Eat Well – Feel Well

If any of you know me, you will know that I have a keen passion for healthy eating and lifestyle.

With the current situation, it can be very challenging to eat well or exercise or in fact do a bit of both!

As a member of Slimming World for over 3 years I have learnt a few trick along the way, that said, the last couple of weeks have really been difficult for me too so I have had to re-evaluate my own lifestyle.

Eating

When you go to work every day, you will have a routine of when you will eat and when you will eat it.  Some people will have breakfast before leaving home, others will take it with them.  Lunch is usually something you made the night before or a quick run to Tesco in your lunch break.  What ever it is, you had a structure and with the exception of the work biscuit tin, you had it all under control.

Now you are working from home, suddenly everything has changed.  Not least because the supermarket shopping has been a bit like playing bingo.  It is times of change like this that can have a dramatic impact on our eating habits.  This in turn can impact our health and well being.  So what can we do about it?  Here are a few tips that I find work for me:-

Plan – Even though you are at home, still plan when you are going to eat and what you are going to eat.  If possible, keep to a structure – eating at specific times.  The night before plan all your meals for the next day.  If you can, why not prepare them then too.  It will stop you deviating from what you planned.  Just because you are at home, doesn’t mean you can’t still make up your pack lunch!

Stop – It is a known fact that people who sit at the table with no distractions such as computers or TV eat less.  Use mealtimes as family time, or time to relax.  You will find you will enjoy your food a lot more.

Water – Water is vital throughout the day.  Sometimes hunger is actually thirst.  Have a glass of water with your meals.  You will feel full quicker.

Creative – Be creative with your cooking.  I know that with the limited fresh food available recently I’ve really had to be creative with some of my meals.  It is a great way to bring new ingredients to your table.  Don’t be afraid to try different things.  Ask friends and family for ideas.  I have a little book that I keep and when something springs into my mind I write it down.  I then work on that to come up with new recipes.  It doesn’t have to be complicated or take a long time to prepare.  If it fails there is always beans on toast!

One of my favourite programmes was Ready Steady Cook.  I watched every episode and have all their recipe magazines – and there were lots.  This is what gave me the inspiration to cook.  If you haven’t seen the programme it is on again now, or try and get it on catch up.  It might inspire you too.

Snacking – I’m not going to say don’t do it because that would be unrealistic.  However, I will ask you to carefully think about why you are snacking?  Is it boredom?  Are you lonely?  Sometimes, snacking is to replace something that we are missing.  If you fancy a snack give yourself 15 minutes. Try to distract yourself with something.  If you still want it then, then have it, but in moderation.  If you want chocolate only have a square then wait another 15 minutes!  Better still, don’t have it in the house or choose healthy snacks such as fruit.  Boring I know but you will be glad of it after a few weeks of working at home!

Exercise

The next thing to consider is exercise.   With the current restrictions of only being about to go out for an hour once a day, I am sure many of you have suddenly found your steps have dramatically reduced.  

Exercise not only helps us regulate our weight it is also good for our health especially our lungs and heart.  

Plan into your day 1 hour of exercise.  It can be just walking the dog, or taking the kids for a stroll around the estate.  It doesn’t matter what it is, just getting outside will make you feel a whole lot better.

When you are back at home, try and be active as much as possible.  Have a little jig when cooking dinner or brushing your teeth.  Put some music on and dance around the room!  Instead of going up and down the stairs with your hands full, take one item at a time.  You will be amazed at how many more steps you will get in that way.

We don’t know how long these restrictions will go on for.  However long they last, make sure you are looking after yourself inside and out.

If you want some help with ideas for recipes I am more than happy to help.

And of course it rained!

It’s so typical of the great British weather! It’s absolutely gorgeous all week. Come the weekend and the sun decides to take a break too!

This weekend was no different. All week it was beautiful. Friday I worked at home. Temperatures reached 25 degrees. Did I go outside and enjoy it? No! Why? Well firstly I had work to do, but secondly, I thought I’d have plenty of time in the sun at the weekend.

We had 4 friends coming to stay and had planned outdoor activities!

Firstly breakfast on the patio followed by a lovely walk around Stratford-upon-Avon. It was the river festival. Bands would be playing and a few little stalls selling a variety of goods. As it is held on the banks of the River Avon, it was going to be a lovely few hours relaxing!

Well that was the plan! What wasn’t planned was the rain! Not to be put off we all still ventured out to Stratford, after eating breakfast indoors !!

Dinner was going to be a braai! We had the biggest piece of meat to cook!

Just as we thought the rain was going to stop, it started up again! The Gazebo it was then. Rain was not going to stop 3 South African men from doing what they do best!

As we 3 ladies watched them through the lounge widows sipping our Gin and Tonic, you can’t help but laugh at the body language of the men!

One of them checks the heat of the fire using the hand test! Then another checks it! Wait for it, yep, the third one has to check it too! Just in case one of them got it wrong !

The meat was a big beast and a challenge to cook. The fire to hot, the outside would burn but the inside would be raw. The fire too low and it would never cook. So, as with the 3 bears, it has to be just right!

After a couple of hours it was done. Absolutely gorgeous!

Sadly we had to eat indoors again!

My ice cream cake was probably the only thing that was pleased about the change in weather!

You know, the weather may have not been in our favour but it didn’t matter. We still had fun!

It doesn’t matter how much you plan things in life, something always goes wrong! Take it as an opportunity not a disaster!

Don’t put things on hold. Adapt and have fun!

Here is the video to my weekend:

This week the weather is going to be unpredictable. Don’t let that stop you enjoying life! Embrace it!

Have a good week.

Feeling hot hot hot !

Wow, what great weather we had this weekend! So who has a Braai? Ok BBQ? Yep it has the be done.

We went the whole hog and had 2! First one Friday night and another last night. You have to love eating outside.

Last nights Braai was all about using the leftovers. It’s amazing what you can create with a bit of imagination.

Saturday temperatures reached over 34 degrees for us! Not that I sat out in it myself! Oh no! We had friends round on the evening so first things first I needed to catch up on the housework! It has to be done especially with 2 malting dogs!

Talking of malting dogs, they do struggle when it’s so warm! Fido thankfully knows how to cool down. He stands in the shower waiting for someone to turn the taps in for him!!

Anyway, back to the friends coming for dinner. As it was going to be such a lovely day I decided the menu needed to reflect that.

Hubby offered to make his prawn soup! It’s light but very tasty. Perfect for a hot summer evening.

For main, I opted for pineapple and salmon kebabs with Jerk seasoning, with home grown new potatoes and a pomegranate and feta salad. As a salad dressing I made a Dijon mustard dressing. So far all free on Slimming World, but still tasty.

Now, this is where it got interesting. For dessert, I decided on an ice cream cake. Well why wouldn’t you!

The cake requires 2 layers of ice cream and a raspberry coulis, topped with a ginger biscuit layer! Sounds fab doesn’t it! And it was apparently (I made a syn free version for me).

The problem I had was the weather! I mean, when it’s over 34 degrees outside, how are you supposed to stop the layers melting while constructing them!

It was a case of moving very quickly and having a hubby on hand to open freezer doors for you!

I published a video of it here!

I had to laugh when I watched it back. I looked quite fresh at the start of it! By the end I was definitely wilting !!

The main thing is the food went down a treat! Note to myself though! Don’t try it again unless it’s about 10 degrees cooler!

I’m not complaining though! I love it when it’s hot hot hot !

Have a good day.

The Pioneer Women – My current inspiration!

Do you ever read a magazine or see something on TV that gets your creative juices going? Over the years I have!

In previous years it’s been Jamie’s 15 minute meals, The Hairy Bikers and of course not forgetting, Ready Steady Cook.

My current favourite has to be The Pioneer Women. I’m totally hooked. I’ve even series linked all her episodes.

So who is The Pioneer Women? Ree Drummond! I love her nick name Ree. Her real name is Ann Marie. My own name is Maria but have always been known as Marie to my family. As a kid my nickname was Me Me. My nieces still call me it. Ree is such a great nickname for Marie!

Ree seems to have an amazing life, living on a ranch in Oklahoma in America. She is married to a real cowboy – Ladd – and has 4 children. How romantic does that sound?

Her cooking is every day cooking from dinners to desserts, to things that keep the kids happy!

She always starts the programme with the phrase ‘welcome to my frontier’.

Ree started off blogging about her time on the ranch back in 2006. Her blogs have even won awards.

In 2011 The Food Network awarded her her own Series called what else – The Pioneer Women!

She prepares every day meals from chicken pie, pork ribs, chicken dinner, pork chops to easy desserts and cakes in her lodge. I think she is now up to series 20!

What I love about her is that she showcases her food in such a way that you can easily transfer that to your own kitchen. She doesn’t use fancy gadgets, just everyday pots and pans like we have.

You have to sometimes translate some of the ingredients as we call some things a different name here in the UK.

I love sitting down in the evening and catching up on an episode. Last night she did a beef stroganoff. I haven’t done one for ages. It’s definitely something I’m planning for next week now.

Now when I say she inspires me, that is exactly what she does. I wouldn’t cook her meals exactly to her recipe as she uses ingredients I wouldn’t, because I’m on Slimming World. Don’t get me wrong, her cooking is amazing and my hubby would eat them just as they are. I just need to shift a few pounds as you know, so a tweak would be needed for me.

She uses cream, butter, oil and salt. All things I wouldn’t use. This is where the inspiration comes in! I look at what she makes and try to work out how I can do it for me on Slimming World. Most things can of course be changed. There are some things she makes though that you definately wouldn’t want to mess with, like her chocolate episode! Marshmallows covered in chocolate and cookie pieces! I think my nieces would have a great time making those.

On the whole though, her recipes easily transfer into syn free versions. This is what I love about cooking. Taking great ideas and making them your own.

I’d love to cook alongside Ree and create great meals together that taste good but work for Slimming World too. Obviously that isn’t her cooking style or requirement. I should image with the work they do on the ranch, they soon burn off any calories.

Ree is such a natural presenter. It’s like a friend showing you how they cooked dinner tonight. She is so easy to watch and I’m also loving following her life on the ranch. Watching her children growing up and going off to college!

If you haven’t seen her programme before, go along to The Food Network and check her out! Maybe she will inspire you to get into the kitchen too!

When you want a specific dish but you don’t have the recipe!

Have you ever had a taste for a specific dish, or seen something on the TV or in a magazine but you don’t have a recipe?

This happens to me all the time. The other one I get from my hubby is ‘my mum used to make ……’. When asked how she made it, of course he never has a clue!

This week when at my Slimming World group, we were given a sneak preview to a new cookery book which feature meals for Extra Easy SP meals.

I’ll be honest, when I heard there would be another recipe book, I’d decided not to buy it without even seeing it. I have so many already which I don’t use all the time. I also couldn’t think what else they could bring out that would be worth me buying another time one!

As I flicked through, there were so many recipes I loved. It’s not on sale yet as it will be part of a 12 week countdown. As I’m so close to target It won’t be worth me buying one. Well I keep telling myself that! I’ve been messing about for 18 months now trying to get into my target range again!

For me, the motivation has slightly gone as everyone especially hubby doesn’t want me to lose that 7lb again, but I do!

Anyway back to the book! I know it will be a couple of months before I’ll be able to buy it.

There was one specific recipe that really caught my eye! Moroccan Lamb! Now if you know me, you will know I don’t eat lamb, but I thought it would be great with chicken!

I tried to memorise it in my head!

The next day I planned to make it! I couldn’t however remember what liquid was required. It certainly wasn’t in the ingredients so maybe it was in the instructions which I hadn’t really read!

I contacted my consultant who kindly sent me a photo.

So last night I set about to make the dish I’d been dreaming of all day!

I got all the ingredients ready from what I had remembered. I grabbed my phone to check them against the pictures my consultant had sent!

As I looked at my phone the colour drained! I’d somehow deleted the message! Can you believe it!

I was not going to be put off! I decided I would make it anyway using my memory of the recipe and my own cooking knowledge.

Here is what I did:

I love experimenting with food! I never let not having the recipe stop me being creative!

If it doesn’t turn out quite right first time, try it again a different way! It might not taste exactly like the one on TV or in that magazine, but who cares! If you like it, then that is all that matters.

So what you waiting for? Get into the kitchen and start being creative! You will be amazed at what you will come up with. It will also bring variety back into you mealtimes.

Good luck and let me know how you get on!

More new products!

In my quest to add variety to our meals, this week I have 2 new companies to try!

The first one in fairness, I did order from a few weeks ago! Compared to the other online shops I’ve done, I found this one to be very slow in comparison. Over 2 weeks for my order to arrive compared to a couple of days! The say though that the best things in life are worth waiting for! So what is the product? Skinny sauces from The Skinny Company!

Since starting with Slimming World I’ve almost given up on sauces, opting for using my syns on other things.

After over 2 years, I felt the need to zing up my food so when I saw these on Facebook, I thought why not give them a try!

I decided to go for a big variety. With summer around the corner we will be having more salads and Braai’s, but also with the good old British weather I’ll be having roasts and baked dishes too.

I opted for honey & mustard, thousand island, bbq, mayonnaise, and a few more! At zero syns it would be rude not to! Check out my video to see the whole haul!

I’ve also bought the chocolate sauce. What amazed me was that for 100g it is equivalent to under 4 cubes of sugar. This compares with other brands like Nutella which are around 57 cubes! That is a staggering saving!

I’m looking forward to getting creative with that product!

Last night I decided to try my first bottle!

At the weekend I also visited a spring fair locally where I bought my second new product! Heck chicken burgers! At 1 syn a burger I had to try them!

Wow the zingy chicken was lovely . With a splash of honey and mustard sauce, it was like going out for a full fat burger.

I’m looking forward to trying the bbq one out tonight now!

It’s amazing how much of a routine we can get into with our food! By just changing a few items in your shopping back, you can reignite your taste buds!

So what’s new in your basket this week?

A perfect weekend with friends

I’m on my way home now after an amazing weekend with friends!

Our friends live in Bridgend in Wales. After feeling very guilty about how long it’s been since we last visited them, we put a date in our diaries!

So yesterday we drove the 2 1/2 hours to see them. Now if you know me, Wales and I just don’t get on when it comes to the weather! For some reason it always rains on me! This weekend however it was kind! The sun came out. A little bit chilly, but still it was a beautiful spring day.

After arriving our friends took us out to 2 amazing beaches. The first one was in Ogmore-by-sea. So beautiful. The dogs would have loved it.

Next was Dunraven Bay – Southerndown. Again the dogs would have loved this beach, but what was stunning was the rock formations!

Both beaches are absolutely worth a visit. There is something magical about walking along the beach. Listening to the waves. I just love it. Great way to get exercise too.

We headed back to their home and enjoyed a few drinks in the garden in the spring sun. A nice Cedars gin and tonic was perfect ! Followed by a Slim Wine!

As the sun set the braai (BBQ) was lit! Steak, South African sausage were cooked to perfection by our host.

The salads to go with it were amazing. Slimming world friendly pasta dishes and salad. Even a @promise roll for garlic bread. Delicious!

It was a lovely evening catching up.

This morning after a cooked breakfast we headed home via Caerphilly Castle.

Wow, we were totally blown away by it! If you have never been I highly recommend it! I’ll post some pictures on my YouTube channel. In its prime it must have been magnificent! The entrance fee is £8.90 for adults, but well worth it!

Eventually it was time to head home.

We have had such an amazing weekend. Thank you to our hosts Derek and Michelle.

Sometimes just a night away can really recharge your batteries, and getting to visit new places is fantastic.

Here is a fuller insight to my weekend

We will certainly not be leaving it so long next time!

Rules of Ready Steady Lets Cook Slim

Well today, I have officially launched my Ready Steady Lets Cook Slim challenge.

Although I am a keen Slimming World member, and I will be looking to make dishes that fit that programme, I also want to be able to open it out to anyone who is looking to eat more healthily.

I’ve done Weight Watchers in the past, but don’t know how the points are done now. I anyone would like to send me anything to help me give them their points equivalent for Weight Watchers please to do so.

I want this challenge to be inclusive of everyone, whether you are vegetarian, vegan, dairy free etc also.

So what are the rules?

Each week, I will be inviting my followers on YouTube and my Blog to put forward virtual bags. Each virtual bag will have a maximum budget. I will pick at random each week 1 bag.

After I have chosen the virtual bag, I will go shopping for those ingredients. I will then create dishes based on those ingredients and store cupboard staples. So what will those store cupboard staples be?

Store Cupboard Staples

  1. Anything from the Spice Rack
  2. Vinegar – all varieties
  3. Salt & Pepper
  4. Stock cubes, bouillon powder or stock pots
  5. Mustard Powder
  6. Soy Sauce
  7. Oyster Sauce
  8. Tomato Puree
  9. Fat Free Dressings
  10. Sweetener
  11. Low Calorie Cooking Spray such as Frylight
  12. Gelatine
  13. Bovril
  14. Marmite
  15. Mint Sauce
  16. Thai Fish Sauce
  17. Tabasco
  18. Vecon
  19. Vegemite
  20. Worcester Sauce

All other ingredients will need to be part of the bag.

The Virtual Bags

  1. Budget Bag – Maximum Value £3.50
  2. Classic Bag – Maximum Value £5.00
  3. Bistro Bag – Maximum Value £7.50
  4. Gourmet Bag – Maximum Value £10.00

What can you put into the virtual bags

You can put anything you like in the bags as long as it can be bought at most supermarkets.

If the value of your items doesn’t reach the maximum value and you want some additional ideas, you can give me the remaining balance as a wild card. This wild card will allow me to spend the remaining budget on any other ingredients I feel may enhance the dish.

You may tell me if you have any special dietary requirements for the dishes. You can also say if you are looking for specific meal time ideas such as dinner, lunch or breakfast or a mixture!

I will cook the dishes and publish them each week on my YouTube channel. I will let you know how they were made, how many they serve and anything else you might need to know to help you replicate it yourself at home!

To ensure I provide you with the best food options possible and have the chance to go shopping, I will be looking for the virtual bags by 5.00 pm on the Tuesday each week.

I’m really looking forward to this challenge and I hope you are too.

So start thinking about your virtual bags and leave a comment on my YouTube video here.

See you next week for the results!!

Ready Steady Lets Cook Slim

Does anyone else remember the TV cooking programme ‘Ready Steady Cook’? I was absolutely obsessed with it. In fact, it would be true to say that this programme turned me into the cook I am today!

The programme was hosted initially by Fern Britton, and then later on by the chef Ainsley Harriott.

The first episode hit our screens in October 1994 and went on for many more years, with the last episode in February 2010. In total, there was a staggering 1859 episodes.

So what was the programme all about? As the name points to, it was about cooking! Two contestants would be paired up with a celebrity chef. One team called ‘Green Pepper, the other ‘Red Tomato’.

The contestants would have brought with them a bag of ingredients to the value of £5. This was called ‘The Classic Bag’. The chef for their team would then have 20 minutes to create a few dishes from the ingredients. They did have store cupboard staples to help them, but it certainly tested the chefs knowledge and skill.

At the end of the 20 minutes, their finished dishes were explained and tasted. The audience then got to vote for the best dishes. Was it green peppers or red tomatoes?

The winner received £100 with a runner up prize of a hamper, which contained many cooking items and ingredients.

In 2000 when Ainsely took over the show, the programme was extended to 40 minutes from 30, and a new section was introduced. At the end of the show, there was a final section called ‘Quickie Bag’. Here the chefs would get another bag of ingredients. They would have a little time to consider them before saying what they would make with them. Ainsley would then say which dish he preferred. The winning chef would have 10 minutes to produce that dish!

Each episode had different chefs. My favourites were obviously Ainsley (before he became the presenter), Gino D’Acampo, Brian Turner, Phil Vickery, Lesley Waters and not forgetting Anthony Worrall Thompson.

Other variations to the bags included:

Budget Bag – This was the same as the first bag above, except the budget was only £3.50!
Bistro Bag – The budget was increased to £7.50.
Gourmet Bag – The budget was a staggering £10! The chefs loved this one!
Doubling Up Bag – Both contestants would bring in identical ingredients. Fern or Ainsley would use a coin or dice with the green pepper or red tomato on it. The winning side got to say what they would do with the ingredients first. The other side which have to quickly change their ideas to do something different if they were thinking on the same lines!
Forfeit Bag – The chefs chose a card at random. The card contained an item from the store cupboard that they were not allowed to use!
Gamble Bag – The chefs were given 3 mystery ingredients. They can swap one of them for another mystery item. They don’t have to swap, but once they have seen the alternative ingredient, they have to swap it!
Lucky Dip – The chef is given a bag containing 10 items. They close their eyes and pick 5 items out. After 10 minutes of cooking, they get to pick another item which they have to incorporate into their dishes.

There was a lot of hype around the show. Everyone wanted an apron with either a red tomato or green pepper on it. Ok, maybe not everyone, but I did! When they launched their magazine, I was there!! I have volumes of the recipes from the show. You would buy the magazine every week or month (I can’t remember how often it was). Within that would be different types of recipes, that you divide and place in the lever arch folders that came with the magazines!

As I said above, this show really did make me into the cook I am today. I used to go to my fridge and pick out a variety of ingredients. I would then create dinner for that day. I continue to do this almost every day now!

Thinking about this programme today, gave me an idea! I know that a lot of people worry that being on Slimming World can be expensive. They also may run out of ideas to make different foods each week that are on plan. So how about I do a slot each week on my YouTube channel – Slimminginspirations4u where subscribers can send me virtual bags each week. Once a week, I will pick at random a virtual bag and create a dish or dishes from it!

To make it more interesting, even though we are potentially 25 years later, I won’t increase the budgets for the bags!

This Sunday, I am going to launch this idea. If you are interested in taking part, or seeing what I create, subscribe to my channel and hit notifications. You will then get to know the bag I have picked and the dish I produce.

So what are you waiting for? Hit Subscribe now!

https://bit.ly/2TgveXk

Ready Steady Slim!

Letter to my scales!

It is with deep regret that I find myself writing this letter!

We have been together for many years now! You have always been a trusted friend. We have seen some highs and lows. You have always been honest with me. You have never hidden the truth from me, regardless of how bad it has been!

You have ensured my clothes on a Wednesday don’t exceed 0.3kg! You have even made sure I have never exceeded my baggage allowance when I went on holiday!

We have fond memories of my puppies when we checked how much they were growing! It was lovely to see them grow week on week.

You have been such a huge part of my life.

It saddens me now that you have suddenly changed towards me! I don’t understand why! There seems to be no explanation!

I’m doing everything I can for you. I’m eating well, I’m going to the gym. I’ve even done dry January ! What more do you want from me!

I really don’t want us to part company but this attitude towards me has to change!

I hope this letter will clear the air between us.

I look forward to seeing the changes in you when I see you again soon!

Your ever hopeful friend

Xx

When the scales are not kind to you!

So, from 1 January I have been trying to shift a stone in weight, which I had put on last year.

I decided, as well as getting back fully into my healthy eating, I would also do dry January. Anyone who knows me, will know that I love my wine. Especially Slim Wine, and in particular their sparkling wine!

So when I suggested I would do dry January, everyone laughed, and said there was no way I would do it! Now if you know me, you never say things like that to me, because if you do, I will make sure I prove you wrong!

27 days into January, I am still going strong. Even an opened bottle of fizz in my fridge has not bothered me!

I honestly thought that not drinking alcohol would really help me lose that stone quickly! The plan was that I could lose 3.5lbs per week for the 4 weeks of January.

I started again writing what I was eating each day in my journal. I ensured I planned every meal. I have completely stayed on plan every day. I am allowed 15 syns a day with Slimming World, but gave myself a 12 syn allowance each day. Most days I have had less that 3 syns a day!

Everything was in place for a fantastic month.

The first week I lost 3.5lbs Woo hoo. I then went down with the flu. This meant, that I went from planning to go to the gym 4 times a week and doing 17,000 steps a day, to doing only about 1500 steps!

On top of that, my asthma flared up! After a visit to the doctors, I was given steroids! That week I dreaded the scales, but was over the moon to see another 3.5lbs off! Happy days.

After 2 weeks off, I eventually returned to work. I had continued to eat so well, I was sure that now I had increased my walking, I would achieve the 3.5lb again if not more! I was so disappointed when the scales said only 1.5lbs!

I could easily have fallen off the wagon, but I didn’t. I have a goal in my head, and I want it more than anything.

When I started this journey, I measured myself. Today, I revisited those measurements. I may not have seen the scales moving in my favour, but the inches had. I was so pleased to see 1.75 inches off my bum and an inch off my waist.

Sometimes, you also need to look at the non scale victories to see how well you are doing.

I have 6 more days on dry January. I have 3 opportunities to go to the gym before month end!

I may not be at the target I want on 1 February, but I will certainly be closer to it than I was on 1 January.

So what ever you have to lose, whilst it is good to set yourself a goal, don’t give up if you don’t reach it when you planned to!

Our bodies are funny things! Sometimes, they take a bit longer to catch up with us.

I’m going to hit that target, I know I will. Why? Because I want it!

If you believe in yourself, anything is possible!

Watch my personal account of this week! https://youtu.be/UYYyPGo37kM

Soup has never been easier!

If you have read my previous post, you will know that this week I have been suffering from the worst flu I have ever had!

Thankfully for me, I had planned my weekly meals.

One of these meals was lunch to take to work! Monday and Tuesday was a rice dish. The next 3 days was soup!

I find most shop bought soups don’t fill me up. I need my soup to be chunky and full of textures, so making my own is the perfect option.

On Tuesday evening, I had a Tesco delivery coming. With it was the key ingredient for my soup! Tesco does an amazing bag of chopped vegetable for soup. It is packed with chopped carrots, swedes, potatoes, onions and parsley. I know you can chop your own up, and it maybe slightly cheaper, but when you work full time, sometimes it’s worth taking a little shortcut.

The bag contains 720g, so makes 3 generous portions.

I pop this into my slow cooker along with a mug of dried red lentils, 1 pint vegetable stock, tin of chopped tomatoes and some ground pepper. I then leave it on low overnight. It is as simple as that!

If you like your soup smoother, just pop it into a blender. If you like it wetter, add more water ! It is really that easy!

Waking up Wednesday feeling as poorly as I did to such an easy tasty soup was heaven.

The plan was to spoon it into 3 microwaveable dishes for the week ahead, to put in my daily lunch boxes . Whilst I was no longer going to work, knowing I had 3 ready made, healthy lunches in my fridge, was a life saver!

This is one of the easiest, tastiest soups you will ever make. It took me seconds to throw it into the slow cooker, but will give me 3 days of lunches!

If that doesn’t get you running for your slow cooker how about the cost? This pot did 3 portions at around 60p a serving! The average chunky soup in a can costs from 75p to over £1!

Still not convinced? Ok! This is one of the easiest, tastiest soups you will ever make. How about it being totally free on Slimming World, compared to 5.5 syns and above for tinned chunky soups!

I read quite a lot that doing Slimming World is expensive. It doesn’t have to be! It also doesn’t mean you have to spend hours in the kitchen!

Give it a try! Experiment with ingredients! You won’t regret it!

New Year, New Start

So 2018 is almost over! I still can’t believe how quickly this year has gone.

I am now like millions of other people! I’m sitting here planning what changes I am going to make for next year!

First one – lose weight! This year, I have really struggled to maintain my ideal weight. I think a big part was to do with my hubby, family and friends constantly telling me I was too thin! I decided that the odd pound on didn’t matter then! Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there!

Over Christmas, I feel I have just eaten rubbish. I am not having the balanced meals I would normally have. I am actually craving fruit and salad!

So from 1 January, I am back on Slimming World properly. I’m also going to put one of my temptations out of my way! I am going to do Dry January!

My hubby couldn’t stop laughing when I said this! Ok, I fully understand why. I mean, I do like to have a glass or 2 of wine at the weekend, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go without it too! Slimming World have dropped down the syns you can have daily. You can now only have 12 per day, so with Slimline Wine, that is only 3 small glasses. I know I could stick to this, but I want to be able maximise my weight loss by having the minimum of syns possible.

By not drinking, I can save my syns for other things like the odd piece of chocolate or hot chocolate!

I plan to get fitter too! Don’ get me wrong, I’m not unfit. I already do a lot of walking and go to the gym around 4 times a week, but this year, I want to see if I can start running again. If not running (I’m not sure my knees could stand it), power walking!

I’ve also stopped doing my 100 sit-ups a day. I used to have quite a toned stomach. I need to start making sure I do it every night while watching my soaps.

So what else to I plan to do? Well I’m going to keep telling the stories of Lola through my blog – The Adventures of Lola, as well as building on my website and Youtube channel. I’m still a novice on Youtube, but it has been fun doing it and trying to improve.

I’m also going to hit a certain birthday in 2019! I have a list of things I want to achieve during the year. I will share that list with you in a later blog!

The main thing for me is to be happy and healthy! Life is too short to waste it!

Whatever next year has ahead for you, make sure you enjoy it!

Feeling like a beached whale!

Is anyone else feeling like they have eaten and drunk far too much over the last few days?

I laid in bed last night and my stomach felt so heavy. I feel like I’ve eaten a months food in just a couple of days! The scales said the same this morning too!

I’m a bit surprised that I felt like that, as I didn’t think I’d been that bad! I know I have been running around so much prior to Christmas. I even had a few days where I never actually sat down, until bedtime. Surely that must have helped me? Exercise burns calories, right?

Christmas day and Boxing day, I had only a light breakfast, consisting of a roll from my HEB and a ‘free’ filling. So why do I feel like a beached whale?

Well, as today is my weigh in day, It’s a good time to be honest with myself! I might have made some really good choices, but portion control? Who can say honestly, they kept their portion of Christmas Dinner to a minimum? It’s so difficult. When you think about what you serve up, there is no way I had portion control.

I cooked the dinner this year, so I know how everything was cooked. We had roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, pigs in blankets, turkey, gammon, prunes wrapped in bacon, butternut squash, cauliflower, broccoli, sprouts with bacon, carrots, parsnips, Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, bread sauce and of course the cranberry sauce. I missed out the mashed potato and the 2 sauces, but the rest were all on my plate!! Even if I had on a spoonful of each veg, that is a lot of food!

Starter was healthy. A prawn cocktail with freshly made bread! Again, I made the bread so I knew what was in it! Ok, it might be healthy, but i’d already had my HEB for breakfast!

Dessert was a challenge too. Why is it, even though you are really full, you decide you can still manage a small pudding! This year the options were Christmas pudding (which I hate!), my mums homemade trifle and apple pie, chocolate Yule log and custard or cream. I opted for the yule log, but to be good I didn’t have the custard or cream!

Then of course, we had champagne. It’s Christmas after all!

Boxing day, I had a wholemeal roll with turkey and poached egg for breakfast. A good start!

I didn’t start finishing the 2 open bottles of wine in the fridge until the evening, so that was good. I wasn’t bothered about drinking last night, but as the wine was bubbles, it would have ended up being poured down the sink, which was a waste!

I have so much left over food, I decide to make a turkey and ham pie for dinner! I only had a pastry lid, to help keep the calories down! I didn’t have pudding.

I’m finally on the sofa relaxing, before I have to go to bed, as I have an early start tomorrow as I have to get up for work. Ooh look, some Galaxy chocolates. I’ve been good all day, so a couple won’t hurt!

So now I’m lying in bed feeling awful. I can’t even think about food or drink. I feel like a beached whale! I really don’t understand why!

WHO AM I KIDDING!!

I know exactly why I feel this way! Today, I’m back to work. It’s time to start again! Today is another day! I’m going to group tonight. I’m going to make a commitment to myself! I’m going to do this!

I know what I need to do, and I’m going to do it! I don’t need that chocolate! I don’t even really enjoy it! I have a goal, and I’m going to achieve it!

Costa……It certainly does!

I’ve recently had to spend time at my local hospital for various reasons, thankfully none to do with me directly.

I have been amazed and so disappointed in the food options available to visitors!

This is an NHS hospital. We hear so much about how much obesity is costing them, yet their choices for healthy eating are where ?

Now, before I go into my full rant, I have to say, they do have a cafe there. The food on offer may be very good. Unfortunately, I am unable to confirm that as every time I’ve been there, it is closed.

I’m not talking late at night. No! I’ve been there after 3 pm! At this time your food choices are vending machines and Costa!

I avoid vending machines straight off as there is too much temptation. So that leaves Costa.

My heading to the blog says it all! Not only is it very expensive, but it is also not great for the health conscious!

On my last trip, I went to get my dad a sandwich. He had just had a procedure so hadn’t eaten since breakfast!

My dads in his early 70’s and likes what I would call ‘normal’ sandwiches! Not your wraps or panini!

So first of all, I’m battling through what is on the shelf. There are many different types of wraps, sandwiches and rolls etc. All with very different fillings. I eventually find a cheese and ham sandwich. That is the only thing on the whole display that isn’t some creative filling.

Now, come on Costa! £3.95 for a boring ham and cheese sandwich! Really! It didn’t even have any lettuce on it !

This is an NHS hospital. Do they really think that everyone who goes there can afford to spend that on something so basic ?

Of course I bought it for Dad, but I did feel very ripped off!

Then it was time to look for Mum and I! Mum had said she had had some lunch, but for various reasons, I’d not eaten since breakfast. I knew I wouldn’t be home until after 8 pm, so needed something !

I’m very open to most things. The only thing for me is that it has to be healthy . So now I’m checking calories and fat content.

Again, for an NHS location, the healthy options are extremely limited. Well I say limited, but if you are on Slimming World, they don’t exist !

Let me show you what I mean ! Below are some of their low calorie options which they advertise:-

Fruit & Oat Biscuit – 7 Syns
Ginger Biscuit – 8 Syns
Egg Salad Sandwich – 17 Syns
Ham & Egg Sandwich – 19.5 Syns
Salmon Salad Sandwich (with cream cheese) – 18.5 Syns
Roast Chicken Salad Sandwich – 20 Syns

Did that surprise you?

I ended up finding a Mediterranean chicken roll, which was the best of a bad lot. I shared it with Mum to help reduce the syns further !

What happened to salad bowls or pots of fruit? Even protein pots with boiled eggs would have been great!  They do say they offer them on the Slimming World site, but I didn’t find 1 of them in cafe when I was in there.  If they had, I think I would have preferred one of the following options:

Chicken Salad – 6 Syns
Tuna Nicoise Salad – 4.5 Syns
Green Feta & Sun Dried Tomato Salad – 10 Syns
Fruit Salad – Free

If I had gone to another hospital locally, I would have had a choice of Subway, M&S, their cafe, or even a fruit and veg stand !

Why doesn’t the NHS have a policy that there has to be healthy affordable foods on offer to visitors to their hospitals. It doesn’t have you be all salads, but it should give people a choice!

Costa have a captive audience at this hospital, so can also charge what they like ! There isn’t anywhere else in the direct vicinity you could go to. By the time you have bought a drink and sandwich, you won’t get much change out of £10. And that’s a takeaway ! Never mind the extra inches on the waistline!

Whilst that’s ok for some, what about pensioners, or people of low incomes. It’s bad enough paying the large Parking charges. For some a trip to hospital is now  a very expensive experience!

It’s not always possible to pack a picnic before you go, like I did the first trip I took there!

So come on NHS. Think about what is being offered next time you tender for  a franchise!

McDonalds low calorie options – how they really look on Slimming World

Recently, I have had cause to go into McDonalds, and I have to say, I have been quite disappointed.

I don’t have take away such as this very often, unless I am on the road, and I can now see why.

I hate being late for anything, so when I am travelling, I tend to give myself plenty of time.   Recently, McDonalds has been the closest place for me to kill time or grab some lunch.  

On my last 2 visits, it was early in the morning.  I went in wanting a drink only.  I don’t like milk or coffee.  I tend to drink peppermint or green tea.  I looked at the menu and was so disappointed to see the options available to someone who doesn’t drink coffee.   

If you drink coffee you can have 8 options.  Mind you, I am glad I don’t drink coffee when you see some of the syns!

Flat White – 4.5 Syns
Millionaire’s Latte – 12 Syns
Toffee Latte  – 9 Syns
Black Coffee – Free
White Coffee – 4.5 Syns
Latte – 7 Syns
Cappuccino – 4.5 Syns
Double Espresso – Free if black

If you don’t drink coffee you can have:

Tea
Hot Chocolate 

Now, if you are on Slimming World, the hot chocolate is 8.5 syns.  As you can only have 15 in a day, that is more than half your syns gone on just a drink!

I was so disappointed, I wrote to them asking why they can’t offer other options for non coffee drinkers.  How difficult would it be for them to offer green or herbal teas as an option?  They have said they are sending my email to the correct department, lets wait and see.

Then I move on to the food options!

McDonalds are very proud that they are now offering lower calorie options, but if you are on Slimming World, what does that mean to you? Let’s have a look!

Breakfast

McDonalds have breakfast bundles, which they boast are under 400 calories.  Ok, one of my favourite go to breakfasts is porridge, or baked/overnight oats.  McDonalds has porridge on its menu!  Yey!  They also have Bagels and the egg and cheese McMuffin, all coming in for under 400 calories!  Actually,don’t get excited. Here is a selection of their best breakfast options:-

Oats So Simple with Apple & Cherry (per pot) – 11 Syns
Oats So Simple (per pot) – 9 Syns
Egg and Cheese McMuffin – 15 Syns
Bagel, not topping – 10.5 Syns
Bacon & Egg snack wrap with Brown Sauce – 14 Syns
Egg & Cheese Snack Wrap with Brown Sauce – 13 Syns
Egg & Cheese Snack Wrap with Ketchup – 12.5 Syns

So, when you have only 15 syns a day, you could almost eat those, with your first meal of the day!

What about their new under 600 calorie daytime menu then? Well, you will be equally surprised:

The Garlic Mayo Chicken One Grilled Wrap – 17.5 Syns
The Sweet Chilli Chicken One – Grilled Wrap – 17 Syns
Grilled Chicken & Bacon Salad – No Dressing – 1.5 Syns
6 Chicken Nuggets – 8.5 Syns
Fillet O Fish – 16.5 Syns
Crispy Chicken & Bacon Salad – No Dressing – 8 Syns
Chicken Legend with BBQ Sauce – 24 Syns
Spicy Vegetable Deluxe – 20.5 Syns

If like me, you will probably be quite shocked.  If you throw in a portion of chips (8.5 syns for small, 12 for medium and 17 for large), you could really be putting your weight loss at risk!

I’ve had quite a few of their salads over the last couple of years.  They are not my first choice, however, when I’m on the road, this is sometimes the only option available.  They are not filling, but do fill a gap until I can get something else to eat.  I have diet coke with it as that is free too.  I would however love to be able to have a green tea!

So next time you are looking to buy something from a takeway such as McDonalds, don’t just look at their calories.  Check out the syns on Slimming Worlds App.  Without knowing it, you could be damaging your weight loss journey.

McDonalds, if you are reading this, please please think about your lower calorie options.  Are they really a healthy option?




Dairy- why it’s good for us!

This week Slimming World announced that it was going to be increasing its Healthy Extra A (HEA) portions.

For those not on Slimming World, HEA is a diary product, such as milk or cheese.  Currently, you can only have 1 portion a day.  This will also depend on what you are having, as to how much of it you can have.  For example, you could have 30 g of full fat cheese, or 175 ml of full fat milk each day, but not both.

Under the new changes, we will be able to have 2 portions of HEA per day.

We all know that dairy products are a good source of calcium.  This is particularly important for women and children.

A single glass of milk can contain a third of your recommended intake of calcium each day.

Calcium is needed in young children to help their bones grow strong.  In adults, there are conflicting reports on the benefits.  Human’s are the only adults that drink milk in adulthood.

Dairy products are supposed to help increase your metabolism due to them containing calcium and protein, however there is a warning here!  Most dairy products contain high levels of fat, so if you eat too many full fat dairy products, you could increase your weight.  Aim for fat free or low fat alternatives.

Calcium is needed to build strong bones in childhood and adolescence and helps maintain bone strength in adults, to prevent osteoporosis. Although 50 per cent of the adult skeleton is formed during the teenage years, but its not only children and teenagers who need calcium. We lose it from our bodies every day, so it needs to be replaced on a daily basis. Milk and dairy products are the main sources of calcium in the British diet although later on, I will explain that it isn’t the only way of getting it.

Teeth need calcium too.  Did you know, cheese can be particularly good for teeth when eaten after a meal, as the calcium and protein it contains helps to neutralise acids in the mouth.  My dentist told me to eat it after things like grapes, tomatoes, fizzy drinks etc.  Again, you need to be careful how much you eat as you could add the calories up very quickly!

Dairy products are also said to reduce blood pressure, risk of colon cancer, heart disease and strokes.

I have to admit, I am absolutely rubbish at making sure I eat food rich in calcium.  I had a dairy intolerance many years ago.   It developed after a failed pregnancy.  For 10 years, I suffered terribly if I ate anything with dairy in it!  Thankfully its reversed itself, however it will flare up if I eat it in any volumes.

I no longer can eat things like butter or cream, and struggle with milk.  Cheese and yoghurts are really the only things dairy I now have, and in moderation.

Some people become Lactose intolerant.  This is completely different from dairy free!

The main carbohydrate in dairy is lactose, a milk sugar composed of the two simple sugars, glucose and galactose.

As an infant, your body produced a digestive enzyme called lactase, which broke down lactose from your mother’s milk. However, many people lose the ability to break down lactose in adulthood. This is known as lactose intolerance.  About 75% of the worlds population is reported to suffer from it.  Although that said, it is rare in North America, Europe and Australia, but very common in Africa, Asia and South America.

People who are lactose intolerant have digestive symptoms when they consume dairy products. This includes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and related symptoms.

Good Sources of Calcium

You don’t have to drink a pint of milk a day to get your allowance of calcium.  There are so many other food items that will do the job as well.  So how can you get your recommended daily allowance?

  • Milk and milk productsMilk, yoghurt, cheese and buttermilk. One cup of milk, a 200 g tub of yoghurt or 200 ml of calcium-fortified soy milk provides around 300 mg calcium. Calcium-fortified milks can provide larger amounts of calcium in a smaller volume of milk – ranging from 280 mg to 400 mg per 200 ml milk.
  • Leafy green vegetablesBroccoli, bok choy, Chinese cabbage and spinach. One cup of cooked spinach contains 100 mg, although only five per cent of this may be absorbed. This is due to the high concentration of oxalate, a compound in spinach that reduces calcium absorption. By contrast, one cup of cooked broccoli contains about 45 mg of calcium, but the absorption from broccoli is much higher at around 50–60 per cent.
  • Soy and tofuTofu (depending on type) or tempeh and calcium fortified soy drinks
  • FishSardines and salmon (with bones).   Even canned salmon!  Half a cup of  contains 402 mg of calcium
  • Nuts and seedsBrazil nuts (milk chocolate coated ones don’t add to it!), almonds and sesame seed paste (tahini).  Fifteen almonds contain about 40 mg of calcium.
  • Calcium-fortified foods
    This include breakfast cereals (watch out for sugar content though),  fruit juices and bread.  One cup of calcium-fortified breakfast cereal (40 g) contains up to 200 mg of calcium. ½ cup of calcium-fortified orange juice (100 ml) contains up to 80 mg of calcium, and two slices of bread (30 g) provides 200 mg of calcium.

How much calcium you need varies too.  According to the Better Health Channel the following is the RDI:-

Babies 0–6 months approx. 210 mg (if breastfed)

approx. 350 mg (if formula fed)

Babies 7–12 months 270 mg
Children 1–3 years 500 mg
Children 4–8 years 700 mg
Children 9–11 years 1,000 mg
Adolescents 12–18 years (including pregnant and breastfeeding young women) 1,300 mg
Women 19–50 (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) 1,000 mg
Women 51–70 1,300 mg
Men 19–70 1,000 mg
Adults over 70 1,300 mg

As with everything, its all about variety and moderation.

If you eat a well balanced diet you should be absolutely fine!

When the clocks go back!

So this weekend sees the clocks going back!   That means one thing for me!  Shorter days!

It’s not my favourite time of year.  Ok, the sunny autumn days are beautiful.  The red and gold tones of the leaves against a clear blue sky, are a photographers dream.   None of this takes away the fact that I am now going to be leaving home in the dark, and coming home in the dark!

The temperature is dropping, so more layers, hats and gloves are coming out of the wardrobe!

The route I take for my dogs, when I am on my own, now has to change, as I don’t feel comfortable going down the alley in the dark!

The other big thing that changes, is my food!  Those light salads no longer do it for me!  I might get away with them for lunch after the gym, but after a walk in the cold or wet with the dogs, I’m going to be craving hot, stodgy food and snacks.  These are my danger zones for weight loss.

If I plan, I can actually have all my favourite foods without gaining the pounds.  So what do I go for?

Breakfast

Overnight oats are still a firm favourite.  I enjoy them all seasons, as they are filling and tasty.

If I’m looking for something hot, it has to be an omelette, topped with baked beans.  For work, I will do it in a mug the night before and just warm it up in the microwave when I’m in the office.  This is my recipe.

https://slimminginspirations4u.godaddysites.com/recipes-1/f/mugomelette

If you are at home, then you can easily make it in your omelette maker, or in a non stick frying pan.  See how I make mine.

Lunch

Again the omelettes are a great choice, but if you have had them for breakfast, you will want something a little bit different!

Pasta is a very quick and easy dish to make, and you can make a few portions up at a time, and leave in fridge.

For my basic recipe, I will just cook wholemeal pasta, add a tin of chopped tomatoes, chopped peppers, mushrooms and onion.

I will then separate that into separate air tight containers.  Rather than having the exact same every day for 3 or 4 days, I vary what I then add to it.  Some days it will be chopped ham, another boiled eggs, another tuna or mixed beans!  Top off with a bit of grated cheese just before you microwave it and you have a hot, healthy lunch.  Don’t worry if you don’t have a microwave as it is delicious cold too!

Have you ever melted Dairylee Light triangles into pasta with mushrooms?  Delicious and so so quick and easy.  Add a bit of ham for extra protein!

Rice salads can be done just the same.

Don’t forget last nights left overs warmed up too!  Perfect the next day, and I think some meals such as lasagne and curry taste better the next day!

Jacket potatoes with baked beans, chilli or dairylee triangles are a good hearty lunch.  Bake them in over the night before with your evening meal, then reheat the next day!

Dinner

My slow cooker is my absolute best friend during the whole year, but this time of year, it is even more valuable.  You can literally throw anything into it, put it on low before you go to work, and then you walk in to a ready dinner.

Mexican chicken is a real favourite.  You can make it as hot and spicy as you like, or mild for the kids.

Lemon chicken is perfect for week days and weekends.  Imagine walking in after a nice autumn Sunday afternoon walk to the smell of this dish.  Just add potatoes and veg and you have a perfect Sunday dinner!

https://slimminginspirations4u.godaddysites.com/recipes-1/f/lemon-chicken

Don’t forget the family favourite – Lasagne.  This is perfect to bulk cook, divide into containers and freeze.  You can then take it out when you are in a rush.  Its also good to take to work for your lunch!

Keeping it Healthy

It is so easy during the winter months to hit the chips!  Don’t get me wrong, if you want to lose weight, you can still enjoy a trip to the chip shop, but it must be factored in.  Normal fish and chips from the chippie for 220g serving is around 14 syns, 100g is only 6.5 syns.  If you take the batter off, the fish becomes free!  Even if you don’t take the batter off, with 15 syns a day you can still have them!  And don’t forget that mushy peas are free food too!

One of the great things about this time of year, is the increased number of vegetables on offer!  Pumpkin, sprouts, parsnips and many many more root vegetables.  You can make great tasty meals quickly and easily.

If you chop a selection of root vegetables up and place in a slow cooker, with a tin of tomatoes or passata, add a few herbs and spices, you have a great base for soups, casseroles and sauces.

If I have vegetables coming to the end of their life, this is a perfect way to use them up!  Its perfect to freeze too!  I can then defrost it and add any left over cooked meat from the night before, to make a quick and easy meal.

Tinned of mixed beans with tinned tomatoes, chilli powder and less than 5% beef mince, in the slow cooker is quick and easy.  Serve with rice or over jacket potatoes!  Yummy.

Winter can be a really great time to experiment in the kitchen.  Don’t be afraid to play around.  I’m always making up different recipes from left overs, or whatever is in the fridge.

I even do this when friends come to dinner.  This was quick, easy and perfect for a light lunch this time of year or as a starter, as I used it.

For other ideas and recipes, visit my website http://www.slimminginspirations4u.com or my Youtube channel.

All wrapped up!

In the last few months I’ve been posting videos on how you can use the good old wrap !

Wraps first became popular in Mexico, Greece, Turkey and the Middle East earlier than the 1900’s.

In Mexico they refer to them as burritos.

America was introduced to them around 1980. It is thought that the flatbreads were invented my the chain Love Juicy, based in California.

They became popular here in the uk, around the 1990’s.

Everyone usually knows the wraps as being alternatives for sandwiches. Served with hot or cold fillings, but they have so much more versatility.

Typically wraps have more calories and carbs than normal bread, but thankfully Weight Watchers do a wrap which, if you are on Slimming World, is your healthy extra B!

If your not watching your weight, there are many different types of wrap on the market, including spinach, sun dried tomato, to name just 2. They can make the humble lunch box, or evening meal, so much more exciting.

So what can you do with it? Here are a few of my own creations of this amazing invention.

Sausage Rolls

 

 

Breakfast Calzone

 

 

Chicken Tikka Pasty

 

 

Pizza

 

 

Wrap Bowls

 

I plan to put more ideas on my channel over the next few weeks!

So next time you are in the supermarket, pick up a pack of wraps and let your imagination take you to new taste sensations!

Size does matter!

So you want a glass of wine. You look into the cupboard and see 2 glasses ! A champagne flute and a large wine glass! Which do you choose ?

Recently I have been using the champagne flute ! I want a glass of wine, but I don’t want lots of calories ! In my head, using this glass, I feel I’m still drinking, just a little less ! If I want more, I have to physically walk back to kitchen to fill it up ! It should slow down the drinking and burn calories in steps ! I’ve got it all sorted !

Tonight, my hubby poured me a large glass of wine ! I need to be good, so I fetch the champagne flute out of the cupboard! I start to decanter the large glass into my champagne flute ! Hubby is looking on! I don’t think either of us were expecting what happened next ! The large glass full of wine fitted into my champagne flute !

OMG!

This is a massive lesson! Size certainly does matter ! Just because something looks bigger or smaller than something else, it doesn’t mean it actually is !

This is such an important lesson in making sure you measure everything ! How often have you said ‘I’ve been so good this week. How have I put weight on?’.

Calories can easily creep into our lives without us knowing it !

If you are serious about losing weight, or even not putting it on, you really need to have your eyes wide open!

Is that really a teaspoon full of food? Or is it an actual tablespoon ?

Don’t get caught into that trap! Weigh everything!

Success will come if you let it !

If you are unsure, do the same test ! I guarantee you will be as shocked as we were !

Good luck on your journey too x

Stay to Group

I’m ashamed to admit it but after reaching target last year, I lost the drive and motivation I had getting there!

To begin with, I would gain only a few pounds.  I thought it was fine, especially as my hubby felt that my target weight was  too low.  I stayed to group every week and tried to pull it back.  One week I would lose, the next week I would gain.

Then life just got really busy and stressful.  I found that I didn’t have the time to stay to group.  Working away, late trains, birthday meals etc,  meant that I would run in and weigh, then leave.  I thought just weighing in was enough.  I had been doing Slimming World for over a year.  I know what to do.  Why did I need to stay?  It won’t change what I am doing.  Oh how wrong I was!

As I said, I have been doing Slimming World for over a year so I know about free and speed food, syns, and my Healthy Extra’s!  I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, and never cook in oil, eat the fat off meat or the skin on the chicken!  All said and done, my 3 main meals a day are on plan!  Ok lets think about this.  If all this is true, then why did I put over a stone back on?

The one main thing was breakfast.  Because I was always tired or in a rush, I stopped weighing my HEB’s!  I mean, we all know what 40 g of oats looks like don’t we?  I got complacent.  I thought I could guess how much I was having.  Then the other day, I went to put granola into a bowl.  There was hardly anything in the box left.  I was just about to pour it into my bowl when I thought out of interest I would weigh it!  It was 75g!  Wow.  That is more than double what I was allowed.

Lunch was always ok.  I can be honest with that!  I would have salad without dressings, using ham or roast skinless chicken and boiled eggs.  Perfect!

Dinner again fine.  Lots of fresh vegetables, lean meat and no sauces!  Oh hang on, there was the pre-packed burgers from the supermarket.  They were their finest range so must be healthier!  Ah, and I had that chilli and rice dish the one day!  We have had lots of Braai’s so there were those nibbles and garlic bread!

At work, everyone used to say how good I was as I never went for the biscuits or samosas.  One day recently there was a big box of samosas for staff.  One of my team was shocked when I asked her if she wanted one!  As we both went to get one, I was then tempted to have a spring roll too.  I even went back later that day for seconds!

My boss saw my staff member with the food and said to her she should have eaten it when I was at the gym so I didn’t know!  She was shocked when told I also had one!  If only she knew it was more than 1!

I might have prepared a healthy lunch, but I was now snacking during the day!  It is amazing how the extras can add up!

The long hot summer also meant more wine!  Whilst I was drinking mainly Slimline Wine, I was still having more syns than I am allowed!  In my head I was drinking a low calorie wine so it didn’t count!

When I look back, no wonder I have put weight on!  Going to weigh in was just to tick a box.  I was no longer passionate about my journey.

The day I stepped on the scales and saw a number I did not like, I realised I had to put a stop to it.  I decided staying to group had to happen.  I needed my motivation back.  I needed to listen to other peoples journeys and get ideas.  More importantly, I need to take an hour out of my busy stressful life just for me.

So at my first week back to group, with a heavy heart and close to tears, I listened to the group.  In previous sessions, I have been known to put food ideas onto my Tesco shopping app to try new recipes from the group.  I started doing this again!  I bought the magazine, and made a promise to myself to read it cover to cover!

I left group determined.  I went home and planned my meals for the week ahead.  I vowed not to have anything at work unless it was planned in.  I would save my syns for the evenings, and then only have them if I really needed them.

I chose the gym rather than work lunches out!  I cooked at home rather than a takeaway, even when time was limited and I was absolutely exhausted.

The following week, I walked back into group.  I was hoping for a big loss!  I know I have a long journey ahead of me to get back to how I was.  I stepped on the scales and saw a 3.5lb loss.  I was absolutely gutted.  I wanted more!

I feel stupid now feeling like that.   Most weeks I would have been overjoyed at that loss!  I wanted more because I am so desperate to get back to my target weight.  The reality is, it is going to take me a few weeks for that to happen.

I decided to buy myself a 12 week plan. That way, I could take the pressure off myself.  I could give myself small loss targets per week.  That way I won’t be disappointed.  I can also give myself treats without feeling deprived.

I really want target again.  When I get there I am also not going to fall back into the trap I am in now!

Nothing feels better than looking in the mirror and liking what you see.  I know to achieve this, I need to keep going to group.  I need to keep recipes ideas fresh.  I need to take time out for myself.

The next 12 weeks will be a journey but I’m going to do it.  I know I am because I know how much I really want it!

Are you a Sleeping Beauty?

Do you ever get one of those nights when you are exhausted, and can’t wait to get to bed.  As soon as you lay your head on the pillow, zing, you are wide awake!   Or you drop off, only to wake up an hour or so later, then that’s it for the rest of the night.  Sound familiar?  Its so frustrating isn’t it!  That is what happened to me on Thursday night.

I was working on my laptop for most of the evening, but by 9 pm I was struggling to keep my eyes open.  I get up just after 5 am each morning to walk the dogs, so to make sure I get my 8 hours in, this would be around my usual bedtime.

I slowly got myself ready for bed, settling down around 9.30 pm.  I fell to sleep almost immediately, only to wake up around 11 pm.  That was it for the rest of the night.  By midnight I decided enough was enough and got up.  I  took the opportunity to put the dogs in the garden for a quick toilet break.  I was tempted to make a cup of green tea, but decided against it.  At this point, I thought I would be able to get back to sleep, so didn’t want to have to get up again to pop to the bathroom during the night!

Half an hour later, I go back to bed.  Now here is a warning, don’t keep looking at the clock when you can’t sleep!  It makes you even more frustrated!  At 2 am I decide to play a bit of Candy Crush.  At this point my husband wakes up.  He tells me off for playing on my phone as he says it won’t help me get to sleep!  I don’t know why, but this sends me into a fit of hysterics.  Not helpful when you are trying to sleep, but it did stop me feeling as frustrated!

By 4 am, I finally dropped off, only to be woken at 5.22 am by Lola, who was wondering why we were not up getting ready to walk her!   She really does like routine! My alarm goes off at 5.25 am which is my latest time I should be up to walk the dogs, and she knows it!   In fact you don’t need an alarm clock with her around.

I am absolutely exhausted.  I have a full day at work ahead.  The only saving grace is that it’s a Friday, so tomorrow I know I can have a lie in!

The day was as busy as I expected.  I even managed to get a session at the gym in.  It was a good job that I was on the go, as the minute I stopped later in the evening, I was completely done in!  I can understand why they used sleep deprivation as torture years again!

Why couldn’t I sleep?  I really don’t know.  I had been stressed out for the few weeks previous, but that had been resolved.  Maybe without realising it I was still thinking about it, or maybe it was the fact that unlike other evenings where I would watch TV before bed, I had been working on my laptop!    What I do know is that I need my sleep!

How much sleep do we need?

Most people need around 7-8 hours a day to properly function.  Young children and especially teenagers need a lot more.

Some people can manage on a bit less than this, everyone is different.  The key is to ensure that whatever your body feels comfortable at, you ensure you give yourself enough time to achieve it.

Some people are good at having a nap in the middle of the day.  I personally can’t do this.  On the rare occasion I do, I wake up more grumpy!  I am better going to bed earlier and making up the time.

What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?

If you don’t get a good nights sleep, you will probably feel exhausted, even a little grumpy, as well as difficulty in concentrating.

The odd late night won’t hurt you, however if you continuously deprive yourself of sleep, this could effect your health.  Potential conditions could be obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and anxiety.  Your immune system will be low so you are more likely to catch colds and flu.  Your body is less able to fight off any bugs flying around.  Your sex drive drops and you may suffer reduced fertility.  Not forgetting the risk of having an accident as you lose concentration.

Diabetes – Type 2 Diabetes is caused as your body struggles to process glucose (high energy carbohydrate which our bodies use for fuel).

Heart Disease – Increases in your heart rate, blood pressure and chemicals linked to inflammation, can put additional strain on your heart.

Sex Drive – Libidos drop in both men and women when they are tired.  Lack of energy can reduce your interest in sex also.

Fertility – A reduction of the secretion of the reproductive hormones can impact on your ability to conceive.

Can lack of sleep make you put on weight?

You may be surprised to know that yes it can!  Studies have shown that the less sleep you have, the more likely you are to be overweight.  Why?  It is thought that the less sleep you have, the more your leptin levels are reduced.  Leptin is the chemical that makes you feel full.  In comparison, your ghrelin levels increase.  Ghrelin is a hunger stimulating hormone.

So how to I ensure I get enough sleep?

There are a few things you can do to help you get a good nights sleep:-

Get into a good routine – It sounds silly but by going to bed at the same time each night will help your body clock.

Relax – Make sure you are calm and relaxed before you go to bed.  Have a soak in the bath, listen to music (obviously not heavy metal!), read a book or magazine or watch something on TV that helps you relax.  Avoid having that argument just before bedtime!

Ban the mobile phone or laptop – Playing on your phone or computer in bed is thought to suppress the bodies production of melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep.

Cut out light – Having a dark room will help you sleep.  Try blackout blinds or curtains, especially in the summer months.

Don’t drink alcohol & caffeine – These are two of the biggest culprits of you not sleeping!  Caffeine is a stimulant.  Great to help you stay awake, but terrible for getting you to sleep!  Alcohol is a sedative which does make you feel tired, however it disrupts the quality of sleep you have.  You should avoid alcohol for 3 hours before going to bed.

If you want a drink, go for herbal teas, milk or a glass of water.  Be careful though!  If you drink too much before bedtime, you will be up visiting the bathroom during the night, which will again impact on your sleep!

Get comfortable – Is your bed comfortable?  If not, is it time for a new one or a new mattress?  What is the temperature like?  If like me you are going through the menopause, you could be having a lot of hot flushes!  Or it could just be your room is too warm!  Open the window, get a lower tog quilt.

Don’t forget about what you wear in bed!  Make sure it is comfortable too!

Who is in bed with you?  I am referring to our furry friends!  Get them to sleep in their own beds.  I know with my two dogs, given half the chance they would take up all the room, or sleep so close to us they are almost lying on us!

Go into the spare room! –  I don’t know about you, but some nights I could seriously harm my husband with his snoring!  Rather than that, take yourself off to the spare room, or send them to it if you can wake them up!  Believe you me, you will be surprised at how many couples say the secret to their relationship is separate beds!

What do you do if you can’t sleep?

You would think that if you lie there long enough you will eventually fall asleep.  This isn’t true though!  If you haven’t dropped back off after 15-20 minutes, get up!  Do something relaxing, then go back to bed and try again.

If something is on our mind, write it down.  This may help you put it to the back of your mind until tomorrow.

If you continue to struggle with sleep, go and see your GP, just in case there is any other health condition stopping you sleeping.  It may be a simple change needed in our lifestyle, medication or they can give you other strategies to help you.

Walking around Hampton Lucy

Today we decided to stay closer to home.  It’s all too easy to take the countryside around you for granted.  We drive around all the time without really taking in the scenery.  So today, I had picked a walk off the internet, which started off from a beautiful village a couple of miles away from us called Hampton Lucy.

A little bit of history about Hampton Lucy

Hampton means land by the river.  In AD781, the King of Merciathe  granted land to the Bishop of Worcester.  Up until 1549, the parish was know as Bishops Hampton or sometimes, Hampton Episcopi.  The water mill in the village was first mentioned in 1086 and is well worth a visit.

The first church was built in the village in the 13th century, but by 1480 the village was enclosed and many of the villagers were driven out.

The Bishop of Worcester sold the manor in 1549 to John Dudley who was the Duke of Northumberland.  In 1555 though, during the reign of Mary Tudor, he was executed.  The lease was granted to Thomas Lucy of Charlecote by Queen Mary in 1557 which is when the village was renamed Hampton Lucy.

The current church – St Peters was rebuilt by the Lucy family in 1826, and has a Gothic feel to it.  The church is open most days and is stunning inside as well as outside.

Today the village in my opinion, is one of the prettiest in Warwickshire.  It is still very small, with the church being the focal point.  It has a lovely local pub – The Boar’s Head which serves lovely meals.  Its definitely worth a visit if you are around Charlecotte area.

The Walk

The walk starts off in the village.  You have a couple of options.  A 2.3 mile walk or a 5.5 mile walk.  We opted for the longer one.  We will however go back to do the shorter one soon, as it takes in the river Avon.

You enter a huge field through a gate, past River Keepers Cottage.  The warning on the map was for badger holes, and we certainly found a few!  You then enter some woods.  Watch out for the nettles!  That said, the views across towards Warwick over the river are amazing.  On a clear day such as the one we had, you could see for miles.  Why did I know know about this walk before!

The walk takes you through many fields, passing through gates or stiles.  Its quite level, so not overly strenuous.  As usual though, my hubby and I miss a turning past a copse!  Thank heaven we did, as we first stumbled upon a wood full of gorgeous bluebells, and then a nature reserve run by RSPB.  Sometimes it’s ok to go off track, but you really have to make sure you are not on private property!

The fields this time of year are full of rape seed, so you have vibrant yellow wherever you look.  The weather was beautiful so the yellow stood out even more!

There was a short stretch of road towards the end, but apart from that it really is just fields.  What surprised me is that this little road, I travel down quite often, I just never really thought about what was around it.

On one particular part of the walk, we spotted a very large hair running around the field of corn.  It was a little bit like Watership Down, but with a happy ending.  You don’t see this when you are in your car!

I have a fascination with birds of prey, so seeing them hovering around above us looking for food was a joy.  I am hoping to get some binoculars for my birthday this year to see them better.  I really want to learn more about them too.

The walk is a circular walk back to the village again.  It took us just under 3 hours.  Its a perfect way to get some exercise, see your local countryside and just relax and unwind.  We took the 2 dogs with us and they really enjoyed it too!  If you do take your dogs though, please keep them on a lead.  Yes there might be cattle around, but this time of year, there could be birds or other animals nesting in hedges etc, which a dog could upset.

Next time you have a free weekend and are not sure what to do, google walks in your local area.  You will be surprised what you have missed.  I’m now planning what to do on our next free weekend.  Top of my list is the village of Sherbourne!

 

So you fancy a BBQ or Braai?

Woo hoo, this weekend promises to be a hot bank holiday.  Being born and bread in the UK, as soon as the sun comes out, the first thing we do is reach for our BBQ’s.     So if this is your plan for the weekend ahead, what are you planning to have on it?  Traditionally for me, it was burgers and sausages, with the occasional chicken drumstick! Then I was introduced to the South African way!  Having a braai!

South Africans have the benefit of much better weather than us Brits, so it wouldn’t surprise you to know that they spend a lot more time having a BBQ, or as they call it a braai, in one year than we potentially could in a lifetime!   The benefit of this is that they seem to take it to another level!

In 2006 I moved house.  One of my neighbours was South African.  This was my first experience of a Braai.  2 years later, I met my very own South African who is now my husband.  Now burgers and sausages are a rarity.

I don’t know about you, but cooking your dinner al fresco is so much nicer!  Everyone is much more relaxed and its fun!

So what makes the perfect braai?

The Equipment

I always thought one bbq was as good as the next!  How little did I know!

Ok, lets start with the actual bbq/braai itself!  Firstly gas or charcoal?  I personally have never seen the point of a gas one.  To me, it would be like cooking in the kitchen.  I can see the benefit though if you want to be able to control the temperature, or if we had wall to wall sunshine.  For me its charcoal all the way!  Gas cooking doesn’t alter the flavour of your food, but with charcoal, you get a lovely smokey flavour!

When looking for a charcoal bbq, you will find there are hundreds of options ranging from cheap to expensive.  We have been using a Weber, as does everyone is South African, so it seems!  The main advice I would give you is to make sure whatever your budget, look for one that allows the air to flow under the charcoal!   If possible, it should also have an adjustable grid so you can control the heat (sadly the Weber doesn’t have this!) and another to try to catch your ash!

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You will also need a good set of tongs, a cleaning brush for the grid and if you like kebabs, metal skewers!  If you want to experiment with different meats then a meat thermometer would be a good idea!

The right fuel

If you have gone for the gas option this is easy!  You just need to buy the right gas canister!  For a charcoal one, you need to consider what it is you are planning to cook!

Charcoal – This is great for faster cooker.  Its easier to light but also burns quicker!

Briquetttes – This is the best type of fuel if you want to retain the heat longer.  They are also recommended for a kettle braai such as the weber above.

Wood – If you want a smokey taste to your food,  you can use wood.  Be careful what wood you use though as some of them let off horrible smells which you certainly wouldn’t want with your food!

If you want to add flavour to your food, you can buy wood chips which are infused with things like Hickory.  These are great for things like fish or pork. Or go for Applewood infused chips for a sweeter taste! Just soak them before adding to your fire.

Lighting the Braai/BBQ

There are a few options to help you get a perfect fire going:

Kindling – Lighting small sticks and twigs may remind you of old camping days as a boy scout!  Scrunch up some old newspaper, light it, then top with the small twigs.  As it catches, you can add larger pieces of wood or coals.

Gel – I don’t recommend this.  It is difficult to see if the coals or wood is alight, and seems to not last that long, so you end up using the whole bottle with little effect!

My personal favourite is Fire Lighters!   They are relatively cheap to buy these days.  You can add them around your coals or wood.  Once lit they will burn for up to 10 minutes, giving the coals or wood a chance to catch!  I also love the smell of them – which I know is a bit weird, but a Braai/BBQ is all about the smell as well as the taste!

Building the perfect fire

Fire needs oxygen, which is why I recommended you buy a Braai/BBQ that allows air to flow under the coals.  These mini ones you can buy in foil trays at the shops might sound like a good idea, but they are more difficult to use than you think, as the airflow is restricted.

Place some firelighters inside the Braai/BBQ and light them.  After about 10-20 seconds add a few coals over them.  As the coals catch, you can add more coals.  To help regulate your cooking it is a good idea to build the fire so that one side is higher than the other.  That way you can place your food on different parts of the grill to cook at different times and speed. Replace the grill and relax to allow the fire to take hold!

So when is the right time to put the food on?  Well this type of cooking can’t be rushed!  How many times have you seen food raw or burnt from a Braai/BBQ?  The best time to add your food is when you can hold your hand over the grill about 2-3 inches away and count to 3 without burning your hand!  Any longer and the coals may not be hot enough to cook your food through.  You can of course add more later and some people have some heating up separately.  This is especially useful when you are cooking something that takes many hours!

What do we put on our Braai/BBQ

Well the number 1 item you will mostly find on our grill is a nice piece of steak!  This in itself was a learning curve for me!  Not any old type of steak would do!  It had to be about an inch thick and have some fat on it!  We marinate it with a dry rub which you can buy in most supermarkets although as you would expect, ours comes all the way from South Africa!

So what else can you find on our grill?

  • Spatchcock Chicken – this is usually marinated in a piri piri, chinese or bbq sauce.  Its basically a flat chicken!  These need to be cooked on a low heat for a long time.  Always check it is fully cooked before serving!  We tend to put it in the microwave for 10 minutes before adding to grill to help start it off.  Keep the lid on to retain the heat while cooking will help it cook all the way through.
  • Chicken Drum Sticks – again marinated ones are great.
  • Chicken breast – just be careful it doesn’t dry out!  Using a marinade will help this.
  • Beer Can Chicken –  Place an opened can of beer inside a chicken and stand up on the grill.  You can also use soft drinks like ginger beer!
  • Rack of Ribs – great with a marinade
  • Lamb Chops – these need to be chunky chops.
  • Kebabs – These can be made in different variations – Vegetable, Chicken, Lamb or prawn!
  • Garlic Potato Kebabs – Pre – boil your new potatoes and put them on skewers with garlic cloves!
  • Corn on the Cob – I prefer to put these in foil.  You can add butter if you wish.
  • Roasted vegetables – Chop vegetables of your choice and place in foil dish with a bit of oil and garlic.
  • Garlic Bread – Wrap in foil
  • Whole joints of pork or beef – These need to be cooked slowly.   As with the Spatchcock Chicken, keep the lid on during cooking.
  • Fish – again I would recommend wrapping in foil unless it is a whole fish
  • Burgers – yes I know what I said earlier but I still love my traditional burgers.  If you make your own they can be great fun and you can vary your flavours.
  • Sausages – go for big chunky ones or the Cumberland wheels.  Again there are so many flavours out there that you can really vary it!

If using marinades, keep some aside to baste the food as it cooks.

Amazon sell some really good Braai/BBQ recipe books.  Treat yourself to one.  It might give you some new and interesting ideas!  Remember that cooking this way isn’t something you can time exactly.

I mentioned above about building your coals up higher one side to the other!  This is great when cooking as you can move the meet around so it doesn’t get burnt!  If cooking the chicken for example you can put it on the lower side with the lid on.  This will ensure it is still exposed to the heat without the flames being directly under it.  It will act like an oven.

Don’t forget to include some side dishes with your meal.  The usual salads are great but what about a potato bake.  They are easy to make.  Just peel some potatoes then slice.  Chop up an onion!  Layer a dish with potatoes and onions adding some feta or cheese of your choice throughout the layers.  Cover with either chicken stock (for healthy option) or full fat cream.  Bake in over for about 40 minutes or until golden brown and potatoes cooked.

What ever you do with your Braai/BBQ this weekend, make sure you have fun!  We Brits don’t get to see the sun very often, so make the most of it.  Experiment with different things.  A good old British BBQ can be so much more than just your sausages or burgers, although to be honest, there is nothing wrong with just having them either!

A word of warning though! Make sure the ash is 100% cold before you dispose of it!  Even the slightest heat could spark a fire if you threw it into the bin!

Date Weekend – Day 2

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So I can officially call it a ‘date weekend’ as hubby’s birthday is now officially over!

It was due to be raining this morning, but I am pleased to say that even at 7 am the sun was out.  Yesterday we ran out of time to visit Hardwick Hall, which wasn’t a bad thing as it also started raining around that time. The plan today was to do a 10 km walk however we decided to put this off to a time when we had the dogs with us.  Instead, we will get up, have breakfast and head off to Hardwick Hall.  If we have time later and the weather holds,  we will go for a walk.

Breakfast at the hotel is buffet style.  I always say you can tell the quality of the hotel by the breakfast especially the fruit salad.  If it’s tinned its lower quality, up to all fresh – top of the class!  Today its a bit of both which is about right for this hotel.  The hot buffet is full of variety including the usual suspects of bacon, sausages, beans and fried eggs, along with black pudding, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and hash browns.  Great for my hubby but not for me though.  I was impressed to see gluten free bread.  This is not always readily available for anyone who needs this.  There is also a good mix of cereals with full fat and semi skimmed milk and even soya milk.  My friend Heather would be very happy with this breakfast selection.

I opt for the healthiest option of the fresh fruit salad with weetabix and semi skimmed milk, followed by baked beans, the better of the fried eggs, grilled tomatoes and a few mushrooms.  I don’t have any toast or bread as I had already had my HEB for a my weetabix.

We check out and head to Hardwick Hall.

Before I tell you about our day, let me give you my thoughts about the hotel.

Eastwood Hall Hotel

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The above is the photo you see on all the brochures.  It looks absolutely lovely doesn’t it, however this isn’t the part of the hotel you see!  The smaller building next to it is some ambulance depot or something, then you come to the main reception building.

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The hotel is very large with 150 bedrooms and 36 meeting rooms that can cater for anything from conferences to weddings.  Being a Saturday, there was a wedding on so the hotel and carpark was quite full.  There also seemed to be some rugby tournament for young boys on as there were hundreds of lads running around in their team rugby kits.  Because we had passed this ambulance buildings when we parked around the back of the hotel, my husband thought it looked like the back of a hospital so we were a little confused!

We checked in at reception and the staff were lovely and friendly.  Due to the shape of the building it was a long walk to our room.  This actually turned out to be a blessing as the room was very quiet.  It was clean and tidy and not a bad size. The only negative was the bathroom.  I always request a bath when we stay in a hotel and yes we did get one.  The only problem was you had to be about 4 foot tall to actually be able to relax in it.  The shower though was wonderful.  Very powerful.

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The hotel itself is set in beautiful grounds and if the weather had been better we might have seen more of them.

The restaurant was good with a good selection of food.  The service was excellent.

So how would I rate it?  Well lets break it down and score it out of 10!

Customer Service – 10

Cleanliness – 10

Bedroom – 8 – the bath let it down!

Restaurant – 9 – Fishcakes a bit dry!

Location – 9 – only 1.5 hours from home, good grounds

Value for money – 10 – I paid £110 for Dinner, bed and breakfast and a free bottle of wine with Great Little Break.

Overall – 9.3

So not a bad score.  Would we stay again – probably yes, especially if I can get the same deal again.

Hardwick Hall’s

This is 2 houses in 1 visit.  The first house is derelict and owned by English Heritage, while the other one just a few yards away is fully furnished and owned by the National Trust.  Both having amazing histories.  The sun is currently out so a fabulous day to start exploring the derelict one first!

Hardwick Old Hall

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This sadly is now a ruin but was originally the birth place of an Elizabethan lady called Bess of Hardwick.  One of the things I love about English Heritage sites is that you can choose to do a guided tour or an audio tour.  We always go for the latter as it allows us to wander at our own pace and take lots of photos.

Even though this home is now a ruin, you can still some of its original features.  As you listen to the history on the house and of Bess, you really start to feel like you know her.  By all accounts she really was a formidable women!  She had been married 4 times.  Her first husband died when she was only 16.   Her other marriages meant that she rose to the highest levels of English nobility and became extremely wealthy.  She was a shrewd business women with assets such as mines and glass making factories. In fact she was the richest women in England after Queen Elizabeth I!

Her fourth husband George Talbot really didn’t seem to like his wife very much and actually thought prison would have been a better sentence than being married to her!

It would seem that for Bess, showing off her wealth to everyone was important and that shows in both the halls.

Both homes have amazing views over the Derbyshire countyside.  It is strange then to wonder why Bess built the new Hardwick Hall a stones throw from her birth place.  I mean it wasn’t exactly small!  It was all about wealth I believe.  She didn’t abandon the old house when the new one was built as you would expect, she continued to live in both.  Unfortunately she didn’t continue to keep the old hall in good repair so it eventually became inhabitable and in the 18th century was opened to the pubic to visit it.  You can see though from the photos below what a stunning place it must have been in its time.

New Hardwick Hall

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Bess started building her new home in 1590 and moved in in 1957.    It remained in her family until the mid twentieth century.  The house was designed for her by Robert Smythson.  To show off her wealth, she filled it with the most beautiful of tapestries.  Many of which are still on show today.

The house apparently has more glass than walls!  It was the first English house to have the great hall built on an axis through the centre of the house rather than at a right angle to the entrance.

The gardens too are stunning.  They are filled with herbaceous borders, vegetable and herb gardens and an orchard.  We were there in spring so most plants were not out but the daffodils and tulips were beautiful.  I also had a little friend visit me in the garden, who brushed past my knees when I was bending down to take a picture.  He stopped for a while to make sure he got into the shot too!

If you want a day out I would certainly recommend both of these houses.  Each has its own character and charm.   The audio tour of the old house gives you a real insight into who Bess was.  I could talk more about her but then it would lose the surprise when you go and visit the house yourself.

After touring the gardens and houses, the plan was to take a walk around the extensive grounds.  Unfortunately just as we headed off the heavens opened, so we had to abandon that idea and headed home.

As we were driving out of the estate we noticed a carpark which had amazing views back across the houses.  The rain had eased off so we parked up to take some more photos.  We were down by the estate lakes so decided to have a quick walk around them before continuing home.  We are so glad we did as it gave us even more understanding of the vast land that Bess had owned in her day.

Getting out and exploring places like this is a wonderful way to get some exercise as well as to see some stunning landscapes and historical buildings.

We are members of both National Trust and English Heritage.  They cost around £80 each a year for a family ticket, however they are well worth it.  If you have children especially it is a great way to entertain them in the school holidays, teach them some history and also get a bit of exercise. In the last 2 days we have done over 35,000 steps which isn’t half bad!

To see more photos of our walk go to my YouTube channel https://youtu.be/JFgJ74hwPwg

Staying on plan when visiting London

As many of you know, I travel a lot with my work.  This can bring its own challenges when it comes to trying to stay on plan.  It would be so easy to go for quick and easy fixes without thinking of the consequences!

Like many towns and cities London has thousands of takeaway places, from simple coffee shops to the new modern health cafes.   There is so much choice around.  I have learnt a few simple tricks over the time I have been with Slimming World to help me overcome the assault course of eating healthily whilst out and about.

The first thing I am going say is not going to be a surprise!  Its planning!  I have just spent the last 2 days travelling to and from London for work.  Tuesday I didn’t need to catch my train until 9.00 am to be at a meeting for 12 noon.  I decided that it would be much easier and safer if I had a good breakfast at home before I left.  I wanted to make sure my options for lunch were as open as possible so chose something that didn’t use any of my Healthy Extra’s.  I opted for a 3 egg omelette, with spinach, ham and cherry tomatoes.  By filling up on speed and protein, this would keep me going until lunch.  I also filled my bottle from Hydrate8 with a sugar free juice.  Sometimes hunger can be because you are thirsty, so having this with me is a real bonus.  A banana for the train journey was also a must.  They are sweet and filling.

As my meeting was at 12 noon, I knew if I didn’t eat beforehand I might be tempted to go for the biscuits served with the tea and coffee.  I know from previous meetings in this location there are a number of takeaway coffee shops and cafe’s.  There is also a M&S at Marylebone.  I avoid the takeaways as they are full of high calorie cakes, muffins, wraps etc.  Its also too cold and wet this time of year to sit on a bench even if I did get something from M&S!

Just before the offices though there is a Waitrose store.  If anyone has been to Waitrose they will know they offer free tea and coffee to customers.  Whilst I don’t have this the seating area is a godsend.  This is my go to place for this location.  I find that a lot of the ready meal salads have hidden syns because of the sauces or oils they may have used, so I play safe.  I pop round to the salad and vegetable area and find a lovely Rainbow Salad. Then its off to the meat and fish counter for some crayfish.  I also add a pot of boiled eggs  with spinach, a pot of chopped mango and pineapple and a diet coke.  This is all syn free and I can sit and eat it in store!

I go to my meeting and am able to be fully satisfied that I don’t need to even look at the selection of biscuits.  Its weigh in night tonight too so I am not even tempted to eat anything further until my evening meal!

Today though I have an earlier start.  I need to leave home by 6.40 am.  I’m not good at eating too early, so I made myself overnight oats to take for the train.  The little pot doesn’t take up too much room in my bag and it also means I am not tempted by the danish pastries at the cafe at the station!  Another banana to finish it off leaves me very happy! I have another Hydrate8 filled with juice to keep me from getting thirsty and thinking I’m hungry!

My meeting today is 10 am.  I am still making sure I don’t need those biscuits.  Because of the train times I am an hour early for my meeting, so I decide to find a coffee shop to sit and work for 50 minutes.  As I walked down the street adjacent to where my meeting was being held there were what seemed like hundred of places to go.  It is amazing how when you start looking at places you start feeling peckish!  I decided to avoid anywhere where I might be tempted.  In the end I opted for a place called Leon.  Have you ever been in one?  This was my first time and I have to say I was extremely impressed.

There breakfast menu looked super healthy!  A word of warning though, don’t just look at the menu and order the first thing you see!  Some things look and sound healthy but are not.  Everything needs to be syned but you can get some low syn options.  The first thing that struck me were their poached egg and bake bean pots.  What a great idea.  I have never seen this before.  Their poached egg and saucy bean pots are 1.5 syns a pot.  The full english one is 5 syns!  Greek yohurt pot with blueberries, pomegranate seeds and honey is 4 syns a pot.  How about salmon and avocado super pot for 3 syns.

Here is my word of caution though, the porridge of the gods is 23 syns a pot !  Even the blueberries & seeds porridge is 19.5 syns and banana and cinnamon porridge 18.5 syns.

As I had eaten on the train I was ok food wise but did order a peppermint tea!  I was happily surprised when it came.  It wasn’t the usual teabag, but a large handful of fresh mint.  It was absolutely gorgeous and I will certainly be going back.  They also have free water which has fresh mint in the jugs for customers!

I happily arrive at my meeting refreshed.

The meeting finished just after lunch.  I know that there is no way I am going to wait another 2.5 hours until I am home before I eat again.  I considered all the options around by the offices but decided to give them a miss.  Even Leon’s super salad was 21 syns.  There were lower syn options such as their Chargrilled Superfood Salad with Chimichurri for 8 syns but I wanted to save my syns for a glass of wine or a hifi bar later!

Remember I mentioned M&S at Marylebone?  Well this is my go to place for times like this.  I can grab my lunch just before getting on the train and eat it on the way home!

Today I opt for  a ham and egg salad.  It comes with a sachet of salad cream so I bin that to keep it syn free.  To it I add a packet of turkey breasts, mixed fruit and a diet coke.  Its a high protein and ‘speed food’ meal.  This will keep me going until dinner tonight!

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What I have just said above isn’t rocket science.  I now find it quite easy to food optimise on the go,  but it took me time not to fall into simple traps.  Just because its made with healthy ingredients, doesn’t mean its free.

Not going to the first place you come to is key.  Have a look around and see what your options are.  Google the area the day before you go so you sort of have a plan for when you arrive if its your first time.

Carry a spare plastic fork in your bag just in case you need it.  This is handy if you are buying from a supermarket prepacked food that isn’t really for takeaway, such as my salads and meats.

Never go to a meeting hungry either.  Even if you only fill up on fruit, it will stop you stacking on the biscuits or cakes that may be on offer.

Plan, plan and plan and you will see the reward on the scales!

What a week! Thank you fridge and freezer!

I don’t know about you but I always find that whenever there is a bank holiday the week drags!  This week was no exception!

For some reason every 1st of the month this year I have developed a cold!  So on 1st April as I was having a lovely walk around Stratford Upon Avon, I could feel my throat start.  You know that feeling that you are swallowing glass.  For me that is always the first sign!    I would have liked to have spent Bank Holiday Monday in bed, but had my stepdaughter staying so that wasn’t an option!

As the week developed the cold got worse.  I really didn’t have an appetite which meant planning for meals was really difficult, as I didn’t know what I wanted.  It is so easy to just pick at junk when you are feeling like this!  I was in the office for the 4 days this week and despite feeling as bad as I did, I still made myself go to the gym!  I couldn’t go at the same pace as other weeks, but decided any exercise was better than none!

When it came to food, I was really good and decided that I would make sure I had every meal planned out for work at least.  That would be my biggest challenge as there is always a lot of biscuits and cakes around.  I decided that carbs was the way to go, so made a big batch of pasta salad which I split over a few days.  I reheat it at work with a couple of light cheese triangles.  Melted they make a lovely cream sauce which is part of my HEA.

Evening meals were more of a challenge.  I would take things out of the freezer that morning.  The problem was I really didn’t have any energy when I woke up, so by dinner time my levels were even lower!  Thankfully I always have a fridge full of fresh vegetables.  Again I loaded up with carbs by slicing up new potatoes and cooking them in garlic frylight with every meal!

By Thursday my motivation was rock bottom!  To make it worse, on the way home our train was stopped between Stetchford and Lee Hall stations.  The conductor said there had been an incident at Marston Green Station and so we had to wait.  Eventually after what felt like hours, they advised us that they were taking us back to Stetchford where the train would terminate.  It turned out that someone had run in front of the train in front of us!  You must be in a terrible state to feel that is the only option for you!  The train driver must also be so traumatised.  Its such a horrible thing to happen.

We are now though stuck at a train station miles from where we need to be.  If any of you commute regularly you will know that we are all creatures of habit!  We stand on the same spot on the platform each day so we meet the same people.  One of the ladies on our train quickly got onto the Uber App and ordered a taxi.  It was going to take 20 minutes but that was better than waiting to see what was going to happen – i.e. could there be a bus service laid on?  Even if there was it wouldn’t take us to our station as there is a low bridge!  My husband and I and another lady who also gets our train with us decided to join Natalie with the taxi and share the cost.  As we were quite far out, Natalie’s husband offered to come to Birmingham International to pick us up, so the taxi didn’t have as long to travel.   We finally got to our car at the Station an hour later than normal.  We still then had to drive the 30 minutes home.

I have 2 border collies who would be expecting us home.  I checked the CCTV to see if they were ok.  Bless them, as soon as the time comes for when we are normally home, both move to watch the front door.  I wonder what goes through their minds when we are late!

They were so happy to see us when we got home.  No accidents either, although Lola quickly told us to stop saying hello to her and let her out!!

I’m already exhausted from the cold, I’m now late home and the dogs still need to go for a walk.  We decide that it really is too late for me to start cooking!  Phew I was so relieved! But then the decision of what to eat!  If we had still lived in Warwick it would have been easy!  Fish, chips and mushy peas  for my husband and chicken kebab meat with salad and lemon juice for me!  We do have a chip shop in our village but it doesn’t do kebab meat as far as I know, and I don’t really like chips and definitely don’t like fried fish or anything in batter.  So that leaves Chinese or curry.  Hubby didn’t fancy a curry so a Chinese it was!  We didn’t have a menu as I have only eaten there once when I first moved to the village so went in blind.  I know what hubby usually likes so decided to play safe.  Beef and black bean sauce with Singapore noodles for him, and chicken in oyster sauce for me.  I should have ordered boiled rice but really couldn’t face it, so decided to pinch a few of the noodles! It was actually very tasty!

My cold was getting worse by Friday so I was so pleased I already had lunches sorted in fridge.  I quickly grabbed a lamb, chicken and dhal curry from freezer for dinner that night which I would add boiled rice to!  I am so pleased I have free food in the freezer for times like this.  It would be so easy to turn to junk food right now!

By Saturday morning I have had it!  I feel like death and decide that I’m staying in bed for the day.  I don’t have any real plans for today so I don’t need to get up!  I am not one for staying in bed.  I am the one up and out walking the dogs at the crack of dawn, or doing housework!  I knew the dishwasher needed emptying and the washing basket was full, there was dog hair on the carpets and don’t get me started on the kitchen floor!  Right now none of that mattered!  Well until  the postman woke me at 2 pm to take a parcel for my neighbour!  Then my OCD kicked in!  I couldn’t just lie around when there was so much work to do!

After a couple of hours cleaning I finally curled up on the sofa, only for my hubby to ask if I wanted to join him to walk the dogs.  I didn’t have to, he knew I was unwell, but I thought the fresh air might do me good and anyway, I needed the steps!

I decided I needed to pull myself together and make something for dinner!  I had some turkey mince in the fridge which I was going to make a pizza with (I will have to share the recipe with you sometime!) .  I didn’t fancy that now but I did fancy a lasagne!  Its amazing how you crave carbs when you are ill!

My husband doesn’t really like turkey but what he doesn’t know doesn’t kill him!

I mixed the mince, 1 chopped red pepper, chopped onion, tinned tomatoes, 10 slice chestnut mushrooms, 1 pint of beef stock (to hide the flavour of turkey!), pepper, 4 tablespoons of Worcester sauce, 2 tablespoons of tomato puree into a frying pan and cooked it for about 15 minutes. Just before the end I added 2 large handfuls of mixed frozen vegetables.

I lined a lasagne tin with sliced courgette.  Added a layer of the mince mixture then topped with lasagne sheets.  I repeated this until all the mixture was used up!

I then mixed 500 g of quark with 3 eggs and topped the pasta.  Baked at 150 degrees on low shelf for 50 minutes.  Then added grated cheese and cooked for another 10 minutes.

I served it with garlic bread.  For hubby it was the shop bought bread but for me I took 2 slices of wholemeal bread (HEB), sprayed with frylight butter and spread with Lazy Garlic.  Both were baked in oven for 10 minutes until golden.  Absolutely delicious.  I also have another 4 portions left for the freezer for lazy days!

My husband was even heard telling my parents today how nice it was !!

Today i’m treating my parents to Sunday dinner.  I’ve booked Charlecote Pheasant by me.  Its a carvery and really good value for money.   I had pate to start, that was the healthiest option, then a lovely roast for main.  I was trying to keep on plan but its very hard at carvery’s as you don’t know what they have cooked the veg etc in.  I opted to fill up on the protein so had a slice each of ham, pork and beef, 1 yorkshire (well its not a roast with out one!), carrots, beans, red cabbage and 2 of the smallest roast potatoes I could find.  It was all cooked so well.  I decided to skip dessert.  I did have a look but nothing took my fancy so decided not to have one for the sake of it.  If you ever want lunch out I would recommend it.  For 4 adults, 3 having 3 courses, me 2,  including 2 glasses of wine, 1 pint Cider and 1 pint of coke it all only came to £80.

The restaurant is bright and traditional.  There is plenty of room if you want to bring a large group.

I’m now suitably full so I won’t need to eat again until tomorrow.  Lets just hope the week ahead is better!

Looking back this week could have been a complete disaster.  You can’t plan when you are going to feel ill, but you can plan for those times when you need something quick any easy.  Keep your fridge full of fresh vegetables and the freezer full of healthy options.  Batch cooking is your savour on weeks like this.  Planning is the key to successful food optimising !

How to survive the buffet table!

Buffet food

We all know that eating out on its own is a challenge, but at least you have a chance of checking out the menu on-line before hand to try and plan.  So what do you do when you get that invite to your best friends party, a wedding, training course or a family get together and you know its a buffet?  Buffets are probably the biggest challenge anyone can face when trying to watch what they eat.  It all looks so amazing and you are only going to have a couple of everything so it won’t be too bad will it? Well lets see!

What you might find on the buffet table!

Sausage rolls
Cocktail sausages
Assortment of sandwiches
Crisps
Chicken drumsticks
Chicken kebabs
Salted peanuts
Chicken nuggets
Samosa
Onion bhaji
Spring rolls
Chinese Wontong

Now lets do that list again but with the syn values attached!

Sausage rolls – 5 syns each (snack size)
Cocktail sausages – 1.5 syns each
Assortment of sandwiches – depending on filling 6.5 syns a quarter
Crisps- 25g 5 syns
Chicken drumsticks – 6 syns with skin on
Chicken kebabs – up to 2 syns each
Salted peanuts  25g 9 syns
Chicken nuggets -1.5 syns each
Samosa – 6 – 12 syns depending on size
Onion bhaji – 2 – 5 syns depending on size
Spring rolls – 7.5 syns
Chinese Wontong – 3 syns each

So on the basis that you would only have a couple of everything you have just consumed approximately 100 syns!  And that hasn’t included any drinks or the second trip back to the table!  Are you shocked?  I know I was when I first worked it out!  So what can you do?

Well the first thing you can do is not to turn up hungry.  The hungrier you are, the less able you are to restrict what you eat.  Make something at home before you go?  Or if its a works buffet, take something with you.  No-one is going to mind if you eat your own food, in fact they may be jealous that yours looks so much nicer!

If its a wedding and you can’t do that, how about making a quiet exit to the car where you have your own snack waiting for you!  No-one will even notice I promise!

If you can, ask whoever is sorting the buffet out to arrange for you a dairy free option!  It tends to be so much healthier, although the cocktail sausages will still potentially make an appearance!

Pack fruit or healthy snacks in your bag to stop you feeling hungry later on!

If you really don’t have any control before you go on what you are going each, then don’t worry, you can still try and limit the overall damage!

Don’t just go straight to the start of the queue and fill your plate up.  That’s far too dangerous!  Have a little walk along the table and identify the healthier options.  Think about whether you could vary some of the food items such as taking the skin off the chicken drumsticks to make them free!  Most sandwich platters have salad on them for decoration.  How about having that rather than the sandwiches?  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking just because the bread is wholemeal its automatically better for you!  Also be wary of thinking its your HEB.  You could only potentially have 2 quarters as part of the HEB due to the size of the bread.  Also,whats inside them? Most will be covered in butter and mayonnaise etc.  You may be able to remove some of the meat though!

Is there any dips with raw vegetables?  If so perfect.  Fill your plate, but remember the dips could be loaded with calories too.  Go for the tomato based one.  Its likely to be the healthier option!

If all else fails, you have up to 15 syns a day.  You have already walked the table so you know what is coming up.  Focus on the lower syn options.

And my final and most important tip is ………………… what out for the dessert table!  If you were shocked at the syns above you are going to be even more shocked at the cakes!  Look for the fruit salad, or the fruit decorating the plates!  Or even better put a hifi bar in your bag!  It’s 3 syns if you have already used your HEB if not its free!

The main thing is you don’t let that buffet ruin your party, wedding etc.  And don’t forget the sensible shoes for all that body magic on the dance floor!

A new week, a new goal!

Wednesday 28 March

They say the second you step off the scales you are into the next weeks weight loss ! Yesterday I only lost 0.5lb! It’s a loss, but I would like more this week. 4lb is my goal. I know what you are all thinking – am I mad! It’s not only a 4 day weekend but it’s Easter ! It’s going to be more difficult but ultimately I’m going to try and keep in my mind why I want this ! It’s coming into summer and I want to be able to feel as confident in my bikini as I did last year !

So I left group last night armed with an SOS log for every day this week! I’m truly focused !

I immediately start preparing dinner! Gammon with all fat removed , sweet potato chips and my favourite broccoli! I added a couple of pieces of fresh pineapple which finished it off lovely ! I only had half my HEB all day so had a double choc hifi bar afterwards! I’m pleased I’ve had no syns all day !

Thursday 29 March

Planning is key when you want to stay on track! We are out for dinner tonight at a pub that is reopening after a refurb! I used to walk past it on my way to school so am excited to see what they have done with it ! Ives been on line to check the menu out so I think I know what I’m having . I’m going to save my HE’s today just in case I want to use them later so it’s a muller light, banana and 2 satsumas for breakfast!

To keep me full until dinner I prepared a wholemeal pasta dish with ham, spinach, cherry tomatoes and 2 boiled eggs !

I finished this off with another miller light and satsuma.

I’m going to confess now that I was also sabotaged! One of my staff made a lemon drizzle cake ! I returned from a meeting to find a slice on my keyboard ! They all know I usually resist all cakes and sweets, so was surprised to see it ! It was however the thinest slice halved so they had really thought about it ! Syn wise, it’s so had to tell which is why I’d normally go without ! I’ve decided to count it as 3 syns, although I’m probably being very generous ! On that basis I felt I should accept it in the way it was meant and eat it !

Sometimes even with complete planning things can happen like this . You just have to consider the options and count it in!

Ouch tonight was a complete disaster! We thought we were going to reopening of The Racehorse pub in Warwick . We expected to enjoy a meal with 1 free drink each! I even checked out website in advance and planned my food ! Glad to say others arriving thought the same! Apparently there were canapés being served only, but after 2 hours we never saw them!

As myself, hubby and 2 friends had saved Ourselves for this treat and were starving, so we left and went to our old local ! For me steak with salad ! Trying to keep on track food wise! Sadly the wine not so much ! As my 2 friends joined us, I swapped from being driver to passenger ! 3 bottles of wine between 3 of us later, my syns were out of the window! It’s rare this happens, and I’m only human, so I’ll just accept it as a blip! I enjoyed the night but now it’s time to move on !

Saturday 30 March

So today it’s damage limitation!

Breakfast was a 3 egg omelette with cherry tomatoes and mushrooms topped with baked beans !

It was hair cut day today . Always nice to have a bit of me time !

A muller yoghurt and 30g of cheese kept me full till dinner time !

Tonight was spaghetti with peppers, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, quark and prawns.   

Absolutely delicious and totally free!

Tonight I picked my stepdaughter up from airport. She didn’t come through until 10.15 pm so as the driver I hadn’t had any wine and was syn free!

By the time we got home it was gone 11pm but I was a bit peckish ! I hadn’t had my HEB so I had 5 Ryvita Rye Cakes. If I hadn’t had my HEA earlier I might have had light cheese triangles on them. Instead I had them dry, but I love them so it was fine . I did have 2 glasses of fizz also at 10 syns!

Saturday 31 March

Saturdays always start with brunch for us.  My hubby has the full fat version of bacon, eggs and sausages.  For me though its the healthier option of 2 Linda McCartney sausages (the red onion ones are free), 2 poached eggs, baked beans and 2 sliced of wholemeal toast from my HEB allowance.  I do love a cooked breakfast and its great that on Slimming World you can still have it with a couple of tweaks!

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Tonight my brother-in-law is joining us. No doubt the Wii will be out.  He loves playing the bowls with us!  He is bringing a leg of lamb over for dinner which I don’t eat.  I have decided to cook a chicken for myself in the slow cooker with a couple of lemons for me. I put it in upside down so all the moisture and lemon juices get into the breast.   I can use the rest for other meals later in the week so it won’t go to waste!

As expected the chicken was absolutely amazing . It literally fell apart when I came to take it out of the slow cooker! I served it along with roast potatoes and carrots done in frylight, broccoli and homemade Yorkshire pudding . I didn’t have any gravy as I didn’t want to add more syns ! I also opened a cheeky bottle of fizz which I see this morning is still half full so can look forward to that tomorrow! I am pleased to say I didn’t have any cakes, chocolates or hot cross buns today either!

I was getting a bit bored in the afternoon which could be a trigger to eat rubbish ! Instead I made a soda bread loaf for my stepdaughter . Taking your mind of food by doing something can really help you when trying to lose weight, whether it be knitting, housework, exercise or baking . Just be careful you don’t eat the baking creations though!!!

Sunday 1 April

It might be April fools day today but I wasn’t a fool with my brunch ! Same as yesterday and tasted equally as good!

I didn’t ask for any Easter Eggs this year so there won’t be any temptation for me ! Well that was the plan ! My brother got me one! Only a small one as he knew I was trying to be good! My mum then gave me a bag full of chocolate and nougat! Eek. I will ration it out though !

My nieces of 8 & 5 were also visiting my parents ! The eldest had made Easter cakes and had brought one each for hubby and I! As my stepdaughter was also there I thought I had got away with it. Then my niece asked her dad to go home and fetch me one which he did ! How could you say no! I will count it ! It was made from cornflakes and chocolate with 3 chocolate eggs on top so I’d say 5 syns ! It was delicious! And well worth it especially as my gorgeous niece made it. I don’t know about you but spending time with family is so precious. My nieces are growing up so quickly I want to share every moment I can with them !

Breakfast was a SW cooked breakfast and all free! 2 slices of wholemeal toast, baked beans, vegetarian sausages and 2 poached eggs! Apart from the little treat above I didn’t eat again until dinner time .

We had gone into Stratford Upon Avon for a walk. Whilst my hubby and stepdaughter both enjoyed a 99, I was good and had a Diet Coke ! I had the start of a cold! You know the feeling of swallowing glass !

Dinner was last nights lemon chicken, roast potatoes which I did with frylight and fresh thyme and broccoli.

We started to do a jigsaw. This one is called a Wasgij! They are great fun as you don’t know what the final picture will look like ! The one on the box is just a clue ! It kept us so busy you don’t think about food! I did have a couple of glasses of fizz though!

Monday 1 April

So my cold is in full swing and I feel absolutely rotten ! Nothing some Day Nurse can’t help though .

Breakfast was the same as yesterday ! Filling and delicious!

I’m not really hungry today so certainly not being tempted by the chocolate that is being eaten around me !

Dinner is 2 Slimming World burgers and homemade potato wedges.

My hubby and I finally finish the jigsaw only to find the puppy had eaten 5 pieces. We were so occupied with it it was late by the time we finished. I had 2 glasses of fizz all night so well in my syns!

Tuesday 3 April

Well because I got distracted by the jigsaw I hadn’t prepared my breakfast or lunch last night, so it was a quick dash to sort something . I did consider buying something on route to work, but then thought better of it! That’s when the extra syns can come in! So it was 2 weetabix with chopped bananas and skimmed milk for breakfast ! Both HE so all free! Yey !

Lunch was lettuce, ham and cucumber. A little light I know but I couldn’t find any tomatoes and didn’t have much time! I also took 3 satsumas and a muller light. So considering it was all a bit rushed it was on plan !

Dinner was left over chicken, new potatoes sliced and cooked in frylight with broccoli! I added salt and vinegar to the potatoes and they were amazing !

So I didn’t go through the same problem as today tomorrow, I prepared breakfast and lunch for tomorrow!

Wednesday 4 April

So last night I mixed frozen berries and quark together for breakfast. I didn’t add oats as I want to save my HEB for later . 2 boiled eggs will see me through to lunch .

Lunch is a ham salad again but this time I have tomatoes ! Muller yoghurt, banana, 3 satsumas and 3 baby bell will be snacked on! It’s weigh in day today so will eat later than usual. This is where my HEB will come in as I will have a hifi bar between weigh in and dinner !

Wish me luck with my weigh in! It won’t be 4lb I know but hopefully a loss !

Drum roll please! What did the scales say? Well ok maybe 4lb was optimistic but I did lose 1.5lb this week. Not bad if you remember my Thursday night antics!

I’m now into another week. Fingers crossed for another loss!

Slimline goes Masterchef with Chef Andy!

Slimwine

Well I think its true to say that I am a big fan of Slimline Wine.  Its not only low in calories and carbs, its absolutely delicious.  To compliment its wines they have now paired up with Chef Andy Campbell who is showing us Slimline Wine fans some amazing healthy meals, which compliment this fabulous wine.

If you are not following Slimline Wine on Facebook, then I have to ask you why not?  You are missing a real treat.   At 7.30 pm on a Monday night, Andy shows off some lovely recipes live on Facebook.  Assisted by the lovely Mariam.  If like me and you are on Slimming World, they are perfect.   Just a very small tweak such as oil – and lets face it he uses hardly any anyway, for Frylight etc and it can be syn free or low syn.

So what have you missed so far?  Well I have to say the first week was a real treat!  Curry!  I love a good curry and Andy didn’t disappoint.  I tweaked it a little to go with Slimming World but (see my recipes on my website http://www.slimminginspirations4u.com) you could leave it as is, and it would still be low calorie.  So what did he cook  Punjabi Chana Dal, Southern Indian Vegetable Curry and Tumeric Rice.   Recipes are below:-

Punjabi Chana Dal

Prep time 15 minutes/ cook time 1 hour

4 servings

1 cup chana dal
water to cover
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

For tempering the chana dal:
2 medium sized tomatoes chopped
2 medium sized onions diced
2cm ginger peeled and grated
4 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped
1 green chili
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon red chili powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon garam masala powder
½ teaspoon dry mango powder
1 teaspoon kasoori methi
2 tablespoon oil or ghee
Salt
Coriander leaves roughly chopped

Method

  1. Soak the dal for an hour in water, rinse well under running water, drain
    2. Cover with water.
    3.On a high flame bring to the boil skin off impurities, cover with a lid, cook on a medium heat for 50/60 minutes
    4. Meanwhile in another pan, heat oil add the cumin first and fry for a few seconds till they splutter.
    3. Then cook the garlic until light brown add the onions and fry until golden.
    4. Add the tomatoes, ginger and green chili cook for 7/9 minutes
    6. Stir in the dry spice powders cook for 3/4 minutes
    7. Add the methi and stir.
    8. Pour the cooked chana dal along with its stock to the sauteed masala mixture season with salt
    9. Stir and simmer the dal for 6-8 minutes
    10. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves

Turmeric Rice

Ingredients
1/2 cup brown rice per person
Turmeric to taste
4cm Ginger peeled and grated
Salt
Coriander leaves roughly chopped

Method

1. Soak the rice in water and drain
2. Cook the rice till al dente with turmeric and salt
3. Fork the rice stirring in ginger
4. Garnish with chopped coriander

Southern Indian Vegetable Curry

Prep time 30minutes / Cooking time 25minutes

For the spice paste
5 tsb fresh grated coconut or unsweetened desiccated coconut
6 whole cashew nuts
½ tbsp roasted chana dal
½ tbsp coriander seeds
4 medium cloves of garlic
2cm piece of ginger
½ tsp red chili powder
1 tsp fennel seeds
4 cm cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1 green cardamom
1 tsp poppy seeds
½ cup water for grinding
Mix all the ingredients in a spice grinder

Ingredients
1 large carrot , peeled and diced
100g chopped french beans
100g frozen peas
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
1 piece of iron bark pumpkin peeled, deseeded cut into 2cm chunks
1 small/medium sized aubergine
1 medium sized courgette
6 white button mushrooms stalks removed cut into quarters
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 large tomato , diced
250ml passata
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp fresh low fat Greek yogurt
1.5 cups water
1 tbsp coconut oil
salt
few chopped coriander leaves for garnish

Method

1. Cook the onions and curry leaves and saute till the onions become translucent
5. Add chopped tomatoes, turmeric powder. Stir and saute for 4 to 5 mins till the tomatoes soften
6. Stir in the ground spice paste. Cook untill the oil starts to leave the sides of the paste. this takes about 4 to 5mins on a low flame. Stiring constantly
7. Add the pumpkin, sweet potato, aubergine and yogurt cook on a low flame for 3 to 4 minutes, add 1.5 cups water & Passata. Season with salt
8. Finally add the courgettes, peas, beans & mushrooms, allow to cook
9. Garnish with roughly chopped coriander leaves

I couldn’t wait to try his dishes so recreated the Dal, rice and added my own chicken curry dish.  I love using my slow cooker so thought I would save the vegetable curry for another day!

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It was so good I am actually doing this again for friends tomorrow night, along with a lamb curry!

The following week it was time for venison.  I have to say, I struggle with any meat that comes from cute animals.  I don’t eat lamb for that reason.  Yes I am doing a lamb curry tomorrow night for friends.  My husband loves it, so I don’t deprive him of it. I just can’t eat it myself. The beauty of this recipe is that you could substitute venison for beef!  I’m still to try this one, but I promise I will!

Crying Tiger Beef/ Venison

Tiger Dressing
60 ml fish sauce
60 ml lime juice
2 tsp palm sugar or 1 tsp honey
Birdseye Red chili to taste
3 spring onions finely sliced
Coriander stalks chopped
3tbs Tamarind pulp
2 tsp Tamari sauce
400/ 500g  piece of rump steak or trimmed venison

Method

1.Mix all the ingredients in a zip lock bag

2.Sear the well seasoned beef on a hot grill, allow to rest covered with parchment paper and slice thinly

Pad thai

2 tsp tamarind paste
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp sugar or 1 tsp honey
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg whisked and fried in 1tbs of vegetable oil
1 garlic clove peeled and diced
3 spring onions finely sliced
125g noodles soaked in cold water until soft
1 courgette cut into noodles
1 butternut squash cut into noodles
2 carrots cut into noodles
1 x12cm piece mouli cut into noodles
150g sugar snap peas cut in half lengthwise
75g beansprout

Method

  1. Mix the tamarind paste, fish sauce & honey in a small bowl
  2. Stir fry the all the various forms of noodles & garlic in the tamarind mix
  3. Add the spring onions & sugar snaps
  4. Garnish with a handful chopped roasted peanuts, lime

Thai Prawn Soup with Lemongrass, ‘Tom Yum Goong’

Serves 4

Ingredients Stock
1/2 Cup Yellow Onion Peeled and Quartered
1/2 Cup Carrot Chopped
1/2 Cup Celery Chopped
1/3 Cup Fresh Shallot Peeled
Chopped coriander stalks
1 Whole Fresh Kaffir Lime Quartered

Method Stock

  1. Add above ingredients with 4.5 liters of water and simmer until reduced to a third of volume

Tom Yum

2 Stalks Fresh Lemongrass lightly pounded and sliced diagonally
3 Small Slices Fresh Galangal
3 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
3 Tablespoons Lime Juice
12 mushrooms quatered
2 Teaspoons Prik Pao Roasted Chili in Oil
20 Large Shrimp
Corriander leaves for Garnish
3 Leaves Fresh Kaffir Lime Leaves Shredded

Method Tom Yam

  1. Add the reduced vegetable stock and simmer
  2. Wash the prawns
  3. Add lemongrass, galangal, fresh chili and lime leaves. Bring back to a simmer then add mushrooms, fish sauce, prik pao and lime juice.
  4. Add prawns. As soon as prawns turn pink serve
  5. Garnish with chopped coriander

I’m seriously going to do the soup and it looked amazing and I love prawns so win win!

Then there was last week.  My ultimate favourite so far!  Coq Au Vin!  Oh wow.  I seriously love this dish, so recreated it the very next day.  I again tweaked it a bit to keep it almost syn free.  Mainly by using chicken breast with no skin, no oil and put quark in my potatoes.  It wasn’t syn free as I felt it needed the wine, but that only came to 2.5 syns in total (for 2 people) and so worth it!

Andy’s recipe:-

Coq au vin

Ingredients

Recipe for Coq au vin

1.5kg organic / free range chicken, jointed
100g diced bacon or lardons
1.5kg organic / free range chicken, jointed
100g diced bacon or lardons
10 shallots, peeled
a few thyme sprigs
1 rosemary sprig
1 tbsp olive oil
250ml slim line white wine
20g butter
250g chestnut mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, crushed
300ml chicken stock
small handful chopped parsley

For the crème fraîche mash
600g sweet potatoes peeled and chopped
100ml low fat milk
20g butter
4tbs low fat crème fraiche
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Purple spouting or stem broccoli
Trimmed broccoli stems and steamed for 2/3 minutes

Method

1. For the coq au vin, preheat the oven to 220C/430F/Gas 7. Cook off the chicken pieces in a frying pan and brown in olive oil. Arrange the chicken pieces in a large roasting tin. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 20 minutes
2. Heat the butter in the frying pan add the bacon, shallots, thyme, rosemary. Cook over a medium heat, until brown for a few minutes
3. Add the mushrooms, garlic add the wine and reduce until syrupy add the chicken stock and reduce by half sprinkle with chopped parsley
4. Meanwhile, for the crème fraîche mash, boil the potatoes in a pan of salted water until tender. Remove from the heat, drain well and return to the hot pan.
5. Mash the potatoes until smooth
6. Heat the milk and butter in a small pan over a medium heat, until the butter has melted. Beat the hot butter and milk into the potatoes, then fold in the crème fraîche . Season with sea salt.
7. To serve, pile some of the crème fraîche mash onto each of four serving plates, spoon on the steamed broccoli and top with coq au vin. Garnish with the button mushroom, bacon and shallot sauce

This was absolutely gorgeous!!  I served mine with Kalettes.  If you have never heard of them, they are a hybrid – a cross between Kale and sprouts.  Don’t be put off by the sprout bit!  They are so delicious.  You will wonder why you never tried them before, I promise.  I got mine from Lidl!

So Monday is another day!  I can’t wait to find out what Andy is cooking next.  Slimline have 3 more live cooking sessions left for this season.  Then watch this space for season 2.   I wonder what delights are in store for the rest of Season 1 never alone season 2!

What I love about these live shows is that it inspires you to try new things in the kitchen.

So if you haven’t liked their page yet, what are you waiting for.  Do it now and don’t forget to tune it on Monday night!  I for one have the alarm on my phone set already!

And if these recipes interest you, you can still watch Andy live preparing the dishes !

What are you waiting for ?