Monday, 30 July 2012

I’m back, baby. Kind of.

After two solid weeks in the wilderness – Lincoln then Essex via Surrey and back to Lincoln again – I am home and slowly, gradually getting myself back into routine. Well, I say that, but I’m off again this week for a few days so this meal planning entry will be on the short side - but at least it sort of kind of exists.

This blog hasn’t been very Weight Watchery lately for the very good reason that I haven’t been very Weight Watchery myself. Weight Watchers, like pretty much any eating plan, works but only if you put in the time and commitment. At the beginning of the year, when I was planning and tracking and exercising, the weight came off with relative ease. Life has got in the way, as life has a habit of doing. But I take heart from the fact that I have pretty much managed to maintain through some stressful times and that when things settle down again, as will happen very soon now, I’ll be able to start again with renewed vigour.

 I have thought about this a lot over the last few months. I have spent so much of my adult life on a “diet” that part of me wants to throw the towel in and say, ok, I may not be slim but I’m healthy and happy and being a size 10 isn’t the be all and end all. But do you know what I’ve realised? I don’t want to throw in the towel. Yes, I’m happy (and considering I spent a considerable amount of time in my twenties being very unhappy this is excellent progress). But I would be even happier if I were more confident in my appearance. And yes, I’m healthy at the moment, but I’d be stupid to assume that I will always be so lucky, and extra weight puts unnecessary strain on my body.

 I am pleased that I have learned to count my blessings. I don’t think the girl who wrote the first few entries on this blog was very good at that. I am pleased that I no longer tie up all my self worth with my size. But I do not want to go gently into the good night of plump middle age just yet.

 Anyway. A cursory amount of meal planning this week.

  • Classic lasagne – this has been popping up on a few meal planning blogs lately and given me quite the fancy for it.
  • Chicken mini roasts with roast potatoes and seasonal veg.
  • Chilli and lime crusted salmon with…well, it’s supposed to be lentils but it may well be new potatoes since I’ve got some that need using up.
 That takes us through to the weekend at least, and then, if the weather holds, I quite fancy a classic barbecue…pass the Pimms!

As always, pop over to Mrs M’s for more meal planning fun (and probably considerably less navel gazing).


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Recipe Corner - Spiced couscous with halloumi, courgette and broad beans

Squeaky cheese!
Hallelujah people – the frozen broad beans are finally gone! Long time readers, who no doubt take a deep interest in the contents of my freezer, may remember that sometime back in (I think) March or so I began commenting on the fact that I was trying to get the freezer down and that I was trying to come up with interesting uses for a bag of broad beans that never seemed to become any less. Well, one last push the other week and the little critters were finally vanquished. Hurrah.

Actually, I feel a little bereft now. As soon as we’re settled into a new home with a new freezer, I might have to buy some more.

So anyway, this dish was a gorgeous combination of delicately spiced couscous, salty, squeaky halloumi and a fresh pop of summer vegetables. Perfect for this sudden hot spell, I’d say. As the main ingredient is cheese, it is, necessarily, a little hefty on the points – but as you know, I’ll sacrifice a lot to get my cheese fix and halloumi really is a favourite. You’ll notice I use reduced fat halloumi in this recipe. I actually find there to be very little difference between reduced fat and full fat versions – and that is the God’s honest, hand on heart, truth. Were it not the case, I would rather reduce the portion size than compromise (cheese is, after all, a serious business).


100g couscous
Tsp cumin
Tsp coriander
Tsp cinnamon
10g butter
Chicken stock (sufficient to cover the dried couscous)
200g light halloumi, sliced lengthwise
100g broad beans (fresh or frozen)
1 courgette, reduced to ribbons (use a mandolin or a good potato peeler)
Tbsp olive oil
Tbsp white wine vinegar
Squeeze of lemon juice
Scant tsp Dijon mustard

Serves 2, 16 pro points per portion

Put a pan of salted water on to boil and prepare your veg.

Add the spices to the couscous and cover with chicken stock. Place some cling film or a clean tea towel over the bowl and allow to steam while you prepare the other component parts.

Whisk together the oil, vinegar, lemon and mustard with some seasoning and set aside.

Boil the broad beans for five minutes, adding the courgette strips for the final minute. Drain and run cool water over the vegetables to stop them cooking. Pat dry, and return to the pan over a very low heat. Pour over the dressing and gently warm through.

Fry the halloumi slices in a hot, dry non-stick pan for a couple of minutes on each side until darkly blistered.

Uncover the couscous and melt through the butter, using a fork to fluff up the grains. Serve, topped with halloumi slices and the lightly dressed vegetables.

Monday, 23 July 2012

The secret is, there is no secret

I met up with a good friend at the weekend, whom I hadn’t seen since before Christmas. Well – what a difference seven months can make! She had lost a shitload (note use of technical term) of weight. And how, I wondered aloud, had she managed it. Well…by following Weight Watchers to the letter and going to the gym five times a week.

Damn. I had kind of been hoping for some sort of weird cactus extract tea or at the very least a wheat and dairy and alcohol intolerance. Nope. Turns out good old fashioned watching what you eat and moving more can work wonders.

Good for her, say I. But also (in a slightly quieter voice) game on.

Monday, 16 July 2012

In which I sulk a little bit

So, let me tell you how this weekend should have gone. On Friday, three of us were heading for dinner at one of my favourite restaurants. Then, on Saturday, I was going for a much needed hair cut followed by a barbecue at my parent's house. Sunday would have seen a leisurely drive home via our local
farm shop to pick up a chicken for roasting, and then an afternoon drinking tea and getting up to date with the newspapers.

In fact what actually happened was that I spent most of the three days in bed, occasionally surfacing to drink more fluids and communicate my displeasure in an interesting series of croaks.

Yep, I have the lurgy. Actually, I've had it for a week now and it's just. Getting. Boring. I have no appetite to speak of and the only things that I can get vaguely enthusiastic about eating are Starbucks' Frappucinos and ice cream because they numb my throat on the way down.

It is not a diet I would recommend.

Anyway, despite the fact that I can't speak, and may well have to deliver sessions through the medium of modern dance, I am now back down to Lincoln for two weeks. It will be the last time I'll ever be a trainer on this course which is a little bit sad, but I am definitely starting to become more excited for the new job that I'll be starting in a few weeks. Or as excited as I am capable of being about anything at the moment (I am a terrible, terrible invalid. A really miserable piece of work).

Anyway. If I eat anything worth blogging about in the next fortnight, or, indeed, stumble upon some sort of universal truth of dieting, you'll be the first to know.

And here is a cute cat picture to cheer us all (well, me) up.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Slow cooker recipe corner – Shoulder of lamb with tomatoes and butterbean mash

Every recipe that I post on this blog is one that I have cooked myself and enjoyed. There would be no point otherwise, would there? But occasionally, I post a recipe which it is IMPERATIVE that you go and make immediately and this is one such dish. Honestly, it’s really, really good.

I’ve had the slow cooker for a couple of years now (thanks, Mum!) and initially I thought it would end up being used for stews and chilli. But it turns out that is a fabulous way to slow roast cheaper joints of meat (shoulder of lamb enter, stage left.) After twelve hours at a low heat, the meat is melt in the mouth tender. We’ve done pork shoulder in there as well and I have a mind to try pork belly pieces at some point.

Anyway, I adapted this recipe from this blog here, and she in turn adapted it from a James Martin recipe. It’s lovely the way that works, isn’t it? Chinese whisper recipes – each new person adding a little something. Or perhaps taking a little something away. It’s one of the great pleasures of food blogging. Actually, the main thing I’ve found using the slow cooker, is to reduce the amount of liquid specified in any given recipe, so that is the chief difference here.


Half shoulder of lamb, bone in
Tsp of vegetable oil
Onion, finely chopped
Garlic clove, crushed
Large tin of tomatoes
Tsp sugar
Large tin of butterbeans, drained
2-3 sprigs of rosemary
2-3 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
Beef or chicken stock cube
100ml red wine (I used port to no ill effect)
100ml water
2 tbsp Worcester sauce

Serves 2 (with leftovers) – 3, 12 pro points per portion (if divided 3 ways)

First the easy bit. Into the slow cooker, lob every ingredient apart from the lamb, the oil, the onion and the garlic. Swoosh it around a bit. Add a pinch of salt and a good scrunch of pepper.

Now, season the lamb and in a large, non-stick pan, brown it on all sides. This will create a lot of smoke and may well set off your smoke alarm. Ensure an assistant is on hand to waft a teatowel around and open all windows.

When browned, remove the lamb from the pan. Add the oil for a little lubrication and then cook the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes until golden. Tip them straight into the slow cooker, do another bit of swooshing and then place the lamb on top. Cook on a low heat for 10-12 hours. When cooked, the bone should slip straight out of the tender meat.

Set the lamb shoulder to one side to rest. Extract the butterbeans from the sauce and blitz in a food processor, or roughly mash. If you have time, cool the remaining gravy and skim off any fat that rises to the surface before reheating to a brisk boil and reducing slightly. Serve the meat with the butterbean mash, a good ladle of gravy and perhaps a couple of vegetable side dishes.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Meal Planning Monday - 9th July 2012

And there it was gone. The weekend, that is. How was it for you? Despite the dire weather predictions we managed to eat ice cream in the sunshine on Saturday afternoon and yesterday cooked Sunday lunch for my father in law, a slow roast shoulder of lamb to die for (recipe to follow). All in all, very pleasant indeed.

So, on with this week’s meal plan. And in a shock development, I’m actually at home all week! No gallivanting whatsoever.

Tonight we’ll be having a chicken and summer vegetable pot pie with mash. Pot pie, I have recently learned, is what you call it when your pie just has a pastry lid but no walls. Aka dieter’s pie or less-fun pie.

Over the next three nights in no particular order:

  • Spaghetti bolognese, made with lamb mince and the rich, delicious, tomatoey gravy left over from our lamb shoulder roast at the weekend.
  • Spiced couscous with griddled halloumi and a warm salad of courgettes and broad beans.
  • Salmon gnocchi bake. We’ve got some frozen salmon in the, er, freezer which isn’t really nice enough to eat just as a fillet but will be fine in this kind of thing. I first saw this recipe mentioned on another MPM post so, whoever you are, I thank you! I adore gnocchi.
Friday night we’re out for the evening, Saturday we’re off to the parentals for a fishy barbecue and Sunday….hmmm. We might end up picking at leftovers, or I might buy a chicken to roast to provide D with the basis for some meals next week while I’m away (again). So, undecided. But hey, this is more of a plan then I’ve managed for a while so I’m pretty pleased. For more meal planning fun, as ever, scoot over to Mrs M’s.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

York screams for ice cream

Prior to us moving away, D and I have been spending some Quality Time with York over the past few weekends. We've done this year's Science and Innovation Grand Tour, checked out a few of those hostelries which have been on our To Do list for a while and generally had a good old wander round.

We've uncovered a few little gems of places, one of which was this establishment.

The Luxury Ice Cream Company (or Licc - you see what they did there?) was an absolute paean to kitsch - from the bright pink umbrellaed tables outside to the pastel colour scheme used in the parlour. But it was fabulous.

Next time I go I'll save up some room and try a liccabockerglory. As it was, D and I shared a small tub of chocolate, orange and
ginger ice cream which was divine - and plenty enough for the two of us which, at £2.30 makes it pretty damn good value. There was a huge range of flavours - from bubblegum to ginger biscuit, all of which looked delicious, as well as a cute selection of toppings. An ice cream lover's paradise with gingham and frills.

Luxury Ice Cream Company
20 Back Swinegate

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, 6 July 2012

Recipe Corner - Ottolenghi's black pepper tofu

Tofu with rice.  Nice, honestly.

It came as something of a surprise to me when my unashamedly carnivorous partner in crime came home one day with Yotam Ottolenghi's "Plenty".  It's a vegetarian recipe book you see.  Still more surprising was the number of sticky labels that the book sprouted when he went through deciding what he was going to cook.  

We've had a few dishes from the book now and all of them have been absolutely delicious - I'd thoroughly recommend it if you fancy trying some vegetarian cooking that even the staunchest meat eaters will enjoy.  One small point - Mr Ottolenghi is not shy about the amount of butter and oil he deploys in his dishes.  I've reduced it in the tofu dish that I've shared with you below - this is still a Weight Watchers blog after all!  

This tofu is scrummy.  It has such a worthy reputation doesn't it?  But it's lovely, a fantastic sponge for flavours and, as you'll note from the ingredients list there are a LOT of flavours going on here. I've reduced the amount of peppercorns slightly as I found the peppery heat slightly overwhelming when used alongside all those chillies.  If you're a heat fiend then leave the chilli seeds in.  I have a sensitive mouth and prefer them de-seeded.


400g firm tofu
Tbsp vegetable oil
Tbsp cornflour
30g butter
6 small shallots, thinly sliced
4 fresh red chillies, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1.5 tbsp grated fresh root ginger
1.5 tbsp sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
1.5 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
Tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp crushed black peppercorns
Small bunch of spring onions, sliced

Serves 2, 12 pro points per serving

Heat the oil in a frying pan.  Cut the tofu into cubes and dust wiyh the cornflour then add to the hot pan and brown on all sides.  You may need to do this in batches and it may well take longer than you think,  but patience is required here.

Now, wipe out the pan, return it to a lower heat and melt the butter.  Add the shallots, chillies, garlic and ginger and cook for around 15 minutes, stirring every now and then, until everything is soft and shiny. Now you can add the sauces, the sugar and the pepper.

Return the tofu pieces to the pan and toss gently to coat them in flavour without breaking them up.  Finally, stir through the spring onions.  Serve with steamed rice

Monday, 2 July 2012

Meal Planning Monday – 2nd July 2012

So finally a week when I am at home for the most part and can actually do some proper meal planning. Apart from the two days when I am not at home – I’m off across the Pennines to do some work in Liverpool. I know, what a jet setter!  Most of the meals this week are notable in their simplicity. I’m out of the routine of cooking, and, indeed, planning so I’m going for easy household favourites for the most part:
  • Monday – D’s homemade chilli, with rice and/or tortilla chips and a dollop of crème fraiche.
  • Thursday – Sausages (pork and black pudding, purchased this weekend from our fabulous local farm shop) and baked beans. Perfect nursery food.
  • Friday – Pan fried salmon fillets with pasta pesto. One of our favourite simple dinners.
  • Saturday – I’m hoping to push the boat out a little more by trying out an idea that we had the other week of lamb and olive burgers, with tapenade mayonnaise and manchego cheese. Probably will serve with home made wedges and salad.
  • Sunday – My father in law may be coming round for Sunday lunch. Could be roast chicken, or possibly something a little more simple and summery such as grilled chops with new potatoes and veg. This of course presupposes some sort of summery weather (glares meaningfully at the sky...) 
As always, more meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.