Fast 800-4-1 week 4

A week of main meals suitable for those following a fast 800 (low calorie, low carb) approach, but cooking mainly for one person. Recipes from the Fast 800 series unless otherwise stated.

Mon: Roast veg with cumin and goats cheese (easy p177). This was very tasty and straightforward, although the recipe at one point refers to “all the vegetables” when it really means “except the tomatoes”. You’re now going to tell me that tomatoes are technically a fruit, aren’t you. Meat-eating husband had his as a side, and it worked well as that. If I do this again I’d make more and have leftovers for lunch.

Goats cheese cumin veg

Tues: Mushroom omelette. A quick go to for the solo cook. Served with green veg on the side.

Wed: Prawn courgetti. (Easy p118) I had to change my plans at the last minute as husband wanted some too, and he’s not a fan of courgettes.

Thurs: Broccoli and paneer (easy p 182)

The recipe book gives this as serves 3, which always looks odd! Anyway, easy to adapt for one person, using 80g paneer. Following the recipe I fried the paneer cubes in oil first, but they were very spluttery, and I hope I haven’t ruined the frock I was wearing by having blobs of hot oil splashed on it, and my hands. Very simple list of ingredients, usually things I would have around.

simple uncomplicated ingredients

Fri: Indian feast. I tried the broccoli dish again, but dry fried the paneer first, which was much less splattery. I swapped the tomatoes for mushrooms, as I’m not a fan of scalding hot toms that burn the roof of your mouth. I adapted a Joe Wicks thai curry recipe using up aubergine and mushroom with red thai paste and coconut milk, served it with some shredded cabbage done in the microwave, a blob of yoghurt and some lime pickle. A sprinkle of cashews for added protein and crunch.

Brocoli paneer, thai aubergine mushroom, shredded cabbage, yoghurt, lime pickle

Sat: Tuna stuffed peppers. (Easy p84) One pepper, one can of tuna, there’s a little bit of stuffing left over, depends on the size of your peppers. It was very salty with a lot of anchovies and capers in it, and again, those hot scalding cherry toms….

Tuna stuffed pepper

Sun: Cauliflower cheese and veggie sosig, celeriac chips. Linda McCartney’s veggie sausages are very tasty, and come in around 100 calories and 10g protein each, which is a good ratio to aim for. The cauliflower and broccoli cheese was from the BSD recipe books, and wasn’t that exciting, though I do like the addition of chopped jalapeños! It heated up well for lunch next day. The celeriac chips were not really crispy enough, other people say they do take a long time in the oven. I have lots of celeriac left, but I’m planning pizza bases and Spanish omelettes for next week.

Red Dress Run 2021

I’ve done a bit of fundraising before for the NI Chest Heart and Stroke association. My father had a mild stroke a few years ago, and my husband has a replacement heart valve. So I know very well the excellent work they do. When the coronavirus pandemic took hold in 2020, many charities suffered immensely at the sudden loss of fundraising events. I did a “26 costumes” run during April, where I ran a short local route in 26 different outfits over the space of a week. This was in response to the absence of marathons, 26 miles, as fundraising opportunities.

26 costumes, Dancer-ys, with Tobbo, the fire-breathing dragon

NICHS would usually have an annual Red Dress run, with participants encouraged to dress up in suitable colours. This year (2021), with Covid regulations and restrictions still in place, it would take place virtually. When I first posted on Facebook

“Me? Running? In a red dress?With my reputation?” even my husband admitted he laughed.

So, most important consideration – what to wear! I usually run with Minnie, my cocker spaniel, but as she will be 10 this year she is an old lady in dog years, so I am training up young Toby, 2, to be a running companion. I really wanted a dress up theme that could include them also. And after a bit of pencil chewing, and exploring what I had in my dressing up box, I decided on…..Little Red Riding Hood (or should that be Little Red Running Hood). Minnie being a black hairy monster would make a suitable Big Bad Wolf, while cheeky-chops Toby would bring his own stylings to the role of Woodcutter. Just don’t anyone think of giving him an axe….

Despite my extensive costume wardrobe, I didn’t have the wherewithal for my own outfit, but I soon found a reasonably priced one on Amazon. When choosing a costume for running it has to be light, loose enough to allow movement, stretchy enough to allow for a long sleeved base layer if required, and washable. A red cloak will be a versatile addition, I’m already planning to use it as a superhero get-up, or for parkrun celebrations. The dress, with its checked skirt, lace petticoat, white blouse and black waistcoat isn’t a million miles from a Highland Dance dress, I might wear it to class as a joke.

For the dogs, I had a Harley Davidson bandana that said “Bad to the bone”, and a checked tartan number.

I sussed out a local route that was a 2.5km circuit from the house, meaning i could swap dogs at the halfway mark, and also was sticking to the guidelines of not travelling too far to run.

To add to the authenticity, the day before the run I baked some cookies for grandma, though I wasn’t intending to run with them. they were stem ginger cookies, and filled the house with tantalising smells.

Ginger cookies, fresh from the oven

On the day of the run, the sun shone, there was a warm-up video on Facebook including personal testimonies and a reminder of why we were running. I found the fundraising really hard this time, with no social events or family get-togethers, and only a handful of work colleagues in the office, it was a struggle to get pledges. But I made the £50 target.

I selected the soundtrack of Hamilton as my music: Hamil-run if you like. I set off with Minnie first, she always gets very excited and impatient when she knows we are going running. And then Toby, who still gets a bit distracted by other people, dogs, interesting smells and pretty flowers. It brings joy to the heart to see dancing snowdrops, full of hope for the future.

Snowdrops dancing in the sunshine

And we are all hopeful of a better future. For charities, for those recovering from strokes or heart operations, for runners who can’t wait till we can run together. Keep the faith, we’ll get there. There may even be cookies 🙂

F800-4-1 week 3

This weeks menu:

BSD blood sugar diet book, R red recipe book, E blue easy recipe book

Monday overnight oats, egg wrap with smoked salmon and cream cheese(R94) veggie bolognaise w edamame spaghetti and green beans

Tuesday: Greek yoghurt and granola ( joe wicks spicy nutty recipe) , bolognaise w green beans, mushroom omelette w soy asparagus and broccoli

Wednesday: apple and peanut butter, goats cheese salad, fish finger sandwich

Thursday: green ginger shake(R53), tuna apple salad, leek and barley risotto (R216)

Friday: ainsley Szechuan soup, pesto baked fish (E105)

Saturday: fry up, pesto fish

Sunday: scrambled egg, leftover barley risotto, prawn and egg curry (E 121) w roast cauliflower and raita

Now, the fish finger sandwich wasnt really on plan, it started as a bit of a joke, and is served with a curried yoghurt and a sprinkle of Bombay mix!
The egg wrap was really, good, triple protein and easy to make for one.

egg wrap w smoked salmon and cream cheese

Barley, leek and goats cheese risotto takes a bit of time to cook, but leftovers reheat well.

veggie bolognaise w edamame spaghetti

I really disliked the green ginger shake. I’m not a fan of shakes generally, but I’m still using up apples! They take too long to drink, I don’t like the icy cold temperature, I couldn’t bring myself to add the olive oil in the recipe so I added yoghurt instead.

goats cheese salad
green ginger shake

The pesto fish dish takes longer to cook than the book suggests, and I don’t really like reheating fish, it’s much better done fresh.

pesto fish

Prawns are a great protein to calorie source, but the size of packs they come in can prove difficult for single diners. My husband mistakenly bought 3 packs at 180g, so I’ll be using those up over the next few days. Again, I don’t like reheating prawn dishes as the prawns go too rubbery, and I don’t like freezing them, especially if the prawns were previously frozen. I also try to avoid taking fishy things to the office in case the smell is offensive. So I might just eat all the prawns myself and count the calories.

The prawn egg curry was very watery – a full tin of tomatoes and then a full tin of water makes it too liquid. I managed to overdo the prawns too, so I didn’t get a decent picture.

mushroom omelette

Fast800-4-1 week 2

A weeks worth of food following Fast 800 principles, but suited to cooking for one.

Menu:

Monday: Greek yoghurt and granola, veggie sausage, miso aubergine

Tuesday: mushroom scrambled egg, blue cheese and chicory, cauliflower rice paella

Wednesday: chia pot, thai curry, prawns w courgetti and edamame spaghetti

Thursday: chia pot, thai veg curry, prawn stir-fry

Friday: Boiled egg, smoked salmon salad, halloumi ratatouille

Saturday: Overnight oats, halloumi ratatouille, salmon fillet w hoisin roast cauliflower

Sunday: Overnight oats, smoked salmon salad, veg burger, turnip fries, cheesy leeks

Foods that to be used up this week include apples, oranges, cauliflower, turnip, smoked salmon.

Vegetarian sausages come in a pack of 8, and it’s usually easiest just to cook them all at once. So Monday’s lunch was leftover from the sausages I’d cooked at the weekend, in an onion gravy. This reheats quite well in the microwave. Miso aubergine is p178 in the Easy F800 recipe book. It was very salty, and I wasn’t keen on the edamame cooked open in the oven, I’ll just micro them next time. But a satisfying plate of food.

Having a load of apples to use up, I made one into cinnamon apple crisps, p 220 first recipe book. These take a long time in a cool oven, but are a nice crisp snack.

Tuesday- blue cheese and chicory. It may be very good for your gut, but boy this is bitter! I could only eat half of one raw with salad, kept the rest for dinner. I was adding in some seafood to up my protein, and I love little pickled cockles. Any seafood packs a good protein to calorie ratio. So I made a cauliflower rice dish with paella flavours of paprika and garlic. And added the rest of the chicory as a side.

Wednesday: due to spend the rest of the week in the office, so I made a pot of chia seeds and yoghurt to have mid morning, defrosted a tub of Thai curry for lunches, and had some olives leftover from the paella. One of the issues about cooking for one is the freezing of leftovers, which is limited by the size of tubs available. But having 2 portions in one tub is suited to bringingto work, where I have access to a fridge and microwave.

I found edamame spaghetti in Holland and Barrett. The calories are similar to normal pasta, but it does have a protein content. I mixed a small portion (25g) with some courgette cut into thin strips, and served this with garlicky prawns. Frozen prawns are always on hand in my freezer, but they come in different size packs, so do check. I used half of a 180g pack, saving the rest for tomorrow. From a bag of mixed leaves I used some rocket to garnish.

Thursday I still had the chia pot and curry in the office fridge, and for dinner I used the rest of the prawns to make a stir fry, using some spinach leaves out of my salad bag. I added some Konjac noodles – I’m not a huge fan of these, they need to be rinsed well, and then dry fried to get rid of the fishy smell. But they were in the cupboard and I hate waste! Kimchi on the side, I love this stuff.


Friday: I always boil more than one egg when I’m cooking them, so have hard boiled eggs ready to eat in the fridge. Had one for breakfast. Lunch was some more salad leaves with smoked salmon, and for dinner I was cooking for my husband also. He likes the ratatouille w halloumi p212 of the original recipe book. The recipe serves 4, but husband eats 2 portions, I eat one and there’s one leftover for lunch.

Saturday: I made a big bowl of overnight oats using one apple, to do over 3 days. I can’t remember why I had so many oranges, but I decided to try the orange and almond loaf, p 222 of the original recipe book, which would also use up some of the dates I had left from Christmas. 300g of ground almonds! And 300 calories a slice! I’m not sure this really fits well with a low calorie diet, but I was intending to freeze most of it to have as an occasional treat. It smelled good while cooking, but the end result is quite heavy, and not worth all those calories.

Lunch was the leftover ratatouille, which reheats well, and for dinner I was tying the hoisin roast cauliflower, p210 of the blue recipe book. This was unpleasant, the addition of vinegar to the marinade makes it pungent and sour, and hot vinegary chilli but still crunchy cauliflower is really nasty. Turning a perfectly good low calorie veg into a 250 calorie side dish is not a move I’ll be repeating. Recipe serves 2, I kept the rest to have cold as a salad next day.


sunday: overnight oats, salad with the cold cauliflower, boiled egg mixed with sour cream and horseradish, smoked salmon, and the rest of my salad leaves bag. I’d bought a slab of plant based mince, so I was making a burger to go with turnip fries and cheesey leeks. These are easy to make in the microwave, zap the sliced leeks, then stir in some soft cheese and grated mozzarella. I had actually made 2 patties, but I left the room at one point and when I came back there was only one! Not sure which dog is the guilty party, but I know which husband should have been paying more attention!


Fast 800-4-1: Week 1

I’ve been trying to follow the Fast 800 style of eating for a while now. I did the original 5-2 back in the day, and managed to get through a day on 500 calories based around fish, veg and eggs. Since then the diet has become more popular and has evolved into what is now Fast 800, where it is 800 good quality calories per day every day for up to 12 weeks. It gained even more popularity when a TV show Lose a Stone in Three Weeks was aired during 2020, and of course a whole series of books have followed.

For ease of typing, I will refer to the books as O (the original guide) R ( the first red recipe book) E (the new blue topped Easy recipe book) and BSD (the Blood Sugar Diet book).

I have a number of issues with the books. I don’t eat meat but I do eat fish, and I find the veggie recipes can be quite high calorie (600 cals for a curry?) and have a sizeable carb content. But the biggest issue I have is that I am often just cooking for myself. There are a few recipes my husband also will eat (the halloumi ratatouille R212 being a favourite), and there are a handful of recipes for one (miso soup, omelettes), but more often than not I’m making adjustments to the quantities to either have a portion leftover for lunch, or to freeze. Having single portions of something suitable in the freezer is great, but can be limited by the availability of suitable containers. This also leads to the problem of how to use up half tins of coconut milk, or an opened jar of pesto.

So this will be a blog series looking at how to get a week of recipes using up what needs using, without too much repetition or saminess.

So. This week’s stuff that needs using: tofu, half an aubergine, half a pepper, half a block of halloumi, end of a cabbage, pak choi, spring onions and coriander. Smoked mackerel, mushrooms, kale, beansprouts, half an avocado.

Sunday: I made little aubergine halloumi and pepper stacks, and served them with a quick salad with yoghurt dressing.

Monday: I got creative with the smoked mackerel. Half of it I made into pate (BSD 73) which did 2 lunches, and the other half I made into fishcakes (E 110).

The recipe served 4 but was simple enough to halve, served with sesame stir fry veg, and I cooked and kept a portion to have cold with a salad.

Tuesday: Loaded miso soup with tofu and mushrooms.

These little mini snack packs of dried seaweed are great for tearing over Japanese dishes.

Wednesday: I’d used a stuffed butternut squash dish for my Christmas centrepiece, and had chopped the remainder into chunks and kept in the freezer. I used some to make a Red Thai curry with the coconut milk, made 2 portions and froze one.

Thursday: stir fry with tofu, beansprouts, and some frozen stir fry veg. These packs are very handy when cooking for one, as you just use as much as you need.

Friday: The rest of the squash roasted with sage, and served with a portion of veggie bolognaise (R194) that I had in the freezer.

Saturday: The coriander is really getting past it now, but used to garnish a shakshouka

Sunday: Another use-it-up stirfry.

Overall verdict: This was pretty good, I had a colourful array of vegetables, but I always struggle with using fresh herbs before they go off. I may revert to buying them frozen. What would I do without my freezer!

A weekend in Donegal

As I write this (October 2020) the world is a very strange and fast changing place. We’d managed a weekend picking up a bit more of the WAW, from Donegal town to Fanad, in early September for my husband’s birthday. When we returned, we planned to do another peninsula, the Inishowen 100 route, for my birthday in October. We’d even booked the hotel and a spa treatment. And then Covid restrictions were increased, particularly in all of Donegal, and the trip had to be postponed. So here’s my most recent visit, with heartfelt hopes that it will not be too long before we are return.

Day 1: Donegal town

The trip from our house to the car park by the marina in Donegal, behind the Central Hotel where we were staying, takes a little over 2 hours, so it’s very doable for a short break. I picked up a few leaflets from the friendly and helpful staff at the tourist office, and we checked into the hotel. They had a one-way sytem in place, including one up and one down lift, which was being totally ignored by guests. We did a bit of aimless wandering around the main square, and called into the Blueberry Cafe for lunch. I had some delicious grilled Irish goats cheese salad with olive tapenade and red onion jam, and managed to resist the temptation to have a glass of wine as they only had Sauv Blanc.

Off we set for Sleive League Cliffs. There’s a lot of roadworks ongoing at present in Donegal, which let’s face it is a good thing, but can add a few minutes to your eta. Watch out for the signpost to the viewing point, there’s a good car park with loos, though the shop is currently closed. Apparently you can go through the gate and drive up a bit closer to the cliffs, but we didn’t realise that, and weren’t in the right shoes to do a bracing hike. So I’ll have to come back to that one some time. We called into the visitor centre on the way back, which is worth a look around.

Our next stop was Malin Beg, and wow what a stunning dramatic beach! Golden sand, crashing surf, rock stacks and a waterfall. Oh and 167 steps to walk down (and then up) to reach it. My Fitbit was seriously impressed.

Through Glencolumkille where we didn’t stop at the folk viallge, and onto the great Glengesh Pass, a thrilling, swooping road through the mountains.

I was permitted to over-rule the sat-nav and find a route back to the hotel which avoided the roadworks, and we had booked a table for dinner that evening in the Thai-fusion themed restaurant. I had 2 starters – a Tom Yum soup, and then a fishcake, and enjoyed every mouthful.

Day 2

Saturday morning means parkrun! Sadly they are all suspended for now, but it is still possible to do a “freedom” parkrun at any of the official routes that are open. I believe there are only 6 in the world run on a beach. I’ve done Portrush several times, and managed a freedom run at Inch Beach earlier this year.

This morning we were off to a recent addition, that at Narin Beach. It’s a busy spot, with swimmers, surfers, runners and dog-walkers. But what a view!

There are a number of cafes nearby for post-run treats, there’s even a BnB which I’m very tempted by! We couldn’t resist the fish shaped waffles and yoghurt granola creation served up by Pirates. We continued our journey, fantasising about running a parkrun-biker- dog-friendly BnB……

Next stop was Dungloe, with the world’s cutest police station. Located a whippy ice-cream in the Cope shopping centre, but somehow missed the Daniel O’Donnell visitor centre.

Burtonport is the ferry terminal that serves Arranmore, which I’d visited way back in my youth. There’s not too much to see here, though I would have liked to sample the lobster.

I hate camping, but we have an agreement that I will do one trip a year. So our next stop was Sleep Hollow, an adults only campsite run by a very friendly and Covid-aware owner, and which has clean loos, showers, and campers kitchen. I let R crack on at setting up the awning, table, chairs etc, while I explored the walk by the river.

The only problem with a campsite by the river is MIDGES! We’d forgotten to pack any insect repellent, but the owners gave us some incense sticks to burn, and some cream to apply to those tempting ankles. (Also on the list of things we ought to have brought was a citronella candle, kitchen roll, fresher coffee, and a bigger kettle)

We’d booked a dinner reservation at Leo’s Tavern, an Irish music iconic place, being the home of Enya and Moya Brenna, of Clannad. The walls are covered with gold discs, photos and newspaper cuttings, but no live music tonight.

Day 3

The next day, we packed up and set off around Bloody Foreland, with stunning views in every direction. We stopped for breakfast baps in Dunfanaghy, where the bacon and egg butties with Ballymaloe relish even persuaded me, a non-meat eater, to tuck in. It was tricky to find our way round Horn Head, as the signage wasn’t great. I thought it would be a circuit drive, but it seemed to be a tight road up to a car park, with any further exploring done on foot.

There’s a fab bridge to take you onto the next peninsula, greatly reducing the journey times.

At Fanad Head lighthouse, there is now a car park- visitor centre -loo- shop, and you need tickets to get any closer to the lighthouse.

We came back via Portsalon, and then dropped the WAW in favour of the Mulroy Drive along the eponymous bay.

I do hope it won’t be too long before we are able to return.

A-Z of low cal heroes

Low calorie (and low carb) foods that I rely on when I’m watching the calories and carbs eg on the 5:2 or Fast 800 approaches.  Inspired by my friend Helen’s A-Z of  Scottish Dancing, here’s my list of foods I find help me enjoy cooking and eating this way.

A- Anchovies.  Yes, those wee fish you find on pizzas.  A few snipped into a salad add a real salty tang, as well as a hit of protein.

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B- Bovril.  Although I don’t eat meat I’m not a strict vege (or pesce-) tarian, and a mug of Bovril is very satisfying when hunger pangs strike. A 12g spoonful is 17 cals, and 4g of protein.

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C- Cottage cheese.  A useful non-egg breakfast, I like a spoonful of this with radishes, cucumber or tomato, and a sprinkle of za’atar (see later)

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D- dulse.  This dried seaweed is a bit of an Irish seaside tradtion, but Belfast wans can get it in Sawyers or greengrocers. Chewy and salty with a hint of the ocean, it packs a few useful vitamins as well,  Try it as an alternative to nori or other seaweeds in miso soup (see later) or a Bhudda Bowl.

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E – eggplant, or aubergine.  Very useful in making dips like baba ganosh, or cut into steaks and spread with miso (see later) paste as a “steak”.  Essential element of ratatouille, or as caponata.

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F- Frozen berries.  I try not to have too much fruit, but once a week or so I’ll make overnight oats or chia pots.  Mixed berries keep well in the freezer, and are ideal for this.  If added to the dish the night before they will have defrosted by morning.

G – Greek Yoghurt.  There is always a vigourous debate on social media about the “best” or “right” Greek yoghurt to get, unsurprising given the wide variety of natural, plain, Greek, Greek-style, Skyr etc available.  Check the label, avoid extra additives,  and don’t go for low-fat.

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H – Herbal teas.  I surf through the day on water (see later) black coffee, and herbal teas,  I keep a little “lucky dip” carousel at work, but the Yogi Choc flavour is heavenly when you need a hit of chocolate.

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I – Itsu brand.  Miso soup (see later) is a great standby for light lunches or quick pick-m-ups.  I like this brand, at 21 cals per sachet.

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J – jackfruit.  As a not-quite-vegetarian, I’m always on the lookout for ways to add more variety.  Jackfruit, available in cans, make a good sturdy textured addition to curries and stews.

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K – Konjac noodles.  Substiture noodles, pasta and rice made from konjac root are sold under names like Slim or Naked.  They are not to everyone’s taste, some say they taste like rubber bands, and can have a  fishy odour when the sachet is opened, but when well rinsed they can have the right look and feel.

L – lemon and lime.  Always in my fridge, add a slice of either to hot or cold water, squeeze over salads or in stirfries.  Keep some wedges in the freezer to add instead of an ice cube to cold drinks.

M – miso soup.  You can buy sachets to which you just add hot water, or make your own with miso paste.  I like to make a “fully loaded” version with thinly sliced mushooms, cubes of tofu, beansprouts, spring onions, and a sprinkle of dulse (see above).

N – nuts.  Useful for ading a wee bit of protein, though not as much as some people believe.  Cashews are great in stir fries, walnuts are lovely with a bit of blue cheese, and almonds have a satisfying crunch.

O – Olive oil.  The best oil to use.  I also use coconut oil, and locally grown rapeseed.

P – prawns. These pack an amazing protein to calorie ratio, are great hot or cold, in spicy dishes or in cool salads.  I try to keep frozen raw prawns as a freezer standby, they can be defrosting under cold running water.

Q – quinoa. I cut right back on cereals and grains, but quinoa has protein content as well, and cooks in 15 mintues.

R – rainbow.  Eat the rainbow!  Aim to get a range of colourful foods, like beetroot, peppers, courgettes, cauliflower, tomatoes.

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S – spices are key to maing food tasty.  And don’t underestimate the importance of Sleep.

T – Trout, Tuna, Tofu.  Great protein sources.  I prefer smoked trout to salmon, it is tastier and has slightly fewer calories.

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U – Un-alcoholic drinks.  Ok I know that’s not a real word!  There’s a great many not-gins on the market at the minute, add a frozen lime wedge and a diet tonic to a large glass and you’ll not feel you are missing out at all.

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V- vegetables.  Eat lots of them, especially those that grow above the ground.  Spinach, pak choi, broccoli, mushrooms, and salad veg like tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, are always in my veg drawer.  And onions!  But no potatoes.

W – water. Drink lots of water.  I aim for 2l a day, and try to keep a bottle by me at all times.  First thing in the morning, start with a  large glass.

X – F.U.N.E.X? S, V.F.X.  So goes the old Two Ronnies sketch, and S, I always have a plentiful supply of X.  I go for large free-range, local if possible.  I probably eat at least one a day, love a quick scramble with whatever veggies are about for breakfast.  My Sunday standard breakfast is a soft boiled egg with asparagus dippers, and I usually boil a couple of extras to have during the week.  I’ll also whip up a a batch of fritattas with eggs, cheese, and veg – spinach, cooked cauli, spring onions, roast peppers, olives.  They make a handy portable late breakfast to have at work, and can be frozen.

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Y – Yukata, is another brand I like for miso soups, sushi ginger, and other Asian ingredients.

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Z – za-atar, one of my favourite spice mixes to sprinkle on scrambled egg, soups, or cottage cheese.

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Jackfruit Curry

Low calorie, low carb, vegetarian or vegan.

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I’m always keen to try new foods and recipes, and I was intrigued by jackfruit, which is getting used in many vegetarian meals these days.  It’s most often seen as some sort of BBQ pulled dish, which I don’t care for.  So I made a curry instead.

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Ingredients:

1 tin jackfruit

1 onion (80-100g)

1 red pepper (100g)

100g button mushrooms, quartered

1 tin tomatoes

1 tsp coconut oil

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Curry spice – I used garlic paste from a tube, a tsp of chillies from a jar, turmeric, ground coriander, and cos I had them, curry leaves,  I also threw in a cinnamon stick and a star anise.

Sweat the finely chopped onion in the coconut oil until translucent.

Add the diced red peppers, and continue to cook on a low heat, covered, for 5 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and stir everything well together.

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Add in the curry spices and stir well.

Add the tinned tomatoes, the jackfruit, and give everything a good stir.  Break the jackfruit up as you stir. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer while you prep the rice.

Coconut Lime Cauli-rice

For each serving:

150g cauliflower florets, grated.  I use my special cauli Iron Maiden.

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Melt a tbsp coconut oil in a frying pan and add the cauli rice, stirring to get it covered in the oil.  Let it cook gently for 5-8 minutes, until itstarts to get a bit nutty.  Add salt and pepper, and half a lime squeezed.  I threw in some chopped parsley from my gardon for colour. Add in some grated coconut (10g)

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Serve with a blob of yoghurt (or vegan alternative) and a sprinkle of coriander leaves.

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I got 3 “my size” servings from this, 300 cals with the rice, but it would make 2 generous portions.

Note: I like the jars of easy chilli.  It’s easy to control the heat of the end result, as opposed to actual chillies.  When the jar is empty, I half fill it with water, give a good shake, and used that chill flavoured liquid to add a kick to soups, stews etc.

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Athlone

Waving a fond farewell to Tralee, we set off for the town at Ireland’s centre, Athlone.

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This wasn’t a straight motorway route, so we stopped off at a Spar in Borrisokane for a bag of crisps and bottle of water (no loos).  Tractors a-plenty in this part of the world!

There were roadworks in town, and the sat-nav decided we should not under any circumstances take the N52.  I wasn’t going to argue, the smaller roads were pleasant to drive along.

Shortly after lunch, we arrived at our home for the night, the Athlone Springs Hotel.  It’s on teh edge of town, so no aimless wandering to be enjoyed, but it DOES have a gym and a pool.  We booked a slot for a dip at 3.30.  You have to book to ensure social distancing, the steam room and sauna were not in use, and there were increased chemicals in the jacuzzi, which my eyes complained about.  But I managed a good few lengths, it’s been quite a while since I’ve swum!

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As part of the relaxation of regulations, outdoor weddings can now take place with a numbers limit, and we were able to watch procedings from out our window.  But the room had no air-con (although there was a fan cooler) and so it wasn’t as relaxing as it might have been .

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We had booked a dinner slot for 6.30, and chatted beforehand to a family from Dundalk, comparing the joys of staycationing.IMG_3820For dinner I had mushroom soup and brown bread which was delicious.  The only veggie main was a stirfry with rice, which was OK, rather spicy and far too much.

I didn’t have a great night’s sleep with the fan going all night, but I couldn’t hear any wedding noises.

The breakfast hot and cold buffet were dished out by a member of staff.  I had some grapefruit segments, followed by scrambled egg and mushroom.

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Into Athlone,  we parked by the castle, across the road from Saints Peter and Paul chuch with its twin towers, and set of for some very pleasant aimless wandering.  The town is on the river Shannon, at quite a wide point, and there is plenty of activity on the water, including a lock.

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IMG_3840It’s also home to what claims to be Ireland’s oldest bar, sadly of course closed these days.

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We walked all the way round the barracks, and Count John McCormack’s statue.

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The names of some of the shops were reminiscent of Handmaid’s Tale, and there seemed to be many Thai restaurants and meditation retreats.

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It’s a charming town, well worth spending some time in, and it does make a great stopover destination.

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Tralee

After the Cliffs , we were back at the Ballygarry House Hotel, one of our favourite spots. Our stay included one evening meal, but the restaurant wasn’t open till Wednesday. So we booked a table for then, and tonight (Monday) ate in the brasserie.  I had the veggie curry, which was rather heavy on bell peppers.

There is a lovely spa at the hotel, but during the ongoing restructions they have a limit on the number of clients they can have, and what treatments are on offer.  I’d missed out on booking something in time on our previous trip, so I was looking forward to my back massage later today.  So with the morning free we headed into Tralee for a bit of a potter around.

I found a colourful Billabong skirt in a charity shop, and we had a mooch around the fine grey stone courthouse.  We also booked a dinner reervation in the Ashe Hotel just as a change of scene.

There was a sale on in Mountain Warehouse, and I found a great relaxed easy care dress WITH POCKETS that I loved.  So I bought it in 3 colourways.

From there we walked around Tralee town park, on what turned out to be the parkrun route!  There is a sundial dedicated to Neil Armstrong, who’d once trod these paths, and of course many Rose of Tralee related things to look at and admire.  Back in 2002 when I was in Luxembourg, it was decided to inaugurate a Lux Rose competition, and I had some peripheral connection (tap dancing at the Rose Ball, Jemima Irish dancing in a display, my good pal Anne-Marie being one of the contestants). 

So it was with a wistful smile and fond memories of bygone times that I read down the names of the roses from around the world.  No competition this year, a huge loss to the town, and yet another indicator of just what a ubiquitous impact Covid was exerting.

Time for my spa!  I had my temperature checked and filled out a detailed form.  Then I had some time to soak up the rare sunshine in the open air hot tub.  The spa provided a pair of disposable knickers for me to change into, though it took a while to work out which way round they went.  My masseuse worked wonders on my knotty shoulders, and I relaxed in the chill out zone for a while.

Back at our room, I had no key with me, could hear the TV going, but there was no answer to my knocking.  I still had the spa-undies on, though thankfully with a coverall beach dress over them, and I was clutching a plastic bag with my wet swimsuit.  Not really how I wanted to start a search of the hotel looking for R and the key!  When I found him on the terasse, he hadn’t a key with him!  Luckliy reception had a spare, and I was able to dry off properly, change into something more fitting before pretending I was in France and sipping a cocktail on the sun-filled terasse.

Wearing one of my new mountain warehouse dresses, we rang a taxi to take us into town, and the very friendly Albert arrived. 

At the Ashe, I ordered the fish special, which was hake with a sun-dried tomato tapenade, and absolutely delicious.  We went for a bit of a stroll after dinner, before calling Albert again to take us home.  Times were tough he confided.  No Roses, no ‘merican tourists, and no students.

Back at the hotel, I wandered the grounds enjoying the sunset before retiring.

Wednesday was the day we had set aside for doing the Slea Head Drive, and I’d been anxiously checking weather forecasts for over a week.  I needn’t have worried, we had blue sky and sunshine all the way.  After a breakfast of porridge with the hotel’s own honey I donned another of my new dresses and off we set.  Past the Blennerville windmill, and into a Dingle traffic jam.

First stop was Castlegregory Beach.  There is a good car park here, and some clean loos.  Which probably explains why most of the carpark was taken up by motorhomes, in spite of the sign banning them.  The bay is calm, though a little rocky, but seemed popular with swimmers and dog walkers.

Next, the Connor Pass!  No trucks or buses allowed, however there were loads of cyclists.  Is there a special cerfickatick they get for plodding all the way up here?

At the viewpoint there were great views in both directions – back down to Castlegregory to the north, with Mount Brandon brooding over it, and down to the picturesque Dingle to the south.  We swooped down into the town, had a minor kerfuffle finding the right road to the centre, but found a great parking spot by the church, which is free, and in easy walking distance of the the town and the harbour.

We stolled downhill, past the long queue outside the coffee shop – that must be some special brew!  After an ice-cream and short look at some tweed jackets, our next destination was the Ryan’s Daughter beach.  Given the sunny day, that seemed to be the destination of about a billion other people also.  The small car park at the top of the path was jam packed, and cars were parked right down the laneway onto the beach. 

Manoevering around was extremely stressful, and I left R to be amused by the attempts to get up and down, while climbed up Dumore Head, the most westerly point of the mainland.  It’s a specacular view, looking out towards the Blaskets, no wonder it was used for some of the filming of Star Wars.

Carrying on round the drive, our next stop was the fairly new Blasket Centre, and its brand new viewing platform.  When seen from above, this viewpoint is the wiggly W of the WAW sign.  There is also a stunning stained glass window in the centre itself, depicting various aspects of life on the islands.

Saw no dolphins.

The hills on Sybill Head look like solid waves as you approach, and are called the three sisters.

We stopped at abillboard advertised cafe-pottery, only to find the cafe closed and the pottery overpriced.  We should have stopped in Ballyferriter, I’m sure I saw Darth Vadar and Yoda standing ouside a pub!

The hotel has bicycles for use by residents, so we had a few laughs as we made our way to the nearby Ballyseedy Wood.  Thank goodness we both managed to stay upright.

Back at the hotel, we changed for our special dinner in the main restaurant, which was wonderful.

There was heavy rain overnight, but it eased by about 8, so I got into my running gear, and R took me into Tralee town park to do a freedom parkrun.  It’s a nice route, not too hilly, and I’m realiably informed the team here are great, so I’ll look forward to the day when I can run it for real.

Back at the hotel for a late breakfast of chia seed pot, and eggs benedict with no ham.  Then it was time to pack, and head off to the next leg.