A is for April: recipes for a healthy Easter break

CeleriacI’ve chosen cauliflower, spinach and celeriac from the seasonal list for April. The first two I’ve covered before in this blog, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.  As a reminder, cauliflower – like cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts – is a good source of the anti-cancer compound sulforaphane. And spinach is a real superfood, with a high content of vitamins C and K, and a wealth of other goodies like carotenoids and polyphenol. If you were to consume spinach most days of the year (not just in April!) you’d probably give your present and future health a big boost.
So, I’m introducing celeriac here. It tastes like celery so no surprise that it’s actually the same plant. Both are varieties of Apium graveolens – celery is the stalks and leaves, celeriac the root (strictly speaking it’s a tuber). Celeriac is very rich in vitamin K which is essential for strong bones. A recent study also suggests that A graveolens contains compounds that lower the blood pressure. I’ve just found out that you can juice.

Green lemonade
Serves one

This is the classic spinach-cucumber-celery combo, blended with all the citrus fruits and ginger.

100g spinach
One cucumber, chopped into chunks
Three sticks celery, chopped into chunks
One red grapefruit, peeled and quartered
Two oranges, peeled and quartered
One lime
One lemon
Two inches peeled ginger root
Spinach and cauliflower curry

Serves four (or two people for two days)

This is a repeat of one of my earlier recipes, except that I have replaced the chick peas with urad (or urid) dal, which is particularly high in protein and has a lovely creamy taste. I had a delicious side dish of dal makhani (where urad dal is the main ingredient) in an Indian restaurant recently and decided it was time to increase my repertoire of the pulses I use in cooking.

One cauliflower, chopped into florets
One tbsp. cinnamon
One tbsp. turmeric
One tbsp. curry paste
One red onion
A one inch piece of ginger, chopped
Three cloves garlic, crushed
One chopped red chilli
Around 400g urad dal, soaked overnight and cooked till soft L
One bag spinach
One tin coconut milk
One tbsp. tomato puree
Lemon juice
Chopped coriander and mint to finish

Heat some coconut oil and fry the onion, garlic, chilli, ginger and spices till soft. Add the cauliflower and cook for around 10 minutes. Add urad dal and stir till everything is coated with the spice mixture. Add the coconut milk and turn down to simmer. Cook until reduced and add the tomato puree. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and the chopped herbs.

Celeriac and new potato salad
Serves four (or two meals for two people)

This is a combination of two classic dishes – celeriac remoulade and potato salad, with the mayonnaise replaced by a creamy yoghurt vinaigrette. I also thought it would be fun to combine celeriac and celery in one dish.

Ten new potatoes
100g frozen peas
Small jar of capers
One celeriac, divided into two halves
Three celery stalks, chopped into small pieces
For the dressing
Two garlic cloves
One tbsp. cider vinegar
Two tbsp. flax seed oil
One tbsp. lemon juice
Two tbsp. Greek yoghurt

Boil the potatoes, cook the peas, drain and set aside. When cool, mix potatoes and peas with all other ingredients except the celeriac. Grind the garlic with rock salt to make a paste and whisk in the cider vinegar, lemon juice and oil to make a vinaigrette. Then add the yoghurt and mix to make a creamy dressing. Mix with the salad.
Now you can go one of two ways.

One meal (four people). Shred all the celeriac and mix into the salad. This would be nice served with baked salmon and a green vegetable as a celebratory Easter meal.
Two meals. Do not leave shredded celeriac in a salad dressing overnight. It gets very soggy because it absorbs the liquid. So, divide the potato salad into two. Add the freshly shredded celeriac to one half. Refrigerate the other half. Next day, repeat, so the celeriac always goes in fresh. We had the second helping with smoked mackerel and green salad – another healthy Easter meal.

Next time: Salads and stir fries for May

Vitamin D levels low even after summer

Sun skyFor years we have been told that too much sunshine is dangerous and it is, but the sun is also vital to healthy living.  A recent study by The University of Surrey on Vitamin D. showed that most people in UK are deficient even at the end of the summer.

Vitamin D is produced in the body when it is exposed to sunlight. To get enough sun you need to have your skin exposed and be in it frequently.  You can ask your doctor about having a Vitamin D test, because this vital vitamin is responsible for maintaining healthy bones and teeth, effective muscle function, and keeping the heart and nervous system healthy, and enabling the blood to clot properly.  Vitamin D has also been linked to preventing colds and maintaining a healthy digestive system.

Our Vitamin D levels are very low at the end of winter but they are particularly low among Asians living in Britain all the time. In fact there is talk that rickets has returned among some Asian children.

So what is anyone supposed to do? The answer is moderation as usual. If you are like me and you used to go to Greece for the summer, spend hours and hours in the hot sun, you may now have skin damage. We are lucky not to have skin cancer – this is not the way to deal with the sun.

It takes common sense – being out in the sun for hours on end so that your skin is going pink and getting sore is crazy. But having a healthy amount of sunshine as often as possible is good for you. The sun needs to get to your skin so being covered up all the time doesn’t enable your Vitamin D levels to go up. This is why women who wear burkas are particularly deficient in Vitamin D.

You can take Vitamin D supplements, and this is certainly a good idea in winter, and you can get it from food – oily fish, fortified cereal, dairy products and fortified margarine. But it is natural to have sunlight on our bodies. It’s good to be cautious but not extreme!

You can either take a daily spray of Vitamin D: Better You DLux 1000iu D3 spray (15ml), £8.67

or tablets/capsules:

Health Aid Vitamin D3 10,000iu, 30 vegicaps, £10.57

Higher Nature Vitamin D 500iu, 60 capsules, £6.00

To purchase these, go to www.superfooduk.com and put in the Healthy Soul promotion code: HSoul1 to get a 5% discount.

 

See Vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sun

M is for March – three early spring recipes

Citrus MarchFor the next few months, I’m going to go seasonal and pay more attention to when my fruits and vegetables are at their best and to buy local, where possible, for best freshness and quality, and loose from a high-quality greengrocer, rather than pre-packaged from a supermarket writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger and freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

I used the BBC Good Food seasonality table as a guide (other such tables are, of course, available). For March, I chose the following from the list:

• Bramley apples
• Brussels sprouts
• Cabbage
• Grapefruit
• Leek
• Lemon
• Onion and spring onion
• Pak choi
• Peppers
• Purple sprouting broccoli
• Rhubarb (Netherlands)
• Oranges (Italy)

Unless indicated otherwise, all of these are available as UK grown (indeed, you might even be inspired to grow your own, or maybe join an allotment swap scheme).

Bramley apple and red grapefruit juice with ginger

Professor Jane Plant survived breast cancer from 1993 to 2016 and devised a dairy-free diet to help her fight the disease. She has some interesting recipes in her book The Plant Programme, where she suggests using Bramley apples for juicing for their folic acid and vitamin C content. Red grapefruit, which also rich in vitamin C, contains the antioxidants hesperidin and naringenin. The combination, with ginger, makes a refreshing, tangy juice.

Serves two

Three to four Bramley apples, chopped into large pieces
Two to three red (white or pink) grapefruit, peeled and pulled into segments
Two inches root ginger, peeled and chopped into large pieces
Juice everything and drink immediately.

Spring stir fry with high protein noodles

No need for exact quantities in this recipe. Just choose three or four of the seasonal vegetables from the list above, all of which are healthy choices. The brassicas (cabbage and so on) contain sulphoraphane and indoles, which are said to have an anti-cancer benefit, while onions and leeks contain alliums, which can help lower blood pressure, as well as being prebiotic, which will encourage a healthy gut flora.

Serves two
Chop/shred the vegetables finely and stir fry with soy sauce, cider vinegar, garlic and ginger (add chopped chilli/chilli sauce if you like it hot). Serve with high protein noodles and/or salmon baked in foil with pesto (200˚C, 20 minutes).

Rhubarb, orange and strawberry crumble

I’ll admit that, apart from some soluble fibre, rhubarb does not have much going for it healthwise. But, like asparagus in May, it is one of my seasonal treats, especially in a crumble. It is delicious combined with oranges (which come into season in the first quarter of the year). I included the strawberries (not seasonal, of course) to add some sweetness to the fruit mix, so you don’t need to add any sugar. For the crumble, I experimented with coconut flour, which nicely absorbs some of the juices from the fruit layer.

Serves four
One pack of rhubarb, chopped
One or two oranges, segmented
One pack of strawberries, sliced
For the topping
150g wholemeal or coconut flour
100g butter, chopped
One tsp. coconut blossom nectar to sweeten
Cinnamon

Layer the fruit in a baking dish. Rub the butter into the flour, coconut blossom nectar and cinnamon mix, to make crumbs. Then top the fruit with it. Bake at 200˚C for 35 to 40 mins till top is brown.

Next time. A is for April: recipes for a healthy Easter break.

P is for peanut butter

peanut butterWhen I was a student, I used to eke out my grant (giving my age away!) by eating peanut butter and cream crackers towards the end of term, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition. Surprisingly, perhaps, peanut butter has been one of my favourite foods ever since! True, it is high in calories and fat but it is far healthier than butter. It contains fibre, protein and a high proportion of unsaturated fat.

You can also get peanut butter made with high oleic acid containing peanuts (two brands readily available in the UK). Oleic acid is the fatty acid found in olive oil and avocado, and it can improve your blood lipid profile, tipping the balance towards ‘healthy’ HDL cholesterol, and away from ‘unhealthy’ LDL cholesterol. There are also peanut butters blended with seeds, which gives an added health boost. Here are three of my ‘go to’ peanut butter recipes, all of which work well a cold February day (the flapjacks would make a nice Valentine’s Day treat).

Peanut butter smoothie

Serves one

This is a milk-shake type smoothie which is good for days when you are on the go and don’t have time for breakfast or lunch.

225g/400g carton of strawberries or raspberries

One tbsp. peanut butter

250ml almond milk

half-tsp matcha powder

Two tsp. cacao and cinnamon powder

Blend all ingredients and drink immediately.

Ultimate peanut butter sandwich

Serves one

This combines two ideas. First, a little café I visited in Crouch End (Hot Pepper Jelly) does a range of sandwiches with peanut butter and chilli jam. Second, I saw a colleague combine avocado and Marmite last week…it works well. Finish off with something fresh/crunchy. I used alfalfa sprouts but you could have cucumber, tomato, watercress… We had this for dinner, with a salad last Saturday night.

Two slices of your favourite fresh bread

Peanut butter

Chilli jam

Sliced avocado, lightly mashed

Marmite

Alfalfa sprouts

Spread peanut butter on one slice of bread, chilli jam on the other. Layer the avocado, Marmite and sprouts. Eat with soup or salad for a main meal. Also works as a packed lunch if you slip in the avocado layer just before you eat it.

Peanut butter flapjacks

Makes 12–14 flapjacks

Classic flapjacks – oats, sugar, syrup and butter – are great, but taste too sweet. I did a bit of recipe research to see if it’s possible to replace at least some of the sugar/syrup without affecting texture or taste. You could also experiment with replacing the butter, maybe with coconut oil, and using banana or apple instead of the sugar.

300g butter

200g ‘sugar’ – I used coconut flavoured Choc Shot, which is a fruit syrup with cacao, but there are many other options.

100g golden syrup (a ‘bad’ ingredient, I know, but I had some in the cupboard that needed using up)

100g peanut butter

450g oats (I used oats combined with flax, pumpkin and linseeds)

One tbsp. cacao with cinnamon

Melt butter, add syrup, peanut butter and ‘sugar’, Stir in oats and cacao, Bake at 180˚C for 25 min. Cool and cut into pieces.

Next time. Some seasonal recipes to welcome spring.

 

P is for pomegranates

pomegranatesWhile researching this post, I learned that pomegranates have a very long history and have often appeared in art, literature and mythology, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger and freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

I came across the painting Prosperine, painted by the pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1874. I’d seen the painting before but had forgotten that the Roman goddess is holding a pomegranate. According to myth, she was kidnapped by Pluto, the god of the underworld and could only return to earth if she had not consumed any underworld food! Unfortunately, she had eaten six seeds from the pomegranate and was condemned to spend six months of the year in Hades. Thus, the pomegranate in the Rossetti’s painting is a symbol of captivity.

This is a happy coincidence, for Rossetti’s Prosperine is in Tate Britain and we’re off there this afternoon, as part of NYE outing to see the Edward Burne-Jones (another pre-Raphaelite) exhibition. So I’ll take another look at that famous pomegranate.

The pomegranate fruit should be a symbol of health, rather than captivity, because the hundreds of tiny seeds (known of arils) that it contains are packed with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory phytochemicals called punicalagins. They also contain a conjugated linolenic acid (CLAs) called punicic acid. Research on cells, lab animals and humans suggest that the punicalagins may help prevent or manage a whole range of health problems, including cancer, arthritis, joint pain heart disease, high blood pressure, while CLAs have been shown to help with obesity, high blood pressure and insulin resistance.

You can buy a whole pomegranate for about a pound at the greengrocer – much cheaper than the pre-packaged seeds. Releasing the seeds can be messy though – I scored the fruit around the centre and twisted it into two halves and then just break the seeds out from the clumps inside into a bowl, and then picked out the bits of pith. Then there’s 100% pomegranate juice which is more expensive than other fruit juices, but is great to add to plain water with a slice of lemon as a healthy hydrating drink or to top up a home-made juice.

Winter pomegranate juice

Serves one

This combines pomegranate with cranberries, another winter fruit. Two pomegranates provide about 100ml of juice. The spinach adds a touch of green, without detracting from the delicious taste of this juice.

One box of cranberries

Two pomegranates, seeded
8 oranges, peeled

100g spinach

One inch piece of root ginger, peeled

Juice all ingredients and drink immediately.

Super pomegranate salad

Baby kale leaves

Olives

Cubed feta

Seeds

Walnuts

Avocado

Pomegranate seeds

 

Pomegranate fruit salad

Four to six oranges/satsumas/clementines, peeled and segmented

One mango, peeled and cubed

50g pomegranate seeds

Mint leaves, chopped, to decorate

Cinammon, to sprinkle
Mix the oranges/citrus fruit with the mango.  Scatter with the pomegranate seeds, decorate with the mint leaves and finish with a sprinkle of cinammon.

Next time. P is for Peanut Butter