Being the philanthropic celeb baker that I am (!) I am absolutely thrilled to be involved in BBC Good Food’s bake sale to raise money for BBC Children in Need.

I’ve created my very own recipe for Turkish delight chocolate brownies and as tiresome as it was having to cook and eat several trays of delicious chocolate goodness I pushed aside my selfishness and got stuck in.

I don’t think I did a bad job:

Turkish delight chocolate brownies

If you want to know how to make them you’ll have to make a donation to Children in Need to download the recipe. You can give as little as £2 and can then stuff your face knowing you’ve done your bit to help change children’s lives.

If you’re not a Turkish delight fan there are loads of other recipes available to download from real celebrity bakers or, if you can’t spare any money right now. why not share the recipe with your friends and encourage them to download it and bake you some brownies to make you feel better about your lack of cash?

Anything you can do to help spread the word and raise money for this vital charity would be fantastic.

Thank you!

There are a lot of things that I’ve inherited from my mother. These include:

  • A low threshold for boredom
  • Crumbly teeth
  • A tendency to eat too much butter and cheese
  • A habit of putting ‘My Friend’ before people’s names when talking about them to other people, even though the person I am talking to knows them well. E.g ‘I went out my My Friend Andrea at the weekend’.

Aside from all of these charming attributes, I have also been blessed with the ability to whip up a delicious roast dinner. You can’t beat a roast can you? Mountains of vegetables, (ideally covered in a cheese sauce – see point three above), bread sauce, gravy, a big glass of wine; I am salivating as a type.

If you feel in anyway as passionately about roast dinners as I do then this competition is for you. It’s brought to you by a Northern Irish company called Mash Direct. Mash Direct grows delicious vegetables and gently steam cooks them immediately after harvesting to ensure unrivalled freshness of flavour as well as texture, whilst retaining their natural nutritional benefits. They are gluten-free and free from artificial flavourings, preservatives and colourings so a great brand to introduce to children to help ensure they eat their veg! View Post

How do you feel about meal planning? Do you have a weekly schedule or do you fly by the seat of your pants when it comes to mealtimes?

I read a lovely book at the weekend called The Rosie Project. The protagonist, Professor Don Tillman, who describes himself as ‘wired differently’, uses a ‘Standardised Meal System’ to plan, shop and cook for his meals. Basically this means he has exactly the same weirdly elaborate meal on the same day every week, believing that once you’ve perfected the art of preparing a lobster it’s much easier to just do it every Tuesday rather than waste time learning new skills. It also means he has less waste as he only buys the things he knows he is going to need. He then keeps each day’s ingredients on their own specially labelled shelf.

It was interesting to read about, as my Weight Watchers #StepIntoSummer challenge this week has been to plan every meal in advance. I don’t have to repeat the plan every week for the rest of my life, but the principle is the same – plan in advance and you make shopping simpler, cut waste, avoid over-eating and do away with that sense of dread as five o’clock approaches, you know that small people are going to start asking ‘what’s for tea?’ and you’ve not even checked the freezer for emergency fish fingers.

That’s the theory. In practice of course things aren’t that straightforward.

Weight Watchers #StepIntoSummer

As much as I hate having to come up with ideas every afternoon, I also feel squeamish about the idea of meal planning. Before Boyfriend left this was definitely his thing – he could go to the supermarket and come back with Actual Foods that could be used to create meals; when I go I end up with a selection of tropical fruits, some nice looking jam, and a couple of bottles of tonic water. His shopping skills are sorely missed.

This week then has been the hardest challenge for me to date. I just don’t like the idea of planning meals – how can I possibly know what I’m going to feel like eating on Sunday a week beforehand? What if Colin Firth shows up and invites me out for a spontaneous dinner? Should I turn him down because I have all the ingredients for a prawn stir-fry for one in the fridge? And yes I know Colin isn’t actually going to show up – he hasn’t got round to asking me for my phone number even yet – but you get my point.

Still, a challenge is a challenge. I chose to interpret it fairly loosely, and rather than saying ‘I’m going to eat this on Tuesday and that on Wednesday’, I instead shopped for a certain number of meals and allowed myself  flexibility over which days to eat them. I don’t know if this is in the rules, but it felt far less scary. I also knew I was going to be away at the weekend, so ‘planned’ to eat at a particular restaurant on the Saturday night. Do you think this counts?

I found perusing* recipe books and magazines for ideas helped to inspire me a little, and if I was going to do it long term it would definitely be an excellent excuse for a new whiteboard. One of my favourite dinners from the week was home-made burgers with potato wedges. These were super easy to make, Belle loved them and they are the kind of thing you could always prepare in advance too if you wanted too. The full recipe is at the bottom of this post.

Weight Watchers #StepIntoSummer

Weight Watchers #StepIntoSummer

Competition time!

Do you think you can do a better job of meal planning than me? Weight Watchers are keen to hear your tips and see your pictures and in return you could win this cool set of Lock & Lock food storage boxes – perfect for storing leftovers or ingredients.

Weight Watchers #StepIntoSummer

The competition is running across all the Weight Watchers social channels, so entering is easy peasy – all you have to do is share a meal planning tip or take a picture of your meal and share it on Twitter with the #StepIntoSummer hashtag. You can also share it on Facebook, Google+ or Pinterest, just don’t forget to tag Weight Watchers and mention #StepIntoSummer.

RECIPE: BBQ burgers and chunky wedges

Weight Watchers #StepIntoSummer

Serves 4 (14 PP)

For the burger:
500g extra lean steak mince
1 small red onion, grated or very finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 garlic clove, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lettuce leaves, to serve
4 Sandwich Thins, toasted, to serve

For the chunky wedges:
4 large potatoes, unpeeled, each cut into 8 wedges
1 tsp mixed dried herbs
Calorie controlled cooking spray

For the tomato salsa
2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1/2 hot green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1/2 lime, juice only

If using a bbq, start by lighting it in order that the coals will be hot enough to cook on – usually about 15-20 minutes. (You can also fry with a few sprays of cooking spray, or grill.)

In a large bowl, mix together the mince, onion, oregano, ground cumin and coriander, garlic and plenty of seasoning. Divide the mixture into 4 and form into balls. Now flatten the balls, and make them square-ish and about the same size or slightly larger than the sandwich thins. Set aside.

For the chunky wedges, preheat the oven to 200C. Put the potatoes and dried herbs into a large bowl. Season well and spray with calorie controlled cooking spray. Toss everything together until evenly coated. Spread the wedges onto a non-stick baking tray and bake for 30-40 minutes, turning once or twice, until golden.

Meanwhile, for the tomato salsa, mix together the tomatoes, spring onions, chilli, coriander and lime juice to taste. Season and set aside until needed.

To cook the burgers, put on the bbq directly over the coals, and cook for 4-5 minutes each side, until the juices run clear. Toast the sandwich thins over the coals during the final couple of minutes’ cooking time.

Serve the burgers on the sandwich thins, with lettuce, tomato salsa and mustard, accompanied by potato wedges.

Disclosure: I am being compensated by Weight Watchers as one of their #stepintosummer challenge bloggers but all words and opinions are my own.

*One of my favourite ever words – perusal.

I make no secret of the fact that I am not exactly a domestic goddess.

(Apart from the amazing tropical fruit fool I made this week of course.)

My intentions are good – I want to eat lovingly constructed quinoa salads and the like – but the truth is that I just can’t be bothered to construct them. My typical diet relies heavily on toast, normally topped with beans. I like it, but it isn’t exactly a recipe for a bloat-free life.

I was keen then last month to try out the range of gluten-free foods from Ilumi because a) I thought it might help with the whole toast induced bloating and b) I am lazy, and they all come in pouches that can just be stuck in the microwave. Nice.

Ilumi gluten free diet View Post

I am a big fan of breakfast. You know those annoying people who get to something ridiculous like three o’clock in the afternoon and then say ‘Oh silly me, I totally forgot to have anything to eat yet!’?

Well, I am not one of them. In fact, I love breakfast so much that my favourite bit about staying in hotels isn’t the comfy beds or spa facilities, it’s always the all-you-can-eat pastries and adorably tiny mini jars of jam.

Breakfast is important too – it sets you up for the day, gives your body a kick-start and gives you a reason to get out of bed, which is very important when you work at home and have a tendency to prefer to lie under a duvet reading Sherlock Holmes mysteries rather than sit upright in a chair and do something productive. Are you a breakfast person? What’s your favourite breakfasty treat?

This week’s Weight Watchers challenge then, to eat breakfast every day, wasn’t very much of a challenge for me at all. Hoorah!

Weight Watchers #StepIntoSummer challenge

Sticking to a Weight Watchers diet at the same time wasn’t even terribly difficult as there is so much flexibility. No kidding, you can genuinely eat everything in that picture and it counts as ‘diet food.’ I am a particular fan of the ‘healthy and filling’ food list that you use in the first few weeks of the Weight Watchers plan, as you are allowed to eat as much as you like from the list – no restrictions – which means you can have beans, crumpets, bacon, eggs, and all sorts of other yumminess and still have that smug ‘I’m on a healthy eating plan’ glow about you. Toasted crumpets topped with baked beans is one of my favourites, plus a side of scrambled eggs if I’m feeling extra excitable.

This morning though I shunned the crumpet feast in favour of something altogether more exotic – a tropical fruit fool. The recipe is at the end of this post but as you can see it looks amazing and brings a nice summer holiday vibe to your kitchen. I added the lime garnish to half convince myself it was as much fun as a mojito, which to be honest it almost was, expect without the hangover.

Weight Watchers mango fool

Weight Watchers mango fool recipe

Competition time!

If my deliciously tropical breakfast treat has got you fancying your own breakfast feast, then now is your chance to win this fabulous fancy toaster – perfect for toasting your crumpets.

Weight Watchers #stepintosummer competition

The competition is running across all the Weight Watchers social channels, so entering is easy peasy – all you have to do is take a picture of your breakfast and share it on Twitter with the #StepIntoSummer hashtag. You can also share it on Facebook, Google+ or Pinterest, just don’t forget to tag Weight Watchers and mention #StepIntoSummer.

Feeling fruity? Here’s how to make four very generous servings of tropical fruit fool…

Tropical fruit fool recipe

Peel the mangoes and slice the cheeks off. Cut one cheek into small dice and set aside. Put the remaining mango flesh into a liquidiser, and blend to a puree. Transfer to a bowl and stir through the seeds from 2 of the passion fruit. Add lime juice to taste.

Put the yoghurt into another bowl and and beat gently to soften. Gently fold through the passion fruit and mango mixture plus about half of the diced mango, leaving it rippled.

Divide the mixture between 4 glasses, and top with the remaining diced mango. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

To serve, scoop the seeds from the remaining passion fruit and drizzle over the top of the fools then sprinkle over a little lime zest. Serve immediately.

Disclosure: I am being compensated by Weight Watchers as one of their #stepintosummer challenge bloggers but all words and opinions are my own.

How did you get on with the fruit and vegetable challenge last week? All good? This week’s challenge is to get creative and cook some new recipes, so wooden spoons at the ready. This week you can win a hamper of Weight Watchers Simple Start goodies, so read on to find out how.

Weight Watchers #stepintosummer challenge

Now I’m not a natural cook, so this was a little bit more of a challenge for me than simply chucking a handful of salad onto the side of my plate like last week. My innate kitchen laziness, combined with the recent break-up, does not immediately lend itself to food based experimentation, other than the ‘I think I will give that new biscuit brand a try’ variety.

Never one though to turn down a challenge, I rose to the occasion.  View Post