Green Veg Risotto

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Serves 4     Large saucepan / paella dish

Ingredients:

60 g walnuts – toasted for 5 minutes under a medium hot grill

1 red onion – finely chopped

1 clove of garlic – finely chopped or 1 tsp garlic salt

80 g green beans – trimmed and chopped into 2 cm lengths

65 g asparagus  – trimmed and chopped into 3 cm lengths

60 g kale – remove rough stems and coarsely chop

70 g frozen peas

900 ml vegetable stock

2 tbsp olive oil

225 g Arborio rice

1 tsp Marmite

140 ml white wine

salt and black pepper to season

Method:

Heat the olive oil and saute the red onions until soft. Add the garlic / garlic salt and stir for a minute. Then add the rice and heat for a minute. Turn up the heat a little and add the wine. Stir frequently and simmer until the wine has almost evaporated. Add the beans, asparagus and half of the stock. Stir occasionally. As the rice absorbs the stock, add more 50 ml at a time (you might not use all the stock). As the rice starts to soften , add the kale and peas and cook until the rice is just cooked and the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat and serve immediately – top each bowlful with some toasted walnuts.

 

 

 

 

 

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31 days – Habits created

One month has passed since I made the positive change to improving my health.  My intention was to be sugar free (apart from sugar in vegetables and dairy products) and be meat free).  I have however, taken it a step further and not eaten any fish, eggs and virtually cut out dairy products and so for the majority of the month I have eaten a vegan diet and the remainder of the time, vegetarian.  It wasn’t really a conscious decision…it just sort of happened.

Apart from the first week of sugar detox unpleasantness, I have enjoyed the month. I have found a few things out about myself – I do have will power and an inner voice that is looking out for me!! On the odd occasion when I have been hungry between meals (I actually haven’t wanted to snack between meals very much at all), I’ve opted for a savoury snack – new found passion for oatcakes and Marmite – rather than a sweet biscuit or two … or three! I have found myself having internal dialogue – acknowledging how much better I feel and do I really want to jeopardise that feeling?! In fact, there has been a bar of chocolate in the bottom of my handbag all month – I found it the other day. 31 days ago it would have ‘shouted’ at me and been snaffled and the wrapper probably hidden! There are also biscuits, homemade cakes and puddings for my husband – i’m not interested! Although I am focusing on how the food choices make me feel, an additional benefit is that I have lost 4kg over the month. Chemo weight is finally coming off  😁 yay!

I do think about food a great deal – not in a negative way though. Instead I enjoy planning and thinking about the day’s meals, enjoy reaching a mealtime hungry and therefore really enjoy what I am eating – every rainbow mouthful – rather than just seeing food as body fuel. I have settled in to a pattern of planning the week’s main meals on a Friday, collating the shopping list from this and therefore only buying what we need. An additional plus is that we don’t have any food going to waste and the weekly food bill is reduced!

Creative food swapping is becoming easier – my cheese sauce swap has really helped cut out a lot of dairy. I did think removing cheese from my diet would be hard – not helped by many vegan cheeses tasting, in my opinion, pretty vile. However, I have found a brand that tastes good and melts well – perfect for lasagne toppings etc.  Oat milk is very tasty in tea and coffee or I drink weak black tea (thanks HS for the tip 😊) although I have cut my consumption of these drinks significantly and prefer herbal teas.  Butter is the one food I haven’t found an alternative I enjoy. Toast and butter..mmm… I don’t have it very often but thoroughly enjoy it when I do. Any really tasty alternative options out there? From a purely health point of view I think butter is better for me than a vegetable spread with lots of additives.

I have been pleasantly surprised, when I have eaten out, about the number of vegetarian and increased number of vegan options on the menus. Foods with wonderful flavours and textures.

So many people have been supportive, which is lovely, but – here comes a negative – occasionally the odd person (occasional not strange!) passes a comment such as, ‘ Should you be eating that?’ or even, ‘You can’t eat that!’ For me, my diet choices are for my health – mine. My choice; my decisions.  At the moment, I can’t imagine eating meat / fish again but…if I want to…I will. I am not going to pigeon hole my dietary choices.

A taste (pardon the pun) of the rainbow of food eaten this month:

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My next steps:  eat cake, steak and fizzy drinks.  I very much doubt it.

I will however eat fruit if I feel like it.

I will continue to plan our weekly food and buy only what we need to keep wastage low.

I will continue to enjoy every mouthful.

 

 

A long week

So … last Monday at midnight I said goodbye to sugar. I also decided to switch back to a  solely vegetarian diet (during the festive period I seemed to eat more meat than I had done in the whole year) and reduce my dairy food intake.

I would like to say this week has been plain sailing for me. It hasn’t. Not eating meat / fish has not been an issue at all. However, the sugar withdrawal has been a different story. The first day was easy and lulled me in to a false sense of security. Days 2 and 3 delivered a constant headache – initially eased by increasing my water intake but this relief was only short lived. I awoke on day 4 headache free, ‘Yay!’  As the day progressed, I presumed all toxins were flushed out and sugar impact gone. Wrong. With the evening came a migraine that sent me to my bed. Day 5 – the cravings really hit. Sugar laden goodies were calling , no, shouting to me. Two choices – give in and then be cross with myself – or, distract myself and keep going.  I chose the second option.  Day 6 – no headaches and no cravings. Day 7 – all good.

Was the week worth it?

Definitely.

  • I am sleeping better
  • I am not waking up with heartburn
  • I’m eating nutrition dense not calorie dense food
  • no more sugar lows and sugar highs
  • I’m enjoying creating different flavours and cooking again – feel I have my mojo back
  • I feel full after I have eaten
  • I don’t want any of the chocolates, biscuits and cake that are in the house – not being smug- just not interested in them
  • perfected a speedy cashew Bechamel sauce! One step closer to a vegan diet.
  • (… I’ve lost 2 kg)

Onward …

 

I am a biscuit

Last year, on Apr 9th I wrote my ‘Mrs Impatient’ blog post. 10 months ago I thought I was feeling better after all my treatment. But…it is only now that I really feel like my body has recovered from the battering it had. When I mentioned this to a friend recently, they reminded me that the cancer nurses had told me it would take 18 months to 2 years for my body to recover. Clearly, they knew best!

Over the last few months I have got cross with my self regularly when I have strayed from good diet choices and not exercised on a regular basis. I now realise, I really wasn’t ready.  I see the signs that my body’s health and returning strength has turned a corner: my nails and hair are now strong and healthy and if I cut myself (or fall – as I did very ungracefully last week. I do not recommend ‘splatting’ / tarmac surfing on the road!) then the scrapes and bruises heal much more quickly once again.

So, and this is where ‘I am a digestive biscuit’ comes in, I do now feel strong enough to take back the control. I lost a bit of my chemo weight but have been eating biscuits and cake over the last year so cannot question why I have not lost more! Since the New Year, I have made positive choices about the food I put in my body and I have sufficient energy to go for walk everyday. So I know, my body will recalibrate.

 

 

Sauerkraut

I love sauerkraut – not to be confused with vinegary pickled cabbage – fermented cabbage. Not only because I enjoy the taste, texture and flavour but also because of its nutritious qualities – rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals and probiotics.

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This is a jar of beetroot sauerkraut just starting the fermenting process.

I advise you to wear rubber gloves to avoid staining your hands.

Ingredients:

300 g red cabbage – shredded

200 g beetroot – peeled and finely chopped

1/2 small apple – peeled and finely chopped

2 tsp salt

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp caraway seeds

Method:

Put all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix them well until the vegetables start to release water. Then crush the vegetables with your hands – or use a pestle / end of rolling-pin.

Put the mixture into a sterilised and resealable glass jar – 500 ml capacity – leaving sufficient space at the top to allow for the fizz!

The vegetables need to be submerged in their juices so a cabbage leaf with a weight on top works well.

Leave the sauerkraut at room temperature for anything up to 3 weeks. It needs to be left for at least 3 days..

Intermittent Fasting

This is something that really interests me and I am going to embark on to see how it effects me. Following on from chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment I was acutely aware how my gut microbiome had been effected. I am once again having milk kefir daily and water kefir and kombucha regularly – things I wasn’t allowed to have during treatment because of their powerful probiotic powers.

There are numerous studies showing that intermittent fasting can have benefits for our bodies and brains. For me, the main reason I want to do this is to improve my gut health. One particular species of  bacteria (Akkermansia) thrive when fasting occurs and they strengthen the gut wall and reduce inflammation.

When we don’t eat for a while our bodies initiate important cellular repair processes and changes hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible. Insulin levels drop and human growth hormone increases. Studies show that intermittent fasting can reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in the body.

There seem to be 6 different popular methods and which one fits best will depend on the individual.

  1. 16/8 – fast for 16 hours a day. Generally recommended that women only fast for 14-15 hours. On each day eating is restricted to an 8-10 hour window.
  2. 5:2 – eat normally for 5 days of the week and restrict calories to 500-600 on two days a week – popularised by Dr Michael Mosley.
  3. Eat-stop-eat – do a 24 hour fast once or twice a week
  4. Alternate day fasting – either not eating every other day or restricting calories to 500-600.
  5. Warrior diet – only eat small amounts of raw vegetables and fruits during the day and then eat one huge meal at night.
  6. Spontaneous meal skipping – simply skip 1 or 2 meals a day when you don’t feel hungry.

For me, the 16/ 8 …or because I’m a woman -14/10 style of intermittent fasting is the type that I feel will fit with my lifestyle. So from now on my breakfast will really be breaking the fast 🙂  Of course, during the fasting hours drinking water/herbal tea is to be continued as normal.

Would love to read about your experiences of fasting.

Salads…definitely not boring

I overheard someone the other day saying that they found salads boring. This made me feel a little sad. With such a diversity of flavours and endless possibilities of combinations how can salads become boring? I thought the days of  salads comprised of iceberg lettuce, cucumber and tomato had long since passed. Seemingly not.

I have a simple formula for my salads: green leaf, 3 or more additions – ideally different colours and a dressing – preferably with one ingredient that is a fermented food. Often one ingredient that is hot e.g.roasted butternut squash

Different dressings I make:  (a splash of each in to a small jar and shaken)

Tamari (gluten-free soy sauce), apple cider vinegar and olive oil

Tahini, apple cider vinegar and tamari

Peanut butter and apple cider vinegar

Avocado oil drizzle

Lime juice and olive oil

Here are a selection of the salads we have eaten over the last couple of weeks:

A                                                        B

A: papaya, roasted butternut squash, watercress, olives, tomatoes and olive oil and lime dressing

B: Beetroot houmous and chia seed oatcakes with avocado, tomatoes, olives and watercress

A                                                          B

A: Apricot, pomegranate seeds, mange tout, houmous, tomatoes, olives and rocket with avocado oil drizzle

B:Tomatoes, mange tout, yellow pepper, watercress and houmous – no dressing

A                                                         B

A: peas shoots, watercress, avocado, tomatoes and mange tout with olive oil, tamari and apple cider vinegar dressing

B: shredded carrots, red and white cabbage, hen and quail eggs, avocado, tomatoes and houmous with drizzle of olive oil

A                                                         B

A: rocket, watercress, avocado, apricot, roasted butternut squash with peanut butter and apple cider vinegar dressing

B: carrot sticks, houmous, mango, tomatoes, avocado, beetroot and avocado oil drizzle.

…definitely not boring!!

What is your favourite salad combination?