Infinitely Hard Eggs

Soft Boiled EggI am a big fan of eggs. They are nutritional power houses and are one my staple foods at the moment. I’m in the middle of a paleo-style detox (Whole 30) and so my current diet consists pretty much of eggs, meat, fish and vegetables.

In order to keep up with my voracious egg consumption I’ve been trying out the Severin Titanium Electronic Egg Boiler. I am not particularly adept at the perfect egg boil, so I thought an electronic gizmo might save the day. I was a little concerned when I read the instructions, which had been translated into an impressive array of languages, and informed me that I could achieve an infinite level of hardness with my egg, just by turning a dial.

I have problems with infinite hardness, not least because I want a dippy egg but mainly because I am sure the egg would self-combust before it approached anything near infinite hardness. After trying the gadget on umpteen occasions and having failed to soft boil more than 24 eggs I would now concede that this is a device that is focussed on it’s goal of achieving at least brick-like hardness.

This morning, in a bit of a strop, I turned the device down to its lower setting and tried again with a rather special Organic Burford Brown Hen egg, complete with the Red Lion stamp of quality and Britishness. The gadget beeped after a mere 30 seconds (or so), the water had not boiled and the egg had not even warmed through. I picked it up, shook it to reveal a fluid centre and then cracked it on the side of my frying pan and went back to the good old fashioned way of cooking a breakfast egg.

The British Lion Eggs website is a really useful resource for eggy related info and detail on egg nutrition. This page on eggs and cholesterol, although voluntarily restricted to health professionals provides some research backed evidence to explain how the cholesterol raising misconception arose.

Primal Kitchen Loveliness

I was sent 3 snack bars from The Primal Kitchen to try out last week. I’m afraid they were so lovely that I didn’t have chance to take artistic photos before I’d polished them off.


The Almond and Cashew bar is particularly delicious and I’ve already bulk ordered some additional bars for the snack cupboard.

They’ve been designed to make paleo snacks more accessible and include minimal ingredients, all real food. My favourite bar contains only dates, almonds, cashews and almond oil.

I have found them the perfect snack for taking on endurance events like the London2Brighton. They’re also handy in the office drawer but can be a little to tempting for my own good.

Just as a quick aside. It’s Day 11 of Juneathon and I’m still on track. I reluctantly dragged myself on to the treadmill this morning for a High Intensity Training session before work and was mighty glad I made the effort. There are few things more rewarding than a completed run.

Quorn Lasagne

With two teenagers in the house, meal times often become complicated. One does not cope well with one-pot amalgams which are my fall back staple and the other is a VEGETARIAN!

It is not unusual to have three different dishes on the go and I’m afraid the vegetarian often suffers from my lack of imagination and gets a Linda McCartney fakey on her plate alongside a floret of broccoli and a bit of carrot – the only two vegetables she’ll contemplate eating.

Quorn sent me through a few sample products recently and I have to say the Quorn mince is an absolute winner. It’s a healthy protein source and can form the basis of a tasty meal without the heavy, greasyness that beef mince can add to a meal.

It is tasty and meaty enough, in a better than meat sort of way, to be acceptable to everyone in the house.

We had the in laws around this weekend and they added “not fond of red meat” to the list of food requirements. With the Quorn mince at the ready I was able to knock up a pretty darn tasty lasagne that suited everyone’s tastes and it was quite a joy to have everyone around the table enjoying the same dish.

Quorn Lasagne Recipe

Quorn Lasagne PreparationHere’s the bulk of the ingredients I gathered for the vegetarian Quorn Lasagne.

  • Onions x 3
  • Garlic
  • Carrots
  • Quorn
  • Marmite (1 tsp)
  • Splash of Worcestershire Sauce (I hope this is vegetarian)
  • Passata
  • Tomatoes fresh
  • Tomatoes tinned
  • Oregano
  • Tomato purée
  • Sun dried tomatoes x 4ish


The carrots are an optional extra but I use them to bulk out the mixture and to sneak a few hidden vegetables into the teenagers.

Chop and fry the onions and then garlic. Add in the carrots and fresh toms before chucking in all the wetter ingredients. Add a teaspoon of marmite and dash of Worcestershire sauce for the umami hit and then simmer for approx one hour while you faff with the cheese sauce.

Delia's White SauceI always revert to Delia for my white sauce but I do add a bit of cheese for taste. (I didn’t get to be this weight by cooking cheese-less sauce!). I also made extra by doubling up on the quantities so I’d be sure to have enough for 2 generous lasagnes.

I ended up with quite a lot left in the pan though, so if you can cope with a 1.5 x calculation I’d recommend you go with it. It was my intention to go with 1.5 x Delias recipe but I messed up when measuring the flour and you really don’t want to make a cheese sauce with too much flour – always go for less rather than more flour or else it will taste disgusting.

Next its time for the layering.

Quorn Lasagne

Start with a layer of ragu, followed by cheese sauce then the lasagne sheets. You want to aim for three layers of pasta sheets, finally topped with white sauce and a sprinkle of cheese.

The three layers ensures that the cooked lasagne has a bit of rigidity and doesn’t serve up like a dollop of Bolognaise sauce. I got it perfect for one dish but the second was too shallow to cope with a full 3 layers and I felt cheated at dinner time when I was served from the sloppy tray!

Sizzling Quorn LasagneHaving prepared this at the crack dawn, I then went out for a very long walk. Leaving instructions for the oven to be switched on about an hour before my estimated arrival and was very glad to arrive home shattered but rewarded by a lovely sizzling feast.

Quorn samples have been doing the rounds of the running blogger world and here’s a few of the other Quorn recipes I’ve spotted:

Helsbels – Made a creamy pasta dish with the Quorn Meatballs
JogBlog – Made a Chicken Quorn Lattice Pie

Beetroot and Protein Powder Truffles

enjoying-beetroot-truffles.jpgThese were supposed to be chocolate truffles with a hidden ingredient but I got so carried away grating an excess of roast beetroot that I was unable to hide the purple vibrancy of the mix. I tried to smother them in a thick dusting of cocoa powder but there was no fooling my diners – I practically had to force the kids to swallow them. I wouldn’t let it put you off trying the recipe though, teenagers are renowned for gagging on healthy vegetables and these moist little treats could be just your cup of tea.

I was recently sent a load of protein powder shakes from Kinetica Sports and initially thought they would make good emergency lunch supplies to stash in my desk drawer for those days when I haven’t had time to prepare a chicken salad. I don’t tend to use a lot of protein powders anymore, they aren’t real food and so don’t fit that well with my attempts to stick at the Paleo diet but they are probably a better option than ready-made sandwiches.

Kinetica-shake.jpgAfter my first desk-based shake I decided I’d have to find another use for them. They were pretty unpalatable and a complete disappointment as a meal replacement.

The different protein shake brands tend to differ in the mucosity (texture) and flavour scales. I regularly used Myoplex diet as a breakfast option, one sachet would make a full pint of a flavoursome and filling shake although it did admittedly score highly on the slime scale with a similarity to raw egg nog. In comparison, for the same calorie count, Kinetica Whey Protein shakes make a thimble-full of a slightly powdery liquid with no hint of slime at all but an entirely disappointing flavour with an artificial aftertaste.

The emergency lunch supplies were ferried back home for the addition of  a little creativity……

beetroot-protein-truffles.jpgBeetroot and Protein Powder Truffles

  • 3 tbsp Coconut Flour
  • sachet of Whey Protein Powder (chocolate)
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 large roast beetroot (note that this was too much and one smaller beetroot would be sufficient)
  • milk to mix (feel free to use coconut milk if available)

beetroot-truffles.jpgHaving mixed these to a stiff paste, I rolled into balls, panicked at the colour and so dusted with cocoa powder and bunged them into the fridge for a couple of hours.

The general consensus seemed to be that the flavour was ok but the texture  was considered disturbing by most. A thicker paste is probably advisable and go easy on the beetroot.

Kinetica also sent me some ready-made protein bar snacks and these were rapidly devoured by the family. So if you don’t fancy my beetroot treats but like the idea of a protein hit, you wouldn’t go far wrong by trying Milk Pro Toffee.

I doctored this recipe from the Protein POW website which is a great resource for protein powder recipes, the original chocolate and peanut butter bar looks a lot more appetising than my version.


The Paleo Diet and Mindful Eating for Weightloss

As a large runner I spend quite a lot of time focusing on food and diet. My aim is to establish a diet that makes it easy for me to maintain an acceptable weight, feel satisfied and still provides sufficient levels of energy for me to live my life with abandon.

My dietary program has been heavily influenced by three excellent books that have a similar theme of simplifying food and eating.

My first recommendation is Savor, a Buddhist guide to mindful eating. This book attempts to fuse nutritional advice with the Buddhist concept of mindfulness through the discussion of the four noble truths and a series of exercises or meditations that encourage a focus on the present.

The eating messages I’ve taken home are:

  • Eat at the table
  • Avoid multitasking – so no TV, work or magazines
  • Appreciate your food by use of all the senses
  • Chew and take it slowly
  • Quality not quantity

I’ve turned to Michael Pollen for the sort of down to earth advice succinctly wrapped up with the maxim: Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants. Homespun advice that would make your mum and grandmother nod their heads in appreciation.

In Defense of Food, contains Michael Pollen’s manifesto for eating and attempts to find the commonsense lost in the nutritional world that has become hijacked by commerce and the food industry.

In addition to the Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants advice you’ll find tips such as:

  • Only eat food your great grandmother would recognise as food
  • Avoid products with unpronounceable ingredients or more than 5 ingredients
  • Avoid food with health claims

Both of these books suggest a common sense approach to eating and food, but slightly more prescriptive advice can be found in the next book which advocates the diet of our ancestors.

The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain

In a nut shell The Paleo Diet asks us to consider our food choices from the perspective of our early ancestors.

From an evolutionary time frame our digestive systems remain as they were in paleolithic times. The agricultural revolution has brought about many changes in our eating habits but our bodies have not yet had time to catch up.

By reverting to our ancestral food types we can achieve many health benefits and reduce a number of inflammatory or allergic reactions that are associated with modern foods such as wheat and highly processed foods. I mentioned in passing recently that I’ve had a lot of success treating plantar fasciitis with the paleo diet.

Acceptable Paleo foods:

  • All low starch vegetables (so potatoes are excluded but you can substitute with sweet potato)
  • Meat (preferably lean) and fish
  • Eggs
  • Olive Oil
  • Nuts (not peanuts which are legumes)
  • Berries and fruit
  • Red Wine (some would argue)

The Paleo Avoidance List – No Grains, No Sugar, No Processed Food:

  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Processed foods
  • Potato
  • Rice and grains (and flour products)
  • Bread
  • Pasta

The Paleo Diet really is a very easy diet to follow. I’ve already listed out the rules in the space of two paragraphs. That’s all there is to it. I find it a very acceptable way to live, I may have to plan ahead sometimes but Paleo food is quite accessible – just stick to the edges of the supermarket where you’ll find the fresh produce aisles, then snack on fruit, nuts and cooked meats.

Because it’s an easy way to live, that’s the way I see it – a way of life. That enables me to let myself off the hook from time to time. Some may call it cheating but it does mean that if I visit friends for dinner, I can join them without feeling the need to educate them on my current eating habits. I just return to Paleo tomorrow.

Many Paleo advocates call this the 80:20 rule – get it right 80% of the time and you’ll be alright. Julia Buckley would say “Mostly good, most of the time”.

I’ve had great successes on the Paleo Diet, I lost 6lbs in the first week, 3-stone in the first year and I have been on a steady decline since then. It could be considered a boring diet but it has the great effect of reducing my cravings. So while I may feel hunger I’m actually not that bothered by the feeling, it can rumble away for a while before I need to satisfy the pangs. That is incredibly unusual for me, before the Paleo diet I would say I practically lived in fear of hunger, I would anticipate the feeling and ward off the onset with fairly regular snacking.

The Paleo diet has a lot of similarities with the GI diet, they don’t necessarily recommend the same food types, as the GI diet includes whole grains which would be avoided on the Paleo diet, but they both impact on and stabelize insulin levels in the body. I think it is this that stops the cravings and the emotional highs and lows with traditional dieting.

If you’d like to kick start your Paleo lifestyle I can highly recommend the Whole 30 challenge which is a 30-day uber strict paleo diet challenge. It’s a great way to detox and determine if you have any food intolerances but its also a useful way to familiarise yourself with real foods again.

The Whole 30 food list is even simpler than the Paleo one from Loren Cordain’s book:

  • NO milk
  • NO alcohol
  • NO bread
  • NO sugar
  • NO pasta
  • NO grains
  • NO pulses
  • NO flour

It may feel strange to avoid grains which have for a long time been touted as a health food pillars but they are relatively recent intruders into our diet. If you look at the Paleo Diet with its lean meats and fish, its abundance of veg, salad and the delights of fruits, nuts and berries, you can rest assured that you are eating healthy and nutrient laden food.

The Whole 30 Challenge

I’m nearing the end of the Julia Buckley Fat Loss program with just 2 more weeks of hard graft before I take the final measurements and review the before and after photos.

Julia’s program has a very structured training plan but the nutritional aspect has been left much more fluid, enabling the recruits to guide themselves towards a healthy and workable nutrition plan. The food motto for the JBFL program would probably be “Mostly good, most of the time”, where good means low in processed carbs.

I started my diet plan with a predominantly Paleo foundation, so immediately cut out bread, pasta, potatoes and sugar. I’m afraid I was following a French caveman who turned out to be a founder member of the Stella Artois brewery and alcohol managed to sneak past my paleo principles.

3 weeks ago I decided to take the plan a bit more seriously and went in search of hardcore Paleo rules.

The Whole 30I found the Whole 30.

For the last 25 days I’ve been following an über strict paleo detox. So that means NO milk, NO alcohol, NO bread, NO sugar, NO pasta, NO grains, NO pulses, NO flour.

I’ve been living off jasmine tea, eggs, chicken, tuna, veg, fruit and cashew nuts. That’s pretty much it. If it weren’t for the cashew nuts I’d probably be wafer thin by now.

Its been a struggle. Cutting out milk in my tea turned out to be the surprise challenge. I had a very sulky patch during week 3 – I was bored with the monotony of it all and wanted a god damn beer. I did have a couple of blips in the end. I had two bottles of Mythos at a Greek restaurant and a dollup of Elmlea fake cream with some strawberries. On the whole though, this has been a rewarding and successful challenge.

One of the main ideas of the Whole 30 plan is to detox or get clean for a whole month so you can slowly re-introduce food types into your diet to assess for any intolerances. I don’t think I’m bothered much by food intolerances so expect to be able to re-introduce milk and alcohol almost immediately. I hope I’ve learned something about moderation though.

My intention is to stick to a mostly Paleo inspired diet, the reduction in processed carbs and sugars has freed me from many of the intense food cravings I had and I feel much less of a slave to food. I’m looking forward to a bit more freedom and flexibility though.

If you’re tempted by the Whole 30 Challenge I would recommend the following two books “Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat” and “It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways” as well as this amazing iPad recipe app, “Nom Nom Paleo” which is a joy to use and includes some really delicious and inspired Whole 30 compliant recipes. Despite having cut out a number of potential ingredients from my diet, with the help of these 3 guides I’ve actually been incredibly creative in the kitchen, knocking up homemade mayonnaise, Chinese style cauliflower “rice” and a rather special Vietnamese beef dish.

Upbeat Protein Drink Review

Its not unusual for me to review my diet and decide that there is an excessive proportion of carbohydrate in the fuel mix.

Then I’ll embark on a period of clean living where the bread, potatoes and pasta are rejected in favour of lean meats, eggs, fish and vegetables. If I want to stick a label on the new eating plan I might call it Paleo but the aim is to have a balanced plate of protein and veg for each meal.

I always find that breakfasts are the hardest meal to slot protein into. Of course there are eggs, with enough cooking options to add interest to every day of the week, but I rarely fancy cooking when I’ve just got up, I’m just too used to the ease of cereal or toast.

I’ve recently taken to whizzing up a protein shake first thing in the morning. It’s a great way to get a perfect balance of carbs and proteins and if you are lucky with your brand choice it can even taste pretty good. Since my days trying out the Body for Life program I’ve been a fan of Myoplex Diet. It comes in 200 calorie sachets and makes a pint of very tasty (chocolate or strawberry) shake. The texture doesn’t appeal to everyone though, I’ve tried to encourage the teenage vegetarian to take a sip and risk a dose of protein but it is greeted with grimaces as the consistency has a slight similarity to raw egg white.

Upbeat Protein DrinkI was happy to be sent a few samples of the latest health drink Upbeat to try out last week. These come ready mixed in small bottles and have about 150 cals for a 250ml bottle. They have two flavours, strawberry and mango. Mango is my favourite and tastes likes a fresh smoothie – you wouldn’t really know you were drinking protein and there is no texture issues.

Upbeat have achieved something quite impressive in making such a tasty shake in the convenience of a ready made chilled drink. My experience with assorted powders is that they don’t last well after you’ve mixed them, they tend to separate and turn lumpy so if you want to take a shake for later you’ll need to have access to a whisk or one of those shakers that marks you out as a bodybuilder, so Upbeat could corner the market in tasty, whey based, protein drinks.

I can see myself buying these Upbeat protein shakes as a convenience snack when I’m desperately in need of sustenance but want to avoid the lure of high carb treats.

New Schemes

DumbbellsMy latest fitness and weightloss scheme is the Julia Buckley Fat Burn Revolution. A 12-week program that rotates sessions in the style of many of my previous fads. It has a definite likeness to the Body For Life program with its emphasis on protein rich meals, weight training and high intensity, short lived cardio sessions but it also mirrors the plyometric Insanity workouts with a hint of Convict Conditioning body weight training.

I’m a week in. Only 11 weeks to go to a new me.

Last week I took the before photos and spent a good 10 minutes sobbing at the results. It shouldn’t have been a shock, I weigh myself daily, I know how horrific that number is. Somehow though, the numbers managed to hide the visual impact.

The years have taken their toll and the photo emphasised the impact of gravity, the pounds have shifted downwards and my thighs are now hovering in the place my knees used to occupy.

I have high hopes for the program. Julia has achieved impressive results with previous recruits and obviously I am hoping for my own transformation. I am 10 days away from the biggest challenge of my life and 12 weeks away from my summer holiday and potential beachside humiliation.

I am completely open to transformation.

Big Fat Sitting Duck

Hardcore workouts appeal to me, at least the “idea” of hardcore exercise appeals. I have a copy of Insanity and have once attended a British Military Fitness class, I’ve even watched Jillian Michaels on the telly and I can confirm that it was a brutal experience.

The latest initiative by may well be a step too far.

Overweight folk are being invited to part with £199 and sign up for 10 sessions of target practice.

Just to make it clear – the fatties are the target.

The idea is that the participants will be unarmed and have to run the gauntlet while staff take pot shots at them with the paint guns.

“There will be several shooters in place and so it’s unlikely any of those involved will be in a safe area for too long, which, combined with wanting to avoid getting hit, should result in a lot of running around, shedding hundreds of calories in the process.”

I’m sure it’s good exercise but what on earth would encourage you to go back again for sessions 2-10? I imagine that after you’ve admired the array of bruises on your wobbly bits and scrubbed the remains of the emulsion from your skin, a gentle jog in the local park will look far more attractive.

Maybe you can progress through the ranks and swap kg’s for ammo and armour – first kilogram lost gets you a shield and when you reach your weight loss target you are rewarded with a pump action, sawn-off, paintball accelerator so you can get your own back on the staff who’ve had free rein with your nerve endings for the last few sessions.

“Getting hit by a paintball can really sting and so I’m sure anyone who takes a shot will be even keener to avoid the next one, which will hopefully enable them to burn even more calories.”

The company believes that fear based exercise could well be the next big thing but I’m not sure if I’d be brave enough to sign up for this level of torture, I’d be worried that they’d turn the session over to the latest stag party and I’d end up cowering by the nearest tree like a big fat sitting duck.

KiFit Body Monitor – The Update

I’ve been wearing KiFit body monitor for 3 weeks now and have just downloaded the stats for analysis.

I love this bit. I have masses of data points for each day and feel compelled to create myself a database to store it all in. I can look back on each day determine my calorie intake, activity level, calorie expenditure, sleep quality, nutrient %, alcohol overload and probably more.

At the moment I am having to make do with a spreadsheet but that is fascinating enough.

I’ve matched the daily calorie deficit with a predicted weightoss (on the basis of 3500 calorie deficit = 1 pound) and matched it with actual weightloss.

Despite having a marvelous second week, this last week has been pants and my three week total was a paltry 2lbs. The calculated cumulative deficit suggests I should have lost a far more acceptable 6 lbs. I’m not dejected though, as I have the data to fall back on.

A quick glance over the stats reveals a few discrepancies. I didn’t enter any food on the first day of registering the KiFit armband and another day I forgot to enter my dinner. These knocked the expected weightloss down to 5lbs and then Lynn started looking over it with a critical eye. “Did you record those chocolate orange segments on Friday night?”

What chocolate orange segments?

I staggered home somewhat inebriated on Friday and only vaguely remember stealing the kids sweets. Having been prompted though, a few more sins crept out of the woodwork. There had been a stick of rock upstairs for quite some weeks and that seemed to disappear on that Friday night too. I woke up on Saturday to find the wrapper in the bin. I “forgot” to enter the smoothie I had at lunch yesterday and Thursday’s 50g pack of peanuts was recorded as 1 peanut rather than 1 bag of peanuts.

Having cleared up the data my expected weight loss dropped to 4lbs and no doubt a few other items bypassed the recording phase on their way to my mouth. So I think we are sufficiently within the bounds of acceptable data entry error for me to accept the data and start to draw some conclusions.

I haven’t exactly been hitting all my targets and the only one I’ve surpassed is the calories consumed target. Not the best one to pick.

I’ve run over my daily calorie consumption as well and looked back to the days where I came in under the 1700 cal target. I think I’ve got loads of room for improvement and I should be able to make progress without too much pain.

Over the next 3 weeks I’ll be making renewed efforts to hit my step target and to limit the food intake – I need to build that calorie deficit up.

I’ve found the KiFit experience to be fascinating. I really am quite a sedentary beast at heart. I’ve had 25 mins on the treadmill today, running through a high intensity routine and have still only managed to record 600 steps by 8pm. It’s easy to see how you could lull yourself into a false sense of security by partaking in the occasional gym based exercise and spend the rest of the day with your feet up consuming recovery drinks.