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.

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

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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 – any 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.

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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

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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 – 28 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  – I 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

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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.

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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.

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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 – the 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 🙂  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 🙂

 

Health Esteem Queen for the month of May

On May 20 2017 the wonderful Sara of mshealthesteem.com   posted her interview with me as she had nominated me Health Esteem Queen for that month.

I urge you to take a look at her wonderful blog and health and wellness website.

I have posted the interview here as well:

Tell us about your health philosophy.

I believe we are what we eat. With this in mind I cook all my food from scratch where possible, and use the best ingredients to ensure the outcome is a balanced and nutrient dense meal. I also believe in ‘simple is good’ and very rarely produce food that has taken hours to prepare. I cook gluten-free and fructose free / minimum fructose food.  (I am no means perfect and do occasionally succumb to chocolate or cake – when I do I don’t ‘beat myself up’.)

Having recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, undergoing surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and now on drug therapy for many years, this has heightened my awareness of and the importance of, treating our bodies well. I not only try to ensure nutritious food goes in to my body but I also am careful of the products I put on my skin – e.g. paraben free products, paraben and aluminium free deodorant.

I exercise daily – walking my dogs and spending time with my horse. I also try to meditate daily for at least 10 minutes.

What’s your favourite part of your health-esteem journey so far?

As a result of the changes to my diet, I never feel bloated, my skin texture has improved and I have lost weight. I no longer count calories, I eat fats – coconut milk, avocados etc, I don’t snack between meals and most importantly of all, the bathroom scales do not rule my life which they did for as many years as I can remember. I now have a sustainable positive mindset about choosing the foods I eat and the amounts of food my body wants. I actively listen out for the feelings of satiety and most importantly and totally amazingly for someone for whom bulimia has been a constant companion for so, so many years I am eating guilt free. It has been such a liberating experience – I am now free from my bingeing habits and the suffocating feeling that food is controlling me.

Why do you think self-love is an important aspect of someone’s health?

I think self love is all about owning our own power and acting from a place of kindness toward ourselves.  What matters is how we feel about ourselves; that we accept ourselves; we become responsible for our own lives and we stop trying to prove something. Self-love isn’t about being narcissistic it is about looking after ourselves. We have one ribbon of life and should value it – our health being one of the most important facets of our lives and one which we can have significant control over.

What changes were necessary in order to achieve your state of self-love?

Firstly, looking inward: I needed to identify my own individual appetite drivers and my food choices. Once I understood my triggers to eat, triggers not to eat I then became able to manage my weight. Fructose was a trigger for me – so I removed it. Snacking and being unaware was another trigger. For a long time I, like many others I have talked to, seem to have been in the pursuit of the perfect diet – the key few ‘must have’ ingredients or ‘must do’ approaches to eating. I have followed the latest hot topic dietary approaches and listened to all the ‘experts’ wanting to share their ‘dietary magic’. At times I have been lulled in to the promises of quick fix approaches – which have ‘worked’ – but of course any weight loss has slowly returned or different diet approaches have not be sustainable. If I have followed a restrictive diet my emotional reaction has always ended in rebellion.

Then, I recognised and accepted that my working environment was harming my health. Continual pressure and stresses were taking their toll. So a change of direction was in order. (That is partly on hold due to diagnosis but I do have a plan!)

Finally – acceptance of who I am, who I will never be and most importantly…the person I no longer want to be.

What inspired you to become the Healthy Foodie you are today?

The pursuit of a sustainable way of life. I have always thought myself to be quite savvy about food. I have however, at different times in my life be ruled by it; controlled by it even. For a large proportion of my life I have awoken in the morning determined to be in control and not worried about what I was going to eat during the day. Invariably after my first of several weigh ins the feelings of guilt/ self loathing etc. would raise their ugly heads. I have tried many diets over the years – never needing to lose too much but never satisfied with how I looked or felt.

2 years ago, I was given a copy of ‘Simplicious’ by Sarah Wilson. That was it…my turning point:)

Why did you choose to switch to a plant based diet?

For my health.

Every year, following the rich and meat laden excesses of the Christmas period, I would serve only vegetarian meals for my husband and I for the month of February and then try to limit the amount of meat/poultry based meals we ate afterwards.

Last year, I decided to extend the month and I ate a vegetarian based diet for several months. I do now eat meat occasionally – could I do without it …yes. Could I do without my vegetables, pulses, grains etc…absolutely not!  .

Being on a plant based diet ensures that I feel fuller for longer; don’t suffer with bloating and feel generally more energised.

Any tips for those wishing to add more plants to their plates?

Variety – explore the multitude of textures and colours available.

Seasoning – learn to use herbs and spices to enhance and enliven dishes

Describe a typical day on your foodie plate.

Breakfast –  oat, chia and teff porridge served with coconut milk and a milk kefir smoothie – acai, baobab or maca flavoured

Lunch – buddha / abundance bowl with something green e.g. watercress, something red – peppers / tomatoes / beetroot; something yellow  – peppers / sweetcorn and some protein – pulses / fish / egg

Dinner – easy to prepare meal and often one pot e.g. a cauliflower , chickpea and quinoa bake

What is a daily health ritual must?

Drinking plenty of fluids

What advice would you give for someone wishing to make some health invoking changes?

Identify why you want to change and the positive impact this will have. Then break it down in to small and manageable chunks. Don’t view it as failure if it doesn’t always go to plan. Each day is a new opportunity to start again.

What’s your biggest health misconception pet peeve?

Fats are bad for you

What is your favourite health food staple?

Chia seeds – so versatile and nutritional powerhouses

What’s your go to healthy snack?

Brazil nuts – brain food!

What does Health-Esteem mean to you?

Possessing self regard for your health. Valuing yourself enough to want to look after yourself on the inside. As well as the outside.

 

Banana, peanut butter and oat muffins

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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.

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