Slow and steady

Moving slowly through the UK countryside


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Shrove Tuesday – Gluten-free Pancake Day

Gluten-free pancakes!  The sweet ones (with dark brown sugar and lime juice) were not quite as good as wheat ones, to my taste-buds (and I wasn’t too keen on the smell as they cooked), but the savoury ones were very good.

I used:

4 tablespoons of buckwheat flour (about 4 oz)

1 egg

Enough milk to make a fairly runny batter (I didn’t measure it, but something like half a mugful, maybe a bit more).

Then I fried them in hot butter.

When nearly cooked both sides, sprinkle on some grated strong Cheddar cheese, add some parsley and chopped ham.  When the cheese is melted, slide the pancake onto a plate, roll it up and eat.  I managed about half a dozen (look – they are very tiny).  Nom nom nom.

According to the buckwheat flour packet, French crepes and Russian blinis are often made with buckwheat flour – so a perfectly acceptable alternative to wheat-flour pancakes.

Pancake

Cheese, ham and parsley savoury pancake before rolling

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Stairs for fitness – or – I love graphs

I love playing with data.  This is a self-indulgent number-crunching post with graphs.  I’ve just been looking at some older Excel files from a while ago, and was really pleased to see how they show that doing all the running – even though it has been very much on/off over the last few months – has improved my health.

Doing stair circuits is pretty tedious, but a good way to do some exercise when you don’t want anyone to see you, because you’re embarrassed about how unfit you are.  I started doing ten minutes of stair circuits four years ago, when I was working more or less full-time and on my feet all day, but doing little other exercise.  One circuit is thirteen steps up, then a corner-step, across the landing, up one more and then all the way back down.  I used my phone to time each circuit.  The novelty rapidly wore off though, and I went back to doing very little exercise.

A year or so later, and I was working part-time, sitting down all the time, so I had another go.  The difference in my fitness showed.  After five circuits, I couldn’t manage to get up and down in less than 30 seconds.  That persuaded me to practise, and a month later it had improved quite a bit.

Then I forgot all about it again.  A year ago, I started running with the c25k programme, mixed in with yoga, more walking and Tai Chi.  I thought I’d see how I’d do with the stair circuits again, and was pleasantly surprised to see how much faster I was.  (28 circuits in ten minutes instead of about 20).

Stair circuit graph

Improving my stair circuits

I also found a ‘three minute step test’ a while ago on the sparkpeople website.  I signed up to track my diet, after I was diagnosed as coeliac, because the blood-tests also showed that I was low in iron and folate, and they are quite difficult to get enough of, if you don’t eat fortified cereals/bread.  (I ended up taking supplements as I struggled to get enough of them from my diet.)  I knew I wasn’t very fit, so I decided to use some of the sparkpeople trackers, so I could see if I got better at anything.

The step test involves stepping up and down for three minutes at a steady pace, then sitting and counting heartbeats for a complete minute after you stop.  To compare with the ratings chart, it should be a 12 inch step, but I just use the 9 inch bottom stair.  Cheating, but convenient, and it still shows me that I’ve got healthier.

Step test ratings

Women’s ratings for 3 minute step test on 12 inch step

When I first did it back in August last year (before I started running, and before I’d started taking iron and folate supplements) my recovery minute’s pulse was 117.  Today it was 75 – which is less than my resting heart rate was eighteen months ago!  So something is working, even if I don’t run fast or often.  This is the Garmin heart-rate monitor graph from today’s 3 minutes.  (I didn’t use the Garmin for the one minute count – I just liked the look of that steep drop back down to resting heart rate.)

Step test graph

Three minute step test and one minute recovery

I had thought it was down to the exercise, but looking at the sparkpeople tracker for the step test, maybe it is as much to do with having enough iron and folate in my blood, because there was a significant improvement before I began the running in December last year.  All good fun, anyway.  🙂

Step test graph

Three minute step test progress (US-style dates, month-day-year)


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Gluten-free Yorkshire Puddings and Chi running

We had roast beef today, and we really wanted to have Yorkshire puddings with it, but I was sure it wouldn’t work to just use cornflour.  Hubby is stubborn though (in a good way) and decided we’d just try anyway.  I did a quick web search for proportions of milk/flour/eggs – and found that recipes are extremely variable.  The simplest one just used equal volumes of egg, flour and milk, but other recipes varied the proportions a lot.  I didn’t actually search for gluten free recipes (why not? – no idea), so we made it up.

To my surprise, they were just about the best ones I’ve ever tasted!  Beef dripping from the meat, and a very hot oven were probably the key points.
We used:
1 egg
Some cornflour – I didn’t weigh it, but probably 2-3 ounces – about 2-3 tablespoonfuls-ish
Milk – didn’t measure it – about half a mugful
Pinch of salt
A dribble of olive oil with herbs (left over from snack olives)
Mix the egg into the cornflour, making sure there are no lumps, then add the milk and oil, and beat well.
Pour hot fat from the roast into patty tins or a bigger tin – we had 6 little ones and one big one – and put back into the oven (240 C) until really hot – other recipes mention smoking, but I don’t think we got quite that hot.
Pour in the re-whisked batter and bake for about 20 minutes.   Other recipes mention the importance of incorporating air in the whisking, and leaving the batter to stand – but I wonder whether those both apply to gluten-containing batter.
Whatever – they were delicious – lovely and crunchy at the top and more gooey at the bottom.
Yorkshires

Gluten-free Yorkshire puddings

I felt I deserved the roast and puddings, as I’d been out for a walk/run earlier on, and managed to run for a total of 30 minutes, in several chunks.  It was hard going to start with, then I remembered to ‘think Chi’ (as in Tai Chi) and concentrated on keeping my chin up, and my body aligned, and it really did seem easier.  Slowing down a bit probably helped too.  🙂


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Blue cockerel and gluten-free pizza

On Monday, I had a trip to London, to the National Gallery, for a training day for school.  I enjoyed the museum –  we were looking at St Michael triumphs over the Devil for the Take One Picture project, but no photos from inside of course.

I loved Trafalgar Square in the sunshine.  It was a glorious day, and there were a variety of performance artists to distract the tourists, including a couple of ‘hovering’ human statues.  The tuba player had flames shooting out of the bell with every note (though my timing was wrong to catch it for the picture).

What do you think of the bright blue Hahn/Cock on the spare plinth?   According to Wikipedia, it is about “regeneration, awakening and strength”.  I just liked the colour against the sky, and its boldness.

The photos are not as sharp as I’d like, as I only had my phone on me, but I couldn’t resist doing the tourist bit.

For lunch, we went to Pizza Express, where I had my first pizza since finding out I was coeliac, just over a year ago.  It was gluten-free and really good – it didn’t taste noticeably different from an ordinary one, which was a very pleasant surprise, as most gluten-free bread is seriously disappointing.  I’ve just looked at their website, and they are clearly making an effort to keep the gluten-free hordes happy.  I’d definitely be happy to go again.  Recommended.  🙂