Thursday, November 22, 2018

Chloe Likes To Eat: I'm a Kebab So Damn Hard

This is an actual sentence we say in our house. Well, the second half, because referring to myself in the third person would be ANNOYING.

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Kebabs are something that never really featured in my life. It wasn't a take-out option where I've lived until I was London based and even then, I've never been a huge fan of Doner. It's only when I saw Tom Kerridge making a 'diet' version of the dish that it struck me as something that sounded pretty good.

The idea behind the recipe as advertised was a reduced fat, salt & sugar version, but for me the biggest appeal is knowing the exact ingredients. And so it came to be that kebabs are now a regular Friday Night Food. And it goes a little something like this...

You can't have a kebab without something to wrap it in, enter a soft, buttery flatbread:
Melt 50g butter in 185ml milk (this works just as well with oil and plant milks FYI), add 300g plain flour and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and knead into a smooth dough- this should only take a couple of minutes.
Rest the dough for around 30 mins at room temperature- just put a damp tea towel over the top of the bowl.
Cut the dough into 4 equal portions, roll each one out into a round approx 0.5-1cm thick whilst a large, nonstick pan gets hot on the hob
Brush each side of the rolled out dough with a little oil or for an extra treat, garlic butter
Cook each side for 60-90 seconds- it should start to puff up a little with bubbles- they should be soft and pliable
Stack the bread with a piece of kitchen paper or grease proof paper inbetween once cooked so they don't stick together

Note: I often make a double sized batch of the dough and freeze the flat breads- to freeze, I put a damp piece of kitchen paper between each flatbread and put them into an airtight container or use clingfilm to wrap them up, it helps them stay soft when defrosting.

So what do you put in the flatbread? For me it starts with a generous spoon of hummus smeared all over the wrap- for a bought version my favourite is the Sabra version with pine nuts, if I have time I make my own.

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Does Friday night food get better than this? I'm not sure it does!

Next, halloumi. Because halloumi. lightly griddled to create a crispy edge and soft middle.

Can you even call it a kebab if there isn't chilli sauce? Answer: NOPE.

For a fresh injection, add you salad or for a change, try roasted slices of courgette and aurbegine.

Amongst all that I need a bit of sour. Cue pickles. My absolute favourite is pickled red cabbage. Crunch, vinegar and colour all in one hit.

And then there's the kebab meat. This stuff is not attractive, but that's ok. Whatever it looks like it's packing all kinds of flavour punch and meaty joy. The below recipe is my adapted version but if you want to try the original, you can find it HERE

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I used a Thermomix for this, but a food processor or very vigorous mix in a bowl will work just as well:

Add the following:
500g mince lamb
3 cloves grated or minced garlic
1 tspn smoked paprika or pimenton
1.5 tspn dried oregano
0.5 tspn salt
1 tspn black pepper (a few good grinds)
1 tspn garlic powder

Pulse or mix well so the meat resembles more of a paste texture and the herbs and spices are thoroughly mixed in
Press the mix onto a greased, flat baking tray so it's an even thickness, ideally no more than 0.5cm thick- the thinner, the better. You can also place the mix between two pieces of greasproof paper and roll it out if you find this easier.
Place into the oven with both the oven and grill for 3-4 mins until the top looks browned, possibly blackened in some areas.
Leave to rest whilst you assemble the rest of your kebab and then turn the meat onto a board and slice into thin lengths.

Roll your kebab and try to eat it without spilling chilli sauce down your top...

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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Confession of Marathon Training: Volume 1

As this process is starting to kick in, I'm realising more and more that I'm approaching this marathon like I've never done it before. And I can't help thinking that's probably the healthiest way to do it.

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It's no secret that my 2015 marathon was a nightmare. I completed but it left me mentally a bit broken and physically it was painful. I all but said never again, but also felt for a long time like I had unfinished business with the distance, which is how I find myself with a training plan stuck to my wall and pencilled into my diary.


London Marathon Volunteering 2017

So here we go, brushing away the memories of training past, the least fit I've been in a few years, and so beginneth the Marathon Training Confessional right here...

The Good
Would you take a look at the view? In a bid to stop training feeling to chore-like, I've abandoned my tried and tested route down the canal path near the house (I usually do out and back by turning back at the half way mark) and tried a completely new running route. I wanted to feel inspired and it helps with a view likes this. 8 steady miles in the bag, a bit of vitamin D and the City skyline.

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The Less Good
Did I mention, for those of you not familiar, that Alexandra Palace is at the top of a hill? I'm a native of Fenland. Where I come from is partly below sea level, it redefines whatever you think 'flat' terrain is. I used to train hills regularly, turns out just like I used to speak French, use it or lose it applies to running up hills too.... I think I've just stopped gasping!

The Ugly
Here's something you might not know... Runners (and cyclists)... we're a bit gross. Actually, there's quite a lot of gross. And today I'll leave you with this little gem...

You know when you're so thirsty your mouth starts to dry out? The next stage on from that is when the skin starts to peel off the inside of your mouth. Yum. So no... please don't ask what the white marks are on the sleeve of top. Not unless you really want to know...

And Finally...

To help with my fundraising, I have Christmas cards for sale. Made by my own fair hand with 100% of the proceeds to my fundraising.
£6 per pack of 4 (designs as pictured, envelopes included) inc P&P. Drop me a message via chloelikestotalk@gmail.com if you would like to purchase!

Pack 1

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Pack 2

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Run Disney Half Marathon 2018 Paris

Last year, my mate Jo & I lamented our schedules because it was the second year they'd started putting on running events at Disneyland Paris (something that already has a huge following at the US parks) and it was the 25th Anniversary year so bound to be a good weekend. Alas, between her shifts and my new job/relocation, it just wasn't viable. We vowed to make it happen for 2018 and when entries opened up in the spring, we started plotting our adventure.

We booked ourselves onto the Half Marathon event (there are 5k, 10k and combined challenge options on offer too, but they'd mostly sold out) and I started scouting AirBnB and Eurostar options. Hurrah. The theme was announced as Disney Villains which is right up my street and as spring turned to summer, we got excited.

We opted to jump on an early Eurostar train into Gare du Nord on Friday before our run on Sunday. The RunDisney events are based around an expo- nothing is posted out to you in advance, instead you visit the parks (there's an area with shops and restaurants which you don't need a ticket to access) and collect race numbers and the all important t-shirts, and there's also an opportunity to buy merchandise and other bits and pieces. Now, race expos can be a day out in themselves, for anyone who's done RideLondon or similar, you take yourself out to the ExCel centre on the docks, and the space is filled with brands doing deals, activities, giving things away and generally giving you lots to see and do (as well as collecting the important stuff.....). I had high expectations for the machine that is Disney....

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To say the Expo was disappointing doesn't do justice. Collecting numbers and t-shirts was super efficient, we headed to the relevant number range desks for race bibs and the race specific stations for our t-shirts, through a HUGE merchandise stand, and that was pretty much it. A stand selling customised hair bands (think Mickey/Minnie ears, tiaras on hair bands), a physio stand and a travel agent, and that was pretty much it. It was a big space, but there was little to do. We quickly made our exit and had a mooch through the shops outside instead. To say Disney could have made more of the expo is an understatement. We'd travelled to be at the event and we had money to spend, Garmin are a sponsor of the event, but even though Jo was really interested in potentially buying a new one, there wasn't an option. We thought there might have been activities or other brands around, we also thought we might be able to buy tickets to go into the parks proper too, which brings me to my next point...

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RunDisney entries are EXPENSIVE. There's no two ways about that. You have to want to do them and enjoy them for the fact that they are set in the parks (and surrounding) and they're very much part of the Disney franchise. But... I think it's pretty criminal that entry doesn't include a park ticket and worse still, there's no deal or discount on park entry either. It left us a little jaded because if you're going to go to Disney and run, you can be damn sure we wanted to do the parks on one of the days!

So... Race Day...

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We headed to the start line via ├╝ber because train strikes (YAY) before dawn and got into our pens. It was all pretty well organised and the stage was set with Disney Villains in keeping with the theme.

And after a steady, phased shuffle toward the line, off we went...

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The first 8 or so kilometres of this run are in the Disney Parks, you get to run through studio sets and past characters. those first few kms flew past as we stopped to grab pictures and enjoy the run- it is Disney after all.

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The first five done... every kilometre has a marker with a different villain

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And then there were ten....

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Once out of the parks, the route heads out towards suburban villages and a loop around a small lake. On the map this route looked kind of boring, but it was brought alive by live bands and dancers along the way, a buzzing atmosphere as runners traded on where they'd travelled from and other races, the 15 km marker came up on us really quickly.

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Almost three quarters of the way...

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The only point at which it's acceptable to shout 'you're nearly there'

The last few kilometres take you back into the Disney complexes, running through the back of the hotels was a bit odd- some residents had come out to have a party with us, but it was pretty quiet elsewise. The good bit came as we headed further in with streams of runners who'd already finished cheering us on and people starting to enter the parks as the open.

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So the Good:
It's a pretty unique opportunity
If medals are your thing, these are pretty damn cool
The t-shirt is awesome
Lots of water stations
Great entertainment

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My favourite villain...

The Less Good:
Value for money is questionable for s destination race- it's a pricey run for what you don't get
The theme was lost on the biggest race of the weekend (the half)- who puts Mickey on a villain themed t-shirt?
No goody bag at the end (I'm a big believer in the goody bag)
Expo had nothing much going on

Would we do it again? Well, Jo is eyeing up the full challenge weekend for 2019 and beyond. I think I can get her involved on the Castle-Chateau challenge at some point. BUT this is a big ticket event and it's one to save up for and next time I'd definitely go a bit more crazy on dressing up and throwing myself into the Disney Experience.

Did you even do Disney if you don't do a parade?

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We stayed in an AirBnB studio apartment 5 minutes walk from Chessy station. It's 2 stops and approx 10 mins from Marne la Vallee station for Disney, but there are loads of bars and restaurants as well as an enormous shopping centre with a supermarket in it too. Travel to Gare du Nord from Chessy took approx 45 mins by local train, cost around €7.





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Thursday, November 8, 2018

Up & Down: On Yoyo Dieting


I think pretty much everyone has heard the term ‘Yoyo dieting’ before. For me it conjures up images of weird diets and church halls dominated by pop-up banners and scales. Cabbage soup and Cayenne Pepper. Low Carb and Keto. Cambridge, Atkins or Herbalife and my personal favourite- the plethora of 'fitness' brands who peddle protein shakes as meal replacements.



And to a greater or lesser extent, I generally thought I’d done a decent job of not falling into too many fads- I gained a lot of weight when I started uni because I was moving less and partying hard, but a summer of working long days and nights behind bars and the shock factor of realising how much I didn’t like how I looked anymore seemed to get me back on track and I realised that exercise when at uni and generally sedentary as opposed to my mostly upstanding or moving summer jobs, was going to be much more important.

But here’s where I start to see a pattern and I realise that actually ‘yoyo dieting’ isn’t just about fad diets… when I started my first graduate job, my weight crept up until I took to cycling to work for exercise and I dropped back to a more comfortable size and shape, just like Fresher’s year.

I changed jobs a couple of years later and lost my active commute- in fact my commute disappeared altogether as I started working away on site. I took to running and subsequently other weight and gym training shortly after, but the time I went on holiday 12 months later, I was the fittest, strongest leanest and wearing the smallest dress size I’ve ever been.


Me at my lightest and leanest in 2016

Two and a half years after that holiday I’m about not far off my all-time heaviest weight, my 10k PB time is a distant memory, I'm lucky if I make a cycle commute 2 days per week, never mind 4 or 5. I have a gym membership that I'm barely using. For a while, I considered toast and a glass of wine to be dinner.

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In essence I’ve spent the last 15 years doing exactly what I’ve always thought I could and would avoid. I’ve been yoyo-ing for my entire adult life.

I’m trying hard not to beat myself up about that, because it’s done now- I can’t roll back to 16, 22, 25 or 28 year old versions of me and change anything, and I think it’s unfair not to acknowledge that everyone’s life changes- jobs, relationships, locations and lifestyles are all variables and affect all the things that contribute to living ‘well’ most notable for me, it impacts on what exercise I do (or don’t do as the case may be) and my eating patterns. But whilst life does in fact happen, I can’t help thinking I’m probably leaning too heavily on the excuse ‘life happens’ because it’s a cycle I seem to keep repeating which tells me I haven’t created a ‘healthy lifestyle’ for myself at all, but in a manner no different to all those scary fads and 'diets'.

I am fine when I have the time and headspace to consistently make sure I am organised and make choices about what I eat and when/if I train, but as soon as someone tips my life on its head (change of career, location & living circumstances all in one hit anyone?), those choices clearly go out of the window, whether I notice or not. And that’s the other key problem right there….


Things I used to make for lunch...

Noticing. I like vegetables and fruit. A lot. I know how to and actually quite enjoy cooking food from scratch. But it becomes very easy to ‘just’ have a glass of wine after work. To eat the ‘sushi’ platter that has chicken katsu on it as well and not really realise that’s an additional 300 cals a time. The ‘fuck-it’ take out on Friday nights when it’s almost 9pm and we’re only just both of us returning from assorted parts of the country, by the way... Chinese food isn’t any better fried chicken. The occasional bag of nibbles with a 4pm glass of wine on a Saturday which has become a weekly bag of nibbles with the 3pm first bottle of the night. To have a weekly croissant because it’s provided for you. And I am one of those people for whom all those things add up. My body type is neither slender, nor athletic. I work a sedentary job. I'm training and exercising less than I've done ever in the last 5 years. Oh and I’m pushing 30 as well which isn’t helping matters much these days.



Can I end this story with an uplifting tale of body acceptance and being happy anyway? Or perhaps a natty little ad insert for a meal delivery service that takes all the effort out of eating food (and most of your bank balance too)?

Nope. Sorry folks. I’m carry more body weight, inches and body fat percentage than I’d like. I’m running slower than I’d like, I haven’t been to a Barre class in weeks and currently my fridge has half a bag of spinach, some Babybel cheese and a lot of condiments in it. But what I do know now that I haven’t noticed or realised previously is this:

When we spout on about making a healthy lifestyle change rather than ‘crash dieting’ then you have to consider if it’s sustainable through the tough times as well as the weeks where you get home from work at the same time every day and nobody books your client meetings for 9am and 2 train journeys away and you have seen your partner for a week even though you supposedly live in the same 1 bedroom flat.

Is one way of eating or training sustainable for the rest of your life? Probably not, but rather than holding yourself to a routine or a plan that only works when everything is going swimmingly, maybe it’s time we all thought a bit harder about how we manage our wellness when nothing is quite going to plan and work backwards from there.

So now I’m off to pencil into my diary every offsite meeting I currently know about for the next couple of months, every time I’m unlikely to make it to a gym class because hello major deadline and to see whether there’s anything of any substance in my freezer for dinner this evening because I’m doubtful that a boozy icepop as dinner is going to improve my current situation. And if you have thoughts on my dawning realisation, I’d love to hear if anyone else has been in the same boat.

Game on!




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Monday, November 5, 2018

Unfinished Business: London Marathon 2019

Back in 2015 I got geared up and ran a marathon amongst many other 10k events to raise money for Cancer Research. I had a rough time running that marathon, I struggled with back pain from the 10 mile mark, I wasn't mentally prepared for the 2 lap format, especially when the half marathon runners peeled off to get their medals at the end of the first lap. I had a suspected stress fracture that I ignored a few weeks before. I all but said: Never. Again.


Cancer Research Race for Life Marathon 2015

And yet. And yet... I always felt like I had unfinished business with the marathon distance because the experience was so grim the first time around, I have to believe it can be be better than that. And like most runners I've ever met, I'd love to run the London Marathon, even just once. For the atmosphere. For the majors. For the classics medal. Because it's home. So each year, I throw my name into the ballot and sometimes I pay out my fee and end up for the commiserations kit. This year, my jacket arrived whilst I was away on holiday. A last minute trip that we decided to take because Tom and I have had 3 family deaths this year. We had 2 last year. And 2 in 2016. And we needed some down time.

All of this set me thinking. I have a RideLondon place for 2019 (deferred because this year it was the day after my cousin's wedding), I'll be turning 30 in 2019, and because a year like this one has been left me feeling the need to DO something.

So that's how I ended up receiving a a vest this weekend for Dementia Revolution, the iron on letters which spell my name. Collection boxes and posters and I have a 20 week training plan to pencilled into my diary.

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Dementia Revolution is a special team set  up for the London Marathon 2019, a collaboration between Alzheimer's Research UK and Alzheimer's Society. Dementia is level pegging with Cancer in the number of our family members taken in mine and Tom's families so this is a cause that well and truly ticks the box as personal for me. I have put off seeking a charity place for VLM in a world where we can be a bit overwhelmed with charity events, but this feels like a good fit for me, and with my additional challenges this year (would be great not to be diverted and lose any miles on RideLondon this year) I hope that you'll support my incessant running whines and fundraising please. For I do declare the begging bowl to be OPEN!

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Over the coming weeks and months, you'll likely hear me talking about fundraising, I've got loads of ideas for all kinds of things, especially with Christmas coming. In the meantime though... if you'd like to donate to the cause, my online fundraising page is right HERE: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ChloeMartinBrown 
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