Saturday, 31 December 2011

Sales baby

Don't ask me how I did it but I managed to get the husband to the sales today...... miracle.

We headed into York early in order to beat the crowds but fortunately it was fairly quiet.


I had in mind some things I needed - a baby present for a little girl born on Xmas day (aaah!) and I wanted to nip into Lush to see if they had any of my favourite shower gel in stock.

We started with the baby outfits. I found a few that I really liked in M&S in the sale but settled on this knitted flower dress with tights for £9.

The suit underneath I got as it was a bargain (£5) so will put in the gift cupboard for another baby gift.... NOT for me if that is what you were thinking.

Then to Boots and picked up a couple of sale items for the gift cupboard:




I also took advantage of some offers on their 'Shapers' range and got some crisps and bars which are low syn on Slimming World:


Next had a pair of shoes that would do for work. You know you are getting old when you go for the Heavenly Soles range.... hmmmm.......

That picture looks like I've had them years! Think it was the bad light!!! They are blinking comfy I have to say. Move over grandma.

I got to Lush, my newest re-discovery.
I bought a little bottle of their very pink 'Snow Fairy' shower gel before Xmas to try.
I thought I would hate it as it is really sickly sweet in the bottle. But in the shower......... oooooh, pure pink bubble-heaven.

I was psyched to see that it was 50% off in the sale too!!!! Bonus.


You may think I went a little 'Snow Fairy' barmy:



As I bought 4 of them. Ahem.
Buuuut, once sold out my favourite fairy will not be making an appearance until October so I bought a few in order to get me through until then........!!!


I also bought a few 50% off gift sets in Lush for some imminent birthday's. Not bad for £24 in total:



The 'Let it rock' perfume snuck in the photo there - this was waiting for me when I got home. Another 'bargain' from Cheapsmells.com - £17 for 50ml EDP.

Last stop in our quick sale tour was M&S food for some nice salad bits and I also got some prawns that were on offer:


I foresee salad and vegetables in 2012......

Back home I was hungry for a filling lunch. We are heading out tonight to meet up with some good friends from the gym. We are having an Indian and then perhaps a few cheeky drinks in town. I am driving today as I still have this 'tupid head cold.

We've picked our meals already which is good but I still wanted a decent lunch to tide me over until then.


I went for pasta with some of my homemade sauce and I threw in a few Asda meatfree meatballs and topped with reduced fat cheese:


The husband is busy shouting at the football so I am heading up the stairs to do Day 1 of Jillian's 30 day shred...... wish me luck :)

All that remains is for me to wish you all a very happy, safe and healthy new year.

I'll see you in 2012....... beeeeee gooooood :) xx

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Pimp my sprouts

Hmmm, think I might be overdoing it on the sprout front. Such is my love of the little green guys that they appear in some form in most of my meals from about October.
Our house is a fragrant palace from about then until Feb!

My sister didn't dissapoint over Xmas and as well as the usual plain sprouts she also made this recipe by Jamie Oliver for Xmas day (Double sproutage - woop!) :

http://www.channel4.com/4food/recipes/chefs/jamie-oliver/brussels-with-hustle-recipe

Now let me say, they were delicious

But I can let you know from experience that shredded sprouts travel faster than the green guys in their whole form....... you get my drift?!

The house was a veritable cloud of delightful green smells come 4pm on Xmas day. Holy moley, better out than in I suppose ;)


 Now the other day at work we were discussing what we'd eaten for Xmas dinner and I picked up a vague recipe for a sprout and leek gratin which one of the ladies had cooked up in her Aga.
Lo and behold my lovely dad gave me some of his fabulous home-grown leeks today at lunchtime and I knew where they were headed.... 


Well, be rude not to try a new sprout dish wouldn't it. Plus I need to find ways of disguising them so the husband does not groan every time he gets his tea.

So I set to with the vague recipe in my head as it was relayed.
Basically you cook the whole sprouts in a pan of boiling water until just tender - add in the leeks just before the sprouts are done as they won't take as long.

Meanwhile, whip up a white sauce (however you usually do it is fine) I added a little Dijon mustard , thyme and a small minced garlic clove to mine.

Lay the just-cooked leeks and sprouts in a single layer in a baking dish.

Pour over the sauce and then crumble over a cheese of your choice. It being Xmas  (well, kind of) I opted for some crumbled stilton but cheddar or parmesan would be just as good.


(You can add breadcrumbs over the top of the white sauce and then add the cheese but I am taking it easy on the bread front at present!)


Put the dish into a medium over for 20-30 minutes or so until its bubbling.

 


You could eat this as it is - I know I would. But with the husband in mind I cooked up a couple of lamb chops and some roasted potatoes done in the actifry.


Delicious.

I really am gonna miss the green guys once they have finished :(

Breakfast this morning was a hot buckwheat and chia seed bowl. Served with banana and some of Martin's honey.




The camp is out on buckwheat for me. I'd rather have oats as I find the consistency of buckwheat a little thin and tasteless - or perhaps I'm not cooking it right?
Any woo, I'll finish the bag off but I don't think I'll order another.

Suffering with a cold (again) so am signing off to drink the hot toddy the kind husband has just made me.... he's a keeper :)


Nite x

Why I love it - BIC band

We may all be aiming on heading back into the gym now Xmas is out of the way or just to the great out doors for walking / running etc.

If you are anything like me then you won't be able to stand having a soggy fringe slapping you in the face while you get your sweat on or blowing your hair in several directions at once.
I like to sweep my fringe from my face when working out (granted I do have a look of the Tefal people but who cares?!) It keeps it tamed and out of my eyes and lets me focus on what I am doing.

Now slides are ok, but my hair is really thick and often creeps out of a slide (which drives me nuts). As an avid reader of blogs for a while I noticed 'BIC Bands' on 'Carrots'n'Cake' earlier this year http://carrotsncake.com/.

I w
as intrigued. They are renowned for staying in place no matter what you are doing and Tina raves about them so I headed on over to the Bic Bands website:

http://www.bicbands.com/



There were so many to choose from but I opted for a blue and brown band in the end as I thought glitter might be a little much in the spin room ;)
Mmmm, shiny head :)

Now including postage it was a little expensive for a headband I admit (about £9) - but you know what? It really has been money well spent. It turned up so quickly from order time and had a nice little message on the delivery slip.

I now wear it for most gym/spinning sessions and it never moves. I throw it in the washer if it's getting a little gross :) and I've never had a problem with doing that - although you could hand wash it if you were worried.

So I thought I'd just share my little hero product with you this Thursday.


xx

(I have not been paid or asked to write about this product by Bic Bands, I am simply sharing one of my favourite finds)

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Food Baby

Holy moley - 14th December was my last post?! You kidding me?!
I am so sorry folks.

I managed to loose my camera cable in the house somewhere..... I looked and looked everywhere then yesterday I found it - in a place I had already searched...... go figure.

So I have a stock pile of photo's from the last couple of weeks.




Rewind to Xmas day and Santa was very good to me this year. I got some Cath Kidson things - bag, purse, keyring. A charm for my Link's bracelet. A new cafetiere, coffee, smellies, scarves, candles, knickers (thanks mum!) and lots of other lovely things. We were both really spoilt this year and had a lovely time with the family on Xmas day.
My brother and wife sent some of his honey and a beautiful pot to put it in - OMG!! His honey is amazing; sweet and delicate. It is his first batch of honey from his bees in Wiltshire and I will be hinting for some more once we get near to finishing this (which won't take long!) Mmmmm holy honey bees. 



 So last time I was here I was talking about how I approach Xmas time and try to manage over eating...... ahem......... good job I went for 'managing' it this year as I got a sizable gain of 7lb on Tuesday night!!!!!!!! Good lord. That is some food baby.

Partly it is laziness on my part, not helped by Xmas week when we were out every night for food and drinks. Then on the nights we were at home I may have partaken in a few chocolates and glasses of wine..... pesky wine.

But you know what? I didn't eat until I was over-stuffed or binge on lots of rubbish like salted nuts, crisps & dips (my downfall). I didn't buy any of that this year.
Not even a whiff of Xmas cake has passed my lips. So I am ok with my gain, I figure a lot of that will be gone by next week and I am already cooking up a healthy storm back in the kitchen.


To start today I enjoyed my first bowl in ages of carrot cake oats with banana and later snacked on 3 clementines. I've really missed fruit this past week - that says something!



Unfortunately all classes are off at the gym until the new year, however I do have in my possession a DVD which I got last year - Jillian Michael's 30 day shred. I am planning on hitting the living room to get a wriggle on with the good lady. (Curtains firmly shut of course as I don't want the street thinking I have gone nuts).

Tea tonight was a chilli beef pasta bake topped with cheese and served with some veggies..... oh vegetables, how I've missed you. This also satisfied a craving for pasta which I've had these last few days.




While busy in the kitchen  I also made a roasted tomato and garlic sauce; I am really fancying meatballs or chicken topped with sauce and cheese...... mmmmmm food is always on the brain. I figure this will be a great sauce to keep in the freezer, especially for when those lazy moments threaten to strike.

Right, sauce to blend so better fly.

Catch you soon! x

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Keeping December real

Hello peeps!

Brrrrrrr, chilly in the North these last few days. Makes me want to baton down the hatches and eat....... :)

Speaking of eating that leads me nicely onto today's post title. As you may have gathered I go to a slimming group religiously every week and have done for the past 7 years or so.

For me it works but I understand it is not for everybody. I am greedy by nature and was big as a teenager. When I joined my slimming group all those years ago it was like flicking a switch. I've never looked back - although the route I am taking to target seems to be a scenic one :)

A major dread for all slimmers seems to be the month of December. I have seen many Christmas' at group and the amount of people who give up  always amazes me. They usually say they'll 'be back in January' but I know how much damage can be done in a month - I could easily gain a stone or more just over a few weeks. 

The way I eat now has been a lifestyle overhaul for me so I guess I can't understand how people can just 'switch off' from healthy eating and cram in all the junk they can find for 4 weeks.
Ultimately it leaves you feeling terrible, remorseful, depressed and sad come January and that is not how I want to start my new year off - my years of that are behind me.

I know it can be difficult (believe me, I do) and it is such a fabulous social time so no one wants to miss out but there are ways of negotiating Christmas without it becoming a big weight loss mountain to climb come January.

I have some simple strategies that help me through while still enjoying myself.

First I use a simple planner for December that we get every year in group:


This really helps me keep things in perspective.
Instead of focusing on the meals out and making a big deal of them I focus on the days where there is nothing going on and on which I can eat normally.

By filling in the planner I am usually surprised that in actual fact Christmas for me is really just about a few meals out and isn't the huge food obstacle I thought it was going to be.

Second I make sure that I have soups on hand for lunches and food banked in the freezer such as chillies and bolognese that can be whipped out in the morning in order to resist the temptation of the take away in a lazy moment.


This week's soup is chicken broth - loosely based on the turkey broth I had last week. I am really looking forward to lunch tomorrow to eat some of this golden goodness.

I try make sure I attend my usual workout classes while the gym is open. It is all too easy for someone like me to talk myself out of going to the gym. But thanks to the husband and the class instructors I have enough people to give me the kick I need to get moving and comit myself to going.
If the gym is closed then I push myself to have a bracing walk with the husband - perhaps with a swing by a pub for a slimline tonic to sweeten the deal.

I keep lots of different healthy living magazines on hand plus I collect cookery books so I get out some of the healthier side ones to flick through. The magazines usually have a stash of New year recipes to inspire following all the heavy Xmas eating.
What better than say egg, chips and beans or a Thai green prawn soup for tea after all that festive food.


If we are heading out with friends then I often opt to drive. If that causes a fuss then I usually have a 2 drink rule. 2 alcoholic drinks maximum - Gin and slimline is my tipple so I alternate these with just a plain slimline tonic.

If the mood takes me then I sometimes opt for red wine - although this can be more dangerous. If I get a glass of wine then I go for a reasonably expensive one; that way it forces me to savour it rather than just quaff it back.

The 2 drink rule has the bonus of not giving me a hangover the next morning - hangovers can sway me to junk food choices over the healthier option. Sometimes the freezer can be a lifesaver here - I root out a home made chilli or curry to satisfy the junk demon.

I'm not saying this always turns out the way I want it to; sometimes I have 'just one more' wine or get hit by the munchies for a take away. But I try keep these things in mind and stay focused. I know where I want to be weight wise and sometimes the thrill of those new lower-sized jeans ultimately means more than that piece of cake or packet of crisps.

Back to this weeks food and it has been heavy on the soup, veg and salads. I've been craving salad with my lunches (no idea what is wrong with me).



 Add in some feta and black pepper with a drizzle of dressing...


Roast ham tea with my beloved sprouts....


Roast chicken tea with roasted new potatoes and a veg mountain.



Dad's home grown leeks paired with potatoes for a deee-lish soup....


Another salad is on the cards for tomorrow alsongside my homemade chicken broth. Mmmmmm, is it wrong to always be at least one meal ahead in my mind?!

Have a great Thursday x

Monday, 12 December 2011

S-s-s-secret Santa :)

Friday ended up being a good day.

Largely because a parcel was waiting for me at home.


Being a new blogger I was looking over the links to other blogs in the UK when I came across Laura's blog: http://www.keepinghealthygettingstylish.com/

She is an established blogger who writes a wonderful blog all about healthy living, exercise and posts some lovely looking food.

A few months ago she was arranging a secret santa for bloggers in the UK which I thought seemed like a great idea to participate in. My gift was to go to Suzi: http://suziknight.blogspot.com/2011/12/secret-santa.html

I was delighted to see that my colourful gift had come from a blog I have been reading for the last few months, Tam who blogs over at  http://www.saladandsequins.com/

I loved the wrapping on the box, it was really cute! Much better than boring brown paper.

I loved the gifts inside even more.



There was a lovely letter from Tam and a Festive Cheer candle which smells delicious and spicy - Gingerbread and orange, yum. Along side were some Cleo's peanut butter cups.

Now I've had the usual American Reece's version and thought they were a little wah, they also pale in comparison to Cleo's.

They were wonderful, fudgy chocolate with a hit of peanut butter inside.

Did I eat one right away? You betcha.




Did I manage to hold off eating the other..... only just. That baby was polished off on Sunday as a treat.


I'd recommend them if you can find them, they are vegan and dairy free and utterly delicious.

The candle I am planning on burning tonight as we've been away over the weekend.


Looks good enough to eat.........

Thank you Laura and many thanks to Tam. The presents were perfect :)

Friday, 9 December 2011

Cheese dreams

This morning was most definitely a coffee Friday kind of day. I was snug as a bug this morning all wrapped up in the duvet and totally cosy and comfortable when BAM! 6am alarm goes off. Ugh.
But I dutifully trooped into the cold bathroom to sort myself out for the day ahead.

Swinging by for a coffee was the right decision and I supped on this baby all the way to work.



I think one of the reasons I was a little reluctant to rise this morning was due to the wine and cheese that were sampled last night.....

Remember when I told you guys about the 'Jug and Bottle' that is local to us?

http://www.jugandbottle.co.uk/

Well I bought two tickets for their wine and cheese tasting event which was last night.

The husband and I went over for 7.30pm and were greeted with a beautifully laid table with 5 glasses of wine and 5 cheeses laid out on a plate with some grapes and crackers.

Being the dimbert I am I totally forgot to snap any pictures until after I had done the tasting (it is a special gift being this dim). But I took a couple post-tasting.

We started the evening by doing some simple palette tests using one of the white wines and tasting it with acid (lemon), salty (salt) and sweet (sugar).  These simple tests made us aware how each of the three affected the taste of the wine and helped later in determining what cheese we preferred with which drink.

We then moved onto tasting each wine in turn with a little of each of the five cheeses. It took a little while to get through them but some made surprising combinations. We scored each one with a simple tick or cross based on whether we liked them together or not.

One of the wines turned out to be a cider, this was a medium cider made from blush apples so it had a lovely pink hue.
I absolutely loved this with all of the cheeses. It was best with the calvados dipped French camembert as I thought the apples really complimented each other.


My favourite cheese was a Spanish manchego whereas the husband preferred a smoked hard goats cheese.
He was surprised when he found out what it was; if they had told him it was goats cheese at the start he probably wouldn't have tried it. Proves our mothers right - try it before you say you don't like it!!


 Out of the wines we sampled there was a rioja which was a favourite of mine. I also loved the cider but a quite few didn't (I think it was a status thing rather than a taste issue!!)


It was a really good way to spend an evening and a lovely thing to do together. What it made me realise is that you shouldn't be embarrassed by what you like. It is such a personal thing and we should all suit our own tastes. Find what you like and enjoy it. Whether it is £4.99 or £14.99 if you like it that's all that matters.
Don't be fooled into thinking that the most expensive wine is always the best. We were told last night that in a blind tasting only one person picked out the expensive wine - all the others went for the cheapest!


For those interested, here is the list of what we sampled:


Burnard's Cider Montys Double: 6.25%
Beaujolais Villages Nouveau Chateau du Chatelard 2011 (12.5%)
Chateau de la Peyrade Muscat de Frontignan (15%)
Rioja Vina Palaciega Joven 2009 (13.5%)
Caliterra Chardonnay Reserva 2009 (13.5%)


Coeur de Camembert Calvados
Manchego
Roquefort Troupeau
Garlic Yarg
Quickes Smoked Goats


If you ever have the opportunity for something like this then I'd urge you to give it a go. Our tickets were £10 each and was money well spent for a lovely evening.

This weekend we are doing the santa run to the husbands family down South but I hope to post my secret santa present tomorrow as it arrived today :)



Have a good weekend :)
xx

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Thoughtful presents

Well it's been a busy couple of nights on the Cookie social calendar.

First, rewind to Wednesday breakfast and a slight egg-splosion in the microwave...


I guess I should have pricked the egg before attempting to poach it in there :) I usually use the egg poachers which work brilliantly but I forgot them so I improvised. Obviously this was an epic fail :( Plus I had to clean the microwave - double fail.

Still, not all the egg went pop and I still managed to salvage some breakfast out of it - classy.

Lunch was a home made broccoli and Stilton soup which luckily didn't erupt everywhere.

Come 7pm I headed out into the wind, rain and cold to meet up with some lovely ladies for a pre-xmas meal. We opted for a local-ish pub which I'd not been to before, I always like to try somewhere new.

The menu was simple with just 5 starters on there. I opted for the soup of the day which was turkey broth. On a freezing cold, windy night that sounded like just the ticket for a warming start.

The broth was delicious and full of flavour with big chunks of turkey meat, pearl barley (which I love) and chunky veggies. I can't wait to recreate this with the leftover turkey after Xmas (in fact I might even buy a turkey just so we have a carcass as we are with family for lunch this year!)

Nothing really jumped out for the mains although they did all sound nice. But then I spotted Turkey breast with Guinness glazed gammon served with seasonal vegetables and mash......... Guinness glazed gammon......sign me up!

This was huge and utterly delicious. I asked them to leave off the roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding and they brought extra veg instead. The veg was freshly cooked to perfection and of course there was sproutage on there.
Only three on the plate, but rest assured there was a dish full of vegetables to the right which I polished off.


Mahoosive and all except the mash was totally hoovered up.

Mind you, there was no room for dessert. No way. Not even a home made fudge cake could tempt me. I was in a turkey/sprout coma so I just had a black coffee to finish off the meal.

As we are heading to family at the weekend to do the present run I thought it was time I decanted my plum vodka and pretty it up as it was now ready to drink.


Doesn't it look cute!
For those family members we are not getting 'presents' for I thought this would make a nice little token gift - it is divine.
I love, love, love sloe gin but I'd go so far as to say this is better. Less tart and warming right down to your toes.

I am also making Nigella's spiced peaches on Saturday and I had some pretty glass jars turn up today to put them into.
They are dead simple to make and I am looking forward to trying them myself.

I think homemade gifts are wonderful. I love when people give me gifts they have made. Probably because I love food so much but if I get a homemade chutney or spiced nuts I am in heaven.
I think it is a really nice way to give a gift - more personal than just a generic hamper or smelly set (although let's face it they would be welcome too!)

It's also cheaper and people think you are a domestic genius - win-win :)

Finally I made some mackerel pate to take to work today. Again simple to make (there is a theme here!) Just using lemon juice, mackerel, quark, pepper, parsley and some horseradish. Blend in a food processor and chill - Mmmmm. Easy and tasty. Might even make a nice starter with some melba toast on Xmas day :)


Right, round up of tonight's events coming at ya tomorrow.

Stay warm :)

PS Remember the secret Santa? Well mine is not here yet but my present arrived at its destination and Suzi loved it :) here is the link to the goodies that were in the parcel.
http://suziknight.blogspot.com/2011/12/secret-santa.html