Turkey, Feta and Spinach Burgers

Turkey Burgers

This recipe is a classic in my house at the moment. We’ve had our ups and downs, but turkey burgers seasoned with spinach and feta have been a constant in my life for at least the past three years. I’ve written up the most recent version of the recipe, but I’ll also give you the no-food-processor method, which was my main method for many years!

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Date, Cashew and Coffee “Chocolates”

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How good do those look?

If your answer was “incredible” you’ll be pleased to know they taste EVEN BETTER than they look. If your answer was “meh, they’re OK”, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong, and you should have picked the first answer.

Unfortunately I did not come up with this amazing recipe, I learnt about it from a lady called Susanna K in the Blogilates Hot Body Challenge Dietbet. Whoever came up with the idea originally I have no clue, but massive kudos to them because these were delicious and I’m extremely sad that I ate the last three one today.

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When the going gets tough, the tough get going

This writing consistently thing is harder than it looks. Where does the time go?

So, it’s 14 days into February, how am I doing with those SMART goals? Well, first of all, thank you for asking! The answer is… actually not too bad.

I definitely made a good start at the beginning of Feb. I was keeping an eye on my food intake and exercising more than usual, doing the Blogilates’ FABruary calendar, Blogilates’ 30 day butt lift challenge (I know, I know), and Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Days of Yoga challenge.

I experimented with things like this:

and this:

And for the most part I’ve been really good about not giving into the usual amount of takeaways or unhealthy snacks! Yesterday I walked right into Hotel Chocolat, stared at the selection I wanted to purchase for myself, and walked right back out. I then passed by the coffee shop that sells not one but two drinks I’ve been dying to try (an orange hot chocolate and a salted caramel latte), and then straight past Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, despite having craved one for weeks. I did give in and buy myself some M&S luxury hot cross buns though, because of reasons.

However, on the 4th February my sister arrived in the evening for a few days’ visit. The morning of the 5th, I woke up with a sore throat and a bit of a sniffle. On the 6th I was exhausted. By the 7th and 8th Feb, I had little-to-no energy, had strained my back from sneezing too much and had got through all the tissues in the house – so had a sore nose too. It’s now the 14th and I still have the cold, it’s just got slightly better.

On the days where I was at my worst, Sat-through-Mon, I just couldn’t face any exercise. I did continue the yoga challenge on Saturday and Sunday, taking it easy because I found it hard to breathe and was feeling a little dizzy, but Monday I was sneezing so often that I couldn’t face it. Tuesday I was just sore all over, and then Wed-Fri found me working in Reigate (so an hour and a half away). Given how early I had to get up on those days and the fact that I was still unwell, there was no way I could exercise in the evening. In fact, once I got back from work on Wednesday I ate dinner and had a 30 minute nap.

Oh, and did I mention that on Sun or Mon I managed to pull/overstretch my hamstring? That’s a thing that happened.

Somehow, despite the last week, I have continued to lose weight. On weight-in this morning, I discovered I was down from 161lbs to 156.8, down 4.2 lbs over Feb! I’m 99% sure that the first 2 or so lbs were water-weight as I lost them in about 3 days, but still this looks like good continue progress. To some extent, I’ve already achieved my Feb start goal – to lose at least 4 lbs. But since half of this was most likely water weight (as prior to initial weigh-in I was usually 159 anyway), I’m not going to count this as a win until I see what I weigh at the end of Feb.

The happiest thing about this is that I seem to have found a sustainable method of losing weight for the moment. I’m not massively restricting my diet – in fact, breakfast last Saturday came to over 1200 calories, the amount that some websites suggest you consume in a day in order to lose weight. But I was out for brunch, and when I’m at Dishoom I can’t help but get the same thing each time – keema per eedu, unlimited house chai, and this time I shared a plate of fire toast with my sister too because I fancied trying the “pineapple-pink-peppercorn jam, and tangy orange marmalade with star anise”. Needless to say, it was delicious, and I shall be going and eating all of that again.

Brunch last Saturday in Dishoom, Covent Garden. Making me hungry just thinking about it

A photo posted by Anna (@anna.bp) on

At first I was despairing about the fact I became ill during this SMART goals weigh-loss challenge. It’s just typical, it’s going to ruin it for me, I’m never going to make it, I should just give up. Blah blah blah, etc. But then I realised life is always going to be like this. I was lucky in that the first week of this challenge was very easy for me, I was feeling fit, I was motivated, and I had a light work schedule. That’s changed, but I can’t give up on something because things get a little harder. Life is always going to get harder. Every week there’ll be something new to challenge me. I can’t give up on my goals because of that. I just need to approach them differently. And when things do get easier again, jump right back into things.

I look forward to seeing what happens over the next two weeks!

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Cheesy Low-Cal Aubergine and Mince Bake

As mentioned in a previous blog post, I’m experimenting with setting SMART goals over February – goals that must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Given that my weight hasn’t really changed since gaining half a stone last February, I decided that my first SMART goal will be to lose some. I’ve tried several times over the last year, but my goal has always been “lose some weight”, and as a result I’ve not really had a plan to work on or stick to. I also don’t know how to evaluate that goal – I mean, if I lose a pound over a month, that’s SOME weight.

So in my other blog post I decided that I would try to lose 4 lbs over the course of February. That goal has changed slightly, but only a little. I signed up for a new Dietbet – because I haven’t learnt my lesson yet, so my goal for that is to lose 4% of my bodyweight over the course of February. Given that my starting weight was recorded at 161 lbs, that means I’ll need to lose 6.44 lbs. So to break down my SMART February goal,

Specific – Lose between 4 and 6.44 lbs

Measurable – I am currently 161 lbs, so if I am between 154.56 and 157 at the end of February, I will have attained my goal.

Attainable – I will need to lose between 1 and 1.5 lbs per week, so I will need to burn 5250 calories more than I consume. Watch what I eat and do some exercise and that should be reachable!

Realistic – I’m not going to be able to lose more than 1.5 lbs per week. It wouldn’t be healthy either.

Timely – I’ve got four weeks to complete this goal.

The last time I achieved something like this was nearly three years ago. I’m going to have to be much stricter on myself with regards to sticking to food and exercise plans if I want to see some results this month.

Speaking of food plans, I decided the best way to start February would be with pre-cooked meals so that I’m not tempted to call for a takeaway for at least the first week. My go-to takeaway is usually Italian, because sometimes I’m just craving the comfort of a large bowl of pasta. Whilst I don’t normally care too much about the numbers, I knew that I’d need something comforting, filling, delicious, but still lower calories than a 800+ bowl of pasta. I eventually came up with:

Aubergine and Mince Bake, aka Pasta-free Lasagne, or Moussaka-ish

(Serves 6)
Per portion: 322 calories | 16g carbs | 18g fat | 25g protein | 3g fibre

Aubergine and Mince Bake

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Life is shit, but isn’t it wonderful?

Forty-five minutes ago (at the time of starting to write this) I decided to go on a walk. I’ve been working from home the last two days and not really left the house. I’ve also been procrastinating a lot, not doing a huge amount of anything productive, and today I had too much caffeine. As a result my heart rate has been far too high and I’ve felt fairly anxious all day.

Over the last few days I’ve not been feeling wonderful. I’ve been talking to various friends and family about how if you’re feeling stagnant you’ve got to do something proactive to change that, you’ve got to seek out new challenges and adventures and search for what you’re passionate about. You’ve got to actively live, rather than just exist.

But for all my pep talks to other people, I’ve been feeling a bit down myself recently. I had a bleugh moment several days ago about my age and the fact that even though I graduated a good year and a half ago now I don’t really feel like I’ve done anything since then that I want to do, or even discover what ‘I want to do’ actually is. I became acutely aware that whilst I’m still relatively young, I’m getting older, and I’m not going to be young forever. If I want to achieve anything, I’ve got to start actually working towards whatever it is that I want to achieve. But then I thought: what’s the point?

The following night, somewhere in between sleep and awake, I had the sudden thought that I needed to tell my aunty Dodo something related to what I’d been thinking about prior to that, or that she’d like to know about it. It took a moment before I remembered that she died a few months ago. And, god, wasn’t that like a punch in the chest.

Earlier today I watched a TED talk on Youtube – Pico Iyer talking about The Art of Stillness – thinking it would be an interesting topic to talk about here. In the talk, which I will link to below so you can listen to it yourself, Iyer talks about how the way to develop more appreciative eyes is by going nowhere and just sitting still. He talks about how you need to take moments to reflect on your experiences and where you’re going, you need to sit still and switch off from everything else going on in your life sometimes in order to find out what moves you most and what makes you happy. Iyer says at one point that if you don’t sort your mind out, all you can give to other people is your exhaustion and your distractedness.

I found a lot of truth in what Iyer was saying. One of my biggest self-image problems over the last few years is the constantly recurring idea that I am a boring person with nothing about me that would interest other people. This isn’t true, but this way of thinking stems – I believe – from the constant procrastination and distraction that I’ve used to ignore that I feel dissatisfied with how my life is going right now. If you’re ignoring what you’re feeling, if all your thoughts are going on distracting yourself, no wonder you feel you have nothing of substance to offer anyone else. Life becomes passive rather than constructive or creative.

So, inspired by the talk, I decided to go on a walk this evening and get some fresh air. I chose my favourite 2.5 mile circular route and put on the Les Miserables soundtrack as it had been good while since I last listened to it. Over the course of the first mile I reflected on several different things that will probably make it to this blog at some point (or, I know will make it to this blog as they tie into a post already drafted), but eventually everything came back to feeling stagnant and impatient.

Impatient because I already know that I feel stagnant and I’m not doing anything with life at the moment that I feel passionate about. I’ve reflected on this many times, and I’ve come up with numerous ideas of how I can change this – see my Mission Statement (for Being 23) for an example. As I said in my last post, each journey starts with a single step and we should focus on that rather than being paralysed by the size of the journey, but sometimes focussing on that one step makes you feel like you’re hardly moving. That it doesn’t matter what you do because it’s not making any difference – whatever ‘it’ is.

I thought about how many people I know who feel like this at the moment, and how many tales I’ve read online of people of a similar age feeling the same thing. ‘Quarter-life crisis’ – is this a new thing? I feel like it must be. Growing up you hear about mid-life crises, about people who realise that their lives are half over and they’re not (or no longer) doing what makes them feel alive. But more and more recently you hear people in their early to mid twenties talking about a similar thing, adrift in uncertainty and dissatisfaction with life.

Part of it, I think, is to do with the way society treats growing up. From our early teens, the favourite question is ‘what are you going to do next?’ – what GCSEs are you going to take? And that’s important because that’ll affect what A-levels you take, which is extremely important because your choice of A-levels will influence what you can do at university and what you can do as a job, and do you have any idea what you want to be when you grow up?

No, I don’t. My dad is in his sixties and he has no idea what he wants to do when he ‘grows up’. And now I’m set free in the world where my path is chosen not by what comes next academically, but by what I want to do. Who knows what that is? We’re constantly told to follow our passions in order to lead a happy life, but I don’t know what those are. I’m young. I haven’t experienced enough of life yet, but I still feel like I should have some of these answers down by now. I mean, if in order to succeed you have to know what you want to do all the way back when picking your A-levels, how on earth am I going to “succeed” this late in the game?

My walk wasn’t really working. Yes I was getting fresh air and it was helping my legs recover from the exercise I did yesterday, but it wasn’t making the antsy feeling go away like I’d hoped it was. All it had succeeded in making me do was acknowledge that I wasn’t happy with where my life is at right now and feel frustrated at how slow change seems to be.

A mile in it started to rain. Big, lashing, freezing drops of rain – or maybe sleet, it did snow this morning. Rain teaming so hard I couldn’t see through my glasses anymore and I was quickly soaked to the bone.

I couldn’t help but laugh.

It’s just typical isn’t it? You’re ambling along pondering about how shit life can be, and in retaliation life rains on your parade. Isn’t it wonderful? For the following remaining mile-and-a-half I felt cold, wet, but unmistakeably alive. I could acknowledge that it is OK to feel sad, that I did feel sad, and at the same time as wanted to burst into laughter. Tomorrow’s another day. Life will go on. Things will change.

As I reached the bottom step of the staircase leading up to my house, looking forward to finally being warm and dry, the rain stopped.

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