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30 December 2013

Christmas 2013: Table for 8

Christmas has been wonderful, chaotic, tiring, sickly, filling and delicious! 

We've had my Brother and his troops staying in our neighbours flat downstairs (how incredibly generous are our friends?!) and we have had such an incredible week coming and going between our two flats, and sharing everything. Everything, worst of all, the tummy virus! We've had two trips to A&E, one Doctor visit, loads and loads of washing, and lots of sleepless nights as we all have suffered various flus. Poor little Maddie is still very sick which is heartbreaking to not be able to help her,  but she has moments where she finds her smile so we're hoping she turns the corner soon, poor little girl. Hands down, the hardest part of being a parent.

We are trying to make the most of our time together, but as have all been so unwell that we've had limited opportunities to get out and about (and ahem, no time to post sorry!!). But the one thing that hasn't suffered this week is our appetites, it has been a week of indulgent deliciousness. I had so much fun planning the menu for the day, setting it all up and making all the delicious food as a family, and so I wanted to share our Christmas table(s) with you!

meg-made: Christmas 2013

meg-made: Christmas 2013

Our day kicked off on the right note, with Drunken Cranberry Pancakes with Honeycomb Butter.

meg-made: Drunken Cranberry pancakes with Honeycomb Butter

The Christmas menu was the culmination of much daydreaming and I must say, it was pretty darn special.

meg-made: Christmas 2013

meg-made: Christmas Turkey with flavoured butter

meg-made: Maple glazed ham

meg-made: Christmas 2013

We had a few hours break between mains and desserts, to which we then had Kara's Christmas Trifle, and my Gluten Free Plum Pudding (served with homemade vanilla ice cream and brandy butter). 

meg-made: Christmas trifle

meg-made: Gluten Free Plum Pudding

And yes, that is equal parts ice-cream equal parts Brandy Butter! It's Christmas, come on!!!

meg-made: Gluten Free Plum Pudding

The treats that we had before and after (and during) Christmas were Coconut Macaroon Trees (GF), Gingerbread Rumballs (GF), Fruit Mince Pies (GF), and Eggnog Melting Moments (yes, GF). 

meg-made: Gluten Free Coconut Macaroon Trees

meg-made: Gluten Free Gingerbread Rumballs

meg-made: Gluten Free Fruit Mince Pies

meg-made: Gluten Free Eggnog Melting Moments

I wanted personalised bonbon's (Christmas Crackers) so made up crackers for everyone, that even had the little "snap" pull thingy too! The kids had little Christmas stickers and treats, and the adults had teeny bottles of spirits. 

meg-made: DIY christmas crackers

meg-made: Christmas 2013

meg-made: Christmas 2013

So, its a little late, but Merry Christmas from our families to yours! May your festive season be sparkly and bright and may your new year be filled with hope and happiness.

meg-made: Christmas 2013

Recipes will follow, but for now, this post has taken me a week to write, so that's all for now!!!

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24 December 2013

Fast Diet - Week 10 - #LoseDayTuesday

Starting week 10 of the 5:2 Fast Diet!! To find out more about it, read my original post here.

Christmas Eve is not usually a day associated with depriving oneself from deliciousness, well not for me anyway, until now! I did my usual fast day yesterday, and actually really really needed it. My Brother and his family arrived on Saturday and we've kind of not stopped eating since they arrived, so when Monday rolled around I really felt like I was giving my body an early Christmas present, a break!!

I also took myself off to Reformer Pilates yesterday too, which made me feel infinitely better about everything! I woke up feeling a little nauseous (no, I'm not pregnant, quite the opposite if you know what I mean) and had a stonking big headache, and going out in the blustery weather to exercise was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. But, it made me feel great. I felt stronger, my headache was gone, and I felt so much better about myself! It also got rid of my morning hunger pangs, so I made it through till 3pm before eating.

My Husband joined my fast yesterday too, which was so much fun! And I don't just mean the fun I had watching him physically suffer through his sugar withdrawal at 4pm, but it was fun having someone to do it with, kind of like having a running buddy. I'm not sure I can convince him to do many more, but it was lovely support this week!

I really feel like I'm going to struggle through this festive period, I just can't seem to schedule another Fast Day into the next week! I've had a good read of the 5:2 Forum's tips though, and quite like the idea of the 16:8 Fast, in which you choose any 16 hour window to fast, which can include your sleeping hours, so it can either mean skipping dinner or breakfast, that I can do! So I might try one or two of these out if I am struggling with a full fast over the next week. I am not going to give myself a hard time though, this is the "most wonderful time of the year" ding dong ding dong, and I am going to enjoy every minute of it!

Snack - Air popped popcorn

meg-made: FastDiet recipe popcorn

We found this fun cob of corn at Whole Foods and just had to try it out! It was actually really cool! It just popped away for a minute and a half in its little bag thingy and it was done! As much as we wanted to coat it in butter and salt, we resisted and sprinkled a little cinnamon on top instead! I'm not going to say it was the best popcorn ever (that title belongs to my salted-caramel popcorn), but it tasted good and filled the void for a low calorie allowance!

meg-made: FastDiet recipe

meg-made: FastDiet recipe

meg-made: FastDiet recipe

Lunch - Spanish Tort

2 eggs, 2 pieces of ham, red onion, red and yellow pepper and parsley. Mix and cook in a non-stick pan. Couldn't be more simple!! The ham makes it filling and the red onion gives it some sweetness!! 

meg-made: FastDiet recipe

Dinner - Turkey & quinoa stuffed Peppers

Being Christmas Eve-Eve I had to have a little festive spin on my meals yesterday, so had some turkey mince to include in the day somehow (also knowing turkey is the lowest-cal meat and  thinking Husband needed some meat as was growling like wild safari animal on the hunt).

meg-made: FastDiet recipe Turkey & Quinoa stuffed peppers

So this was very random, but I mixed up some turkey mince, cooked quinoa, chopped courgette, chopped onion and passata (pureed tomatoes) and let it simmer away for half an hour. Cut the top off a large Pepper and fill with the turkey mixture and top with a teaspoon of parmesan. Bake for 15 minutes in a moderate oven (180C/250F) until the cheese is melted and the peppers are slightly soft. I can't be more specific with measurements, I was very hap-hazhardly throwing things in, so the calorie count may be a bit off too, but I did my best to estimate!!!

meg-made: FastDiet recipe Turkey & Quinoa stuffed peppers


Water water water, lots of water. Was peeing for all of England yesterday (overshare?). 

Total calories for the day = 505


A little less activity this past week as I spent time sewing/baking/glittering/list-making instead! But I still did my Reformer Pilates, one dedicated hills-walk, one resistance session at home and then just incidental walking. 

Weight loss?

Total loss to date = 3.0kg (6.61lbs). 

Yes, this is up 100g this week, but I'm not going to be down on myself about it. As the 5:2 Forum's guide says, even if you can't fast for two weeks over christmas, its only 4 days, its not the end of the world!!

Goals for the coming week

Enjoy spending Christmas in London with my supportive (and ravenous) Husband, beautiful little daughter, Brother, Sister-in-law, Niece and two nephews, as well as spending time with some of our nearest and dearest friends. Its going to be a wonderful week. 

But I do have goals still to not go crazy this week!!
  • Drink plenty of water to balance out the many, many bubbles
  • Try and do a 16:8 Fast over the next week
  • Stay low on carbohydrates (other than goose-fat potatoes, they don't count!)
  • Go for a big walk one of the days (excluding the vast amount of walking Kara and I will be doing on Boxing day, sans-children, shopping up a storm!). 

Wishing you all such a lovely Christmas tomorrow and I hope you are having a wonderful festive period. If you are fasting too, don't let it take over from the joy of this time of year! The coming posts will not be healthy, will not be low calorie, but they will be delicious and Christmasy!

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17 December 2013

Fast Diet - Week 9 - #LoseDayTuesday

Starting week nine of the 5:2 Fast Diet!! To find out more about it, read my original post here.

Well I have finally broken my plateau! Thank goodness, I was starting to worry that my body had found it's resting weight, a fair bit higher than I would like for it to rest at!! But alas, finally some loss  this week. I was so determined to break through this plateau and so whilst I still allowed myself some indulgent meals, I exercised more and ate less at other meals to compensate for this.

I had a lot more energy too in the past week, however yesterday's fast day was a disaster! I had absolutely no energy all day and all I wanted to do all day long was to refuel (code for EEEAT). On Sunday we had such a lovely, lovely day out in London. We went ice-skating at the Tower of London with the Bells and in my happy-afternoon-glow I ate more gluten than my body has had in a really long time, and I paid the price for the rest of the day. I think that contributed to why my whole body was so sluggish the next day too, which really made me see how sensitive I truly have become to gluten. The thing was though, I actually looked forward to fasting to really give my body a break. It feels like such a welcomed rest for my problematic digestive system.

One incredible change that I've noticed since being on the Fast Diet is the difference in my eating behaviours. I have posted about my need for some "Non-Food Cuddles" to be available to help curb my emotional attachment to food; but this is more of an everyday and in everyway change in behaviour creeping in. Aside from not needing to eat as soon as the dressing gown goes on each morning, I have really started eating less. Another Fast Dieter commented that their stomach capacity has shrunk on this diet but I'm not so sure that this is a case of a physiological change so much a shift in attitude.

In the past if I had a yummy meal, I basically would keep eating until there was none left. I looked for that "full" feeling, never felt it, so kept eating. However these days I know that I don't need that much food to be full, and so enjoy one portion entirely and leave it at that. I really enjoy not feeling guilty and not feeling heavy after eating. I don't eat as much now because I know I don't need as much, and really don't want as much. I'm sure I'll O.D on things (read: eggnog, again) over the Christmas period, but in my everyday/regular eating, I am really finding it easy not to eat too much. And the thing is, I feel proud of myself for enjoying only as much as I need.

I have deleted another 4 hours worth of rambling on and on about this (perhaps I will touch on this again in another post sometime!) so will get to the meal plan for one of my Fast Days last week!

Snack - Apple & Cheese

Some days I easily fly past the early hunger pangs and get to having lunch around 4pm, but other days the pangs become more frequent and more insistent, so on those days, I listen to what my body needs. I really like to provide myself with as much as possible for as little as possible, so love having sweet and savoury at the same time. This snack is small but seems to satiate both my sweet tooth and need for salt - 1/2 an apple with 5g of cheddar cheese!

meg-made: #losedaytuesday Fast Diet snack

Lunch - Chicken & Courgette Arrabbiata 

I was checking the spelling of "arrabbiata" and saw that it means "angry"! How funny! I just love it, and I promise it is neither angry nor makes you feel angry after eating it. 

Couldn't be easier to make this meal - Cut and cook one chicken breast in a pan with one squirt of oil spray until starting to brown. Add half a chopped onion, half a chopped courgette and half a tin of chopped tomatoes. Let it bubble away and reduce for about ten minutes. Add a dash of cayenne pepper or chlli flakes to give the tomato a little bit of a kick (or angriness it seems). 

meg-made: #losedaytuesday Fast Diet Chicken Arrabbiata

Done. Easy. Delicious. 

Dinner - Rainbow Chicken

More chicken, it was a chickeny kind of day! This one was very random, but really worked. It was based around finding my gorgeous yellow and pink beets in the fridge that needed to be eaten soon, so I baked them in the oven for an hour and then came up with what to do with them.

meg-made: #losedaytuesday Fast Diet Beetroot

I wasn't feeling my most chef-y and so just wanted to throw something together that took very little preparation but that was still delicious. So I baked the chicken breasts in the oven with a few cherry tomatoes (to help keep the chicken from drying out) and threw a chopped courgette in too. These baked for about 20 minutes, until just browning on top.

meg-made: #losedaytuesday Fast Diet Rainbow ChickenI threw it all together and knew that something was missing, so put a teaspoon of Greek Yoghurt with 5g of Harissa Paste on top of the chicken, and it was gorgeous. I will definitely be using the yoghurt/harissa combination again, perhaps to bake the chicken in next time. It isn't the best photo ever, but I was too ravenous to care to keep taking more!!!


I was SO much better this week on the water. I made it such a focus of each day, to drink a lot of water, and then a lot more. I would have easily had 2 litres per day! Plus my usual Creme Caramel herbal tea (2 calories), which has become my Fast Day "treat". 

Total calories for the day = 476


I was kind of proud of myself this past week, I set my exercise goals and stuck to them. I modified my activities to not aggravate my wonky foot and hip, and so was able to complete a few good workouts during the week. 

I did the following this past week: a 1.2km swim; Reformer Pilates class; an at home resistance workout; two long and hilly walks with the pram; and a lot more incidental exercise this week. 

Weight loss?

Total loss to date = 3.1kgs (6.83lbs)

Hooray, I have pushed the 3kg mark. I had hoped to have lost 4kg by the end of the year, but I don't think I'll quite make that, but I am really happy that I am through the 3kg point. 

Goals for the coming week

A new section this week, but I think I want to really articulate what I've learnt from the previous week to focus on in the coming week. For this week they are:
  • Keep the water intake high
  • Plan my meals well for the Christmas week and prepare to continue 5:2
  • Track my calories on a non-fast day, just to see where I'm at there
  • Pilates + swim + resistance session + one walk
I've had a few people emailing me and asking whether I am enjoying the Fast Diet and a fair few newbies who are putting it on the back burner until the New Year. I think this is a good idea if you haven't started to wait another two weeks and give it the effort it deserves. I am definitely not having a hiatus period, for me, I really need to stick to this. I don't expect to lose weight over the holidays, but I do hope not to gain any, and really, that puts me well ahead of what the situation could be!! Let's be real, I LOVE Christmas food and knowing that will still be fasting makes me know that I can still enjoy everything without the guilt. And for me, removing the emotional attachment is so important!

Gosh, the next Lose Day Tuesday will be Christmas Eve! Where has the year gone?! Happy menu-planning for the Christmas period! I'm excited to hear the tips from the Fast Diet Forum regarding getting through the holidays and maintaining the 5:2. I'll include some of these next week!!

Until then, I hope you have a great week!! 

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16 December 2013

Christmas: North vs South

It is nearly Christmas (today I have a case for stating the bleeding obvious it seems).

I am so excited for another Christmas in the North(ern hemisphere) but speaking to family this past week has had me feeling a little nostalgic about what Christmas was like back home in the South(ern hemisphere).

I was approached by a Travel Blog called Gogobot to add my thoughts about their recent article Warm vs White, and so rather than talk about the difference between a snowsuit and a swimsuit, I thought I would write about what I am most passionate about, food, and how it differs in the two climates!

The menu is vastly different for a Christmas in Australia versus a Christmas in England, and planning our 4th Christmas in the North(ern hemisphere) got me thinking about just how different it all is, but each with its charms!

Christmas in Australia

Growing up in Australia we would usually spend most Christmas's at my Gran's house in Byron Bay. It was hot, really hot (35C/95F). It was a very rare occasion that we would have a roast for Christmas day, because back in those days we didn't have air-conditioning and so the thought of putting the oven on was just not worth it!

So instead, whether it was in Byron Bay, Brisbane, Melbourne or wherever else we were that Christmas, we would always find the freshest seafood and buy a couple of kilo's of fresh prawns and we would sit and peel prawns and (when we were older) drink some cold beers and white wine.

If I were planning Christmas at home this year I would go for some fresh seafood without a doubt. It is the signature Australian Christmas feast and should be the focal point for a Christmas lunch!!! My mouth waters just looking at this photo! Mango season in Australia is just awesome! There's even  now a charity auction for the first tray of mangoes in Australia, which this September went for $68,500! Not sure I would (haha or could) pay that, but they are divine. 

Delicious Magazine Prawn & Mango Salad
The next item would be a ham, but not an oven baked, it would be barbecued of course. The glorious ham would then be used for the next few days on fresh white bread with hot chips at the beach, or to jazz up a salad. Sticky Orange Soy-Glased Ham
For dessert, there's so many great choices because so many desserts are served cold. But I found this frozen pudding that looked like so much fun! I love the idea of taking something traditional but reinventing it a little. 

Donna Hay Frozen Christmas Pudding 
I do love plum puddings, and even though it was hot, we always had one on Christmas Day growing up, but equally there was also always a pavlova too. A cute Christmas idea would be to make it into a wreath like so...

Cuisine Christmas Pavlova recipe
But a few months ago when I was home I experimented with a caramel pavlova, but it didn't quite work out, but I would be trying to perfect it because I just love the concept, so I would try out this recipe this Christmas.

A few very Australian treats are also White Christmas (ironic no?)...

Exclusively Food White Christmas 
...and these Caramel Cookies made me gasp in disbelief that I had never thought to do this! You may have heard my rants about my love for Jersey Caramels and how much I miss them over in the UK (my Mum has been known to post me a pack costing three times in shipping than the value, but that would be the value to a regular person, to me they are priceless). Anyway, I'll be making these (gluten free) when my next delivery arrives!!

Donna Hay Caramel Cookies
Eggnog is multi-hemispherical, no matter where you are in the world there is always space for eggnog! I bloomin well love the stuff and just can't get enough. In Australia we would make it around lunch time to allow it plenty of time to chill completely before serving. Totally not necessary in the UK, it is actually quite lovely served warm, although I must say, it's still growing on me, I still prefer it with icicles floating amongst the nutmeg. 

Christmas in England

I can't believe this will be our 4th Christmas away from home! The first year was in Oxford, when we were lucky enough to have a very white Christmas living in the grounds of Magdalen College. All I wanted for Christmas was for it to be white, and as you can see, Santa was very good to me!

The next year was a very understated Christmas in London, just the two of us, me pregnant and sick in bed with a migraine, so we didn't really take many photos!

Then last year we had Christmas in Charlotte, North Carolina and had a traditional "Southern" Christmas complete with grits, hush puppies and many flavours of sweet pies for dessert. 

This year we are having my brother and his family up from Jersey to London to spend the Christmas week with us. We haven't had a Christmas together in 5 years and I am beyond excited to see our four little kiddies playing together in their little Christmas outfits on Christmas morning (shhh secret outfits). 

Planning a British Christmas feast is kind of fun. There are no limitations! The hotter the better!! The only issue really is oven capacity, so we may have to space out the 4kg gammon (ham) and the 5kg turkey (turkey). 

It is hard to go past "The Best Turkey in the World" curtesy of Jamie Oliver. This recipe stuffs flavoured butter under the skin before roasting, which really sounds pretty heavenly doesn't it?

Jamie Oliver The Best Turkey in the World
And if you have a buttery-skinned-turkey, you kind of have to have goose fat potatoes on the side don't you think?

BBC Good Food Goose Fat Potatoes
I have been looking for a range of other sides that are warm and slightly more healthy, and of course everything will be gluten free! I have found some yummy looking vegetables that just look so pretty!

Spring Vegetable Bundles

And for dessert this year, well, where to start?! My sister-in-law has found a mini Australian gluten free plum pudding for me, so I will be making a regular plum pudding for everyone else, from no other than Delia Smith.

Delia Smith Traditional Christmas Pudding
I know Plum Pudding isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I really enjoy mine with a generous helping of Brandy Butter and vanilla custard. Same goes for Mince Pies. They have to warm, dusted with icing sugar, and served with Brandy Butter and custard, or, ice cream.

Mince Pies made the cross-over to Australia, thank goodness, because I for one love them! My favourite memory though would have to be at our Oxfam Christmas Party in Oxford, when the Staff Health team put on a Christmas morning tea and served Mince Pies alongside syringes of brandy, for you to inject your own Mince Pie to your liking! Amazing! I make a batch or two each year but haven't attempted GF before, so will give this recipe a go this year.

Alex Stuart Gluten Free Fruit Mince Pies
I will also be making some gluten free gingerbread truffles. They are similar to regular rum balls, but instead of using a vanilla cookie to crumble, I will be using ginger stem cookies and rolling them in coconut. I'm really excited to try them, and will definitely post about them if they work out!

I wanted to make a cake as well, but given we will be having plum pudding, didn't want to make a traditional Christmas Fruit Cake as well. So I thought about a Gingerbread Cake. I think I might be a little too into my ginger this year, but I love the warmth of ginger and spices and so have found this recipe to make a gluten free cake based on these key flavours. 

A Girl Defloured Gingerbread Cake
I think that should be enough food for a few days for the four of us adults! I am so excited to be spending a few days huddled inside together playing games and cooking amazing food together. As much as I love Australia and will be missing our friends and family at this time, there is just something more Christmasy about a cold Christmas. It is what all the carols sing about (unless the "frightful" weather outside they are talking about is in fact 41 degrees celius with 97% humidity, it is possible) and it is what all snowy and white cards portray. 

If you have celebrated both a warm and white Christmas, which do you prefer? Do you prefer having your eggnog hot or cold?

Wherever you are going to be this Christmas, I hope you have a cracking menu planned to share with all of your loved ones (or as many as you happen to have in your hemisphere anyway!!).

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