Natural Balance Foods

I am so excited today! Last week I was checking my email and had an email from Natural Balance Foods (http://www.naturalbalancefoods.co.uk). I love nak’d bars (especially cocoa loco, apple pie, gluten-free gingerbread and gluten-free cocoa orange) and more recently discovered trek bars; the peanut trek bars are amazing (and great as pre or post run snack)! Plus the website does free delivery- bonus!

 Anyway, I was trying to decide whether to order some more when I noticed they had an easter egg hunt. You had to look on the website for 3 different coloured Easter eggs hidden all around, and after a lot of browsing I found all three. I emailed them with the locations, and found out today that I have won! I am so excited! I do not think I have ever won anything before! I cannot wait to receive my goodies as the food they make is soooooo lovely.

If you have never had one before I urge you to try (on the website they do a little trial pack of all 4 gluten free bars for £3 I think, and you can get them in Boots, Tescos, Sainsburys and Morrisons). They are made of dried fruit, nuts and spices, the non gluten-free ones also have oats, they all have no added sugars or syrups or vegetable oils or anything else weird that is normally in cereal bars. A small bar is 100-160 cals, and a larger one is around 220 cals, so not bad compared to other less filling and less natural cereal bars.

The Trek bars are either bars or flapjacks, and again have much better ingredients than a “normal” shop bought flapjack, around 230 cals per (big 70g ish) bar. I love the peanut trek bars as they have peanut butter in them and are sooo tasty; moist and a bit chewy, filling and also delicious. Yum. If I wasn’t already full I would have one now! I may well take a photo the next time I have one just so you can see too.

I am so excited about winning! I will take a picture once it arrives! Hooray!

Rachel Allen’s Chocolate Cake

Rachel Allen is one of my all time favourite chefs. I have most of her books (Bake
of course being the most-used one!) and also love watching her TV shows. This afternoon I have made the chocolate cake from her Bake book. It seems like a fairly rich cake, with melted chocolate incorporated into the mixture (more like a cross between a brownie and a cake which can only make things better if you ask me!).

It didn’t take too long to make the mixture, and it only baked for 25 minutes (not bad for a big cake- well a cake baked in two tins).

Last time I made butter icing by hand, which was rather hard, so this time I am cracking out the hand-held electric whisk to make it nice and smooth. I also had some mini eggs left over from Easter to decorate! The icing went ok (I had to use 1tbs milk as I didn’t have cream and it seems a waste anyway to buy a pot of cream only to use a tiny amount)- lovely and smooth by the time it was ready. I used Green and Blacks cocoa powder which is so rich and chocolatey- I am sure using this makes a difference (plus it’s fair-trade- bonus). I put the eggs on top, and then (using my brand new mini grater) grated over some white chocolate. It looks so pretty (even if I do say so myself). After dinner no doubt I will be sampling it (the 9 mile run will be worth it I am sure!).

A lovely run in the sun

I managed to get out today for a lovely run. Due to various things I missed my midweek run, so the last run was that hard 4 mile slog on Monday. I have worked out the length of all my long runs leading up to my half marathon, and today was 9 miles. After a lovely breakfast (Dorset cereals simply delicious muesli – it is indeed delicious- and half a banana) I planned my route on www.mapometer.co.uk and then headed out the door. The weather was lovely; it was quite breezy which is usually nice as it cools you down, it was also a little bit overcast to begin with but about half way round the sun came out and it was lovely. This time of year is such a nice time to run; there is blossom on the trees, daffodils by the roads, plus I pass a lot of people (walking dogs/ cycling/ walking/ running) and people are always much more friendly when the weather is good. Lots of “hellos” today!
When I got home I had the other half of my banana and a lovely nak’d Apple Pie bar (they are soooooo tasty- full of cinnamon and apple and other good stuff!) plus lots and lots of water!
Later on this afternoon I am going to make a chocolate birthday cake- I will try to remember to take a picture.

Yummy nibbles from Graze

I am looking forward to my Graze box coming this week. I signed up to this a while ago and now have a box every fortnight. I love the range of nuts and dried fruit that they have (check out the website- they do so many yummy mixes- a personal fave of mine is “dark rocky road” which is a mix of pecans, dried cranberries and dark chocolate buttons- heaven!). If I bought the same ingredients on my own I think I would get bored before I ate the whole pack (plus to get the variety I would end up with an overflowing cupboard looking like a shelf from Julian Graves or something!). I often have a pack (or share one) after a run as they make a good snack (in my opinion); the mix of nuts (protein to repair muscles) and dried fruit (sugary carbs to replace the lost energy) make me feel better especially after a long run. The other week I had a punnet called “tropical praline” with dried mango, mini chocolate coated hazelnuts and green raisins (which tasted fairly similar to normal raisins but still very tasty!).

Their customer service is also great; I have emailed them several times and they reply very quickly and always sort any issues out really well. If you want to try it for yourself you can go to www.graze.co.uk and enter code KKJX34J at the checkout and get yourself a free box and your next box half price (and then you can cancel if you don’t want any more).

Beginner runners

Beginners starting out

So while on my run yesterday I got to thinking about when I first started out running. Just under 2 years ago I signed up to do the Race for Life, and decided that for myself I wanted to run it. I had done it before and walked the course, raised money and so on. But for myself I wanted to see if I could run it, having never been a runner before. I am sure I am similar to many other runners in that I didn’t like PE at school (although I was active, doing cycling, tennis, walking and swimming with my family and friends); I even walked the cross country when I was 11 as I found running so hard. At secondary school I was the person who “filled in” at sports day and did the ones that no-one wanted to do (shot put anyone?). I am not including this for sympathy or anything like that, just to show you where I started really. I followed a training plan which I cut out from a magazine (not even sure which magazine, Zest maybe) and followed it to the day. It involved 3 runs every week, and I stuck to the plan to the letter, getting up at 6am some days to have a run before going to work if I knew I could not fit it in the evening. Each week the first run would be hard (the first plan was to run for one minute and walk for 1.5, and by the end of the first minute of running I was gasping for breath- I have since learnt to pace myself!), the second one would be ok as I knew what to expect, and the third run would be great as I would know for sure that I would be able to complete it. Then the following week I would worry about not achieving the new distance, and be so proud of myself when each week I would manage it. I had given myself a few extra weeks so that if I needed to repeat a week then I would have the time, but in fact the training plan was great and to my amazement I made it. I was so proud of myself for completing the 5K (3.1 mile course) in around 35 minutes without walking once!
I did think that I would train for the race, do the race and then stop. But I had found that I really enjoyed running! I loved to load songs onto my mp3 player and head off with music to listen to, and my thoughts all to myself. I kept up running all through the winter, and now cannot imagine not getting outside and enjoying the fresh air.

For anyone that is tempted to start running I would say go for it (with Doctors permission etc)!
Below is a simplified version of the training plan that I followed:

Each week do 3 runs.
Week 1 Run for 1 min, walk for 90 seconds 8 times = 20 minutes
Week 2 Run for 2 minutes, walk for 90 seconds 7 times = 24.5 minutes
Week 3 Run for 3 minutes, walk for 90 seconds 6 times = 27 minutes
Week 4 Run for 5 minutes, walk for 90 seconds 4 times = 26 minutes
Week 5 Run for 5 minutes, walk for 1 minute 4 times = 24 minutes
Week 6 Run for 8 minutes, walk for 90 seconds 3 times = 28.5 minutes
Week 7 Run for 10 minutes, walk for 1 minute 3 times = 33 minutes
Week 8 Run for 15 minutes, walk for 1 minute 2 times = 23 minutes
Now you are ready to run a 5k race!!!