Thursday, 30 August 2012

Sweets for my sweet

Puddings and desserts are something which we have never eaten a lot of. We love quality homemade or Italian ice cream and the desserts I tend to make are for special occasions or when we have friends and family over. Cheesecake is a big hit, and other favourites of mine are pavlovas and small meringues, trifle (usually at Christmas), tarts, cakes and cookies, crumbles and pies. Homely, family style puddings loved by all generations.

It shouldn't surprise you learn than i don't buy puddings. As with so many other things, I can make a good pudding myself so why buy? Slimming World have a new book out, a desserts book which I don't have yet and to be honest the jury is out as to whether I will or won't buy it. Whilst I can see the benefits of diet puds, to a certain extent I've always kind of had an all or nothing approach to puddings since we eat so few. Do it properly or not at all sort of thing.

Until recently.

Growing up we didn't really have puddings except at the weekend. We would often have something on a Sunday after the traditional Sunday dinner - a sponge pudding or similar as a treat to end the weekend. Times have changed, and my kids have a pudding every night, but most nights it's fruit or yoghurt. Ice cream is - as it should be - a treat for the girls, enjoyed and relished certainly no more than once a week, usually much less. We don't have a roast dinner every weekend, in fact it's a rarity for us, but we do eat with the girls round the table every Sunday for definite and Saturdays when we can. We eat a great variety of foods, there are no rules for the Sunday meal cuisine so one week we could be chowing down on a curry, the next pasta, the next a one pot. We haven't really bothered with puddings but recently I've started to feel we should be adding something to that meal in terms of dessert. The problem is, that I'm really mean with my syns where food is concerned, much preferring to enjoy wine at the weekend, condiments and crispy snacks during the week.

I have decided though that we are all missing out. Not just on the food itself, but on my skills. The decision is made though that I will start to indulge yes my children, and yes my lovely, supportive husband but also myself with delectable desserts and pleasurable puds. I'm going to start with a guideline of 5 or 6 syns and that's to include cream or custard too.

I adapted a traditional trifle last week and got it to 5 syns per person. I'll post the recipe after a little more tweaking. In the meantime, I'm going to be starting low with a toffee apple ice cream - hopefully I'll be reporting back good things on Sunday... And hopefully it will look something like the recipe picture below.

Maybe I'll buy that book after all...

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Gym Bunny

Last Monday marked a landmark occasion for me - I only went and joined a gym! The gym isn't for everyone, but when I was going for a while a few years ago I loved it, and was genuinely disappointed when I fell pregnant and my midwife recommended that as a pregnant asthmatic with a high BMI I should stop going. The one I have joined is called GP Fitness Solutions and is a small, independent gym about 5 minutes from my house. It's got a couple of treadmills, a few cross trainers, a few bikes, weights and a class room up stairs for Zumba and the likes. It's not massive but I like it. The bigger council run gyms can feel very soulless, but I didn't feel that with this one and can't wait to go back on Monday!

We have been doing some exercise already so it's not like I've been doing nothing. Richy and I both started dieting in January, we both weigh on almost every night on the Wii and for many months used that as our exercise, picking the sports we enjoyed the most. I tended to do the step aerobics, hula hoop and my favourite was the boxing. Richy would hula, maybe a bit of step, then jog. It's this indoor jogging which has ultimately led to him running outside too, and he is enjoying it so much that he is undertaking his first 10k a week today!

Exercising on the wii fit was fine. The sports we both did we would be competing against each other for top ranking, and in the others we would be competing against ourselves. The time came to shake it up though, and for my birthday in April I got Zumba 2 for the Wii. Since then we Zumb (as we call it) for 2 half hour sessions a week. The first night was a mixture of giggles, bumping into each other and sweating as neither of us knew what we were doing. Nonetheless it got easier and we have continued to enjoy it. We will still do the Zumba once a week and that will be enough. With me at the gym and Richy out running at lunchtimes we are both more active than we have ever been. And that's no bad thing!

Just before I sign off, coming very soon we will have a guest post from Richy as he celebrates getting to his target weight. He has lost 3.5st this year and I couldn't be more proud of him. The challenge of maintaining is now his to master, particularly since I will still be dieting for the foreseeable future (I hope to get to my target for April ish next year).

Well done, Richy, you've done amazingly. X

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Big Mama

You know, having one child was lovely. Heather was a great baby - she ate and slept well and developed beautifully into a beautiful - if boisterous - toddler. When my lovely little Megan came along I sat back one morning in those early days and was overwhelmed with a sense of completeness. My little family was done.

Obviously I cook for me and Richy, but I've always cooked from scratch for the girls too: neither have ever had jars or packets of baby food, and that's not to say there's anything wrong with them, it just wasn't for me. Heather had purées of every variety before moving on to proper food, and although we didn't all eat together very much in her first years, what she was offered was almost always healthy, wholesome grub, which she consumed with gusto. Megan also got the purée treatment, but unlike her sister wasn't find of the spoon and so quickly we ditched mush and moved on to real food. No more pureeing? I call that a result. Luckily both of my kids love their food, and the cuisine they love most has to be Italian. To be fair, they eat most things - traditional British dinners, curries, Chinese etc, however Italian is most definitely where it's at. These days there is barely a weekend goes by that I'm not bubbling up a pot of something. Sometimes chilli, sometimes curry, but in the past two weeks alone I've made a massive pot of ragu and again another pot of tomato sauce, like some big Italian Mama, stirring and chopping away to feed the brood.

Two things I absolutely must have in my fridge are a jar of homemade tomato sauce and a tupperware tub of soffrito. I make my soffrito by blitzing in my food processor a head of celery, 6-8 carrots, 2-3 onions and about 6 cloves of garlic until finely chopped. This will then keep in a sealed box in the fridge for several weeks and it's the ideal base for risottos, tomato sauce or pretty much any Italian base. The flavour it adds is immense and I am lost without it.

The soffrito is then the base for my tomato sauce. Sweat down a good laden wooden spoon full of soffrito in frylight for 10-15 minutes, add a tin of quality tomatoes, 2-3 tsp of Italian herbs, 2tbsp tomato purée and lashings of salt and pepper. You can add chilli, red wine and worcestershire sauce too if you like - just add what feels right. That's what I do and I always end up - after 20-30 minutes of simmering - with a sweet, rich, thick tomato sauce. Pop in a jar in your fridge and it keeps for weeks, always ready for a quick supper.

Once you've got these ingredients you have the necessary agents for the new Black family tea of choice! Tomato and mozzarella linguine bake has been on our table several times in the past week. Heather eats it with gusto and since Megan eats everything with gusto, that adds it to the Family Tea List. You can make it in advance, it's cheap, satisfying and with your jar of tomato sauce in the fridge, it's quick. Plus, using your A choice, it's free on Extra Easy. Here it is, to serve 4.

400g spaghetti or linguine (my choice)
2/3 batch of tomato sauce
180g mozzarella, sliced or grated

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees (fan).

Boil the pasta according to packet instructions.

Add the pasta to the sauce and stir well. Transfer to a shallow baking dish and top with the mozzarella. Bake for 15 minutes until golden.

Serve with extra Parmesan (don't forget to syn it SWers!!)

This sounds so simple - and it is - but I swear this just adds to its joy. You will, I hope, love this as much as we do.

As for the rest of the tomato sauce, well it's in the fridge, ready to add to a pizza topping, a chicken breast or add cream cheese to it and make it a creamy pasta sauce. There are so many things you can do with a homemade tomato sauce, and the soffrito makes a flavoursome risotto.

Try the bake out, kids. This Soon-To-Be-Not-Quite-So-Big Mama and her brood highly recommend it.

Saturday, 11 August 2012


This week it's been hard to keep on track. Following on from my last post my mum arrived for a week long visit. It's not so much during the week that the problems occur, more that at the weekends we like to eat, drink and be merry, and what I've learned about myself is that it's when I eat and drink together that problems occur.

Last weekend we all went out on the Saturday evening with my mum and brother to Equis, a local family run fish and chip shop/ice cream parlour which was opened in the 1920s. It's actually not possible to stick to plan there because the fish and chips are fabulous and the ice cream is simply irresistible. My Coppa Amerena may have been a wise sundae choice in that it wasn't covered in honeycomb, marshmallows or chocolate sauce but when you are talking about the amount of ice cream we ate, the toppings are neither here nor there. Plus there was wine.

On Sunday we had a traditional Sunday roast, a big favourite of my mum's. Roast leg of lamb with mint and rosemary stuffing served with homemade gravy, frylight roasties, steamed baby potatoes, carrots, broccoli and - oops - Yorkshire puddings. Oh and wine.

Even my positively angelic Monday to Wednesday weigh in couldn't save me this week though, and this week I maintained. It's not all bad news though - common sense tells me that one gain and one maintain in 26 weeks of dieting is nothing to be ashamed of. As I've said all along, this is a long term plan and so far it's going brilliantly.

Anyway, this is all a long way of saying that I've shunned the Chinese takeaway I had planned for tonight in favour of Nigella Lawson's Chicken with 40 Cloves of garlic. I'll be able to pull it in for zero syns by switching to frylight from olive oil. Hopefully these wise choices will stand me in good stead come Wednesday. I'm going to be praying for a good loss this week to get me back on track for my 2012 loss.

On a final note, I bought a new dress for work in another size down about a fortnight ago, and a dress for a wedding in September in another size down from that again yesterday. And I took my measurements again this morning.

That made me smile.