Monday, 3 October 2011

RECIPE - Chicken Breast in a Creamy Cajun Sauce

This is my favourite sauce discovery of recent times, and the best thing is it's only 1 syn on Red or EE but tastes really rich and delicious (or could be made using part of your HEXA allowance). I used it on chicken, but I also think the sauce would be lovely with some pasta or other meats.

(Serves 2)
2 Chicken breasts
4 tbsp fat free fromage frais
2 laughing cow light triangles
Cajun spices (amount depending on your taste)
Red onion, finely diced
200ml chicken stock
1 garlic clove, crushed

  1. Chop the chicken breasts into bite sized chunks and brown in fry light.
  2. Add the onion and garlic to the pan, along with the chicken stock and cajun spices
  3. Cook over a medium heat until the chicken is cooked through and the stock has reduced by half.
  4. Add the laughing cow lights and keep stirring until they have dissolved
  5. Remove from the heat and stir through the fromage frais.
  6. Serve with Slimming World chips and extra veggies

Taking a Break

Sorry for the lack of blog updates recently. I've ended up having a couple of weeks break from Slimming World. After being really shaken up by an incident 2 weeks ago I turned to comfort eating, and no matter what I did I couldn't seem to get myself back on track. The day would start well, but by lunchtime would have descended into giving into the food cravings.

Then, just as I was starting to feel better again my hen weekend was upon me. I had an amazing weekend away with my brilliant friends, but I'm pretty sure that the cocktails, crisps, chocolates and general bad food choices have added a few pounds back on. But I don't regret it - I had been really looking forward to this weekend away, and I really didn't want to deny myself anything.

Slimming World is something that I do believe fits into your life most of the time, which is why I love it as a diet. I can easily see that continuing eating 'on plan' would be something that works throughout my life. However, there are always going to be times when I really don't want an apple - I want a big bag of crisps and a cosmo, and my hen was definitely one of those occasions. I love my food, and wouldn't want that to change.

I'm back home today, and back at work tomorrow, so I'm going to get back on plan tomorrow too. I'm avoiding the scales as I know it will only be bad news, and going to have a few success express days to give me a kick start again. Funnily enough, I'm actually craving something healthy now, so pass me that apple this time...

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Week 24 weigh in

It was a good one this week - the stomach bug may have made me feel awful last week, but it did give me a bit of compensation, in the form of a 3.5lb loss this morning, taking my total weight loss to 23lbs. I was thrilled. It feels like I've really kick started myself. I'm being good, 100% on plan, and eating lots of vegetables. All I need to do now is keep this going.

It's nice to be in the 20s when it comes to weight lost as well - its now starting to feel like I've lost a good amount, and that I'm really achieving something. Hopefully I'll get another few good losses in between now and the wedding to take me into the 30s! (Though preferably without anymore stomach bugs.)

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Refusing Temptation

Yesterday I was out for a family meal. Unbeknown to me, the restaurant we went to only did high teas, which meant that as well as choosing our main course, when we got shown to our table it was filled with a plate full of delicious looking cakes and another plate full of scones with butter and jam. They also brought out toast for us. Obviously it was a dieters nightmare! To make things worse, I was sitting directly in front of the cakes!

However, I was really proud of myself. I ordered a healthy main course - venison with new potatoes and vegetables (resisting the lure of the steak pie and chips!) and I announced early on I wasn't going to have any of the cakes at all. I had a half slice of unbuttered wholemeal toast with my main course, and afterwards picked out the smallest scone to have with only jam. I ended up having a tiny bite of my nephew's cake, just so that I could try something (it was delicious), but overall I was so pleased that I resisted such huge temptation. I just kept saying to myself that I'd rather look good in my wedding dress than eat the cake!

Stepping It Up

My wedding is now only 9 weeks away, and following the wedding is the honeymoon in paradise with the dreaded bikini moment. To say the pressure to be 100% on plan is high is an understatement. I want to feel slim and amazing on my wedding day. I want to be able to look back at my wedding pictures and feel really positive about myself. I don’t want to look back, as I do to when I was bridesmaid at my sister’s wedding, thinking that I could have done more to lose weight and tone up. Moving on to the honeymoon, I want to feel confident in my bikinis, not spending the entire time sucking my stomach in and comparing myself to other, slimmer women (though thankfully as we’re going to a tiny island in the Maldives there at least won’t be crowded beaches full of slim women!).

My goal for the next nine weeks is to lose a stone, which averages about 1.5lbs per week. This won’t take me to target, but I would be close to target, and I think that is a reasonable goal to aim for. I wouldn’t complain if a few more pounds decided to disappear too though! In terms of following the plan, I need to be 100% on it, and I want to make as much use of the Success Express and Red Day plans as I can, as I find these are the best at speeding up my weight loss, though I do intend to allow a few Extra Easy or Green days to mix things up, and to allow for meals out.

I also really need to start increasing my exercise again. I’d been doing really well with my walks before I started my new job, but I’ve been finding it harder to fit walks in around work, wedding plan and flat selling. I’ve only been managing about 1 a week, and that really needs to increase. So, I’m considering a few options – firstly I’m contemplating walking to work in the morning (when it’s dry!). It would get the exercise out of the way first thing, the only problem being me forcing myself out of bed a bit earlier, as it would mean leaving 45 minutes earlier, and I am very much not a morning person!

I’m also considering taking up running again. A few years ago I joined a beginners running group and built up to 25 minutes of solid running, however after the course finished I let the running slide and it’s now been over a year since I last did any sort of running (unless you count my odd runs for the bus!). I do feel its an exercise that does tone me up, and once I manage to force myself to break through the pain barrier at the start, I do enjoy it. I also think I’m fitter now than the last time I ran, so hopefully I’ll be able to build up quickly again. I’ve downloaded the Couch to 5K programme to give me a plan to get started again, and I’m thinking about going out for my first attempt. Wish me luck!

Weeks 22 & 23 Weigh Ins

Work has meant I’ve not had an opportunity to update this blog as often as I’d like – including the results of my last 2 weigh ins.

Unfortunately they weren’t good. Week 22 saw a loss of half a pound, and week 23 saw a gain of 2lbs. Neither was particularly unexpected. I’d been very good during week 22, having Success Express days for the beginning of the week, and then the weekend arrived, and I ate a bit of rubbish, and drank a bit more! So all in all, I had to be satisfied that I’d had any sort of loss.

Last week went even worse. It all went wrong from last Wednesday, when I went out for a curry before my monthly book group. Every day after that involved far too much naughty foods – I dread to think what the syns added up to for the week! (Well aside from a 2lb gain!)

Looking forward to my next weigh in I’m a lot more hopeful of getting rid of that 2lb gain and a little bit more. I’ve had a stomach bug since Tuesday this week, which has meant that I’ve been eating very little for the last few days, and what I have eaten has been mostly soup or mashed potato. Whilst I’m starting to get back to normal and introduce more foods, I’m not in any danger of a binge! I’ve felt terrible all week, so I’m really hoping that the silver lining of this bug will be a good weigh loss on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Week 21 Non Weigh In

Confession time today - I didn't weigh in this morning. I knew it would be bad, and I didn't want to make myself feel miserable by seeing a gain. Last week was mostly spent eating. On Tuesday I had a work's team building event in the afternoon, which involved a sausage supper from the chip van. Thursday night, I was so exhausted that I broke my no takeaway rule and ordered an Indian.

The weekend then went from bad to worse. On Friday, I was out for a friend's birthday and we were at an Italian. Whilst I made good choices for the starter and main course, I couldn't resist the pudding menu and had two scoops of delicious ice cream, and then a bag of chips on the way home! Saturday began with a fry up (although it was at least done on the George Foreman without oil!), and the event I was at again ended up with an order being put in to the chippie, and another sausage supper for Laura! Later on in the evening, I also had some buffet food - sausage rolls, cheese straws, crisps etc. All in all it was bad! And because I was in the way of eating badly, Sunday and yesterday weren't brilliant either (although were at least a bit better!).

With all that there is no way I've avoided a gain this week. However, I'm feeling really motivated to get right back on track today, and I'm going to try a few Success Express days to try and quickly get whatever I gained off. I deliberately avoided the scales as I know that putting a figure to the gain is only going to demotivate me. I'll be back on them next week, hopefully with a loss.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Confidence & Compliments

Last Tuesday I was at a team building event with my new work. I was chatting to some of my new team members, and one of them described me as small. Being 5ft 1" I initially took this to mean that I was short, however he then clarified his remark by saying that yes, whilst I was short, he also meant that I was slim. I was thrilled! Because I've just started this job, my colleagues haven't seen me bigger, so to actually be called slim felt amazing.

I've also started feeling far more confident since losing this weight. I can actually look at myself in the mirror, and feel relatively happy with how I look and my size. Yesterday I was at an event which had karaoke at night, something I always want to do, but always end up chickening out because I'm worried about people looking at me as I'm singing and judging - not for my voice (I know that's rubbish!), but what I look like. Last night I did a few songs up there, and had a great time. I'm finally starting to feel happy with myself again, and losing weight has given me the confidence and freedom that I need to stop hiding in the background.

I've still got further to go on my weight loss journey - I'd like to lose at least another stone, but I know I'm getting there and the hard work so far is paying off.

Week 20 Weigh In

I'm a bit late blogging this week, as it's almost Tuesday morning and this is the first chance I've had to sit down in front of the computer! I wasn't sure how last week's weigh in was going to go - I'd been very good all week, until the weekend arrived. It was my nephew's birthday party last Saturday and we all went to the bowling alley. Part of our deal involved some food - from a very limited, and very unhealthy menu. I had a cheeseburger and chips! Afterwards, we stayed at my sister's house and had curry, so all in all Saturday was a bad day!

Being off plan one day lead to being off plan for two days - on Sunday I enjoyed a bacon roll, another roll for lunch with thick chunks of cheese and proper butter, plus a bag of crisps to go with it! Then in the evening, I gave into my sausage and mash craving, and had proper sausages and buttery mash. It was all delicious but I was worried about Tuesday so did manage to get back on track on Monday, even turning down a meal out in favour of a superspeed food bonanza at home!

It worked - I managed to lose half a pound, which meant that I'd finally got to the stone and a half mark!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

RECIPE - Balsamic Roasted Vegetable Pasta

I came up with this recipe on Friday evening as I was on a green day, and also had quite a lot of veggies in the fridge that needed using up. Normally when I make pasta, it tends to me my favourite Penne Arrabiatta but I wanted to try something different. This was a major success - the sauce was incredibly tasty, and will definitely be repeated. It's syn free on Extra Easy or Green, and not spicy, so would be suitable for the whole family. I've listed the ingredients I used below, but I'm sure it would work well with other veg, depending on what you have in the fridge.

2 red onions, peeled and quartered
2 peppers (colours of your choice), roughly chopped
6 shallots, peeled and left whole
4 cloves garlic, left whole and in their skins
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sweetener
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 chicken stock cube
150g pasta of your choice
Salt & Pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 and spray a baking tray with frylight. Add the onion, pepper, shallots and garlic cloves, spray again with frylight and drizzle over the balsamic vinegar.
  2. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes.
  3. Carefully remove the garlic cloves from the roasted veg. Squeeze out the garlic, which will now be sweet and sticky. Finely chop this.
  4. Add the tomatoes, garlic, stock and roasted veg to a saucepan. Season with salt & pepper, and add the paprika and sweetener. Cook for 15 minutes, over a low heat, stirring occasionally.
  5. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the instructions. Drain, and reserve a small cup of the cooking water.
  6. Add a splash of the pasta cooking water to the sauce, along with the drained pasta. Stir through, and continue to cook over a low heat for a further minute.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Week 19 Weigh In

Last week involved quite a few meals out. My team at my new work organised a team lunch to welcome me to the office, my fiance also took me out for dinner one night to congratulate me on getting the new job, and after my new office flooded last Thursday, I ended up having a surprise day off on Friday which turned into a three course lunch with my mum. Friday's lunch also involved a slip up on my no-alcohol challenge, as we ordered a bottle of wine with lunch. However, I did stop at my 2 glasses, and didn't have any more for the rest of the day - something which I probably wouldn't have done had I not been doing the challenge. On Monday I had also come down with a migraine, which meant that the last thing I wanted to do was cook - so dinner ended up being a full fat Tesco Lasagne.

On the positive side, I'd still managed to stay away from the dreaded takeaway, and those 2 glasses of wine were the only alcohol to pass my lips. Even with all the meals out, I had made sensible Slimming World choices, and felt I had been within my syns (Monday excepted!). But then on the negative side, exercise had fallen by the wayside. Starting a new job, and having to learn a lot of new things, had left me shattered, and after starting well with walking the 4.2 miles home on Monday and Tuesday, sleep and rest became my priority for the rest of the week.

All in all I wasn't sure how Tuesday morning's weigh in would go, but I had managed to lose 1lb, taking my total to 20.5lbs - just a pesky half pound short of the stone and a half mark! It was disappointing that I didn't get the extra half pound, but I was still pleased with the loss, and hopefully I'll break through that barrier next Tuesday morning.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

More Sugar & Spice

Regular readers of my blog will know that I'm a fan of the Spice Kits created by Diane Prince. Since I blogged about the first kit I tried (Andhra Chilli Chicken), I've had the opportunity to try quite a few more of the kits, so wanted to give some of those tried a mention! I've not listed everyone that I've tried, but in general, they have all been brilliant. The instructions on the pack are always clear and easy to follow (although I do confess that sometimes I tweak them a little to suit my tastes and what's in the fridge - plus I rarely ever follow a recipe in its entirety!). The results are always delicious.

Cochifrito - I'd never heard of this before seeing Diane's list of kits, but it was described as a Spanish smoked lamb casserole, so I thought I would try it. This is now one of my absolute favourite dinners. It's a delicious stew, that tastes really rich and smokey. I've served it with both mash and pasta, and found it works brilliantly with either.

Jamaican Casserole - This is a newly available kit, which I tried on Friday evening using beef. Again, this was delicious. I'm a big fan of beef stews, but tend to keep them quite British tasting normally, and use herbs such as rosemary and bay. This stew had completely different flavours, but was equally delicious, and only half a syn per serving!

Beef Madras - I'll start by saying I did this with chicken, as on the day I used it I had some chicken needing used up! However, this is one of the beauties of Diane's kits - whilst the kits may be for one type of meat, you can change this is you wish. Madras is one of my favourite curries, but something I'd never been able to get quite right before, but this kit did what it needed.

Kheema Curry - Despite being a huge curry fan, I only discovered this curry earlier this year when out at an Indian Tapas. It was very different to the curries I was used to but I really enjoyed the curried mince and wanted to try it at home. This kit gave me the opportunity to do so, and again was fantastic. It felt like there was a real depth of flavours with this one.

Chicken Biryani - This one deserves a mention simply because it is delicious both hot and cold! It's an easy one pot dish that contains chicken, veg and rice, all cooked together, which means that all the flavours combine perfectly. When I had this, I had leftovers for the next day, to which I added more salad-style items such as red onions and tomatoes, and it was amazing as a filling lunchtime cold salad.

Southern Fried Chicken - This is a must! With this kit, you get a bag full of the spice mixture but only need 1 tsp per use, so the bag will last a while. It is designed to just be sprinkled on chicken and then roasted, grilled or stir-fried. I will admit to being sceptical about this one at first - as it doesn't seem like you're adding a lot - but the flavour contained within that tiny amount is incredible. The first time I used it, I just sprinkled it over the chicken and cooked it in the oven. This was easy and very nice. The second time I used it I decided to experiment a bit more, and stir-fried it with chicken, pepper strips, chili, garlic and onions. I then added a small amount of passata to make it a southern fried sauce. This was incredible. It got some extra superfree vegetables involved, and my fiance wouldn't stop going on about how amazing the sauce was.

Given the number of kits I have now tried, I can honestly say that they have become a staple in my cupboard. They are great value and easy to use. It is also obvious the Diane has put a lot of time and effort into getting the blend of herbs and spices perfected for each kit, so that it really does feel like you're having a delicious takeaway without all the unnecessary calories and fat. If you haven't tried any of Diane's kits yet, I would urge you to give them a go! The full list of kits available can be found on the Sugar & Spice facebook page:!/pages/Sugar-and-Spice/186323524735312?sk=info

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Week 18 Weigh In

Tuesday morning was my first weigh in after leaving class, and I was thrilled that I lost 2.5lbs. This takes my total to 19.5lbs, and I'm just 1.5lbs away from the stone and a half mark. Whilst I'm not getting stickers anymore, I still intend to celebrate each half stone as an achievement, so hopefully I will get there next week.

I had been good last week - I think doing 3 different challenges meant that there was very little I could spend my syns on, so I found it easy to stick to the diet all week. It obviously pays off, so I need to try and focus on that so that I get another few good losses this month.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


A couple of months ago (I think) I was at an appointment around rush hour at another part of town that required two buses to get home. I hate public transport when it's busy - it's always full, there's always people playing music far too loud, and if you're really unlucky you get a smelly person sitting next to you or a weirdo who plucks his chin with 2 20pence pieces (I'm not lying - that did happen to me once on a bus!). It also takes forever, what with everyone getting on and off and all the other traffic, roadworks, etc. On this day I really wasn't looking forward to the bus journey, and then when I got home I knew I would have to force myself to do some exercise. All in all I knew this would take me about an hour and a half. That's when it struck me that it would probably take me about the same amount of time to walk home, and that way I wouldn't need to face the bus and would be getting even more exercise than planned. I think that was a 4.5 mile walk, and the first proper walking I'd done in a while. It was hard, but I did it.

Since that day I've been walking a lot. Most days when it's been dry outside I've been fitting in at least a 3 mile walk. If I don't have anywhere to go, I have a few routes that lead from my flat around my local area and back again, and if I do have somewhere to go, I work out whether I can walk. I live about 4.5 miles from the town centre, and this has become a regular walk whenever I need to go into town. Today has been my best achievement to date. I had an appointment 4.6 miles away this morning, so not only did I walk all the way there, but I also walked all the way home afterwards, half an hour later, giving me a total of 9.2 miles for today. The last mile or so was tough, but I'm thrilled that I achieved it.

I definitely feel all this walking is really starting to do me a huge amount of good. The most obvious thing has been my fitness levels - the more I've walked, the faster I've been able to walk and the easier I'm finding the hills. My fiance has noticed a big difference, as he now feels I'm fitter than him (and he's a three times a week gym addict!). I've also started to get a few comments that my legs have started to slim down and tone up and I've definitely noticed my skinny jeans getting looser around the thighs!

In addition to the obvious physical benefits, I'm also really enjoying the walking. I tend to walk with my iPod playing a range of tunes with upbeat and happy lyrics, that make me smile as I pound the pavements. I'm discovering lots of new little things around my local areas, such as shops or parks that I didn't know existed. I'm also getting to spend plenty of time in the fresh air, and over the last couple of days, the sunshine which always makes me feel happier. Walking is also giving me a chance to destress and clear my head by allowing me to escape from the rest of the world for the hour or so that I'm doing it.

I've recently just bought myself a pair of Reebox Easytones for walking, which are meant to increase the muscle usage of the leg and bum muscles, so I'm hoping these will help tone my legs up faster as I use them. I've only been out once in them so far, as they're not always suitable footwear if I need to look a bit smarter, but I definitely felt my legs were worked harder and were sorer the next day, so I have confidence they will make a difference.

I start my new job on Monday, which is 4.2 miles from my flat. My aim is to start walking home from work on dry days, so that I'm still maintaining this new exercise which I'm loving.

Week 17 Weigh In

Well my last Monday evening weigh in wasn't a good one as it was a gain of 1lb! However, it was completely expected. It was star week, and I'd had 2 very bad days during the week full of too much food & drink! In actual fact, I was relieved just to gain 1lb! I also know that it will be off again next week, hopefully along with another couple of its friends! During the next week because of the various challenges I'm doing chocolate, alcohol and takeaways are all banned, so I think it will be difficult to go over my syns!

I think I'm going to try going it alone just now, after speaking to a few people who've shared their experiences of not going to class with me. As I said in my Class or No Class post, I have a wonderful support network online in the form of all my lovely twitter friends, and I have a massive amount of support in the real world from my fiance. I weighed in again this morning on my own scales, so that I know where I'm starting from in terms of a morning weight and a weight on my scales, and from now on will be weighing in on Tuesday mornings before work, and basing the rest of my losses from this new weight.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

RECIPE - Mango & Grapefruit Salad

I tried this salad in a restaurant, and it was absolutely delicious, so I've recreated it at home. It's syn free on all plans, and contains lots of superfree food.

1 mango, peeled and sliced
1 grapefruit, cut into chunks
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
Large handful green beans
1/2 red onion, cut into strips
4 spring onions, finely chopped
Salt & Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar

  1. Wash, trim and boil the green beans for 3 - 4 minutes, then run under cold water immediately to cool.
  2. Mix all the fruit and salad items together in a large serving bowl. Season to taste and drizzle with some balsamic vinegar.

Challenges - Chocolate, Alcohol & Takeaways

As I mentioned at the end of June, I signed up to give up chocolate for the month of July. 24 days in and still not a drop of chocolate has passed my lips, and in actual fact it's made me realise that I don't need chocolate as much as I thought I did. I've enjoyed the challenge, and hope that it's encouraged me to generally cut back on my chocolate consumption (thought I do confess to be really looking forward to a dairy milk on the 1st August!).

I've now signed up for two additional challenges along with a few others on Twitter, and these two are going to be my big test! The first is to give up alcohol for 5 weeks, starting tomorrow. I enjoy a glass of wine (or three) most weekends, whether I'm out for dinner, out to the pub or just sitting at home of a Saturday evening. Wine is one of the main reasons I go over my syns, both because of the wine itself and the fact that I get hungry and crave bad food. Five weeks without any will definitely be difficult for me, but hopefully will make a massive difference to my weight loss, and knowing that I'll have five hangover-free weeks is quite nice too! I am having one day off during this time, however, and that is next Saturday. It's the day I try on my wedding dress for the first time, and would really like to celebrate afterwards with something nice! Other than that, no alcohol allowed!

The second challenge is to give up takeaways, and this one is a bit longer! Myself, and another dieting bride, have challenged ourselves not to have any takeaways until our hen weekends - eight weeks for her, ten weeks for me. We're still allowed to eat out, but any food which is consumed at home must also be cooked at home. I'm a big takeaway fan, and have got into the habit of having a regular curry. It's me being lazy, because I can cook delicious syn free curries myself, and I always have some of the Sugar and Spice curry kits in the house, so they're easy for me to prepare and a lot cheaper! This challenge will force me out of this lazy habit, I hope! I do syn the curries from the takeaway, but I still think that not having them will do my weight loss more good. So, hopefully August will be a good month weight loss wise with no alcohol or takeaways being allowed!

If anyone else wants to join us on either (or both) of these challenges please do - we can all support each other!

Class or No Class

A week tomorrow I will be starting a new job. The new job means that I'm going to be unable to make my regular Slimming World class, because it starts too early. It's disappointing, because I do really like the class. We have a great consultant, the other members are very supportive and I've learnt a lot from staying to image therapy most weeks. My consultant does a few other classes, but none I can get to.

Initially after working this out, I had a look at the other nearby classes, and made the decision to go to one on a Wednesday evening. The location isn't ideal, but it's the next nearest at a time I can make. However, I'm now starting to rethink this, and contemplating just continuing myself. I don't enjoy weigh in days - I feel they drag. I'm scared about eating too close to weigh in, or drinking too much, and by the time I get home after class I'm ravenous! I could deal with this when I was getting home around 7pm, and had something quick and easy to prepare for dinner. However, the new class would be at 7.30pm, and would mean that if I stayed for Image Therapy it would be after 9pm before I got home and could eat (and there's no way I'm risking having dinner before weigh in!).

I've got a massive bit of motivation for me to stick with the diet (my wedding), and there is some really wonderful support from other slimmers on Twitter, so I think I could probably stick to it myself. By doing it on my own, it means I could weigh in first thing in the morning, so wouldn't need to spend all day worrying about it too. It does disappoint me that I have to leave my class, but there's just no way I could get there on time now.

RECIPE - Bacon & Tomato Scrambled Eggs

I made this yesterday morning for breakfast to use up some food in the fridge, and it was really good!

(1/2 syn)
2 rashers bacon, all fat removed
2 tomatoes, chiopped
1/2 red onion, cut into strips
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sweetener
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 eggs
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
Fry Light

  1. Spray a pan with fry light. Chop the bacon into chunks and gently fry.
  2. Add the tomatoes, red onion and chilli and fry for a few minutes until the tomotoes break down (add a splash of water if the pan starts to dry out)
  3. Add the balsamic vinegar, sweetener tomato puree and a further splash of water
  4. Stir fry for another 2 minutes to allow all the ingredients to come together
  5. Crack the eggs into the pan, and mix them quickly through the sauce. Cook until the eggs are scrambled.
  6. Serve either on its own, or with a HEXB portion of toast

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

RECIPE - Roasted Root Veg Soup

I made this yesterday, and I'd forgotten how delicious it is. It makes a really thick, filling soup, and is syn free on all plans.

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
2 carrots, cut into large chunks
half swede, cut into large chunks
2 leeks, thickly sliced
2 onions, quartered
1 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
Fry light
Salt & Pepper
1.2l chicken stock

  1. Spray a large baking tray (or 2 small trays) with fry light, add the chopped vegetables and herbs, and spray again with frylight.
  2. Tuck the bay leaves underneath the veg, and sprinkle over the thyme, salt & pepper.
  3. Roast the vegetables in the oven until tender, for around 30 minutes.
  4. Add the vegetables to a large soup pan, along with the chicken stock. Simmer for around 10-15 minutes.
  5. Remove the bay leaves carefully, blend until smooth then serve.

Week 16 Weigh In

Despite aiming for a good week on plan, it didn't happen last week. On Thursday I gave myself the evening off, as my partner and I were at a doo with his work to celebrate him working for his company for fifteen years. The evening included a delicious 3 course meal, and unlimited wine, so needless to say I indulged in both! Having said that - I did make the healthiest choices for each course. I started with a red pepper and tomato soup (though the Parmesan croutons probably weren't the healthiest!), then had a steak and filled up on lots of vegetables with it, and finally had the cheese plate - where I avoided the butter completely, gave half the cheese to my partner and ate all of the grapes and celery!

I was also out on Friday night, although this time I was pleased with my behaviour! Everything I ordered was almost syn free, as I asked for lots of changes to the menu items, and whilst we were also having cocktails, I opted for one that just contained spirits and diet coke - no sugar filled mixers for me! Saturday went well too. It was my niece's third birthday, and my sister was holding a party to celebrate. I'd prepared in advance and brought syn free potato salad and syn free Indian style slaw, which meant that when the buffet appeared I had a plate full of syn free food and avoided the sausage rolls, sandwiches, etc.

However, everything had gone wrong by Sunday! There had been a major family argument on Saturday, and I'd been left feeling very upset - so turned to my old friend - comfort eating! The day began with a buttered baguette with bacon and hash browns, and then went downhill from there with more bread, cheese and crisps.

I'd got back on track yesterday, but didn't think I'd have done enough to prevent a gain, so I was very pleased with a 1lb loss this week.

Looking ahead to this week, I already know its going to be tough. I have 4 lunches out over the next 4 days, so will have to make sure I'm picking the lowest syn choices, and having syn free days the rest of the time. Its now under 2 weeks until I try on my wedding dress, and I'm determined to get my 1.5stone award by then.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Is It How You Say It?

Yesterday's post about my wedding dress countdown got me thinking about the different ways we think about our weight loss. In the post yesterday I mentioned I've lost 17lbs to date. I don't know why I wrote it just in pounds, when normally I would have said I've lost 1 stone 3lbs. The interesting thing was that after writing that post, I felt boosted by my weight loss to date. I kept thinking to myself  "wow, 17lbs, that's brilliant Laura. Such a massive achievement" and was feeling very positive about how well I'd done.

Contrast that to my feelings previously about losing 1 stone 3lbs - I was obviously pleased with the weight loss, but a little voice in the back of my head was saying that I hadn't lost very much, and wasn't doing well enough (funnily enough, the same voice that convinces me to eat the bad things!). I'd felt my weight wasn't coming off quickly enough, and that I'd been stuck around the same figure for ages.

Yet both of these are opposing feelings about the same weight loss, which has made me consider whether how you say your weight loss makes the difference. In number terms, 17 is obviously bigger than 1.3, and I think this is what my brain has latched onto. It also feels I can take bigger leaps to the next milestone. In 3lbs I'll be in the 20s, and in 13lbs - less than a stone - I'll be in the 30s, and that really does sound amazingly impressive to me! So from now on I'm going to count my total weight loss in pounds only and try and keep that motivation and positivity high! (I'll still count down in stones though - then I want it to sound like a small goal!)

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

RECIPE - Bruschetta

Bruschetta is one of my favourite things, which I thought would be a no go on Slimming World, but I've come up with this recipe, which uses 1 HEXB choice, and other than that is syn free. It's not quite the same thing, but still well worth it.

2 slices 400g loaf  from HEXB choice (I use WW thick wholemeal)
1 clove garlic
1 red onion
8-10 chopped cherry/plum tomatoes (different sizes and colours if you can)
Lemon Juice
Chilli Flakes
Salt & Pepper

  1. Finely dice the onion and roughly chop the tomatoes. Add to a mixing bowl along with a squeeze of lemon juice, chilli flakes, salt and pepper and mix through.
  2. Toast the bread until nice and crispy
  3. Chop the garlic clove in half, and then slowly rub over the toasted bread. The sharpness of the bread acts as a mini-grater, and you will soon smell the garlic filling the air
  4. Spoon the bruschetta mix over the toast. Any leftover mix is great added to soups and salads
Optional Extra
Use a HEXA of grated cheese before you put the bruschetta mix on, and pop under the grill until melted for a cheesey bruschetta.

Wedding Dress Countdown

I've been trying to lose weight on and off for years, and had always ended up losing a bit then gaining a bit more, however this time I've been determined to stick to Slimming World because I wanted the weight gone by my wedding in November. I'd ordered my wedding dress in March this year, shortly before I started going to Slimming World classes, and based on my measurements at the time, the dress was ordered two sizes smaller. I'd always planned on losing more than 2 sizes, and felt that the extra motivation of a too small dress would keep me going. Plus the more a dress needs to be altered the more difficult it would be.

Last week I found out my dress has arrived in the bridal shop and is ready to try on. So far I've lost 17lbs since ordering the dress, and in terms of the clothes I'm wearing I've probably dropped around 1.5 dress sizes, so I'm not too sure yet how the dress will fit. However, if it's still a little too small I know that I have more time to keep losing the weight before I need to have a final fitting. So, the first fitting is booked for Saturday 30th July, or just over 2 weeks time. In these two weeks I'm aiming to be 100% on plan, and really up my intake of speed and superspeed foods to try and get as much off as possible and feel as good as I can for that day.

RECIPE - Turkey in Red Sauce

I made up this recipe last week as I'd bought some turkey steaks that were on offer, and really enjoyed it. I was on a red day, so served with cauliflower rice, but would be just as lovely with some potato wedges or normal rice.

Serves 2 - syn free on Red or EE

2 turkey steaks
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 red pepper
Handful of red jalapeno peppers
1 red onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt & Pepper
Chicken stock cube

  1. Chop the turkey steak into bite sized chunks, chop the pepper into strips and the dice the onion.
  2. Add all the ingredients to a frying pan. The number of jalapenos you use should depend on your own preferences. If you feel very daring add a small amount of the juice the jalapenos came in.
  3. Cook for around 20-25 minutes until the sauce has thickened and the turkey cooked through then serve.

RECIPE - Red Day Spicy Speed Soup

I've posted the standard Speed Soup recipe on here before, but that is only free if you're doing a Green or Extra Easy day. Recently I've been mixing things up and doing Red days as well, and I wanted a soup that would be free on all plans, whilst also containing lots of speed foods. I came up with this soup last night based on what was in my fridge, and didn't really expect much, however it's one of the best soups I've made (and what's more my non-dieting fiance agreed!). It's also very easy to make, and contains 9 speed ingredients.

It makes a lovely large pot, and can be frozen if necessary.

Half cabbage
2 onions
4 carrots
Half swede
1 green chilli
1 green pepper
5 radishes
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 sticks celery
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 chicken stock cubes
thumb size piece of grated ginger
50ml syn free orange squash (trust me on this!)
Salt & Pepper

  1. Roughly chop all the vegetables and add to a large soup pot along with the garlic and ginger.
  2. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes and enough water to cover the veg.
  3. Add the stock, orange squash and season.
  4. Cook for around 30 minutes, or until veg is all soft
  5. Allow to cool for 10 minutes then blend.
  6. Gently reheat and serve

Week 15 Weigh In

Yesterday I lost half a pound at weigh in - not exactly the best loss especially given that it was for two weeks, however I have been very relaxed about it. Firstly it's still half a pound in the right direction, and the equivalent to a pack of lard as someone reminded me yesterday.

Secondly, I'd had a very stressful week last week - without going into too much detail I've been trying to organise wedding things, sell my flat and job hunt all at the same time. My first flat viewing was on Sunday, so I'd spent most of the morning getting everything looking clean and perfect. I also had a job interview yesterday, so Sunday afternoon was spent doing some interview prep. All the stress and nervous anticipation led to me feeling really sick on Sunday evening, and I ended up in bed from around 7pm with no dinner. Yesterday morning I still wasn't feeling right, so again wasn't eating. Instead of losing weight when I don't eat, my body tends to hoard everything, so I don't think this helped at all for the weigh in.

Finally, I tend to limit my water intake on a Monday after lunchtime so that water doesn't show up on the scales. Yesterday, because I had a 2 hour long job interview in the afternoon, that obviously involved me talking a lot, I got through a large amount of water during the course of the interview. Again, I'm sure this didn't help when I stepped on those scales.

I'm still feeling confident, and hoping that I will get a good result on the scales next week. Its now just 4lbs to my next shiny sticker (1.5 stone), so hopefully that is firmly in my sights!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Emotional Eating

My name is Laura and I'm an Emotional Eater. When things go wrong, I want food to make me feel better. When things go well, I want a celebratory food fest. When I'm bored, eating will keep me occupied for a while. And on no occasion is the food I crave fruit!

Yesterday afternoon I got a phone call to say I hadn't got a job I'd been really wanting. As soon as I got off the phone, the tears arrived along with the desperate need for comfort food - in this case white bread toast with lots of butter and melted cheese. I tried to fight the emotional cravings for a while - yesterday was also weigh in day, and I knew that if I started eating, I wouldn't make it to weigh in. I caved, had the toast then crawled under the duvet and ignored the fact I should have been standing on the scales. Ironically, I hadn't been too nervous about yesterday's weigh in - my home scales were showing a loss, and I'd been really good all week to make up for a food festival I was at on Saturday.

This morning I started thinking about emotional eating, and how I deal with it now compared to previously. Looking back I've used food as a comfort all the way since childhood. At the age of 6, my family moved to a different part of the country. I'd started school by that point, and hated having to start afresh elsewhere. I remember my parents used to buy these biscuit things that were topped with gooey marshmallow and jam. I loved them, and they're actually my first food memory! I then also remember being at the doctor's, and him commenting that I was obviously enjoying the Scottish diet - the first time I remember a comment being made about my weight.

I remember when I was a teenager that when I was upset or feeling lonely I would go to a local shop and buy lots of chocolate and crisps, that I hid in my bedroom and used to binge on. The food never lasted very long - I could easily eat a large chocolate bar and 6 packets of crisps in one sitting. But then once it was gone I moved onto the next shop - I rotated shops as I was worried the staff would comment on my buying habits if I visited one place too often. Starting University was almost liberating in that sense - it was easy to slip in lots of treats into a normal shop without feeling too guilty, which meant the comfort eating continued all to easily. And my flatmates were always happy to break out the big tubs of ice cream with a spoon each whenever any of us felt emotional.

Since leaving uni 9 years ago, I think I've generally became a happier person and although I've in no way fixed the emotional eating habit, I don't remember exact instances so much. I know I've done it - I've definitely eaten my way through a few hundred large share bags of crisps by myself, but things don't stick out so much.

Last night, however, I feel I made progress with my habit. Yes, I felt upset so went and had something to eat - but I only had 2 slices of toast, butter and cheese (that could easily have been more), I didn't raid the cupboard for lots of chocolate and I didn't go to the shops for crisps. I missed my weigh in, but I managed to pull myself together enough to go and meet friends for dinner later, and I walked the 5 miles to the restaurant. In the restaurant I could have easily picked high fat, high syn options, but instead had carrot soup followed by a steak - a lot healthier than the pate and puff pastry topped pie my emotions were telling me I needed.

I don't feel I've completely got a handle on my emotional eating, but I do think that I am getting better. I'm recognising that the cravings I experience at times of extreme emotions are not real cravings, and actually eating things that are bad for me only satisfy me whilst I'm eating - straight afterwards the emotion is back. I hope next time I can remember last night, and try and keep myself together now that I know it is possible to exercise a bit of self control.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

No Chocs July

As I've mentioned before on here, I've found the support on twitter from others losing weight to be invaluable. One of those lovely supportive people is known as @no_chocs on twitter, and has given up chocolate for the whole of this year. Earlier this month, she asked for some volunteers to join her for the month of July in giving up chocolate. Given all the support I've had from twitter, I felt I should join up and help give something back, so as of tomorrow I will not be eating any chocolate until the 1st August.

I don't tend to eat a huge amount of chocolate anyway, as crisps are a bigger weakness for me. However, I do enjoy the chocolate based hifi bars (the deluxe, the mint choc or the choc orange ones - I'm not picky!), and I do tend to have these as a HEXB choice a few days a week, so this is going to be my biggest difficulty. Last week at class I bought a pack of the lemon hifi bars to try, and although they're not as good as the chocolate ones, I did still enjoy them. I may also have a look at the Alpen Light bars to see if they have chocolate free ones that I could use instead.

If you are on twitter and want to follow my progress, and everyone else signed up for the challenge, have a search for the hashtag #nochocsjuly

RECIPE - Curried Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup

I know chopping butternut squash is a pain, but this recipe really makes it worth it. What's more it's syn free on all plans.

1 butternut squash
2 onions
2 carrots
2 tsp curry powder (I use hot, but use mild if you don't want it too spicy!)
Chicken stock, to cover the veg

  1. Chop up the butternut squash, onions and carrots and add to a large pot.
  2. Add enough chicken stock to cover the veg, and bring to the boil.
  3. Add the curry powder and season. Cook for around 30 minutes until the veg is soft.
  4. Blend and enjoy

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

RECIPE - Stovies

On Monday I decided to do some roast beef. It was quite a big joint - more than enough for the 2 of us at home, so I ended up with plenty leftovers. Last night I decided to make Slimming World friendly stovies. I tweeted about them, and got a few questions about what they were, so here it is people!

Stovies is a traditional Scottish recipe, of which there are many variations depending on who you speak to. The one I did yesterday was made with leftover shredded roast beef from my roast, but you can also use corned beef, mince or even sausages (obviously taking into account the syns if you're doing Slimming World). They're also meant to be made using some form of fat (butter, lard, beef dripping, etc.) However as I was doing a Slimming World recipe I didn't add any fat at all, and still really enjoyed them.

Traditionally stovies only consist of potatoes, onion, gravy and meat. However I also added a lot of carrot, to get it to the one third superfree required for Extra Easy, and added some petit pois for the last 5 minutes of cooking to get an extra super speed food in! Obviously you can play around with the vegetables you use depending on your tastes. I think it would also taste lovely with cubed swede or chopped leeks.

4 large potatoes, chopped into small chunks
4 large carrots, sliced
2 onions, finely sliced
Leftover roast beef, shredded
Leftover syn free gravy (if avail, otherwise use more stock)
1 beef stock cube
4 cloves garlic, crushed
Handful of petit pois
Salt & Pepper

  1. Add everything to a large pot, except the petit pois, and add small amount of water (it isn't drained, so just add the minimum you need)
  2. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and cover.
  3. Cook for 45-50 minutes stirring regularly. The potatoes should start falling apart and mixing with everything else. If it starts to get too dry add a splash of water
  4. Add petit pois for the last 5 minutes just to heat through
  5. Serve - it looks like a dog's dinner but is delicious, and only one pot to wash up!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Week 13 Weigh In

Once again, last night I was aiming to get my stone award. However, the weekend hadn't been great diet wise having been away for a night in Glasgow on Friday. There was lots of wine, a few crisps and a massive pig out at Jamie Oliver's Italian restaurant involved, so I was worried. (But the food in Jamie's restaurant was really well worth the syn splurge - absolutely delicious!)

I was thrilled when I was told I'd lost 3lbs - not only getting my stone award, but also my club 10 award (for those not familiar with slimming world, club 10 is when you have lost 10% of your body weight). This was a massive boost for me, after feeling really disappointed at not losing the week before. I'd managed to keep myself on track despite the disappointment (aside from the aforementioned food!) and it had paid off. As an extra boost, I also got my first ever Slimmer of the Week award last night, so it really was a day full of shiny stickers!

As my consultant pointed out in class last night, over the last 3 weeks I've lost 6lbs - an average of 2lbs a week, which I'm really happy with. I'm really determined to try and keep this average up now and get my stone and a half award within the next 2 or 3 weeks (4.5lbs to go!).

Looking to this coming week, my main diet difficulty is going to the the Taste of Edinburgh event on Saturday afternoon. I go to this every year, and basically its a festival where a number of different local restaurants and local producers set up stalls either selling or giving away tasters of their food/drinks, and chefs do some demos. Its quite easy to eat and drink quite a few naughties, and afterwards I tend to end up getting a takeaway and drinking lots more wine! I want to enjoy myself, so I will be sampling what's on offer at the festival, however I'm planning on sticking to minimum syns the rest of the week. Also, I'm going to make sure I have a prepared curry and rice in the fridge on Saturday so that I just need to reheat it, rather than going for a takeaway. Hopefully all this will mean I can still achieve a loss next week.

Monday, 27 June 2011

RECIPE - Spinach and Red Pepper Cannelloni

I tried this recipe for the first time on Thursday evening. It's syn free, and honestly one of the best things I've eaten in ages. In fact, I had meant to save the leftovers for the next day's lunch, but they all got polished off later in the evening when I felt a bit hungry! I always find cannelloni a pain to make, but this recipe has really made it worth the effort, and is definitely going to become a regular meal for us. It's also vegetarian - but don't let that put you off! I'm a big meat fan, but really didn't miss it at all in this recipe.

(serves 4)
250g spinach (fresh or frozen, but if using frozen, defrost first and squeeze out excess water)
20 cannelloni tubes
2 red peppers
1 onion
4 radishes
1 300g tub low fat cottage cheese
1 large egg yolk
1 carton of tomato passata
2 garlic cloves, crushed
handful of fresh basil leaves
fresh cherry tomatoes (optional)
100g grated cheddar cheese (optional - 1HEXA per person)

  1. Finely chop the onion and red pepper. Grate the radishes.
  2. In a mixing bowl, mix the spinach, red pepper, onion, garlic, egg yolk, cottage cheese, radishes and season well.
  3. Fill the cannelloni tubes with this mixture, using a piping bag, teaspoon or your hands depending on your preference! Try and really pack the mixture tightly into the tubes.
  4. Add the filled cannelloni tubes in a single layer to a baking dish sprayed with frylight, and top with the carton of passata, ensuring that all the pasta is covered
  5. Add the fresh basil leaves on top. If using, also add the cheese, and the halfed cherry tomatoes.
  6. Bake in the oven at 200C for around 45 minutes. Cover the mixture for the first 30 minutes with foil, and remove for the last 15 minutes to allow the cheese to brown slightly

Thursday, 23 June 2011

RECIPE - The 8 syn pizza

A few weeks ago I posted a recipe for a syn free pizza on my blog, using a HEXA choice and a base made out of smash. Whilst I enjoyed this, and it helps satisfy the pizza craving, it is a bit of a pain to make. This pizza can be made a lot quicker for only 8 syns plus a HEXA, and does taste a lot more like a pizza. It uses the new Warburtons Squarish Wraps. These are a bit thicker than a regular wrap, and really lend themselves well to forming a delicious 8 syn base.

1 Warburtons Squarish Wrap (8 syns)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp oregano
42g Mozzarella, grated
Toppings of your choice (e.g. ham, cooked chicken, tomatoes, onions, sweetcorn, courgette, etc.)

  1. Mix together the passata, garlic and oregano and spread over the wrap
  2. Add the grated mozzarella
  3. Add toppings of your choice
  4. Cook in the oven at 200C for around 10 minutes
  5. Serve with a fresh green salad

RECIPE - Diet Coke Chicken

This is another well known Slimming World recipes, which I tried for the first time last night. I thought it sounded strange, and my partner looked at me like I was a crazy person when I told him we were having diet coke chicken for dinner, but it was very nice. It makes a lovely thick, BBQ type sauce. Its also a very quick and easy recipe to make, so is ideal for evenings when you don't have much time to cook but want something healthy and filling.

I've also been told of a variation to the recipe which involves using diet fanta instead of the coke to make a sweet and sour style sauce (and also adding fresh pineapple at the very end to make it more authentic) Given the success of yesterday's recipe, I intend to try the diet fanta chicken very soon too.

(Syn free on all plans)
2 chicken breasts
1 can diet coke
100ml passata
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp worcestershire sauce

  1. Chop the chicken into bite size pieces
  2. Spray a non-stick pan with fry light and stir fry and onion and chicken until cooked
  3. Add the diet coke, passata and worcestershire sauce
  4. Cook over a low heat for about 15-20 minutes until the sauce has thickened
  5. Serve with a fresh salad and either rice or potato wedges

RECIPE - Caramelised Onions

I love to keep a batch of these in the fridge to add to salads, quiches, pizzas etc. They are quick and easy to make and freeze well. Best of all they are syn free on all plans!

1 large onion
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp tbsp water
1 tbsp sweetener

  1. Peel and chop the onion
  2. Spray a non-stick frying pan with frylight and add all the ingredients
  3. Stir fry on a low heat until all the liquid has been absorbed

RECIPE - Super Speed Soup

This is another recipe which I've seen mentioned on a few Slimming World related sites, which I'm only replicating here for reference. Its full of lots of speed ingredients, so should help speed up your weight loss. The recipe is enough for a huge pot of very thick and filling soup, and it freezes very well too, so its worth the effort of buying everything and making it up.

1 can mixed bean salad
1 can green lentils
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 can baked beans
Handful of split lentils
2 large leeks
1 large onion
4 large carrots
2 parsnips
Green, red or yellow pepper
2 beef stock cubes
Salt & pepper
Mixed herbs
(I also add garlic and chilli, though these aren’t in the original recipe!)

  1. Add all the ingredients into a large soup pot, with enough water to cover all the ingredients
  2. Bring to the boil, then simmer for approximately 30 minutes, or until vegetables are soft
  3. Either leave chunky, or blend for a smooth soup

    Tuesday, 21 June 2011

    Week 12 Weigh In

    Unusually I had felt confident about my weigh in yesterday. I'd had a good week - I'd had a few extra syns on Thursday, but had added everything up, and was easily within my syns for the week, I'd been continuing my walking and had been eating plenty of superfree foods. My clothes were also feeling a bit looser. I assumed the scales would show a good result, I'd get my stone award and be happy!

    I was wrong! I stepped on the scales in class yesterday and they showed exactly the same numbers as the week before. I felt miserable. Yesterday was one of my hardest weigh in days, and after seeing the figures I really felt like giving up. However, I had to stay in class, as recently I've been helping out our consultant by weighing members whilst she is doing the new member talks. As much as I just wanted to leave class and go home via the shops for a massive bar of chocolate and packet or two of crisps, I didn't want to let the consultant down so sat and weighed everyone else. This meant I also stayed to Image Therapy and got a lot of support from the class, as I admitted that I felt like bursting into tears!

    I was still in a mood when I got home, but fortunately I had already cooked a bolognaise sauce for dinner, so didn't have an excuse to hit the takeaway. I also got some amazing support from my slimming friends on Twitter, who all encouraged me to stick with it and not let one bad result ruin my good results so far. Last night I had a few glasses of wine, but didn't go as crazy as I could have done, and I've managed to get myself feeling a bit better today. The plan has been working for me, so hopefully this was just some crazy blip and next week I'll have a better result. Fingers crossed....

    Tuesday, 14 June 2011

    New Discoveries

    Last weekend I'd had a day out full of food and drink, and on route home I decided there was a need to visit Tesco for some post-drinking munchies. For some reason I decided to buy sausages as well. I didn't eat them, forgot about them, then discovered them in the fridge the following day when sober and cursed myself for buying such tempting things!

    After trying to resist them, I started wondering how much a sausage actually was syn-wise. The temptation was there and I wanted them badly! However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the brand I'd bought (Tesco Finest Pork and Chilli) were only 4.5 syns each. This meant that last Tuesday night I was able to make proper bangers and mash with onion gravy for only 9 syns. It felt like such a treat, and whilst I wouldn't normally have that many syns with dinner, it really hit the spot and stopped my sausage cravings. Definitely something I will have every so often.

    Another, even better, sausage discovery was also made that day. Whilst looking through the sausage syn values, I discovered that Tesco Finest Venison Sausages are only 1 syn each. I love venison anyway, and with such a low syn value I went straight out and bought some of them too, which went great with my Sunday morning Slimming World fry-up!

    My third discovery this week was Cauliflower Rice - something which I saw one of the lovely ladies on Twitter mentioning. Basically it involves grating a cauliflower and microwaving it to use as a substitute for rice. It works by giving you a similar texture to regular rice, without the carbs! I was on a red day on Sunday and had some curry to use up, so decided to try the Cauli Rice, and I have to say I was very pleased with it. It is very easy to cook (even easier than regular rice), and I think I even preferred it as I felt it tasted of more than rice does. As cauliflower is a speed symbol, its definitely something else that I think will become a regular on my plate.

    Week 11 Weigh In

    After last week's gain I was determined to get a good loss this week and had really got right back on plan. I decided to change a couple of things as well:
    1. Melon: One of the ladies in my class has lost 4 stone in 5 months, and was asked by our consultant about her favourite speed foods. She said that she ate a lot of melon everyday, so I went to Tescos and bought 4 melons for the week, and made sure I had half of one every day. It wasn't exactly a hardship given that I love melon. I just scooped out the seeds and sat with a half melon and a spoon in front of the TV.
    2. Walking: I had an appointment last Tuesday that didn't finish until 5.15pm, and would have involved 2 bus rides to get home, lasting approximately an hour. I really didn't fancy the idea of being cooped up on a warm bus, and I was planning on doing half an hour exercise when I got home. Instead, I worked out that walking home would take me about an hour and a half - exactly the same time as the bus + exercise DVD, so decided to get the extra exercise and did the 4.5 mile walk. The walk was tiring, but I had my iPod on with some good beats and made it home in one piece, having enjoyed it. This was then followed by a further 2 walks this week - one 3.6 miles and one 3.8 miles. I've really enjoyed the walking, and hope to make it a regular thing now. Despite living in this area for 6 years, and driving past things all the time, I've started noticing new places on my travels too.
    That's not to say this week was easy - I had a job interview last Thursday, which I was quite stressed about, and stress makes me crave comfort foods, which lead to me having a bit of a pig out from my fiance's biscuit tin on Friday night, along with the best part of a bottle of wine. However, I got straight back on plan on Saturday, and made sure I had less syns to combat the Friday night lapse.

    And in the end, my changes this week made a difference. I stepped on the scales last night to a 3lb loss. That brings my total loss to 13.5lbs. I was disappointed that I didn't quite get the stone award last night - especially as the scales were wavering between getting it and not getting it, but I am thrilled to have had such a good loss again. I've felt that over the last few weeks my losses have been drying up, so its a great boost to be properly back on the weight loss journey, and hopefully that stone award will be mine next Monday.

    Tuesday, 7 June 2011

    RECIPE - Cheese and Herb Stuffed Chicken and Veg

    This was a recipe I made up to use up what was in the fridge last week, but ended up really enjoying it. Only 1 syn (or cheese can be used as part of your HEXA choice)

    (Serves 2)
    2 chicken breasts
    2 laughing cow light triangles
    2 baking potatoes
    1 pepper
    1 red onion
    1 pack pasata
    2 cloves garlic
    Smoked paprika (to taste)
    Mixed herbs
    Salt and Pepper
    Fry light

    1. Pop the baking potatoes in the microwave for 4 minutes to slightly soften. Then cut into wedge shapes.
    2. Cut a pocket in each chicken breast, and add a sprinkling of mixed herbs and a laughing cow light triangle to each. Squash the cheese around a bit to mix with the herbs
    3. Roughly chop the onions and peppers into chunks.
    4. Spray an oven dish with fry light and add the onions, peppers, potato wedges and chicken breasts.
    5. Put the pasata in a bowl, and crush in the 2 garlic cloves, then add salt, pepper and smoked paprika (I added about a tablespoon of this but I like it hot - add less depending on taste) and mix well.
    6. Pour over the food in the oven dish and gently stir to coat everything
    7. Put this in a preheated oven for about 40 minutes, turning everything occasionally

    The Scan Bran Challenge

    After returning from holiday I noticed that Twitter was awash with mentions of the Scan Bran Challenge. I knew Scan Bran was some sort of Slimming World food, but had never really paid much attention to it or ever thought about eating it. However, I was told that it might speed up weight loss so I thought I would give it a go particularly given my holiday indulgences. Before I started I did an unofficial weigh in on my home scales and they said I'd gained 2lbs over the holiday.

    My scan bran challenge started last Wednesday, and I have to say I struggled from the first bite. I found them like cardboard, and incredibly difficult to swallow, however I used them. I tried having them with cheese and cherry tomatoes, having them dipped in my pasta sauce, having them with hot milk in the morning, as a cake made with eggs and muller light, and finally with some really nice posh ham. The latter was the most edible, but still a struggle, and a pint of water was required with every scan bran. One day I even ended up in bed for an afternoon because I was getting really bad stomach cramps from eating them.

    However, I stuck with it. I ate my 5 a day until Monday's weigh in, where I gained 1.5lbs. As my unofficial weigh in had put me at a 2lb gain pre-scan bran this means scan bran only helped me lose 0.5lbs - definitely not worth it!

    Others on twitter seem to have had some brilliant losses with the scan bran challenge, whilst some have been like me and had small losses or maintains, so I'm glad I tried it. However, it didn't work for me, and I will never ever have another scan bran again.

    Week 10 Weigh In - Gain

    I was nervous going to class yesterday - it had been three weeks since my last weigh in, and in that three weeks I'd been on holiday and eaten my body weight in junk food, came back and had a few meals out plus a few drinks. However, I'd also been doing the scan bran challenge (more on that later), and started the 30 day shred so I'd hoped that these would help counteract the holiday naughtiness!

    I was wrong! I got to class yesterday to find I'd gained a pound and half, and whilst I wasn't surprised I was very disappointed. Its the first gain I've had since starting going to class and it put me in a bad mood for the rest of yesterday. The gain has taken me further away from my stone award (now 3.5lbs to go), and I've also recently been reminded that my wedding is fast approaching and I really need to be losing every week if I want to be at target by then. My dress is also due into the wedding shop next month, which means I'm going to have to start thinking about trying it on, and at the moment that thought terrifies me in case its still too small.

    I also logged my weight on the Slimming World website this morning, and entered my weight - my graph now looks awful. I started off really well with some great losses, and then had a few weeks of lower losses, now a gain. My predicted progress looks slow, and altogether the whole thing is a bleak picture.

    So in other words I have plenty of motivation to be 100% on plan this week! I have no meals out planned this week for a change, other than dinner at my parent's house but my mum always makes sure I have syn-free options so that will help things and as should know exactly what I'm putting in my plate. I'm going to Tesco tonight to stock the fridge up, and going to plan out some new Slimming World meals this afternoon. I'm also going to keep at the exercise, and keep a food diary again. It may be a tough goal but I want my stone award next week so I really want to lose 3.5lbs - I've done it before in a week so lets hope I can do it again.

    Tuesday, 31 May 2011

    Blog Giveaway - Sugar and Spice Kits

    Last month I purchased some spice kits from Sugar and Spice and reviewed them here. Now here is your chance to try out the spice kits for yourself, for free. The lovely Diane from Sugar and Spice has agreed to give one of my lovely blog readers their choice of kit, plus a rice/side dish kit.

    There are two ways for you to enter, and each way will count as one entry, so you can get two entries by doing both!

    Enter by:
    1. Following my blog AND leaving a comment under this post
    2. Following me on twitter @lauraasnell and tweeting the following ‘I have followed @lauraasnell to win a @healthymealkitz spice kit with #lauraspicescomp’

    The giveaway will close on 30th June, and a winner will be picked at random and contacted on 1st July. UK only.

    Amsterdam - Diet Fail

    A few weeks ago I'd booked a long weekend in Amsterdam with some friends, and had been told that sticking to Slimming World there was going to be near impossible because there was so much delicious fast food around, and by the time my flight on Thursday morning came around I had completely embraced the idea of having a few days off plan and eating whatever I wanted - in fact I'd started with a bacon and hash brown roll at the airport!

    We spent a lovely 4 days in Amsterdam, and pretty much ate from our arrival to getting on the plane yesterday morning! And my friends were not wrong - I sampled deliciously crisp chips covered in either mayonnaise or curry sauce, some brilliant large pizza slices, one of the best burgers I'd had in a long time, warm croissants, lots of bread with cheese and salami, etc. You get the picture! Then there was the ridiculous amount of crisps we ate of an evening back in the flat we stayed in whilst playing a few games of cards. And lets not forget the gallons of beer which were consumed whilst people watching from tables in lovely Dutch bars, oh and the amazing hot chocolate I had one day which was made up from hot milk and a giant block of chocolate on a stick! In other words, it was a holiday of eating and drinking whatever I liked, and although it's probably increased the number on the scales I really enjoyed it!

    The one good 'diet' thing I can say is that we walked a lot! We were on a couple of trams for the larger journeys, but mostly we walked all over the city (although the walks were more strolls, and were interspersed with stops for drinks!). Hopefully this has made a small dent in the calories consumed over the weekend.

    Now it's time for me to get back on track for weigh in next Monday. I'd given myself the rest of yesterday off, and enjoyed a nice meal out and a few more beers with the intention of getting fully back on track today. Unfortunately that's not been quite as successful as I'd hoped. When I mentioned getting back on track yesterday on Facebook one of my friends pointed out that we were meeting for dinner tonight - and whilst I know I could, and should, have eaten healthily for the rest of the day, it hasn't worked out like that. That little food-obsessed devil in my head suggested that there was no point, and just to bring on the naughty for another day! But that is it, tomorrow I'm going to be 100% on plan, and I've got a gym session booked in for the evening.

    Monday, 23 May 2011

    Week 8 - No Weigh In

    I was all set to go to weigh in this evening, when I got the news that the Forth Road Bridge was closed due to high winds. My consultant lives on one side of the bridge, our class is on the other, so naturally I wondered whether the class was on. I really hoped it was for 2 reasons - I'd been relatively good most of the week, and really hoped to have lost 2lb, which would have got me my one stone award, and also because we were due to have a taster evening at class tonight and I was looking forward to getting some new recipe ideas.

    Unfortunately when I spoke to my consultant on the phone, she confirmed that she was stuck on the wrong side of the bridge and the class wouldn't be on. I can't get to another class this week as there are none over the next couple of days that I can make nearby, and I'm due to fly to Amsterdam on Thursday. This means it'll now be another 2 weeks before I weigh in, as I can't make next Monday's class because of my holiday. Hopefully I'll be able to break through the stone and a bit more by that time, providing I don't go too off track when I'm away (assuming the new ash cloud doesn't stop me going!)

    Good luck to everyone weighing in this week, and I hope you're not all having the same weather related problems!

    Thursday, 19 May 2011

    Twitter and Slimming World

    When I started this blog, I mentioned one of the reasons I decided to join a Slimming World class rather than continue online was because I wanted some group support to help me on my journey. Since we've had our new consultant, I've felt very supported by both the consultant and the group, and the classes are starting to be what I expected when I enjoyed.

    However, I've also discovered another massive source of support. That first day of class, I posted on my twitter account that I was nervous about joining a class, and since then I have been overwhelmed by the massive amount of support available on twitter at all times of the day and night. Slimming World itself has an active twitter account, and will often retweet messages from SW followers, and in fact actually told me to tell my consultant about this blog! In addition there are many other SW followers online who I now regularly tweet with for support.

    The Slimming Worlders on Twitter are all very friendly and supportive - always ready with good luck messages before weigh in and well done messages after a loss or an award. They're also helpful when it comes to suggesting recipes, snacks, different meals, etc. and helping out with numbers of syns/am I doing things right type questions. In fact, I don't think I would have done as well without being able to log on at any time and know that everyone is there to support and help each other. If you have read my previous post, twitter was also how I discovered the Sugar and Spice Kits, which I'm sure will be a great tool in the next few weeks and months as I make more and more recipes.

    So this post is really just a thank you to all of the lovely SW people on twitter - your support means a lot.

    Finally, and completely off topic, I couldn't mention twitter without mentioning the other company I have come to know about and love through this medium - and that is Busy Bee Candles. You can't eat them, but they do smell amazing, and come in a massive variety of flavours and sizes. Their customer service via twitter is also excellent as they are always there to answer questions and help you out. If you like your candles, please have a look for them on twitter or at their website: And just to bring it back around to slimming, perhaps instead of eating the bad things you could burn them - with flavours such as Strawberries & Cream, Chocolate Fudge Brownie or Fresh Bread.

    Review - Sugar and Spice Kits

    I love cooking things from scratch because I get a lot of satisfaction from the cooking process, and I can control exactly what's in it. The Slimming World plan is great for me to follow, because proper home cooking is encouraged, as its always going to end up lower syns than a pre-bought ready meal. The third superfree rule is also easy to achieve when I'm cooking everything, as I can always sneak in some extra vegetables either in sauces or on the side.

    Unfortunately the only problem with having to cook everything from scratch can be the time involved. Sometimes I've had a busy day, sometimes I'm tired, other times I just want something quick and it would be all too easy to phone for a takeaway. I've tried to get around this in the past by bulk cooking, and freezing, but the problem with this is remembering to take things out the freezer in the morning so that they defrost (and I'm never at my best in the mornings). I also have a few quick and easy meals (such as my penne arrabiata, which is already listed on here), but I don't like having them too often as the key for me is having a wide variety of meals so I don't get bored.

    I've recently came across a great solution - a way to create delicious, homemade, easy and low-syn  meals, through using spice kits from Sugar and Spice:, run by the lovely Diane Prince. Diane sells ready made bags of spices to allow you to easily make your own dishes, without having to buy in lots of different spices and measure them out. There are a range of kits to chose from, including curries, casseroles, side dishes and soups, so there should be something to suit all tastes! All you need to do is add the appropriate vegetables/meat, and follow the clear recipe which is included with the spices. Kits are priced at only £1.50 and feed 4 people. They are all syn free, and if any synned items are used in the recipe Diane has already worked out the syns per portion for you. It really is easy!

    Last night I tried out the Andhra Chilli Chicken. I'd ordered a few packs of spices but this was the one I was desperate to try because I love a really spicy curry, and this one was marked as hot (though don't worry - there are plenty of milder curry options available). The kit came in two bags. One was used to make a paste with tomato puree and water, and then added into a frying pan, along with chicken, vegetables and the second bag of spices. That was it! One of the easiest curries I'd ever made, and only half a syn per portion (from the tomato puree). I served it with homemade syn-free pilau rice, and really enjoyed the meal. The flavours were perfectly balanced, it was as hot as was described, and I honestly couldn't have expected better. In fact it was so good, that I'm having some more tonight (there's only 2 of us living here, so half the recipe was left over)!

    I've got another few spice kits already to try, which I'm really looking forward to having a go at next time I want a quick and tasty meal, and I will definitely be ordering from Sugar and Spice again.

    I'm sure I've said on this blog before that I'm a bit of a curry-a-holic, and I am used to making my own curries from scratch, however this always tends to be a jalfrezi (with slight variations), as this is the one that I perfected myself over quite a few years of trying out different spice combinations. I've tried making other curries, but never been entirely happy with them, however Diane seems to have perfected the combination of spices required for the different recipes, so I can stop trying, and start buying!

    Finally, I would also just like to stress that although these kits give you a healthy way to cook these dishes, I would definitely recommend them to anyone wanting to cook a curry from scratch, regardless of whether you're following an eating plan or not. The quality is excellent, they're easy to make and I can honestly say the one I tried was just as good I'd get from any restaurant, without all the horrible oil swimming around. The shop is listed above - please go and have a look!

    Monday, 16 May 2011

    Week 7 Weigh In

    Another week has passed where I haven't been entirely on plan, and I was still on my exercise ban, so I went to class tonight not expecting too much. Today is my birthday, and because of that I had a Indian on Saturday and insisted on having poppadoms and naan bread - things that are definitely not Slimming World friendly! (I did really enjoy it though!) As I mentioned earlier, lots of wine was consumed on Friday night, and I'd had another curry out last Thursday, so all in all there had been a fair amount of overindulgence!

    Once again I was shocked that I had actually lost - 1lb this time, taking my total to 12lbs. I think that being extra good the rest of the time must be helping my losses, because despite the bad things mentioned above, I had very few other syns, which I think must have balanced everything out.

    Having said that, a loss of 1lb a week isn't going to get me into my wedding dress so I do need to pick things up this week. I'm only 2lbs away from my stone award, so that's my aim for the coming week. I'm going to make more of the Super Speed Soup tomorrow, and I'm allowed to exercise again from Friday. Sticking to plan this week is going to be difficult once more - on Friday I have a cocktail and canape doo to go to, and then I'm going to a wedding reception on Saturday, but I will try my best to make sensible buffet choices and not drink too much!

    Good luck to everyone else for the coming week.

    RECIPE - Potato and Celeriac Gratin

    This isn't quite like the delicious creamy cheesy gratin you're probably used to, but I think its a very good diet substitute. It doesn't have to be potato and celeriac - you could just used potato, but I find the celeriac adds a lot more flavour.

    I use part of my HEXA allowance for the milk in this recipe, but you could also syn the milk and it would be 1.5syns per portion on Extra Easy.

    (Serves 4)
    3 large potatoes
    One celeriac
    2 rashers smoked bacon
    2 garlic cloves
    1 tub quark
    250ml milk
    6 spring onions

    1. Peel and very finely slice the potato and celeriac, and finely chop the spring onions
    2. Fry the bacon, remove all fat and chop into small pieces. Allow to cool.
    3. Spray an oven dish with frylight, and add half the potatoes then half the celeriac in layers. Add half the spring onions. Repeat with the rest of the potatoes, celeriac and spring onions.
    4. Mix the milk, quark, bacon and garlic in a blender and blend until smooth.
    5. Pour the cheesy mixture over the potato/celeriac, ensuring that it gets into all the little holes. Depending on the size of dish you may have milk mix left over.
    6. Cover and bake in the oven for about an hour, removing the cover for the last 15 minutes to crisp up the top

    RECIPE - Steak Pie

    The only syns in this on (extra easy) are for the puff pastry and for the red wine. I only have about 25g of pastry (raw weight), which is 6 syns, so its a tiny amount but enough so that you are having steak pie. The red wine means the meat is 2 syns per portion. The meat mixture is also delicious on its own, as a stew, for just 2 syns per portion.

    (Serves 4)
    600g lean stewing steak
    2 onions
    4 carrots
    4 cloves garlic
    1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    2 oxo cubes (or other beef stock)
    Fresh (sprig) or dried (tsp) rosemary
    2 Bay leaves
    250ml red wine
    Salt and Pepper
    Handful red lentils

    1. Roughly chop the steak, onions, carrots, garlic and rosemary if using fresh.
    2. Put all the ingredients in a slow cooker, along with just enough water to cover
    3. Cook on low for around 6 hours.
    4. At this point, use a slotted spoon to remove the meat and bay leaves temporarily to a bowl. Put the remaining liquidy mix into a blender, this gives a lovely thick 'gravy'.
    5. Put the gravy and meat back into the slow cooker, and continue cooking on low for a further 2 hours.
    6. 20 minutes before serving, roll out the puff pastry and brush the top with egg. Cook in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes.
    7. Serve with plenty of vegetables!

    My Come Dine With Me Night

    As I've mentioned over the last few weeks, my friend's and I have been doing our own series of 'Come Dine With Me' dinners. Last Friday saw my turn, and therefore the opportunity for me to both show off some Slimming World food and keep things on track!

    My menu was as follows:

    Thai Chicken Cakes and Chilli Chickpea Cakes on a bed of rocket and parmesan with sweet chilli sauce
    (Both of the cake recipes are in the 'Extra Easy Meals in Minutes' book)

    Main Course
    Steak Pie served with a potato and celeriac gratin, minted peas and extra gravy.
    (recipes to follow)

    Apple Crumble and Ice Cream

    Obviously from the look of the menu it doesn't look the healthiest, but because I was cooking I was able to easily adjust my portions - for example I only had a very small bit of pastry, and didn't add butter to my peas; and I only had a tiny bite of the crumble, and kept it mostly apple, with less crumble and icecream! Instead of using cream in the gratin, I used milk; and the steak pie didn't have any oil or flour in it.

    I think the recipes all went down well, particularly the starters - 3 out of my 4 guests had extras, and one of the guests has emailed me this morning for the recipes! 2 out of the 4 guests also had extra steak pie so I think that went down well too, and there were clean plates generally all round! A good night was had by all, and we managed to sneak in some exercise doing Just Dance on the wii!

    Thursday, 12 May 2011

    A New Consultant

    As I mentioned a couple of weeks after I'd started Slimming World, I wasn't really enjoying the classes. I felt uncomfortable, and felt the group were a bit unfriendly. The meetings were interesting and useful in part, but I still felt I wanted, and expected, more from staying to class. There was very obviously a huge amount of respect for our consultant amongst the class, however when she announced she was leaving after my 4th class, I wasn't particularly concerned or disappointed.

    Our new consultant started 2 weeks ago, and already I've felt a massive difference in the classes. The classes are far more interactive, with people sharing recipes and tips, and helping each other out with ways to overcome difficulties stopping us losing weight. Our new consultant has also lost 11 stone herself, so is the perfect example of how much Slimming World can work. Unfortunately it seems that not everyone feels the same - as one member commented to me last week how she was leaving now because the new consultant wasn't the same as "our dear Susan". However, as for me, I'm loving the new classes and the new consultant is one of the things that is keeping me going back!

    Week 6 Weigh In and Personal Milestone

    Last Thursday I had laser eye surgery, which means a two week exercise ban whilst my eyes heal. In the run up to the surgery I'd also been really busy (not to mention stressed), so I hadn't had time to exercise for the few days before either. This meant that Monday was my first weigh in where I'd done no exercise whatsoever.

    In addition to the lack of exercise, I'd also had the next of our Come Dine With Me meals on the Sunday evening - which amongst other things consisted of delicious but cheesy brushetta and tiramisu, which I absolutely adore, and after a few mouthfuls (OK half of it) I had to literally force myself to put the spoon down and hide it out of reach so that I didn't scoff the lot. Plus lots of wine. Not exactly the best thing to eat the evening before a weigh in!

    Given these two things, I wasn't feeling hugely positive as I stepped onto the scales and watched the numbers flickering, however when things finally settled I was 1.5lbs down and happy! This takes my total loss to 11lbs, and getting that 1.5lbs marks an important milestone for me. Last August, I started suffering badly from panic attacks and depression, and whilst I wasn't happy with my weight before then, and wanted to lose a bit of weight, I didn't feel too bad about myself. However with the panic attacks and depression came the comfort eating, and for a while I gave up on worrying about the rising numbers on the scale because everytime I tried to do something about it, I ended up straight back in the biscuit tin, or the crisp cupboard, or the ice cream tub (you get the picture!) and in a worse place than before.

    When I started the Slimming World classes, I also felt that my illness was coming better under control, and having lost the 1.5lbs this week takes me below the weight I was when my depression started. Whilst I still have a long way to go to reach my target, I still feel that this is a significant milestone for me as in some ways it proves to me that I am getting better, and that I have taken control of my feelings once more. I am running my life again, and not allowing an illness to drive me into overeating.

    Wednesday, 4 May 2011

    RECIPE - Pilau Rice

    I've just posted my Chicken Jalfrezi recipe, and cannot serve it without my syn free pilau rice. It tastes just like the real thing, and is very easy to make. This can also be frozen.

    500g basmati rice
    1 small onion, diced as small as possible
    4 cardamom pods
    4 cloves
    4 black peppercorns
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1 tsp turmeric
    pinch saffron
    2 bay leaves
    700ml vegetable stock

    1. Rinse and soak the basmati rice as per the pack instructions
    2. Fry the onion, cardamom pods, cloves and peppercorns over a medium heat until the onion has softened
    3. Add the rice to the frying pan, along with the cinnamon, turmeric and saffron. Mix thoroughly to ensure the rice is coated with the spices. You should see the rice turning a lovely yellow colour.
    4. Add the stock and bay leaves, bring to the boil.
    5. Cover your frying pan with a lid, or if you don't have one some tinfoil.
    6. Reduce the heat to low, and leave for 15 minutes. Don't lift the lid.
    7. Switch the heat off, and allow to rest for another 5 - 10 minutes. This will partially steam the rice, and ensure all the stock and flavours have been absorbed.
    8. Fluff with a fork and then serve with the curry of your choice!

    RECIPE - Chicken Jalfrezi

    Curry is my absolute favourite food. I could live on it given the chance - in fact the place I'm going on honeymoon is in the Indian Ocean and even serves curry for breakfast, which I am excited about! It's definitely not something I could cut out on a diet, so although I still allow myself the occasional takeaway treat, I've spent years trying to perfect a healthy version of my absolute favourite curry - the jalfrezi.

    There are a lot of ingredients in this, so the initial outlay isn't cheap, but once you have everything it is cheap to make (and definitely much cheaper than a takeaway).

    (Serves 4)
    4 cloves
    4 cardamom pods
    2 large onions, chunkily chopped
    2 green peppers, chunkily chopped
    2 red chillies, finely chopped
    4 chicken breasts
    2 tins chopped tomatoes
    6 cloves garlic, crushed
    2 tsp turmeric powder
    2 tsp chili powder
    1 tsp garam massala
    1 tsp ground coriander
    1 tsp cumin
    Handful fresh coriander
    1 lemon
    50g red lentils

    1. Spray a pan with frylight, add a splash of water and the cloves and cardamom pods. Fry over a medium heat for 1 minute
    2. Add the chopped onion and crushed garlic, and fry for a further 5 minutes, adding water if necessary to keep things from drying out
    3. Chop the chicken breast into chunks and add to the frying pan
    4. Add the turmeric and chili powder, then stir to coat the chicken and onions. Cook until the chicken has been browned
    5. Add one of the tins of chopped tomatoes and stir through.
    6. At this point I transfer everything to a large saucepan, but keep going in the frying pan if you have a lid and it is big enough.
    7. Add the rest of the chopped tomatoes, garam massala, cumin, ground coriander, peppers and chillies, stir well.
    8. Remove the end leaves from the coriander and reserve for later. Finely chop the stalks and add to the curry
    9. Simmer over a low heat for at least 30 minutes, but 60 minutes if you have the time, as this really helps the flavours mix.
    10. Serve garnished with a slice of lemon, and a sprinkling of the reserved coriander leaves. If you find it quite spicy, a dollop of fat free natural yogurt will cool it slightly.

    RECIPE - The Smash Pizza

    I'd heard a few of the lovely Slimming World ladies on Twitter talking about this, so this isn't my recipe but I felt it could still be useful to put it on here for anyone who doesn't know it, and also to note my mistakes from my first attempt!

    I was very sceptical about this, given that I absolutely hate Smash. I think it tastes horrible, and smells just as bad. However, I also love pizza, and really miss having it on the diet. I decided to give it a go, and I was very surprised at how good it was. As crazy as it sounds, you don't get the same Smash taste, and although its not the same as a pizza, it's close enough to satsify a craving. If you count the cheese as a healthy extra, its also syn free.

    I've now made it twice, and the first time was a bit of a disaster. I'd used a normal baking tray, sprayed with fry light and the base stuck - I had to scrape it off in bits with a knife. Some lovely people on Twitter suggested that I try using a pizza tray, and also make the dough with less water - I did both of these things today and had no problems at all. It came off the tray easily, and felt more like a proper pizza base.

    (For 1 pizza, which I had all to myself!)
    50g smash
    sprinkling mixed herbs
    small clove garlic, crushed
    Tomato Pasata
    42g mozarella (HEXA), I chopped this into pizza express style chunks, but could also grate
    Free toppings of your choice (e.g. sweetcorn, onions, chicken, ham, peppers, etc)

    1. Spray a pizza tray with fry light
    2. Mix the smash, herbs and garlic with boiling water. Add the water a few drops at a time, and mix until you have a dough. Be really careful not to make it too watery - this makes it sticky, which was my first problem
    3. Use your hands to flatten the smash mixture onto the pizza tray - try and get it as thin as possible without it falling apart
    4. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, until crispy on one side. Turn over then bake on the other side for 5 minutes
    5. Add the pasata, mozarella, oregano and toppings
    6. Pop back in the oven until the cheese has melted