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.

20170724_211611

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 ūüôā ¬†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?

Kombucha

20170618_164806

I was given my first SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) the other week and have today put my first batch of raspberry flavoured kombucha in to the fridge for a ready supply of chilled homemade goodness. I have, up until now, only fermented milk and water kefir. If I had appreciated how incredibly easy it was to make kombucha I would have done this ages ago!

Step 1:  get a SCOBY Рany one who makes their own kombucha will have baby SCOBY being produced all the time. This one cycle has started the growth of a new SCOBY

Step 2:  I boiled about 2 litres of water and added this to a pan of 6 green tea bags and 170 g granulated sugar.

20170616_131954

I left this in the pan to cool to room temperature.

Step 3: Add the sweet green tea to the kilner jar that has the SCOBY + liquid it came in

20170616_134413

It is important that no metal utensils come in to contact with the SCOBY ¬†or liquid it is in. Because it is a living organism, it needs to ‘breathe’ so cover the top with muslin.

Step 4: Leave it to brew for 7 Р28 days. The longer you leave it the more acidic the ferment will become. I was advised to taste it every day and when it no longer tasted like tea but was fruity, it was ready. I could then choose to let it brew longer for a stronger flavour. By day 4 the tea taste had gone. I left it to brew for 8 days  РI will probably leave it longer as I, and my gut, become accustomed to it.

Step 5: Using plastic utensils drain the majority of the liquid into a glass container that has a grolsh type top – i.e. creates a good seal. The SCOBY and its liquid is now ready for the process to start again i.e. Steps 2-4

20170616_135312

Step 6: The decanted kombucha can now be put in the fridge and be drunk ¬†– the longer it is left…the fizzier it will get. This is the point at which I decided to flavour it. I popped a handful of fresh raspberries in to the bottle and sealed the lid. Every day I ‘burped’ the liquid i.e. opened the lid to let the pressure of the building gas be released.

20170616_135238

I left this on a kitchen work top for 4 days.  I have tasted it today and it has a mild fizz and is now in the fridge to drink.

20170618_164806

Raspberry kombucha

 

My next step is to experiment with longer period of brewing the SCOBY  in the liquid before I remove ii and experiment with flavours Рthe tea i use and the flavours I add.

What flavours have you tried? What would you recommend? What didn’t work so well?

 

Kefir – an acquired taste

My friends are probably tired of me ‘banging on’ about the wonderful benefits of kefir … but I won’t stop because more and more research is highlighting the health benefits of eating / drinking fermented foods. Dr Michael Mosley has been in the press recently talking about the importance of a healthy gut and the links with depression and anxiety . Kefir and Kombucha (future post) may be a recent health craze but have been drunk for a very long time…before trendy was even a word!

I have passed both milk and water kefir grains to many of my friends for them to start fermenting their own kefir.

Milk kefir is definitely an acquired taste and I recommend to all of my friends that they will drink it much more easily if they increase its palatability (not sure if that is a word but I like it!). ¬†In fact people’s comments have ranged from hmmm…? to yuk! and…how do you drink that?!

So to ensure that they do benefit from the wonderful bacterial cultures I do say, ‘Disguise it!’ ¬†My husband is my barometer. I can drink it neat but I have to completely disguise it for him. So, for him, when each batch is strained I add coconut milk and a generous dollop / or two of a flavoured organic yoghurt / coconut yoghurt / soya based yoghurt. This ensures that he has a glass every day ūüôā ¬†The adult equivalent tactic to hiding vegetables in food for fussy children!

If you really cannot enjoy the milk kefir then water kefir is a really good runner up. Not as diverse a range of beneficial bacteria but still very good for you.

How do you flavour your kefirs?

Confused…

Everyday the news is filled with conflicting health messages…eat this, don’t eat that, drink this, don’t drink that and so it becomes increasingly difficult to take control. ¬†We are told, and I believe, that what we eat will ultimately keep us in good health or put us on the path to illness.

I feel I come at food and nutrition from quite an informed position but recognise there is much to learn. For me now, nutrition and getting it right is even more important. My cancer was oestrogen and progesterone positive and I am on drugs to inhibit my body from producing these hormones. I want to avoid foods that contain such hormones. So… I am somewhat confused and dismayed by the conflicting literature and papers available on the subject of dairy products and water and the content of female hormones within both.

In this country, at the moment, it is ‘safe’ to eat dairy products although some research in other countries state otherwise. Equally, we are told to drink plenty of water and yet there has been plenty of research to highlight falling male fertility due to the levels of female hormones in water.

I don’t want to become paranoid but equally I don’t want to hear in 5 years time that there are proven links between breast cancer recurrence and dairy products / water. So for me now I have greatly reduced my dairy intake – ensuring I eat other calcium rich ¬† foods and am looking in to a filtration system for the house. Most of all … I want answers.

If you have any thoughts please share ūüôā

 

Banana, peanut butter and oat muffins

20170512_102516

Perfect use for the sad  and unwanted banana left in the fruit bowl!  These muffins are both gluten and dairy free. In the unlikely event that they are not devoured by the descending hordes, these are best kept in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas mark 4   Muffin tin  Makes 18 Cooking time: 15-20 mins

Ingredients:

250 g gluten-free self-raising flour     1 1/2 tsp baking powder

75 g coconut sugar (muscovado would work equally well)    30 g rolled oats

100 g crunchy peanut butter               30 g coconut oil

125 ml almond milk / oat milk            3 eggs (2 if not using gf flour)

2 ripe mashed bananas

Method:

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Put all the other ingredients in another bowl and when thoroughly mixed stir in the dry ingredients. Spoon in to the muffin tins and place in the centre of the oven. Check after 15 minutes. Cooked when skewer comes out clean.

20170511_125122

4 bean and sweetcorn chilli

A really speedy dish using store cupboard ingredients. If large tins are used…serves 4.

Ingredients:

1 tin pinto beans               1  tin cannellini beans

1  tin kidney beans           1  tin butter beans

1 tin sweetcorn                 1 onion chopped

1 carton passata                1 tsp paprika

1 tsp mild/hot chilli powder ( depending on preference)

1 tsp ground cumin         Olive oil for frying

Method:

Fry the onion until soft. Add the spices and stir thoroughly for 1 minute. Rinse and drain all the pulses. Add pulses,  sweetcorn and passata. Cover and leave on a low heat to heat through and allow spices to infuse.

Spinach and grain loaf

Delicious as ‘bread’ or toasted.

Preheat oven to 180 C/ gas mark 5    Prepare a 1 lb loaf tin
Ingredients:

8 eggs                                    1/2 cup coconut oil Рmelted

1/4 cup chia seeds              1/4 cup linseed

1/4 cup sesame seeds        1/4 cup coconut flour

3 handfuls  spinach           1-2 tsp chilli flakes

Method:

Blend eggs and coconut oil for 1 minute. Add all other ingredients  and blend until thoroughly mixed. Pour in to the loaf tin. Cook for 30-40 minutes Рskewer comes out clean. Once cold refrigerate.

Oat, chia and flaxseed breakfast muffin – gluten and dairy free

20170430_124742

I have combined ingredients that have a real benefit for the body – some of which I have listed:

Flaxseed – high in fibre aiding digestion and helping to maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels, omega 3, vitamin B1, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium

Chia seed Рhigh in fibre, omega 3, potassium, omega 6, calcium, copper, phosphorus and  zinc

Coconut oil – healthy saturated fat

Oatmeal – rich in fibre, high protein, low fat

Spices – ginger and cinnamon – both anti inflammatory

Oat milk – lactose free, low in fat, vitamin E, vitamin B, iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium

The combination also chosen to keep me feeling fuller for longer ūüôā ¬†I have used coconut sugar as the sweetener — very little.

Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas mark 4       Muffin tin Р12 bun

Ingredients:

1 cup of gluten free self raising flour                            2 eggs

1 cup of oatmeal                                                                1/2 cup of oat milk

1 tsp ginger                                                                          1/4 cup coconut oil Рmelted

1 tsp cinnamon                                                                   1/4 cup coconut sugar

2 tbsp chia seeds                                                                 1 1/2 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp flaxseed

Method:

Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the eggs, milk and coconut oil and stir until mixed. Divide between 12 the muffins.

20170430_124613

Place in the centre of the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes – until skewer comes out clean.

20170430_123105