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.

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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!!