Our first harvest!

Oh botheration! It’s raining! This is, of course, well needed and good for the garden, but why does it have to come at the weekend and not while I’m stuck inside an office?  I managed approximately ten minutes in the garden this morning before it started coming down too heavily to contemplate staying out there. Let’s hope tomorrow is better.

I did manage to get my first haul (haul may be a slight exaggeration but I’m sticking with it) of produce from the garden in those ten minutes.

Whoop! Homegrown goodness! The strawberries are from my three plants that I’ve had in a pot for a couple of years now. I’m still having no luck with the new plants in the raised bed. I’m going to put straw underneath them to see if that’ll deter the slugs, or whatever it is that’s eating them.

The potatoes are Maris Peers. I have three different types of potatoes in three bags up by the greenhouse, and while all three have (or had, in the case of the Maris Peers) humongous stems and leaves sprouting out of the top, the Maris Peers are the only ones which have flowered. They all got really battered in the heavy rain we had a couple of weeks ago so now I don’t really know what to expect from the other two bags.

I’d been waiting for some of our own potatoes before trying a recipe from my Pinch of Nom cookbook that I’ve been drawling over for a while. Pinch of Nom is amazing and is helping me immeasurably with Slimming World. It’s not strictly aimed at followers of any particular diet plan but is full of lower fat/calorie dishes and alternatives for people who are watching their weight.

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Bacon, onion and potato bake. Doesn’t it look yummy? It’s completely Syn free on Slimming World as long as you use bacon medallions (or cut any excess fat off) and count the cheese on top as part of your healthy extra A.

My version looked a bit different!

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Not a million miles off though, and it tasted delicious!

I had some potatoes left over, and certainly didn’t want to waste any after growing them myself, so I made my own version of the bacon and onion frittata from the cookbook.

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We can have this cold for lunch tomorrow. I’m supposed to fill one third of my plate with speed food (most fruit and veg) so I could do with serving this with some salad but unfortunately we don’t have any in! Maybe I’ll have some carrot sticks.

I whipped up some dessert so we could have our massive crop of five strawberries! I’d seen people talk about this in the Pinch of Nom Facebook group and decided to give it a go.

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Game changer! It’s so simple, yet tastes like a proper indulgent pudding. It’s just a couple of spoonfuls of quark mixed with an Options mint hot chocolate sachet (one Syn for half) and put in the fridge for a while. Obviously the strawberries made it!

Speaking of food, we had our first barbecue of the season last night. Slimming World friendly for me, obviously!

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We have the smallest barbecue in the world! It does for us though. I am quite tempted to invest in a gas one but can’t decide if it’s worth it.

My burgers were the anaemic looking ones at the back. I went to Tesco to get their meat free burgers because they have no Syns. Quorn burgers are two and a half Syns for some reason. I’m not vegetarian (obviously, given the bacon in my lunch) but I’m not a meat lover, especially red meat, so I’m more than happy to have veggie burgers, and it’s a bonus that they’re less Syns.

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Look at that! Double decker burger! On a diet! Look at Minnie sneakily eying it up!

I added cheese from my healthy extra A and I made a Syn free sauce with fat free natural yoghurt, mint and garlic. The barbecue was an impromptu decision so I’d already had my healthy extra B for breakfast, which meant I had to count the Syns in the bread roll but if I’d been more organised I could’ve had a wholemeal roll and counted it as my B option which would mean the whole thing was free!

I made some pasta salad to have with my sausages so I didn’t have to use more Syns on bread.

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The sausages are Linda McCartney veggie ones which are yummy. Much nicer than Quorn ones. I would’ve loved to have a couple of hubby’s real sausages but it’s a small sacrifice to make if I continue to lose weight. I tried to keep the Syns down by mixing the pasta with quark and fat free natural yoghurt instead of mayo, but I think next time I’ll use lighter than light mayo and Syn it.

I’m not losing weight super fast, but, as they say, slow and steady wins the race. Let’s hope so. Having switched from WW to Slimming World this time around, I feel like Slimming World is more sustainable. The diet gurus all say that you need to change your habits forever to keep the weight off and with WW that seems really restrictive and life altering to maintain forever because of the nature of the plan, whereas Slimming World is more flexible. We’ve had some really delicious meals which I would be happy to eat over and over again so I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to stay on plan and that maintaining will be possible once I get to goal.

Support is crucial to anyone trying to lose weight. My hubby has no issue with weight, and he doesn’t put any pressure on me to change the way I look, but he knows it’s important to me so he tries to help as much as he can.

It used to be that you had to go to a diet group once a week to get external support, but these days social media plays a huge role. Writing about my weight loss journey (gosh that’s cliched!) on my blog and posting on Instagram is helpful to me, but there are millions of people on Instagram who post every meal they eat and give the recipes which helps to inspire me and give me new ideas. As I mentioned above, there’s a Pinch of Nom group on Facebook and most members seem to be following Slimming World so it’s a great community of like minded people sharing tips and tricks which are really helpful.

Let’s hope in a few months I’ll be able to report that I’m at target and planning to stay there forever! Right now, it’s nearly time for a takeaway – all counted and within plan, obviously!

We’re going on holiday!

Have you noticed the adverts on telly have switched from toys and food to holidays and diets? This is inevitable for this time of year, I think, but it really does show how consumer driven we all are.

I include myself in that. I’m back on my perennial January diet (New Year’s Resolution numero uno – a la Bridget Jones, obviously will lose half my body weight!) To aid myself in this endeavour I have purchased the aria Fitbit scales that I’ve wanted forever! These are the ultimate lazy scales! You don’t even have to log your weight, it gets sent straight to your Fitbit app and charts your progress.

They do, of course, allow for non Fitbit-obsessed husbands to also use them (after all, it wouldn’t be the best marketing strategy if the whole household had to have a Fitbit now would it?) It means his weight is also transmitted to my Fitbit, but he doesn’t care about that although I would be mortified if it were the other way round. He can eat cookies and crisps and down gallons of sugary drinks 24/7 without a murmur from the scales let alone a full on groan of squished pain!

You can imagine my surprise when I checked my Fitbit app yesterday and found this ….

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Now, slender as hubby is, 10.1 lbs he is not. What has occurred? thought I. Curious! Then, this morning whilst in the shower with the scales residing at the end of the bath I noticed a little furry white face looking at me! Olive has obviously become health conscious and decided to monitor her weight! Goodness! Have I passed on my somewhat unhealthy obsession with my weight to little Olive? She’s perfect as she is!

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Anyhow, the motivation for the weight loss regime (mine, not Olive’s) aside from the fact that only one pair of my work trousers fits comfortably at the moment, is a couple of upcoming holidays.

As we flumped our way out of the festive period we had two holidays planned for 2019, however, as is my wont, I have now booked another, rather more imminent holiday. I have to do something to make January less Januaryish (and preferably, February less Februaryish too) and more often than not, that involves booking a holiday.

I did briefly toy with the idea of splashing out on a short break to Iceland so that we could hopefully get to see the Northern Lights. However, the old purse would’ve been considerably lighter in this case and there’s obviously no guarantee that the old Aurora Borealis would play ball and show up on cue (how gutting would that be?) Then two people who know me better than most both looked at me in something akin to amazement crossed with horror when I floated this idea and said ‘but you hate the cold!’ There has never been a more true statement!

So, I decided we should make like geese and fly south. The obvious choice is the Canaries for Winter sun, but I just couldn’t seem to get excited by any of the islands. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Canaries (or the three of them that I’ve visited at least) but I was craving something a bit less Katie Price and rather more Victoria Coren Mitchell.

So, we’re going here ….

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Just over three weeks and off we’ll go. If you look at Malta on the map, it’s in line with northern Africa so in theory the weather should be pleasant. Not as warm as the Canaries admittedly, but we should get to feel the sun on our skin (hopefully, please oh sacred God of Sun). Whatever, it would be a sad day for Malta if it was ever as cold as the UK!

We’ve booked a really cute little studio apartment in the capital, Valletta, through Airbnb. I was sold by this picture of the view from the Juliet balcony.

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Doesn’t it look pretty?

I love love love holiday planning. I adore leafing through a guidebook to find the best things to do, the scrummiest food to eat, and the secret hideaways that only locals know about. I get to write lists! What to remember to do before we go, what to pack. Ooh ooh ooh and an ITINERARY! I get to make an itinerary! What to do, when to do it, how to get there, what to take, how much it costs, what to wear. Oooooooooooh! It’s exciting!

I almost hate to tell you what the downside of all this is. Ryanair! That’s the downside! I hate giving luggage charging, strictly one piece of hand baggage, general money grabbing Michael O’Leary any of my hard earned cash, but he’s got you by the short and curlies (and he knows it!) It’s best for my blood pressure if I don’t talk about Ryanair any more, but, just to cheer up anyone else who has the same aversion to hearing that flipping bugle toot as you land on time (mainly because they didn’t clean the plane from the inbound flight leaving you to extract the sticky sweet papers from your own seat, and then bullied you down the aisle so fast that you tripped over the person in front’s cabin baggage (40 x 20 x 25cm and not a millimetre more) which would’ve been checked in and out of the way if they didn’t charge you for the pleasure and then don’t let you get up from your seat to speak to your husband who’s sitting three rows behind you because you refused to be forced to pay to choose seats together) here’s a link to a hilarious Fascinating Aida song which is completely based on Ryanair (it’s got to be!)

Anyway, Ryanair excepted (or should that be, accepted, through lack of choice?) I can’t wait! I’ve got a lot of crochet to get on with, and a lot of gardening ideas fizzing away in my head that need refining, but I’m planning to spend a good proportion of tomorrow devouring my guidebook and starting to play with my ITINERARY!

If anyone’s been to Malta and has any tips, I’d be really grateful to hear them, but for now, have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

A week of food

I’m actually halfway through a draft of a post I’ve been pondering for a few weeks, but it’s taking me a little while to get it right, so in the meantime I’ve come to tell you about my week of scrummy food. Honestly it’s no wonder I struggle to lose weight!

We had another Gousto box this week and, oh my, it was full of deliciousness!

We started the week with a veggie offering. Neither of us is vegetarian, but we are both animal lovers so we do try to reduce the amount of meat we eat. Hubby tries to only eat it once a day, and I will often choose a veggie option over meat. I’m not a massive meat lover anyway, I don’t really like the texture and I can’t bear fatty or gristly cuts. I find that I get very tired after prolonged periods without meat, so I don’t cut it out altogether. I’m obviously not getting everything I need from my veggie choices.

Anyway, feast your eyes on this.

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This is a spinach and feta tart with crispy potatoes and rocket salad. It was really quick and easy to make and so so tasty. It reminded us both of relaxed and restful Greek holidays, probably just because of the feta. Y-um!

Next up I took a bit of a risk. Tandoori fish! I don’t mind fish (as long as it doesn’t still have its eye looking at me *shudder*) but I wasn’t sure if the delicate fishy flavours would work with the strong tasting tandoori marinade, but it absolutely did. I should have known really because good old Gousto has rarely let us down. I forgot to take a photo of this one, so desperate was I to try it but here’s the Gousto pic.

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Next up was another veggie dish. I love love loved this one, and again it was super easy to make and took less than fifteen minutes. Hubby says he liked it, but I didn’t get the vibe that he loved it quite as much as I did. I love picky food – crisps and dips, crudités, a finger buffet – so Gousto’s halloumi shawarma with hummus couldn’t have been further up my alley.

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We grilled the pittas and pumpkin seeds, fried the halloumi in a tiny bit of olive oil and blitzed together chickpeas, garlic, tahini, olive oil and lemon to make the hummus …… and then the dipping commenced. The nommiest of noms!

Finally we had a meat option, chicken schnitzel with apple and potato salad. I have absolutely no doubt that this will become a regular dish in the Green Girl Gardener household. Really simple and easy to make, oh so tasty, and common ingredients that we generally have in the kitchen already.

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We had a lovely, and delicious, surprise at our front door on Monday this week. Our neighbours held their baby son’s christening at the weekend, and it seems they’d over-catered (always safer than under-catering) and they brought us round cake! How amazing! Cake on the doorstep on a Monday evening. How very kind of them to think of us.

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It was a rocky road style cake topped with teeny tiny marshmallows and hundreds and thousands all drizzled with white chocolate. Sooooooo good! Mindful of having to get into swimwear in the near future, I shared the joy and took the last four pieces to work for my lovely colleagues to enjoy.

The working week ended with another delicious meal, this time out with my Dad and our very good friend in town. Yep, that’s right, I went out! Not just out, but out out. In town! Not the local town, but proper city centre, second city, Birmingham town. Whoop! Don’t do this very often so it feels like such a luxury, and oh my goodness, this restaurant didn’t disappoint.

It’s an Indian restaurant called Varanasi, but this is not just your local sit down, bring your own, have a great time Indian restaurant. This one did Indian food and fancy dining with so much aplomb that my head practically exploded with gleeful wonderment!

First of all I have to show you a few snaps of the interior which dazzled and amazed before we’d even got as far as opening the wine list (New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, obviously!) or perusing the menu.

Just look!

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You really feel like you’re entering somewhere special as you’re escorted down that corridor of Buddha-Esque statues. I’m ashamed to say I don’t know who they represented. Krishna maybe?

The restaurant on the other side is laid out over three floors with balconies overlooking the lower levels and low lighting to accentuate the ambience created by the burning incense. I don’t normally like incense, but this was by no means overpowering and made me feel completely immersed in the Hindu inspired environment.

Once we had finished marvelling at our surrounding, and we were seated, we commenced the almost impossible task of deciding what to choose from the menu. Not easy! We had some poppadoms and chutneys whilst we decided.

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Even this was done well with each of us having our own chutney pots to save reaching over each other. This is always awkward I find when you’re out in a larger group and you don’t have the chutney right in front of you and have to either keep leaning over your neighbour or cover your plate in raita which you then can’t quite scoop on to your poppadom!

The waiters were incredibly attentive without being intrusive and were around to give us advice on which dishes to choose. I decided on the Varanasi special chicken curry with steamed rice and I opted to have it cooked with medium spice.

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It was amazing. It had a definite kick (glad I opted for medium) but with a hint of ginger. The dish was beautifully presented and perfectly cooked. It was a veritable delectation for the taste buds! We shared a naan bread which again appeals to my love of picky, dippy food. We were three very satisfied diners.

Goodness knows how, but between us we managed to get through four bottles of the fruity Sauvignon Blanc so a trip to the little girls’ room was required, and luckily I took my phone with me because there were more photo opportunities.

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What a beautiful bathroom.  The hand wash smelt divine! I didn’t use the moisturiser because when our hand towels were brought after dinner which were expanded in little bowls of water in front of us, we were also given a little bottle of moisturiser, so I used that.

All in all, a thoroughly excellent evening of laughs and scrumptious food. I would highly recommend Varanasi to anyone who finds themselves in the vacinity of this great city of mine.

Must dash, we’re off to the matinee performance of War Horse today (in town again, twice within twenty four hours!) so I need to get a wiggle on. I’m super excited about seeing this show. I loved the book and I know several people who have seen the stage show and have raved about it. I’ll let you all know if it lives up to expectations. I have no doubt it will.