

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Home Alone Goking 9: Laksa

Slight change of schedule today – I’m running a 10k this evening, so I need something carby and proteiny for lunch.  I dug out some treasures from my freezer, and made Gok’s Laksa.

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It’s very handy having individually wrapped salmon fillets in the freezer, and they can be microwaved or oven baked straight from frozen.

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King prawns are another freezer must-have in my kitchen, as I love them! The recipe to serve 2 called for 8 prawns: I added 10.

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I had most of the called-for spices in jars of puree, including galangal, ginger, chilli and garlic.  For chillies especially, I find this the easiest way to regulate and control the heat. I even had curry powder and kafir lime leaves!

What I didn’t have was tomatoes, but I substituted broccoli spears and mushroom.

The quantities of rice vermicelli in the recipe were 200g for 2, ie 100g each.  I find that one nest, at 45g is plenty.  But you make the soup, and then pour over the soaked noodles, so it’s pretty easy to have more or fewer noodles as desired.

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This was really easy and quick to make.  Gok says 700 calories, but I did halve my noodle portion.  The chilli hit was just right, a little ticklish on the back of the throat, and a bit nose-runny, but that’s the way (uh-huh uh-huh) I like it. The only tricky thing is how to eat it – you need both a spoon and a fork, and a wide splash zone free from anything valuable.

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Home Alone Cooking Day 8: Roasted Aubergine

This was a way of using up the aubergine and remainder of the can of black beans from earlier in the week.

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There was nothing complicated in the prep, but it did take a bit of time.

First stage was to oven bake some thin aubergine slices.  Recipe says “thin slices, a couple of millimeters” and the picture seems to suggest lengthwise cuts. And I could have used a mandolin. But I quite enjoyed the meditation like state produced by slicing my rounds by hand, taking my time.

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These (there were a lot of them) were put on an olive oil slicked tray, with more oil drizzled on top (how to do this? I don’t know! Should I have spritzed?  I felt some slices got lots more oil than others)

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The recipe called for sauteed spinach with garlic.  I had no spinach, but I did have pak choi.

The recipe also called for brown rice cooked from scratch for 40 mins.  I had none of that either, but I did have a ready cook rice sachet or brown basmati and quinoa.

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In the recipe, the final stage was to dry roast off “a good handful” of pumpkin and sunflower seeds.  I did this stage first, before adding any of the softer ingredients, and also to stop the rest getting cold while i did my dry roasting.

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So, to assembly – rice stuff stirred with tahini and tamari.  Pak choi and bean garlic stir fry. Sort of roasted aubergine slices. And a sprinkle of roasted seeds.

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Honestly? It felt a bit knit-your-own-lentil worthy and heavy. I love aubergine, but I’m not sure this used them to their best advantage.

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Home Alone Cooking 7: 5:2 noodles

I used to be very good at following the 5:2 way of eating, but have got out of the habit lately. However, the mental attitude of KNOWING that I can get through a day on less than 500 calories makes it pretty easy.  I tend to base low-cal meals around fish and veg, and whilst they are not to everyone’s taste, I don’t mind these konjac slim noodles, which are around 10 cals for a whole packet.

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I had the rest of my smoked salmon to finish, and there was still plenty of veg in the drawer, include these cute mini-peppers.

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I rinsed and dry fried the noodles, and set them to one side,

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while I sauteed the veggies in lemon juice and tamari, with a splash of water.  To be honest, I didn’t cook them for long enough, as they were still very crunchy in the finished dish.

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I stirred the noodles back in, and added the smoked salmon in shreds, as well as more lemon juice. I get through a lot of lemons!

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Result – a big satisfying bowl for around 150 calories.

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Home Alone Cooking 6: Black Beans

Sunday.  I decided to take Max for a good long run before it got too hot.  As it turned out, we were 1km into our run when the heavens opened and it poured.  So I was in need of something tasty on my return.

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The TV had been showing footage of the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations and patron’s lunch, part of which was a picnic hamper packed with foodie goodies sourced from all over the UK.

I was inspired by their smoked salmon starter, and decided to make my own version, using the half price organic cold smoked stuff I’d bought in Dobbies yesterday.

2 small slices, chopped finely with a knife and fork (use the back of the fork to mush it a bit more)

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Add a good heaped teaspoon of Skyr, or other thick natural yoghurt.

Squeeze in half a lemon, and add some fresh black pepper.

Arrange attractively, using red peppers out of a jar, capers, and tortilla chips.

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For dinner, it was back to Ella, and what she claimed was the Best Sweet Potato.

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One of the issues I’d had with Click-and-collect-ing is that you can’t choose the size of your veg.  I’d been hoping for some chunky sweet potatoes suitable for baking, but instead my bag contained long thin ones, more suited to making wedges.  So that’s what I did.

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The filling was half a can of black beans, sauteed with mushrooms.  The recipe said 7 mushrooms, or 150 g.  I’m glad it added the grams, as my mushrooms, having been unable to select myself (see above) were on the large side, and in fact 3 of them took me to 150g.

To the pan, I added a teaspoon of jarred chillies. and 3 chopped cloves of garlic.  The recipe said to saute these in “lots of olive oil”. Lots?  How much is lots?  Is that 3 tablespoons or half a bottle?  Actually, I find you don’t need much oil when cooking mushrooms, as they release their own liquid.

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A dressing was also required – 2 teaspoons tahini, the juice of a lime (size unspecified), a teaspoon of honey, and pepper and salt.

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I missed when reading the ingredients that there was an avocado as well, so my version omitted it.

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It was a very edible meal.  But just too….earthy.  There was no contrast or light and shade in the flavours.  The sweet potato is earthy, the beans are earthy, mushrooms are earthy, the tahini dressing is…yes you’ve guessed it, earthy.  Even the lime juice wasn’t enough to lift it. And a cookery book that claims to be “no sugar” but merrily adds honey to recipes is failing my nutritional awareness hurdles.



Home Alone Cooking 5: Mac’n’cheese

A bit of a departure from the healthy Gok and Ella show tonight, but teh cheese drawer really needed a bit of a tidy, and I’ve been craving macaroni cheese for ages.

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Now, whilst it wasn’t totally wheat and gluten free, because of the flour in the sauce, I did try out a rice and quinoa fusilli.

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I made the sauce with some very mature cheddar, and some Stilton.

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I also added some steamed green beans and broccoli.

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The pasta looked rather pale and white, and tool 13 minutes to cook.

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But the end result was really satisfying – a good tasty sauce with the healthful oomph of green veg, and the pasta was very acceptable.  100g of it is a whopping 370 cals, though, and 75g carbohydrate.



Home Alone Cooking 4: Vegan Carbonara

One of my main quibbles with Deliciously Ella is that it gives no idea on cooking and preparation times, or level of difficulty.  I’d been going to do this vegan version of a carbonara last night, until I discovered that I had to soak the cashew nuts for 3-4 hours first.

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So I popped them in a bowl overnight.

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The other main ingredient in the sauce is butternut squash.  Again I ran into problems with the quantities, given as   1/3 of a squash.  But how big of a squash? 200g it helpfully added – which is actually remarkably little actual squash.

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I was worried that my little stick blender would have difficulties in combining all the ingredients.  I didn’t have nutritional yeast, so I added a spoonful of Marmite.  And 3 teaspoons of tamari seemed like a lot of saltiness on top.

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Plus cayenne pepper?  I rarely use it these days in cooking – I did add some to petroleum jelly to make a deterrent paste for the dogs….

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But the stick blender coped well, the soaked nuts were easy to pulpify, and I soon ended with a rather tasty gloop.

I cooked some buckwheat noodles, and added some frozen peas 2 minutes before the end of cooking.

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In a frying pan I sauteed mushrooms and garlic, and added spinach to wilt down.

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Everything was combined together – the mushroom-garlic-spinach, the noodles-and-peas, and the cashew-squash sauce.  Once again, I felt this was a massive portion for one person, and I’ve kept some back for lunch tomorrow.

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I made the full 4 person version of the sauce, and put the leftovers in tubs to freeze.

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The end result was, well, delicious!  I’d never have thought about making a sauce this way, but it was rich and unctuous, with a real umami hit from the marmite and tamari. And look at the veg count snuck in there – peas, spinach, mushroom, squash.

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My Fitness Pal estimates the calories at 550, with a whopping 90 carbs (mostly the noodles, it has to be said), and a low-ish 23 g protein from the nuts.

I’ve been eating Ella’s recipes for a few days now, and I do have to admit I crave sugar much less.  My body seems to be performing well on the good fuel I’m giving it, and I’m excited to try more ideas.


Home Alone Cooking Day 3: Full of beans

The pomegranate seeds were next of the items to need using up, and I was intrigued at the idea of combining them with beans and pesto.

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It was a very simple and quick recipe, though I did cheat a little and use a ready made jigger of pesto.

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But…….a whole can of beans for one person? There are no calorie counts or nutritional info given in the book, and while it’s USP is it’s “healthiness”, I’d like to know this.  Another niggle is that some of the quantities given are imprecise – a handful of pumpkin seeds, for example.

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The combination of crunchy seeds, bursts of pomegranate, soft beans and rich pesto was really good, and I could see myself making this again.  I will plug the ingredients into My Fitness Pal to get a feel for how calorific it is, but the measurement of seeds would need to be more precise.

Using a full can of beans – it’s approximately 600 calories, 60g of carbohydrate (the beans and pomegranate), 25g fat (pesto and seeds), and 25g protein (the beans and seeds).  The book is gluten free and the recipes have no added sugar.

Home Alone Cooking Day 2: So. Much. Kale.

My Click and Collect groceries are here!

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I got lots of frozen seafood, including salmon, prawns and scallops.

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Store cupboard protein – puy lentils, cashews and pine nuts.

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Fresh fruit – limes, lemons and pomegranate arils.

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And fresh vegetables.  Lots and lots of veg.  Too much, really!

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The nice C&C man pointed out that the kale was short dated, so I’ll work on using that one up first.  I’d been planning a laksa tonight, but instead went for Ella’s Green Goddess Bowl, which has “a good handful of kale” as one of the ingredients.

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The combination was really good – slightly crunchy steamed veg, with soft quinoa, but teh dressing was just fabulous – tahini, lemon juice and garlic.  I’ll definitely make that again!

I’ll also make her kale and cannelini bean stew, to which I’ll add those leftover carrot strips,  and put individual portions in the freezer.  Dammit, need sticky labels!

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For lunch today I had some of the leftover carrot and courgette salad, which is very filling.  There’s even some left for tomorrow.  I accompanied that with some pumpkin seed ryvita and sweet chilli feta.