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.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012


I have big news: me and Richy have passed a milestone and lost a total of 6 stone between us in 20 weeks. Six! 2.5 of those are his, and, well the other 3.5 are officially mine.

I claimed my most recent award last Wednesday. Really it's a surprise I haven't posted before about our combined losses but I suddenly can't miss the opportunity to congratulate us both. It's a great feeling. Our bed feels bigger and our arms seem longer.

Long may it continue!

Leftover Jewels

I love one pot dishes. Anything which can be served in a wide pasta style bowl, in front of the tv if necessary, and eaten one handed with a fork is a winner for me. Pasta obviously fits this criteria, but so do other dishes too. Stir fries with noodles, risottos, mixed "special fried" rice - these are dishes which can be dressed up to serve friends for dinner or eaten casually as an after work supper, propped up with a cushion.

I know I have mentioned my Syn Free But Utterly Delicious Risotto before, and also my Hyderabadi chicken biryani, but last week I added a new dish to my bowl friendly repertoire: pilaf. The rice is cooked in a seasoned stock and mixed with whatever takes your fancy. The one I chose to try, having never had a pilaf before, was from a book by everyone's favourite kitchen Goddess, Nigella Lawson's Kitchen. My copy is slightly charred after my mum accidentally set it on fire but the contents are still perfect with its splashes and notes, and the split spine just adds to the charm of a book I truly love.

Nigella's Mixed Meat Pilaf is warm with cumin and coriander, light and aromatic with thyme. I used mixed wild rice and basmati, a couple of syns on some toasted pine nuts, stuffed it with budget friendly leftover mustard pork roast from the weekend with added shredded chicken, and finally sprinkled with jewel like ruby red pomegranate seeds. These are my new favourite thing - sweet and sour with a slight crunch, I could eat them all day. The beauty of a dish like this, of course, is that anything goes - a quick rifle through the fridge and you have another versatile, healthy, family friendly dish. Obviously my change was frylight over the specified vegetable oil, and as such it does require additionsl seasoning. Frylight does not offer the flavour of oil and I do find extra salt and pepper are required - to taste, obviously, but I think without this frylight could leave your grub a little bland.

Richy and I both enjoyed this hugely and it will most definitely be on my make again list. It is a perfect carrier for leftovers and to be honest that makes it a huge winner for me. Healthy, cheap, tasty, interesting - who needs rabbit food?

Thanks again, Nigella!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


Well, just the one horse, actually. I'm back on it, in style. With a 3.5lb weightloss this week I've managed to claim my 3.5 stone award. That's 49lbs in total in 20 weeks, my friends, and this brings me to one teeny pound off being halfway to my "goal for 2012", which is 100lbs. Needless to say, I am thrilled beyond measure. Next week should drop me down into the next stone bracket, another cause for celebration.

Although of course I am taking this half a stone at a time, I like to have a life event in mind to measure things against. I had in my head all along I wanted to have my 3st award before my friend Jen's wedding, and I did it. My next life event is Richy's birthday. I have 16 more weighins until the week before his birthday and I'd like to collect my 5.5st award by then. That's 28lbs in 16 weeks - at 1.75lb per week this should be very doable. My current average is 2.49lb per week. To be honest, another 2.5st should be achievable - that would only be 2.18lb per week - but let's not get carried away!

My favourite thing this week has been my new potato cakes. They taste a little like hash browns and are based on a Jamie Oliver recipe. The whole recipe is 1 syn, and This is how you make them:

Potato Cakes - serves 4-?

330g white potatoes
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 heaped tsp or 6g plain flour
Salt and pepper

Peel and boil potatoes (whole) until tender and drain. Once cool enough to touch, coarsely grate them into a bowl.

Mix in your flour, spring onions, lots of salt and black pepper and squirt with frylight.

Shape into cakes and chill, overnight if you have time. When it's time to cook, heat a frying pan, spray with and pan fry until golden, turning once.

Makes 4 large cakes, or 24 mini cakes using a 2" cutter.

I have a test cake in the freezer because I think these will freeze beautifully, and would be really handy to have stashed away. I served them up at the weekend with a full English - bacon, sausages (1syn for 2), eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms - and my only complaint was my eggs were scrambled not served runny. These little guys need runny eggs in my opinion. Or smoked salmon, I'm not massively fussy!

I would have taken a picture, but we ate them all, so you'll have to make do with this recent picture of me instead.

Better luck next time.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Candy girl

Well, this weekend appears to have shaped up pretty well. After my gain on Wednesday I was pretty low, but after a good sleep I woke up on Thursday determined that this week I'll lose the gain and more. I need 3.5lbs for my next shiny sticker - my 3.5 stone award - and I cannot tell you how much I want that little sticker on the back of my book., plus of course the little ding-a-long of the bell which makes sure everyone knows.

Five pounds would take me down into the next stone bracket. That's ambitious for a loss in one week, unless as I expect the gain was partly caused by water retention thanks to the tablets. Either way, my Sunday morning wii fit body test tells me I should be good for a loss this week, and that is AFTER a party last night. Although I didn't drink, there was a candy buffet, featuring cake pops (my first ever), popping candy, cola bottles, fried eggs, skittles and sugar snakes. I only took a little bag but Richy fair packed the candy in, claiming "it's been a while!". He was right, it has been a while, but our combined loss speaks for itself. We are heading for a total loss of 6 stone between us and it's keeping a close eye on these stats which is really keeping me going. A total loss of 80.5lbs between two people in just a few months - and no rabbit food or crazy shakes in sight!

My first food highlight this week has been my Hyderabadi chicken biryani. It is a bit fiddly to make because you need to make a curry sauce and a pilau rice before layering, and Heather wasn't keen on the "green bits" (spinach), but otherwise it is totally delicious and worth the effort. Secondly, tonight's mustard-roasted pork with Italian herbed roast potatoes, bakes carrots and broccoli. Both syn free meals and delicious. Incidentally both from the Slimming World magazine, my new favourite publication (Olive, I still love you too).

Anyway, the candy buffet last night and two squares of chocolate tonight will feed my sweet cravings for a little while. Well, until after my 4 stone award, anyway...

Friday, 1 June 2012

I am thuper, thanks for asking!

A funny thing has happened this week. It's lovely, because people are kind enough to be concerned, but also slightly worrying (for me...) - I keep being asked if I am ok. Long story short, I am! :)

Ok. I've lost 46.5lbs in 17 weeks. It is a lot, and some of my nearest and dearest are starting to worry. "That's a lot to lose so quickly", "are you eating?", "wow, all that in one week?!". These are all justifiable, fair and concerned questions. These are all things people will think. Lots of people struggle to lose 3st, but when you have a mountain to climb the first bit is always going to be easy. I am only about 30% of the way into my journey, and I am not expecting it to get really hard yet: I am semi-strict, in that other than a few weekend drinks I am mostly conscientious; I am vigilant, in that I know the syn value of 99% of what I consume - in fact this very week I called Syns online to query detail in their magazine; I am savvy - I am always looking to make my previous favourite recipes, my way. I might sound gallous, but my expectation is that I will be able to lose a similar again without TOO much hassle. Over confident? Cocky? Maybe. We'll see ;)

My average weight loss so far is somewhere between 2.5-3lb a week. Although this is a little above the "recommended" 2lb a week, I really must stress to all my family, friends and readers first of all that I am eating. I am eating healthy, nutritious, filling meals. I ate a massive plate of tomatoey pasta meatballs tonight. A big ham roll for lunch. All free (or using Healthy Extras), but good, normal plates of food. I do have off days though, and on Wednesday me and Richy decided to have my 3 stone treat - a Doninos pizza. It was fabulous, and a delightful treat. I can still pack away a good meal. The difference now is that for the most part what I am eating is syn free.

Anyway, cut a long story short - I am doing great. As my nearest and dearest can see, I am eating well, dropping sizes, being happy. I totally appreciate the concern though, and love the support I am getting.

I could not do this without you guys.

Thank you.