Category Archives: Health

Welcome to the Wheeling Gourmet!

I am pleased to announce the release of a new food site,
The Wheeling Gourmet by friend
and former chef, Nicolas Steenhout.

The Wheeling Gourmet will have a constantly growing set of recipes,
cooking lessons, tips and tricks, and food blog posts.

Whilst there is no specifically gluten-free material at the time of writing,
Nicolas tells me that this is an area he will be exploring and developing over the next few months. (I will be sure to keep reminding him of this!)

Nicolas is running a Twitter account for the site: @WgChef in addition to his regular @vavroom account.

Smiffy’s (Gourmet) Bacon and Egg Pie

Preamble

When I was a child, I used to be fed something called bacon and egg pie. I later heard of this referred to as quiche, which sounded a bit posh and nobby for such a humble dish. The recipe presented here follows the bacon and egg pie/quiche concept but is gluten-free, having no pastry crust, and fairly low-carbohydrate, for the same reason.

This dish composes 2 parts:

The Filler

Bacon, onion, and other vegetables are chopped fairly finely and fried in olive oil. This could be a full-blown ratatouille, if you fancy. The important thing here is to cook until nearly all the water has evaporated; we do not want a wet filler to go with our egg mixture.

I have made 2 version of this dish – one with fresh tomato in the filler; the alternative is to add tomato paste to the egg mixture. If using fresh tomato, just observe the caveat of getting rid of the water.

The Eggs

To fill my pie dish, I require 8 eggs, about 100g of goat milk yoghurt and a generous pinch of salt. Yes, other types of yoghurt may be used, but a good goat milk yoghurt lends a savoury flavour that others cannot. Yoghurt should be either set or fairly thick – watery will have a potentially adverse affect on texture.

Egg/yoghurt mixture is beaten thoroughly with a hand-whisk. A mild but flavoursome, hard cheese is grated into this mixture (I use the goat cheese, Chevrette.) The cooked bacon and vegetables are now stirred into this mixture. If using tomato paste, this goes in now.

Cooking

Mixture is transferred to a greased pie dish and into the oven. In my fan oven, I cook this at 175° Celsius. This dish should rise as it cooks, from the outside in. Once it is risen evenly to the middle, it is cooked.

Serving Suggestions & Variations

Serve with chips and/or salad, or just on its own. Goes with a wide variety of wines or dry cider.

If you want a meat-free variant, leave out the bacon and use a stronger-flavoured cheese to maintain the savoury nature of the dish.

Whilst the dish is risen and light (at least mine turns out that way,) separating the eggs and beating the whites separately before whisking all together should make it even lighter.

Enjoy!

What Gives – Smiffy’s Corollary

Feather asks “What Gives?”

What Gives? – a blog post by Derek Featherstone – gets my classification of “essential read” for all those struggling with the work/life balance – and losing.

Chronic ill health impacted my ability to work severely for the last 6+ years, as I have mentioned elsewhere in this journal. Even now, when relatively better (for a given value of “better,”) I am only able to work what most would regard as part-time hours. What I have learned from this experience gives me:

Lesson 1

Productivity is very much a case of quality of work over quantity of work.

I am now chugging away steadily, getting far more done than I did in the frenetic days when I was first self-employed.

When work time is increased beyond a certain point, greater quantity will lead inevitably to lesser quality. (In my line of work, this means making mistakes and this gobbles up even more precious time as debugging generally takes considerably longer than the original coding.)

The other thing that my experience has taught me is:

Lesson 2

Prioritisation (even when you spell it with a z) – of all aspects of life – has to be the first task in the quest for normality, productivity, and Quality of Life.

Conclusion

In my case, it was not work that caused the deterioration in my health (although I am sure that it contributed,) but vice-versa. However, when people are “freaking killing themselves,” to paraphrase Derek, health collapse is likely on the cards. It would be nice to think that people might be able to learn some of the lessons that I have without having sickness as a teacher.

Smiffy’s Adelaide Adventure

Preamble

Holidays are a rare occurrence. Keeping animals, it is very hard for both of us to go away together; being “medically inconvenienced” makes any travel even more unlikely.  For the second year in a row, however, I have managed to enjoy a “pretend” holiday, albeit on my own, taking medical appointments in Adelaide two days in a row as an excuse for indulging in some better class food and accommodation.

It should be noted that, as I am cooking for the other 364 (or 365) days of the year, my “holiday” food is of special importance. For my day/night off, it’s got to be good.

Getting There

All too often, we take transport for granted.  With my fatigue issues, driving to Adelaide is completely out at the moment. Taking the service bus to Adelaide for a day-trip is even worse; departure of the return trip is late, not arriving until after eight in the evening. A day like that would leave me incapacitated for days after.

The solution? The Health Bus. Living on the Northern Yorke Peninsula, we are 100 miles or so away from the decent healthcare facilities that Adelaide has to offer. For those living further down the Peninsula, you can add to that distance and the corresponding travel time. To spare my creativity, I will quote from latest newsletter from Yorke Peninsula Community Transport regarding the Health Bus:

The Health Bus travels from Yorke Peninsula to Adelaide every week day, transporting clients to Health appointments. Anyone can use the Health Bus to attend appointments in Adelaide that are health related, including dental, physio, optical and visiting patients in hospital.

All this for a mere $5 each way and you can be accompanied by your carer, if you have one.

The bus drivers (Henry & Tony, a couple of very decent chaps) are accompanied by a volunteer to assist passengers with their needs including arranging taxis and generally making sure that everything works smoothly. Passengers are dropped off at and picked up from the places of their appointments. There is no fear of the bus taking off without you – it won’t; this is a very special service that focuses on the needs of the individual, not just getting a vehicle between Point A and Point B on time.

The bus itself is a noisy, uncomfortable, vehicle with a seat pitch well-suited to school children but somewhat less so to my six foot, 240 pound frame.  I try to schedule an appointment (locally) with my massage therapist as soon after a trip on the bus as I can.  Seriously, I tend to need it.

Despite the discomfort, when I board that bus I know that I can forget my worries for a while as I know that I will always (barring accidents) get to my appointment on time and be collected and returned home with a minimum of hassle.

A plea to any South Australian politicians/decision makers who might read this: please continue the funding for this vital service. And now that we are out of the pilot phase, please get us a decent vehicle.  I am not on a pension. I would be more than happy to see concession/non-concession rates introduced.  Heck, I’d be more than happy to pay the $50 that it costs on the service bus to receive this real service.

Contact Yorke Peninsula Community Transport on 1300 132 932 or +61 8 8853 3850

In Between

Well, that’s how I got to the neurologist, anyway. From there (South Terrace, between Hutt Street & St Andrews Hospital) to the Adelaide Hilton in Victoria Square was a case of hoisting my rucksack and putting one foot in front of the other.  I was quite delighted to arrive in Victoria Square at the same time that the next bus would have arrived to take me to the same destination – about 20 minutes.  OK, I may have been walking fast to prove a point.  Had it been raining or too hot, I wouldn’t have left the neurologist’s rooms until I had called a taxi and it had arrived. I don’t do walking in adverse conditions, except in emergencies.

All in all, the walk was reasonably pleasant. I took a somewhat zig-zag course as I hadn’t taken a map with me and was trying to navigate by guesswork.  I knew that I could not go too far West without crossing the tramlines, but was still concerned until I saw the top of the church just to the East of Victoria Square and knew that I was on track.

Slightly footsore (not used to shoes) and with a sweaty back from the rucksack (don’t know how people can stand doing that all day,) I arrived in Victoria Square, had to wait an age to cross the road, but finally reached the Hilton.

View of Victoria Square from hotel room
Room with a View

Adelaide Hilton

As I mentioned in my preamble, this is the second year that I have taken an Adelaide “holiday”. Some familiarity with the Hilton is required, to get the lifts to work, if nothing else.  I noted from my previous experience there is a usability issue with the lifts (elevators.) To access the guest floors, it is necessary to insert the room key into a slot in the lift.  I have no objection to this security requirement, in fact I think it is a good idea.  However, putting the notice advising of this at a child’s eye-height is really not very helpful. Ask yourself this: how may people actually read notices in lifts? You get in, push the button, expect something to happen.  After my previous stay, I suggested that guests should be advised of this when checking in. This was not done, so I will mark this as an accessibilty/usability failure. (For Twitter users: #fail.)

I was allocated to room 1015.  This was better than my 18th floor location of my previous trip in a few ways.  Firstly, convenience. The door was right beside the lifts, no wandering down featureless corridors (even worse trying to find your way back again,) the room was just there. No criticism of the hotel for room placings, that was just luck.  On my previous visit, renovations were taking place in the hotel. I may be wrong, but I think that on the previous visit I encountered a pre-renovation room and on this visit, one that was post-renovation.

What’s better? Whole room looked, well, neater. Bathroom worked – at least the plumbing did; no weirdness of the shower this time. Don’t know whether lack of steam extraction when showering was a feature or a fault.  The television (something I never use in a hotel) looked new, like an over-sized LCD monitor, further lending to my suspicion that the room had enjoyed a recent makeover.

Generally, I still like this hotel. Whilst upmarket and full of quality, staff are polite, but not obsequious. Don’t know if it’s the Aussie influence (or what the managers think the Aussie “thing” should be like) or just that the management at this hotel have realised that the majority of guests like, above all, to have a home-from-home and to be treated like human beings.

The Adelaide Hilton is online here (site can take forever to load,) tel: +61 8 8217 2000

Lunch

My lunch plans for the day were either IPs Noodle Bar in Grote Street or the Indian Brasserie in Gouger Street.  As I was craving curry not long into the walk from my appointment, the Indian Brasserie was my target. (I was actually going to write a review, “A Tale of Two Brasseries”.) For some reason, I simply could not find the place. Whether my brain was acting up, whether it had moved or closed, I don’t know. My inability to find a familiar place allowed me to find one unfamiliar:

The Village Indian Restaurant

Coming from England, where there are a lot more Indian restaurants than there are in Australia, I have certain expectations from an Indian restaurant. Serving Kingfisher beer is an expected, but not important for me. A high quality of service is both expected and important. I was not disappointed on either of these counts, although I eschewed the old Kingfisher in favour of a very fine India Pale Ale haling from the Lobethal Bierhaus, in the Adelaide Hills.

This is where writing this article gets hard – trying to refrain from salivating on the keyboard whilst reading back through the menus!

I chose, for my starter, lamb seek kebab.  Whilst this was being prepared, I was served with, what I consider to be almost the traditional, poppadoms and things in which to dip them.  The kebabs lived up to expectations – very tasty.

There’s a four-letter word that I always look for on menus but seldom find – that is GOAT. I consider goat to be an under-rated meat and superior to its closest comparable, lamb.  The Village Indian Restaurant not only serves goat, but it serves goat vindaloo – a match made in Heaven as far as I am concerned.

I took my goat vindaloo “as it comes” – I don’t go for mega-hot at lunchtime.  What arrived was very pleasant. As there was a fair amount of sauce, I have to confess to spooning it up like soup when nobody was looking.  The vindaloo was eaten with garlic naan and immense enjoyment.

I was able to chat to the manager, Manoj Kundrapu, and was impressed with his attitude towards the business. Not only did I really enjoy my meal, but I got very good vibes from this place and would recommend it most wholeheartedly to anyone who enjoys Indian food.  And yes, gluten-free options are available.

The Village Indian Restaurant is at 125 Gouger Street, Adelaide, 5000. Tel: +61 8 8212 2536

A Brief Rest

After a very enjoyable lunch, I returned to my hotel room for a siesta.  It should be noted that whilst Victoria Square is a very noisy place, soundproofing in the room reduced it to a very dull rumble, so I was able to sleep with minimal disturbance. My CPAP machine created more noise than anything else.

Dinner – The Brasserie Revisited

Not only had the Indian Brasserie disappeared (at least, I couldn’t find it,) but so had the Brasserie at the Hilton. This disappearance, however, was far more explicable as a kitchen re-fit had moved it into temporary accommodation in the Victoria Room.  The surroundings were not as appealing as the regular ones, where the kitchen is open plan and “involved” with the restaurant floor. However, I was not there for sight-seeing; this was a return-trip to see if the dining experience of food and service really was as good as I remembered.  I was not to be disappointed.

It is very rare for me to make choices from a specials board, but feeling extremely tired and with more than just a little touch of the lurgy, I wanted wholesome and hearty.  The specials board offered me just that so my mind was fairly well made up before I even sat down.

cameraphone picture of entrée
Entrée

Entrée

O’Connells Meat beef ragout, rigatoni, Say Cheese Parmigiano Reggiano.

Delighted that the Brasserie does not stint on the meat so my carnivorous cravings were amply satisfied. This and the main course were accompanied by Turkey Flat Shiraz and a large bottle of sparkling San Pellegrino, the only “foreigner” to be seen during the meal.

Main

Standoms parsley bratwurst, AMJ celeriac purée, confit shallot, jus.

To use less sophisticated language, sausage, mash, and gravy, with the mash being celeriac rather than the far more pedestrian potato. With all the food coming from Central Market (next door,) it was with certain regret that I was not in a position to transport perishables, otherwise I would have picked up a few more of these wonderful sausages to take home.

Bread

Living in a gluten-free household, bread is a rare luxury for me so I allowed myself to be tempted by an artisan bread containing Coopers beer and baked in a flower pot.  This was probably the only mistake I made with the meal. The bread was very nice – but it was also very filling and left me with insufficient room for the special Woodside cheese made specially for the Brasserie.  It also threw my high protein, low carbohydrate diet right off the rails.

Service

I enjoyed my food enormously (even if I was unable to enjoy my way to a cheese course,) and could truly find nothing to fault. No matter how good the food, what can make or break a dining experience is the service.  What struck me on both visits to the Brasserie was the quality of the staff. OK, this is a restaurant in a major international hotel in a state capital – the staff have to be good; but the Brasserie staff seem to have a little more polish than I might expect.  In fact, I would say that this is just about the best restaurant service that I have ever encountered.

The little drama that is “explaining the specials” that has become popular in many restaurants is often a performance that I enjoy – for the wrong reasons. I tend to experience a certain Schadenfreude as I watch the staff member’s eyes glaze over or see that little grimace as they recite their lines like a child at school. My imagination fills in what they are thinking: “hmm; I wonder if the Crows will win” or “oh, joy; I’ve only got to say this another 50 times tonight.”  The Brasserie experience seems different. It might be just me, but I got the impression that the spiel wasn’t just “I have to tell you this stuff, I am so bored,” but was actually a sincere attempt to convey information to the diner. It also made me feel like a person in conversation with another person, rather than someone sitting around making the place look untidy.

I would like to point out that this quality of service was being delivered in sup-optimal circumstances, only a week into the move into temporary accommodation.  As you may have gathered, dear reader, I was extremely impressed.

Brasserie – Conclusion

Once again, I have to take my hat off to Simon Bryant and his team for delivering a truly memorable dining experience and generally Getting it Right.

The Brasserie is on the ground floor of the Adelaide Hilton in Victoria Square. Telephone +61 8 8237 0697

The Next Day

I awoke the next day to find that the lurgy had moved in to stay, and was thankful that I had enjoyed a couple of excellent meals before it could catch up with me and spoil things.

When in the proximity of Central Market, only one option presents itself to me when it comes to breakfast: Charlie’s Place. Opening early, with friendly service and being able to deliver the type of high protein/high caffeine breakfast that I crave, Charlie’s Place never disappoints.

After breakfast, I did a little shopping in Kim Wang’s supermarket, then killed time by waiting in the hotel lobby, watching some extremely wild weather pass through.

As there is a limit to how long I can be bored in a hotel lobby, I caught a taxi to my next appointment. I was delighted to see that the taxi was fitted with satellite navigation so the address, to which I had never been before, presented no problems.

The original plan had been to meet my wife at Central Market, go to the appointment and return home with her. Unfortunately, she also had the lurgy and at a more advanced stage than me.  Moving to Plan B, I had called Yorke Peninsula Community Transport first thing in the morning and was thus picked up from my appointment by the Health Bus, once again proving the value of this excellent service.

Conclusion

Country boy that I am, and never truly comfortable in the City, I was nevertheless able to enjoy my little excursion thanks to a bus service, a hotel, two excellent restaurants and one café, a satellite-guided taxi – and also two very pleasant doctors, who were the real reason for me being there in the first place.

Fig and Apple Clafoutis

Preamble 

As we have a good crop of figs at the moment, tonight's dessert was a very successful experiment – fig and apple clafoutis.  This is a gluten-free recipe.

Batter

2/3rds of a cup of rice flour, one egg, just under one cup of water, small amount of vanilla essence. Add a little guar gum if you want a firmer batter.

Note that the quantity required depends on how much fruit you are using, the size of the baking dish, etcetera.

Filling

One Bramley apple ("cooking apples" in the UK; substitute an appropriate large, tart, apple if not available,) about 3 times more fresh figs by volume.

Method

  • Oil baking dish.
  • Clean and chop fruit.
  • Add fruit to dish.
  • Add pinches of powdered cardamom, cassia (or cinnamon,) ginger.
  • Mix fruit/spice mix.
  • Add batter.
  • Mix
  • Bake at 150-175 degrees Celsius until batter is set and protruding fruit just starting to caramelise.

Results

I had a fairly good idea what was going to come out of this but was still surprised by the variety and complexity of flavours – much of this from the figs, due to varying states of ripeness.  I used a fair bit of ginger which gave the whole thing a delightful bite.  Definitely one to repeat. 

Blinzza: Pizza, The Next Generation

Preamble

I used to enjoy good pizza – where 'good' means large amounts of quality toppings on a thin base, not the thick, stodgy, starchy, monstrosities which are mainly just bread (and I'm being charitable calling it bread) topped with something not quite entirely unlike cheese.

Having to convert to gluten-free cooking changed things somewhat. I tried using various gluten-free flour mixes, including those from premium brands like BiAglut (acutally one of the Heinz considerably-more-than-57 Varieties.) Whilst I was nearly able to reproduce the texture of wheat-based pizza bases, these all ended up tasting like something made from a gluten-free flour mix: variations on a theme of 'foul'.

Pizza then became a treat on those very rare occasions when we ate out. It seemed, however, that my very infrequent consumption of wheat flour had changed me; every one of those pizzas left me feeling like I had just eaten a bag of cement and/or with galloping indigestion. Pizza went off the menu.

There are alternatives to pizza, omelettes, galettes (buckwheat pancakes,) and other types of crêpes can take the same ingredients that make a good pizza topping. It was galettes that gave me the inspiration to try something different – blinz. Blinz, blins, blinis and a few other names refer to what is essentially a yeast-leavened galette. Would such a thing work as a pizza base? Would the flavour of the buckwheat be too strong?

The Experiment

Like most of my culinary experiments where the results are in doubt, I tried this one when my wife was away. I actually cheated and used raising agent/baking powder instead of a yeast levain. The batter was cooked as a thick crêpe in a proper Tefal crêpière (also very good for omelettes and fried eggs,) popped into a pizza pan and topped.

The result was quite delicious. The base was far lighter than anything in my experience bread-based and the flavour of the buckwheat not only failed to overpower the topping but complemented the constituent flavours in a way that wheat has never done (for me at least.)

The Recipe

'Blinzza', as I call it, is now on the menu on a regular basis. We tend to enjoy them topped with tomato paste, anchovies, chorizo, olives (hope that these will be my own in a few months), Mozzarella. Prawns may go on mine, although not those of the inveterate prawn-hater of the house. Chillis will arrive in time, but I don't know when – there is a single flower on one of my seedlings.

After a certain amount of experimentation, I have rationalised the recipe (makes 2 bases) thus:

  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • half packet of dried yeast or some raising agent/baking powder if feeling lazy/running late

The water/buckwheat ratio may need to be adjusted depending on the buckwheat. Batters are something that you just have to get a feel for – my only tip here is practice, practice, practice.

The blinz should be cooked on both sides. I thought that if I left the topside and then had that face-down on the pizza pan, it would cook in the oven. It does, but it also sticks firmly to the pan, even oiled.

When baking blinzzas, if one person is having something that the other finds 'yucky' (such as prawns), put that one on a lower shelf as drips may offend. (This is even more important if there are allergens involved.)

Allergy Alert

I have only once heard of someone being allergic to buckwheat – I suppose it can happen. If you can't handle yeast, just use raising agent. (If you can't handle gluten, make sure that it is a gluten-free raising agent.) It may be possible to make this without eggs – I have not tried and nor do I intend to – experimentation here is left to the reader.

For those with dairy allergies, use ingenuity to select topping ingredients that work sans-cheese.

Conclusion

Despite previous reservations about gluten-free pizzas/pizza-alternatives I would conclude by saying that, after having eaten blinzza, I would never want to go back to a wheat base.

 

Duck with Puy Lentils and Wild Rice

Preamble

This was a little something that I made up for my birthday dinner. It's a 200-mile round trip to Adelaide where the nearest decent restaurants are and my health is just too fragile for non-essential journeys. But then I have no objections to cooking my own birthday dinner anyway – I like cooking.

I'm still not happy with the title of this article/recipe, but can't think of anything better to call it.

What I will now describe is what I think I did. Unfortunately, I did not write down the ingredients at the time and – with my memory being what it is – my recollection a week later is a bit hazy.

The Recipe

Ingredients

  • Chicken carcass
  • Medium onion
  • Sprig of bay leaves
  • Wild rice
  • Basmati rice
  • Green lentils of the Puy variety
  • Duckling breasts (defrosted from frozen catering pack)
  • Swiss brown mushrooms
  • Dried chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius)
  • Dried cèpes (funghi porcini, Boletus edulis)
  • White wine
  • White wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Morning

In the morning I made up a stock of a roast chicken carcass, an onion (chopped) and a sprig of bay leaves fresh from the bush. This was boiled up for 2 hours in the pressure cooker under full pressure, cooled by standing the pressure cooker in a sink of water, then refrigerated until required.

Late Afternoon

Preparation was very simple – everything was added to the liquid (stock, blood from the duck packet, white wine, white wine vinegar, salt, pepper) at varying times as there were three distinct cooking times for rices and lentils. Ingredients added in the following order:

  • Dried fungi, wild rice
  • Meat, fresh fungi, lentils
  • Basmati rice

Total cooking time was 45 minutes.

Serving

I did not bother to photograph the meal – it was just a grey-brown mush. But a delicious one though – every mouthful would have three or four distinct flavours.  Most certainly worth repeating.

The meal was accompanied by Pol Gessner Brut Champagne (NV).

The remainder of the catering pack of duckling breasts made a further two meals – duck fried rice and a duck and mushroom pasta.

Allergy Stuff

The recipe described contained no gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, nuts. 

Gluten Free Pasta – Getting Closer

When making pasta dishes, I normally use dried pasta from Bi-Aglut (a division of Heinz), which is pretty good stuff for a gluten-free product (made from lupins, amongst other things). However, I do get the occasional cravings for fresh pasta, despite the effort involved in making it.

Previous essays at making gluten-free pasta from rice, amaranth and maize have been reasonably successful, but did not produce a dough suitable for rolling, or hand-forming – just extrusion. Maize produced some of the best texture, but tasted of – well, maize. Too much maize.

A couple of days ago, I fancied fresh pasta and decided to see how a mixture of 50% rice, 50% maize flour turned out. The answer was extremely well. Just shy of a cup of each of the flours, blended with about half a teaspoon of guar gum, was combined with a couple of eggs. The resulting dough was a little on the dry and crumbly side so I added water little by little, working it in by hand until the dough felt right.

This dough went well through the extruder, the pieces coming out not collapsing or sticking to each other as sometimes happens. When I cleaned out the extruder, I had quite a large lump of dough left which I rolled out (no sticking to the rolling pin or the bench) and cut into strips.

The dough handled very well so I was able to get the pieces extruded, cut and dried in quite a short space of time.

When cooked, this pasta had a fairly neutral flavour – certainly not too heavy on the maize as I was expecting.

It now just remains for me to completely strip and clean my pasta roller which is full of nasty gluten crumbs, full of gluten. With that done (if I am able to get the machine apart/clean/back together), I will try out some flat pastas such as tagliatelle, lasagne and ravioli.

A Year of Weights

Preamble

Today is just under 3 weeks away from the 27th of April, which will mark one year since I started my Weight Training programme. As the longest that I had ever managed to stick to a programme before was about two months, this is something of a major achievement for me, all the more so when my Chronic Fatigue is factored in. (See my previous articles on Weight Training and Chronic Fatigue.)

Setting Goals, Boring Numbers

My goals have changed in the last year; initially, I just wanted to be able to exercise as I had just spent a couple of months highly incapacitated. Back last August, when I was starting to get into the swing of things, I decided that some specific goal would help keep me motivated. The goal was this: in 1 year, I should be able to perform 8 repetitions of 2 major compound exercises with in excess of my own bodyweight on the bar. The exercises in question were the bench press and the deadlift. At the time, I did not have equipment that would allow me to perform squats with any degree of safety; when I finally acquired my power rack, I added the squat to the list.

Perhaps being a little over-ambitious I then thought that it would be nice if I could reach my goal not by August 2008, but by the end of this month, or a year since I started the programme. If it were not for my bench press, where my set of 8 is currently performed at 85kg, some 20kg short of my bodyweight, I would be there as I have reached the target weight for the deadlift and am well past it with the squat. In a way, I am being helped by the fact that a change of medication has accelerated my decrease in fat mass. However, working against a diminishing bodyweight is probably cheating somewhat, so I have reset my bench press goal to the magic figure of 100kg. Can I get that extra 15kg in 4 months? I’m certainly going to try.

For those exercises where I have passed the target weight, I am now working to the next target of one and a half bodyweights. Once again, with the bodyweight changing, I’ve decided to fix a figure of 150kg, but with no time limit. I know that my beginner’s rapid progress is slowing down, so I don’t want to disappoint myself by setting any unrealistic targets. I am almost certain that – barring accidents – my squat workout weight will be at or past 150kg by August; no further weight targets will be set beyond that as my power rack is only rated to 160kg.

Lifting Weight, Gaining Weight, Losing Weight

Whilst some of the benefits of this year of exercise cannot be measured, changes in body mass can. A quick look back over my records shows that between August last year and March this year, I lost approximately 6.5kg of fat mass and gained 10kg of lean body mass. Much of the fat loss was in the last month or so, due the change in medication that I mentioned earlier. So, a nett gain in body mass, but of the desirable sort. Prior to the changed medication, there was little change in diet other than an increase in protein consumption – lifting weight gained good weight but lost bad weight too.

Subjective Stuff

Benefits of my Year of Weights that cannot be measured include the disappearance of the all-over myalgia (muscle pain) that I used to experience when I became particularly tired. (That’s more tired than normal as opposed to the 24/7 Chronic Fatigue tired.) Heat tolerance does not appear to have improved any; I had a vague hope that it might have done, but am not surprised that it has not. My diabetes has not become any worse; I do not know whether Weight Training has helped this or not, although exercise is certainly indicated in diabetes control through lifestyle.

Motivated? Bored?

Yes, I am still motivated – and enjoying – Weight Training. Boredom is not an issue because as soon as I start to think “oh no, not this routine again”, I change it. Being able to perform some very similar exercises both with free weights and cable makes it even easier to maintain variety. Tomorrow, for about the first time since I started doing squats and deadlifts on the same day, I will be doing deadlifts first, rather than second and I am quite excited at the prospect – but then it doesn’t take much!

Just Do It!

For anyone contemplating taking up Weight Training, I will plagiarise the marketing slogan of a certain sports goods manufacturer (link warning: horrible Flash content): Just Do It! Chronic Fatigue has not prevented me from lifting weights and I am fairly certain that doing so has benefited my condition, too.

Here’s looking forward to another Year of Weights!

Rice Worms!

rice noodles

Chinese New Year was upon us, so I decided to do something with noodles. The only gluten-free noodles that I could find in the pantry were some sort of rice vermicelli, which I was later told was pretty ghastly anyway. Whilst I had made reasonably successful gluten-free pastas before with maize (corn) and amaranth (not in the same batch), rice was a new venture for me.

2 cups (200ml cups, that is) of rice flour, a teaspoon of guar gum and two eggs yielded a not-too-sticky dough that was ideal for the pasta extruder. Whilst my extruder lacks a die for any form of noodles or spaghetti, it does have one for very small maccharoni (probably maccharonininini or something) which I used to produce my ‘rice worms’.

There was little problem with the extruded and cut pasta sticking to itself or the plate so I was able to dry it on a tea towel without having to be careful to keep the pieces separate.

As this pasta is a little more physically delicate than the wheat variety, I added it to my chicken chow mein after the vigorous stir-frying had been done and actually let it cook by steaming, with the lid on the wok.

The result was very nice indeed – both of us enjoying it immensely.

It does take a fair bit of effort to make pasta like this – at least it does when I do it – but the yield of the batch was a large one so there was enough left over for Jane’s lunch the next day, which justifies the time spent. Larger batches would probably be even more economical on time, allowing me to prepare enough for a few meals, most going in the freezer.