Kathleen's Black Bean Soup

Quick and Easy Cuban Style Black Bean Soup adapted from Kathleen Nichols’ recipe

1-2 tbsp Olive oil or Coconut oil

1 onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced (I used green instead)

2 tsp minced garlic

3-6 oz. chorizo, cubed (as we didn’t have any on hand, I used organic bacon which I sautéed first)

2C broth (chicken, beef, or vegetable)

2 tsp oregano

1 tsp cumin

chili powder

2 cans unseasoned black beans

Salt to taste

2 dashes of lime juice per serving to taste

½ tsp fresh coriander leaves, shredded, per serving


·         Heat 1 tbsp oil in your pot, sauté onion and pepper until almost caramelized

·         Add garlic, continue sautéing until onions and peppers are caramelized (total time approximately 7-10 minutes)

·         Remove from pan, set aside

·         Add oil to your pan as needed, brown chorizo (approximately 3-5 minutes)

·         Return onion, pepper, and garlic to the pan

·         Add broth, oregano, cumin, and chili powder, simmer for 5 minutes

·         Add the beans, salt to taste, and simmer for another 5-10 minutes

·         Note: if you slightly mash the beans, they’ll release some of their starchiness into the broth, and your soup will be thicker

·         As you serve, add the dashes of lime juice and the cilantro to each bowl

·         Serves 4-6 (in our case I made double and it was nearly gone!)


Serving suggestions

·         Serve with plantain chips or crusty bread on the side (Cuban bread, if you can find it!) and maybe some avocado!

·         The next day, the soup will be thicker – serve over rice for a variation, with a green salad on the side

·         Enjoy!


10% off of all phone/email consultations!

Hi everyone and Happy New Year! If you are finding that the new year has started at full speed and you are finding it difficult to fit everything in, you can now take the opportunity to have a phone or email consulation from your home or office. I am offering a 10% discount for all phone/email consultations in 2014! I look forward to hearing from you very soon.



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Health and the Media

This article is courtesy of Jenny Hadley, naturopathic nutritionist, SMN

"I often get asked to comment on reports in the tabloid health pages and on TV programmes.

Surely, if it's in the media, it must be true and the answers we are all looking for?

With the media giving us a continuous flow of the latest so-called ‘change your life’ remedies, it is hard to determine what is worth trying, what is advertising tosh and what may actually do us harm. Spectacular breakthroughs, based on scientific evidence, are rare - so the information we receive, heralded with massive media attention, gives a false impression.

Basic research findings often show promise for a future therapeutic hope but somewhere along the line, the vast majority of the research produces unclear or conflicting results. Such problems have been experienced in many research trials for nutrition and supplementation.

Randomised controlled trials are the key methods to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new treatments. Treatments are called experimental until they are evidently proven to be viable. However, perhaps the viability of these trials is questionable and it is important to mention that a large number of trials for drugs and beauty products are funded by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies who are developing the product being tested. Natural resources, such as the basics of a balanced diet, can often be a small voice in an industry where these powerful corporate giants use public relations experts to manage public perception.

Natural resources and therapies that should be considered valid in the treatment of disorder and disease have very little research and scientific evidence in comparison. There is little funding available for carrying out trials since there is little financial reward in return. According to the Oxford quality scoring system (Jadad) alternative/herbal remedy clinical trials had similar Jadad scores to pharmaceutical scores but the trials were significantly smaller and of shorter duration. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies quash natural agent/alternative therapy research, by finding systematic errors in the conduct, analysis and reporting of the clinical trial. Natural treatments will always be called into question by those who would be financially affected if a natural health revolution took off. They will find a loop-hole to disregard the evidence found and the agent or therapy under trial is effectively written off.

Arguably, if every ‘body’ is individual, can scientific research ever be really accurate? There are different factors in people, such as the severity of disease or disorder, other unknown diseases or disorders, lifestyle, diet and if the patient followed their trial instructions correctly. It may be worth mentioning genetic factors may also differ between people, for example in the metabolism and transport of dietary components in the body. Perhaps other factors like bias on patient selection should be taken into account. In addition, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) will always say that anything from nature is unproven because it can be variable. Therefore, it is unlikely that adequate studies into natural medicine will be abundant.

Food intake and nutritional research trials are difficult to control and many studies are too small. The pros and cons of supplementation debate should not detract us from the needs for a good healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables. The benefits of natural nutrition are becoming more well known, but we still have a long way to go. We have known for years that poor diet has an impact on long term health because our food, particularly fruits and vegetables, contain antioxidants that help protect the body. It seems logical that eating foods rich in antioxidants has to be a good thing.

People should all learn fundamental life skills about managing a balanced diet, and - given today's economy - about the financial planning for such a diet. Many of the clients I see wish they had known the things that I have taught them about nutrition from childhood. Many believe that if they had eaten the way they do now, they probably wouldn’t have developed their health issues in the first place. My thoughts on the education of diet and home economics will need a whole new chapter!

What we discover in the media is not always a wasted resource but articles should be interpreted with caution unless they have been proven reliable by peer groups and journals. I, or another health advisor, may have a better understanding of claims, how to check their viability and how they will personally affect you. So always check the a qualified professional before you jump in and turn yourself into a guinea pig!"


My fascination with foraging in all its forms goes back to my childhood summers in Germany. My grandfather took me on many walks through the forest where we picked blackberries and “hunted” for edible mushrooms. My family will tell you that “mushroom hunting” is a bit of an obsession with me. I’ve had my husband pull the car over just to inspect a few mushrooms...

When we moved to England, I discovered elderflowers and love making elderflower cordial – perfect with sparkling water or especially – a gin and tonic!


At this time of year though, the berries on the elder tree are ripe and ready to be gathered. You might have purchased a cough syrup or other remedy containing sambucus – but why pay for it when you probably have it in your own garden or just down the lane?

The elderberry is remarkably safe for the whole family and contains plenty of Vitamin C and Iron – just what we all need as they days become shorter, darker and colder! It has numerous uses but I recommend taking it at the very start of a cold – you can take a teaspoonful at a time every few hours. It is anti-inflammatory, useful for coughs and colds, fevers, sinusitis, tonsillitis, croup, asthma,  etc. – just about all of winter’s ills.

Elderberry Elixir adapted from Kiva Rose (www.bearmedicineherbals.com)

1 cup elderberries (dried) or two cups fresh

½ cup dried elderflowers*

¼ cup rose hips fresh or 2 T dried*

3 T fresh ginger grated

2 T licorice (I get the powdered root)*



1 l jar

*I buy dried herbs usually from Neal’s Yard (Oxford) or online

Mix all the herbs together and place in the jar. Cover with honey until fully saturated; then fill with brandy. Let it sit for 4-6 weeks in a dark cupboard. Strain and use by the dropperful or teaspoon.

PS: Always make sure your sources of berries, etc. are collected far from polluted roads and waterways and not from nature reserves or private property!

Methylisothiazolinone and the personal care products in your home

I always thought I was careful about the products my family used. Usually I read every label, but with teenagers in the house, sometimes shampoos and other cosmetics sneak their way in without my knowledge! Recently I have read several articles about a chemical flagged by many dermatologists as the cause of skin problems.

According to articles in the Guardian, the Daily Mail and Natural News, methylisothiazolinone, or MI, has led to a massive increase in eczema and other skin allergies in recent years, and doctors are calling on regulators to ban the chemical. I went through our cupboards and sure enough, I found a few cosmetics with MI in them. They can be found in just about any product including sunscreen, shaving cream and shampoo, among others. It really pays to read every label carefully and warn other family members about this chemical.

For more information on MI, check out:

 http://www.naturalnews.com/041203_skin_allergies  _toxic_chemicals_personal_care_products.html


If you are looking for safe sun lotions for the whole family, we have found that Green People and Aloe Pura products work well for us. They are costlier, but worth every penny if they don't cause skin problems and other negative side effects!

Enjoy the sunshine!



The best way to get your Vitamin D is from sunshine and today is the day! Get out there and enjoy it while it lasts. Unless you are extremely susceptible to sunburn or have been told by your doctor to stay out of the sun, getting some rays in the morning and late afternoon when the sun isn't at its strongest is the best way to build up and store your Vitamin D for those greyer days. Wear a bikini as some sun on your stomach not only feels good, you are doing your body some good as well!  Make sure you are also getting a good amount of healthy fat in your diet such as olive or coconut oil in order to properly absorb Vitamin D.


Pizza Time!

I'm not intending to turn this into a food blog - really, I'm not! But it is Friday and in hunting through quick recipes, I remembered my friend Oddny's pizza recipe - quick and easy and yeast and wheat free - just what I was looking for. So for any of you who perhaps haven't even decided what to make tonight, try this recipe - Oddny tells me she has it from www.rawsolla.com - an Icelandic Raw Foods Queen (not quite sure how anyone can be vegetarian in Iceland...).

For the pizza dough

250 g white spelt flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp oregano

1-2 tbsp olive oil

125 ml hot water

Put the dry ingredients into a bowl. Mix in the olive oil. 

Add the water gradually (you may need slightly more or less to make your doughball). 

Roll out into preferred shape. 

Put onto greaseproof paper and prebake at 200˚C for 3-4 minutes. If you have to prepare anything after this, put a damp cloth on top of the dough so it doesn't dry out.

This makes about one large pizza for me.

For the sauce:

1 can tomatoes (any kind, but preferably organic) 

3 tbsp tomato puree

3-6 cloves garlic

2 tbsp dried oregano

2 tbsp dried basil

2 tbsp thyme

1 tsp salt (optional) 

pepper to taste

Mix this all together and puree - you can use it cold or simmer gently - entirely up to you. This sauce has plenty of flavour - I like to experiment with the herbs. 

Top with whatever you choose! Bake at 200˚C until done (just a few minutes until the cheese has melted).

I often double the ingredients as the sauce is sooo good and is great for anything - a quick and easy topping for gluten free lasagne for example, too! 


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Source: www.rawsolla.com

20% off First Consultation

Bespoke Health is offering 20% off of your first nutritional therapy appointment or reiki session between now and 30th September 2013! Please contact Claudine for more information and to book an appointment in either her Marcham or Abingdon office on 01865 390017 or by email.