My New Weight Loss Plan

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Last year I was diagnosed as having a severe vitamin D deficiency. This is becoming an increasingly common issue for people in the UK as they are spending longer working indoors and not enough time outside. One of the steps I took to improve my vitamin D levels in addition to taking medication was to start walking. I walked miles each week and this resulted in me losing around 28 pounds and really toning up. Unfortunately, I have since put all this weight back on.

My car was stolen from outside my home last year. While you may assume that this resulted in me walking more, the opposite was true. I needed a car sooner than the insurance was going to pay out, so I worked lots of extra hours to pay for another car. This stopped me from walking back from the school run each day as I did not have the time. I had also intended to start swimming one morning a week once my youngest started at school. Again, I couldn’t do this because I didn’t have a car to get there.

One of the main reasons I have put on so much weight is that my partner moved in with me last year. He likes to treat me and is always bringing home boxes of chocolates and bottles of wine. This has contributed to me now being the largest I have ever been. Writing this food blog isn’t helping as I am making meals that I might not necessarily make so that I can add them to the blog. 

I am now taking action to lose the weight. First, I have told my partner to stop buying me treats. Second, I am going to add more healthy meals to the blog rather than ones that have rich and creamy sauces (although I do have a creamy and cheesy stuffed mushroom recipe that I am planning on adding later today!). 

The next thing is to get myself physically active again. The warmer months are arriving now, so walking home from the school run will be a pleasant start to my day. Now I have another car, I can also start going swimming once a week. I even bought myself a new swimming costume yesterday while I was visiting Southport for a spa day with my mum and sister. Hopefully, my new cozzie will inspire me to take the plunge and start swimming again. 

No doubt I will report in with my weight loss success or failure on The Fruity Tart at some point soon. I might even be brave enough to post some before and after pics!

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REVIEW: Lunch at Portland Hall Spa

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Each year, I go away for one night with my mum and my sister. We usually look for a Groupon deal for a spa break and my sister and I pay for this as a treat to my mum for Mother’s Day. This year, we were all in need of more of a break than ever. Both my sister and I are busy with our own businesses and we have seven children between us. All three of us have been impacted by the death of my father earlier in the year. This year, we headed off to Southport to stay at the Prince of Wales Hotel and spend a day at the Portland Hall Spa Hotel. 

We had picked up a package for a Mother’s Day treat at Portland Hall Spa. This included a back and neck massage, a full facial and the option of either a head massage or a leg massage. The deal also included a two-course lunch. As this is a food website, it is the food that I will focus on in this post (although I have to say that the treatments were excellent!).

Starters at Portland Hall Spa

All three of us chose different starters which makes for a better review! My mum opted for the chicken skewers which came in a tasty coating and with a sauce that was similar to hoisin, but a bit sweeter. She said the chicken was tender and I had a taste of her sauce with some of her salad garnish and it was delicious. 

My sister opted for the vegetarian tart, which was described as being made with goats cheese and caramelised onion. I had expected this to come as a small, round pastry casing with caramelised onion on the bottom, topped with goats cheese. However, this was not the case. It was a slice cut from a larger tart and my sister passed me a taste across the table. It looked a bit like quiche and certainly had the same sort of eggy texture but had the consistency of a sponge cake. I wasn’t keen on the dish as it was not what I had expected but my sister enjoyed it.

My choice was the homemade pate served with wholemeal toast. It arrived with the pate served in a small pot and was one of the best pates I have ever eaten. It was rich and meaty with a nice consistency and texture. I was initially disappointed that there was no butter to go with the toast, but I really didn’t need it. I spread the caramelised onion that was served with this starter over the toast and then added the pate.

Main Courses at Portland Hall Spa

Again, we all ordered something different. For her main, my sister chose the tossed spaghetti. This was a less creamy version of carbonara as it had pancetta, mushrooms, and Parmesan. I didn’t taste this dish personally, but it looked nice and my sister enjoyed it. The spaghetti looked like it had been cooked perfectly. I have a thing about soggy spaghetti!

My mum decided to order the chicken stroganoff with rice. The rice was served in a separate bowl with the rice on the side. This was a dish she thoroughly enjoyed as the chicken was still moist and the sauce was thick and luscious. It was made with wholegrain mustard, so it was spotted with the seeds. 

After my enjoyment of the starter, I was thoroughly looking forward to my main. Sadly, I was a bit disappointed. I chose the vegetable bake, which was described as layers of aubergines and tomatoes, topped with Mozzarella. First things first, there were slices of aubergine and it was topped with Mozzarella, so this part of the description was correct.

Unfortunately, there were no tomatoes in the dish. There were some courgettes at the bottom, which was a bonus as I love courgettes. However, I had been looking forward to the tang that tomatoes give a dish and this was missing. My other criticism was that this was a pasta dish and there was no mention of pasta on the menu. The aubergines were layered between sheets of pasta and topped with a bechamel sauce. It should really have been written as aubergine lasagne. However, I must add that it was perfectly well cooked, it was just not what I wanted or had expected. 

Drinks

There was some pretense that we were being healthy by attending a spa, so we ordered a jug of water. Unfortunately, we also ordered a jug of sangria to accompany our meal (well, we only do this once a year!). It was fruity, alcoholic, delicious and the perfect accompaniment to what was, for the most part, a good meal.

The menu has changed every year I have been, so no doubt I will have some different dishes to describe next year. Although I had a few minor issues, these related more to the descriptions of the food than the quality or flavour. 

 

 

WATCH: 10 Best Songs with Food in the Title

music

Something a little different on my blog today- music and song! Artists from around the world take their creative inspiration from many different sources and this is often the things that they see and do every day. One source of inspiration is the things they eat and drink as there are many examples of songs that are about food or have food in the title. Here are 10 of the best food-related songs. 

1. Strawberry Fields Forever- The Beatles

2. Brown Sugar- The Rolling Stones

3. Blueberry Hill- Fats Domino

4. American Pie- Don McLean

5. Lollipop- Chordettes

6. Banana Boat Song- Harry Bellafonte

7. Sugar Sugar- The Archies

8. Sugar and Spice- The Cryan’ Shames

9. Candyman- Christina Aguilera

10. Apples, Peaches and Pumpkin Pie- Jay and the Techniques

 

Feel free to add any more of your own in the comments box below if you can think of a good food-related song. There are plenty!

Inspired by the Daily Prompt ‘Song’ on The Daily Post- although it has been on my list of blog posts to add for a while!

RECIPE: Macaroni Cheese

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The other day, my eldest son was supposed to make macaroni cheese in his food tech lesson. According to his version of events, the teacher told him to just throw all the ingredients together in a pan and the result was raw pasta and a coagulated burnt mixture at the bottom of the pan. I am sure that the teacher did not tell him to do this, but she had a class of 30+ teens to deal with in her class, so may not have had the time to spend teaching him how to do it properly.

I decided to teach him how to do it properly, making a rue for a cheese sauce and the order in which you add the ingredients. I think it is important to get children involved in cooking as it is an important life skill for them to learn. I suppose there are many variations on how to macaroni cheese, but this is how I have taught my son to make it using just pasta and a basic cheese sauce. Here is a simple recipe for macaroni cheese.

Ingredients for Macaroni Cheese

  • 18 oz/ 500 g dried pasta (macaroni or a similar variety of pasta)
  • 1 oz/ 25 g butter
  • 1 oz/ 25 g plain flour
  • 3 oz/ 80 g cheese for the sauce
  • 2 oz/ 50g cheese for the topping
  • 600 ml/ 1-pint milk
  • 2 tsp English mustard (optional)
  • White pepper and salt

How to Make Macaroni Cheese

  1. Measure your ingredients first and preheat the oven to 180C/ gas mark 4.
  2. Cook the pasta in a saucepan according to pack instructions. I would remove a few minutes from the cooking time so it is al dente as the pasta will continue to cook in the cheese sauce. 
  3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan over a low heat. 
  4. Sieve the flour into the melted butter and stir.
  5. Cook for two minutes.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and add the milk a little at a time continuously stirring until you have created a smooth sauce.
  7. Season with the salt and white pepper, add the mustard (optional) and stir through.
  8. Simmer gently over a low heat for approximately eight minutes.
  9. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese.
  10. Drain the pasta when cooked and transfer to either a large ovenproof dish or individual ovenproof dishes.
  11. Using a ladle, spoon over the cheese sauce evenly.
  12. Sprinkle your remaining cheese over the top of the dishes. 
  13. Transfer to the oven and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until the cheese on top is golden and bubbling.
  14. If you have cooked one large macaroni cheese, spoon onto plates. If you have cooked individual portions, transfer the individual bowls to plates. 
  15. Serve with salad, vegetables, or garlic bread. 

A Glimmer of Hope for My Kitchen Garden

kitchen garden

Something that I have always dreamed of is a kitchen garden. I love cooking with fresh ingredients and what better way than growing your own food? I also think it is a fantastic way of teaching children about food, getting them involved in both gardening and cooking, and doing something outdoors as a family. I love the idea of walking out into the garden and selecting your ingredients to create a meal.

My back garden is more of a yard than a garden. It is mainly concrete with a few borders that for a long time were massively overgrown with shrubs and brambles. I was a single working parent for a lot of years and felt overwhelmed at the thought of transforming the garden into a more usable space. My efforts at growing food in the past have only extended to a few tomato plants and some potted herbs in the conservatory. The only other food picked from my garden is blackberries from an accidentally grown bramble. 

Now that my partner has moved in with us, I have a glimmer of hope for getting the kitchen garden I have always wanted. He is a passionate gardener and a master of making useful items out of scraps of wood. He has completely cleared the space and built wooden troughs around the borders and created large wooden planters. He has built a decking section for us to eat on and put up some handmade trellises and crossed canes for growing climbing plants. 

We have worked out a plan together for where we are going to plant different vegetables and herbs and to which sections we will add herbs. So far, we have only planted some peas and tomatoes, but we are keen to get going and excited about getting the children involved.

Over the next few months, there will probably be several posts about our gardening adventures and the meals I have created from our mini-harvests.

Written in response to the Daily Prompt ‘Glimmer’ on The Daily Post.

Introducing Pietro the Pasta Maker- The Fruity Tart’s New Assistant

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I am excited to introduce to you Pietro, my new pasta maker. In the style of Ainsley Harriet on ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’, I have decided to give it a name. For all of you who are not from the UK, ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’ was a teatime cooking competition on TV that was presented by celebrity chef Ainsley Harriet. He would refer to the condiments as Susie Salt and Percy Pepper.

I am not entirely sure why I have decided to start naming my kitchen equipment. The only excuse I can make is that the children have been off school now for two weeks and I have had to look after them while still working from home and having building work done. Perhaps I am going a little deranged?

Anyway, you will now see Pietro appearing in quite a few blog posts now he has finally made it out of the cupboard. I actually got him as a gift from my mum for Christmas and I only got round to using him for the first time a few days ago. I made soft cheese and spinach ravioli with a garlic mushroom butter sauce and salad. Recipe coming soon!

Desert Island Food….. What Are Your Eight?

desert island

Today I thought I would do something different from my usual recipe posts and food news. I don’t know how it popped into my head, but I was thinking about Desert Island Discs. This is a BBC4 radio program where celebrities are interviewed and asked about what they would take on a desert island with them. They are allowed to choose eight of their favourite tracks, plus one book and one luxury item. Just for fun, I thought I would do a foodie version of this game on my blog for my readers to join in. You are allowed eight food items of which you will have an endless supply on the island. My eight are as follows:

  1. Steak
  2. Lancashire crumbly cheese
  3. Garlic
  4. Cherry tomatoes
  5. Duck
  6. Chocolate
  7. Salted peanuts
  8. Granary bread

What are your eight desert island foods? Comments below!