Slimming World – 5 Weeks In

So I haven’t blogged in like a month. I fell off the blogging wagon. However, I have very much been on the diet wagon!

I’ve been at Slimming World for 6 weeks now and I’m very pleased to report I received my 1/2 stone award on Tuesday after an astonishing 2.5lbs loss, for a grand total of 7.5 lbs lost on Slimming World, and 9 lbs lost since the start of the year!

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Woo!

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Ben has also lost an incredible 10lbs! We’re absolutely chuffed to bits and determined to carry on. I hate to sound like a massive loser but I really am enjoying it. I’m loving the support network I’ve found via Instagram, I enjoy going to group and listening to everyones stories, I’m LOVING the food and don’t feel like I’ve been on a diet at all which is pretty impressive. As I’ve said before, I hate boring food and I’d be so depressed if I had to count calories or felt restricted in any way. Seriously, if we haven’t been shopping for a while and my work lunch consists of a sad collection of vegetables and yogurt or something, it actually ruins my day. We’ve started doing a smaller, weekly shop so we can get all the fresh veg and fruit you need ridiculous amounts of on SW, and this is working really well for us.

So, some of the food I’ve been eating! My photos aren’t the best as I take them with my phone instead of doing the right thing and getting my SLR out – in my defence I’m always too hungry (food blogger fail) but I hope I can show that you really cn eat some lovely, exciting food on SW! I do find it slightly upsetting sitting at group and some of the ladies are talking about their dinners like “I’ve had tuna and rice, chicken and boiled veg, lots of Muller Lights…” THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO LIFE!!

Breakfasts

I’m still obsessed with porridge. Literally cannot get enough. It fills me up, it’s super low calorie, I don’t have to use any milk…it’s AMAZING. I use the ‘whipped banana’ method as described on KathEats and no, I don’t sun the banana. I’d be eating the banana anyway and it’s way more enjoyable chopped up and mixed into the porridge to create a huge, frothy bowl of banana-ry goodness. Mmm! I have also recently discovered something that has, quite honestly, changed my porridge life. PB2 is a powder made from de-fatted peanuts (?) that tastes exactly like peanut butter with MUCH better stats. Just to give you an idea, a level tbsp of peanut butter is 4 syns. If you mix 2 tbsp of PB2 powder with a little bit of water, it’s 2.5 syns. TWO POINT FIVE SYNS. That’s just over half the syns, for twice the amount. Awesome times. I bought both the regular and chocolate versions from Amazon and I can’t recommend them enough if you’re a peanut butter fiend.

Porridge with PB2…not the most photogenic combination, but definitely a delicious one.

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On days when I want to save my HEXB for a wholemeal roll or pitta bread at dinner, I normally just have chopped fruit with a yogurt. Sometimes though, when it’s cold (which it always seems to be!) I fancy something a bit more substantial. Last week I experimented with a version of the magic pancakes, made even more magic by removing the oats! So it was just an egg. I whipped the white separately, folded in the yolk and some sweetener, and cooked them in a pan with some Frylight. The verdict? Actually okay! They would have been better if I hadn’t been in a massive rush to get to work and accidentally burned them, but definitely something I’d make again at the weekends if I wanted a treat without using my HEXB. Recommended!

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On the weekends, I can afford to be a little more extravagant with my breakfasts:

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Lunch

Lunches are usually leftovers with fruit, tinned spaghetti or tuna salads. Gripping stuff. However, this week I made the pea and ham soup from the SW website and loved it! It was so easy to make too, I couldn’t believe it! It’s done me for 3 lunches and it tastes delicious.

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Dinner

Dinner is the highlight of the day and a chance for us to really experiment and have something a bit more exciting.

This was slow-cooker pulled pork in a BBQ sauce (diet coke added, totally makes it!) with a wholemeal roll, sweet potato chips and syn-free coleslaw. So good!

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Last Wednesday I randomly decided to make chicken tikka masala from the Fakeaways book (such a great book.) It was a really good recipe, if slightly faffy for a school night, but then that was my own fault. I also made Ben a vegetarian version, which added to the faff (he offered to make his own curry but I wanted to make him this one…schoolboy error) and I also sponatenouslty decided to make SW onion bhajis. So yeah, it was a good 2 hours worth of kitchen time…but it was worth it!

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I won’t post the recipe because it’s in the book, but here is a gratuitous shot of the meaty and veggie versions simultaneously grilling in the tikka/yoghurt sauce. I probably wouldn’t bother with this step next time as it was crazy amounts of effort and I don’t feel it added a huge amount to the final taste.

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This was also my first experience making cauliflower rice, and I loved it! I bought frozen cauliflower (much cheaper than fresh and lasts longer) thawed it for a bit, grated it using my cheese grater, and sautéed it in a pan with garlic and coriander. It was very rice-like and actually I think I preferred it. Definitely good if you feel like you’ve OD’d a bit on carbs (a common occurrence on Slimming World) although obviously I added chips just to make sure I got those carbs back in.

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The onion bhajis were really lovely too! They were just mashed chickpeas, sliced onions, curry powder, cumin and coriander, shaped into balls and baked! Definitely recommend if you’re like me and like your Indian Fakeaway to have a bit of everything.

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Some nights, only pasta will do. This was a godsend; after a busy day at work I was able to reheat a batch of beef in red wine I’d frozen a couple of weeks earlier, roast some veggies, pile it onto spaghetti and top with my HEXA of cheese.

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This was creamy tomato pasta bake with chicken and bacon. I much prefer creamy, ‘Alfredo’ style pasta dishes over tomato based so this is a good compromise. I just stir in a few spoonfuls of Quark right at the end of cooking and it adds a lovely creamy flavour. Not as good as actual cream obviously, but if that was the case we’d all be thin and Slimming World wouldn’t exist.

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One night I came home to a beautiful meal cooked for me by Mr Ben, homemade SW falafel! Served in a wholemeal pitta bread (the WeightWatchers ones are a HEXB!) with loads of salad, garlicky yogurt, hummus, homemade ketchup and SW chips. This type of food lends itself really well to Food Optimising and we’ll be having it a lot more often now I know Ben can make it!! I’m joking, he loves cooking and would cook more often if I wasn’t such a kitchen nazi and enjoyed it so much myself.

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My favourite meal of the last few weeks was a wonderful risotto stuffed butternut squash, a meal that deserves its own post so watch out for it this week!

To my fellow slimmers, good luck on your journey this week. To everyone else, happy eating!

Slimming World – Week 1

Gather round boys and girls, it’s Wednesday, which means yesterday was WEIGH-IN day! I went to group at 5.30, all nervous and jittery to face the scales after not weighing myself ALL WEEK, a huge achievement for me 🙂

The verdict?

A slightly underwhelming 1.5lbs off. Hmmm. I was disappointed 😦 I’ve been 100% on plan this week, something which has never happened before on any diet I’ve undertaken haha and I just feel I did everything I could to lose weight. However, I haven’t got a huge amount to lose (1.5 stone, maybe 2 depending on how it goes) so I’m not expecting to see huge losses each week. I guess I just thought for the first week, I’d see 2 or 3. Never mind! Onwards and upwards! One thing that was good is when I got home after group, I didn’t feel a mad urge to drink wine and eat chocolate and treat (cheat!) myself to make up for my disappointing loss. I simply made an on-plan dinner like every other night, and enjoyed it whilst watching Dr Christian Jessen chastise overweight people on Channel 4. Does anyone else LOVE TV shows about diets and weight loss? I’m all over them like a rash, especially this time of year!

So I’m going to carry on this week as I’ve been doing, introducing more speed foods where I can and making sure 1/3rd of my plate is always speed. Hopefully I’ll see a bigger loss next week 🙂 In other news, my fiancé lost an incredible SIX POUNDS this week! He was absolutely chuffed and I’m so, so proud of him. Go Benj!

I have made some delicious meals over the past few days, something I am going to continue this coming week. I love trying new recipes and I find it keeps me interested and on-plan.

Here’s a brief round up (“Woody’s rounnndddd-upppp…” you’ll get that if you’re a Toy Story fan. If you aren’t, soz) of my eats over the past few days. Breakfasts have been porridge and water every day which surprisingly hasn’t got boring, with splenda, cinnamon and a chopped up banana. Still loving this combo!

On Sunday I cooked us a massive ‘grill-up’ – Tesco meat-free Lincolnshire sausages, sautéed potatoes, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes and fried eggs. All cooked in fry-light, all FREE! Well, until I googled the sausages and discovered they were 1.5 syns EACH. EACH!! So this was actually 3 syns 😦 Don’t buy those sausages. Unfortunately, I bought 2 bags, so we’ll be eating them for a good while yet.

Breakfasts this week will continue to be porridge or fruit and yogurt when I need to save my HEXB for later in the day. I always thought fruit and yogurt was a bit of a boring, wishy washy standard SW meal (something I strive to avoid in my own Food Optimising journey) but actually, it’s quite nice. I use fat free natural yogurt, sliced banana and pear, and a WeightWatchers Dessert yogurt on top. These have nice flavours like Raspberry Tart and Lemon Tart, and they just make the bowl way more exciting. These are FREE, but obvi Slimming World won’t be shouting this from the rooftops as WW are their Rivals.

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Yum!

Lunches have also been leftovers or a serving of the massive tuna sweetcorn pasta salad I made last night. I’d definitely recommend making one of these to nibble on through the week, I used Tesco extra light mayo which is only 1/2 sun per tablespoon and I used 3 for the whole lot 🙂

Onto dinners! Oooooh I had some lovely dinners over the weekend! Friday night was burger night in our household! And what a treat that was. We had Quorn burgers, onion, lettuce, HEXA reduced fat cheddar, HEXB wholemeal roll, and I added bacon. So good! I was absolutely stuffed after this! Definitely going to keep these as a weekend treat so we don’t get sick of them, I feel like I could eat them every night though!

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Saturday night I had rump steak with all the fat trimmed off, boulangerie potatoes (recipe here) and roasted veggies. I synned a tablespoon of the heavenly Creme de St Agur as a sauce for the steak. This was lovely!

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On Sunday I fancied something hearty and warming. Slimming World beef bourguignon fit the bill! I pretty much followed the recipe exactly apart from adding more garlic and chopped carrot, and leaving out the mushrooms. I also only had 250g of beef whereas the recipe called for 700g, so it was a much smaller portion! I served it over parpadelle pasta (free!) and sliced courgettes, with my HEXA of parmesan. You get a LOT of parmesan for your HEXA!

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Monday night was a bit of an gamble, but it turned out really well! I had planned to do cajun spiced chicken thighs but we didn’t have any cajun spice. I used a bit of southern fried potato seasoning that was kicking about in the cupboard instead, simply rubbing it onto the thighs after removing the skin and all visible fat. Served with roasted vegetables, sweetcorn, roasted sweet potato wedges and a garlic yoghurt dip, this was amazing! I love meals like this, with lots of different flavours and textures.

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Finally, after weigh in last night, I had fish and chips! This was from the Fakeaways book and involved whisking egg whites and folding a yolk in to create a batter for the fish. I’ll be honest, the batter wasn’t great. After being out of the oven for approximately 10 seconds it deflated and went a bit soggy, pretty much tasting like fish with omelette on. Not necessarily a bad thing, but definitely not what I signed up for. I was prepared for this though as I’d read another bloggers experience of making this dish, and she warned this would happen. It looked convincing though and I was pleased how batter-like it appeared! Next time I’ll skip the batter faff and just have the fish plain, as it was delicious anyway 🙂 This was also my first taste of mushy peas (I know, I’m 27 and need to get out more) and I loved them! I mixed in loads of salt, pepper and garlic powder as they were blander than bland to begin with, but after that they were damnnn good!

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So that was my week! Onwards and upwards to this new week! I’ll be doing our meal plan tonight and getting organised for the next few days 🙂 Good luck everyone else following SW!

First Few Slimming World Days

So, my first week of Slimming World! I started following the plan on Monday, weighed in to my new group on Tuesday, and it’s now Thursday night. We (me and the boy are both following the plan!) have been Food Optimising for 4 glorious days. It’s been really great! I already feel better, happier, calmer, and more in control. We pretty much spent 2 weeks over Christmas just eating whatever we wanted and to be honest, by the time we went back to work, I just felt so groggy and bloated. I felt like I’d eaten everything I could possibly have wanted over the Christmas period and I was ready to start eating fresh vegetables, smaller portions, and just generally food that was better for me.

Which coincided nicely with my return to Slimming World! My first weigh in was obviously not pleasant, but it won’t be going any higher than that now 🙂 The consultant was fab, the group was friendly, and it’s right down the road from where I live! Very convenient indeed. I optimistically bought a 6 week countdown and I’m feeling SO motivated and excited for the next 6 weeks! I really am going to try to be strict and not have any ‘treat’ or ‘cheat’ days; I hate to be a cliche but I’d only be cheating myself! As I did last time. But we won’t go into that.

So, my eats! I’ve been eating some lovely things so far, and we have even more yummies planned for the rest of the week!

For breakfasts, I’ve been having porridge. I’ve never really had it before but I don’t know why, it’s so lovely! i’ve been having it with splenda and cinnamon, and also ‘whipped’ with a banana! I slice the banana really thinly and whip it into the oats with a whisk as the oats cook. The banana melts away and creates a really creamy, fluffy texture that also increases the volume of the porridge. I end up with a huuuuge fluffy bowl of oats and it fills me up until lunch, perfect!

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I made a big batch of tuna pasta salad on Tuesday and have been having it for lunch every day.

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It’s just pasta, extra light mayonnaise, sweetcorn and red onion. The EL mayo is 1 sun per level TBSP and there were 4 in the mix. 4 portions, 1 syn a portion! Yay! I’ve been having this with salad and fat free balsamic dressing, and occasionally a boiled egg if I really want to push the boat out. It is REALLY filling – on Monday I just had a salad and I felt all light-headed and horrible all afternoon which I think was a combination of not eating enough, and my poor body complaining that I wasn’t having any sugar or fat. We didn’t have the shopping delivered until Tuesday so Monday was slim pickings in the kitchen, hence the lame lunchtime salad.

Finally, onto dinners! The best meal because I have complete creative control in the kitchen and more importantly, TIME!

I believe that my first foray into Slimming World failed because, well, I gave up. But, before I gave up, I was trying to shoehorn my favourite food into the SW plan and it just wasn’t working. Some things work great cooked the SW way, some don’t. Creamy, fattening Italian sauces don’t work so well, simply because it’s hard to replicate creamy, buttery flavours without the calories. Natural yogurt has a funny twang IMO, as does Quark. I do love using Quark, but sometimes it splits even if you’re super careful with the heat, and then your dinner is ruined and you cry. Anyway, my point is, this time I am going to try to make new dishes that I wouldn’t have tried previously that work AMAZINGLY cooked the SW way, rather than trying to make pizza crust from Smash and feeling slightly dirty.

This week thus far, we have had a delicious tofu vegetable noodle dish on Monday (which I didn’t photograph 😦 ) a quick Quorn chill and baked potato on Tuesday:

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A rather experimental chicken korma on Wednesday:

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This I possibly wouldn’t recommend…I LOVE korma and I love it because of the buttery, creamy, coconutty, almondy flavours, all of which are tricky to replicate when you’re fat-restricted. The korma in the Fakeaways book (my new bible) didn’t mention coconut at all and to be honest I wasn’t having any of that. I popped to Co-Op on the hunt for a fat free coconut yogurt (fairly optimistic given the size of the shop) and unsurprisingly, they didn’t have any. They did, however, have a new ‘Pina Colada’ Mullerlight. Hmmmm….would that work?I was tired and hungry so decided it would, and bought one. I also randomly bought a tiny bottle of almond essence which I thought might be a good substitute for the almonds normally in korma.

It…wasn’t great. The yogurt was okay (I sieved out the pineapple…) but even half a cap of the almond essence was too much, and it just reminded me of a cherry bakewell. Don’t get me wrong, I ate it all, but it left a weird taste in my mouth. If you like curry, I’d recommend going with a tikka or jalfrezi or something more tomato based, which is better suited to the ingredients you’re allowed to use.

Finally, tonight was the inaugural outing of the pork pad thai recipe, again from the Fakeaways book:

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I’m happy to report this was a much more enjoyable experience! I made it as per the book, with twice the amount of garlic and chill as I like strong flavours. However, when I tried it, it was bland 😦 so I added more of each, more soy sauce, and a tablespoon of sesame oil (2 precious syns) to jazz it up a bit. It tasted a lot better after this, and a whole lime squeezed all over it completed the experience. I didn’t have any of the required veg in the recipe so I stir fried some veggies in a separate pan, and ate them alongside the pad thai to ensure I had my 1/3rd speed veggies.

I halved the recipe as I’m the solo meat-eater in the household, and I have over half left for another day 🙂 Success!

I don’t snack a huge amount but when I’ve been peckish, I’ve gone for apples and lean ham slices. Exciting stuff. My daily synage has been between 4-7 each day which i’m THRILLED with (I know it’s only Day 4 but humour me) because last year I pretty much always spent my daily 15 on silly things like condiments, wine and chocolate, which I don’t think was really helping my losses. So I’m chuffed with my restraint.

I’ll leave it there as I’m knackered and it’s been a long week at work. On tomorrows menu is CHEESEBURGERS, a meal that works insanely well cooked the SW way! We’ll have them with a boatload of free SW chips and I can’t wait. We’re staying in on Saturday night (January is a very frugal month for us, out of necessity!) and I’m planning to cook a lovely steak which always feels like a treat on SW. Sunday I fancy a nice winter warmer and I think I’ll do the Slimming World beef bourguignon mmmm!

Ooh I hope this happy, motivated attitude continues for the next 6 weeks! Wish me luck 🙂

New Year, New Blog Direction

Hello! *waves* Remember me? I used to blog here about…oh…10 years ago, about cooking and eating out and nice things like that?

No?

Well, that miiiiiight be because it’s been over a year since I actually last blogged…and before that it was 8 months since the previous blog! Oops!

In my defence though, I have been busy.

First of all, during our fabulous October 2013 holiday to Orlando, my darling boyfriend proposed to me in my favourite place in the whole world 🙂

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You know what that means…A WEDDING TO PLAN!!

Then, when we got home, we welcomed this little princess into our home…our long-desired Birman!

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She’s called Saffie (Sapphire!) and she is just the best.

THEN, in December, we found out our landlord was selling our beautiful flat! So we were house-hunting once again.

We found an even more beautiful flat and moved in last April 🙂

Phew! On top of this, Ben got an amazing new job, we visited his family in Cumbria, we went to Disneyland Paris and Paris for a week, attended 2 weddings aaaannddd went to the Isle of Wight for a mini break.

By the time all this had happened it was September and then wedding planning began in earnest (but that’s a post for another day!)

And now here I am, January 4th 2015 and wondering where the last year went!!

So, the new blog direction. I did consider starting a new blog to document my new adventures but then I figured this is ‘My Life In Food’ and at the moment, this is what my food life is!

My new adventure? Slimming World! I actually joined SW for the first time last January and lost 10lbs which I was chuffed with. However, job woes, the aforementioned house move and general stress meant I stopped going to group, started eating whatever I wanted, and put all the weight back on. And more. Oops!

I am going to my local group on Tuesday to start again. And this time, Ben is joining me! He wants to lose a few pounds himself so we’re going to do it together and I’m so looking forward to it! Although we aren’t getting married until next year, I would much rather get to the weight I want to be at this year, so I’m not stressing and crash dieting right before the wedding. And honestly, we’re just both so ready to lose weight, get fit, and feel generally happier about ourselves. We’re considering joining our local swimming pool and going a few times a week which I think could be fun, and I imagine we’ll be back to the nightly walks we used to do.

I’m going to document my food on here; partly to keep track of what I’m eating for myself, and partly to share recipes. One thing that struck me when I used to go to group was the amount of ladies who would describe their meals and how they were struggling to keep things exciting. I love cooking (obviously, as I have a food blog!) and I HAVE to make my food interesting and exciting otherwise I’ll just give up! I also brought dishes to the group tasting nights a couple of times and the other members couldn’t believe they were SW friendly! So I’m going to share recipes and food ideas that I’m using, to hopefully inspire my fellow slimmers 🙂

I’m going to share some photos of things I cooked last year, to remind me of all the amazing food you can eat on SW!

Chicken and bacon carbonara

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SW breakfast!

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Moroccan spice blend marinated Quorn chicken, giant couscous, and roasted veggies.

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SW roast dinner – a classic!

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Roasted vegetable and tomato risotto – HEXA of cheese on top 🙂

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Quern peppered steak with Quark pepper sauce, roasted potatoes, tomatoes and asparagus.

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Gammon, eggs, chips and beans. So good!

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I lost 10lbs eating all this! It didn’t even feel like a diet! I need to say motivated and stick with this, wish me luck!

Piccola Roma – Bishops Waltham (Take 2!)

Last month, we returned to the fantastic Piccola Roma restaurant for our anniversary (I like to stretch our anniversary celebrations out to at least three meals!!) as I was desperate to have their steak again. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. Plus, it’s very convenient for us as we can walk down to the village, have a few drinks at the pub (the new and improved Crown Inn, stunning) and then stroll over for dinner. Perfect evening!

The evening of our (8 year!!) anniversary was particularly nice and we sat outside in the Crown beer garden enjoying some ice cold beverages before our 8pm reservation. I’d emailed the restaurant in advance to make sure we’d get in, as I know they get pretty busy on Saturday nights.

Anniversary drinks!

Just before 8pm we reluctantly left the sunny beer garden and headed over to the restaurant where we were welcomed warmly and shown inside. The restaurant was already quite busy and the waiter said we could choose from two tables – I chose a nice 4 seater in the corner which was very spacious indeed.

The owner of the restaurant then came over to greet us and said that tonight, we were VIP’s! How exciting! We weren’t quite sure what this meant but she went on to say she had seen my blog post about the restaurant earlier this year and very much appreciated it! It turns out she had posted it on the restaurants Facey-B wall (which I had missed) and was just really grateful that I’d given them such a fab write-up. This was my first experience of being ‘recognised’ from PDK and I have to say it was pretty cool! I was just so pleased she liked the review and that I’d helped the restaurant out a bit – they unfortunately have some bad reviews on TripAdvisor which we can’t understand at all, you do have to take TA reviews with a very generous pinch of salt though 😉 We had really enjoyed our experience at Piccola Roma so my glowing review was just a reflection of that…confirmed by the fact we were now back! We chatted for a while with the owner who complimented me on my writing style and content which was really lovely. A lady at the table next to us then overheard us talking, leaned over with a pad and pencil and asked me to write down the URL!

After all this excitement we were more than ready for some food. We were bought complimentary bread and olive oil/balsamic which is one of my favourite things to eat EVER. Even though I knew we had a pretty full-on meal ahead of us I was unable to refrain from eating all of mine and a fair bit of Ben’s bread also.

Obviously, we ordered starters. This was our anniversary meal! (not that we don’t order starters every time we go out. ahem.)

I was pleasantly surprised to see garlic bread with cheese as a starter, so promptly ordered that. I was even more pleasantly surprised when it was placed in front of me! What a beast!

Pane all’Aglio con Mozzarella (V) our home made pizza base topped with garlic, mozzarella, oregano & extra virgin olive oil

£  3.95

Look at the size on that! An entire garlic pizza bread, all for me! (Just forcibly reminded of Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, “A lovely cheese pizza, just for me.” hahahha)

I was taking close-up photos of it like an absolute mad woman, trying to capture the glistening pools of garlic butter while they were still melty and delicious.

I very kindly let Ben have a couple of slices of this although I did feel, if forced, I’d have been able to finish it. I was just very aware this was only my starter!

Ben chose the Caprese salad which, just like the salad he chose last time, came out with beautiful presentation.

Insalata Caprese (V) Sliced tomato, Buffalo Mozzarella cheese and fresh basil drizzled with extra virgin olive oil £ 5.50

Had we known how big my starter would be, he may not have ordered this and I would have shared the garlic bread (grudgingly). But, he really loved it and ate every single last bite! We both love the flavours of caprese salad and the tomatoes in this offering were wonderfully fresh and juicy – something that can really make or break the dish.

After a short break, we were ready for our main courses. I was very boring and ordered exactly what I got last time BUT in my defence that is the number one reason I wanted to come back so I couldn’t entertain the notion of ordering anything different. Ben was a little more adventurous and plumped for a new dish that caught his eye on the menu.

Here is my beautiful steak!

Bistecca alla Fiorentina 10oz rib eye steak pan fried in a creamy dolcelatte cheese sauce served with new potatoes or chips     £ 16.95

I chose chips, as chips, steak and blue cheese sauce are the holy trinity of food items in my humble opinion. Check this mother out!

   

Truely, a thing of beauty. I’ve spoken before of my love for steak and blue cheese sauce and Piccola Roma’s offering is right up there with the best.  The rib eye steak was thick and tender, cooked perfectly medium rare as requested. I don’t think I even need to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and pretty much licked every last drop of sauce off the place. Classy!

On our last visit, Benji got pesto pasta with a tomato and onion salad on the side. This time, he was in the mood for something a little different. We probably had only had pizza 2 or 3 times that week* so obviously he needed to get a fix! I struggle not to order pizza myself when it’s on a menu, steak is probably the only thing that can stop me. We like pizza, okay? A lot.

*I’m not joking.

He opted for mushroom pizza, one of his faves.

Funghi (V) Tomato, Mozzarella, Mushroom and herbs £8.50

I like the way his was approximately half the cost of mine. I clearly have expensive taste! Seriously though, that is a huge bonus of having a veggie boyfriend – he always brings the cost of the bill right down, bless him 😉 A cheap date!

There were no complaints from his side of the table and he made short work of the pizza. I didn’t try any, partly as I generally disagree with mushrooms and partly because I was in a full-on steak induced coma that wasn’t showing any signs of letting up. He really enjoyed it, though!

After these mammoth, feast-worthy courses, dessert was something we unfortunately had to accept we’d be unable to contemplate. The friendly manager had an alternative though – lemoncello shots, just like last time! We’d totally forgotten about these so this was a lovely surprise.

These were actually perfect for me, I often want a tiny taste of something sweet after a meal but don’t want to buy a dessert I won’t be able to finish. A shot of this sweet, lemony liquid was enough to satisfy my sweet tooth and prevent a late night visit to the biscuit cupboard on our return. Result!

We’d been in the restaurant a good two hours by the time we finished and had enjoyed every minute of it. We were made to feel so welcome by the manager and waiting staff and the chef even came out to say hello! I so enjoyed my first ‘blog recognition’ and I was really happy the restaurant appreciated my review and were thankful for what I’d written. I was also glad the owner didn’t offer to take any money off our meal or offer to pay or anything, as I don’t want my blog to become a series of restaurant reviews I’ve been paid to say nice things about! Everything I say on PDK is my own opinion and as cheesy as it sounds, I just do it for the love of food 🙂

Our final ‘thank you’ from the owner was a little bag of biscotti to take home with us which was really lovely of her. We enjoyed them over the course of the week, with our coffees and teas.

Thank you Piccola Roma for a wonderful evening and for making our Anniversary so special, it goes without saying that we’ll be back!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Risotto

This was a momentous occasion – my very first risotto!

I made my Super Duper Butternut Squash and Goats Cheese Lasagna at the weekend and having bought a huge beast of a butternut squash, I was left with roughly half of it and no real desire to eat any more after overdosing on the lasagna ever so slightly. After Googling recipes that combined both leftover butternut squash and leftover bacon, the recipe that kept popping out at me was RISOTTO! I absolutely love risotto and often order it in restaurants. However, I’d never entertained the notion of cooking it myself as I knew it was a notoriously hard dish to conqour and despite seeing it cooked many times on TV, quite frankly I was scared. But, we had all the ingredients and I had an entire evening to kill so risotto it was!

I started by roasting the cubed butternut squash with a drizzle of honey while I began the risotto itself. I watched a combination of Youtube videos and read multiple recipes online so my final product was a kind of mish-mash of everything I’d seen. Luckily, it worked!

As I mentioned in a previous post I am On A Diet so made valiant attempts throughout the recipe to make it slightly lower-calorie and healthier. I failed immediately on the first hurdle when I realised you pretty much have to cook the onions in butter so you can then coat the rice in the oniony, buttery mixture to start the cooking process. So what started as a few feeble sprays of “1 Cal Spray!” turned into admitting defeat with two generous tablespoons of butter. Clover Light mind, but still butter.

I stirred the rice around in the pan with my softened onions and butter until the rice started to go translucent on the edges. It was go time! I assembled my other ingredients and mentally prepared myself for a lottttt of stirring. I used chicken stock which gave it a lovely rich flavour which worked really well with the bacon and the sweetness of the squash. I made approximately a pint of stock – I wasn’t using the correct amount of rice as I didn’t quite have the amounts the recipes called for so I adjusted the stock amount accordingly. I also skipped the wine step as I didn’t have any wine to hand (for once in my life…) and I don’t think it affected the flavour at all.

The next thirty minutes or so involved adding the stock to the pan in small amounts and stirring until it was absorbed, which I found incredibly theraputic! Here is the rice right at the beginning of the stirring stage, coated in butter and the softened onions.

In between stirring I grilled 4 slices of back bacon (fat removed! I know, so boring…) and kept an eye on my roasting squash. Once the cubes were soft and golden brown with delicious sticky honeyed edges, I removed them. I then had a dilemma as I wasn’t sure if I was going to puree the squash and add it to the rice or just add the cubes in whole. In the end, laziness won out and I minimised the YouTube window showing Gordon Ramsey’s butternut squash risotto with pureed squash. Sorry Gord!

I have to say this was a fabulous decision. The cubes softened slightly in the rice and broke up unevenly, leaving a mixture of almost indiscernible puree which acted as a thickener to the rice alongside larger, textured chunks. Lovely!

After a while I noticed the rice grains had really swelled in size and nearly doubled the amount in the pan which is really quite exciting to see. The butternut squash had broken up into the rice and turned it a lovely peachy, Autumnal colour.

I added the crispy chunks of grilled bacon into the pan and gave it a final glug of stock. (It felt a bit like I was feeding a ravenous animal every time the stock got absorbed which was pretty cool.)

I’m not sure how you know enough is enough when it comes to the stock adding, especially when you aren’t following a specific recipe and therefore have no idea how much stock you should have added in the first place. But, the final glug felt like the right time to stop, so I did!

I served my pretty greedy portion of risotto very simply with a garnish of excess bacon and butternut to break up the vast expanse of rice. I think it looked beautiful!

And more importantly, it tasted beautiful. I was initially worried that the combination of salty bacon and salty chicken stock would combine to create a crazy sodium-coma-inducing dish but I think the robust flavour of the butternut squash stood up to the salt and told it to pipe down. I was very very pleased with my first risotto and like everyone else who’s probably ever made one, am wondering why it’s taken me so long! This really is a simple dish and it’s good to know that you can mix and match recipes to create something more to your taste without sacrificing the final outcome.

Next on the risotto bucket list – Four Cheese (how can that not be incredible!?) and something involving chicken. I am no longer afraid of risotto!

Floods Restaurant – Weymouth

Me and Ben recently spent a few stunning days by the sea in the beautiful coastal town of Weymouth. We stayed in an adorable caravan but spent most of the time exploring Weymouth and sampling a plethora of local treats and delicacies. The rain was shockingly bad but we didn’t let it stop us; luckily, when the rain came down, we were never far from a pub!

We ate in a lot of lovely places over the long weekend but for me, the standout meal was our dinner at Floods Restaurant. This is the number 1 restaurant in Weymouth according to Tripadvisor, high praise indeed! We tried to eat there on our first night but were told they were fully booked all that night and the next! Panic! I asked if we could possibly get a table for Sunday and we were able to snag an 8pm reservation. Success. I was so looking forward to it. I absolutely love seafood and seldom get the chance to sample anything near as fresh as I anticipated Floods would serve.

We arrived for our 8pm reservation and were shown to a lovely table for 2. The restaurant was very small with dim lighting and hushed murmurs from our fellow diners. We found it cosy and romantic, perfect for couples. There was a blackboard on the wall crammed with different options all based on that day’s fresh catches which we thought was a lovely touch. Although it did make it harder for me to pick what I wanted as some of the specials sounded amazing too!

I was delighted to see scallops offered on both the starter and main menus and quickly made the decision to indulge in my favourite food twice in one meal. Ben was also happy to see that there were a couple of veggie options for his starter and he was looking forward to the vegetarian main course of mushroom stroganoff – I had phoned up beforehand to enquire about the evenings offering as the online menu doesn’t specify.

For my starter, I chose the pan fried scallops, cooked in butter, garlic and white wine. The dream!

After I had removed the shell (love that presentation!) I was left with this.

The scallops were huge, tender and melt-in-the-mouth. I was wary of the coral having only ever had supermarket bought, coral-free scallops, but they were a delicious addition. The garlic butter was amazing and I made sure to soak up all the remaining juice with the fresh bread rolls we were served. I was in absolute heaven with this dish! I was gutted when I’d finished but I knew I had even more to come in my main dish!

Ben chose ale battered brie as his starter and was thrilled with the generous portion he recieved.

The brie was a creamy liquid inside the batter, oozing out teasingly when disturbed with his knife. It was served with a spicy homemade chutney, spicy and tangy, pairing perfectly with the creamy cheese.

For my main course I chose the monkfish wrapped in parma ham which came with even more scallops, balsamic glaze and a creamy, fragrant sauce.

This was an amazing dish. The parma ham infused the delicate monkfish with a lovely smokiness and the fish itself was cooked perfectly, flaking off underneath the ham with the gentlest nudge of my fork.

The scallops were once again served with the coral and were as delicious as the ones in my starter and the balsamic glaze was sweet, sticky and thick, just the way a glaze should be! We were served assorted spring vegetables and potatoes with our main courses and I particularly enjoyed the tiny roasted new spuds dipped in the glaze. This was a wonderful dish and has really made me want to start ordering fish and seafood more often when at restaurants. Normally I’m a steak girl but I need to remember how enjoyable and light fish can be.

When Ben was served his main course he was initially a bit put off by the presentation. I protested – how nice can mushroom stroganoff ever really look!? And we agreed they’d made a good effort with the shaped rice and sprinkle of paprika. He said it was absolutely delicious though and ate every last bite so I’m glad to report the appearance didn’t put him off too much! The sauce was rich and creamy with a strong earthy flavour from the mushrooms. We weren’t sure if the vegetables and potatoes went too well with a dish like this but he took some anyway!

Predictably, we were too full for dessert but they had 1 or 2 options I would loved to have tried, namely the chocolate pudding! And Ben wanted to try the lemon tart. We’ll just have to go back to sample them!