Wednesday, 30 March 2016 - 2 comments

Hot Off The Press: NEWS!: My glam makeover for WW magazine!


I wrote this back in January, purely because I still had an adrenaline rush from something that took place all those weeks ago. I wasn't allowed to talk about it officially until now because...that's when the May issue of WeightWatchers magazine goes on sale!
So that's why you're reading it today.

***

At the end of last year I was approached by Helen Renshaw, Editor of the magazine. She asked if I'd be interested in writing for them again...and if I'd like to go to London for a glamour make-over?
I was so happy to be invited back...and this time it's bigger and better because I've been teamed up with two more fabulous Gold members and food bloggers; Louise and Laura.



We had never met before, but spent the previous few weeks getting to know each other before the shoot chatting online on Instagram! So it was lovely to finally meet them in person. Louise's amazing and inspirational Instagram can be found HERE and Laura's Instagram HERE and fabulous blog skinnykitchensecrets.com HERE.




So...the day finally came when we had to go to Shoreditch to a trendy rooftop studio for a glamour makeover!
We were greeted my Carl, (Picture Editor on the magazine) and introduced to celebrity photographer, Nicky Johnston who would be taking our glamour shots. Nicky is a really well known photographer and recently appeared as a judge on the latest series of Britain's Next Top Model, which, coincidentally my friend, hairdresser Matt Curtis worked on!
I recognised Nicky straight away and was thrilled to know I was going to be snapped by such a professional. We had quick 'before' shots done before our makeovers...I didn't know this was going to happen and I was definitely dressed for comfort in my little stripy dress and scruffy hair!




Next after a quick hello from the rest of the team; Helen, (Editor) and Kirsty, (Art Director) we went into styling, hair and makeup with the lovely Lydia, Holly and Enya. This is where the transformation began. We'd sent our sizes in beforehand, so Lydia the stylist had a fair idea of our shapes...there were racks of gorgeous clothes to try on...we had 2 glamorous dresses each for two different shots. I never usually wear bright colours but felt fantastic in the dresses Lydia had picked for me-especially the pistachio colour! Once outfits were chosen we were off to hair and makeup with Holly and Enya. Holly did my make-up. What an experience! I transformed into a version of myself I'd never seen before...false eye-lashes and all!



 The makeup looked heavy in natural light but they explained it had to be this way for the bright flashing lights in the shoot.
Then Enya styled my hair. In 5 minutes it was coiffed into a slicked-back bob I'd never have attempted. Once I saw it on the photos I soon realised these professionals knew what they were talking about! Sometimes it's good to just let people carry through their vision...then it was time for my first glamour shot.

Nicky was amazing at putting me at ease. When you're not a professional model it's hard to know how to stand, how to move, where to look-but he made suggestions, filling me with confidence every minute-it was a surreal experience....and then when I saw the images he'd created it was hard to believe I was looking at myself-it was like an actress playing the part of me or an exaggerated version of who I am.

There was so much to do as we each had an individual portrait done, then we had a quick change of outfit and it was time for the cover shoot- a complete surprise to us as we had no idea we were going to be on the cover!



So then it was all three of us laughing, chatting, walking, being directed through all these different moves and into angles and poses that felt strange but again worked on camera!
We couldn't believe the results.



We took the opportunity to have a quick snapshot taken with Nicky as a memento of the day. 



It was 3.30 by this stage and still so much to do. There was a table full of healthy wonderful food so I grabbed some salad and a chicken sandwich then it was time for the next shoot! 


This time we were in a studio kitchen being photographed by lifestyle photographer, Louise Haywood-Schiefer.



Quickly throwing on another divine dress, I found myself in a kitchen set and finally in my comfort zone, chopping veggies, squeezing lemons into yoghurt to make my delicious tahini sauce from my Piri piri chicken recipe which is featured in the magazine.
In a flash, it was all over and I was back at the station and on my way home. 

I'm just so excited to be a part of this new blogging team for the magazine, to have been given the opportunity to have a make over, be a cover girl at 52 years old and once again be writing and innovating recipes for such a fabulous publication.

***

The May issue of WeightWatchers (UK) magazine featuring Louise, Laura and myself is on sale in meetings from today and in the shops
April 6th!

***
Thursday, 24 March 2016 - , , , , , , , , , , , , 0 comments

Easter Bento Boxes!


Every year, I try to come up with a funky idea for Easter.
I've been longing for an excuse to buy some of these brightly coloured egg boxes in the supermarket, so my gorgeous
Easter Bento Boxes
gave me a great reason to do so!

***

A bento box is a traditional Japanese selection of edible goodies packed beautifully into little boxes in single portion sizes. Some are simple, some very ornate.

I've come up with my own version especially for Easter- a savoury one, a sweet one and a mixed one.
You can go to as much or as little effort as you wish with these-I've used shop-bought dips, little crackers, fruit, vegetables, sweets and treats.
You could use homemade dips, make tiny little sandwiches-whatever takes your fancy. Just try to make them colourful and vibrant and you can't really go wrong!

***

All of my Easter Bento Boxes work out to between 8-11sp/5-7pp/approx.230-320kcal per box-much less than most Easter eggs and much more fun!

***

YOU WILL NEED


Colourful egg boxes.

(You could use plain ones and decorate them with pens or washi tape. (My favourite!)


Colourful plastic eggs.

These were from The Works and cost £1 for a pack of six eggs.
I washed them thoroughly in hot soapy water and left them to dry on paper towels. 
Six eggs are enough for two boxes as you use both halves separately.


Fluffy easter chicks.

I would say these are optional but I don't really believe it. They are so cute and an absolute necessity! 
This whole box was £2 from The Works.

***


Simply pop the clean, dry plastic egg halves into the egg boxes. Try and use a variety of colours in each one.

***

The Savoury One


Take a selection of goodies and decide what you are going to fill your little egg-shapes with.


I weighed the dips into the egg containers. Just pop the whole box onto your scales, recalibrate back to zero and dollop in the dips. The plastic egg containers I used held 30g of dip.


These lovely Tesco Healthy Living dips worked out to 2sp/1pp per 30g portion.


Add veggie sticks, slices of mini peppers and for a Springtime look, some chives and fresh mint.



If you have the time, decorate the lid of the egg box with washi/decorative tape and a couple of cheeky chicks!
The lid won't close fully once you've filled the boxes, but still look inviting and amazing like this.


I used:
30g Roasted Garlic Dip 2sp/1pp
30g Coronation Dip 2sp/1pp
30g Beetroot Dip 2sp/1pp
1/2 bag of  Tesco Vegetable Crackers 2sp/2pp
Fresh veggies; cucumber, carrot & peppers

TOTAL: 8sp/5pp/approx.230kcal

***

The Sweet One


Repeat the process with sweet treats and plenty of fruit.


You could make some little washi tape flags using cocktail sticks. These look gorgeous and also help to pick out the grapes and marshmallows-especially if you fill one of your containers with fruity yoghurt for dipping.
The flag picks make it more fun to eat too!


Egg boxes have perfectly-positioned holes to pop the flags into! It reminds me of a little sand castle.
Note the funky carrot-shaped paper napkins in the background! These were from Tesco's Easter range.


Decorate the outside of the box.

I used:
1 box mini smarties 4sp/2pp
1 mini packet iced gems 5sp/3pp
10g mini marshmallows 1sp/1pp
Fresh fruit;mango, grapes, strawberries

TOTAL: 10sp/6pp/approx.300kcal

***

The Mixed One


If you prefer, you can pop a mixture of savoury and sweet goodies in one box together...snack followed by pudding!


I used:
30g Beetroot dip 2sp/1pp
30g Coronation dip 2sp/1pp
1/2 bag Tesco Vegetable crackers 2sp/2pp
1 small funsize bag Malteasers 5sp/3pp
Fresh fruit and veg

TOTAL: 11sp/7pp/approx.320kcal

***



Remember, you can make these to fit in with any aspect of the plan you are following by using appropriate ingredients! 

Have fun and Happy Easter to you all.

Saturday, 19 March 2016 - , , , , , , 0 comments

RECIPE : Apple & Cinnamon Toastie


When I first started WeightWatchers six years ago, I hid my toasted sandwich maker in the back of my kitchen cupboard, away from temptation-all those tuna melts became a long distant memory!
However a couple of weeks ago I came home frozen from a long walk and really fancied an apple pie...then I had a brainwave! I found some fruit bread in the freezer and had a couple of apples that needed using up, dusted off the sandwich maker....and hey presto...my apple toasties were invented!

You do really need a machine for best results as it seals the gorgeous soft cinnamon apples inside the spice and fruit-laden toasted bread...however you could pop the bread in a regular toaster and make an open sandwich style offering piled with the apples on top which would taste equally fabulous.

***

The sandwiches work out to 7sp/310kcal for both triangles or 4sp/155kcal per triangle


YOU WILL NEED : (Makes 2 triangles)


Two 30/35g slices Fruit bread
(I used the Co-Op brand-please don't confuse with malt loaf-this is much more like bread with sultanas, currants and mixed peel embedded into it)

1 apple (Pink Lady or Jazz, skin left on)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon sugar free maple flavoured syrup
or artificial sweetener

15 sprays Frylight oil

***


Quarter the apple, core then slice into about 12-15 slices.


Mist a frying pan with about 5 sprays of Frylight oil then add the sliced apple with the cinnamon and syrup or sweetener. Cook gently over a medium heat, turning occasionally until the apples have softened but still have a bite. This should take about 10 minutes.


Heat up the toasted sandwich machine.


Once hot, mist the lower hotplate with 5 sprays of Frylight oil and position the first slice of fruit bread.


Add a single layer of the cinnamon apples covering as much of the bread as possible. You will have some slices of apple left over which you can serve alongside the toastie.


Place the second slice of fruit bread on top, mist the upper plate on the sandwich machine with 5 more sprays of Frylight oil then carefully but firmly close the machine to seal everything together.


Cook for 5 minutes, check, then cook for a further 3-5 minutes until the bread is a beautiful rich golden toasted colour.


Lift out carefully-it will be really hot!
Place on a chopping board to cool slightly for about 2-3 minutes.
The toastie may feel slightly soft but will crisp up as it starts to cool.


Using a bread knife, cut carefully through the sealed join to make two complete sandwich triangles.


Pop onto a serving plate with the remaining cinnamon apples. Remember that the contents are extremely hot when you bite into the toastie so take care!

***

Apple Heaven

***

TIP

Try serving with a dollop of Total Greek yoghurt or some custard.
Just remember to add the Sp/kcal

***



Friday, 11 March 2016 - , , , 0 comments

RECIPE: Courgette & Halloumi Pizza with an Egg on top


The very first recipe I ever wrote for this blog was for a wrap-based pizza!
As you know, eating healthily to lose or maintain weight does not have to have anything to do with deprivation. My blog is all about keeping things delicious, different and tasty...so I thought it was time for an updated version.
This really hits the spot.

***

This fabulous pizza has a garlic and tomato base topped with a heap of courgette strips, fresh tomatoes, light halloumi and toasty pine nuts. The final flourish is an egg nestling on the top.
It's filling, tasty and works out to 10sp/533kcal per portion.
You could share one as a starter instantly halving those figures!

***

YOU WILL NEED : (per pizza)

1 Warburtons white square wrap 
1 teaspoon garlic puree
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 medium courgette
4 cherry tomatoes
30g light halloumi
1 teaspoon pine nuts
1 medium egg
black pepper
Frylight oil

Optional;
Up to 2 tablespoons extra light mayo for an extra 1sp/24kcal

***
 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4


If you have a spiralizer, spiralize the courgette. Otherwise cut into thin strips by hand or use a julienne peeler. Set to one side.


Spray the wrap with a little Frylight oil then flip it over. Place on a baking tray.
Mix the garlic puree and passata together then spread thinly as a base.
Pile on the courgette strips, cubed halloumi, halved tomatoes and pine nuts.
Make a dip in the courgette and break the egg into it.


Bake for 15-20 minutes until the halloumi and pine nuts are toasted and golden and the egg is firm. If you prefer a runny yolk, you could cook the egg separately in a pan and add on the top as you serve-I actually prefer it this way.


One of the things I like best about this pizza is that it's kind of like a salad too so it doesn't need an accompaniment as it's really filling. I love a drizzle of extra light mayo on mine-just don't forget to add the sp/kcal shown above.

***

Pizzaliscious

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