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: http://dietville.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/horses.html?m=1

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...