Back on track

2018 was an eventful year! The stresses of selling our house, living in a caravan with 2 dogs, 2 cats and my husband during one of the hottest UK summers on record (many thanks to our wonderful friends for helping us) whilst we awaited the completion on the house we were buying seemed to stretch out endlessly.

This life turbulence completely tipped me upside down. As my kitchen disappeared so to my healthy food choices, love of cooking and exploration of flavours and blends disappeared. Instead, I trotted – no … galloped – in the direction of sugar laden comfort foods. Fast forward to the end of 2018 and I was a few pounds heavier, feeling very sluggish and lacking any momentum to change. I have spent the last few months mentally beating myself up for my lack of will power and weakness which has only lead to a downward spiral of self loathing followed quickly by a ‘what is the point?’ attitude as I devoured some more calorie dense / nutrient lacking morsel.

Thankfully, my inner voice has finally been heard. I am only human and to err is not a weakness. Self -care is paramount. Over the last few days, I have planned and prepared for overhauling my diet. So, as 2019 commences, the cookbooks cover my table once more, scraps of paper have ideas scribbled on them and sugar is off the menu.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year.

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Salmon, leek and spinach lasagne.

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Serves 6

Heat oven to 180 C / Gas 4

Grease a lasagne dish

Ingredients:

125 g butter

100 g plain flour (gf or non gf)

1 l semi skimmed milk (a bit more may be needed if sauce too thick)

1 leek cut in to thin strips

500 g baby spinach

4 fillet portions of salmon – baked in foil for 15 minutes and flaked

400 g cheddar cheese – grated

2 cloves of garlic – crushed

4 sprigs of dill – chopped

Salt and pepper

10-12 sheets of lasagne – gf / non gf

Method:

Using 125 g of butter, flour and the milk make a bechamel / white sauce.

Melt the remaining butter in a pan and cook the leeks for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the spinach leaves (a handful at a time) and the garlic and cook until the spinach has wilted. Drain off any excess liquid.

Assemble the lasagne – spread 1/4 of sauce over the bottom of the dish. Place lasagne sheets on top. Top with half of the leek / spinach mix and half of the flaked salmon.

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Sprinkle with a third of the cheese. Repeat – 1/4 of sauce, lasagne, greens, salmon and cheese.

Top with 1/4 of sauce , lasagne, remainder of sauce and grated cheese.

Cook for 45 minutes or until golden.

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Sprinkle the dill over the top and serve with garlic flatbreads and a green salad.

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.

 

 

Cauliflower and walnut soup

It’s that time of year… when a bowl of soup is always welcome.  This recipe is a firm favourite in our household. It is one of the easiest soups to make.

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Ingredients:

1 medium cauliflower – separated into florets            2 cups of stock – vegetable / chicken

1 large onion – coarsely chopped                                    2 cups of milk

1 large handful of walnut pieces                                     2 tsps paprika

Black pepper

Method:

Put the cauliflower florets, chopped onion   and stock into a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes until soft. Add the milk, paprika, black pepper and walnuts and

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simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, blend and serve.

I serve with a sprinkling of black pepper and a dash of tabasco.

 

Food is not the enemy…?

This ditty has been rattling around my head for the last few days. This and, ‘love your body – don’t hate it.’  Two things very easy to say but, for me, not at all easy to accept.

Although I am no longer a slave to scales, food still exerts a fair amount of control over me. I plan our weekly meals ahead of shopping and know exactly what I am going to eat the following day. This structure keeps me sane and on track…until an additional factor in my life rears its head. Then, all my plans, good intentions, dietary knowledge and sense seem to go out of the window. The sense of ‘me’ and the importance of looking after me disappears. The first thing that happens is food becomes my enemy and very quickly I start on a negative spiral. Sugary foods become really palatable, comforting and of course addictive. I forget to drink enough fluids and eat when I know I am actually thirsty etc.

My life has been hectic and somewhat stressful over the last couple of months (hence no blogging). I have never loved my body but have over the years come to accept it and wanted to look after it. But, as soon as there is imbalance and disharmony in my life the very first thing to suffer is me.  I know, from talking with others, that this is not just something that happens to me.

Why? Is it because being kind to ourselves is not a natural human trait?  We spend our lives looking and caring for others so why can we not treat ourselves in the same way regardless of external factors?

Would love to hear your thoughts…

 

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.