Drop a Dress Size For Christmas

Drop a Dress Size for Christmas

If you’re looking to drop a dress size for Christmas – I’ve found the perfect plan for you! Nutritionist and author Fiona Kirk has created a 3 week party season diet (adapted from 2 Weeks in the Super Fast Lane diet book) which is an easy to adopt diet that makes light work of being able to drop a dress size and squeeze into that LBD ready for Christmas or New Years eve.

Parcel Baked Fish

Parcel Baked Fish


Shop, cook and freeze ahead wherever possible
Have 2 or 3 good meals per day
Include vegetables or salad in at least 2 meals
Leave 5 hours between meals with no snacks other than fresh fruit or very dark chocolate
Stay hydrated but don’t drink with meals
Only include starchy carbohydrates every 4th day
Exercise for 20-30 minutes per day
Supplement your diet with L-Glutamine (optional)

DAYS 1, 2, 3 and 5, 6, 7

    First Meal of the Day

(anywhere between getting up and mid morning)

2 eggs, poached, boiled, fried or scrambled with 2 slices lean bacon, grilled, a large tomato halved and grilled and 6 mushrooms sauteed in butter


Poached Egg Special (see recipe)


Tofu Towers (see recipe)


A large bowl or tub of freshly chopped, mixed fruit which you can graze on through the morning if you find eating early in the day a struggle

    Second and/or Third Meal of the Day

(no less than 5 hours after your last meal)

Large bowl of ‘bought’ soup (with poultry, meat, fish, shellfish or tofu but no pasta, grains, beans, lentils or potatoes) and a large, lightly dressed mixed salad


If you have planned ahead – Parsley Soup with Chicken Nuggets or Spicy Meatball Soup with My Favourite Warm Salad (see recipes)

If you are eating out – grilled or sauteed lean beef or venison steak, pork fillet, lamb or veal chop, chicken breast/leg, whole fish or fish fillet with at least 3 types of steamed/roasted vegetables or a lightly dressed mixed salad (no pasta, grains, beans, lentils or potatoes)


If you are at home or have cooking facilities – Salmon with Roasted Vegetables or Lemon Ginger Chicken or Parcel Baked Fish or Aromatic Beef/Lamb Stew (see recipes) with lots of steamed, stir fried or roasted vegetables or a lightly dressed mixed salad


If you find 2 meals a day are sufficient and only wish a ‘light bite‘ either around lunchtime or later in the evening, have a colourful selection of raw, baby vegetables or vegetable ‘sticks‘ with a small tub of salsa, guacamole, taramasalata, tzatziki or cottage cheese

Parsley Soup with Chicken Nuggets

Parsley Soup with Chicken Nuggets

DAYS 4 and 8

    First Meal of the Day

(anywhere between getting up and mid morning)

Good-sized bowl of ‘bought’ muesli mix without sugar or dried fruit with semi-skimmed milk or milk alternatives (soya, almond, oat etc), topped with mixed nuts and seeds


Nutty Bircher Muesli (see recipe)


A bowl of porridge made with water and topped with a drizzle of runny honey and powdered cinnamon or nutmeg


A large bowl or tub of freshly chopped, mixed fruit which you can graze on through the morning if you find eating early in the day a struggle

    Second and/or Third Meal of the Day

(no less than 5 hours after your last meal)

Large bowl of ‘bought’ soup (with poultry, meat, fish, shellfish or tofu PLUS pasta, grains, beans, lentils or potatoes) and a large, lightly dressed mixed salad


If you have planned ahead – Light Chicken Broth or Thai Curry Sweet Potato Soup (see recipes) with a warm or cold, lightly dressed mixed salad


If you are eating out – grilled or sauteed lean beef or venison steak, pork fillet, lamb or veal chop, chicken breast/leg, whole fish or fish fillet PLUS a small portion of rice, beans, lentils or potatoes and at least 3 types of steamed/roasted vegetables or a lightly dressed mixed salad


If you are at home or have cooking facilities – Crispy-Topped Baked Fish/Chicken/Tofu or Mince and Mash (see recipes) with lots of steamed, stir fried or roasted vegetables or a lightly dressed mixed salad

Roasted Vegetables

Roasted Vegetables


No problem!

No less than 1 hour before a meal or 3 hours after a meal have a couple of pieces of fresh fruit or a fruit smoothie (no yoghurt) or a small bar (35g) of dark 70% cocoa solids chocolate


Water (still and sparkling)
Coconut water
Dark, rich, black coffee (no milk or sugar)
Black, red, green, herb and fruit tea (no milk or sugar)
Red wine or dry white wine (max 2 small glasses per day)

Lemon Ginger Chicken

Lemon Ginger Chicken


Tofu Towers

(makes 1 serving)

I canʼt remember where the inspiration for this recipe came from but aubergine, tofu and spices are a great combination and the runny egg completes the dish beautifully.

1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 slices firm tofu (2-3cm thick)
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
½ level teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon coconut oil
½ teaspoon soy sauce
2 thick slices aubergine
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 large eggs
2 large handfuls fresh spinach leaves

• Toss the sesame seeds in a pan over a medium heat until toasted and set aside (donʼt take your
eye off them as they burn very quickly).
• Wrap the tofu slices in kitchen paper and press firmly to absorb most of the water.
• Mix the chilli sauce, ginger, coconut oil and soy sauce and paint both sides of the tofu slices then put them under a hot grill or on a griddle pan. Cook, turning regularly until they are nicely browned.
• Coat both sides of the aubergine slices with oil and season with salt and pepper before grilling or griddling as per the tofu. Turn regularly until cooked through and nut brown on both sides.
• Keep the aubergine and tofu warm while you poach the eggs.
• Quickly rinse the spinach leaves, microwave or steam until just wilting then dry the leaves in
plenty of kitchen paper.
• To serve, put the aubergine slices on a warmed plate followed by the tofu, the spinach, the
sesame seeds and finally the poached eggs.
• If you are merely peckish, one poached egg will suffice. If hungry, opt for two.

Thai Curry Sweet Potato Soup

(serves 4)

Chunky, sweet, savoury and creamy all in one spoonful – this is a soup that takes little time to prepare but offers a lot. One dieter decided to add the prawns, the chicken and the tofu and reports that the result was something rather special and has become a firm family favourite!

250g sweet potato peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks
1 long, thin red pepper, de-seeded and cut into fine strips
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk (not ʻlow fatʼ as it is liable to ʻsplitʼ when heated)
400ml chicken or vegetable stock
3 teaspoons Thai Red Curry Paste
12 fresh prawns or 1 chicken breast cut into long, thin strips or chunks of tofu
50g fresh basil leaves, chopped or torn (also works well with baby spinach leaves)

• Put the sweet potato, red pepper, coconut milk, stock and Thai Red Curry Paste into a large pot, stir well and bring slowly to the boil.
• Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the sweet potato is tender and just
beginning to fall apart, this will thicken the soup. You can thicken the soup further by mashing
the sweet potato gently.
• Add the protein of your choice and stir over a low heat to cook through. The prawns and tofu will only take a couple of minutes, the chicken slightly longer.
• Stir in the basil leaves and when just wilted, serve the soup.
• You can add more Thai Red Curry Paste before adding the protein if you like a bit more spice

Spicy Meatball Soup

(serves 4)

You can get very creative with the meatballs in this soup and use whatever meat/poultry is to hand. And, if you like a bit of heat, just up the chilli element. Alternatively, leave out the chilli powder and replace the fresh chilli with red pepper for a milder but still very tasty soup.

400g lean minced beef, lamb, chicken or turkey
1 egg, lightly whisked
2 tablespoons fresh herbs, finely chopped (parsley/oregano/thyme/marjoram)
½ teaspoon sea salt
A few good grindings of black pepper
Good pinch of chilli powder
2 tablespoons light olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and finely diced
1 large stalk celery, peeled and finely sliced
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely diced
1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 large courgette, sliced or chopped
1 heaped tablespoon tomato puree
1 litre beef/lamb/chicken stock (depending on your choice of meat)
1 x 400g tinned, chopped tomatoes
100g curly kale/savoy cabbage, very finely sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Good bunch fresh parsley chopped

• Thoroughly mix the minced meat/poultry, egg, herbs, salt, pepper and chilli powder in a bowl
with a fork.
• Make around 16 bite-sized meatballs with your hands, lay them on a dish, cover and put in the
fridge while you make the soup.
• Heat the oil in a large soup pot, add the onion, carrot and celery and saute gently until the onion is soft and translucent and the carrots are slightly tender (donʼt let the onions brown).
• Add the chilli, garlic, courgette and tomato puree, stir well and saute for a further 5 minutes.
• Add the stock and tinned tomatoes, bring slowly to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15
minutes or until the carrots are tender.
• Add the kale/cabbage and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
• Add the meatballs to the soup with a large spoon and simmer gently until they are cooked
through (around 8-10 minutes).
• Check the seasoning and serve; 4 meatballs to a bowl, topped with lots of fresh parsley.

Salmon with Roasted Vegetables

(makes 1 serving)

This works with any ʻmeatyʼ fish (salmon, monkfish, halibut, swordfish etc) and whichever
vegetables you have in stock. Be generous with the vegetables as they shrink while roasting and
any extras can be refrigerated and served cold with a salad or in a lettuce wrap.

A mix of vegetables, rinsed, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks (peppers, leeks,
asparagus, sugar snap peas and baby carrots work well together)
1 tablespoon coconut, avocado or olive oil
Sea salt
Cayenne pepper
250ml fish or vegetable stock
1 salmon steak or fillet (skinned)
1 small onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 bay leaf
A good handful of fresh herbs (dill, marjoram, oregano, lemon thyme)
Freshly ground black pepper
250ml fish or vegetable stock

• Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.
• Put the prepared vegetables in a bowl, add the oil, a pinch of salt and a good sprinkling of
cayenne pepper, mix well then spread evenly on a baking sheet.
• Place on a fairly high shelf in the oven and roast for 20 minutes before turning and giving them another 5-10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and well-caramelised around the edges.
• Meanwhile, pour the stock into a shallow saute pan, add the onion, bay leaf, herbs, a pinch of
salt and a few good grindings of black pepper and bring slowly to the boil.
• Turn the heat to a gentle simmer, place the salmon on top, cover the pan with a lid or foil and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the salmon is cooked to your liking (cut it in half if you are not sure whether it is cooked right through or not – youʼre not on Masterchef and there are no cameras!)
• To serve, lift the salmon from the pan and serve on a bed of the roasted vegetables.
• You can sieve the delicious cooking liquor and keep it refrigerated for a couple of days for using with other fish dishes or the fish broth (or just sup it on its own whilst it is still hot – itʼs that good!)

Poached Egg Special

(makes 1 serving)

Thereʼs something about slicing through a perfectly-cooked poached egg that is hard to match on
the indulgence front. Make this combo once and you will be hooked!

½ tablespoon coconut or olive oil
1 large ʻbeefʼ mushroom, stem removed and top peeled
1 large free range egg
A handful of fresh baby spinach leaves
½ avocado, stone out, peeled and sliced
2 thin slices smoked ham or smoked salmon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

• Warm the oil in a shallow pan over a medium heat then saute the mushroom for around 5
minutes, turning regularly until well-browned and cooked through.
• Remove from the heat, turn the mushroom gill side up, lightly season, place the spinach leaves
on top and cover with a lid or foil to keep warm (this allows the spinach to wilt a little).
• Bring a small pan of water to the boil, turn it down to barely bubbling, give it a good swirl with a whisk then crack the egg into the middle of the vortex and cook for 3 minutes before removing with a slotted spoon and placing it on a few sheets of kitchen towel to absorb excess water.
• Place the mushroom/spinach on a warmed serving plate followed by the sliced avocado, ham or
smoked salmon and finally the egg, season to taste and eat immediately.
• This also works well with scrambled egg if you find poaching eggs a bit of a hit or miss affair!

Parsley Soup with Chicken Nuggets

(makes 1 generous or 2 small servings)

This has become a great favourite with our soup fans. It is crazily-green, bursting with goodness and makes a great ʻto goʼ soup if you flask it. You can also top it with other grilled meats, tofu croutons or toasted nuts and seeds for a bit of variety.

2 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely sliced/chopped
1 small courgette, cleaned and diced
1 x 28g pack parsley, washed, stalks separated and leaves roughly shredded
1 small clove garlic, peeled and sliced/crushed
400ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 small bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1 small skinless chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized nuggets

• Warm 1 tablespoon of the oil in a soup pot, add the onion and courgette and gently saute until
tender but not coloured.
• Add the parsley stalks and garlic and continue to saute for a further 5 minutes.
• Add the stock and bay leaf, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the onions and
courgette are soft.
• Add the parsley leaves, bring back just to the boil then remove the pot from the heat.
• Transfer the soup to a blender and blitz until very smooth.
• If it is a little too thick for your liking, add more stock or boiling water.
• Strain into a clean pot, check the seasoning and keep on a low heat until ready to serve.
• Put the remaining tablespoon of oil, a good pinch of salt and a few grindings of black pepper in a bowl, add the chicken nuggets and stir until they are well-coated, transfer to a baking sheet lined with tinfoil and grill under a medium heat, turning regularly until slightly crisp on the outside but still juicy inside.
• Drain on kitchen or greaseproof paper, ladle the soup into bowls and top generously with the

Parcel-Baked Fish

(makes 1 serving)

Fish was born to be baked in a parcel. All the juices meld together creating a delicious, quick and super-healthy meal. Get friendly with your local fishmonger, buy fish and vegetables in season and add herbs and spices to sharpen things up. This is one of my favourites.

1 white fish fillet of choice
1 generous handful of fresh spinach leaves
1 small onion, peeled and very finely sliced into rings
6 fresh asparagus tips
1 tomato, sliced
1 small red chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh parsley or coriander leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

• Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.
• Lay out one piece of aluminium foil about 12-14” square and place the spinach on it.
• Lay the fish fillet on the bed of spinach followed by the onion, asparagus, tomato, chilli (is using) and herbs.
• Drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil over and season lightly with salt and pepper.
• Fold the foil to create a parcel, leaving plenty of space around the contents, place on a baking sheet and bake for around 25 minutes or until the fish is cooked and the juices run clear.
• Timing will depend on the thickness of the fish fillet so take a peek after 25 minutes. Be careful when opening the foil as hot steam will escape.
• When cooked, lift the contents of the parcel onto a warmed plate and spoon over the delicious
juices. something about slicing through a perfectly-cooked poached egg that is hard to match on the indulgence front. Make this combo once and you will be hooked!

Nutty Bircher Muesli

(makes 1 generous or 2 smaller servings)

I learned how to make real authentic Bircher muesli whilst working as a waitress in the mountains of Switzerland in my early 20s. Since then, I have been playing around with the revered Dr Maximilian Bircher-Bennerʼs classic, restorative recipe and this is one that doesnʼt include fruit but still has a wonderfully sweet edge.

6 tablespoons oats
140ml coconut water
2 tablespoons flaked almonds (toasted or un-toasted)
½ tablespoon Manuka honey
1 tablespoon 0% fat Greek yoghurt
2 teaspoons lemon/lime juice
½ apple, peeled, cored and grated
4 fresh mint leaves, very finely chopped

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, mix really well, cover and place in the fridge overnight.
Serve with a sprinkling of cinnamon powder or grated nutmeg on top.

Mince and Mash

(makes 2 servings)

Mince and potatoes canʼt be beat when it comes to comfort food and I may well be the first
nutritionist ever to recommend it in a super fast fat loss plan! But why not? Good quality protein, rich in iron and other health-giving nutrients, filling and satisfying, downright delicious and cooked this way, waistline-friendly – whatʼs not to love?

250g very lean beef or lamb mince
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 heaped teaspoons cornflour
250ml beef or lamb stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
500g mashing potatoes, peeled and cut into even sized chunks
25g of butter (optional)

• Heat a non-stick pan over a high heat, add the mince and using a wooden fork or spatula,
brown the mince, separating all the mince morsels along the way.
• Add the onion and continue to stir over a high heat until everything has a nicely-browned edge, add the cornflour, mix in well then turn the heat down a little.
• Add the stock, stir until the liquid absorbs the cornflour, add the Worcestershire sauce, a good pinch of salt and a few grindings of black pepper, bring to the boil, stirring continuously then turn the heat down to a very gentle simmer, put the lid on and cook for 45 minutes.
• After 45 minutes, remove the lid, turn the heat up to medium and let the mince bubble away and
• Meanwhile, put the potato chunks in a pot, pour boiling water over to just cover, add a good
pinch of salt, bring to the boil then turn the heat down, put a lid on and cook for around 20
minutes or until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart.
• When the potatoes are cooked, drain and cover with a tea towel for a few minutes to absorb
some of the steam before returning to the pan, adding the butter if using) and mashing furiously
until wonderfully-smooth and creamy.
• I like the mash on the bottom and the mince on top so the gravy seeps into the mash but feel free to do your own thing!

Light Chicken Broth

(makes 3 generous or 4 smaller servings)

There is not much I can say about this chicken soup other than that it feeds much, much more than the soul! My best friend and trusted soup guru, Jean threw this one together one evening when she had a few chicken thighs that were nearing their use-by date and the rest is now history. Trust me, you could live on this soup for 2 weeks and never get bored with it!

2 chicken thighs, skin on
1 tablespoon olive or avocado oil
2 stalks celery, peeled and finely sliced
1 small onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 small carrot, peeled and finely diced
600ml chicken stock
40g brown rice
1 teaspoon horseradish sauce
A generous bunch of parsley, stalks removed and leaves very finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

• Roast the chicken pieces in a medium to hot oven until the skins are crisp and the flesh is
cooked through while you make the soup.
• Warm the oil in a soup pot, add the celery, onion and carrot and saute gently until the
vegetables are tender (about 15 minutes).
• Add the stock and bring slowly to the boil.
• Reduce the heat, add the rice and simmer, covered until the rice is cooked (around 20 minutes).
• Skin the chicken pieces and shred/chop the flesh before adding to the soup with the
horseradish sauce and parsley.
• Stir well and season to taste.
• As rice soaks up a lot of liquid, you will probably have to add more stock or water to achieve the light, brothy experience if you are not supping this soup immediately and have refrigerated/
frozen it for future use.

Lemon Ginger Chicken

(makes 1 serving)

This was an experiment that really worked! The cool, creamy avocado topping married with the
heat of the ginger and lemon grass and the sharpness of the lemon and vinegar takes the
succulent chicken fillets into a whole new place.

3 skinless mini chicken fillets
1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
½ red onion, finely sliced
1 celery stick, finely sliced
2 large tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded and chopped or a small can (200ml)chopped tomatoes,
sieved to remove the liquid
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon lemon grass paste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 heaped tablespoon fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ ripe avocado, stoned, peeled and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons lime or lemon juice
Chilli powder (hot or mild)

• Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.
• Place the chicken fillets on a piece of baking foil large enough to form a loose parcel, lightly season, add a good splash of oil, scrunch all the edges of the foil together, place in an ovenproof baking dish and bake for 8-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear then set aside, covered.
• Warm the oil in a small saute pan, add the onion and celery and cook gently until they are soft but not browned.
• Add the tomato, ginger, lemon grass and vinegar, stir well and continue to cook over a medium
heat until the vinegar starts to evaporate and the sauce becomes like a paste (around 5-7
• Add the coriander, season to taste, mix well, turn off the heat and place a lid on the pan.
• In a small bowl,

6 Healthy Breakfast Ideas

Now I’m in my 30′s (good grief when did that happen?!) I’ve been putting much more of a conscious effort into adopting a healthier lifestyle. In addition to working out more regularly and re-vamping my skincare routine, I have been trying to ‘eat clean’ around 85% of the time, meaning no added salt, sugar and sweeteners and eating fresh, nutritious healthy food to meet my body’s needs. Energy is a big issue for me so I like to make sure I start my day right by filling up on a balanced breakfast to fuel me for the day, so below I’ve shared some of my favourite breakfast dishes that I regularly enjoy. I’ve chosen 6 rather than 7 breakfasts as there’s always room one day of the week for a slightly less healthy option such as grilled bacon or sausage, pancakes or jam with toast.



Eggs are high protein and really filling so are a great healthy breakfast option. Scrambled eggs are definitely a favourite of mine, served with wholemeal toast, and I like to make them on weekends when I have a little more time to make them properly – on the stove in a pan, stirred very slowly over a low heat until thick and creamy.


Berries (including blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries) are SO good for you! They contain high amounts of Vitamin A and C needed for healthy skin and to maintain both your immune system and metabolism. I like to top a bowl of mixed berries with 0% fat greek style natural yogurt – it’s thick and protein rich (meaning I’m fuller for longer). I’m currently choosing fat free yogurt to help aid weight loss but you can swap to full fat or low fat to suit your personal taste.


Porridge oats are a great staple for breakfast time as they’re so versatile and porridge is a quick, simple way to fill up first thing. If you’re gluten intolerant check for gluten free versions. Traditionally porridge is more a winter time breakfast for me but I like to enjoy it all year round, made with milk and topped with dates and figs (dates are sweet but figs are better for you as they contain a much higher fibre content). Add a little honey or agave syrup if you like it a little sweeter.


Some muesli is full of added ingredients so choose one that contains no added salt and contains only natural fruit sugars for optimum health benefits. Muesli is naturally high in fibre, low in fat and contains oats which help sustain energy levels throughout the morning. However, remember muesli is still high in calories (as the mixture of oats, fruit and often nuts and seeds are carbohydrate dense) so it’s best to measure your portions. I always choose bananas to top my muesli as they’re also great for energy, are filling and full of potassium. Almond milk is a new favourite of mine as it’s naturally low in fat and full of vitamin E (for healthy skin and nails).


Overnight oats (also known as breakfast oats and similar to the dessert cranachan) is one of my favourite breakfast dishes! Prepare this the night before and in the morning you’re good to go – you can grab this and eat on the way to work or if you’re in a hurry without worrying about missing the most important meal of the day. You simply mix porridge oats with yogurt (here I’ve used raspberry and honey yogurt) and layer the mixture with your favourite fruit (I use frozen fruit so it’s defrosts overnight). Then in the morning stir it or eat it as is. For an extra crunch I like to add a sprinkling of chopped or flaked almonds and for sweetness, a drizzle of agave syrup.


I like to change it up by adding different fruits to my breakfasts and one of my favourite combinations is mango with blueberries. I like to eat them together as a snack but for breakfast I top them with greek yogurt and a recent find – mango and macadamia granola – to make it a bit more substantial. I choose macadamia nuts because they are full of nutrients, healthy fats and are a good source of protein. Again, granola is another breakfast cereal that can have many hidden ingredients so I try to choose a healthier option with no added sugar or salt and weigh or measure it out before serving. Alternatively you can make your own granola – one of my favourite recipes is this Healthy Homemade Granola from Bless This Mess.

So which of the above gets your tastebuds tingling?

Also leave me a comment below telling me your own breakfast recipes or favourite breakfast dishes, I’d love to hear what you have for breakfast or brunch – is it very different to these ideas or perhaps you skip breakfast altogether?!

Easter Treats 2014

If you’re after something a little different this Easter holiday here is my round-up of a few favourite alternative Easter treats (don’t worry, chocolate is still very much on the list!)

1. OK so call me crazy but I really like the sound of this Chocolate Paella recipe. It’s like a chocolatey rice pudding with hazelnuts, raspberries, chocolate (obvs) and white chocolate buttons. What’s not to love?!

chocolate raspberry hazelnut paella recipe easter

Paella de Chocolate: Chocolate, raspberry and hazelnut paella

Serves 6 – 8 people because it’s really chocolaty!!

Cooking time: 25 minutes


300g of Spanish paella rice such as bomba or calasparra

2 tsp granulated sugar

20 ml vanilla essence

10g of extra brute chocolate powder

25g white chocolate callets (mini buttons)

1 orange (for peel and zest)

160g of dark chocolate (I use 53% for this recipe)

25g raisins

25g chopped toasted hazelnuts

200g fresh raspberries

650 ml water


1 paella pan or a 30cm large heavy bottom frying pan

1 small saucepan

1 microplain or small box grater


Place the rice into a heavy based saucepan with the cocoa powder and half the vanilla essence.

Add in 500ml of water with the orange peel and give it a quick stir. Place the pan onto the stove and turn the heat up in the pan to a rolling boil and then down to simmer for 14 minutes, stirring a couple of times to make sure the rice doesn’t stick.

All you are looking to do here is infuse the rice with a little orange and vanilla, open up the pours, inject the cocoa rouge colour into the rice but you are not playing with the starches of the rice. After 14 minutes the rice should still be firm.

Remove the rice from the pan immediately and spoon it out onto a big plate, or tray or anything you can find to halt the cooking process. Spread it out really thin so it can cool almost instantly. Then remove the orange peel. I refer to the rice as ‘par-boiled’.

Place the paella pan onto the stove and add in the sugar, raisins and the rest of the vanilla extract and the remaining water then bring to the boil, turn down to a medium heat.

Taste it, this is your Caldo – your broth, and this has to be spot on… if you want to add a dash more vanilla, then now’s your chance… Get ready the next stage is full on and you cannot leave the stove!!

Quickly throw in the par-boiled paella rice.

Then give it a good stir through to spread the par cooked rice out evenly. Leave it to gently bubble away for about 4 minutes so the caldo can get to work with the rice, remember this is the first time the rice has had chance to absorb the sugar.

Then drop in the dark chocolate. And give it one more stir, just one swoop through the pan and then that’s it

From now on remember this rule…move the pan, do not stir the paella.

Turn the heat to low, let the rest of the broth be absorbed by the rice, this takes about 1 minute. Once the broth has totally disappeared, check that the rice is al dente – cooked but with a slight bite, then remove from the heat.

Bring the hot pan out of the kitchen and into your serving area, I like to get everyone involved at this point, all those little fingers going to work

As a family you can sprinkle over the white chocolate (you can either use callets as I have, or chips or you can even snap and shave off from a block. Just let it melt on the top.

Then add the hazlenuts and a good grating of orange zest, plus a little squeeze of a wedge or 2 for good measure!

A Rest is so important: about 2 or 3 minutes is my golden rule,

Well if you can stop the kids delving in….
(Recipe courtesy of Antony Bennett – www.latasca.co.uk).

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2. This caramel tea is super delicious. You know me, I love tea so I’m easily pleased! But this truly is so nice as a sweet treat or a posh Easter gift.

caramel tea east india company easter

Caramel Tea for Easter, £10.00
(Available at The East India Company flagship store on Conduit Street, or online at www.eicfinefoods.com)

This smooth blend of pure Ceylon black tea with rich notes of caramel offers a full-bodied decadent cup with a sweet aftertaste. With its distinct aroma of caramel, this tea is the perfect way to awaken the senses on Easter morning.

Brew time : 2g tea in 200ml water for 4 minutes

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3. For low (no) calorie easter treats, I love the range of Lush easter products. Typically I buy Fluffy Egg bath bombs this time of year (as all the easter products are limited edition) and it smells like sweet pink candyfloss and produces many many bubbles!

This year the new products include Golden Egg (I think they may have had this last year too?), Carrot Cone and Funny Bunny Knot Wrap – the latter two being full of lovely little bath and body treats, giving the perfect excuse to have a little pampering over the bank holiday weekend.

Golden Egg bath melt ballistic

A brand new invention… this egg is a bath bomb coated in bath melt mixture. It will unexpectedly sink to the bottom of the bathtub while the outer layer dissolves, popping to the surface as the fizzing centre is revealed.
Ingredients The outer bath melt mix is made using our beautiful fair trade, organic Colombian Peace Village cocoa butter and olive oil from a brand new permaculture project we’re working with in Palestine. Scented with the best selling Honey I Washed the Kids fragrance, it’s coated with PET free golden lustre.
Inspired by chocolate cream eggs, we reverse it and coat the hard bath bomb centre with a creamy bath melt shell. £3.50 each


Inside this carrot-shaped cone you’ll find a rabbit hidden within a slice of Carrot soap; a Bunch of Carrots for the rabbit to enjoy; and a Golden
Egg, a reward for the bunny for eating all of his carrots! You’ll discover the contents as a story, along with a maze game for the lucky recipient to play as they search for the Golden Egg! Vegan 

Funny Bunny

Tied up inside this organic cotton Knot-Wrap is a selection of limited edition Easter treats. The organic cotton Knot-Wrap is from re-wrap, a women’s co-operative in India. By choosing the Lush Knot-Wrap gift options, instead of traditional paper wrap, you are helping us save 11.6 tonnes of waste per year. Especially relevant at times like Easter when excess packaging is so prevalent.
CONTAINS: two Bunny bubble bars; A Bunch of Carrots reusable bubble bars and a Fluffy Egg bath bomb. Vegan

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4. For a grown up Easter treat try this recipe for Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes by Eric Lanlard. They are a combination of chocolate and spicy ingredients, such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Omit the chilli and cayenne pepper for a result more akin to a chocolate hot cross bun!

eric lanlard mexican cupcakes

Makes: 12 Cupcakes
Cooking time: 20-25 minutes

175g (6oz) plain flour
225g (7.5 oz)caster sugar
4 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Extract
1 tsp white wine vinegar
5 tsp sunflower oil
chili pepper cake decorations, to

For the Frosting:
100g (3.5 oz) dark chocolate, broken into
150g (5oz) unsalted butter
150g (5oz) icing sugar
¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Line a cupcake tin with paper cases. Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, bicarbonate
of soda, cinnamon and nutmeg into a bowl. In a large bowl, blend together the Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Extract,
vinegar, oil and 250 ml cold water. Mix the dry ingredients into this mixture until the batter is smooth.

2. Divide the mixture between the paper cases (it will be fairly liquid) and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a
skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

3. To make the frosting: melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of barely simmering water,
making sure the bowl does not touch the surface of the water. When melted leave to cool. Whisk the butter and
icing sugar together until pale and fluffy, then whisk in the cooled melted chocolate and the cayenne pepper. Pipe
the frosting onto the cooled cakes and top with chilli pepper cake decorations to finish.

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5. There’s still time to enter my Easter Fashion Competition which finishes on Easter Sunday! Follow the link and you could win yourself your favourite fashion item for spring summer.

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I hope you all have a lovely Easter weekend and enjoy the bank holiday (fingers crossed for good weather) and don’t eat all your chocolatey treats in one go!

Book Review: The Icing on the Cake by Juliet Stallwood (Decorating Baked Treats)

Book Review: The Icing on the Cake by Juliet Stallwood (Decorating Baked Treats)

Here at Tasty Gorgeous we were sent this fabulous book to review – The Icing on the Cake: Your Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Decorating Baked Treats by Juliet Stallwood. Those familiar with her work will know her as a proclaimed baker and cake decorator. She has a long history of innovative cake design and her own bakery business located in the village of Semley in Dorset. She makes and sells her products to a devoted following including Marco Pierre White and Atul Kochhar. She was also recently featured in Country Living Magazine and also runs classes teaching people how to decorate cakes and baked goods. She has now published ‘The Icing on the Cake: Your Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Decorating Baked Treats’ for home bakers also.

the icing on the cake juliet stallwood book review baking decorating

This as her first book, is a wonderful look into decorating many tempting treats such as cakes, cookies, meringues, whoopie pies, chocolates and brownies. Plus it has useful hints and tips for bakers no matter their level of expertise.

The book is divided into five sections, not alphabetised or by type of baked good as you might expect but describing situations when you might want to bake, for example the book begins with the chapter entitled ‘Decorate to Indulge’ is followed by both ‘Decorate to Love’ and ‘Decorate to Celebrate’ and ends with the more decadent chapter ‘Decorate to Impress’. The final chapter sees Stallwood describe her ‘Best-Kept Secrets’ including details of equipment, handling and covering cakes and a number of guides and templates to recreate her recipes with ease.

Many of the recipes and techniques given could be sourced elsewhere and don’t seem particularly distinct however both the language used is likeable and easy to understand and the designs shown throughout the book have been displayed in a fresh and unique style.

sugared rose petal cake juliet stallwood the icing on the cake recipe book review

Decorate to Indulge includes some wonderfully simple but effective ways to decorate a multitude of baked goodies with beautiful full colour page photographs, guides and illustrative drawings. Techniques covered include creating sugared rose petals, chocolate work and piping skills whereas recipes of whoopie pies, macaroons and biscuits are also presented.

Decorate to Love shows off Stallwoods signature style with some stunning corset biscuits, decorated and piped to perfection. This chapter also includes some useful recipe charts for chocolate and sponge cakes of different sizes which makes a great reference guide. She also tackles some more difficult techniques including stencilling and using royal icing efficiently.

corset biscuits juliet stallwood the icing on the cake recipe book review

The next chapter is Decorate to Celebrate which covers as you might expect cakes and baking ideas including occasions such as christenings, birthdays, christmas and weddings. This chapter concentrates mostly on using sugarpaste decorations and modelling featuring a fancy gingerbread house and a helpful fruit cake recipe chart. For those who enjoy figure modelling you’re sure to love the cute party penguins and adorable baby shower cupcakes.

Decorate to Impress is full of ideas that look visually stunning and although appear to be more difficult, the step by step guides are easy to follow. The recipes in this section are a little more challenging and include how to create a tiered wedding cake and make realistic looking sugar flowers.

chocolate mini cakes juliet stallwood the icing on the cake recipe book review

The Best-Kept Secrets chapter is a wonderful reference for new and experienced bakers alike including everything from an ideal list of baking equipment to lining a cake tin to covering, icing and stacking cakes. A limited suppliers list is also included.

In conclusion The Icing on the Cake: Your Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Decorating Baked Treats is an engaging book that covers a multitude of invaluable techniques and includes over 50 achievable recipes. Although it is more suited to a beginner or novice baker it is equally good for those with more experience as a reference guide, to refresh the mind on techniques or to read for a little inspiration.

The Icing on the Cake: Your Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Decorating Baked Treats by Juliet Stallwood is currently available, rrp £16.99.

Exploring my Tea Collection

Like most Brits I love tea but it wasn’t until recently that I discovered just how many types of tea I currently own. I like trying new flavours – anything from black tea to white tea, green tea, fruit tea, decaf, infusions and herbal blends.

tea collection

my enormous tea collection!


I enjoy making tea with real tea leaves and regularly take my time having a tea break (and quite often cake too!) and love the custom of it all but I equally love having a quick brew first thing in the morning to start my day. I’ll quickly mention here that I do also drink coffee (my tassimo machine is a firm friend!) but tea is my go-to beverage on most occasions so that’s why I’m sharing some of my favourites with you.

At the moment I have around 30 different kinds of tea. This may seem extreme but I love to have a choice and often when friends and family go abroad they bring me some tea back to try as they know I love it so much! I have mostly a collection of teabag teas widely available in the UK including some instant tea from Whittards and also several loose leaf teas from Hong Kong.

Twinings, Whittards, Clipper and Bellevue

Twinings, Whittards, Clipper and Bellevue to name a few


My favourite flavour of tea is green tea with lemon – I know some find it an acquired taste but I think it’s so delicious! I also love a good Earl Grey but I have to be in the right mood to drink one. The best Earl Grey tea I’ve tried so far is from Bellevue and has a really strong bergamot aroma and deep flavour.

a few teapigs teas

a few teapigs teas


I’ve tried some more unique tea flavours recently – namely from Teapigs – as they have different ranges or types of teas recommended for different moods. Some I’ve tried and liked include Chocolate Tea (best of both worlds there!), Tung Ting Oolong (not pictured but described as being somewhere between black and green tea which I think is amazing if like me you love green teas but crave the traditional black tea flavour), Rooibos Crème Caramel – which is delicious if you have a sweet tooth and Yerba Mate which is super similar to Whittards Gunpowder Tea – both smoky and full of antioxidants to give you a boost of energy.

whittard tea selection

whittard tea selection


The flavours I’ve hated from Teapigs are popcorn which I just found a bit weird and liquorice and mint tea which I found sickly sweet and not nice in the slightest. You might like it if you’ve got a very sweet tooth perhaps.

I also have this selection box of teas from Whittards and I think it’s such a great way to try new teas so you don’t need to buy a whole box of tea and then if you don’t like it, it goes to waste. My favourite flavour from this selection is actually the gunpowder tea which I drink without milk and which has a sweet and smoky flavour.

Let me know if there are any particular teas you would like reviewing in depth. Do you have a favourite flavour of tea? Perhaps you don’t drink it at all?

The Body Reset Diet – Phase I: Review And Results

51pi1rilqvl-_sx334_bo1204203200_If you know me, you’ll know I like ‘reviewing’ diets. Mostly because of my endless struggle with those few last pounds but also for my genuine interest in nutrition and how the food we take in affects our everyday lives – often more than we know. Recently I have been keeping up with the Kardashians or one Kardashian in particular – Kim. And no I’m not here to condone her *reasons* for being, ahem, “famous” or to discuss her recent pregnancy fashion faux pas (although seriously – what was she thinking with that highwaisted peplum skinnies and poloneck combo?!!) BUT oddly I feel I have more in common with Kim K than most other celebs as we share the same body type – curvy to the point if you put on so much as 3lbs you start to look chunky. So I started to keep tabs on her exercise habits and turn a new leaf by getting a bit more active.

Simultaneously I was looking for a new way to kickstart a bit of weightloss. Exercising was all well and good but I wasn’t even shifting a pound and was sticking 100% to a well known slimming group program. It was disheartening and I wasn’t seeing any difference no matter what I did. Then I got a lovely email asking if I’d heard of The Body Reset Diet by Harley Pasternak.

(I hadn’t) and if I’d like to give it a try (why not!). So I got my hands on the book and then discovered Kim K follows this diet along with other celebs like Megan Fox and Hilary Duff. Not another Hollywood diet I thought and my heart sank. But as I read the book I realised it’s not just another ‘diet’ – it’s actually good sound nutritional advice and it promised the things I was looking for – weightloss that shows, weightloss that won’t leave you feeling hungry and that you’re going without plus a minimal exercise program.

IMG_2556Berrypina colada
smoothies l-r: cucumber lime, berry, pina colada

The diet is divided into three phases and in phase one you have three smoothies a day and two snacks plus it’s recommended you walk 10,000 steps a day. Each smoothie (recipes given in the book) is made up of all the nutritional requirements your body needs like fresh fruit, milk and salad greens. The emphasis of phase one is on speed (each smoothie or snack takes less than 5 minutes to prepare), nutrition (fresh or frozen ingredients are pulped to allow for easy digestion of vital nutrients) and cost (easy to find ingredients are included in all recipes and costs significantly less than meal replacement products and no more expensive than everyday meals).

smoothies l-r: chocolate, sweet spinach, pb&j

If you don’t like smoothies then this diet is not for you – as with any diet or eating plan there are pros and cons but this is a pretty big necessity if you intend on following the plan! I anjoy smoothies, I tend to have them fairly regularly anyway so this wasn’t such a huge leap for me. Harley promises you won’t feel hungry on the diet because there is protein to keep you feeling fuller for longer in every one of your 5 ‘meals’. I was hungry on days two and three late in the evenings but after that my hunger subsided and I got used to having less but I didn’t feel like I was going without. And I liked the smoothies – as you can see here they all look vibrant and appetising – and they all tasted very nice. Each day in phase one was one white, one red and one green smoothie to make sure you get all your nutritional needs and I found them quick and easy to prepare plus I found them appealing and wantedto drink them.

raspberry lemon dropmaxwell mochaapple pie
smoothies l-r: raspberry lemon drop, maxwell mocha, apple pie

Nice tasting smoothies
Easy to find ingredients
Quick and convenient (you can make smoothies before work or going out and keep in a flask)
Suitable for people who are new to exercise or those who haven’t exercised in some time
Improved skin complexion and brighter eyes
More even energy levels
Walking is easy
Support is given for both diet and exercising effectively
I lost weight!

Not suitable if you’re a fussy eater
Preferably you need a blender so an extra cost (I already had one so didn’t make any difference to me)
You still need willpower and motivation – it wasn’t easy making dinner for everyone else and having something different from them each evening

During the first phase (5 days) I stuck to the plan 100% and found it easy to stay motivated and not be tempted by foods not incorporated in the plan. During this time I lost 7lbs which is a fabulous start to the diet and exactly the motivation I needed to keep up with the rest of the plan. Reviews and results for phases 2 and 3 of The Body Reset Diet will be up soon!

The Body Reset Diet is available now and is published by Simon & Schuster UK, priced £12.99.

30 Before 30 – No 19: Books on the bookshelf

Considering that in the last three years I have read about as many books, number 19 on my 30 Before 30 list is quite a tall order. Logging into my GoodReads account, it shows I have been reading the same two books since May 2011. But in fact they have been sitting by my bedside, gathering dust. And on a weekly basis I look at them thinking, ‘I must read that tonight’ and then never get around to it.

Being a member of goodreads should help me accomplish reading through my list though – as it allows me to keep track of each book I read, ticking it off so to speak as I finish one and move onto another. It also allows you to connect with friends, see what they’re reading plus give and accept recommendations. If you want to join me and follow my book updates you can see my profile here.

However, when I made my 30 Before 30 list, I wasn’t aware of exactly how many books I have left to read. The total is twenty-one books. To read in 17 months and 2 weeks. Do-able? Well here comes the maths…
That works out at 76 weeks and therefore one book every 3.6 weeks (or 3 weeks and 4 days per book).

I think this sounds achievable as long as I keep to the deadlines and I hope as soon as I start reading again there will be some books I love so much I won’t want to put them down and will speed through them (for example several Marian Keyes and Sophie Kinsellas which should make for light reading.)

Have you got any book recommendations for when I finish my list? Do you prefer to read good old fashioned paperbacks or are you a kindle fan?

Blogging Resolutions

A New Year, A New Perspective on Blogging…

Sometimes you can become disheartened when things with your blog aren’t going as well as you’d like them to be. So say if you get writers block (I know I do on a regular basis) or lose the vision of your blog or run out of ideas to blog about, it’s easy to lose heart and want to give up.

But blogging should be fun and personally I feel you only experience these things when you’re forcing yourself to write. If you enjoy writing you shouldn’t need to force ideas out but understandably, when you’re looking at a blank page/ipad/laptop/smartphone and know you’ve got followers you don’t want to let down, it’s easy to get into a spiral of not blogging, then worrying that you haven’t blogged in ages, then to get writers block and not be able to start writing again.

So what steps will I take in 2012?

I will:

  • Aim to post 2-3 times a week minimum but not to beat myself up about it if I don’t reach that target – it’s my blog and my rules!
  • Not apologise if I haven’t posted for a while or give the explanation ‘life’s been a bit busy lately’ (nor will I use the terms AWOL or MIA (which I see so many bloggers doing!) – these terms are to describe soldiers etc missing in war zones – hardly the same thing is it?!!! I just find that completely inappropriate.)
  • Practice good karma and make positive comments about other blogs.
  • Have fun with my blog and try new things e.g. formats, photo styles and post ideas.
  • Reply to all comments left by my lovely readers. That means you, person reading this 🙂
  • Stop pandering to brands and products – what I mean by this is posting about a product because it’s ‘popular’ at the time and everyone else is reviewing the same thing. Innovative and individual are the way forward.
  • Use my google analytics – if you don’t have this set up, it can show you all sorts of things about your blog; how many readers you’re getting, which posts are most popular, where your traffic is coming from. It’s quick and simple to set up and you can see how to do this here.
  • Pay It Forward – I’m a lover of the author Catherine Ryan-Hyde, who’s story of a young boy who does three good deeds is a very touching tale. So today I am paying it forward to three bloggers who deserve a mention, and I hope in turn they pay it forward to three more bloggers and so on to create a ‘pay it forward’ blogging community.

Pay It Forward

Today I pay it forward to:

  • Bex from Ialwaysbelievedinfutures. She is a genuine, funny, chatty and insightful blogger who writes about her loves of food, beauty, fashion and motherhood – as she is a new mummy!
  • Kirstie at Dottynoggin who is a ridiculously talented illustrator and genuinely lovely person. Her blog showcases her love of design mixed with a personal touch.
  • Zoe from SplodzBlogz who is an inspiration and I enjoy following her projects particularly her year in pictures – a photograph everyday for a year.

Good Luck with your blogging resolutions this year – what changes will you be making and what have you learned from blogging so far? Don’t forget to pay it forward and share a little blogging love!

Christmas – Finishing Touches

Every family and household must have their own traditions and style at Christmas and I thought I’d share some of the things that make it Christmas in our house.

This last weekend before Christmas we have made gingerbread and mince pies (with amazing mouth watering buttery and crumbly pastry!) which I love served up on a kitsch cake stand I bought around three years ago in the sales. I also have the matching mugs and saucers which have space for a mince pie or biscuits on the side – cute!

I love Christmas boxes with chocolate box style scenes of snow covered villages and landscapes. They make great gift boxes which can be reused year after year or purely as decorations because of their bright colours. I love to mix and match old and new styles and think these look lovely against both a traditional or contemporary background. Christmas boxes are really easy to make too – if you save wrapping paper and cards you can stick them onto old shoes boxes or gift boxes using PVA glue (called decoupage) which makes a lovely personal touch for next years presents.

The tree is packed with ornaments, baubles, beads and tinsel – I love the look of a really full tree and although it isn’t real (we gave those up a few years ago when the needles always dropped) I like a bit of greenery and like the look of one or two colours as a theme.

Lastly I had to share with you this little character – a reindeer! He’s new this year but we have lots of characters that have been around for years. Do you have any favourite Christmas items or traditions you couldn’t do without?

Celebration Cake

I spent Thursday last week creating a white chocolate celebration cake and cake pops for a teen birthday party. The cake in question was to have a ‘white chocolate theme’ and I was left to my own devices and could create what I wanted so I made a three layer 9″ white chocolate cake, filled with white chocolate butter cream and raspberry jam, topped with white chocolate icing and covered in melted white chocolate. For decoration I covered the exterior with white chocolate fingers, giant snowies and made a majorette figure from modelling paste. I finished the cake by adding a sash made from modelling chocolate. Nearly 3lbs(!) of white chocolate went into the cake and by the end of the night there were only two pieces left, so I think it tasted ok!

I also made some cake pops for the first time and they were so fun to make and a great addition for a teen party and I have already got another order for cake pops in a few weeks based on these. They are filled with chocolate fudge cake and dipped in melted milk chocolate, then topped with chocolate sprinkles, chocolate chips, hundreds and thousands and pink sugar crystals. I’m definitely going to enjoy making these again 🙂