Monday, January 28, 2013

Parkrun - 10 Good Reasons To Join up !

I am always extolling the virtues of Parkrun and here's why:

1) It keeps you fit.

2) It's free.

3) There will be one near you, so you won't have far to travel. (Although, I understand that there aren't currently any in Lincolnshire, which is a shame.)

4) Once you've taken part, you won't get bombarded with emails about not going. Go or don't go - your choice.

5) You can make new friends - either by joining the group for coffee afterwards or by volunteering to help out.

6) It's as competitive as you want it to be. You will get emailed a time for your race but it does not matter if you are at the front of the pack or the back of the pack. Some time one fancies a sprint, and others a pootle...I can usually be found somewhere in the middle.

7) You can take your dog. Best check with your parkrun organiser on that one though. Some parkruns allow dogs and their owners to run at the back of the pack.

8) You can take the kid(s). Little CC first ran one lap of the 5K with us when she was 8.

9) If you are competitive, you can register your details on Run Britain Rankings . Your parkrun results will be automatically updated, and this will allow you to compare your sporting prowess with other athletes of the same age group.

10) Photos of the event are taken and posted on the site, which means you can get great sporting 'action' photos like the one above that was taken of me on Saturday.

See? It's a Win-Win-Win-Win-Win- ( Well, I'm just copying and pasting there, so you catch my drift.)

As Nike say. Just. Do. It.

Post script

Here are my Run Britain Rankings: My handicap (out of 36 is currently 19.9 - elite athletes would have a ranking of '0' or maybe slightly negative

If we look at the bottom figure below, basically there are 3927 female runners faster than me in the UK, in my age group (currently 35-39). I will move up an age group in April (40-45) so it will be interesting to see how my UK ranking changes. Although, oddly I am faster now than when I was 35...
UK Overall109674
Women 26609
W35 3928

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Total Greek Yoghurt Cookery Master Class with Paul Merrett


Last week in the midst of the snow and a SQL server 2010 training course, I was most pleased to be invited along by Total Greek Yoghurt to their latest cookery master class. The master class was run by Paul Merrett at L'Atelier des Chefs and consisted of chef Paul Merrett, myself and other foodies cooking a three course meal, and savouring a few glasses of vino. It certainly sounded like my perfect night !

Having sorted out last-minute childcare, (thank you Valeria, I owe you one!) along I went in my footwear of choice for the snow, my silver moon boots. I was introduced to the Total Greek yoghurt team, handed a much appreciated glass of champagne and I started chatting with the other people at my table.

I have never cooked in public before, so I guess I was a little apprehensive, particularly in the presence of greatness, in the form of Paul Merrett. Having said that, I am a confident cook and if I haven't experienced preparing a particular ingredient, I have, usually, at least seen the process either in one of  my cook books, or on TV. Incidentally, the TV show called The Best, which starred Paul Merrett was a particular favourite of myself and BB - I truly wish it was still on ! (Oh, and of course, I do have the book from the series.)

On with the food, to start we prepared Squid & Chorizo on a Chickpea Puree with Coriander Yoghurt
Once we had been shown how to do it properly by Paul Merrett, we were divided into teams of four. I was teamed with LizzeB, Heidi  and Karen,  and I started by prepping the squid.

Close up of my hands, trying to 'prep' squid.

Whilst writing this, I was wondering how on earth I would remember all of the ingredients, but fortunately for me, the great folks at Total Greek Yoghurt have the recipes on their site.

Heidi  prepped the chorizo, LizzeB supped wine and, as a drinks rather than food writer, Karen  coodinated the recipe. Finally, we sat down to dine. The food was awesome. I cannot recommend this recipe enough. The photos totally (sorry, couldn't resist..) do it justice. It tasted just as good as it looks.

I am not a huge eater and by this point I was nicely full, but I was very much looking forward to the main of Herb-crusted Lamb with Baba ganouche and sweet potato salad and also to getting back into the kitchen. I have never made Baba ganoush, but I'd read about it and I really wanted to get my hands on those aubergines. Paul Merrett had blackened the aubergines before we arrived, directly over the hob until the skins were blackened. and they were then left to sit. So, when they finally made it into my hands, the skin was literally falling off them and the flesh was sweet and smoked. Heidi  and LizzeB did an excellent job of the lamb and the sweet potatoes, and I had fun getting the seeds out of the pomegranate and chopping garlic. Karen  ensured we were clearing down and had had everything to hand. We were a really excellent team, considering we had only just met. Looking back, by this point I was just SO happy, I didn't want to leave this place, ever.

Completely in my element

We 'plated up', (I love that term), and went back into the little eating area and enjoyed our main meal. It was delicious. The sweet potatoes with the garlic and cumin were amazing. The sweetness of the pomegranates. It all worked together wonderfully. However, the star of the show for me was, incidentally the part containing the yoghurt, the Baba ganoush. I will be making this again, without a doubt.

Smoky aubergine with yoghurt

For the dessert we prepared Rhubarb & Greek Yoghurt Syllabub. The yorkshire rhubarb with the sweet, creamy Greek yoghurt was one of the best desserts I have had for a long time. And I eat quite a lot of desserts. 

At the end of the evening, we were presented with a scrummy Total Greek Yoghurt goodie cool bag with a selection of their current range as a thank you for attending. When I returned home BB and CC 'reserved' their choices. Blueberry for BB and Honey for CC.

Many more photos of the event can be found on  Total Greek Yoghurt's facebook page and if you fancy getting hold of some more Total Greek Yoghurt recipes you can get their eBook here - Every Day Eating by Total Greek Yoghurt (the profits of which go to Action for Children).  I bought my copy earlier today!

I can proudly say that I finally feel like a REAL food blogger.

Many thanks to Total Greek Yoghurt for inviting me to this masterclass, and Paul Merrett for his fantastic tuition.

All photos courtesy of satureyes

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own, and were not influenced by the sponsor of this event .

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Kooky's Burns' Night Cranachan with Total 0% Fat Free Greek Yoghurt

When the lovely people at TOTAL Greek Yoghurt offered me some products to try for my blog, I had this exact recipe in mind.

So, why is this Kooky's Cranachan ? Well, firstly, I do have some Scottish heritage. My paternal grandmother was born a 'Johnson' and hailed from Scotland.

Secondly, in the course of my research, I have seen Cranachan made with strawberries and raspberries, but nowhere did I see a Cranachan made with tayberries ! Unbelievable.

To quote Wikipedia: "The tayberry was patented by Derek L. Jennings of Dundee, Scotland, and released in 1979 by the Scottish Horticultural Research Institute, Invergowrie, Scotland. The tayberry was named after the river Tay in Scotland."

Could there be a better fruit to use ? Of course, you can't buy a tayberry in the shops, they are not produced commercially as they are notoriously difficult to harvest, so that's why I grow my own. I love them baked in crumbles and fresh on my breakfast, or with meringues. They are a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry, so this is a perfect desert for Burns' Night later this week. Of course, the tayberry season is long passed, but I pick mine and freeze them to use later in the year. Yum!


600g tayberries (or raspberries, if you have no tayberries)
50ml cassis liqeuer
25g caster sugar
50g Oatmeal
50g light brown soft sugar
500g Fat Free Greek Yoghurt (I used Total 0% Fat Free Authentic Greek Yoghurt)
4 sprigs fresh mint, to decorate (optional)
2tbsp icing sugar (adjust to taste)
1tsp vanilla extract


1. Heat the tayberries with the caster sugar and the liqueur. My tayberries were frozen so they yielded a lot of juice. Not a bad thing ! Reduce the fruit mixture until it is nice and syrupy. You can also use Framboise (raspberry) liqueur as an alternative to cassis, (blackcurrant).

2. Combine the light brown sugar and oatmeal in a saucepan, and warm over a medium heat until the sugar caramelizes and 'coats the oats'. Keep an eye on it so that the sugar does not over-caramelize - e.g. burn (I know this recipe is for Burns' Night, but all the same, burnt sugar is not nice..Ok, I know, that was a really, really, poor joke.). Once it is looking and smelling nice and toasty, remove from the hob, tip the sugary oats onto a non-stick baking sheet and leave to cool.

3. In a bowl combine the yoghurt, icing sugar and vanilla extract.

4. When the fruit and oats are nice and cool, you are ready to serve. Take 4 suitable serving receptacles - e.g. small clear glasses or sundae dishes and layer tayberries and juice, or your chosen fruit, followed by a layer of yoghurt (about a 1.5cm layer), swirl a spoonful of the oatmeal mix through the yoghurt, repeat the layers until you run out of ingredients, or reach the top of the glass !!

5. Add the little mint sprig if you desire. Or just go ahead and enjoy !

The crunch of the oats, and the sweet and sour hit of the yoghurt and fruit make this a delicious dessert.

Using Total 0% Fat Free Authentic Greek Yoghurt makes it a perfect, low fat, protein rich dessert, which is just about perfect for runners like me !

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Christmas Reading

I love the idea of getting gifts for myself for Christmas. That's really bad, isn't it ? The thing is, I love reading and I simply never, ever receive books for Christmas. You would think that the fact that I give practically everyone books for Christmas would be somewhat of a clue wouldn't you ? I mean, wouldn't you ? But, alas, no. So I buy my own.

My selected texts were somewhat of a surprise, even though I had chosen them myself. Which is quite funny in itself, no ? In a twisted, kooky kind of way.

Here's the first one that I chose: 'The Psycopath Test'. I thought it was going to be some sort of humorous, wry look at testing yourself to see if you're a little bit crazy. Oh, no Sireee.. It's a serious look at the traits that psychopaths possess, like a lack of real empathy, or a total non-response to disturbing images, etc. Apparently, only a very small percentage of the general populous are actually psychopathic, or possess psychopathic traits, but interestingly when they 'tested' senior managers of 'big' businesses, the percentage possessing psycopathic traits rose to an alarmingly high 6-odd per cent. Not that that surprises me in the slightest. The book then goes on to discuss what the impact of this is. Evidently, this isn't exactly jolly, light festive reading is it ?? But I stuck with it.

Next, I chose Caitlin Moran's 'How To Be A Woman'. Not that I wanted to know 'how to be a woman', as such. OK, maybe a few, little pointers..ha, ha. It was more about the fact that I enjoy reading Caitlin Moran's feature in the Saturday Times magazine (the one in today's magazine about Rape reminded me why she wins awards for her writing). Also she's practically, a Brummie. Born and raised in Wolverhampton, and added to that it had won the Galaxy Book Awards Book of the Year, amongst other awards. What's not to love ? It sounded like a win-win-win read to me.

So, I bought it, looking forward to a light-hearted look at her upbringing and background etc; etc. Guess what ? It was not to be. It's quite a substantial rant about feminism and what Moran thinks it is like to be a woman now, in today's society. And what is wrong with the way women are treated right now. There are some more light-hearted bits, there are some funny parts, but certainly there's more on Moran's take on more serious issues - like the behaviour of young women and her views and experiences of abortion.  And certainly not a Christmas read.

So you can imagine the I was very pleased to receive this gift:

Now, that is my kind of book, well, for a Christmas read...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Chocolate Yoghurt Cake

Anyone that says they cannot bake should start with this recipe, because it's the easiest cake that I have made in a long time. Unlike the five Christmas cakes that took me four weeks to make from start to finish, this barely takes four minutes. It's an all-in-one, cup-measured mix. Easy.

First, preheat your oven to 200 deg.


1 cup plain flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2tsp baking powder
3/4 cup caster sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil  I used sunflower oil
1 cup greek yoghurt I used Total Greek Yoghurt
3 eggs


1. Measure out your dry ingredients into a bowl. Mix to combine.
2. Add all of the wet ingredients and beat until the mixture is smooth and lump free.
3. Tip into your greased/lined receptacle.
4. Bake. How long it takes, will depend on your tin. My little bundt cakes took barely ten minutes. The loaf cake about 20 minutes. Check it regularly - e.g. after ten minutes. The baking powder means the mix is unlikely to sink, but you never know....

I decided to try out my new mini Bundt silicone 'tin'. Big mistake. I overfilled them, and they stuck. I had  thought that this might happen.

Overfilled ...
For batch two, I brushed the mini bundts with sunflower oil and added a lot less mix.  Perfection. Since I had yet more mix left, I put the rest in a loaf tin and made a larger loaf cake.

 Chocolate yoghurt loaf cake

Those bundt holes are screaming out to be filled with a little yoghurt, with some pomegranate seeds shaken over .. or it would be lovely warm served with ice cream. I have no ice-cream so, if I have any yoghurt left over after I have had some with my curry, I will use that.

CC had her little pal over so they snarfled batch one, and agreed that batch two was better. The yoghurt cuts through the sweetness of other chocolate cakes, and allows the cocoa taste to shine. The loaf cake may make it into work tomorrow for sharing with my colleagues. It may not.

So, what are you waiting for ? Grab your pinny and get baking !