Harcombe phase 2, welcome back dairy and carbs!

With a skip in my step and 4lb lighter than 5 days ago I hopped downstairs. This mornings breakfast was my usual omelette but with two slices of Brie melting on the top. Heaven. I live with a cheese hating man and over the years I’ve scaled cheese consumption back, partly to avoid the fat and also to avoid the smell making hubby gag. Re-discovering cheese was a nice treat.

I decided to make a carb feast for a family lunch, falafel, humus, salad, pitta, harissa, tzaiki and continental meats for the men folk. I began with tzaiki by deseeding the cucumber and salting in a colander. Next step falafel prep. I followed the recipe in the Harcombe diet book rather than using the trusty good food website and then moved onto the humus. To use up a glut of cannelini beans (I swear the cans are breeding) I used them instead of chickpeas. It seemed a little bland but not too bad. I made my harissa cautiously trying not to breathe too much and then tried to finish the falafel.

Total disaster, the mixture was too loose to form balls and father gamely frying three splats I quit and binned the lot.

Everyone enjoyed the lunch, hubby didn’t believe my warning that the harissa was hot and slathered it in a pitta bread stuffed with ham and salad. The boys found watching their Daddy’s face change colour great fun and he learned that my interpretation of ‘bloody hot’ is quite accurate!

Breakfast: Brie, spring onion and bacon omelette with salad
Lunch: humus, pitta, harissa, salad, tzaiki
Dinner: kebab with no pitta bread (or chips)
Treat: glass of red wine.



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Day 4 of Harcombe diet eating out and taking away!

I had a bad start to Thursday, when I was in the shower a huge black spot appeared in my vision, it disappeared after a few minutes but was pretty odd. Worried that this could be the start of a migraine I decided not to drive (my migraines leave me with a blind spot, poor co-ordination and slurred/ jumbled speech, like being drunk with none of the fun and a killer hangover). I cooked my usual omelette with tomatoes for brekkie but didn’t feel hungry and managed about 1/2, in fact I was quite queasy and spent much of the morning quietly groaning in my office.

I’d arranged a few weeks ago to have lunch with a friend and approached Nandos apprehensively. A Mediterranean chicken salad (no feta) and corn on the cob (with butter!) later and I felt MUCH better. I didn’t even resent not being allowed a diet coke. Feeling better I powered through the afternoon and must have walked three miles going to the far side of Clapham Road to meet Ben’s tutors, back to the train station and then walking home.

In the evening we treated ourselves and the boys to a curry. As Ben had played his favourite trick of keeping us all awake from 5:30 neither adult wanted to leave the house so we ordered a takeaway. Now I know onion bhaji has a little gram flour to bind it but I decided that I could turn a blind eye to that and had a very enjoyable evening.

Breakfast: bacon omelette and tinned tomato
Lunch: Nandos Mediterranean salad (no feta), corn on the cob and butter
Dinner: Chicken Methi and 2 onion bhajis

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Day 2 of phase 1 of Harcombe – sweet chilli sauce panic

I woke up from one of the deepest and most undisturbed sleeps ever at the ungodly hour of 5:30 while my son asked where the toilet paper was! I was nearly ready to sleep again when he came in to tell me his leg hurt and then again 15 minutes later to ask if it was time to get up.

The day had not got off to the best start and was exacerbated by youngest son feeling poorly and wetting the bed. Knowing that I had a long day ahead and no chocolate or caffeine to prop myself up with I was not in my happy place. I felt like I might be getting the lurgy off little son and stomped into the kitchen threatening to take the treat out of my early-bird’s lunchbox.

Despite everything I managed to get through the morning meeting without crying, falling asleep or forgetting my name (all of which I thought were likely given my un-caffeinated state). I got back to my office and thought about lunch without great enthusiasm while getting ready for the afternoon’s briefing and Board meeting, I even handled a crisis in another department and handled umpteen calls while surreptitiously typing and clicking print!

The evening session started at 3 and finished at 7:30 when we went straight into a farewell dinner for a retiring Board member. Before going on the diet I’d chosen the veggie option as I like meat in moderation rather than the perfectly cooked but too big and too rich versions offered at the venue. I don’t think I did too bad given that the day ended with a formal dinner and plenty of wine on offer

Breakfast: bacon omelette, salad and beetroot
Lunch: salmon with salad and beetroot (can’t get enough of these)

Cauliflower Beignets and an apple sauce – yum I skipped the sauce and felt virtuous until and I realised beignets had flour (whoops). By the time the fish course came my heart was pounding and scalp was twitching.
Chickpea and basil croquettes with salad and sweet chilli sauce. I ate the salad and left both of the croquettes. Some chilli sauce may have fallen onto the salad.
Artichokes in a hazelnut velouté on mash. I ate the artichokes but didn’t go chasing extra sauce, left the mash and picked at veggies on the side.
Pudding – politely declined an amazing looking trio of chocolate desserts.
Cheese, coffee and petit fours – politely declined while I glugged more water.

No wine, no coffee, no tea and no diet coke.

I got home at 11, straight to bed but feeling proud of myself for avoiding the temptations of biscuits and sweets during the meeting, olive studded bread and butter, croquettes, hazelnut velouté, mash, cheese, crackers, grapes, tea, wine and chocolate puddings.

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Day 1 of phase 1 of Harcombe hell.

In desperation I’ve turned to a far out diet, the Harcombe diet. When you read the book it seems to makes sense but anything that takes me away from diet coke seems extreme to me!

I decided to start on a Monday as I didn’t want the long Easter weekend to be overshadowed by me sobbing while the rest of the family scoffed hot cross buns and Easter eggs and as my week would quieten down after Tuesday evening. Sadly I decided pretty much on the spur of the moment and hadn’t exactly stocked my kitchen up in advance.

Breakfast – 2 egg omelette with rocket, spinach and watercress.
Snack: tub of M&S olives (super yum)
Lunch – M&S side salad and tub of prawns.
Tea: 2 egg ham omelette, rocket, spinach, watercress and beetroot
Supper: two pieces of salmon in a warmed up easiyo mayo that had for wrong!

After Brownies I decided to make my own mayo using some natural live yoghurt which the easiyo site claimed was easy. It wasn’t easy and didn’t thicken so I decided to warm it up and serve as a freaky warm hollandaise with my salmon, bizarrely it was quite nice.

Exhausted by a day with no hot cross buns or diet Pepsi, running around at work, running around after the kids and then supervising brownies making chocolate nests I couldn’t stay up and was in bed by 9.

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Triple Choc monster cookies for monsters

I have recently tried to encourage Ben to behave at school by promising we’ll bake something yummy (or if I feel lazy buy him a hot wheel) every weekend if he has kept his golden time safe at school. At the end of the week year one gets 1/2 hour free play (golden time) but can have time removed as a punishment, I’m not sold on the advantage of punishing a child on Friday for something he did on Monday but am doing my bit to support the teachers through bribery.

An unexpected advantage has been that my periodic baking of muffins has resulted in the freezer being stocked with treats I can defrost in the microwave or bung in Ben’s lunchbox avoiding the hysteria when I discover there are no treats in the house to put in the box. Initially Ben had asked for smarties cookies and as my freezer was stripped of treats I agreed we’d try to bake cookies.

In the past my cookies have not so much expanded as much as exploded into a solid baking sheet of cookie so I agreed with some trepidation. I looked at various recipes and decided kitchen monsters recipe looked both child friendly and idiot proof. I didn’t have smarties but had a couple of bags of cheapo chocolate chips (if I cook for adults I use green and blacks, the kids are interested in quantity not quality so they get what ever is cheapest in the shops!) and some cheapo cocoa powder so I adapted the recipe to make triple chocolate monster cookies.

Normally my rule for cocoa is that you can substitute cocoa for up to half the flour but need to throw in baking powder if it was self raising flour, given my previous disasters I ignored my own rule.


175g butter
2 eggs
225g caster sugar
100g cocoa
250g self raising flour
Handful of chocolate chips
Handful of white chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 180 and line 2 baking trays.

2. Throw everything apart from the chips in the bowl (letting the kids try cocoa powder off my finger was a good learning experience for what “bitter” means and both boys practiced numbers and mental arithmetic with the digital scales).

3. Mix, my proper whisk was MIA so I put the whisk attachment onto the hand held soup / blending stick. Nothing happened. It’s been a while but I had never seen such a stiff mixture, maybe the flour was too cold but all the stick did was sweet Fanny Adams so it was back to elbow grease. When I’d done the bulk of the work the kids tried to move the spoon in the mixture – learning what “too bloody stiff” meant.

4. Add the chips, stir as best as you can.

5. Use a tablespoon to fling large wodges onto the sheet. Given my paranoia of spreading, I just made 12 over the two trays. Apply children’s faces to the leftover batter in the bowl and on the spoon.

6. Bake for 14 minutes. They didn’t spread much (maybe because I hadn’t flattened them, maybe because I didn’t add baking soda or maybe the flour was acting up) but they didn’t seem any the worse for it. If you want the half cooked American style cookies you could cut the cooking time a few minutes.

Taste testers have given this the thumbs up. In theory cookies can freeze so hopefully I’ll be restocking my treat bag in the freezer if they don’t eat them all! They’re quite firm (proper chocolate cookies rather than soggy ones) so I think they’ll freeze well.



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Bittersweet symphony

My three and half year old ‘baby’ has been our of nappies for over eighteen months, is dry at night if he is bribed and now is starting to read.

He’s just finished the last lesson on the first reading eggs map and took the quiz at the end.


While I am proud of my determined baby Im not ready for him to be so grown up so quickly.

Going through the trauma of a fast growing toddler without any anaesthetic (chocolate) is not easy.

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Back to the Ws

After two weeks at home (mainly under a duvet trying to cure my cold with chocolate and wine) this morning was back to reality with a bump. I was carrying around a stone more than Id like to and half a stone more than normal before I caught the lurgy from hell a few weeks before Christmas. With chest infections, irritable airways, spiking temperatures and finally a secondary ear infection I decided to give the gym a rest.

While Ive not quite been brave enough to weigh myself (yet) the return to work heralded the return to the other big W in my life – weightwatchers. In the post Christmas misery of going back to real life I decided my diet needed to return to normal too, no more medicinal chocolates.

I am a serial diet flirt. I’ve had more diets than boyfriend. While the twin Ws have been there most of my adult life I can’t stop myself flirting with other diets; there was the one where I had to eat a grapefruit a day to do something with my insulin levels, the awful three night stand with Atkins, calorie counting with My Fitness Pal, some food combining one where fruit and veg MUST be consumed before meat and veg (there was a table of food digestion times appealing to the pseudo scientist in me), the 5:2 diet was dumped when we hit a crisis and he couldn’t help me with two poorly kids and slimming world (great for a quick weight loss but too high maintenance for me with my lazy cooking in the longer term).


I know WW may not give me the same exhilarating weight loss and the thrill of doing something illicit behind my long term diet partner’s back (sorry WW I love you but I can’t commit to a monogamous relationship).

A day in and I think I’ve coped, Boots had a pathetic lack of food at lunchtime but M&S had some excitingly yummy food which my long term partner told me I could eat (love the iPad app) and as I had skipped breakfast due to a domestic crisis involving a temperamental downstairs cloakroom I got a salad on top of my sarnie (Fuller for Longer beef and cheese wrap, highly recommended).

I was a good girl I committed to what we’d eat for tea (healthy version of a mushroom stroganoff) and nodded encouragingly at my partner’s new clothes (WW now helps you develop good habits).

I am hoping that I can commit to stick with WW this time as we’re off to the Riviera in May.

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