Staples to have on hand for the Cold and Flu Season

A few of my clients have already been hit by a bug or two and I'm not feeling my best. It has been a busy start to the school year for many and it's easy to let your guard down and catch something that's going around. Here are a few foods to keep in the house at all times - just in case and also to prevent infection.

Onions - cook with them and eat them raw if possible (chopped finely in a salad or dressing). If someone is ill, please a small dish of sliced or chopped onions in their room to prevent spreading the germs.

Garlic - as with onions, garlic should go into just about everything. Make sure you buy it fresh and organic if possible. Never from China as it is contaminated with toxins. Half a clove chopped finely and swallowed without chewing is great for your digestive system, too.

Ginger - again, I love ginger in all Asian dishes. A few slices in a glass of water or brewed into a tea is a great immune booster. Add a slice to your smoothies or fresh juices.

Horseradish - not always easy to find fresh, but a good quality store bought one is better than nothing. At this time of year it's an excellent immune system booster and I sprinkle a bit onto cream sauces (soy cream for me) or even on a piece of bread with smoked fish for example. A little bit goes a long way.

Nettles - perhaps you still have some in your garden. The young leaves can be used for a soup. The little seeds can be made into a pesto and kept for the whole winter. This is a new way of using nettles for me - but really delicious and the seeds are considered a power food - again, you only need a little bit. Nettles are also very high in vitamin C and are a bitter like dandelions.

Turmeric - perhaps one of the new foods for us in the West, I add turmeric to soups, stews and sauces (and sneakily no one notices). It's an anticancer food, too, so it should have a regular place in your pantry. I like it fresh and grated in smoothies, but you can also make a delcious hot drink or tea with it too - it doesn't have to taste bitter.

Elderberry - not to be eaten raw, but made into a syrup or cordial, they are high in vitamin C and great to have on hand if you aren't well.

Rosehips - another one for a tea or a jelly, this is delicious and children usually like it, too!

Egg Muffins

I'm no longer quite sure where I first saw these easy to make omelettes. Instead of fiddling with a pan, the eggs sticking and resulting more in a scrambled mess, these are super easy and are always a hit!

Sautee your choice of vegetables. I usually use onions, peppers and whatever I have in the fridge. You can add uncooked chopped tomatoes, bits of olives and fresh herbs, grated cheese - really whatever you wish. Oil your muffin tins - I usually use coconut oil. Add the vegetables and lastly pour on the whisked egg and cheese mixture (seasoned as you wish). Bake at 180-200 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until cooked. These are delicious cold the next day as well and make a nutritious lunch for school or work, too.

Why don't you try it with some salmon for extra omega 3s!

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Interview by Caroline, founder of the alternative lifestyle blog "Alt + Green"

While everyone's still on the healthy theme, I wanted to share the secrets of Naturopathy with you.  And I thought who better to do this than the fabulous Claudine of Bespoke Health .  I have used her a couple of times and can recommend her as a very knowledgeable, practical advisor,  and all round helpful lady who really loves what she does :) Claudine lived in Oxon for many years and continues to serve clients in Oxon and across the globe (via Skype/phone/email).

Interview with Claudine Martin, Naturopath:

In a nutshell, what is naturopathy and why is it good for us?
Naturopathic nutritionists are trained in the detailed workings of the body and its metabolism. This enables us not only to explain to individuals how their illness may have started but also to design a tailor-made nutrition and health program, explain how it works, and guide the client through it, adapting it as necessary and working through any problems that may arise. By understanding the cause of your symptoms, you can then address it directly rather than simply taking a medicine, for example, to mask the symptoms. Nutrition can often lessen or entirely alleviate specific issues reducing the need for conventional medicine which has many side effects.

What inspired you to turn to naturopathy?
I first became interested in alternative therapies, and nutrition specifically, when I was pregnant with my first child- unbelievably 20 years ago! I was concerned about my environment, the modern medicines, testing procedures, etc. that I was given and started to question things that seemed unnecessary to me. I had many interesting tutors along the way and noticed how changing things in my environment, specifically my diet, lessened my own symptoms without too much effort, but more importantly without any side effects.

You've mentioned to me in the past that people ate better back in the olden days.  How is modern day life affecting eating habits?
The nutritional value of food has lessened since the industrial age. Due to the processing, long distance travel, packaging, environmental impact, pesticides, etc., our food simply does not provide all the vitamins and minerals that we need. The longer your fresh vegetables take to get to the supermarket, sit on the shelves and later in your refrigerator, the less nutritional value they will have. Unfortunately supplements are now necessary for most people even with the best diets. Secondly, we live in an age when people expect everything immediately, quickly. Very few people can or want to take the time out to cook a proper meal. We are eating more fast food, more processed foods and less truly healthy, nutritionally rich foods. Our bodies, no matter how overfed, are often starved of proper nutrition!

What are your top 3 healthy eating tips?

+ Cook your own food as often as possible.
+ Buy organic if you can’t grow your own.
+ Make vegetables the main part of two meals a day. That is probably the hardest, but if you try to do this, you will see that you lose weight, feel healthier, have better skin, etc. We rely far too much on carbs such as pasta, bread and potato products.

What are the common mistakes people make when trying to eat healthily/change their habits?

+ Counting calories – it’s really not necessary if you eat a balanced diet.
+ Avoiding sugar, but then replacing it with artificial sweeteners – a definite No-No! Even agave, honey, maple syrup, etc. need to be eaten in very small quantities (regardless of their GI)
+ Eating low-fat foods – your body and its metabolism require health fats to burn calories (among other things)
Skipping meals – especially breakfast

In your opinion, what are the benefits of eating a plant-based diet?
First and foremost, it is environmentally the right way to go. Having spent a lot of time on the continent, I appreciate how many in the UK eat vegetarian and vegan meals regularly – it’s not so easy in countries like Germany and France. The UK is more advanced in this regard. Studies have shown that a plant-based diet (not always considered to be 100% vegan, however) may prevent type 2 diabetes, lower heart disease, contribute to weight loss (or maintenance), support healthy vision, skin, etc., etc.

There are a few issues with plant-based eating, however. Many vegetarians and vegans rely on carbs as their main food – bread and pasta being the favourites. It’s then very easy to get children especially hooked on eating almost nothing but breads, cakes, biscuits and pasta – not a very healthy start for them and a very bad habit to get into.
Also, if you are vegan, you need to be aware that you may need extra supplements such as B12.

Please check out Caroline's regular blog on eating a plant-based diet and cool things to do in the Oxfordshire area! https://plantpoweredblog.wordpress.com/

 

Natural Insect Repellant

It may seem a bit early to be thinking of insect repellant when the ground is frozen solid, but some lucky clients are about to venture off to warmer climates. Even for those of us who are not so fortunate, if you have the time, this oil lasts forever, so you can make it now while you dream of summer.

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The recipe is coconut oil with 2% neem oil. To cover the smell of the neem oil, I add several drops of lavender essence. Melt the oils gently and add the essence. Blend together and once cooled, pour into a bottle or jar. Naturally it will be in liquid form in warmer climates, so take care that the bottle is well-sealed. We have found that it prevents mosquito bites quite well and it is also supposed to be useful against ticks. You could even try it on your pets! I'd love to hear your holiday stories and whether or not you remained bite-free.

Walnuts on the holiday menu!

Walnuts are a big part of the Christmas season for me. I remember fondly cracking nuts with our enormous nutcracker – straight out of a fairy tale. They are a part of many holiday recipes and a great addition to salads, cereals, porridge, etc. But what are the health benefits?

A recent study shows walnuts significantly lower cholesterol and are more effective than statins.

Walnuts are high in fiber, so they make you fuller faster and you will eat less. Maybe you could even consider them a diet food ;)

Walnuts also contain powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants fight free radicals and therefore are helpful in slowing down the aging process and preventing cancer.

Walnuts might even make you brainier as they contain vitamin E, melatonin, omega 3 and folate.

On top of all of that walnuts are high in healthy fats and potassium and are a good source for vitamin B6, magnesium and iron.

Make them a healthy part of your Christmas menu this year!

 

Griddled Courgette and Tomato Salad with meatballs and Tahini Dressing

Looking for a new way to eat one of my favourite vegetables, I came across Pippa Kendrick's courgette salad - definitely filling enough for a meal if eaten with couscous, some flatbreads or rice. You can use any meatballs - vegetarian ones are also a good option. Here is the recipe for the salad and the dressing:

Dressing:

2 tbsp tahini paste

1/2 close of garlic, crushed

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp agave syrup

1/4 tsp ground cumin

sea salt and ground peper to taste

Add the tahini paste to a small bowl and slowly stir in 2-3 tbsp water until you have a smooth thin paste. Add the crushed garlic and mix into the paste with the lemon juice, agave syrup and cumin. Then season to taste and add more lemon juice or agave if necessary.

Salad:

6 courgettes

4 Large tomatoes

A small bunch of flat-leaf parsley

A small bunch of mint

Olive oil

juice of 1/4 lemon

Salt/pepper

Top and tail the courgettes and peel them into fine ribbons. Finely chop the tomatoes, parsley and mint. Place the courgettes in a bowl with olive oil, season and mix until thoroughly coated. Heat a griddle pan or frying pan until very hot and fry the ribbons in batches for 3-4 minutes until slightly softened and charred. Remove from the pan, drizzle with lemon juice and place on a serving platter with the tomatoes, parsley and mint - all mixed together. Pile the meatballs on top and drizzle over the dressing! Enjoy :)


The Benefits of an Infrared Sauna

I’ve always loved everything about the sauna – the whole ritual felt healthy and was a relaxing way to end the day. I always enjoyed it, but never really thought much about the health benefits perhaps because I couldn’t really indulge on a daily basis. Finally it took some research into cancer for one of my clients that led me to the health benefits of the infrared sauna – and now I am lucky enough to try one out in my own home! So far, I’ve found after less than one week and 3 sessions that my skin is clearer, softer and smoother. What other benefits are there?

According to Sherry Rogers, MD, an internationally known expert in environmental medicine and author of Tired or Toxic?, saunas should be a part of every household. Dr. Rogers writes that “incurable chronic diseases that were thought to have no known cause often disappear when toxic chemicals are gone”. In his book Never Fear Cancer Again, Raymond Francis recommends regular saunas to “achieve and maintain good health”. The skin is one of the best ways to rid yourself of toxins as it is the body’s biggest organ and a crucial part of our detox system. “Saunas melt the fat layer in the skin, allowing the oil to ooze out of the oil glands along with its cargo of accumulated fat-soluble toxins. In addition, water-soluble toxins are lost in the sweat, carrying out heavy metals like lead and mercury.” That’s enough of a reason for me, but there are more!

A quick search in Pubmed, confirms the following benefits:

·       Rheumatoid Arthritis: short-term improvement of pain and stiffness, and a trend towards long-term beneficial effects

·       Reduction in chronic pain

·       Useful in treating cardiovascular disease

From other studies including personal experiences, infrared saunas are extremely useful for

·       A variety of skin disorders from psoriasis to acne

·       Alleviating muscle aches and pains

·       Lung issues including asthma and bronchitis

·       Supporting your liver function

·       Supporting your immune system and overcoming the common cold quickly

·       Reduction in cellulite and possible weight loss!

Not to mention the relaxation benefits when you take some time out of your busy schedule just to tune out from the stresses and more into yourself!

Why are infrared saunas better than conventional ones?

Some people find the excessive heat and sweating caused by the extreme temperatures in Finnish saunas unbearable. Simply put, infrared is different in that it heats you and not the room around you. The heat actually penetrates your tissues by 1.5 inches and stimulates the healing of tissues and the release of toxins – and the temperature is far lower than in a normal sauna. 50 degrees centigrade is the optimal temperature.

They are also extremely easy to install, relatively affordable and take up little space so most homes can find a space of less than 1.5 x 2m for a cabin suitable for up to 3 people at a time. You do not need to have a water source connected – just a regular power source and you are ready to enjoy the benefits!

I will keep you posted, but so far, we are really pleased with our home spa!

Kimchi Kraut

I love kimchi and realize how important fermented foods are in our diet. Fermented foods were a staple in every kitchen larder until very recently and now they are making a comeback. If you find traditional sauerkraut unappealing, try kimchi – it has much more flavor.

If you are struggling to find mooli radish, Riverford is selling it at the moment!

Ingredients:

1 white cabbage, finely shredded
1 large carrot, cut lengthways and then sliced into thin half moons
8-10 radishes or some sliced mooli radish, also in thin half moons
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
1 bulb of garlic, cloves separated and crushed
2-6 large red chillis, finely chopped
1 tbsp salt

Prepare everything as above, aiming for the thinnest slices you can manage. Once it’s all chopped and grated, you can begin the preparation, which is the same as for sauerkraut.

Get a large glass jar and begin to layer the ingredients. You don’t have to be too careful, just try to make sure they’re going into the jar a bit mixed up – For instance, a handful of cabbage, some carrot, some radish, bit of garlic, chilli and ginger, big pinch of salt, then start again.

Every now and then take a wooden spoon, rolling pin (or your hand if it fits in the jar) and firmly press/pound the ingredients down into the jar. This ‘bruises’ them and helps them to release their juices.

Once you’re finished, get a smaller jar (a jam jar, perhaps) that will fit inside the neck of the big jar. Fill the small jar with water and screw on the lid, and put it on top of the cabbage mixture to act as a weight. Now cover the big jar with a tea towel to keep dust and flies out.

That’s it – you’re done. Now you just put the jar somewhere warm, and wait for fermentation to begin.

After 24 hours you’ll find that liquid has appeared in the jar. It’s the juice from the veg, which has been drawn out by the salt. MAKE SURE that it completely covers all the veg. If not, top up with water. (The advantage of using radish is that it has lots of juice, so topping up is unlikely) You must make sure that no veg is sticking out the top, or it will rot.

After another 24 hours or so you should see that bubbles are beginning to rise in the brine. This means fermentation has begun. Check the jar daily to make sure that the veg is submerged, and have a taste. You can leave it anything from just a couple of days to a couple of weeks. The flavour will get more sour the longer it ferments, and the health benefits will get greater.

When it reaches a stage you like, decant into smaller jars and move to the fridge (again, making sure that all the veg is below the liquid in each jar – top up if necessary) Once in the fridge fermentation is halted, and it will keep for many months, probably years.

Use as a pickle/condiment with salads, cold meat, curries, sandwiches etc.

This recipe is adapted from Neil Kingham.

Wild Garlic

Spring is here and this week I had my first delivery of wild garlic, one of my favourite springtime herbs.

While not as medicinally potent as the garlic we use all year round, wild garlic has many health benefits. One of the most notable is its high levels of folic acid, an essential B vitamin, and its positive benefits on the digestive system. Wild garlic acts as a prebiotic, encouraging the growth of friendly bacteria. It also has mild antibacterial properties to ward off coughs and colds.

I know I will be very busy this week, so one night will simply be pasta with wild garlic pesto and a healthy soup to start. To make this pesto, simply blitz equal portions of wild garlic, parmesan or pecorino and cashew or pine nuts in your food processor. Add olive oil to get just the right consistency. Be careful - wild garlic is strong. You can always add more cheese and/or nuts or even use some parsley instead of the wild garlic. Bon appétit!

Beetroot Hummus

Happy New Year everyone! I am definitely trying hard to get back into a healthier routine after indulging too much over the holidays. I have faithfully bought bags of fruit and veg for juicing and found that I have just a bit more beetroot than I care to drink. I decided to try some recipes for hummus as our whole family loves hummus in different forms. Just maybe they'd eat beetroot hummus, too. And yes, this recipe - another Riverford one - is a hit:

  • 250-300g beetroot (approx 2 medium to large), left whole or halved, scrubbed
  • 1 x 400g tin cooked chickpeas, rinsed & drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled & crushed
  • 2 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1-2 lemons, depending on size
  • pinch of paprika
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin
  • good olive oil, approx 2-3 tbsp, plus a little extra for drizzling
  • a little extra ground cumin, some toasted sesame seeds or few shredded mint leaves to garnish (optional)

Boil the beetroot until tender - approx. 45 mins for medium to large ones. Drain and leave until just cool enough to handle, then rub off the skins.

Leave to cool completely, then roughly chop and put in a food processor with the chickpeas, garlic, tahini, juice from 1 lemon, the paprika and cumin.

Blitz to a coarse paste, then gradually trickle in enough olive oil until you have a thick, smooth(ish) dip.

Taste and add salt, pepper and a little more lemon juice to taste, and the garnish.

We enjoy this with tortilla chips as a treat - simply on a slice of spelt bread or with veggies. Delicious :)

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Coconut Thumb Print Cookies

I love trying out new recipes though I'm not hugely successful with baking. Yesterday was different. I found a great new recipe that is very versatile and easy for children and adults like me - and it's vegan which means no dairy, no egg - something many of you struggle with. Here is my adaptation of Ruby Tandoh's recipe in this weekend's Guardian.

2 tbsp Linwood's Milled Flaxseed (and nuts version is okay, too)

5 tbsp water

250 g flour (I used white spelt flour)

160 coconut oil

75 g desiccated coconut

125 g caster sugar

zest of 1 lemon

Pinch of salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

some jam

Preheat the ove to 180C and line your baking sheet with parchment.

Stir the flaxseed mixture together with the water and leave to sit for 10 mins.

Rub the coconut oil into the flour using your fingertips until no fat remains visible. You'll need to work quickly as the oil tends to melt and make a nice mess. Stir in the coconut, sugar, zest and salt.

Whisk the vanilla into the flaxseed mixture and add to your dry ingredients. Cut through the mixture using a small knife to help incorporate the liquid. I needed more flour at this stage, as my mixture was too moist and sticky. You should be able to form a soft ball of dough.

Divide this into about 32 small balls and place on the baking tray. Press firmly with your thumb into the centre to make a small well. Put a small blob of jam in each indent and bake for 15-17 minutes. When they're done, the cookies should be golden brown on their bases and firm on top - they'll continue to set though as they cool down.

We enjoyed making these almost as much as eating them! I think they will make an excellent Christmas cookie - I might even try them with nuts instead of coconut!

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Sushi Rolls - easier than you might think!

Our whole family loves sushi and we've found a recipe that works for us. This recipe is adapted from my favourite cookbook, the Guilt-Free Gourmet, but Jessica and Jordan Bourke.

255 g brown or white sushi rice

50 ml mirin (sweetened rice wine)

5 nori seaweed sheets

350 smoked mackerel, cut into thin strips (tuna or salmon would work equally well)

2 spring onions cut into thin strips

1/2 red bell pepper

To Serve:

pickled sushi ginger

light soy sauce

Serves 4

Wash the sushi rice under cold water and drain well. Place in a pan with a lid and add 550ml water. Bring to a boil uncovered and then simmer very gently until nearly all the water has been absorbed. Remove from theheat, cover and let stand for 15 mins to absorb the last of the water.

Spread the rice out over a clean baking sheet. Drizzle with mirin, turning it with a spatula to help it cool down.

While it is cooling, wrap your bamboo sushi mat in clingfilm, squeezing out any trapped air to prevent the rice from sticking. Lay the mat lengthways in front of you. Take one nori sheet and lay it out, shiny side down on the mat. With wet hands, take a smal handful of rice. Starting at the far end, spread and pat the rice across the nori sheet leaving a bare 1/2 cm gap along the edge of the sheet closest to you. Add more rice if needed, but it should be no more than 1 cm thick.  Flip the sheet over so the rice is now facing downward with the edge free of rice still closest to you and in line with the edge of the mat. Across the middle of the nori lay 3 lines of fish, spring onion and pepper.

Then, using the mat, roll the edoge of the sheet closest to you over the filling in the middle, tucking it over firmly so the filling is enclosed. When it looks like you are about to roll the mat into the sushi roll, pull the mat back and continue to roll applying even pressure and tightening as you roll, using the mat to shape it. Once the roll has come together, carefully take it off the mat, lay the mat over it and press and smooth the roll, compressing it tightly and evening out the ends. With a sharp, wet knife, cut the roll in half and then each half into 3 or 4 pieces. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Enjoy as a starter or even just as a snack!