You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2012.

the bittenword at Flickr




Serves 2, 2¼  syns per serving on Red/Extra Easy





2 chicken breasts, all skin and fat removed
4 slices of Parma ham (½ syn per slice)
A tbsp of chopped fresh sage or a tsp of dried
Black pepper
225g mushrooms
300ml chicken stock
2 tbsp Marsala
4 tbsp fat-free fromage frais


1. Flatten the chicken breasts to about 1cm thick – to do this, wrap them loosely in cling film first then beat with a rolling pin.
2. Lay two slices of Parma ham on a board, place a chicken breast on each, and sprinkle over the sage. Add a grinding of black pepper, but no salt, as the ham is salty enough. Wrap the ham round, then take the other two slices of Parma ham and wrap one round each of the fillets.
3. Spray a large frying pan with Fry Light and place over a medium heat. Once the pan is warm, add the chicken fillets and brown on both sides. In the meantime, thinly slice the mushrooms, and take the fromage frais out of the fridge so that it comes to room temperature.
4. When the chicken is browned, add the mushrooms, stock and Marsala, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer gently for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally and turning the fillets once, until the chicken is cooked.
5. When the chicken is cooked, take the pan off the heat. Remove the chicken and keep warm. Allow the sauce to cool for two or three minutes, then stir in the fromage frais. Do not return to heat or the fromage frais may split. This will affect the look of the dish, but not the taste.
6. Serve with plenty of green veg, and mashed celeriac (or potato if you’re on Extra Easy).

Alternative suggestion: use 2 tbsp half-fat crème fraiche instead of the fromage frais for a creamier taste. This adds 3 syns to the dish, 1½ per serving.

P.S. When I was looking for images, I came across this one, from ChrissyMorin on Flickr – what a great idea for party nibbles. :-)

ChrissyMorin at Flickr



The train used to be a good opportunity to get some work done, but it is becoming harder, the more crowded the trains become. There is rarely an occasion when somebody cannot overlook what you’re working on, and people seem to have fewer inhibitions about doing so. And then there’s the problem of space – the world and his wife has a laptop now, and, seemingly, a divine right to have sufficient space for it, their papers, phone, coffee, fondue set, cuddly toy etc etc etc. The iPad is wonderful for many reasons, but the teeny footprint is definitely high on my list.

Trains have also become noisier; again I suspect that this is as much about people’s respect for others as it is the sheer numbers involved. Even in the designated quiet coaches, there’s background chatter. Today isn’t too bad, busy but relatively peaceful – partly thanks to some early enforcement work by one of my fellow passengers towards someone making a phone call. Does it count if the train has not set off yet? Probably, and the rapid intervention appears to have set the (silent) tone, so well done, sir. :-)

So here I am there I was, tapping away at my now silent keyboard, making the most of the chance to catch up on this blog. When I started, I did wonder how much time I would have to devote to it. Weekly updates on the diet aside, it’s not particularly easy. There is an inverse proportion between what’s going on in my life and how much time I have to blog about it. Probably best to be busy and behind than blogging about nothing, but I suspect more work is needed to achieve a happy balance. That might be the motto for my life, by the way. And so many others’ besides.

I wrote this last week, meaning to post it when I got home, but didn’t get a chance – makes the point for me, rather. :-)

K W Reinsch at Flickr

Sometimes you have weeks like this. You do everything right, and it doesn’t show on the scales. Maybe it showed the week before, or maybe it’ll show next week. Last week was a great result, and an unexpected one, so I think in my case it was probably the former. Whatever the reason, I gained half a pound. I’m accepting it now, but that was not how I felt at the time. When I saw that half pound added to last week’s weight on the digital display, I was furious. Indignant self-righteous anger flooded through me, and it took twenty minutes for me to quit sulking. Stopping for the group session is always a good idea, but especially so after a gain. If it does nothing else, at least it gives you a chance to calm down before you can get to a pizza delivery hotline. :-)

Roll on next week …

Steve Snodgrass at Flickr

I was hoping to lose a couple of pounds this week, so I was anticipating a Flickr search for ones or twos, and here I am with a six! I wasn’t expecting that, but I am really pleased. I have been on-plan all week, and I have also been careful about sticking to the right quantities of milk and bread, so maybe that has helped. I must confess, I have been a bit slack about that in the past. I was still losing, so I figured it didn’t do too much damage if I had bread from an 800g loaf instead of a 400g loaf – the slices aren’t that much bigger, surely? When will I learn? There’s a plan that has been given a great deal of thought, assessed by nutritionists, tried and tested by how many thousands of dieters, and what do I think is best? Oh, yes … give in to my impulses at the bakery counter … that will work fine! :-)

I almost didn’t make it to my Slimming World group on Thursday. My car broke down and I had to call the AA. It has been sounding a little juddery on starting the last few times, so I booked it for next week into the garage my OH uses, about 30 miles away. They’re not a main dealer, so they’re cheaper, and just as efficient as far as I can tell. Having been booked in, of course the car decides to break down, and at the most inconvenient place. At the petrol pump. When it’s really busy. The guy in the car behind kindly helped me push the car out of the way. That may have been enlightened self-interest on his part – he wasn’t getting any petrol until I was out of the way, after all – but he came back after filling up to see if he could start it, and was generally a complete gentleman. Barry, you are a prince, and I hope someone does you a good service if you need it. The first chance I get, I shall do one for someone else. Pay it forward. :-)

The car story doesn’t end there. The AA chap, Graham, also lovely, diagnosed a flat battery and towed it to the local main dealer, then dropped me at home, bless him. The garage fixed that yesterday, so I went to collect the car after work, and it would not run at all – the engine was firing really badly, so it’s still with them and I’m in a courtesy car. Sigh.

On the plus side, my faith in human nature has been reinforced, I have a working vehicle for the weekend, and I lost six pounds! What’s not to like?

jules:stonesoup at Flickr

You can tell I’m new to this blogging lark. I don’t think to take photos of anything until too late, then scurry off to Flickr to find someone else’s for illustrative purposes. Sigh. Still, there are so many great photographers out there.

I made salmon mousse this afternoon. I am not sure at what point it moves from being a pâté to a mousse, but I think today’s was definitely moussey. It’s lighter than usual, and I think that’s the distinguishing feature, howsoever the lightness is created. In my case, it was fat-free fromage frais, but you could use egg white, whipped to soft peaks, if you prefer. I have also used quark, which keeps the texture quite thick.

This is ridiculously easy to make, and yummy for lunch with some salad or crispbreads. I like Ryvita Minis (a 30g bag is a Healthy Extra B). It makes enough for two lunches, or would be a good starter for two.

2 salmon fillets (I prefer the lightly smoked for this recipe)
Chilli flakes
Salt and pepper
A squeeze of lemon juice
Fat free fromage frais, about a heaped tablespoon for a thick pâté, or three or four heaped tbsp for a mousse (or a beaten egg white, folded in).

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Place the salmon fillets on a piece of tin foil, season, and sprinkle over some chilli flakes (to your taste). Wrap the foil around the fish, sealing tightly, and place on a baking sheet in the oven. Cook for 15-20 minutes, then remove and allow to cool in the foil parcel.
Once cooled, put the salmon in a bowl, add the juices from the parcel, and a squeeze of lemon juice, and mash it all together. Add fromage frais to make it the consistency you wish, then check the seasoning again. I often find I need to add more chilli flakes at this point, but that may just be because the ones I bought are rather low down on the heat scale. Which, by the way, is called the Scoville Scale. The flakes I have are probably sitting around the same level as a pimento. Weedy. :-)

holeymoon on Flickr

When I have been off the Slimming World plan, even if just for a week or fortnight, I pile on a fair amount of weight. The flip-side, though, is that the first week back on track, I tend to get a good result. And so it turns out to be this time, too, thankfully. Ten pounds! It’ll be back to normal next week, if previous experience is anything to go by, but … count them … ten pounds!

It’s been a pretty easy week, with nothing happening that forced me to make difficult choices. The diet week, for me, runs from Friday to Thursday, when I get weighed in, so we’re now well into the second week. So far, so good. We visited my OH’s mum – my quasi mother-in-law – on Saturday. I took soup for our lunch, and she was going to do a salad, but she went above and beyond, which was especially kind since she’s not well. She checked online and found a recipe for a free filling for jacket potatoes, so we had that with a lovely salad for dinner. It’s a new one on me, and I haven’t got a link, I’m afraid, but it was ham, pineapple, extra light mayo and fat-free fromage frais, mixed and served cold with the hot jacket. Delicious, and so good of you to go to the effort, G, thank you. Hope you feel better soon. :-)

I love the White Company. They do beautiful things for the home – bed linen, towels, candles, toiletries, and the like – but also lovely clothes and scarves. Around this time last year, I discovered I could get into their clothes, and I have pretty much been haunting the place ever since. It all looks, feels and smells so wonderful that it’s hard to stay away. My favourite purchase (so far) is the softest, most snuggly cashmere scarf/wrap. I can’t find it on their website, but if you imagine this throw as a scarf instead (and way cheaper) you get the picture. I was in the shop on Monday, and noticed it was on sale – reduced by about 20%. My first thought was that I wish I’d waited to buy it in the sale, but then I remembered I bought it with a 10% discount card, and I’ve worn it nearly constantly since, so I can’t begrudge the extra 10% too much. I’m trying to think about the cost per wear/use of things I see and want to buy, not so much to justify buying higher priced items, but to stop myself buying things that I know, in my heart, that I am not going to use regularly.

But back to the White Company sale … and a complete bargain of a gift box. The White Company do lovely gift boxes of candles, bath oils and other gorgeous smellies, and part of the fun is having them come in a crisp, clean white box. The box on this one is decidedly off-white.

They knocked it down from £50 to £45, but it was so grubby, I am not surprised it didn’t sell. At £20, it’s a steal. It’s lavender and neroli, and contains two candles, a pillow spray and some bath milk. My other half’s mum is feeling rather poorly at the moment, so I thought I’d take her one of the candles and the pillow spray when we visit on Saturday. I can’t see my OH going a bundle on lavender-scented pillows, somehow, and I am sure his mum will enjoy it more. I couldn’t give her a half-empty, grubby box, so I’ve wrapped her half of the spoils in a little bag, and found some pretty ribbon. Not bad for an impromptu feel-better-soon pressie, I hope. :-)

Except I can’t post this until after Saturday, in case she reads this. A good opportunity to try out the delayed-posting thingy, I think. :-)

I find that sticking to the Slimming World plan is easier when I follow some basic steps: thinking about the week ahead, planning menus, and getting in the right ingredients. I like to make sure I have some snacks that fit in with the plan, and also some really yummy things on which I can use my daily syn allowance (up to 15).

I tend to eat syn-free food for most of the day, and use some or all of my syns for treats when I hit that ‘need something sweet’ craving between dinner and bedtime. One of my favourite treats is Dolfin’s Earl Grey chocolate. It’s dark chocolate, made with Earl Grey tea, and has little crunchy bits in it. Not overly sweet, it comes in bars of 6 strips, each of which is 3 syns. Any diet that lets you have nearly a full bar of chocolate a day is okay in my book! Dolfin have other unusual flavours; I’m not a big fan of the pink peppercorn or hot masala, but the almond, ginger and plain dark chocolate are all really good.

Having a syn range really focuses your mind on the things that you think are worth using up some of your allowance for, and which are not. I suspect everyone works out their own syn-pleasure equation. Biscuits are pretty much not worth it, in my mind, and most crisps and nuts are too costly for the enjoyment I get from them. Cheese features pretty often, especially Parmesan and Feta, and I also like Mikado sticks (1/2 syn each) and Minstrels (7 for 5 syns).

One of the other things that works for me is switching around the menu plans. We tend to get a bit lazy, and stick to recipes we know, but that can lead us to fall out of love with them. My OH is a whizz at a yummy Italian risotto from one of the SW cookbooks, but he’s bored with doing it now, so we need to find him a new signature dish. I like to try new recipes as often as I can, to add some variety to the week’s menus. So far this week, I’ve made two soups from SW’s Little Book of Soups, the Mediterranean roasted vegetable soup and the Italian chicken soup. Tonight we had the sticky sweet and sour chicken from this month’s SW magazine. It was delicious, and I’d love to share it here, but it’s copyright protected. I have, though, found a sweet and sour chicken recipe online that looks fairly similar. You could serve it with noodles, either stirred through or on the side, or rice, if you prefer. The photo comes from the same site – doesn’t it look fresh and delicious?

After the horrors of weigh-in on Thursday, at the weekend I drew up a menu and did a full shop. It has seen us through most of the week, with the addition of some bread and milk. My trolley was two-thirds full before I’d even made it out of the fruit and veg aisle. I wish I’d had a pic but I’d have felt a wee bit conspicuous photographing my own trolley. Besides, the absence of my own sent me to Flickr looking for pics to illustrate this post. There are heaps of great shots there, so it took me no time to find these, which I think are beautiful.



I also found this, and I think you have to be told it is fruit and veg – it’s Thai carving, and I cannot imagine how long it takes to get that good, or how much veg you waste trying. I hope it all goes into a stockpot.


As for SW, I’ve done well, and stuck to the plan all week, so I hope for a good result tomorrow evening.

How the image of lard has changed since this promotional poster in 1957, produced in conjunction with the Dept. of Health. Can you imagine trying to sell the idea of a Lard Marketing Board to a modern government? There is a web presence for a British Lard Marketing Board, but I am guessing it’s no longer affiliated to the DoH.

That said, I checked before leaping to conclusions (the only potential for some exercise this weekend) and lard has … gasp … less saturated fat than butter. Apparently, it’s also great for making your pastry flaky – something to do with the larger-sized fat molecules. Which brings me on to my fat molecules – I am not sure whether they are larger, or there are more of them, but weigh-in on Thursday did not go well. Only to be expected, self-inflicted, and all that. And I did enjoy the yummy food I ate to get there, but really. A stone and a half in a month? Why doesn’t it come off anywhere near that fast? Add that to the pre-pre-Christmas flakiness (no lard involved), and I have retreated to where I was a couple of months after I started. How did I manage that? Well, mostly, it was our holiday in September, being away for work for four weeks in October/November, and the usual dietary tribulations of December. The real question is why I let myself get derailed so easily, and whether, this time round, I will do better. We’ll see. :-)

Copyright protected

2012 by Eau de Nil. Please do not use my original text, recipes or photos without obtaining my permission in advance. Many thanks.

Email me at

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.