June means cherries

cherries for JuneI’ve chosen cherries, peas and broad beans as this month’s seasonal produce. All have a short season, so grab them while you can! Indeed, you might find it hard to get hold of fresh peas and broad beans, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition. If so, these recipes work perfectly well with frozen – though I think they taste a bit better with fresh (as was proved some years ago, the nutritional value of frozen veg is the same, or higher, than fresh as they are frozen – or should be – within minutes of picking, which preserves the nutrients).

Cherries, peas and broad beans are all excellent sources of vitamin C, fibre and antioxidants. Cherries are also a relatively low GI fruit – handy to know if you’re watching your intake of carbs/sugars. Tart cherry juice has also been credited with numerous health benefits, such as helping with gout and joint pain and preventing inflammation.

Summer cherry smoothie

I had not tried tart cherry juice (bought from a health food shop) before. I didn’t much care for it on its own, as it tastes a bit like prunes (reminder of school dinners), but it makes a delicious smoothie with fresh berries.

Serves one
Carton of raspberries
Carton of strawberries, hulled and chopped
One tsp. matcha powder
One tbsp. chia seeds
One tbsp.. raw cacao powder
Tart cherry juice
Blend the berries, powders and seeds with the cherry juice in a Nutribullet or similar device.
Red fruit salad
Here’s an alternative way with berries and cherries.
Serves two
Carton of raspberries
Carton of strawberries, hulled and chopped
Carton of cherries, stoned and halved

Mix the fruits. Delicious with Greek yoghurt for breakfast or as a healthy dessert at a summer barbeque or garden party.

Pea guacamole

This is guacamole with both avocado and peas. The marscapone makes it rich and creamy but for a lower-fat version, I’m thinking you could substitute cottage cheese, quark or thick yoghurt.

Serves two to three
200g tub marscapone
Two avocados, peeled and chopped
200g peas, cooked
Handful of mint leaves
One chilli, deseeded and chopped
Juice of two limes
Flaxseed oil
Sour cream

Blast all the ingredients except the oil and sour cream in a Nutribullet or food processor. Check the consistency and, if too thick, add a little oil and/or sour cream to thin it down. Serves with a colourful selection of crudités and/or seeded flatbreads/interesting bread. This tastes even better after a night in the fridge! Definitely one for sharing at a summer party.

Broad bean salad

Serves two
Bag of your favourite salad leaves (I used pea shoots and a few lettuce leaves from the garden)
Around 200g fresh or frozen broad beans, cooked and cooled
50g pine nuts
Two avocados, peeled and chopped
Dressing: mustard, flax seed oil and cider vinegar with a squeeze of lemon
Chopped mint and chives to finish
Mix all ingredients, dress, toss and finish with the chopped herbs.

Next month: Runner beans and nasturtiums.

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 May

Salad leavesThis month I’ve made lettuce, radishes and pak choi my seasonal choices. They’re all low in calories and a good source of vitamins, including the key nutrient folic acid, and minerals. And I’ve given my three recipes a bit of retro feel, updating them with a healthy twist, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

Lettuce party

Time was when salad was a few leaves of cos lettuce, a bit of diced beetroot, a couple of slices of tomato, half a hard-boiled egg, finished off with salad cream. Nothing wrong with that simple approach if the ingredients are fresh and locally sourced. I’ve made this into an exclusive lettuce party, by gathering together (at least) four types of leaves and adding extra flavour and texture with the cheese and seeds.

Serves four
Romaine lettuce, shredded
Two little Gem lettuce, torn into individual leaves
Bag of lamb’s lettuce
Bag of baby mixed leaves
Grated Pecorino (or other hard Italian) cheese
Pomegranate seeds
Mixed seeds (pumpkin, linseed and so on).

Mix the leaves, add the seeds and finish with the cheese. Make up a dressing with your favourite oil, vinegar, lemon juice and chopped herb.

Radish fondue party

I received a coffee percolator for my 21st – but many of my friends were given fondue sets, which were very trendy in the 1970s. I’ve used radishes (instead of steak or bread cubes) to recreate the fondue party scene and used it as an excuse to create a new healthy dip instead of melted cheese with wine. This recipe is also a bit of a throwback to 1960s/1970s party canapes with pineapple and cheese on sticks, and so on…This would work well at a BBQ party!

Serves up to six
Radishes
Pineapple cubes
Feta cubes
Cherry tomatoes
Olives
For the dip
One tub of high-quality hummus
One tbsp. horseradish sauce
One tbsp. peanut butter
Flaxseed or olive oil to thin

Make little ‘kebabs’ by sticking the radishes on wooden sticks, pairing them with the pineapple and so on. Dip the kebabs into the horseradish hummus.

Sweet and sour stir fry

When I was a student, my favourite takeaway or meal out was sweet and sour pork. Here’s a healthier version – still sweet and sour, but focusing on pak choi and mushrooms.
Serves two
Two heads of pak choi
100g mixed mushrooms, sliced
100g shredded pineapple
Pineapple juice
One tbsp. peanut butter
Soy sauce

Heat coconut or sesame oil in a wok or big frying pan and stir fry the mushrooms and pak choi till the leaves are wilted. Then add the peanut butter, pineapple juice and soy sauce to make a sweet and sour sauce. Stir till heated through. Serve with two nests of high-protein wholewheat noodles (I used spelt, but other varieties are available).
Next time. Celebrate early summer with peas, broad beans and cherries.

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.