Saturday, 29 December 2012

Control (of sorts)

Merry Christmas! I hope every one of you is having a lovely festive time. It's been a mixed one for us - Christmas day was lovely but aside from that we have spent the past week dipping in and out of ill health. Unfortunately the dreaded norovirus claimed us as its victims, and Heather now has tonsilitis. Nasty.

Since my last post I had my Christmas night out with work. My dream all year had been to wear a size 16 dress and wear one I did. I must confess I felt a million dollars on the night, but no way was I on plan or counting syns. The previous Wednesday had been my final weigh in before Christmas though (3lb off taking my 2012 loss to 6st 4lb) and control was nigh on impossible. Cake in the office? Sure. Buckets of wine? Why not. Yes, it's Christmas but unless I want to weigh in on the 9th with a massive gain (which I don't) then something has to give, so (Christmas day aside) I been mostly behaving in the day and going a bit off plan at night or vice versa. Stomach bug aside, naturally... I ate nothing then!

Basically after New year I have a week to sort myself out before I weigh in, get my new books and throw myself into 2013's challenge - REACHING TARGET. Hopefully on the 9th I can at least maintain my pre-Christmas weight, although to maybe even lose a little would be nice. I know that it will be hard to get back into it. I know the first few days properly back on it I will feel like I'm dying but I also know it's going to be ok, and I can do this. My one year anniversary is the end of January and it would be nice to be close to my 100lb by then but the thing is, since not losing it in 2012 it's less of a marker. My next challenge is to go for an interim target of another 2st 11lb (total loss 9st 1lb) and take it from there. Very probably another stone from there will be the right place, but I won't know until I'm nearly there. 2012 has been great for me, but 2013 is definitely going to be my year.

Now I'm off to have a Happy New Year and I hope you do too!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Mistletoe and wine

I am really struggling. Christmas is just around the corner and today was my last week at work before the big man comes to visit. I've tried my very best this week,despite having Friday night drinks with a couple of lovely friends and a group lunch with a bunch of mummies at Pizza Express on Saturday.

Oh, the wine!

Oh, the pizza!

Oh, the mince pies.

Mentally I am in a really mixed place. I want to stick to plan, I really do. With so much yummy going on though, this challenge is the greatest yet. December was always going to be tough and whilst I'm certainly not going to ruin my Christmas by being mean with myself, I also don't want to for too far off plan. I still have so far to go and I am going to have one hell of a battle to get back on track in January but Christmas really does come just once a year and I want to enjoy it. My other issue is my physical being - I'm starting to feel really good now when I'm dressed up but in my darkest moments I am still massively disheartened by what I see.

Really I would like to stay on plan as much as possible until Monday but I have nights out on Friday and Saturday and honestly, I know I won't be on plan then. Tomorrow is my last weigh in before Christmas and I won't weigh again until Jan 9th. Sounds like a long time but I have a full week after New Year to get back on plan. Basically I'm going to try and be as good as I can.

After all,  it's a whole year until next Christmas.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat

But I'm not.

It's true I am now some way from achieving my 100lb loss in 2012, but I have lost 85lb (6st 1lb) and I know that's a great achievement. That's 4 dress sizes and a total of 52.25" of fat gone forever. I'm not done by far, but I look at these numbers with a small swell of pride. Lots of people have asked me how I stay motivated and I have various methods,  none of them is anything complicated but the are all helpful in their own ways.

I try to be kind to myself and I try not to give myself too much of a hard time (not always easy). I look at my book frequently, covered in stickers, and it shows me how far I've come. Every sticker and ring of the bell in class spurs me on. As does my own success.... and failure. If I don't lose,  I try harder the next week so I know I WILL lose the next week. When I lose then I float home to plot the loss on the Slimmimg World website, happy as a pig in mud. I really think motivation and success feed off one another. When I do well I feel motivated, and when I'm motivated I do well. If I can do this, anyone can because one thing that's held all of this together for the past 10.5 months  is belief in myself.

My main thing though is to keep my food interesting and use my syns. At the end of the day this is a lifestyle change for me and I need to know I can stick to this for the long haul and that won't happen if I pretend I'm never going to drink wine/eat pizza/dine out ever again. I don't want to be a big fat fatty again and I've got rid of all my clothes to make sure it can't happen. That said, December is proving to be a challenge already. Heather turned 4 last week (cake, pizza hut), plus there's boxes of chocolates a-go-go and wrapping presents never feels the same without a glass of wine (or this year a glass of alcoholic chocolate milk). It feels although the season to be merry is well and truly here, so I need to be careful that it's not all merry and no careful. I would feel different if I was target but with another 3-4 st still to go I simply can't lose control. 

The bonus is that I will be attending Christmas parties this year wearing a dress size I thought I would never be, and soon I'll be out of it the other side.

Because you've got to have a dream.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Dear Fatty

Dear Fatty,
Hi there. Remember me? Your diet? I know you've been playing about with me the last few weeks and I'm pleased to see you've been on track this week. Obviously you won't know until tonight how much (if anything) you have lost, but hopefully it's not a gain. It should be a nice loss, if the scales are to be believed, anyway. It needs to be a nice loss, to be honest. You have some very kind people around you (Fiona, Suzy, Ali) who have passed on some beautiful clothes, not to mention a gorgeous leather jacket from your mum... but you can't get the lard arse into them yet, can you? Ah well, if you carry on like this hopefully that beautiful purple dresses will be gracing the lard on Dec 21st at the Christmas party.
Yes, this week there has been ice cream, courtesy of award winning Hamilton ice cream parlour, Equis. Yes, there has been wine. Yes, there has been hunks of ciabatta.. but there has also been loads of free and superhero foods, plus lots of good quality home cooking. I'm pleased to see that. I'm sure the key to your so-far success is variety. You are never bored with food, and the family are all well fed and happy with their grub, homemade with fresh ingredients.
The next few weeks will be hard, I'm not going to lie to you. A 4yo's birthday, nights out, Christmas itself followed by Boxing Day... then New Year. Remember to be kind to yourself though, just stick to it as best you can between socialising, make some good choices and good things will happen.
If you struggle, dont worry. Just keep it up.. you're doing great.
Your Subconscious.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

You say tomayto, I say tomato

There are various things in this life I would struggle without - my husband, my kids and wine all spring straight to mind. In terms of food, a good storecupboard is absolutely key in planning and preparing good quality, nutritious meals. I include the fridge freezer there too -after all, it's just a really cold cupboard, isn't it? I have kept almost all my fruit and veg in the fridge for a while (extending their lives significantly once taken out of those silly packets) and some dairy items have a really excellent shelf life. Fat free yoghurt and fromage frais both keep really well - ideal for keeping on standby to whip up a sauce or pudding - and bacon is another fridge must have.

It's a good idea to have a stash of basics at all times so you can always rustle something up. Wise at any time but especially when watching the scales. Not being a fan of packets of any kind really, my storecupboard largely consists of tins (tomatoes, pulses), dried goods (varieties of pasta and rice, couscous) and seasonings (soy, Worcestershire sauce, spices and herbs). I get a little nervous if I run low on pasta or rice and above all, tinned tomatoes. A tin of good quality chopped or plum tomatoes can go a long way, is a cheap and nutritious bulker and is versatile to boot. They can have so much added to them that some of through tomatoey-ness (yes that's a word) can almost be edited out for the non-tomato lover.

I buy them in 8s or 12s usually and that never lasts the month. As you know, I batch cook, so its not unusual for me to open a couple of tins at a time. Last week 2 went into chilli. Today 2 went into a sweet tomato and balsamic vinegar sauce for dinner (parpadelle in sweet tomato sauce with crumbled baked ricotta - thanks to Jamie Oliver's Dinners). I know loads of people who buy the cheapest tinned tomatoes out there, but I am actually really fussy about them. In my experience the cheap cans are full of tops and water and not much rich tomato. At the same time though, budget is important too. Feeding a family of four well in this economic climate can be tricky. I keep an eye out for offers in the supermarkets on the high end brands to get good deals or look in the likes of B&M/Home Bargains too. My latest bargain find was in the reduced section in my local co-op. Even before I was doing Slimming World my kitchen felt off colour without tinned tomatoes or passata in it, the fact that they are now free on Slimming World is an added bonus. Really, as well as being budget friendly and versatile, tomatoes are so so good for you, full of vitamins and goodness What's not to like?

Everyone will have their own ideas of what to do with tinned tomatoes obviously but I use them for chilli con Jamie (made with brisket), batches of tomato sauce, tomato and orzo soup, ragu, pretty much every curry I make and (thanks to a friend) I have a recipe on standby for Spezzatino con Salsicce (beef braising steak stew with sausages) which also contains a tin of tomatoes. Tinned cherry tomatoes are a bit pricier but make a luxurious tomato and mozzarella lasagne, or add some garlic and chilli to the cherry tomatoes with capers and stir through pasta. You really can't go wrong.

Trust me.

Thursday, 18 October 2012


So, here's the thing. I haven't done much blogging in the past few weeks. Not sure why. We have had a lot on and in honesty I've been in a bit of a rut. September shaped up to be a very busy month during which I have still managed to lose weight (just). We have done a lot of eating out (burgers, pizzas, fish and chips) and drinking (wine, beer). Although I made it to the end of the month unscathed, it was a far from successful month in termsbof average weight losses.

My 100lb dream is now scrapped.. well, not scrapped, but modified. I have 9 weigh ins left before Christmas and 25.5lb to go. It's not likely and I have reduced my 2012 target to 91lb (6.5st) which would still be a tremendous achievement, and I would hope upon hope to get my 100lb by 25th January 2013, which will be my 52nd Slimming World class. With clarity of mind, I think that this in is a more sensible target. My current loss stands at 74.5lb so I'm looking for 16.5lb by Christmas, not least because I really fancy buying a dress in a size 14 for my work Christmas party. As I am wearing 16 dresses and tops just now I think I can do it. Of course I have another busy weekend ahead, dinner and drinks on Saturday night and another meal out on Sunday.

However just because I have a heavy weekend ahead that doesn't make it a heavy week and so today I have been 100% on plan, rocking it old school with a porridge breakfast and soup lunch. Regular readers and good friends will know that soup ain't my thang. I have found one I like though and yes it's s bit dull but it is warm and cheap for the winter. It's my homemade Tomato soup. (To really make this my way you would need to check out one of my previous posts, Big Mama for my soffrito. Failing that sub the soffrito for 1 carrot, 2 onion, 1 stick of celery and 1 garlic clove, all chopped or whizzed in a processor.)

Tomato Soup - serves 2-3

3 heaped wooden spoons soffrito
1 tin of chopped or plum tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
500-750ml chicken stock
Black pepper
A pinch of chilli flakes
50g dried orzo, cooked
Parmesan, to serve

Saute the soffrito slowly for 10 minutes or so until soft. Add in the tinned tomatoes, puree and 500ml stock, stir then season with pepper and add a pinch of chilli flakes. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 25-30 minutes.

Blend to smooth in a blender. For a really smooth finish, push the soup through a sieve. Add the extra stock now if it's too thick for your taste.

Serve piping hot with the pasta served through and cheese (parmesan for choice) sprinkled on top.

Think of this as a healthy, homemade, pimped-up-and-not-so-sweet Heinz-a-like. It is free on Slimming World apart from the parmesan although to be honest you hardly need anyway for real flavour, and the pasta adds a real hearty feel to it. It is warm and tasty and toasts from the inside on cold, wintery days.

I've made a few batches of this now but have totally failed to take a picture of it. Instead I've attached a picture of some of the other things I've made this week. I'm back into breadmaking so I've knocked out a couple of loaves as well as pot roast soy and lemon pork loin, ginger puddings, chicken cheese and BBQ stuffed jacket potatoes, faked berry ice cream and a honey and 5 spice stir fry.


Monday, 8 October 2012

Bat out of hell

You know those perma happy tv families? They sit around the dinner table, gleaming and grinning, Colgate smiles all around as a suitably smug tv mum (Linda Bellingham, maybe?) serves up something hot and delicious to twinkly, smiley children?

Yeah, we aren't like that.

My children are young and no, mealtimes aren't always easy. Kids can be very high maintenance and mealtimes can be a nightmare. A combination of trying to instill table manners in a not-yet-four-year-old and her younger sister, plus making sure your little ones are full of healthy foodstuffs can be a real challenge. When you find something that they eat with gusto then, which fits in with your diet, your heart sings. The thing with Slimming World is how well it fits in with family life. Eating with your family, around the table is so important (in my opinion) and being able to dish up healthy, family meals which embrace all cuisines is an absolute dream. I am not looking ahead to a life of the same two meals and since we only get to share the table as a family twice weekly I don't intend to live on fish fingers either.

Luckily my girls are generally good eaters and Megan in particular will give anything a go and Heather - although slightly pickier than her sister - will mostly try new things eventually, even if some prompting/cajoling/bribing is required. This alone Heather has added paella and jumbo prawns to her "likes" list.

The other thing we have all tried together was meatloaf. It isn't something which most Brits eat much of, and I include us in that. I think I have written before that I am a bit fussy about mince but I followed my old fave, Jamie Oliver and his meatloaf as published in Ministry of Food. Meatloaf sounds weird and looks a bit odd but having now made it, served alongside the tomatoey, chickpea barbecue sauce in the recipe, wedges and veggies I will most definitely be making it again. It was a couple of syns but worthwhile, and I could cut them down a little bit too. Cooking for family and friends is a joy, particularly when I can enjoy the dish too, guilt free.

And clean plates certainly help.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Life gets in the way

September has proven to be more challenging than April. Remember April? Good times a-go-go. I've barely lost anything this month, but I weigh marginally less now than at the start so although a loss would have been nice I can't complain too much. I have done a lot of socialising in the past three weeks so I suppose I'm pleased overall to have not gained. Just think how much I could have gained had I not been semi on plan!

Tomorrow is Mr Bee's birthday (21 again) and we had a curry on Friday, a fast food lunch on Saturday, too much wine and then a pizza lunch planned for tomorrow. Heaven knows how many syns in all that! I have a holiday booked from SW this week as we are off work for the week so the plan is to enjoy lunch tomorrow and start anew on Tuesday morning... Beginning with a gym trip. That should work some of it off! Hopefully a good week starting Tuesday should get me back into the swing of things. Life just keeps getting in the way. The important thing though, is to get back in to it, and I really need to if I want to drop another size for Christmas. Possible, if I sort myself out!

Today my lovely little family munched on boeuf bourguignon which comes in about 2.5 syns per person. It's a classic French recipe which sounds complicated but really is extremely simple. A little searing of bacon and beef, mix in some flour, then bouquet garni, stock and wine... 3 hours later you have a lovely rich stew. Mashed potatoes are the perfect match for the rich sauce and tender beef. Could there be anything more perfect for a cold winter day? Pudding was my first attempt at a jelly terrine and I was quite pleased. Sugar free jelly, fromage frais and fruit, layered in a loaf tin. I will most definitely make this again - we all enjoyed this, it's low syn and looks fun which is important where kids are concerned.. and this really is the best bit about Slimming World - its good for all the family.

So it all starts again properly on October 2nd. It's time to stop having fun.

Just as soon as I've eaten that pizza...

Friday, 28 September 2012

Spud in the oven

Honestly, how boring are jacket potatoes? For a long long time it is something I just haven't cooked because they provide so little for the length of time taken to cook them. And you know, I get that other than actually putting them in the oven there's no real work involved, save for rubbing the raw with oil and salt for a lovely crisp skin. Even that part isn't essential - although you do get a bonus hand exfoliation at the same time! I just have a nagging feeling that if something takes that long to cook it should be a reasonably splendid outcome, and whatever you say a jacket potato doesn't offer that.

If you are counting calories or following some other diet plans then you have to be aware of the size of your potato and the 150g potato allowed on some diets is pretty small.

Enter Slimming World.

Not for the first time I find myself eating a reasonable amount of something you would not normally associate with a diet. It does require planning since I don't have a microwave to zap it in, so if I am in a bit of a hurry I put a large BBQ sized skewer through the middle of the potato to speed the process up.

My problem is what on earth to put on top? Beans? Yuck. Chilli? Not for lunch. I've discovered beans are a possibility with cheese on top. Leftover curry is also good. Today I have discovered that fat free fromage frais is a pretty decent substitute for soured cream on top a potato, topped with crispy grilled bacon and grated cheese. This feels more like it, luxurious and full of flavour but cheap too. We also enjoy the super retro corned beef jackets - 100g of corned beef mashed with the scooped out potato from 3 baked potatoes and a bit of salt, stuffed back into the skins, topped with your HEA of cheddar cheese and grilled until bubbling. (I make this 1 syn per potato.)

In the absence of soup as a warm lunch the humble baked potato is rapidly making its way into my diet as a semi regular lunch.

Who knew.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Boys look away now

This is a weird one. It's a subject I've avoided talking about so far, but as it is relevant to dieting of any kind and most of womankind, it's only right to mention it. You probably know what it is now, so I promise I'll keep it short and sweet.

The fact remains that for the vast majority of women monthly cycles have an affect on appetite and food intake. Whether it's carbs or sugar you crave - or like me just tons of food in general - for a few days there all you want to do is eat. Combined with a fairly common side effect of water retention, Star Week (as SW quaintly call it) can turn a good week bad. Whether that is a false gain/maintain because of water retention which will be gone next week, or because of the kilo of chocolate and 15 packets of crisps you consumed is the real question.

I'd love to tell you I have fail safe tips for coping with this most taxing few days. On top of the emotional roller coaster and pain there's a food issue too? How unfair. (And yes, we know we are being unreasonable but we just can't help it.) I don't have the answer though, sadly. Only the knowledge that almost all of us do it. It's like knowing you aren't alone helps in itself and it's just about battling through as best you can, doing what you need to do and minimising the damage as much as possible during your meals.

And that's all I'll say on the matter, honest.

Who's for a brew?

Monday, 24 September 2012

Even tea for me

Goodness me, it's cold. Who's cold? I even had two cups of tea today - it must be cold! The problem with cold weather is that it commands hot, filling food. I don't know about you but I don't much fancy cold dinners in this weather.

I took a lovely salad to work today - some cold chicken and a mix of salad leaves, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, shredded red cabbage, grated carrot and a fat free vinaigrette dressing. It was lovely, really. Very tasty. I was even full afterwards. But was I satisfied? Not a chance. The fact that a colleague wandered into the kitchen with 2 hot rolls, stuffed with sausages and potato scone didn't help. "WANT!" my brain screamed. I finished my salad. Meh. It did not hit the spot. Hoping to avoid the same fate tomorrow, I have whipped up a chickpea and couscous soup. I say soup, I added a bit too much couscous and it's more like a chickpea and couscous stew, but if it tastes good and is warm and filling, it's a win for me!

I was supposed to go to the gym tonight, but a bad back and a local holiday conspired against me and I came home to mooch in my joggies rather than do anything active in them. Because I planned to be out though, dinner was a ready meal, Mama Bee style. A bag of my yummy chilli from the freezer. This is what a ready meal is to me - something prepped or cooked in advance and finished off or reheated. We tend to serve this with steamed rice and, for me (because I am a wimp) fat free fromage frais ply my A choice for the day of grated cheddar cheese. This is a warm and comforting dinner. It's nutritious too, full of beans and tomatoes, onions peppers and shredded, tender brisket. What's not to like? The recipe is from Jamie's American Roadtrip.

So as we approach Wednesday I am hoping not to gain again this week. I really must stop having fun! This week saw me have three meals out, one of which featured lots of ice cream, pizza and wine, one features curry and the other deep fried chips. Oh well. It all tasted fantastic! If I can maintain that would be amazing and then next week, well - it's back to losses!

The picture attached shows me, Richy and Ali all showing off our new skinny figures. We look pretty good, don't we?

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Kebabbiti bobbiti boo

I know I keep banging on and on about the same old things here, but the fact remains that you don't have to eat from packets or only rabbit food just because you are dieting. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good side salad or interesting main course salad with a nice dressing, but I also like not having to live on it. Tonight's dinner is a prime example: lamb shish kebabs with a yoghurt dressing, chillies, pickles and a salad on the side, lovingly crafted by Richy. He whips up a good side salad, with our favourite additions being crumbled feta cheese (50g being your A choice for the day) and chopped red or yellow peppers.

Ok ok - I admit that the bread pictured would in no way count as a B choice. This was weigh in day though (gained a pound, fact fans), so I made these flatbreads. You could, obviously, use a wholemeal pitta or syn some other kind of bread. These were delicious though, I would highly recommend having a go at making them at some point. The recipe I used is here - - and I got 4 breads out of it.

This isn't a cheap recipe but I was lucky enough that my mum gave me a 300g piece of lamb leg which needed using. I daresay you could use any leg steaks or even diced lamb though, to be honest. Amusingly this is from a book called Economy Gastronomy - a truly brilliant book which I use often. Here is what I did:

Shish Kebabs, serves 2

300g lamb, cut into 3cm cubes
1 clove I garlic, crushed
1/2tsp ground cumin

75g fat free Greek yoghurt
1/2 tbsp tahini paste (optional - 2.5 syns)
A handful of mint, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1tbsp olive oil (optional - 6 syns)

TO BUILD, whatever you fancy of...
2 flatbreads or pittas, check
Finely sliced red cabbage
Chilli sauce
Sliced tomatoes
Sliced red onion
Dill pickles
Pickled chillies
Lemon juice

Mix together the lamb, cumin and garlic and allow to marinade for as many hours as you can, as long as overnight.

Heat a griddle or frying pan (you may need a splash of oil although we didn't) and when searingly hot place the lamb in and fry for 3-4 minutes each side.

Meanwhile, mix together all the yoghurt dressing ingredients. I used them all lay might but will try skipping the oil and tahini next time in the interests of keeping the syns down.

Make up a nice side salad and gather your condiments, once your lamb is cooked you are ready to go! We built ours with all the suggested items and although I was a little suspect about red cabbage or pickles, the whole thing was amazing. The cabbage and yoghurt made a kind of coleslaw underneath the meat and the pickled chillies 2 for me, one of which I only half ate, and I think 3 for Richy.

I mentioned above that I gained weight this week. I'm cool about it - it was a week of eating and drinking as I was away (hence why this post is belated). I think the 100lb in 2012 is unachievable now though, so I have revised my target to 91lb which is 6.5st - so 20.5lb to go. In all honesty though it's always been about clothes and dress sizes and the new dream is to go to my Christmas night out in a size 14 dress.

Fingers crossed!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

What do you think of those apples?

I'm feeling a little blue tonight, a little glum. I've just weighed in on the wii fit and it has shown a pretty massive gain, even by Sunday night standards. If you weigh in regularly like I do you get to know your daily and weekly fluctuations and I do always expect to be up after the weekend. Plus I weigh after dinner on a Sunday as opposed to before every other night.

I got my 5 stone award last week but I only lost half a pound to get it. If I am not careful my 100lb target for 2012 is going to be a dot in the horizon. At the moment I feel I'm treading water a bit but the 100lb is still within reach - I am at 70lb just now with 15 weighs to go before Christmas. That's exactly 2lb per week, fact fans. That also relies on a 2lb loss THIS week which I cannot see happening. Or next because I'm going away. Gaaaaah! It's time to refresh myself and get back to basics. It's not too late this week to still get a loss - even half a pound off is better off than on. I can lose up to 4lb in a week by being good an sticking to plan 100% so I need to get back on it. I've done it before and I know I can do it again.

In brighter news I've tackled some puddings! I made a toffee apple ice cream (ok, frozen yoghurt), which was good but not right, a bit crystally still. Tonight for pudding we had baked apples stuffed with mincemeat, which everyone else had with a blob of toffee apple ice cream (pictured) and I had with fromage frais. The last time I baked an apple was about 1993 in Home Economics at school! It was my B choice for the day so effectively free (woohoo!) this could end up being a household favourite... It felt naughty and decadent. I suppose that's the mincemeat, producing - with the help of the apples - a sweet, spiced syrup.

It also reminded me of Christmas. Which is 15 weigh ins away.


Thursday, 6 September 2012

Noodle Doodle Came To Town

I'm not very good at lunch. That sounds like an absurd thing to say but it's true. I don't like soup (I've talked about that before) and sandwiches can be so hit and miss. Plus with a limited wheat allowance I have to think carefully about when I am going to allow myself my B choice. Today I had a Weetabix Toffee Oaty Bar as my breakfast so that puts bread off the menu. After a morning at Gymboree with Megan then straight to nursery to drop Heather off, it's 1.15pm, I haven't eaten since my cereal bar, and I'm hungry. I need fast, tasty, satisfying food but I can't have bread (unless I syn it), and I don't have a microwave to to zap a potato. I don't do quick packets of mugshots, super noodle things or pasta sauce things, and I'm all out of eggs. Starvation looms? Not a chance, thanks (as ever) to my well stocked store cupboard.

Nigella Lawson has a recipe for a delicious and crunchy noodle salad. (It's in her book, Express or here: I've made it before and it's delicious, but quite high in syn because there's a lot of peanut butter and oil. Surely there's something I can do along these lines? Why yes there is.

On my shopping trip yesterday I picked up mangetout and beansprouts for dinner later in the week. Combined with cooked prawns stashed in the freezer, dried noodles from the cupboard and a few other bits and pieces from the fridge and cupboard, I've presented myself with a lower syn version of that lovely noodle salad. I calculate this to be roughly 3.5 syns, which is a lot for me to use at lunchtime however it's such a success I will definitely be having it again.

Serves 1

1 card dried noodles, cooked according to packet instructions
1 handful of cooked prawns
1 handful beansprouts
1 handful mangetout, sliced
1/4 pepper (yellow or red), sliced

1 tsp smooth peanut butter
1/4 tsp garlic oil
2 tsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
Dried chilli - to taste

Mix together your dressing ingredients in a bowl with a whisk. Toss your vegetables, noodles and prawns in with the dressing. Sprinkle with extra dried chilli to taste and serve.

It really is that easy, and so tasty. This will definitely be made again, maybe with chicken. If you aren't watching syns then by all means increase the peanut butter and/or sweet chilli sauce.

Either way, you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


There is absolutely nothing wrong with a little retro in our lives. There are so many things which made previous generations what they were that we can carry on doing and using. Or eating. Let's take a minute to think of Food From The Past. Spam? Spotted Dick? Prawn Cocktail? Spag Bol? My little list has a distinct 70s/80s feel but then I was born in the 80s and my mum and dad set up home in the 70s, so it makes sense. Cooking and eating these dishes in 2012 doesn't mean you are living in the past, it just means we have come up with better ways to make them (for the most part, anyway - I don't include Spam in that!).

One thing my mum cooked when I was growing up was Chicken Kiev. Shop bought, Mashed up chicken, sandwiched with a blob of garlic butter and breadcrumbed. As a grown up I still like the concept of stuffed, breaded chicken - as does my family! - but instead of mashed chicken I use a whole chicken breast. Obviously on SW I don't use butter but I have found that light cream cheese offers a similar feeling without breaking the bank, so here's how I do it.

Please note that SW don't say that flavoured cream cheese is an A choice - if you don't want to break the rule then either do it my way and syn the cheese or use plain light cream heese and add garlic and herbs. This version using the cheese as an A choice is 1/2-1 syns per person depending on how many breadcrumbs you use.

2 medium sized chicken breasts
70g garlic and herb light cream cheese
4 tbsp breadcrumbs (homemade, 1/2 a syn per tbsp)
1 egg, beaten

Make a pocket down the long side of your chicken breasts, being careful not to cut right through.

Stuff the cheese into your chicken breast pockets.

Dip each breast into the egg, then into the breadcrumbs. Chill if possible for 30 mins.

Bake for 25 mins at 200 degrees (fan) and serve with salad and SW chips... And don't forget the ketchup for the true retro feel!

I find I measure out 4tbsp of breadcrumbs but when I measure the waste I have 2 left so I use 1 syn between 2 people. You can stuff chicken breasts with almost anything - bacon and cheese? Spring onions and mushrooms? BBQ sauce and cheddar cheese? The only limitation is your imagination, and you should know that these freeze beautifully, making them perfect for a week night tea.

Other retro offerings coming your way soon are chilli and that trifle I mentioned last week. I haven't forgotten it.

As if I could?!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Sweets for my sweet

Puddings and desserts are something which we have never eaten a lot of. We love quality homemade or Italian ice cream and the desserts I tend to make are for special occasions or when we have friends and family over. Cheesecake is a big hit, and other favourites of mine are pavlovas and small meringues, trifle (usually at Christmas), tarts, cakes and cookies, crumbles and pies. Homely, family style puddings loved by all generations.

It shouldn't surprise you learn than i don't buy puddings. As with so many other things, I can make a good pudding myself so why buy? Slimming World have a new book out, a desserts book which I don't have yet and to be honest the jury is out as to whether I will or won't buy it. Whilst I can see the benefits of diet puds, to a certain extent I've always kind of had an all or nothing approach to puddings since we eat so few. Do it properly or not at all sort of thing.

Until recently.

Growing up we didn't really have puddings except at the weekend. We would often have something on a Sunday after the traditional Sunday dinner - a sponge pudding or similar as a treat to end the weekend. Times have changed, and my kids have a pudding every night, but most nights it's fruit or yoghurt. Ice cream is - as it should be - a treat for the girls, enjoyed and relished certainly no more than once a week, usually much less. We don't have a roast dinner every weekend, in fact it's a rarity for us, but we do eat with the girls round the table every Sunday for definite and Saturdays when we can. We eat a great variety of foods, there are no rules for the Sunday meal cuisine so one week we could be chowing down on a curry, the next pasta, the next a one pot. We haven't really bothered with puddings but recently I've started to feel we should be adding something to that meal in terms of dessert. The problem is, that I'm really mean with my syns where food is concerned, much preferring to enjoy wine at the weekend, condiments and crispy snacks during the week.

I have decided though that we are all missing out. Not just on the food itself, but on my skills. The decision is made though that I will start to indulge yes my children, and yes my lovely, supportive husband but also myself with delectable desserts and pleasurable puds. I'm going to start with a guideline of 5 or 6 syns and that's to include cream or custard too.

I adapted a traditional trifle last week and got it to 5 syns per person. I'll post the recipe after a little more tweaking. In the meantime, I'm going to be starting low with a toffee apple ice cream - hopefully I'll be reporting back good things on Sunday... And hopefully it will look something like the recipe picture below.

Maybe I'll buy that book after all...

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Gym Bunny

Last Monday marked a landmark occasion for me - I only went and joined a gym! The gym isn't for everyone, but when I was going for a while a few years ago I loved it, and was genuinely disappointed when I fell pregnant and my midwife recommended that as a pregnant asthmatic with a high BMI I should stop going. The one I have joined is called GP Fitness Solutions and is a small, independent gym about 5 minutes from my house. It's got a couple of treadmills, a few cross trainers, a few bikes, weights and a class room up stairs for Zumba and the likes. It's not massive but I like it. The bigger council run gyms can feel very soulless, but I didn't feel that with this one and can't wait to go back on Monday!

We have been doing some exercise already so it's not like I've been doing nothing. Richy and I both started dieting in January, we both weigh on almost every night on the Wii and for many months used that as our exercise, picking the sports we enjoyed the most. I tended to do the step aerobics, hula hoop and my favourite was the boxing. Richy would hula, maybe a bit of step, then jog. It's this indoor jogging which has ultimately led to him running outside too, and he is enjoying it so much that he is undertaking his first 10k a week today!

Exercising on the wii fit was fine. The sports we both did we would be competing against each other for top ranking, and in the others we would be competing against ourselves. The time came to shake it up though, and for my birthday in April I got Zumba 2 for the Wii. Since then we Zumb (as we call it) for 2 half hour sessions a week. The first night was a mixture of giggles, bumping into each other and sweating as neither of us knew what we were doing. Nonetheless it got easier and we have continued to enjoy it. We will still do the Zumba once a week and that will be enough. With me at the gym and Richy out running at lunchtimes we are both more active than we have ever been. And that's no bad thing!

Just before I sign off, coming very soon we will have a guest post from Richy as he celebrates getting to his target weight. He has lost 3.5st this year and I couldn't be more proud of him. The challenge of maintaining is now his to master, particularly since I will still be dieting for the foreseeable future (I hope to get to my target for April ish next year).

Well done, Richy, you've done amazingly. X

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Big Mama

You know, having one child was lovely. Heather was a great baby - she ate and slept well and developed beautifully into a beautiful - if boisterous - toddler. When my lovely little Megan came along I sat back one morning in those early days and was overwhelmed with a sense of completeness. My little family was done.

Obviously I cook for me and Richy, but I've always cooked from scratch for the girls too: neither have ever had jars or packets of baby food, and that's not to say there's anything wrong with them, it just wasn't for me. Heather had purées of every variety before moving on to proper food, and although we didn't all eat together very much in her first years, what she was offered was almost always healthy, wholesome grub, which she consumed with gusto. Megan also got the purée treatment, but unlike her sister wasn't find of the spoon and so quickly we ditched mush and moved on to real food. No more pureeing? I call that a result. Luckily both of my kids love their food, and the cuisine they love most has to be Italian. To be fair, they eat most things - traditional British dinners, curries, Chinese etc, however Italian is most definitely where it's at. These days there is barely a weekend goes by that I'm not bubbling up a pot of something. Sometimes chilli, sometimes curry, but in the past two weeks alone I've made a massive pot of ragu and again another pot of tomato sauce, like some big Italian Mama, stirring and chopping away to feed the brood.

Two things I absolutely must have in my fridge are a jar of homemade tomato sauce and a tupperware tub of soffrito. I make my soffrito by blitzing in my food processor a head of celery, 6-8 carrots, 2-3 onions and about 6 cloves of garlic until finely chopped. This will then keep in a sealed box in the fridge for several weeks and it's the ideal base for risottos, tomato sauce or pretty much any Italian base. The flavour it adds is immense and I am lost without it.

The soffrito is then the base for my tomato sauce. Sweat down a good laden wooden spoon full of soffrito in frylight for 10-15 minutes, add a tin of quality tomatoes, 2-3 tsp of Italian herbs, 2tbsp tomato purée and lashings of salt and pepper. You can add chilli, red wine and worcestershire sauce too if you like - just add what feels right. That's what I do and I always end up - after 20-30 minutes of simmering - with a sweet, rich, thick tomato sauce. Pop in a jar in your fridge and it keeps for weeks, always ready for a quick supper.

Once you've got these ingredients you have the necessary agents for the new Black family tea of choice! Tomato and mozzarella linguine bake has been on our table several times in the past week. Heather eats it with gusto and since Megan eats everything with gusto, that adds it to the Family Tea List. You can make it in advance, it's cheap, satisfying and with your jar of tomato sauce in the fridge, it's quick. Plus, using your A choice, it's free on Extra Easy. Here it is, to serve 4.

400g spaghetti or linguine (my choice)
2/3 batch of tomato sauce
180g mozzarella, sliced or grated

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees (fan).

Boil the pasta according to packet instructions.

Add the pasta to the sauce and stir well. Transfer to a shallow baking dish and top with the mozzarella. Bake for 15 minutes until golden.

Serve with extra Parmesan (don't forget to syn it SWers!!)

This sounds so simple - and it is - but I swear this just adds to its joy. You will, I hope, love this as much as we do.

As for the rest of the tomato sauce, well it's in the fridge, ready to add to a pizza topping, a chicken breast or add cream cheese to it and make it a creamy pasta sauce. There are so many things you can do with a homemade tomato sauce, and the soffrito makes a flavoursome risotto.

Try the bake out, kids. This Soon-To-Be-Not-Quite-So-Big Mama and her brood highly recommend it.

Saturday, 11 August 2012


This week it's been hard to keep on track. Following on from my last post my mum arrived for a week long visit. It's not so much during the week that the problems occur, more that at the weekends we like to eat, drink and be merry, and what I've learned about myself is that it's when I eat and drink together that problems occur.

Last weekend we all went out on the Saturday evening with my mum and brother to Equis, a local family run fish and chip shop/ice cream parlour which was opened in the 1920s. It's actually not possible to stick to plan there because the fish and chips are fabulous and the ice cream is simply irresistible. My Coppa Amerena may have been a wise sundae choice in that it wasn't covered in honeycomb, marshmallows or chocolate sauce but when you are talking about the amount of ice cream we ate, the toppings are neither here nor there. Plus there was wine.

On Sunday we had a traditional Sunday roast, a big favourite of my mum's. Roast leg of lamb with mint and rosemary stuffing served with homemade gravy, frylight roasties, steamed baby potatoes, carrots, broccoli and - oops - Yorkshire puddings. Oh and wine.

Even my positively angelic Monday to Wednesday weigh in couldn't save me this week though, and this week I maintained. It's not all bad news though - common sense tells me that one gain and one maintain in 26 weeks of dieting is nothing to be ashamed of. As I've said all along, this is a long term plan and so far it's going brilliantly.

Anyway, this is all a long way of saying that I've shunned the Chinese takeaway I had planned for tonight in favour of Nigella Lawson's Chicken with 40 Cloves of garlic. I'll be able to pull it in for zero syns by switching to frylight from olive oil. Hopefully these wise choices will stand me in good stead come Wednesday. I'm going to be praying for a good loss this week to get me back on track for my 2012 loss.

On a final note, I bought a new dress for work in another size down about a fortnight ago, and a dress for a wedding in September in another size down from that again yesterday. And I took my measurements again this morning.

That made me smile.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

If I had 3 Wishes

I'd wish for 5.

Each wish is a dress size.

And I have a year.

So far I've knocked 3 aside and I think that puts me on course for all 5 in 2012. The next one isn't that far off either, hopefully achievable in the next 6 weeks or so. Presumably as I get smaller each pound has to do a little less work to reduce a dress size, so I'm still hopeful of dropping the final two sizes by Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I'm not finished there, but the 5 sizes/100lb thing for me is about goals. Achievable goals I can spend 2012... well.. achieving (hopefully).

So I'm lying really. I want 7... and one for luck? I'd be happy with 7 dress sizes. Truth be told, I might be happy with 6. The problem with having been overweight for so long is that I don't know how I'm going to look or feel at a given size or weight. With this in mind, I intend to aim for another 2 stone after my 100lb this year and then take it from there. I will keep looking at myself and when I like what I see, I'll stop.

The 100lb thing is going well. With this week's loss (did I mention I got my 4.5st award this week?) I am 63% of the way to my goal with 38% of the year to go. For those not mathematically minded out there, that means I have 37lb to lose in 20 weeks. Still an average of less than 2lb per week and a few 2.5s here and there should mean this is doable.

I still don't quite believe I've lost what I have in the time I have lost it in. Slowly but surely though, I'm starting to see changes. When I look in the mirror, I see a smaller person. Not thinner, not more slender. Just smaller. My shoulders look narrower. My neck looks slightly longer. My legs are thinner. My rings are almost falling off. The truth is though, that largely (wait for it) I don't really see it. Other people can though, and that matters more. Hopefully one day in the future, when I've lost my 100lb, then my next 2 stone, and I've decided where I want to be, and I've called Target (even if I haven't reached it), hopefully then I'll see it.

I can't wait for the day someone actually doesn't recognise me though. That's gonna be awesome.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Who ate all the pies?

It was me, I ate them. Only that I haven't been eating many pies recently. Basically, pies of any kind have been off the menu since I started Slimming World because pastry is horrifically high in syns. At approximately 5 syns per 25g, it's doable but I prefer not to spend that amount of syns of a lump of pastry. Many people would, and I'm not saying anything about that, but for me it's too high a spend.

Someone in my house has been missing pastry though, and that's Richy. He loves a good pie and even suggested he might ask for a pie for his birthday tea in October.... Fact! With this in mind I have been on the hunt for a recipe I could adapt, and once again your pal and mine Jamie Oliver has come to the rescue. When doesn't he?

My traditional family chicken and mushroom pie is based on a tarragon flavoured white sauce topped with puff pastry. The chicken is cooked in onions and butter and the whole lot is transformed into a deliciously synful combination of heart attack inducing goodness. Needless to say, we have never eaten this regularly but when we have it had been enjoyed by all. The recipe I used today was from Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals. Granted his was a lighter recipe than mine anyway, but I've skinnied it up a little further to make it Slimming World friendly. I've brought it in at 6 syns for the whole recipe serving 4 adults, so 1.5 syns per portion. I made a few changes based on my food plan, and a few based on what I had in.

Here's what I used:

400g chicken breasts, sliced into 2" strips
1 leek, cleaned and finely chopped
150g chestnut mushrooms, sliced chunkily
20g plain flour (1 heaped tbsp)
1 heaped tbsp low fat creme fraiche
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp dried thyme
1 chicken stock cube, in 300ml boiling water

750g Maris piper potatoes, boiled and mashed with 100g light cream cheese (use some of your A choice for this)

This is what I did:

Spray a large pan with frylight and add the chicken. Cook for a few minutes then add the leek and mushrooms. Add the flour and stir well.

Mix in the mustard powder, thyme, nutmeg and creme fraiche and stir together. Add in the chicken stock and simmer for a few minutes.

Using a slotted spoon remove the chicken and mushrooms from the pan. Increase the heat and bubble until you have a rich, thick sauce. Taste and season as required. Add back your chicken and mushrooms, mix well and transfer to a pie dish.

Top with mash, spray the top with frylight and cook at 200 degrees for 20-25 minutes until golden and piping hot. Serve up with veg of your choice - I opted for carrot mash and broccoli.

Ok fair play - there's no pastry. Does it count as a pie? I'd say so. Look at Cottage, Shepherd's and Fish pies. Certainly the Jamie O version uses puff pastry, but to be honest this version was lower syn and loved by husband and kids alike. It was rich, comforting, tasty and delicious. Exactly what I needed at the end of this week. It didn't feel like a diet meal either. This is the kind of dish that nobody would ever know was SW friendly. I would say I would use tarragon instead of thyme in future, but that's personal taste.

The final verdict from me and Richy was to definitely make again. Aside from anything else, it perfectly suited this wintery, wet Summer's day. And no, that wasn't a typo.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012


It's been a bit of a week, all things considered. You might have read about my accident in my previous post, and the weekend of cravings which followed. Those cravings haven't gone away entirely - certainly I don't feel my old self yet - but the New Me doesn't let a simple thing like concussion, stitches and blood loss get in the way. (Disclaimer - for the most part!) I know I'll get my roast chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy next week so it's all under control, and just knowing that has allowed me to stay 100% on plan since I woke up on Sunday morning, living a syn free life... mostly.

And it has worked! Despite being up on my Wii weigh in all week (a gain which I am blaming entirely on brufen), tonight at class (which I wasn't going to attend) I am thrilled to report I got a 2.5lb weight loss! I am over the moon. My jaw almost hit the ground, so sure was I that I had gained!

They key this week has been preparation. I was at work on Monday and Tuesday as normal, but on Monday in particular I felt tired, drained and disconnected. I felt like I was in a bubble. My vision was odd and my head hurt. Tuesday was more of the same but on a lesser scale. I knew if I was to eat properly and not just get a pizza/Chinese/chippy I had to be organised. Monday was Jamie Oliver's Cherry tomato pasta - chopped cherry tomatoes, garlic, balsamic vinegar and Parmesan all cooked into a tangy sauce. Tuesday was chicken souvlaki style kebabs, wedges and salad. Both dishes were in my tummy in well under 30 minutes, having decided that's what we were having in advance. I keep cubed chicken chunks in weighed bags in the freezer, ready to throw my dressing over, and how much effort is it to wedge a couple of potatoes, spritz with fry light and scatter with herbs?

I'm far from perfect (believe me) but I really believe preparation is key to staying on plan when things gets busy or the motivation isn't there because, y'know, life gets in the way. Odd cook ins here and there (one for tea, one for the freezer), bags of marinated chicken in the freezer and most of all, a well stocked store cupboard. A full freezer and cupboard means you are never far away from the basis of a good, healthy munchable for dinner.

So here is to another well planned week. A teeny little 1.5lb this week will get me my 4.5st award. Then there's only 2.5st left to get my 100lb in 2012. It's starting to feel achievable now...

I think.

Sunday, 22 July 2012


Tell me, what's your number one comfort food? Without shadow of a doubt mine would have to be roast chicken, buttery mashed potato and gravy. No vegetables, just that. It's plain and simple in taste, but warm, soft and soothing. What's not to like? It's the one dish I crave when I'm unwell, extremely tired or cold or just under the weather. So it's no surprise to me that it's this very dish I have been craving this weekend - but haven't yet had.

See, on Friday I fainted in the kitchen and knocked myself out on the kitchen floor. I regained consciousness in a pool of blood and spent the afternoon in A&E getting my head sewn back together. Fun times, right?

So started the desire for comfort food.

We had friends over on Saturday for food and drinks. I really didn't want to cancel and my chosen menu was simple Italian fare - low maintenance for cooking with a head injury. I served my family's favourite Chicken Parmagiana with insalata caprese and quality bread, followed by Nigella's no fuss fruit tart. Whilst the menu was not 100% on plan (heaven knows how many syns in the tart!), food wise it suited my mood perfectly. Comforting, simple food eaten with some of my favourite people and accompanied with some lovely drinks.

The comfort food thing hasn't gone away today either. I still don't feel right, I have only just been able to wash my hair properly and the weather is horrific. This combined with my sore wound doesn't call for salads and steamed vegetables. It calls for roast chicken, buttery mashed potatoes and gravy. Sadly for me I didn't have a chicken to roast, so tonight we had my second choice comfort food - sausage, egg and chips, all done the SW way, obviously. (There was no super free on my plate but I did munch on some beetroot before I ate, for those on plan watch!)

All of this combined doesn't bode well for this week's weigh in, however the good news is that I have gone down another dress size! I was hoping to skip the next size but my jeans were hanging off me. I put the new jeans on and got a buzz of excitement - just before i passed out, funnily enough. Hopefully I'll be buying the size smaller again in a couple of months, and that, my friends, is definitely comforting.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Cooking the books

Most people own a celebrity chef cook book of some sort. It's the kind of thing which gets bought at Christmas and then lies languishing, unused and unloved on the book shelf. I do have a few lesser used books, but generally i use all of mine from time to time, and my favourite books take a special slot in my kitchen. There are a couple of Nigella Lawson books there, a few of Jamie Oliver's and a couple of others too (Economy Gastronomy, Fabulous Baker Brothers). I only have space for a few in that kitchen slot, and the rest live in my under the stairs cupboard. This forces me to occasionally put them away, so some are rotated. The downside is that they are out of sight, and sometimes that means out if mind. It's easy to forget which books you have and which recipes you love.

On any other diet I've been on these books have been resigned to the no-go pile, after all on what diet can you eat the kinds of foods Nigella and Jamie put out? Turns out, Slimming World! With a few changes almost all the recipes from my favourite books are back on the menu, plus a whole load more. The best part is that this opens up a whole new world of diet friendly recipes. Whilst the recipe section of the Slimming World website, the Slimming World magazine and all their books are undeniably great, for me it's a little restrictive. One of my great pleasures is browsing a new or rediscovered recipe book and pulling out ideas for our family dinners or special occasions. These books aren't just for dinner parties in my world.

In a lot of cases just swapping the oil/butter for frylight is all you have to do. Take for example the two dishes I have made today. Bubbling away on the stove as we speak is Jamie O's Chilli con Jamie (from Jamie's America). It is made with a whole piece of brisket rather than the ordinary minced beef but as I am not a huge fan of mince like that it suits me down to the ground (although it is a touch more expensive this way). Other than the oil swap there are no other changes and there isn't a single syn in the whole pot. That will do me and Richy three dinners (batch cooking for the freezer, another favourite of mine!) served with Greek yoghurt and plain rice. Tonight's dinner with the girls was broccoli orecchiette, another Jamie O recipe, this time from 30 Minute Meals. This is a small shell pasta dish in which you make a paste of anchovies, broccoli, capers, chilli and parmesan to create your sauce. This again requires only an oil sub to bring it down to only half a syn per portion (assuming you are using your A choice for the required 30g Parmesan), and that's in the anchovies. Another delicious hearty, healthy dinner brought to you the SW way by Mama Bee in connection with Jamie O! Other things to watch out for are things like cream, which can be subbed for yoghurt or fromage frais.

Ok, fair enough - I suspect purists and the Chefs themselves may argue that it's not the same without the olive oil or butter, and to an extent they are right. There is a slight loss of taste without the oil and butter so many recipes call for, but for me right now it's a compromise I have to make.

That said, there are some things I would rather go without entirely - pastry and pizzas spring straight to mind. There are a lot of Slimming Worlders who make a Smash pizza base using the instant mashed potato. A quick google should get you the recipe should you be interested, but I can't bring myself to. I'd rather go without. Similarly replacing a puff pastry pie top with a pitta bread - maybe it would be great, but my heart tells me not to do it. I can't go without my books though. For me, staying on this plan is about not getting bored, making sure what we are eating tastes interesting, looks interesting, and also ensuring that I'm not bored out of my brain week on week cooking the same things. I have now started going through my books, and I now have a note in my phone of some of the recipes I want to get to which can be made SW friendly.

After all, who wants the same 5 meals every week for their whole life? I sure don't, and with some careful substitutions I won't have to either.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Bumper Shrooms

It should come as no surprise to you all that I live food. Actually that "live" was a typo and should have read "love", but it works beautifully. I do live it. Not just the eating part but also cooking food, reading about it, shopping for it, looking at it, watching tv shows about it, thinking about it and talking about it. Cooking is a particular delight for me - filling empty, appreciative tummies has to be my number one thing to do. A little tragic, I know, but it does make me smile, and I genuinely never tire of playing about with new ideas to make something delicious, new and - now - diet friendly.

It was this fiddling which led me to stuffing large flat mushrooms on Friday morning, as an alternative side to the steaks I had in for our dinner. To be fair, these mega mushrooms would also make a splendid main course dish with a side salad. They are free on Extra Easy using your healthy A and B choices for the day too.

Serves 2

2 large flat mushrooms, stalks removed and finely chopped
1/2 a small onion, finely chopped
2 asparagus spears, finely chopped
2 rashers of bacon (fat removed), diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Juice of half a lemon
50g fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
35g chilli flavoured light cream cheese (or use plain with a pinch of chilli flakes)
30g grated Parmesan
Small bunch of basil, chopped

Heat a frying pan and spray with frylight. Lay your mushrooms in your pan, face down, and fry gently for about a minute. Remove from the pan and place in a baking dish, face up.

Add the chopped mushrooms, onion, garlic, bacon and asparagus and sauté gently for 4-5 minutes until softened.

Transfer to a bowl and mix in the breadcrumbs, lemon juice, soft cheese and basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fill your mushrooms with the stuffing and sprinkle the Parmesan on top.

Bake for 20 minutes at 200 degrees (fan oven) until the topping is crisp and golden.

(I must confess that very technically the soft cheese is not an A choice - unless you buy the plain light cheese and flavour yourself - but I have been using the flavoured ones as my A choice maybe once a fortnight without any detrimental effects. If you aren't happy making the tweak, take the plain cheese option and flavour as above.)

The other picture below is one of my lunches from this week. I mention this purely because it is the potato cakes I talked about in a previous post, Horses - you'll find it here:

In other news, Richy hit his 3 stone loss this week. I am so proud of him, and I know that feeling was reciprocated this week when I got my 4 stone award. Clearly I am very pleased indeed after the excesses of last weekend. I lost a pound which was twice what I needed to get my award. It still doesn't feel real though. Despite being smaller than I have ever been, I still have that again to lose and more. I'm looking at another 5 stone from here, maybe more, maybe less, and I think it's going to be another 2 stone before I really get it. If I ever do.

It's got to come eventually though. I'm sure of it.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Then and now

I've been away this weekend. By away, I mean off plan too. I travelled south to Lancashire to stay with my old school friend Catharine, and another old school friend Ruth drove up north. We have known each other since we were 11, and don't get together very often these days (location being against us, obviously) but when we do we have a blast.

Friday went well. I was good during the day - I had olives instead of crisps and chocolate on the train. I was even quite good at night, munching on a delicious free curry with rice which Cat had very sweetly made with my diet in mind. I had a good amount of wine, but I fully intended to enjoy myself this weekend. Being careful all the time is great in theory but if this is to work long term then I need to be flexible with it, and I haven't even got half way yet.

Saturday was more challenging - I started with a cereal bar, then had a club sandwich with tea and cake at the famous Betty's Tea Room in Harrogate. We then mooched about the shops before heading back to Cat's house to get our glam on for going out. We went to The Fence and had a tremendous meal - I started with wild mushroom risotto, moved onto a trio of fish and finished with a shared cheeseboard. And more wine. Back to the house we sank a few gins and a few French martinis before sloping off to bed at 1.30 having giggled a lot, drunk a lot, and taken a lot of photos. I recently came across a photo of me with Ruth and Cat at my hen night in 2003 - I have no idea what I weighed then but I made sure we got another photo of the 3 of us for exactly this purpose. We all look totally different, but my massive face is the standout feature for me.

I am 100% back on plan today. My dinner is made and is at home in the fridge, and I bought a feta salad (A choice for the day) to eat on the train, skipping the dressing to keep it syn free. Although I have totally been off plan, it's all fresh again this morning. I am praying for a little half pound this week to claim my 4st award and I hope I can do it. I got a massive boost because it is 2 months since I saw Ruth but I haven't seem Cat since I started this - I was thrilled at their reaction to my weightloss. Hopefully by the time I see Ruth again I will be celebrating my 5.5st award, assuming it all goes to plan anyway. Plus my current favourite top for going out is suddenly absolutely massive on me. I suppose that means more shopping? It's a hard life.

Anyway, I'm sure you are all desperate to know if the pink top I spoke about a few weeks ago fits and came with me: the answer is it didn't come with me but it does fit. It's button through so it had to be perfect though, nobody likes stretched buttons!

There. Bet you feel better now.

Thursday, 5 July 2012


There are a few things in this world which are just meant to be laughed at, Scotch eggs being one of them. I don't know many people who actually admit to liking Scotch eggs, yet what's not to like? Egg, good. Sausage, good. Shop bought Scotch eggs though? Not so much. They are the slightly unpalatable, unloveable and ridiculed plastic party food. Rubbery sausage meat, over cooked eggs, soggy yet tough crumbs. Yuck. Yet a shop bought, mass produced Scotch egg would set you back an astonishing 15 syns! My mum has made home made Scotch eggs for years, but they are high calorie. Thickly breadcrumbed and deep fried in hot oil, they are crunchy and delicious... But not good for you. After hearing about someone oven baking them, I decided to see if I could bring them to a lower syn value - and I have.

First off you need some low syn sausages. I use a sausage from my local butcher which come in at half a syn per sausage, but any low syn sausage would do. Skin your sausages, and wrap the meat from each sausage around 1 hard boiled 1 small-medium egg. Dip in beaten egg, roll in breadcrumbs (half a syn per tbsp, you will need 1tbsp per egg), then bake for 20 minutes in a 200 degree oven. This version comes in at 1 syn per egg. Delicious warm or cold, great for picnics or car journeys, they haven't lasted long in this house!

The other weird thing from this week is tonight's dinner - the odd sounding diet coke chicken. Anyone who has done Slimming World will most likely have come across it. I had been on plan for all of a week before I saw this dish and have been put off because, well, it sounds weird! I was at a loss for dinner tonight though, so decided to give it a go. Me being me though I didn't quite follow the recipe, and will make again with tweaks.

2 chicken breasts, sliced
4 spring onions, shredded
1 red pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
8 baby sweetcorn, halved lengthways

330ml diet coke
6 tbsp passata
Pinch garlic salt
1 tsp soy sauce
Splash Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Chinese 5 Spice
1 chicken stock cube

Heat a wok or frying pan with frylight and stirfry your chicken and spring onions until sealed.

Add in your sauce ingredients and veg, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.

After the 10 minutes (or once your chicken is cooked through), remove the chicken and veg and increase the heat. Simmer until thickened to your liking (another 10-15 minutes for me). Add chicken and veg back to the sauce, stir to coat and heat until piping.

Serve with egg fried rice (made using frylight).

My changes for the future would be to add a chilli (or a good pinch of crudhed chillis) at the start with the chicken and onions, and to double the 5 spice. It really was surprisingly tasty, and I will definitely make again... Even though it sounds a bit odd. It is free, plus it's made from store cupboard ingredients.

What more could you ask for?

Monday, 2 July 2012

Mmm, cheesy

Some things just sound bad for you. By bad for you i mean high syn, high in fat and/or calorie and no way part and parcel of being on a diet in any way. I am thinking the likes of mac and cheese. Cake. Anything with the word "pie" in it. There are things which have been off our family menu since I started this journey because I point blank refuse to use syns on them. Pastry is pretty much a no-go, as is anything containing cream. Or so I thought...

Many years ago I bought a book by Jamie Oliver (you may have heard of him). One recipe from that book which we have made and made over the years is his carbonara. Rich and creamy with egg yolks, Parmesan and double cream it is super tasty and super calorific. Any time we have been on a diet over the years we have scrapped the cream and replaced it with crème fraiche. This certainly reduces the calories, but what I have learned about Slimming World is that it isn't just about calories - the syn values (where applicable) really are based on various criteria - fat being one of them. There are dairy products you can have which are free, being fat free natural yoghurt, fat free fromage frais and quark, but I haven't been convinced any of them are a suitable replacement. I was most pleased then to read recently that the cream is not a classic addition to a carbonara. The blend I have been uses 2 whole medium eggs and 60g Parmesan with your cooked bacon, garlic and herbs. The best bit is it remains free! The fact this meal is now back on the table is a win win win for me and Mr Bee - it is free, quick, simple, perfect for an after work supper and I always have the ingredients in for it.

In other news, I have been working on that rainbow thing i mentioned a couple of posts ago. It is small steps but I am quite proud of it. I bought a top last week in a smaller size (yay) and in a lovely bright print. Teamed with a lovely new pair of navy and cream trim slingback wedges I am thrilled with my new outfit. I'm going away this weekend... I might have to take them with me...

Friday, 29 June 2012

Forza Italia!

I am officially stuffed.

A lunchtime nandos with a very good friend went well (skinless chicken quarter, spicy rice, side salad - max 5 syns!) so in theory, given I never eat as much as that during the day, I should be off the idea of tea/dinner (depending which part of the country you are from), and yet I've just packed away a yummilicious chicken and asparagus risotto. In celebration of Italy making the Euro 2012 finals? Not quite, but anyway..

I bloody love Italian food, I really do. I've commented in a previous post that we eat a lot of pasta, and although I have always loved risotto it is only recently I've developed any love of actually cooking it. It always seems to take loads of time, stirring it gently until creamy and luxurious. Obviously a classic version is not slimming world friendly, but this is my recipe which is free if you use the Parmesan as your Healthy A choice for the day. "Fillings" are totally up to you but this combination is the Black household favourite. Serves 2.

1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
140g risotto rice
500ml hot chicken stock
60g grated Parmesan
Black pepper
frylight (use 2tbsp olive oil if you haven't used your B choice)
1 cooked chicken breast, shredded
8 asparagus spears, chopped into 2cm lengths

Spray a deep sides casserole or sauté dish with frylight and heat. Add the finely chopped carrot, celery and garlic and sweat slowly on a low heat for 10 minutes or until soft.

Add your rice and stir until coated and glossy. Allow to toast slightly for about a minute.

Keeping the pan on a lowish heat, begin to add the stock ladle by ladle, allowing each ladle to be absorbed before adding the next. Stir gently and almost continuously - this helps to make the risotto nice and creamy. This should take 20-30 minutes stirring and adding stock until it is all absorbed.

In the meantime heat a small frying pan with frylight and add your chopped asparagus, tossing until lightly charred. Add your shredded chicken, remove from the heat and put to one side - the chicken will warm later.

Once your stock is all absorbed, add plenty of black pepper and half of the grated Parmesan. Stir in your chicken and asparagus and serve, sprinkling liberally with the remaining Parmesan.

I really hope you make this and love it as much as we do. The asparagus is crunchy and almost bitter against the soft and creamy rice. My only changes to the classic recipe really are the frylight and the exemption of white wine. You could still add wine before the stock, about 125ml, allowing the rice to absorb this before starting with your stock. This would make the recipe 4 syns in total.

Or you could do what I often do - splash some in and share the rest of the bottle with the other lucky risotto eater. Just remember - count the syns...

Thursday, 28 June 2012


I am constantly caught off guard with this weight loss game. It moves and changes like the wind, taking your emotions with it.

Last night I went to weigh in and pulled off another 2.5lbs. It's not fantastic for a 2 week loss, far from it, but it's better off than on and takes me to a total of 3st 9.5lb. That's 51.5lb, or almost 23.5kg, if you are Continentally minded. It also dropped me into a lower stone bracket, which is always a lovely feeling. The 51.5 number is particularly important for me because my target for 2012, which I set in January, is a loss of 100lbs. Now I am OVER HALFWAY THERE. Wow.

Despite these milestones being achieved, I came home last night feeling glum. I had a carbonara for dinner, made to a normal recipe but SW friendly. I used my HEB to make a garlic bread as my treat with a little bit of garlic butter. (Actually I got Richy to make it, but whatever!). Normally on weigh day I treat myself to something a little off plan, but other than half a teaspoon of butter I was totally on plan last night. I just didn't fancy anything. I felt grumpy, frumpy, and fatter than ever. Why? All because I hadn't lost as much as I thought I ought to have, either this week or throughout June - I am by far my own worst critic and I give myself the hardest time.

Today I woke up and decided to check my measurements, as it's 5 months since I took them for the first time, though I have taken them at intervals in between times. I am so glad I did. Since January I have lost a total of 33" - 10" off my waist, 9" off my chest, 4" off each thigh, 3" off each arm, 0.5" off each wrist, 1" off each calf. During the past month where I "haven't done that well" (only 6lb off in June), I have shifted 9" in total, most notably 3" off my chest and 2" off my waist. Suddenly I felt a lot better, and perspective is once again my friend - I still want my 5.5st award by Richy's birthday at the start of October though (13 weigh ins)!

This week's New Thing was Herby salmon and couscous baked in a bag (en papillote!) and served with a pepper and feta side salad.

2 fillets of salmon
100g couscous
1 lemon
2 cloves garlic
200ml chicken or veg stock
4 fat spring onions, shredded
1 small handful each parsley and thyme, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Handful Sundried tomatoes (free if homemade)

Add the juice of the lemon, plus the zest to the couscous, crush the garlic into it then add the stock. Cover and leave for 10 minutes. Mix through the tomatoes and two thirds of the herbs and onions then split into 2 piles on to large squares of baking paper.

Put your salmon fillet on top of the couscous and top with the remaining herbs and onions. Fold your paper over and twist the edges so you have 2 parchment parcels. Pop onto a baking tray and bake for about 15 mins at 180 degrees (fan).

This is based on a recipe from

The pictures are before baking and after. It was delicious, but to be honest I think bulking the couscous would be more suitable than a side salad, packing it with roasted red peppers, red onions, asparagus maybe? Suggestions gratefully received.

I will post the recipe to my homespun SW Sundried tomatoes in the next few posts. After all, it would be rude not to.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Over the rainbow

If you looked back at pictures of me from the past 15 years you would see a lot of a few things. Denim. Black. Shapeless. These three things have been my staples for any occasion. Even dressed for a wedding or function I would opt for a plain, printless black or red outfit, or a black and red outfit, or a red or black outfit with opposing accessories. I suppose the subconscious intent was to hide behind the dark colours, although I certainly wasn't aware of it.

Over the years I have realised a few things about myself, one of them being how fortunate I have been in my life. Although I have always had a weight problem, I have always had friends and a life and would never have said I was lacking confidence. I am noticing a change in myself as I drop the pounds, though, and I am slowly realising that the change is confidence. Suddenly I am brave enough to try new things with my hair, my make up, my nail polish, my jewellery, my clothes. Suddenly I don't want to be dressed constantly in black. Suddenly I want to be seen.

My clothing options just now are seriously limited as I am throwing clothes out far quicker than i am replacing them. As I dressed this morning, my clean top half options were a red and white striped fitted jersey polo shirt or a black and grey longer length baggyish asymmetrical t-shirt. As I selected the red and white top I felt myself waving goodbye to those monochrome staples of the past, and welcoming the pinks, purples, blues and all the other colours I have previously shunned.

Except orange. It can still get lost.

Friday, 22 June 2012

In the pink?

Motivation is something I've had by the bucket load so far. In 20 weeks I haven't felt like I wanted to stop or binge on synful foods. This week I still want to lose it, but I can feel my focus slipping, my motivation waning, my will power weak by comparison - and I think I know why.

I missed class on Wednesday.

It was a planned, booked in holiday. Richy had a half day from work for Heather's first sports day and we took them to Frankie and Benny's for tea. I've been making fudgey truffles as gifts. I went out last night for dinner to an All You Can Eat buffet with my friends from work. I didn't drink, and I didn't eat *too* much but I've had 2 nights off and I can really feel it.

This is where it ends.

With a weekend away with school friends in early July I really need to up my game, and I really think going back to class on Wednesday will help. I've long believed staying to class is a massive help and this week is proving it for me. My original plan was to get my 4st award by July 4th. It's certainly not impossible, but it's unlikely unless I get my ass back in gear. I would need 7lb over the next two weigh ins, but let's remember that this weigh in is two weeks dieting, so if I pull it back and get say 4 or 5 this coming Wednesday (2-2.5lb loss over the past 2 weeks) then I'm only chasing 2-3 next week. Doable.

I can talk the talk, but can I walk the walk? I have to. Failure is not an option here. I want to be picking a gorgeous outfit for the Christmas party this year, not sloping out at the last minute and making the best of a bad lot like usual. Last night I went out wearing the new denim skirt I mentioned a few weeks ago (now it finally fits) and before I left I tried on a new pink checked shirt my dad bought me. It was a little snug a week ago and a little less snug last night. It looked fabulous with the denim skirt. Maybe I'll be taking it away with me?

You know I will.