Day out at Newcastle Quayside

Like the rest of the UK, we’ve been enjoying glorious weather here in Newcastle for the past fortnight.  Last weekend, we were able to make the most of it; as I mentioned previously, we were celebrating Geth’s birthday a couple of weeks late, and so on Saturday we went into town for some shopping and food, interspersed with a visit to our favourite beer garden seeing as how it was so nice.

Bridges of the Tyne
View of the bridges of the Tyne from the Free Trade Inn beer garden.

We were fairly lucky to get a space in the Free Trade Inn beer garden – it was a hot Saturday afternoon, which is a rarity, and so the people of Newcastle were out in force in the centre of town – but we did manage it, and Geth immediately made a start on the bar snacks.

Free Trade Inn beer garden
Geth with beer and some kind of pasty/samosa/thing? I wasn’t really paying attention.

I’m not quite sure what’s going on with the light in these pictures – I blame the sun.  Clearly my smartphone camera has become accustomed to British weather and can’t cope with bright light!

Free Trade Inn beer garden
Enjoying the heat! Also very pleased with the way my new Punk Masters T-shirt matches my tattoo.

We’d got all our shopping done fairly efficiently, so we were able to enjoy a good few hours in the sun before our restaurant booking.

Pints of beer and cider
I actually like plastic glasses, even if they’re not very solid to hold – they feel like summer to me!

We then headed to Uno’s Trattoria, one of our favourite Italian restaurants in Newcastle, which Geth had selected for his birthday meal.

Geth with birthday meal
Geth had been looking forward to that pork belly for weeks.

The reason Geth chose Uno’s Trattoria is that, for the last year or so, they’ve had pork belly on the menu, which is one of his favourite foods.  Apparently most Italian restaurants don’t cook meat dishes properly (being a vegetarian I’m generally unaware of these things), but this restaurant must be an exception, as the pork belly went down very well.

Pork belly
Just looks like meat to me, but I’m informed it was very special meat!

I, meanwhile, went for my favourite Italian restaurant treat of pizza:

Rocket and parmesan pizza
That rocket and parmesan topping was immense.

We also had dessert – we both went for the white chocolate cheesecake – but we were so keen to get stuck into it that I forgot to take a picture.

A lovely day out overall.  Happily the weather has continued, and it looks like it’ll be similar this weekend – so we’ll need to take it carefully when running the Great North 10k on Sunday!

Recipe Wednesday: all-day breakfast

As I’ve mentioned previously, in the last few weeks of trying to get to my Slimming World target, I tried doing a few SP days.  Since getting to target, I’ve stuck with this habit the day before weigh-in, because I’m still getting to grips with maintaining and the summer has always been my most difficult time SW-wise – there are lots of special events like holidays and festivals going on, afternoons in beer gardens, and cravings for ice cream.

As such, I’ve settled into a pattern of having all-day breakfast for tea on a Wednesday night, because it doesn’t require cheese, which means I can use my Healthy Extra A for milk to go with my bran flakes, which are my additional Healthy Extra B choice on an SP day.

All-day breakfast
All-day breakfast. Nice and light for pre-weigh-in night – well, it is compared to the huge bowls of pasta I usually eat!

If Geth’s eating with me, he often helps out with cooking this one, because he really likes cooking sausages or thinks he’s better at it or something.  You start by frying sausages (I use Linda McCartney regular vegetarian sausages* but obviously if you’re a meat-eater you can use low-syn pork ones) in Fry Light, turning every few minutes.  After about ten minutes, you add sliced mushrooms to the pan, and then when everything’s got about five minutes left to cook, you add the halved tomatoes.  Finally, while the fried food is finishing up, scramble some plain beaten eggs in a non-stick pan.  Dish up and serve with a sprinkling of ground black pepper.

Ratio-wise for SP, I try and match the combined volume of tomatoes and mushrooms to the total volume of eggs in order to stick to the rules.  The sausages are synned rather than ‘S’ or ‘P’ so they don’t count towards either half of the plate.

*I have to use regular Linda McCartney sausages (half a syn each) rather than the rosemary and red onion ones I normally have (which are free), because on SP days you can’t have any free food that’s not ‘S’ or ‘P’.  This seems a bit counterproductive to me, but them’s the rules.  There aren’t any veggie sausages in either the Quorn or Linda McCartney lines that have enough protein to be classed as ‘P’ foods, more’s the pity – Quorn mince and chicken style pieces are both ‘P’, but not the sausages.  Hopefully this will change at some point.

Recipe Wednesday: chili

For the last few weeks of trying to get to target at Slimming World, I’ve been advised to do a few SP days when I can, so I’ve been making chili again, which I haven’t done in a while.  It’s perfect for SP, which basically requires meals to be half ‘S’ foods (fruit ‘n’ veg) and half ‘P’ foods (protein).

Chili
My chili from last week. I promptly devoured it in the space of a couple of minutes – SP days make me pretty hungry.

I like this one ’cause it’s a kind of ‘dump everything in a pot and stir occasionally’ recipe.  Boil sliced carrots for about fifteen minutes; once they’re done, drain them and mix them in a large saucepan with chopped onions, two tins of chopped tomatoes, one tin of red kidney beans, one tin of lentils, one tin of chickpeas, a bag of Quorn mince, and a heaped teaspoon of hot chili powder.  Simmer on a low heat for about thirty minutes, adding water if the mixture gets too dry, and then serve with a Healthy Extra A portion of cheese of your choice (I like parmesan, but then I like parmesan with everything – cheddar would be more traditional).

I’m going to be making more of this next week when I do some SP days again!

Recipe Wednesday: pasta bolognaise

Veggie pasta bolognaise is one of my longstanding favourites, but I don’t make it as often as I used to, largely because I’ve developed so many other favourites that have become go-tos as well.

Fusilli bolognaise
Fusilli bolognaise – the latest version (I’ve tweaked the way I make it a lot over the years, most recently to make it more Slimming World friendly).

It’s nice and simple, just like all the pasta dishes I do.  Put some chopped carrots on to boil for twenty-five minutes; ten minutes in, start boiling some pasta in another pot.  Meanwhile, start frying some chopped onions and tomatoes in Fry Light.  Once the onions and tomatoes have reduced down sufficiently, add a bag of Quorn mince to the frying pan, and stir-fry until it’s browned.

For the sauce, I make my standard pasta sauce: passata, tomato puree, lemon juice, ground black pepper, dried basil, dried oregano, hot chili powder and Very Lazy chopped garlic, all to taste.

Once everything’s cooked, drain the pasta and carrots and mix them with the onions, tomatoes, Quorn mince and passata sauce in a large pot.  Shower with grated parmesan (30g per person for a Slimming World Healthy Extra A) to serve.

Recipe Wednesday: cheat’s pizza and chips

On the Slimming World plan, if I want to order pizza and potato wedges from Dominos, it costs 60 syns.  That’s a lot of syns to have to save for one meal (not that I don’t still do it occasionally!), given that I only have 105 syns to spend in a given week.  As such, one of the first things I did when I started Slimming World was to work out how I could have a lower-syn alternative.  This is the result.

Cheat's pizza and chips
Cheat’s pizza and chips. To make it properly Slimming World friendly, you should also have a side salad to make sure you’re getting your one-third of speed food, but I must confess I don’t always remember to have the salad.

For the wedges: these are standard Slimming World chips/wedges.  Chop potatoes into the desired shape, spray a baking tray with Fry Light, arrange the wedges on the tray and spray some more Fry Light on top.  Bake at 200°C on the top shelf of the oven for 25 minutes.  Free on the Slimming World plan!

For the pizza: for each person, slice two Schar white ciabatta rolls (use one as a Healthy Extra B, 6 syns for the other) in two lengthways, and place on another baking tray.  Mix together some passata, tomato puree, dried basil and dried oregano for the sauce and spread over each ciabatta half.  Split 50g of grated mozzarella per person (a Healthy Extra A) between the ciabatta halves, then top with chopped tomatoes and chopped olives (1 syn for 8 olives).

Once the wedges have had their 25 minutes in the oven, move them to the bottom shelf, and put the pizzas on the top shelf to bake for another 15 minutes.

Oh yeah, and you should make a side salad to make sure you get your one-third of speed food, of course.

When using all Healthy Extras, this meal is only 7 syns, which is a lot less than 60!

Recipe Wednesday: ‘chicken’ pesto

Back doing Recipe Wednesdays again – ’cause I’m hungry, and I can’t cook tea until Geth’s done the dishes.  Sadly I’m not making ‘chicken’ pesto tonight ’cause I don’t have enough syns left before weigh-in tomorrow, but I thought I’d share this recipe anyway.

'Chicken' pesto
‘Chicken’ pesto, or spirali alla genovese if I’m being fancy.

It’s another super-simple pasta recipe.  Boil some pasta for fifteen minutes, and five minutes in, start boiling another pot of chopped mangetout, chopped green beans and garden peas (make sure there’s plenty of the first two if you’re doing Slimming World).  Meanwhile, fry some Quorn chicken style pieces (or you could use real chicken if you’re not veggie) in Fry Light until it’s nice and crispy.

Once everything’s cooked, mix it all together in a giant pan then stir in a jar of supermarket pesto* (12 syns a jar, so 6 syns per person if you’re cooking for two like I am).  Shower with parmesan (30g for a Healthy Extra A) and serve.

This is a longtime favourite of Geth’s, so I make it at least once a week if I’ve got the syns going spare!

*I’ve tried making my own syn-free pesto but it never tastes right!

Easter!

Happy Easter!  I’ve had a great day, and am now in possession of so much chocolate that I’ll be eating it for weeks (got to eke out those Syns carefully).  I’ve also had some lovely ciders this weekend, so there’ll be a couple more cider posts in the next couple of days!

Greatest Loser 2018

In the midst of all the house chaos, it was a nice surprise at Slimming World yesterday morning when I won our group’s Greatest Loser 2018 award!  Apparently I’ve lost more weight than anyone else in our group.  I got a certificate, a sash and some lovely flowers:

Vase of roses
The roses I was given. I bought the vase specially, ’cause I reckoned that now we’re grown-up homeowners, we should probably stop displaying fresh flowers in a pint glass.

I’m really happy to have recognition like this – it’s been hard work, but I have lost a lot of weight (3st 12lbs so far!) over the last year and a bit, and now I’m so close to target I can almost taste it.  I think it must taste like the 100-syn bag of jam doughnuts that I will be devouring on the day I reach that magic number, before angelically returning to my healthy fruit and veg.  Well, I’ve got to have something food-related to look forward to!

Recipe Wednesday: potato ‘n’ carrot pasta

It’s still emphatically winter (I was too busy with work to leave the house today, but Geth informs me that it was snowing again) and so I thought I’d start my weekly food series with my most stodgy, wintry pasta dish.

Potato 'n' carrot pasta
It’s stodgy, ridiculously carb-heavy, and one of my favourites, especially at this time of year.

I’m a lazy cook, so like everything I make, it’s ridiculously easy.  Boil chopped peeled potatoes, chopped carrots and chickpeas for 25 mins (no measuring free foods on Slimming World – I just make sure that the carrots constitute a third of the total food I’m eating); with 15 mins to go, start boiling some pasta in another pan.

While everything is boiling, I make up my pasta sauce (passata, tomato puree to thicken it up, lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper, dried basil, dried oregano, hot chili powder and the lifesaver that is Very Lazy chopped garlic, all to taste) and grate some parmesan (30g for me as my Slimming World Healthy Extra A, lots for Geth).

Once the 25 mins are up, I drain everything, mix it all together, mix in the sauce, and serve with the grated parmesan.  Highly comforting on winter evenings!

Burns Night

It’s Burns Night…and I’m not eating haggis.  I know, I’m a bad Scot.  But getting the stuff in England tends to be a right faff, which means acquiring a Burns Supper has become a lot more ‘interesting’ since I moved away from Scotland in 2011.

A brief history of my Burns Supper eating:

  • 1985-2002: Burns Supper at home, cooked by parents, complete with horrible off-key chanter playing by my dad (who is a good musician but not a regular chanter player) as we ‘piped in the haggis’ and people reading the Selkirk Grace off a teatowel
  • 2002-2011: as above, except that I no longer lived at home so went round to my parents’ specially; my dad had given up on the chanter playing by this point as well
  • 2012: our first Burns Night living in Southampton – Geth bought extortionately-priced veggie haggis from a butcher and made a decent if not entirely presentable job of cooking it, but I felt SO HOMESICK
  • 2013: went to eat at a cafe in Southampton where they were serving ‘haggis’ made out of tomatoes and had people onstage reciting really patronising attempts at ‘Scots’ poetry – had to leave before table flipping occurred
  • 2014: still in Southampton; had friends round for Burns Supper, which was slightly ruined by Geth buying the wrong veg due to English supermarkets’ insistence on calling neeps by the wrong name (they call it ‘swede’ instead of ‘turnip’ for some reason, so he ended up getting something completely different that did not mash well at all)
  • 2015: we were preparing for a stressful move from Southampton to Newcastle, so Burns Night, along with various other late winter celebrations like Valentine’s Day and Shrove Tuesday, fell by the wayside that year
  • 2016-2017: took advantage of only living a 90-minute train journey away from Edinburgh to go land on my parents for Burns Night again, just like old times
  • 2018: did vaguely plan to go up to Edinburgh…but house moving has struck again, and we’ve been too busy/tired to get organised

Dry January also means no toasts with whisky or Thistly Cross cider.  I couldn’t even find any Diet Irn-Bru at the supermarket today.  Living in England strikes again.

To make up for the lack of the haggis picture that would obviously accompany this post had I cooked any, have a link to Tam O’Shanter, my all-time favourite Burns poem.