Menu Planning: KISS It!

As the name of my blog suggest, I LOVE food.  I love cooking it, reading about it, shopping for it, watching programs about it and most of all, eating it!KISS

My love of food often serves me well.  But when it comes to menu planning and staying on track, it can sometimes become a bit of a hindrance:  In my efforts to avoid getting stuck in the rut of having the same things to eat week in, week out, it can take me ages to plan what to have as I scour my numerous cookbooks (51 at last count.  And that was after a massive cull!) for inspiration.  Having spent a lot of time and effort planning what to eat and having shopped in advance for ingredients for the week, I often find myself in the situation where I can’t be bothered to spend an hour in the kitchen after getting in from work.

So I’m trying to address this issue by taking a different approach to my menu planning.  I’ve decided to taking the KISS approach: Keep It Simple Stupid.  My thinking is that if I plan to have meals that are simple to make in the week,

  • I’ll save myself time in the planning & cooking stages,
  • I’m more likely to stay on track rather than ordering a takeaway
  • I’ll throw less food away
  • I’ll take more pleasure in cooking fancier dishes when I’ve got the time to take my time and enjoy it.

What I’m eating

So, over the past week or so, I’ve enjoyed: a salmon stir-fry; jacket potatoes with various fillings; Tuna & Pesto Pasta (simple recipe coming soon); Bacon, Mushroom & Tomato Pasta; cheese on toast; beans on toast; bagels with soft cheese; and a variety of soups that I’ve made in batches and frozen to take to work for my lunches.

So far, I’m finding that it’s making it easier to plan meals and to stick to my plan in the week.

I also used the KISS strategy when out shopping at the weekend: I hadn’t had chance to plan the meals for the week but I knew the kind of things to buy so that I’d be able to work the points in.  I nearly came unstuck when my husband said that he wanted shepherds pie for Sunday dinner.  He was happy with a ready made one but I knew that would work out to more points than I’d be happy to spend and I didn’t have the time (or inclination) to make one from scratch.  So instead, I got myself some pork chops and had one of those with some potatoes, veg and gravy for 8 Smart Points.  Simple

What are your go to KISS meals?  I’m always looking for new inspiration.

Thanks for reading,

FFF

 

PS The link in this post is to an old recipe with Pro Points values, it will still work out well on Smart Points as you only need to count the bacon and pasta (and oil unless using spray oil).  I hope to get round to updating my recipes to show Smart Points values soon.

 

Progress Report: Slow & Steady Wins the Race

A week or so ago, I wrote my first blog post of 2016 (and my first for quite some time)
about how I was getting back on track and was determined to keep up with the blogging.  Then nothing.  Well, nothing blog-wise anyway.

Although I may have been quiet on the blog front, I am pleased to say that I have been keeping my new year’s promises to myself so far.

I’ve promised myself that I’m going to be kinder to myself.  In that vein, over the couple of weeks I have been for a makeover (although I’ve yet to practise applying my new make-up for myself – here’s hoping I don’t look like Coco The Clown!), enjoyed a bath with one of my favourite Lush products and spent a little bit of time playing The Sims – a game I love but usually can’t find time for.

I’ve also promised to prioritise things that are important to me and so I’ve found myself making sure that I leave work a bit earlier on the nights I’ve arranged to go running, convincing my husband that it wasn’t too late or too wet for us to go running last Tuesday evening and choosing a healthier option when we were unexpectedly invited out for a curry last Friday.

In conclusion, I wouldn’t say I’m made a lightening start to the year, but I’ve made some small changes that I’m hoping to be able to keep up and build on. Weeks 1 & 2 So far I’m winning at the scales too: I’m two weigh-ins in to 2016 and I’ve lost 2.5lb.  Again, it’s nothing incredible, but slow and steady wins the race.

This week, I want to try to prioritise my blog.  I’ve got a couple of posts that I’m looking forward to sharing with you so watch this space (hopefully you won’t be watching for so long this time!).

Thanks for reading,

FFF

What are you doing to be kinder to yourself this year?

 

My New Year’s Promise

Happy New Year!

Image courtesy of Heavypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Heavypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve been away from blogging for quite a while now but it’s already starting to feel as though I’ve never been away.

As we are already half way through the second week in January, it feels a little bit weird to be saying ‘Happy New Year’ still but I think I’ll keep things a bit traditional for my first post of 2016.

The reason for the delay is that I’ve been given a LOT of thought about the theme of my first post.  Last year, I spoke about not wanting to make resolutions because they’ve previously left me feeling like a failure.  But clearly that didn’t have the intended effect and I sit here around the same weight as I was last year, if not a few ponds heavier, and I’m still unhappy with my body and fitness levels.

So what went wrong and what am I going to do differently?

Firstly, I let too many things get in the way of me achieving my goals last year.  Some of these things I had control over and some I didn’t.  To cut a long story short, last year was Hectic (and yes, that IS Hectic with a capital H) and looking after myself pushed off my priorities list.

So this year I’m making myself a couple of ‘promises’ as I think this sounds a little bit more positive than making some resolutions:

  1. I promise to be kinder to myself
  2. I promise to prioritise the things I actually want to spend time on rather than the things I think I should be spending time on

That’s it.  Short and sweet.

This week, I was back to work after a two week break for Christmas.  In order to keep my promises to myself, I made sure that I left work at a reasonable time each night.  My plan was that I would go for a walk in the evenings to make sure that I clocked up 10,000 steps each day.  I did this on every day except for Saturday (when I forgot due to it not being a work day and by the time I remembered, it was raining so heavily that I think I would have drowned if I’d gone out in it – note to self, check weather forecast in advance in future!) and I even found myself agreeing to restart the Couch to 5K training plan which I did on Thursday & this morning.  I must admit I was a little bit nervous at first as I can’t remember the last time I ran, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought and I felt really good after doing it.

Although I was back to Weight Watchers for my first weigh in of the new year last Monday, I haven’t been very focused on my food this week.  However, I have made up 6 batches of different soups to take to work for my lunch each day and my goal for this week is to be more focused on my food choices.  I’m not going to promise myself that I’m going to stay on track 100% for the entire week but I’m going to aim for that.  If I can track for 5 out of the 7 days I’ll be happy with that.

I’m looking forward to getting to grips with the new Smart Points plan too.  I’m motivated by the way it seems tailored to encourage healthier food choices.  To help me, I’m stealing an affirmation that I’ve just seen on an episode of Fat: The Fight of My Life (I find these programs massively inspirational):

“The purpose of food is to nourish my body and mind.  I will not find comfort in food.”

I also aim to get my blogging mojo back this year.  I really enjoy it and I find it really motivating – I just need to make sure I prioritise it.

Now, in the interests of being kinder to myself, I’m off to enjoy a lovely, relaxing bath.

Thanks for reading,

FFF

 

P.S. Have you made any ‘promises’ to yourself this year? I’d love to hear how you’re getting on with them so far.

 

Easy Red Lentil Soup

An easy to make soup that’s perfect for autumn

Servings:    6

Smart Points:    2

No Count

Cooking time:    5mins prep + 30mins cooking

Ingredients

  • 1tsp healthy oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 250g carrots, finely chopped
  • 110g red lentils
  • 3 vegetable stock cubes made up with 1.7l boiling water
  • salt & pepper

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and carrot and cook gently until soft, without browning.
  2. Add the stock and the lentils.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. When the lentils and vegetables are tender, blend until smooth.
  4. Reheat.  Season to taste and serve.

Fresh Start Statistics

So, I braved the scales last night for my post-holiday (which was 2 weeks at a Gourmet Inclusive hotel) weigh-in and I was astounded to find that I’d only put on 1.5lbs!  I nearly fell off the scales!

Whilst I’m not happy with having let my weight creep back up to its current reading, I’m not going to dwell on it – there’s no point: I can’t change the past.  What I can do is learn from it and move forward.

So here are the starting statistics for the next leg of my weight loss journey:

Current weight:    13st 5lbs

Waist:    36in

Hips:      44in

Bust:      42in

Arms:    13in

Thighs:  25in

These are the targets I’ve set based on my current weight:

Goal Amount  to lose Target Weight Date to be achieved by
Mini-goal

4lbs

13st 1lb

05/10/15 (loss of   1lb/week for 4 weeks)
5% of current weight

9.5lbs

12st 9.5lbs

16/11/15 (loss of   1lb/week for 9 weeks)
10% of current weight

19lbs

11st 13.5lb

25/01/16 (loss of   1lb/week for 19 weeks)
Goal Weight

40lbs

10st 7lb

20/06/16 (loss of   1lb/week for 40 weeks)

I have based the dates for each of my targets on a weight loss of 1lb per week which falls well within the Weight Watchers plan’s recommendations of between 05-2lb per week.  I’m sure there will be some weeks when I do better but I want my targets to be realistic and achievable.

As I achieve each of my small targets, I will be setting another one to help break my final goal down into more manageable chunks.

It was actually a bit disheartening to calculate how long it will take me to get to goal – 9 months!! However, I’m trying to view this in a positive way – I definitely don’t want it to take any longer than that so I need to stay focused.  And who knows, if I stick to the plan, I might even get there a bit quicker.  After all, I know from experience that when you stick to the plan, it works.

Here are my current pictures – taken on the last day of my holiday.  I plan to update these and my measurements every month or two to help show my progress.  Although in subsequent pictures, my skin is likely to be even pastier as, believe it or not, these show me with what is a pretty good tan for my Irish heritage, so apologies in advance for that!

Me, September 2015

Thanks for reading,

FFF

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

No, I’m not totally confused and neither have I been through some kind of time-warp.  But I am celebrating the new school year.

I'm looking forward to starting the next chapter in my weight loss journey (in fact this book was actually filled with puddings so I was REALLY excited about starting it!)

I’m looking forward to starting the next chapter in my weight loss journey (in fact this book was actually filled with puddings so I was REALLY excited about starting it!)

One of the advantages of working in schools is that every September you get that ‘new year’ motivation that everyone else only gets in January.  Remember when you were at school and you had new teachers, new classrooms, new books?  You would vow to keep your books pristine and complete your homework diligently as soon as it was set. It was such an inspiring and motivational time.  Well, even as an adult, I feel the same way at this time of year.  So I’m going to use that positive feeling to focus on the next stage on my journey to goal.

For some people, losing weight is a simple, straight forward process: They decide they want to lose weight, change their diet and exercise habits and lose weight.  However, for many people, it’s not that simple and straight forward.  I fall into the latter category (see here, here, here and here if you’d like proof).

Ordinarily, I like to use the long summer holidays to refocus on healthy eating and exercise following a long and tiring school year.  This year however, we ended up having to go on holiday at the end of the summer instead of the beginning when we normally go.  This made it difficult for me to get motivated with my food and exercise as I felt like I’d just undo the hard work I’d put in when I went on holiday.  I did try for damage limitation initially, but that didn’t last long as I kept telling myself that I wasn’t going to worry about my weight loss journey until I was back at school.

What I did do, however, was take the time to begin decluttering my life.  I have a demanding job with long hours, various other commitments outside work and a large family to keep up to date with.  The result is that I often feel as though I’m living at a million miles an hour and I find that my living space can easily become cluttered and chaotic (I’m astounded at how much ‘stuff’ I have amassed in the decade since I left home).  I reasoned that by focusing on getting my house in order, I would feel calmer and would find it easier to focus on the other areas of my life that I want to improve, including my health and fitness goals.

I’m not completely decluttered yet – I’m  about halfway through so far – but I’ve already started to see improvements such as not letting paperwork stack up.  So I’m hopeful that the positivity I’m feeling from this will help me to focus on what I need to do to achieve my weight loss goals.  I’ve spent today preparing my food for the week.  I’ve made 2 batches of soup for my lunches (recipes to follow later in the week) and a thai beef curry for dinner one night.  I’ve got the rest of my meals for the week planned and the ingredients are all bought.  I’ve stocked up on some tasty fruit to snack on and I’ll be making some bircher muesli tonight ready for my breakfast tomorrow.

I’m really looking forward to tackling the next stage in my weight loss journey.  I’m even actually looking forward to my weigh in tomorrow night to find out what my starting point is!  Here’s hoping the motivation will carry through to tackling my workload for the term…

Thanks for reading.

 

FFF

PS –  I’ve been following a process for decluttering after reading a book (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo if you’re interested).  While I don’t agree with everything in it, I have found it to be a very useful tool so far.  I’m hoping to be completely decluttered by Christmas, maybe sooner, and I’ll write a review of the process then.

Ratatouille with Chicken

A tasty, versatile sauce that makes and excellent accompaniment to pasta, rice or potatoes.

I served mine with 60g wholewheat pasta twists for an extra 6pp.

I served mine with 60g wholewheat pasta twists for an extra 6 Pro Points.

Servings:    6

Pro Points:    2

Filling & Healthy:    0 (if using oil from your daily allowance)

Cooking time:    40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4tsp healthy oil
  • 1 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 aubergine, cut into large chunks
  • 1 large courgette, cut into thick semi-circles
  • 1 red and 1 yellow pepper, cut into large chunks
  • large handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1tsp chilli flakes
  • 1tbsp mixed herbs
  • 5 cloves garlic, 3 unpeeled, 2 peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 medium (165g each) chicken breasts
  • 2x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 2ooml chicken stock made with 1 stock cube
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • large bunch fresh basil, torn roughly

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200c/fan 180/Gas Mark 6.
  2. Put all of the chopped vegetables into a large roasting tin.  Lightly crush the 3 unpeeled cloves of garlic under a large flat knife or using the heel of your hand and add to the tin.
  3. Drizzle 4tsp of the oil over the vegetables and sprinkle with the mixed herbs, chilli flakes and a good pinch of salt and pepper.  Toss the vegetables well until they are all coated with the oil and seasoning.
  4. Lie the chicken breasts on top of the vegtables and put the tin into the oven to roast for 30mins (after 15mins, toss the vegetables again).
  5. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large pan over a med/low heat.  Add the chopped garlic and gently stir fry to 1min.
  6. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree and stock to the garlic and bring to rapid simmer for 3mins before adding the chopped basil.
  7. When the vegtables are soft and the chicken is cooked through, chop the chicken into bitesize pieces before adding the whole lot, including any roasting juices, to the tomatoe sauce.
  8. Bring the sauce to a rapid simmer for a few minutes.  Check the seasoning and serve.

Top Tip: Leave out the chicken and use vegetable stock to make this a 0 Pro Points, vegan/vegetarian dish. 

Operation Damage Limitation: Starting Statistics

As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been off-track for a while and my weight has been slowly and surely creeping

Image courtesy of zirconicusso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of zirconicusso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

up.

As a busy primary school teacher, I usually use the long summer holidays to kick-start/refocus my weight loss efforts and I organise my holiday around this – going away at the beginning of the break so that I have time to get back on track before going back to school.  However, this year, we’ve had to rearrange our holiday dates and destination and I’m now not going away until the end of the summer.  AND the place I’m going to is a Gourmet Inclusive place with amazing food and drink available 24hrs.

 

So, I could either write the whole summer off, and no doubt put on even more weight before my holiday, or make the most of the time I’ve got.  I’ve decided to go with the former and try to kickstart my weight-loss before I go away.

 

Start of summer weight (20/7/15):    13st 5lbs

Waist:    35.5in

Hips:      45in

Bust:      40in

Arms:    12in

Thighs:  26in

I’ve set myself a goal of getting below the 13st mark before I go away.  When I come back, I’ll set myself some medium and long term targets.

WI Results – Damage Limitation Week 1

Weight loss:   1.5lb

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Current weight:    13st 3.5lb

Weight loss since start:   1.5lb

Lbs to go to reach next target:   4lb

 

What’s gone well?

I’m really pleased with my weight loss this week.  I’ve been exercising really hard using my new training app (more about that soon) and have found it pretty easy to stick to eating healthily.

Unbelieveably, I’ve managed to ‘run’ (more like a steady plod really) two 5km distances this week.  I’m not loving the running aspect of the training so far but I know that I soon will once I get back into it properly.

Despite eating out a couple of times this week, including on a fantastic day out in London taking my mum to see The Lion King, I managed to make sensible choices and avoided the temptations of desert on boths occassions.

 

What’s been difficult?

I’m finding tracking difficult.  I’m not sure why.  I seem to have some kind of mental block.  I did ok with it up until Friday and then it went out of the window.  I still had the plan in the front of my mind but I just didn’t write anything down.  I don’t really know why.  I had time and I’m determined to eat healthily.  It’s a puzzle.

 

The week ahead

I’m planning on sticking with my training programme this week as well as trying a new circuits class this evening.  I’ve got to increase my run to 6km for one of the two this week and I’m quite looking forward to that.  I’m going to add the extra 1km to the beginning part of the route so that in my head, I’m doing the extra before I get tired.

My biggest challenge this week is going to be spending a girls’ weekend in Liverpool.  I’m really going to try hard to track so that it will hopefully help to keep me focused.  I’m going to take my trainers and running gear with me too so that I can complete this weekend’s run along the waterfront.

I’ve also set myself a mini-target of losing another 4lb by the time I go on holiday which will take me back into the 12st bracket.  I’m hoping that this small but achieveable target will help me to stay on track.

Wish me luck.  And if you’ve got any idea about why I hit a block with tracking at the weekend, please let me know!

 

Thanks for reading,

FFF

 

 

 

Asian Quinoa Stir-Fry

I made this Asian Quinoa Stir-Fry tonight for dinner for myself and my sister from the January 2015 edition of the BBC Good Food magazine. Asian Quinoa Stir Fry

It’s a vegan-friendly, wheat-free recipe and came in at 7pp on the Weight Watchers Plan.

It was simple to prepare, really tasty and felt incredibly healthy to eat.  The only change I’d make if cooking it again would be that I’d use less liquid than it states in the recipe as mine turned out quite soupy.