Experiments without potatoes

root vegsYou can replace potatoes with other root vegetables that contain more vitamins and fibre, without sacrificing any of the comfort or taste element. The recipes below would work well at a Halloween/Bonfire supper or party if you’re planning late autumnal events. Also, I’ve been struck by the number of food delivery bikes in my area over the last few months. Look, I know we’re all busy, but I personally think we’d all be a lot healthier in the long term if we invested a bit of time in learning to cook from scratch, so we know what’s in our food.

Our guest blogger, Dr Susan Aldridge,  freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition, provides her advice and three scrumptious recipes.

Decided to rebel a bit against the food delivery people (we all know who they are…) and made my first two recipes slightly complicated (for me!) in that they involve stages and sauces.

Fish and mushroom pie with cauliflower mash
Serves four

One onion, finely chopped
One pint full cream milk
One cauliflower, sliced into florets
One 400g tin butter beans, drained
Three hard-boiled eggs, chopped
Two smoked haddock fillets
Two cod fillets
One pack prawns
300g mushrooms, sliced and fried in butter
One tbsp. fish sauce
Chopped parsley
35g butter
Two tbsp. flour
Grated cheese
Sliced tomatoes
One tbsp. mustard

Preheat oven to 200˚C. Heat the onion in the milk with black pepper and herb salt to season. Simmer for 10 minutes and set aside. Measure out about 50ml for the mash. Meanwhile, place the fish in a frying pan, add the rest of the milk, a knob of butter and simmer for a few minutes, turning the fish part way through, until fish is tender. Flake the fish on a plate and set aside.

Now make a sauce by melting the butter, stirring in the flour to make a paste, Then, add the milk from the fish and stir till thick and smooth. Add the fish sauce and the parsley.
Assemble the fish pie by mixing the flaked fish, hard-boiled eggs and mushrooms. Cover with the sauce. Leave to cool while you make the mash.

Boil the cauliflower till tender and mix with the butter beans, reserved milk and mustard. Use a hand masher to make a smooth mixture. Now add the mash to the cooled fish to make a layer, and top with sliced tomatoes and grated cheese. Bake for around 30 mins, till the top is browned. Serve with two green vegetables (we had tender stem broccoli and green beans).

Vegetarian/vegan shepherd’s pie with root veg mash

Turnips, swedes and carrots are all significantly lower in carbs than potatoes and parsnips contain somewhat less carb. So, the mixtures give you a mash that is lower carb and higher fibre than regular mash and also contributes to your fruit and veg intake, which potatoes do not.

Serves three to four
Two onions, chopped
100g lentils
Two 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp. tomato puree
1 tbsp. mixed herbs
1 tbsp. cinnamon
Two carrots, chopped
One small turnip, chopped
One small swede, chopped
One parsnip, chopped
Flax seed or olive oil/butter/cream/milk

Make the lentil filling by frying the onions in coconut oil until soft, then add lentils. Heat through and add tomatoes, tomato puree, herbs and cinnamon. Cook until lentils are soft (around 20–30 mins) and, in the meantime prepare the mash.
Boil the root vegetables till tender. Then add oil (for vegan version) or butter/cream/milk (vegetarian version) to add smoothness. Add extra flavour by stirring in mustard and/or marmite.

Cool the lentil mixture for 15 minutes or so, to ensure the mash doesn’t sink into it. Then add a thick layer of the mash, finish with sliced tomatoes (vegan version) and/or grated cheese (vegetarian version). Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes, until the top is brown. Serve with something green (eg stir fried spring greens or cabbage and shredded leek).

Sweet potato and beetroot chips with rosemary and spicy dip
Serves two

Two sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges
Two beetroot, sliced into chips
Olive oil
Rosemary, chopped
For the dip
Tub of quark (plain or flavoured – I used tomato and basil)
Tub of fresh chilli pesto

Heat the oven to 180˚C. Add the sweet potato chips to a bowl and toss with the rosemary and olive oil. Place on one half of a baking tray lined with foil in the oven. Meanwhile, toss the beetroot with rosemary and oil and place in the oven on the other half of the tray when the sweet potato has been cooking for around 15 minutes. Cook for a further 15 minutes till browned. Make the dip by mixing the quark and the pesto (multiple other combos are available of course – try cottage cheese, soy sauce and peanut butter, for instance).

Apologies for the length of the first two recipes. November’s recipes will be simpler!
Next month – experiments with coconut

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

The Mood Boosting Plan

woman sportyWritten by positivity coach, Miriam Akhtar. Who is currently working with Ryvita and Davina McCall as part of their Positivity Panel to inspire women into #getmore good in their lives https://www.ryvita.co.uk/living-well/miriam-akhtar

Try  these tips to give yourself a lift when life is getting you down. Happiness is something we do rather than something that just happens so build some of these practices into your day to #GetMore good into life. Start with the ideas below, which are all known to grow happiness, and then plan your own playlist of mood boosters and do one thing from it every day, whether that’s going for coffee with a friend, or having a treat like a massage.

Three good things

What’s good in your life? What’s gone well? What are you grateful for? Just before bedtime sit down and write a list of your three good things for the day. Counting your blessings focuses your attention on the positives in life, which lifts the mood. We are wired to notice what’s wrong before we notice what’s right, so practiSing gratitude helps you tune in to appreciate the good things you have.

Slow down and smell the roses

A powerful mood booster is to savour positive experiences so that you squeeze all the juice out of them. Bask, marvel, relish, feast and luxuriate to maximise your enjoyment. First up you need to slow down and put your full attention on whatever you’re savouring so stop multi-tasking and switch the phone off. Then use all your senses to turn the volume up on the experience. In workshops I teach people how to savour with fruit – noticing the colour of a strawberry, its sweet smell, the crunch as you bite into it, the texture on your tongue and the full flavour of its delicious taste. You can savour the past – reminiscing over a happy memory or the future – relishing the excitement of something you’re looking forward to like a holiday. Ask yourself what is good about it?
Be a good friend

The number one source of happiness is other people so you can get an instant mood boost by reaching out to someone. Pick up the phone and speak to a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Write someone a thank you letter. Help someone out. Acts of kindness help both givers and recipients feel good, so you get positivity bouncing back and forth between you. It’s also a useful distraction from your own troubles.
Get into nature

Green exercise is physical activity in a natural environment. It only takes a few minutes of walking in the woods or wild swimming to start generating positive emotions. Doing it by water has extra calming benefits for the mood. Find your nearest patch of green and get physical – go for a walk or do a few yoga stretches.

Play to your strengths

Your strengths are your positive qualities, such as courage or kindness, and your talents – the things you’re naturally good at. What are you doing when you’re at your best? What do you have a gift for? Finding ways to use your strengths can help you perform better at work and grow your well-being. Your strengths are like levers that you can pull to help you reach goals and resolve issues eg. how can your strength in perseverance help you reach the goal of running 5k?

Reframe

When something goes wrong, try to find the positive in the negative. A Sunday walk that’s rained off becomes an opportunity to linger over the Sunday papers or curl up on the sofa with a box set. Look for the positive in what happens. On the other side of a negative is an opportunity to prioritise your needs, pamper yourself and have total control over the remote!

Get into flow

What puts you ‘in the zone’? Flow is that state where you’re so completely absorbed in what you’re doing that you might lose track of time. People get into flow through hobbies like crafting or baking, doing something physical like gardening or jogging or creative like painting or jewellery-making. Try to set aside a couple of hours a week where you lose yourself completely in a flow activity. It’s a very satisfying experience.

Something to look forward to

Make a list of 3 positive things that you expect to happen tomorrow and then relish the anticipation of them coming up. What is there to look forward to? Indulge in some day-dreaming and spend a few moments anticipating the positive feelings that you will get from it. By doing this practice regularly you’ll start to feel more optimistic and excited about what’s ahead.

 

Discovering chia seeds

Chia seedsChia seeds may be tiny, but they are packed with vital nutrients so if, like me, you hadn’t tried them previously, it’s well worth starting to include them in your diet. They come from the Salvia hispanica plant, which is native to Central and South America and a member of the mint family. It’s said that they were used in the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilisations as a source of energy (the word ‘chia’ means ‘strength’ in the Mayan language).

Our guest blogger, Dr Susan Aldridge,  freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition, provides her advice and three fabulous recipes right here:

The seeds are rich in fibre, omega-3 fatty acids and are a good source of plant protein. They taste a bit neutral, compared with other seeds, but they do have the interesting property of rapidly absorbing liquid to form a gel. This is the basis of ‘chia pudding’ (see recipe below) and also means you can use chia seeds as an egg substitute or thickening agent if you’re vegan.

There’s some (albeit rather limited) evidence that chia seeds might help you lose weight and, maybe, help prevent diabetes and heart disease. As ever, don’t rely on getting direct health benefits from chia seeds, but perhaps try including them in the ‘healthy balanced diet’ we always advocate to add variety and interest.

Autumn smoothie

I’ve been collecting blackberries from my local nature reserve and used them with chia seeds to create this beautiful pink-purple smoothie, with my usual cacao and matcha boosts.

Serves one
Around 300g blackberries
One tsp chia seeds, soaked for five mins in 3 tsp water
Almond milk, as required to make a thick, or thinner, drink
One tsp matcha
One tsp cacao powder
Blend all ingredients in a Nutribullet, or similar and drink immediately.

Carrot and chia salad

I’ve added chia seeds to my usual mix of sunflower, pumpkin and linseeds that I use for adding to salads.
Serves two
Four carrots, sliced into ribbons with a mandolin or spiralizer
Ten radishes, sliced
100g cherry tomatoes, halved
One tbsp. mixed pumpkin, sunflower, linseed and chia seeds
100g pomegranate seeds

Mix all the ingredients except the pomegranate seeds. Dress the salad with linseed oil, cider vinegar and lemon juice and top with the pomegranate seeds.

Chocolate ‘blancmange’

I saw the possibility of creating a very healthy chocolate pudding with chia seeds. No sugar, no dairy and with, hopefully, the texture of chocolate blancmange (anyone seem blancmange in recent years?) or mousse. There are many recipes online and lots of yummy pictures. I did some research and here’s my experiment. To be fair, the texture is a bit more tapioca (if you’re old enough to remember that pudding!) than blancmange/mousse, but I’m excited by my discovery of a cacao powder blended with cinnamon, which adds a luxurious depth of flavour to this dessert.

Serves four
400ml coconut milk (or almond/hazelnut/hemp milk, or a mixture)
60g chia seeds
2 tbsp cacao powder with cinnamon
1 tsp coconut palm sugar

Whisk all these ingredients together in a bowl and chill overnight. Serve topped with berries.

Next time: Experiments without potatoes

Experiments with low carb

raspberries low carbsWithout getting too heavily involved in the low carb, low sugar, low glycaemic index debate, I’d like to offer up just a few suggestions…My first thought was to look for lower carb versions of favourite pasta, rice and potato dishes. But I couldn’t face fish pie or shepherd’s pie with ‘alternative’ mash in this weather (I’ll be back with those in a couple of months) – so I’ve gone for a refreshing fruit smoothie instead. And when I say sugar, I generally mean a simple natural carbohydrate like fructose rather than added sugar, which is usually sucrose.

Our guest blogger, Dr Susan Aldridge,  freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition, provides her advice and three fabulous recipes right here:

Refreshing raspberry smoothie

All fruit contains some sugar but the amount varies quite dramatically. Check these amounts in grams per serving:
• Lime – 1.1
• Raspberries – 5
• Kiwi – 6
• Orange – 12
• Banana – 17
• Mango – 46

I’d usually make up a smoothie with hemp/almond/coconut milk, but the presence of the lime will make it go lumpy, so I used cactus water, which is lower in sugar than coconut water. I’ve added the matcha and cacao, as I do to all my smoothies for an extra healthy boost. The result has a refreshing sharpness that I think you’ll love!

Serves one
Four limes, juiced
Large carton of raspberries
Four kiwi fruit, peeled and halved
Cactus water
One tsp matcha powder
One tsp cacao power
Add all ingredients to your blender/Nutribullet, using the cactus water to make up the volume. Blend and drink immediately.

Protein pasta

You can find pasta made with a wide variety of grains, with lentil and spelt pasta being the most readily available. The one with the highest protein/carb ratio I discovered was edamame fettucine.
For comparison, per 100g.
Wholewheat fusilli 30.2g carb 5.2g protein
Edamame fettucine 15g carb 44g protein

I made up my favourite sauce to serve with the pasta…substitute your own.
Serves two

Large carton cherry tomatoes, halved
One large red chilli, finely chopped
Two cloves garlic, crushed
400g tin tomatoes
One tbsp. tomato puree
One tsp. mixed herbs
Fresh basil
Grated pecorino cheese

Fry the garlic and chilli till soft in olive oil then add the other ingredients and simmer until thick. Cook the pasta as per instructions on the packet, drain and serve with the sauce. Finish with torn basil and grated pecorino. Makes a good pasta salad when cold, or reheat.

Summer vegetable risotto

Use quinoa instead of rice, and twice as many green veg as in a traditional risotto recipe.
Serves 3–4

600g broad beans/peas/tenderstem broccoli/asparagus
250g quinoa
Bunch spring onions, chopped
Carton cherry tomatoes, chopped
Fresh herbs
Grated pecorino cheese

Cook the green veg and quinoa. Mix together and add the spring onion and tomatoes. Finish with chopped herbs and grated pecorino cheese.
Next month. Discovering chia seeds