A month ago, on January 1st, I woke up, slightly groggy from the cocktail/wine consumption of the night before, and decided to take my New Year resolution to eat mindfully and exercise regularly seriously. My aim was to lose some weight and start feeling fitter and healthier without signing on to an extreme diet or punishing exercise regime. So how does my resolution measure up now that we are at the end of January?
Lessons learned… my new healthy habits
>> Eat breakfast!! This may seem kind of a ‘well, DUH!’ realisation but I am not a morning person and would gladly drink cup after cup of coffee rather than have something to eat. So I have been making a point of having something substantial and healthy every morning (well, almost). I have rediscovered my love of smoothies (with added vegetables and hemp protein powder), low-carb bread with sliced avocado or eggs or overnight chia pudding /oats. Eating breakfast definitely leads to making healthier choices for lunch.
>> Exercise – it is a marathon, not a sprint. It is both daunting and almost impossible to go from no exercise to gym bunny or marathon runner in a day. You have to take it slow and build up your fitness otherwise it is too easy to throw in the towel. I started doing 10 minutes of exercise daily at the beginning of the month. I then took up running again… and at first I was unable to do the park circuit – at snail’s pace! – without stopping a few times to catch my breath. A month later I am not significantly faster but I am not stopping as much and I am running 4-5 times a week. Sometimes I feel like my legs are jelly when I come home… but in a good way! I love running because it is half an hour just me, my thoughts and my favourite playlist. It’s not just about getting fitter it’s a form of meditation!
>> Set small goals. You know the funny card that says ‘I have been dieting all morning, why am not skinny yet??’ It’s so true! I need to lose well over a stone in weight but setting that as my goal is just too overwhelming because it’s not something that can be achieved overnight or at the end of a month. And if your goals are unattainable it’s so easy to give up. I have been focusing on smaller goals, on just doing my best every day – which also means if I slip up one day I hit the reset button and start again… At the end of a month I feel slightly trimmer, a touch fitter and a lot more optimistic. I have lost some weight, not a lot by any means, and I know that by how my clothes fit not by obsessively staring at the scales. I hope that by the end of February I will feel even better.
>> Healthy food is not boring food! I have had fun discovering and devising healthy recipes that are not lacking in flavour. I am eating a lot more vegetables – in salads, smoothies and soups. Soups have become my staple lunch because they are just so easy to throw together, especially with this Soup Maker which cooks everything in about 20 minutes. And I have been using my slow cooker a lot more especially for braising inexpensive cuts of meat to create absolutely delicious family meals.
This slow cooker Chinese pulled beef is such a recipe – definitely anything but boring and so easy! Serve with courgette (zucchini) noodles or a mix of courgette and egg noodles for a filling meal and nice way to celebrate the Chinese New Year which is just around the corner.
- 900 g | 2 pounds beef brisket tied with string
- 250 ml | 1 cup hot beef or chicken stock from a stock cube
- 125 ml | 1/2 cup dark soy sauce
- 125 ml | 1/2 cup dry sherry or Chinese cooking wine
- Juice & zest of 1 orange
- 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 5 garlic cloves skin on, smashed
- 2 banana shallots peeled and roughly chopped
- small piece fresh ginger peeled and finely sliced
- 5 spring onions finely sliced
- 3 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/4 tsp Szechuan peppercorns crushed
- 1 tbsp cornflour cornstarch dissolved in a little cold water
- 1 red chilli finely sliced, to serve
- Slice the brisket into thick rounds and place flat in the slow cooker together with the garlic, shallots, star anise and cinnamon stick.
- Combine the stock, soy sauce, sherry, orange juice & zest, sugar and ginger in a measuring jug and stir. Pour over the beef and add half of the spring onions and the pepper.
- Cook for about 4 hours on high or 7 hours on low until the beef is very tender. Remove from the slow cooker to a plate and keep covered.
- Add the cornflour to the slow cooker and turn to high heat. Cover and cook for half an hour on until the cooking juices are slightly thickened. Strain into a measuring jug.
- Use two forks to shred the beef and then mix with the gravy. Serve with courgette or egg noodles
- and sprinkle with the sliced chilli and rest of the spring onions.
Prepare a day ahead then put the beef (in the cooking juices but not shredded) in the fridge overnight. Any fat will solidify and you can discard it the next day.