Christmas dinner hacks

You all may think I am insane with some of these and your mother in law may shoot you but to be honest with you, I would much rather enjoy my Christmas day with my family than slave away cooking when I could do all the prep WELL in advance.

Turkey: Ah yes, the big bird. We always get a large or extra large as we love turkey leftovers! Cold for boxing day with salad, potatoes you name it, in a stew, in a pie, in a curry, biryani, Korean hotpot! Endless uses.

What do I do? I put foil over the wings and thin part of the leg, cover the rest in plenty of salt and pepper and streaky bacon (no I do not eat that part, that is dad’s favourite) cover the turkey with foil making sure its sealed in and right before I go to bed it goes into the oven at 100C for the next 12 hours! At which point you remove from the oven and crank up the heat to 200C removing the foil from the turkey saving it for later, pour the juices into a pan for the best gravy of your life (syns are well worth it) and put the turkey back into the oven for 20 minutes or until the temperature of the thickest part (thigh) reaches 74C. Remove from the oven and cover with foil and 2-3 clean bath towels out of the way to rest. It will stay hot for hours while you finish your veggies! Speaking of which..

Potatoes: Must be done on the day! You want to parboil your potatoes for 10 minutes in salted water (i love adding some rosemary to the water too), when you drain the potatoes give them a very good shaking until the edges rough up and sprinkle over 1 tbsp of semolina. Line a tray with foil and preheat in the oven which is now at 200C. Use your choice of cooking oil or spray to coat the potatoes lightly before pouring them onto the hot tray and placing into the oven. (they should take around 40 minutes to cook).


Parsnips and carrots: The only way we would have got our nanny pat to eat cooked carrots was roasted! A day before to make it easier I peel and parboil the carrots and parsnips with a slice of lemon. I drain them and put them into a foil tray adding 1 tsp of honey a generous pinch of salt, pepper and thyme and toss them, leave them to cool before covering and putting in the fridge. Remove them from the fridge an hour before baking them (about when you get the turkey out) you want to spray them in your chosen spray or oil before putting the tray into the oven halfway through when the potatoes are done.

Brussel sprouts: I honestly hate them. The only way I will eat them is thinly sliced in a stir fry but here is how we made them last Christmas! The day before my nanny pat peeled the sprouts and put a cross in the bottom of them (don’t ask me why it’s just something we have always done, I don’t know what it does!) I par-boil them until I can just stick a fork in them then I drain them and cool them and put them in the fridge. On the big day I fry up some smoked bacon and chestnuts and my dad adds butter (but again you won’t see me touching a sprout, I attempt every year and every year I fail) and we fry them until the Brussels start to crisp up a little and then we season to taste.

There are some other things we have like pigs in blankets and we always get my little sister to help wrap the sausages because there is no way we will pay £3 for 12 inch long sausages when we can get more bang for our buck making our own.

If I have learnt anything its make everything ahead if you can.. Even the stuffing (which I then put back in the oven on the day to cook), Yorkshire and veggies.

It’s Christmas! Yes, butter and syns are there but its one day a year. Treat yourself but don’t go making yourself ill.

I hope you have fun, spending time with your loved ones while you can this Christmas as this year has been very hard for all of us losing my lovely grandad and my wonderful nanny pat and most recently our gorgeous Weimerana. So put down your phone and laptop, hug the auntie that gives you a slobbery kiss, hug your uncle that always smells weird or makes weird jokes and love fully. Christmas is a time to show you what the present really means. Life is a gift so live it to the fullest.

Merry Christmas,

Love Emily, Chef who slims x


one pot: leftover winter carbonara

Italian purists would be screaming at me right now but what are ya gonna do? The family are hungry and after christmas, they are fed up with eating cold turkey.

feel free to leave out the butter to keep it lower in syns but I really feel that the leek and mushrooms benefit from the butter.

Serves 4-6 (if serving 4 only use 350g spaghetti/pasta same principle)

2 tsp butter (block butter, not margarine, that stuff is so unhealthy flies won’t even touch it, originally made to fatten turkeys! – syn according to your brand IF using)

500g spaghetti or pasta,

200g thinly sliced mushrooms,

A good handful or two of leftover turkey (or chicken),

4 smoked bacon medallions (roughly chopped),

1 large leek, 1 small onion thinly sliced,

200ml skimmed milk (syns or part of HEA – will also need boiling water)

1 large grated clove of garlic,

4 tbsp freshly grated parmesan (1 syn per tbsp)

Pinch of thyme,

salt and pepper.

  1. Heat a large pan over a high heat, add a generous spray of low cal spray and add the bacon leaving it to crisp.
  2. Add half the butter to the pan along with the leek and onion and a generous pinch of salt and pepper, stir and cover with a lid for 5 minutes stirring every so often until the leek and onion are soft.
  3. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry until they start to get a little colour before adding the garlic and thyme.
  4. Add the milk and turkey/chicken, when the milk starts to simmer add in the pasta.
  5. shimmy the pan to level out the ingredients then add enough boiling water (must be boiling) to just come up to the level of the pasta and place a lid on the top until the pan comes to a boil.
  6. Remove the lid and stir every so often for 6-8 minutes.
  7. When the water is almost gone stir in the butter and parmesan, season to taste and serve.

It may seem like a lot of steps but all the steps help to make the dish a whole lot better than the one-pot dishes that basically boil the vegetables. Please don’t add the pasta to the milk until it is simmering and only add boiling water, this way the pasta boil rather than stews. If you use cold water, the pasta will be mushy.

Love Emily, chef who slims x


Mexican style breakfast hash

I love a good brunch, especially if I have a little longer to sleep in before a lecture but my lecture starts at an odd time like 12 or 1 pm. This is a little different to your normal hash and definitely hits the spot if you are a little hungover.

Remember my recipes are for you to adapt how you like, chop the veggies how you want, leave the meat out or add in whatever you like.

Serves 2

1 red pepper and onion (chopped however you want)

150g parboiled potatoes (i used baby because my market had them on offer, you can also use tinned but drain them and pat them dry)

100g mushrooms (I prefer chestnut as they have less water than normal white mushrooms, again chopped however you wish)

150g 5% pork mince,

150g cherry tomatoes,

2 eggs

salt, pepper, 1 heaped tsp of ancho chilli and 1/4 tsp chipotle chilli powder and cumin (if you don’t have these on hand  use 1/2 tsp sweet paprika, smoked paprika and a decent pinch of cayenne pepper)

  1. Start by frying off your onions and peppers over a high heat until they start to soften.
  2. Add your mushrooms to the pan with a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. When the mushrooms have some colour move the veggies to one side of the pan and add the potatoes and pork mince and leave for a minute or two before flipping.
  4. When the potatoes and pork mince has some golden colour mix into the veggies and sprinkle over the spices and stir-fry to coat the pork and veggies.
  5. move the mix to one side and add the tomatoes leaving them to blister for a minute or two before incorporating them into the spiced veggies and meat.
  6. Add a generous splash of water (about 3-4 tbsp) and make 2 wells in the meat and veggie mixture and crack an egg into each hole.
  7. Cover the pan with a lid and leave for 3-4 minutes or until the yolk of the egg is cooked to your liking.

I hope you give this fragrant one pot a go, it is also a great dinner as it doesn’t take long at all!

Love Emily, chef who slims x

uni essentials: baked beans

You must be thinking I am crazy making a post about baked beans. They are the ultimate student food! cheap, full of protein and good vitamins but sometimes normal beans are a little boring especially if its all you have to live off of!

I am here to make those boring beans delicious and easy to eat when you’ve got through your hundredth can!

BBQ beans: chop up some bacon or sausage and fry it in a pan, when crispy add the beans, some garlic powder, chilli powder and smoked paprika (or if you don’t have herbs or spices I love using chipotle hot sauce). cook for 4 minutes and you’re ready!

Quick bean chilli: fry off some onion and pepper, add the baked beans a heaped tsp of cumin, chilli powder, smoked paprika and garlic powder. let cook for 5 minutes and you have a quick bean chilli.

Cowboy bean hotpot: heaped handful beef mince, half can of potatoes in bite-size pieces, 1 small roughly chopped onion, salt, pepper, cheese. – Fry off the beef mince and onion. When the mince starts to crisp up add the potatoes, salt, pepper and crisp up the potatoes. pour I the beans, stir, top with the cheese and put under the grill until bubbly and golden.

The big dipper: poor your baked beans into an ovenproof dish and make 2 wells in them. crack in 2 whole eggs, sprinkle over salt and pepper and a sprinkle of cheddar and bake in a 200C oven for 10 minutes and sever with toast (we particularly like this with toast ‘dippers’)

heinz soup: Add a tbsp of tomato puree, a tin of carrots including water, a dash of vinegar, salt, pepper and tin of beans to a pan. heat for 5 minutes and blend (for a soup that tastes like Heinz)

These are just a few ideas to jazz up your beans or do something different with them!

Love Emily, chef who slims x

University life: the essentials

I’m starting a new series of posts called the uni life, the essentials. Aimed at uni students to encourage them to make quick, cheap and healthy meals.

As many of you know next week I move into my university accommodation and I am pretty nervous. Thanks to the fresher’s facebook page I have already made friends with many of the people in my block so it won’t be as awkward when we get there.

Being recently diagnosed with diabetes, which I am trying to control with the diet I will be sharing healthy, hearty food some of which will be diabetic friendly and others just slimming world friendly.

Onto my uni essentials:

  • eggs (cheap, quick to cook and tasty)
  • Parmesan, used as a seasoning and make a cracking quick carbonara.
  • bacon. (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, bacon can be used for anything)
  • bread, try and opt for wholemeal for more fibre and more health benefits (i freeze bread as I wouldn’t get through a whole loaf on my own).
  • pasta – go for basic brands, I get wholemeal or buckwheat pasta for my benefit but basic spaghetti is 20p and basic pasta is on average 30p which will make 5-6 good servings.
  • frozen chicken and mince. For convenience, you don’t have to worry about use by dates if you get an unexpected invite out to dinner or for drinks.
  • only buy what you will use. I buy frozen broccoli because I use it. for convenience and again use buy dates I would buy frozen onions too.
  • Snacks: try and opt for healthy snacks. many universities have local markets so many students will share fruit bowls etc.
  • I always always have oats, spices, rice and wholemeal wraps on hand too.

I don’t drink alcohol and most of the time I only drink water but I will be taking some zero coke. I know a lot of students forget mixers so don’t be one of those people!

Love Emily, the chef who slims x

The basics: Crispy Chicken wings

These crispy chicken wings may be syn-full but when shared between friends the minimal syns are well and truly worth every finger-licking bite!

per 100g (around 2 whole wings or if seperated 4 pieces) chicken wings are 4.5 syns.

1 box of chicken wings (1kg ish)

1 tbsp baking powder.

  1. Preheat your oven to 200c.
  2. Meanwhile, line a tray with foil then baking parchment over the top.
  3. Cut the chicken wings in half at the joint and place in a large sandwich bag with the baking powder.
  4. tie the bag off and shake the baking powder and wings gently pressing and squeezing the baking powder onto the wings.
  5. Lay the wings onto a baking tray and spray with low-calorie cooking spray.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes flipping halfway through.

You are ready to get dipping in whatever sauce takes your fancy 🙂

I hope you enjoy these and give them a go as they are easy and great for sharing.

Love Emily, Chef who slims x

Jack Daniels BBQ sauce

My sister recently introduced me to jack daniels bbq sauce and it was amazing on chicken (especially freshly grilled chicken on the BBQ)

makes 250ml or 17 tbsp = 1.5 syns for 2 tbsp

100ml reduced salt & sugar ketchup (4 syns),

25ml jack daniels (3 syns),

2 tbsp brown sugar (6 syns),

1 garlic clove grated,

dash of Worcestershire sauce,

2 tbsp white wine vinegar,

big pinch mustard powder.

1.Mix everything in a pot and simmer until thick and the alcohol has evaporated.

Leave to cool then store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week.

Love Emily, Chef who slims. x

Chicken kievs (almost)

When I was younger I truly loved the intense garlicky burst inside a chicken breast (even if it was reconstituted, but I was a kid so don’t judge!). I thought I would take the humble Kiev and not only make it slimming world friendly but upmarket it a little bit and save everyone some syns by using an almost parmesan crust!

Serves 4 people at 3 syns each (depending on the brand of butter you use)

4 medium chicken breasts,

2 cloves garlic (grated or crushed),

4 tsp salted butter (softened/room temp),

tbsp freshly chopped parsley,

1 tsp oregano,

4 tbsp freshly grated parmesan,

Black pepper.

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Mash and mix the butter, garlic, parsley, oregano and a grind of pepper together.
  3. In the larger end on the chicken breast using a knife, make a hole going about halfway down the breast, then put your finger in to stretch it a little.
  4. Divide the butter into 4 and push the butter into the hole you made then press the hole together.
  5. Place the chicken on a foil-lined tray, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven, set the grill to high, take the foil off the pan and sprinkle over 1 tbsp of parmesan over each breast.
  7. Place under the grill until the cheese melts and begins to bubble.
  8. Serve however you wish. (I like it just with salad or with a Pomodoro pasta or courgetti)

The parmesan acts as the breadcrumb crust but for less than half the syns. I hope you give this a go as it is utterly delicious.

Love Emily, The chef who slims x




Fish mornay

This is my take on an easy fish pie. I just served this with boiled potatoes and steamed green beans and broccoli and boy did it hit the spot!

serves 4-6 (4 = 2.5, between 6 = 2 syns. If you are counting cheese as syns for 4 = 8 or between 6 = 5.5)

800g white fish (or mixed fish if you wish)

1 tbsp salted butter (6 syns)

1 tbsp plain flour and cornflour (3 syns)

300ml unsweetened almond milk (you can use normal milk if you wish too but it will increase the syns -1.5 syns)

120g grated cheddar cheese (HEA or 24 syns)

1/2 tsp mustard powder

salt and pepper

(preheat your oven to 180C)

  1. Heat a pan over a low heat and add the butter and flour, whisking for 2-5 minutes.
  2. While the flour is cooking out, reserve 2-3 tbsp of the milk and mix it with the cornflour, mustard and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Slowly add the milk a little at the time whisking.
  4. At first, it may not become thick but carry on whisking for 5-10 minutes before pouring in the cornflour slurry and whisking till thick.
  5. Turn off the heat and whisk in 3/4 of the cheese.
  6. When the cheese has melted, pour half of the sauce into a baking tray, lay in the fish and top with the rest of the sauce and cheese.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes.

It may seem like there is a lot of steps but this is one of the most delicious and simplest meals that my family just love.

Love Emily, chef who slims x

Big Mac Copycat

If you love big mac in a bowl then you will love this too. Everything you want from the original big mac for minimal syns! This is a truly indulgent meal that is very addictive.

Serves 1

150g 5% beef mince, big pinch salt and pepper.

small onion finely diced,

1 gherkin sliced,

1 tbsp burger sauce (average 2 syns),

2 x dairylea light cheese slices (2 for hea or 4.5 for 2),

shredded iceberg lettuce,

kingsmill crustless wholemeal (3 slices for HEA or in a roll/bread – or syn at your choice),

  1. Heat a pan over high heat, meanwhile shape the beef mince into 2 burger shapes.
  2. Place the burgers into the hot pan and leave for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile lightly toast your bread.
  4. Flip the burgers and leave for a further 3-4 minutes.
  5. Spread 2 slices of the bread with the burger sauce and onion.
  6. sprinkle salt and pepper over the burgers then lay over the cheese and cover the pan with a lid.
  7. Layer some shredded iceberg on top of the sauce then place one of the burgers on top then some gherkin, the other piece of toast with sauce, more lettuce, the other burger and gherkins then the last piece of toast.

This is a really simple but fast take on the big mac and it hits all the right spots!

(image was of my dad’s burger which was in a white roll, I had mine in 3 of the Kingsmill crustless slices of bread that I lightly toasted – I may have been so hungry that I forgot my picture!)

Love Emily, Chef who slims x