Blowing The Budget!

Not cost wise but if this blog is about balance then after this dish I am seriously overdrawn calorie wise!  Can I tip the balance back this week, yes!  Was it worth it? YES!!  After the cold week we’d had this was a well deserved bowl of warmth and comfort.

This is a dish I have seen promoted by Nigel Slater and Nigella Lawson.  Coq Au Reisling.  I am not a fan of its counterpart Coq au Vin, I’m just not a fan of “casseroled” chicken.  Coq au Vin was cooked for me by a well meaning (now ex) boyfriend, it was a particularly stressful period and he was trying to do something nice, out of politeness I had to eat it but from the first mouthful I knew this was going to be an endurance.  Casseroled chicken I usually find dry, I know it’s been cooked in liquid so how can it be dry but it is.  So trying out this recipe was a leap of faith, and probably why it has taken me so long to get round to it.

I love a get ahead dish and this is one that can be prepped in advance ready to be fired back up and on the table in 30 mins.

Coq Au RieslingIMG_0303

  • 50g Butter and a little light olive oil or groundnut oil
  • 85g Smoked pancetta
  • 1 Large onion, chopped
  • 2 Cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 Chicken thighs, bone and skin still in/on
  • 200g Chestnut mushrooms, quartered
  • 500ml Riesling or other dry white wine
  • 300ml Double Cream
  • A good handful of chopped parsley

Melt the butter in a casserole dish suitable for hob use over a medium heat.

Add the diced pancetta and let it colour slightly.  Add the onions and garlic, turn down the heat slightly if necessary to stop the onions and garlic browning.  Cook for a few minutes then scoop it all out and set aside, leaving as much fat in the pan.

Add a splash of oil and turn the heat up.  The oil will help stop the butter browning, as will using unsalted butter.  Add the chicken thighs to the pan and brown on all sides.  Remove from the pan and set aside with the pancetta and onions.

Add the mushrooms to the pan and toss to coat in the butter, they will soak it up pretty quickly.  Keep tossing around to brown slightly and then pour in the wine.  As it bubbles scrape off the bottom of the pan to release all the tasty bits and add back the onions and pancetta.

If cooking straight away add back the chicken, reduce the heat to a slow simmer, cover and cook for 25 mins.  The top of the browned chicken skin should be poking out of the top of the sauce which will help stop it going flabby.

If cooking later allow the liquid to cool before adding back the chicken.  When ready to cook bring to a simmer and cook as above.

Before serving, lift out the chicken again and pour in the cream.  Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper as required.  Let the sauce bubble away to thicken it up.  (This gave much more sauce than I thought needed for the two of us so I scooped some off, leaving behind the onions, pancetta etc. and have frozen it to use as a quick sauce another time.)  Stir in the parsley and add back the chicken to warm through and serve.

I served this with some crispy polenta wedges.  If the cream and butter in the chicken isn’t enough for you these wedges are loaded with cheese and butter!  But they are a worthwhile recipe to have in your repertoire.

Polenta Wedges – to serve 2IMG_0304

  • 50g Parmesan Cheese grated
  • 250ml Water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 50g Polenta
  • 40g Butter + extra for frying
  • Olive oil or groundnut oil for frying


Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan with the salt and bay leaf, add the polenta and keep stirring.  Let it cook slowly for 5 mins, stirring frequently.  Polenta can be viscious stuff and will spit at you!

Remove the bay leaf and stir in the butter and parmesan cheese.

I line a loaf tin with cling film, pour in the polenta and leave it to set.  Any suitable container will do, you want the polenta about 15mm deep.

It needs at least 30 mins to set.  Turn it out onto a board, trim the edges if you want a neat look.  Cut the block in half and then into triangles.

Add a nob of butter and some oil to a frying pan, once hot fry the wedges for about 5 mins on each side until they are golden and crisp.

The Nutritional Bit

Okay this recipe will never feature on the cover of any healthy eating magazine!  It is packed with dairy products though and these are a great source of essential vitamins and minerals, including carbohydrates, protein, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamins A, D, B12, riboflavin and niacin.




Belated Valentines

Pork Chops with Braised Fennel

Wednesday was a write off, most of last week and this week has been.  My plan for Valentines dinner turned out to be the same as everyone elses – Steak, not very imaginative I admit.  Our local butcher closes at lunchtime on a Wednesday, I can still remember when a lot of shops did.  Springing a request for an ingredient needed for school cookery class on my Mother on a Wednesday afternoon was not met with joy on her part!

The baby, and myself, have definitely not been on our A game this week and so by the time we got out of the house on Wednesday the butcher would have been long packed up and gone, the next best call locally, Aldi, had completely sold out of steaks!  Walking through Aldi’s car park always brings a wry smile at the discarded waitrose coffee cups in the Aldi trolleys!  Only round here would people go to Waitrose for their free coffee and drink it whilst doing their actual shopping in Aldi!

Steakless but armed with a fennel and a plan we returned home.

The day was catching up with me and our quick and easy steak dinner was off.  A get out of jail free card in the form of bolognese from the freezer stood in for our Valentines dinner.  Thursday night I made more of an effort with a pork chop accompanied by this braised fennel dish and it was as good as any steak dinner.

I first came across this on a course I did with Rosemary Shrager, name drop moment, I did two courses with her!  The original method has been lost in the memories of time and partly adapted with a bit of Simon Hopkinson’s version.


Braised Fennel

  • 1 Large Fennel
  • 40g butter
  • Chicken or Veg stock – enough to cover the fennel, about 200ml
  • A Smallish glass of white wine – if it’s really good wine drink it and leave out of the recipe!
  • 2 good handfulls of grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Trim the very tips of the fennel and then cut the “fingers” off completely.  Slice the fennel into slices about 1cm thick.

You want a fairly flattish wide pan so you can lay the slices in a thin layer.  Cover with wine, if using and stock.  Simmer gently for 10 mins.

Remove the slices to an oven proof dish, arranging in a flat layer if possible.  Put the trimmed “fingers” and any of the tougher outerparts of the fennel in a blender, nutribullet, or a jug if using a stick blender.  Whilst doing this cut out the tough triangular core part of the slices and add these to the blender too.

To the trimmings add the butter, a handful of parmesan cheese and about 70ml of the stock.  Blitz.  If using a nutribullet or similar allow the liquid to cool first, never blitz hot liquid in a sealed container!!

Taste the now creamy liquid and season to taste.  Pour over the fennel.  This can all be done in advance up to this point. I love get ahead dishes.

When ready to cook, sprinkle over the rest of the parmesan and bake in the oven, 170 fan, for 20 mins or until golden and bubbling.

I think this goes perfectly with pork.  I was originally taught the dish to accompany guinea fowl and it’s also great with fish.  I’d eat it with most things.

Pork Chops A good pork chop needs nothing more than a rub with some oil, the rind snipping at 1cm intervals to prevent the fat curling, some salt and pepper and a hot griddle pan.  Pay attention to making sure the fat has enough contact with the pan to crisp up.  I love the fat from a pork chop, my husband does not.


Weaning is not going well with the baby, she refuses to let us spoon feed her purees, she will accept finger foods and nibble on them but not enough to actually eat anything.  She does appear to like gnawing and sucking on a chop bone though!!  (I’d checked for sharp edges) It appears we have a cavebaby!!!



The Nutrition Bit


Pork is a great meat, an unappreciated meat I think, more valued for its junk food / processed food opportunities that as a healthy alternative to chicken, beef or lamb.  So lets not be comparing pork to processed piggies!

Fats – It has more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats than saturated fats, therefore, as part of a balanced diet, pork can help lower cholesterol.

B Vitamins – it’s a good source of B vitamins, specifically B1, B2 and B3 (thiamine, riboflavin and niacin) and B12 these are all good energy regulators and help with muscle repair and growth.

Iron – half the iron in pork is heam iron, the most readily absorbed dietary iron.  When I was pregnant I didn’t have many cravings but pork was one.

Soure of Potassium, Magnesium and Zinc.


Digestion – Fennel is well know for helping ease digestive complaints.  It contains Anethol, an anti-inflammatory which reduces the chemical signals released by white blood cells which encourage localised inflammation.  Anethol is also an anti-spasmodic and carminative, reducing and regulation contractions of the gut wall making it beneficial for abdominal cramps and IBS.  The carminative properties disperse and reduce gas.

Hormone Regulator -Fennel contains phyto-oestrogens, plant chemicals which are similar to the female hormone oestrogen.  These can make the body think there is more oestrogen than there is where levels are too low or it can bind to natural oestrogen reducing it’s impact where levels are too high.  This makes it especially good for menopause and pre-menopause issues.

Diuretic – it aids the kidneys in the removal of waste and so helping with water retention and bloating.  It can also be beneficial for kidney stones, gout and liver disorders.

Anti-Parasitic – The volatile essential oil, anethol, can be effective against worms and parasites.

Coughs and Colds – used in a syrup fennel can help ease coughs and colds by thinning mucous.

Milk Production – fennel is thought to help with milk production for nursing mothers.

Source of Potassium, fibre, vitamins B and folate.



Dish Of The Month Challenge – January


IMG_0223A few years ago in another life, on another blog, I took part in a Nigel Slater dish of the month challenge.  The challenge was to cook a dish from each month from his Kitchen Diaries II book.  I made it as far as June.  Since then, and this also goes back a year or two, I was gifted, by my brother, Nigel Slater’s A year of good eating book, Kitchen Diaries III.  At the time I had a fairly good look though it, I hold my hands up I didn’t get round to actually reading it and certainly didn’t cook anything from it.  So, this year I am challenging myself to complete the dish of the month challenge, this time with The year of good eating book.


I nearly fell at the first fence when I realised I only had a day left of the month, and I realise this post will hit February.  Picking a January recipe was easy, the smoked mackerel and beetroot fishcakes were definitely one to be tried, not least because I had all the ingredients!  I’d bought the smoked mackerel with an idea to make a potato and egg salad for lunch one day and the beetroot for a kale and beet smoothie one morning.  Beetro

ot redeployed I’m now off the hook for the smoothie!!!  I didn’t have fresh horseradish so used a teaspoon of the creamed horseradish I had in the fridge.

I love fishcakes and have had probably as many misses as hits when making them in the search for the ultimate fishcake.  This version, definitely a hit!  A keeper!  I probably needed to dry out my grated beetroot a bit more as despite heeding the instructions to only briefly fold in the beetroot to avoid turning the mash pink, my mash was pretty pink.  And his advice not to move the fishcakes in the pan for the 6 minutes a side should be followed, I turned one too soon to my cost.

I’ve never had a pan big enough to produce enough fishcakes for us both at the same time so I alway

s brown them in the pan first then transfer to a baking tray, brown the rest and then heat them all through together in the oven.

There are various suggestions for sauces but as I was going off what I already had in I mixed some natural yogurt with some of the creamed horseradish.

As if being quick and easy to make and incredibly tasty isn’t enough reason to try these check out the benefits of beetroot and smoked mackerel!

The Nutrition Bit


  • Beetroot offers great support for the liver, so perfect to pack into our January diets if you’ve overindulged during the festive period!  The deep, purple pigment, betacyanin, helps to stimulate a process called “phase 2 detoxification” breaking down toxins more efficiently.  It can also help in the production of bile which can further help the removal of toxins, although be careful if you suffer from gallstones.
  • Supporting liver function also benefits our skin, if the liver is overburdened the skin is used as an alternative to eliminate toxins, aggravating conditions such as eczema.
  • Beetroot also has a beneficial effect on blood pressure.  It is high in natural nitrates which the body converts into nitric oxide, a powerful vasodilator which widens the blood vessels.
  • There is also a school of thought that it is an anti-cancer food, increasing the production of the body’s own cancer preventing chemical, glutathione-s-transferase protecting cells from damage.
  • It contains a compound, zeaxanthin which protects our fatty subcutaneous tissue from free radical damage helping to prevent the skin from becoming saggy and dull.
  • B Vitamins helping to improve nerve function.
  • Iron and antioxidants purifying the blood and improving oxygen uptake, good for anyone suffering with anemia.
  • Antioxidants – have you heard of the ORAC score? this is used to measure the total antioxidant power of foods.  Beetroot comes in at 840, higher than red peppers, oranges and carrots, but trumped by blueberries, strawberries and spinach.
  • Potassium – modern diets are throwing out our sodium/potassium balance leading to water retention and hardening of the blood vessels.  Tipping the balance in favour of potassium can have the opposite effect.


  • Mackerel is incredibly high in omega-3 fatty acids, these help the body to produce its own anti-inflammatory compounds making it great for arthritis, eczema and asthma sufferers.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids also have a positive effect on cholesterol and can protect blood vessel walls from damage.
  • reasearch has shown Omega-3 fatty acids can have the same effect as the anti-depressant Prozac by increasing serotonin.
  • There is some evidence eating foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids three times a week can help with Alzheimer’s
  • it is high in vitamin D, vital for the body to utilise calcium and so it is good for the prevention of conditions such as osteoporosis.
  • Vitamin D has also been shown to play a role in mental and emotional functions, immune regulation, fat metabolism and protection against some cancers.  The main source of vitamin D is the conversion of cholesterol when our skin is exposed to sunlight.  A regular intake of oily fish during the winter months can therefore be very beneficial!
  • Also contains vitamins A, B-complex, C, E and K.  Calcium, potassium, selenium and magnesium helping to regulate metabolism and therefore blood sugar and cholesterol levels

The Breakfast Edit – Part 2

So this is a bold statement, but, for egg lovers, if there is one recipe you take from this blog the 2 minute jam jar hollandaise recipe in this post is the one to take!  For the non egg lovers I hope to convert you!


Last week was all about the oats and how great they are to fire the day off, this week it’s all about the eggs.  For me they are the ultimate convenience food, fast, versatile and nutritious!  Great for anytime of the day but with evidence showing a protein rich breakfast improves mental performance throughout the day these protein packed powerhouses are perfect to start the day.

Go To Work On An Egg was the slogan!

If you need anymore convincing about these little powerhouses make sure you read “The Nutrition Bit”

2 Minute Jam Jar Hollandaise

1 Jam Jar – 2 Egg Yolks – 2 Tsp Lemon Juice – 50g Butter – Black Pepper/Pinch Cayenne Pepper (optional)

  • Melt the butter and leave it to cool slightly (butter packs such as Country Life have handy markings on the pack so no scales required).
  • Put the lemon juice (2tsp is approximately half and lemon) and egg yolks in your jam jar, screw lid on and shake for 30 secs.
  • Add half the warm butter, lid on and shake 30 secs, add the rest of the butter, lid on and shake.
  • Add black pepper and/or cayenne pepper + a pinch of salt if you like and your hollandaise is done!
  • When you are ready to serve I stand the jar in a jug of warm water, not too hot or you’ll scramble the egg, it can also be gently heated in a microwave, or pan, again not to fast and harsh or you’ll end up with scrambled egg at best, a rubber ball at worst.

Obviously this is a raw egg sauce so usual precautions should be taken if you choose to take heed of the warnings.

Add tarragon and a smidge of Dijon mustard for a béarnaise sauce to serve with steak.


Poached Eggs

I love mine served over a toasted muffin, wilted spinach, poached egg and crisp prosciutto.

For a simpler midweek breakfast you can’t beat a poached egg on toast, and once you’ve got your head around poaching your eggs in advance to reheat breakfast becomes even simpler!  When I had a “proper” job there was no way I could have started my morning with the stress of poaching an egg, the will it won’t it disintegrate gamble could ruin the day before it started! So doing them the night before works brilliantly.

For a really good poached egg you need really fresh eggs, something you just cannot get with supermarket eggs which are usually a few weeks old at best!  If these are all you can get there are a few ways to stack the odds in your favour – use the little poach pods or line a small mug with some lightly oiled clingfilm, crack your egg into it, twist the cling film to seal tightly and poach this way.  I am not a huge fan of cooking in plastic but it’s an individual choice. Some say add vinegar to your water, others crack the egg into a sieve to strain off the watery part of the white you get with older eggs.

Fill a large jug or container with cold water.  Poach your eggs for 3-4 minutes, just enough to set the whites, remove and place into the cold water to stop the cooking process.  Cover your chosen container and keep the eggs in the fridge.  Your poached eggs can keep up to 2-3 days like this before reheating.

To reheat you can bring a pan of water to a simmer and add your eggs for a minute or two, or to save on the washing up I boil the kettle, fill a mug and pop the egg in there for a minute or two.  Remove and serve as you wish.

Scrambled Eggs

This really is a quick fix favourite of mine.  Two eggs does it for me, whisked up with some creme fraiche or cream cheese, plenty of pepper and a sprinkle of salt.  I think eggs need salt!  A knob of butter in a pan, add the eggs and scramble.  You can add chopped herbs, a bit of chopped ham or bacon, smoked salmon or even a little cheese.  If in a rush I eat straight from the pan!  Other days more leisurely atop some toast.

And then there are boiled eggs, omelettes and the wonderful coddled eggs.


The Nutrition Bit

Vitamin A – Retinol, great for supporting skin structures such as collagen

Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin, a deficiency in this can leave skin looking dull and those dry patches start to appear.  That cracking at the corners of the mouth we get when we are run down, B2 deficiency!  I had this a couple of weeks ago which then flared up into a cold sore.

Vitamin B12 – Essential for nerve function.

Vitamin D – necessary for healthy bones and teeth

Antioxidants Lutein and Zeaxanthin – linked to reducing age related macular degeneration, loss of vision as we get older!

Choline – Helps to move cholesterol through the blood stream and aids in fat metabolism, can be helpful in reducing the accumulation of fat in the liver.  Important for early brain development, it may also improve memory in later life and help repair some types of neurological damage.  Links have been made to treatment and prevention of alzheimer’s and dementia.

Sulphur – that eggy smell!  But it’s an important nutrient for the structure and ageing of the skin!

Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Good quality eggs provide these, even more reason to avoid cheap, low welfare eggs.  Omega 3 is great for helping the body to produce its own natural anti-inflammatory compounds lowering the risk of heart disease and strokes..

Amino Acids – Eggs contain all the essential amino acids particularly tryptophan and tyrosine that help prevent cancer and heart disease.

The Cholesterol Thing – the idea that eggs are “bad for our cholesterol” has now been dismissed, in fact evidence suggests that egg proteins are converted into peptides that help lower blood pressure and most of the fat in eggs is mono and polyunsaturated fat and other fatty acids, phospholipids, which actually help reduce the absorption of cholesterol!


Eggs for Sunday Brunch?  How do you eat yours?



The Breakfast Edit

Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Prince and Dine like a Pauper is the saying.  A lot of weight loss aficionados will tell you this, others will say a calorie is a calorie no matter what time of day it is consumed.

I am more in the latter than the former camp but I do believe there is something behind the first theory.  A good nights sleep, for example, is a key player in health and happiness and I don’t believe anyone sleeps well on a belly full.  We might feel sleepy after a good feed, the post Christmas dinner coma for example, but I don’t believe anyone has the good, undisturbed nights sleep that leads to waking feeling refreshed and raring to go when we’ve overindulged in the evening.

Likewise with lunch, a considered lunch with the balance tipped more towards protein than carbs, for me anyway, really helps beat that 3pm slump.  So it follows that a good breakfast can really set us up for the day!

I’ve had a very mixed relationship with breakfast, I know I should do breakfast, but too often than not it’s easy to not.  As kids we fared very well, Dad would make us porridge before we set off for the school bus.  Even as we got older and were capable of making our own he would still perform this ritual for us, and I was grateful, it kept me going so well it meant I could pretty much skip lunch and save my lunch money!  Lunch was for wimps back in those school days, not something I stand by now!  As I ventured into university life it was much more tempting to have more time in bed and just grab a couple of biscuits and so the decline set in.  For breakfast to work for me it has to be appealing and fairly easy.

This is where oats are still a favourite.

Oats are the power breakfast of breakfasts! They contain beta-glucans, a soluble fibre which slows down the absorption of carbs and so prevents blood sugar spikes and keeps us feeling fuller for longer.  Sugar spikes also encourage our bodies to produce and store fat, something I am guessing a lot of us would like to avoid!  Amongst other things they are also a rich source of magnesium, an increasingly common deficiency.  Magnesium relaxes blood vessels, regulating blood pressure and can help prevent heart attacks.  Studies are starting to link magnesium deficiency and depression so getting a daily dose of oats could really help with those winter blues.  And of course the benefits of oats for our good and bad cholesterol balance is well documented.

There is the obvious bowl of porridge, I posted a few days ago on my Facebook page a Jamie Oliver link with a variety of ways on how to top yours.

Although only a matter of minutes, porridge does take some time to make so my regular go to is granola, there is always a tub of this tried and tested recipe in the cupboard. A bowl of yogurt, plain, full fat, live, topped with a couple of handfuls of this granola and some fruit is perfect.


  • 500g Oats
  • 1 Cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 Cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Cups chopped oats, I use almonds and brazils
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 125ml maple syrup





Mix all the dry ingredients together, melt the oil and add the syrup, stir this into the oats to coat evenly.  I have my wonderful Pampered Chef stone baker which makes the mixing and cooking easy, use a large bowl and then spread on two large, lined baking sheets as an alternative.

Bake for 20 mins at 150 fan, or equivalent, give a good mix and bake for another 10-20 mins depending on how toasty you like it.  Once out of the oven give a good mix and allow to cool, if you don’t mix it will set into clumps.  Store in an air tight container and enjoy!


Another favourite are these oaty pancakes, I make a batch, freeze and then toast from frozen.  These combine oats with another breakfast favourite – eggs.Bodyism Pancakes

100g oats – 200g cottage cheese – 4 eggs – 1 tsp cinnamon

Blend all the ingredients together in a food processor for a smooth batter.  Heat a frying pan, add a little oil, I use coconut for these.  Ladle in a little batter, cooking in batches for 2-3 minutes each side.


fresh eggs

 So the other speedy breakfast favourite that ticks a lot of boxes are eggs.  High in protein and good fats eggs are also a source of choline, an essential nutrient which stimulates brain development and function. Choline has also been linked with increasing memory retention and recall as well as improving alertness, what a start to the day!!


To be continued …..



The New Year Diet!

Hands up who’s on a New Year diet?  Who’s yet to start? Who’s fallen already?Diet garfield

Here’s an idea ditch it and try a different approach!

How about thinking of pushing it out rather than cutting it out?

A few thoughts:-

  • The diet industry is the only industry I can think of that has got richer and richer the more it fails!  One diet fails another pops up in its place.
  • No one woke up FAT!!  You are not going to wake up THIN!!  Quick fixes don’t work!

Before Christmas we had the “Little Black Dress” “Drop A Dress Size” diets, now in January we have the “Detox” diets, soon we will be on the “Bikini” diets.  If you’ve just got a couple of pounds to shift, and you don’t mind it coming back, then these will probably do the job.

In my adult life I have been a size 8, 8 stone something, I have been a size 16, 12 stone plus and everything in between.  I am now a new mum who has only been near the scales recently to trip over them.

I have forgotten more diets than I can remember, I’ve tried just about every variation – the cabbage soup, the slimfast, the fasting, the juicing, weight watchers, Atkins, diet pills shipped in from America, diet pills from the local tanning shop, detox diets, ones pulled out of the daily mail, ones endorsed by celebrities on and on and on.  I can’t say I enjoyed any of them, but then we all know we are not supposed to enjoy diets!  They are to be endured and stuck to! And when you can’t it’s your fault not the diets!  Most of them left me feeling grumpy and tired at best, a bit dizzy and faint, or just ill. If I had hit my “perfect” weight I wouldn’t have had the energy or inclination to do anything with it, and I wasn’t very good company either.

So whether it’s a fasting diet, exclusion diet, juicing diet blah blah blah …… what are the downsides, why don’t they work?

  • Fast weight loss is usually due to water and glycogen loss, not fat.  This can slow down our metabolism making long term weight loss more difficult.
  • We will always find a way to cheat!  Fasting diets give us a licence to eat rubbish when we are not fasting.  The old weight watchers system I used to follow allowed me to have a bottle of wine every day, or it did the way I worked my points!
  • Exclusion diets, those cutting out whole food groups can leave us nutrient deficient, and the transition back is full of pitfalls
  • Juicing / Cleanse diets are essentially high sugar, low protein, low fibre diets, removing essential nutrients such as fibre leaving us feeling hungry and the lack of protein leaves the sugar spikes unchecked.
  • Our social lives suffer.  We’ve all been out with that diet bore fussing over the menu, what she/he can and can’t eat, and, I maybe the only bitch here, thought “they don’t look like they are that picky with what they eat the rest of the time!”
  • They aren’t sustainable, life gets in the way, and it’s human nature when things start going wrong to think “f*ck it” Where diets are concerned this usually means a complete blow out.

This list goes on.  BUT that doesn’t mean the new year isn’t a good time to review our diets, what we already eat and how we eat.  Get things back on track, support our bodies as they do their own detoxing and recover from the festive excess.

So my new approach is that rather than cut things out, push them out!  Lets focus more on eating better for health and happiness, and I bet inevitably, if weight loss is an aim, it will come.

Here are a few things I am going to focus on:-

  • More water – I’ve got out of the habit of making sure I drink enough water and as a nursing mother I really need to get back onto it, I’ve noticed a difference!  So each morning I am going to fill a jug up to get through at home.  I have also just bought a bottle of VOSS water, the posh one that comes in a glass bottle, this is an investment not a luxury trend!  I can fill this up before leaving the house to make sure I have some with me for on the go and not have to resort to buying plastic bottles.  We can all do with less plastic in our lives.
  • Breakfast – I have always been bad with breakfast, always found an excuse to skip it or grab a biscuit.  It’s got to stop.  Next week I will be doing a breakfast blog.
  • One meat free day a week – I have become lazy with veg, a hastily opened bag of prepared salad dumped on the side of a plate has become an all to easy fall back regular.  Focusing on plant based meals for one day will trickle through to a more varied diet the rest of the week.
  • Fish at least once a week, similar reasons to meat free day.
  • Meal Planning – this is how I am going to achieve.  I used to meal plan and I loved it.  Setting 20 minutes aside once a week to look through a recipe book or magazine, pick a few new recipes and mix with a few old favourites, write a shopping list to go with it.  Not only did it mean I could stick to my good intentions, I saved a LOT of money, I didn’t buy things that wouldn’t get used, I had no waste and I enjoyed my food more, looked forward to it.

We all know, or have a good idea where our diets could do with tweaking, how they could be improved.  What would your top three be?

Thinking PUSH IT OUT rather than CUTTING IT OUT can really help.  If you fancy that glass of wine, have a glass of water first.  If you want that packet of crisps, or chocolate, have a piece of fruit first.  Think portion sizes, up the veg quota on your plate but still leave space for the things you love.  Increase the “good” so it leaves less room for the “bad”, focus on what you can have rather than what you can’t.

With this in mind here is my much trotted out soup recipe.  Packed full of veg it gives a great nutrient boost.  For a lunch I add some protein such as shredded chicken or chickpeas.  If I’m having a hungry day a small bowl before dinner is a great filler upper.  This soup isn’t always virtuous, it’s also great from a flask at a cold April point to point day with chopped chorizo and a slug of vodka!


Halve and deseed about 8 red peppers and roast on a low heat until blackened round the edges, allow to cook and then chop into chunks.

In a large pan sweat a large chopped onion, a few cloves of chopped garlic and a chopped red chilli (with seeds or deseeded depending how hot you want it)

Add chopped fennel or celery and gently fry for a few minutes, celery is the much cheaper option.

Add either a couple of tins of chopped tomatoes or approx 8 large beef tomatoes or just a mix of whatever you have.

Add about 2 pints of chicken or veg stock, a squirt of tom puree and a splash of Worcestershire sauce, season and simmer for 20-30 mins

Add the peppers, blitz with a stick blender and taste adjusting seasoning if needed, I like quite a bit of black pepper.

It also works well with some smoked paprika added before the tomatoes.





Out With The Old

This isn’t a post about resolutions! Maybe about setting intentions, we’ll see.

Yesterday was a funny day, the last of the festive “break” before everyone returns to work.

I use the term break very loosely as for most it is far from that!  Hawking round relatives doing the duty visits, seemingly constantly in the kitchen, the never ending clutter sweep of the house, the list is endless, thankless and if you are lucky helpless.  If you are unlucky you have the helpful helper, that guest, visitor, friend, relative who insists on helping.  More realistically getting in the way!  Putting cups and plates in the wrong cupboard, turning your cutlery draw into chaos, insisting on washing up when you’d rather fill the dishwasher but instead, because they have already filled the sink with soapy suds, you have to get out the tea towel and spend the next 15 minutes drying and making small talk over the pots.  The dishwasher would have dealt with it all.

This year for me there is no work, no job to return to and as much as I used to hate that back to school feeling, the pit of the stomach dread, I have felt the void.  So maybe then, this year more than any is the year to make some changes, some conscious changes rather than the life changing dramatic ones brought over the last couple of years, the loss of a job, the loss of a father, late and surprising motherhood.  Positive, conscious changes that I am in control of, I am accountable for.  Nothing that needs hours of cutting and pasting for a vision or dream board, no drastic clear out that requires ordering a skip and ransacking the house.  Just little thoughts on how my priorities could change to make each day something to go to bed on with a happy reflection.  Weed out those irritating things I do, or more to the point don’t do that make me want to sack myself, like still being sat in pyjamas at 3pm.  The new mum excuse must have expired by now and although some days there is nothing wrong with just getting through, most days I probably could have made a better job of it.  Saying “No” a little bit more rather than spreading myself so thin I end up exhausted and resentful.

This is not going to be a “smug new mummy” blog on how I got my life sorted!  I do not think having one, or even two, babies suddenly means I can preach to anyone, or suddenly makes what I have to say interesting.  I am not the first woman to have a baby, my baby is not the only one in the world.  She might be my everything but that certainly doesn’t make her everyone’s everything.  There are no prizes for being the slummiest mummy nor the super mum.  Again balance, somehow finding the balance between still being in my PJ’s surrounded by two days of kitchen crap at 3pm and having the immaculate house, immaculate hair and make up, my body is a temple diet and fitness regime, picture perfect “I’ve got this” life.  I haven’t got this, I’ve never felt more out of control in my life, but at the same time felt like maybe some of that control is now, maybe within my grasp.

So here goes to 2018 and taking a bit of that control.  I’m 40 FFS, it’s time I took some control of my own life!

In the spirit of a clean sweep I offer a recipe to do away with the last of the festive food, poached and smoked salmon.

IMG_0009In between Christmas we had the step sons, wives and girlfriends over and in the spirit of making life easier for myself I ordered a side of salmon from Booths (I love Booths for Christmas food ordering) the salmon came dressed with smoked salmon, prawns and a dill mayonnaise.  It was lovely but huge and along with the ham etc. etc. also on offer there were leftovers.  A quick and easy tea was in order.  Years ago I saw a recipe for Jansson’s Temptation and was intrigued, a quick google showed it to be not quite what I thought, I am sure the version I saw had salmon in.  This is assembly, on pot cooking at it’s best.  Comfort Food.

  • I estimated there was enough salmon, smoked and poached, left for two generous portions.
  • Peeled and chopped a couple of potatoes each into matchsticks about 1-2 inches long.
  • Mix the salmon with the potatoes a tub of creme fraiche, seasoning (go easy on the salt depending on how much smoked salmon is in the mix) some chopped fresh dill would be nice as would some chopped capers.
  • A little milk if the mixture is too thick.
  • Gruyère cheese would be my choice to sprinkle on the top, I didn’t have any so a sprinkling of parmesan cheese made do.
  • Cover with foil and bake at 180 fan, or the equivalent, for 30 mins.
  • Remove the foil and sprinkle with breadcrumbs if you have any and bake for a further 10 mins or so to brown and crisp up the top.
  • A handful of salad leaves is all I served this with.

A very tasty what I suppose could be called supper dish.