Just cook – what’s available!

Who hasn’t been to the shops, list in hand, only to find that some of the things they wanted had sold out?

It’s not a problem really; there’s still plenty of food in the shops. All we need is a bit of imagination and the willingness to experiment.

CAULIFLOWER GREENS

I’ve been using cauliflower greens in soup for years – I usually cut the lot straight away and put it in the freezer to use in batches.

But when I wanted to do a stir-try the other day and couldn’t get any bamboo shoots or water chestnuts, I thought, “I wonder…”

Here’s the result and it was delicious. I threw in some sliced cauli florets too which gave a nice crunch.

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Next I tried some cauli greens cooked with tomatoes, cream cheese and cream to go with a cooked chicken drumstick for lunch.

And of course, I made some soup. (Well the weather has cooled off lately.)

So whatever you can buy, you can cook and who knows what great ideas you’ll come up with. Why not share them here?

Quote of the month – time and health

Saving time to harm your health isn’t a good deal for me

Dr Rangan Chatterjee

Every cloud has a silver lining. The current crisis has allowed us to consider the importance of our own health.

At the moment we’re all doing our best to stay safe and well in ways we may not have considered previously.

I’ve been without my health before – for 1 ½ years – so for me it’s been a priority ever since.

While we have time, this is the perfect time to decide to put a bit of effort into being well.

  • Your daily allowed exercise.
  • Sunshine and fresh air.
  • Connecting with family and friends online.

Underpinning it all is what you put in your body – FOOD is a crucial factor. You can choose to ditch the health-damaging junk food and instead support your body with a bit of time in the kitchen, cooking from fresh ingredients. 🙂

Immune System Boost

I hope all of you are OK and managing to stay safe and sane at home in this weird world. Here are some tips to help your immune system:

Most of your immune system is in your gut so it matters what you eat and drink. Eat more:

  • Oily fish and eggs for vitamin Dwhich has many health benefits, including priming our T cells
  • Vegetables which give you lots of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants plus fibre to feed the good bacteria in your gut.

  • Live natural yoghurt, kefir, lassi and fermented vegetables to repopulate your good bacteria.
  • Coconut oil which has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.

Supplement with:

  • Vitamin C (it’s quickly flushed out of your body so take some every day)
  • Magnesium (most people are deficient)
  • Selenium (2 or 3 Brazils nuts a day is plenty)
  • Zinc (good food sources are seafood, lamb, turkey and pumpkin seeds)
  • Vitamin D (most of us are short of this unless we supplement – especially at this time of year when our skin hasn’t seen sunshine for so long)

Avoid:

  • Sugar – it feeds bad bacteria, unbalancing your system.

  • Processed food – you want your body to cope with the virus, not use all its energy fighting bad food.
  • Alcohol.

Other tips:

  • Eat right for your metabolic type (I’m now offering testing by Skype/telephone).
  • Get lots of sleep to make the powerful anti-oxidant melatonin.

  • Exercise, especially out in the fresh air (only with members of your household of course!). It will help you sleep better too.
  • If you smoke, give it up now.
  • Wash with actual bar soap whenever you possibly can. Coronaviruses are in a fatty ‘envelope’ which can be destroyed by soap. Also soap won’t damage your own protective bacterial like antibacterials do. Joanna Blythman retweeted this Tweet thread on why soap is so good.Solutions of ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol at between 60% and 80%, plus 3% hydrogen peroxide are effective for cleaning surfaces
  • Manage stress and prioritise self-care. Your mental health, physical health and immune system are connected so it helps to keep a sense of purpose and optimism. We won’t get back to normal for some time yet so look after yourself and do things that relax you and give you joy.

No Substitute

The choice of coffees is dizzying in cafés these days. Not just flat white, cappuccino or Americano but many varieties of milk with which to make them. The supermarket range of milks has grown hugely too. Here’s a look at their nutrition.

Whole milk is rich and creamy with such high quality protein, good fats, high bio-availability minerals and vitamins and digestibility, it rates even better than steak. Dairy appears to protect against heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

Jersey gold top is creamier still and hasn’t been homogenised so the cream rises to the top – remember the blue tits pecking through foil bottle tops?

Unpasteurised milk is available from farms around the country and still contains its enzymes and beneficial bacteria. It might reduce children’s risk of suffering from eczema, hay fever and other allergies.

Organic is the gold standard for animal welfare and lack of chemicals.

Reduced fat milk contains good protein, lots of B vitamins and plenty of calcium and phosphorous. It is usually fortified with synthetic vitamins A and D because the natural vitamins are lost with the fat. However, without the fat, it is harder for your body to absorb the vitamins and the calcium.

A common mistake is to think skimmed milk helps weight loss. I call it the skinny latte fallacy. It’s the natural sugar in milk that could cause weight gain so less milk is a better strategy.

Goats’ milk is similarly nutritionally to cows’ and its A2 casein causes fewer allergies than the A1 protein found in most cows’ milk.

Lactose-free milk is really useful if you’re intolerant to the sugar in milk (lactose). In South East Asia and Southern Africa 90% are lactose-intolerant but in Northern Europe it’s only about 3%. This problem has been exacerbated now that most of the milk available is pasteurised which destroys the enzyme lactase you’ll find in raw milk. Another option might be to use the fermented milk kefir which contains hardly any lactose.

Filtered milk has longer shelf life. This comes at the loss of health-beneficial good bacteria. You can make up for this by eating live, natural yoghurt or kefir.

Long-Life milk has been ultra-heat-treated to sterilise it. It’s very handy for a weekend away camping if you don’t have access to a fridge, as is powdered milk.

Flavoured milks are a bit like runny ice cream with their added sugar, flavouring and other chemicals, so don’t ever think of these as healthy. The best I found on sale were from Shaken Udder. My grandfather used to make us milk shakes using Jersey gold top, a few strawberries or cocoa powder and a bit (not a lot) of banana in a blender.

Milk substitutes are helpful if you have allergies. They’re white and they pour but they’re not milk. Most of them have more than 5 ingredients and are therefore classed as ultra-processed. They may have synthetic vitamins and minerals added and most have low protein and fat but you can use other foods to make up for what milk would have provided.

Nut milks generally contain only ~2% nuts and might have more added sugar than that – check the label. It’s easy to make your own. Just soak some nuts in a glass of water overnight. In the morning, rinse well in a sieve and put in a blender with some fresh water. Whizz. That’s it. You can strain out the pulp if you prefer.

Oat milk and rice milk have little to commend them nutritionally and are mainly carbohydrate or as Dr Unwin calls it “soon to be sugar”.

Soya milk has high protein content but this has only a partial set of amino acids. Its calcium comes with the anti-nutrient phytic acid which blocks calcium absorption. I do not recommend consumption of unfermented soya in any form, including milk.

Coconut milk is good for fat and flavour.

Hemp milk is a new one on me and provides some excellent fats.

Top tip – You’ll only get the full nutritional benefits from the real thing but with so many types to choose from, you’ll always be able to put something white in your coffee.

Soup to cheer your lunchtime

Salads are out and we want a warming soup to cheer our lunchtime.  Luckily it’s easy to make your own with hundreds of recipes on the internet in every flavour you could wish for.

Home made soup is cheap, delicious, nutritious and fresh. It’s good for your health to eat a wide variety of foods and soup is a good way to ‘hide’ those you’re not so keen on and wouldn’t eat on their own. Use your imagination and be a bit free and easy when creating your soup.

My standard recipe goes something like this:

(All ingredients should be cut small before they go in the pan.)

Cook an onion in butter until transparent.

Add a couple of crushed cloves of garlic, a carrot and couple of sticks of celery and cook for a couple more minutes.

Add 1/3 tin of tomatoes, handful each of cabbage stems and cauliflower leaves (for the waste-not-want-not generation you can save these earlier in the year; just wash, chop and pop in the freezer), stock or bouillon to cover, a squirt of tomato puree, salt, pepper, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried parsley (or fresh if you have it in which case you’ll need about 1 tbsp).

I often add saved ‘juices’ from beef stew for a richer flavour. You could even cut up cooked meats to put in. Deli counters often sell cheap mixed offcuts.

Bring to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes, add some green beans and peas. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Tip in a small (300g) tin of mixed pulses. Use a stick blender to whizz it smooth. Freeze in portions for use on other days.

Following my principle of plants, protein and fats, to make a more nutritionally rounded meal from this almost all carb soup, skip the bread and serve with a slice of cheese.

This one’s pumpkin.

Pumpkin Soup

Just chop the flesh of a 2-3lb pumpkin into cubes, put in a large saucepan with 3/4 pint stock, salt, pepper, fresh thyme and parsley.  Bring to the boil then cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add a tin of mixed beans and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Whizz with a stick blender then stir in a 1/2 pint tin of coconut milk.  That’s it!

I’ve also looked at what’s available to buy.

As far as possible, try to avoid unhealthy ingredients like sunflower oil, sugar and MSG that are so often used in manufactured food products. Look out too for misleading labels on products containing only tiny amounts of the most appealing bit yet naming it in big letters splashed across the front. (This applies to food, shampoo, you name it.) Always check the ingredients list on the label, they appear in order from most to least.

‘Fresh’ cartons and pouches – found in the cold aisle. The New Covent Garden veg based soups look pretty good but the Smoked Haddock is mostly potato and with only 5% fish has a disappointing nutritional profile for a fish chowder. Similarly, Naked’s Vietnamese Fiery Beef Pho contains no beef, just beef stock (only 5%) plus loads of spices to give it flavour.

Tins – most supermarkets sell a huge array of tinned soups including own-brand and many manufacturers. Usually these have a dozen ingredients (excluding water and any added vitamins/minerals). The best I found was Crosse and Blackwell’s Roast Chicken and Vegetable which has all real food ingredients in respectable amounts, as has Baxter’s Super Good Pea, Broccoli and Pesto soup.

Free and Easy soups – are useful if you have food allergies/intolerances.

Packet soups – can be useful at the office or if out and about but you don’t want your flask tainted with last week’s lunch.  They usually have about 17 ingredients but this varies widely. Surprisingly, Batchelor’s Minestrone Slim a Soup, at a whopping 27, contains 10 more than their Minestrone Cup a Soup. Batchelor’s Chicken and Leek is another misleading name with only 1% chicken. The Morrisons Golden Vegetable with Croutons is one I used to have sometimes but nowadays, for the sake of my health, I prefer to cook than buy.

Top tip: Get soup making.

Putting Meals Together

Every meal should contain three things: plants, protein and fats.

Some meals seem to go with salad, others with veg but every meal should include some fresh plants (white potatoes don’t count), preferably including 2 or more colours and something non-starchy. When you make real food from fresh ingredients, it’s easy to make sure you always have some. It’s often the plant part that’s missing or cooked to death in junk food.

Pea and Chorizo risotto with Sea Bass

One of my favourites! I had this in a pub near Bath and have been making it ever since.  Recipe serves 2 adults.

Put the kettle on to boil for stock

Put a knob of butter in a large frying pan 10p

Chop 1 x small onion and cook for 3 mins 10p

Add 125 ml risotto rice 30p

Stir around for a minute or two then add a little stock 7p

Simmer gently, adding more stock as it is absorbed.

Slice two ‘blobs’ of chorizo and add to pan 70p

The rice will take about 20 minutes to cook

In a small frying pan heat another knob of butter 10p

Cook two small fillets of sea bass, skin side up first £3.00

Turning fish over after 3 minutes.

5 minutes before the end, add two good handfuls of peas 12p

When everything is ready, add a tbsp of grated Parmesan 25p

to the risotto and stir through.

Total for this totally awesome meal £4.74. That’s £2.37 per person.

I later couldn’t find sea bass at the price originally posted (it must have been on offer), so I’ve redone the costings.  This meal is now >£2 but still much more fabulous and still cheaper than most take-aways and ready meals if you can afford to treat yourself.

To complete my week of meals under £2, I added a bonus recipe – Leek and Mushroom Tagliatelle for £1.27.

If you’d like to get my full Eat Well News, sign up here. It’s so much more than the things I post on my blog. I’ll be in touch with you about nutrition and health, to provide articles, updates, news of events, products, services, recipes and things to bring a smile.

Picnics

One of the joys of summer is eating al fresco. A picnic is an essential part of a summer outing.

Have you noticed that food tastes better when we eat it outside? Psychologists have found that our physical sensations and emotional responses are greatly improved by the power of our perception of our environment. Restaurants have applied this science to their décor, choosing colour, patterns and music to set the mood. The same food actually tastes different depending on the wallpaper!

We also connect enjoyment of food with family memories: a favourite outdoor spot, the smell of grass and wild flowers, the sound of trees rustling in the breeze, the feel of warm sand on bare feet. Taking Jack LaLanne’s idea from July’s quote of the month, we need to be nearer to nature to be happy.    And when our brains are stimulated, our taste buds step up a notch.

So, what food to take on your picnic? On TV you’ll see images of unhealthy fizzy drinks, crisps, cheese processed almost to the point of being plastic and all manner of factory-made nibbles. When you’re getting back to the great outdoors, nature and all things real I’m sure you’ll want better than fake food.

Sandwiches are common but often dry, dull and too heavy on bread to be a good choice for lunch. Instead try boiled eggs, cheeses, salami, lettuce, tomatoes, sticks of crunchy carrot and celery, cooling cucumber, creamy avocado, peppery radishes, spicy spring onions, ham rolled round cream cheese, small bread rolls with butter. My grandmother’s special was fried chicken in herby breadcrumbs – so tasty!

Fruit is nice and juicy although it can attract wasps and invite the biting midge to suck your sweet blood. Use it to make a refreshing infusion by adding a few slices of apple, lemon and strawberry to a big bottle of water. Chill it well before you set off.

June’s post had ideas for drinks.

Share the pleasure by eating all together sitting at a picnic table or on a rug. Here’s how they do it in France where people are still healthy and slim.

Top tip – enjoy a real food picnic.

If you’d like to get my full Eat Well News, sign up here. It’s so much more than the things I post on my blog. I’ll be in touch with you about nutrition and health, and to provide articles, and updates (eg research and campaigns relating to nutrition and health), and marketing (eg events, products, services, talks and courses), and recipes, and things to bring a smile. Please let me know all the ways you would like to hear from me either by using this form or sending me an email.

 

Drink to Your Health

With the all warm weather, you might fancy a cold drink. They say that in America, over half the calories consumed come from sugar in soft drinks. Terrifying! Outrageously, 12% of the Coca-cola is drunk at breakfast. In Britain we’re not that bad (yet) but we certainly do have a drink problem. So what’s what?

Starting with the worst things to drink:

– Fizzy drinks – very sugary leading to weight gain, blood sugar imbalances and diabetes. They’re very acidic leading to tooth decay and bone density loss.

– Low-cal fizzy drinks – the use of sweeteners has increased since the sugar tax came in. Weight loss clubs often recommend low-cal fizzy drinks but these have been proven not to help with weight loss. The sweet taste of the chemical sweeteners confuses your body’s control systems (not a good idea). Your brain thinks that sugar is coming; then it doesn’t so you go looking for food.

If you’ve been wondering how effective the sugar tax on drinks is likely to be, here are some results from those who’ve already tried it.

– Fruit Juice – seen as healthy and natural but still a sugary drink. Fruit juice can be up to a year old and have lost a lot of its nutrients. Fructose is processed via your liver to create fat. Too much fruit can cause problems with weight gain, tooth decay and in extremes, even non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (first found in 1980). You wouldn’t eat 4 apples/oranges at once but they’re easy to drink. Stick to eating whole fruit.

– Smoothies – most bought ones and internet recipes are too heavy on fruit or other sweet ingredients. Here’s the Wikipedia definition of a smoothie which illustrates the problem:

A smoothie is a thick beverage made from blended raw fruit, vegetables or ice cream and cookies with other ingredients such as water, ice, or sweeteners.”

Definitely not recommended!

– Squash – depends how strong you mix it. Contains sugar or sweeteners.

– Sports / Energy drinks – heavily marketed, unhealthy and unnecessary. High in caffeine and sugar they’re very bad, especially for children.  This piece talks about them causing sudden cardiac deaths in young people.  So, quite rightly, there’s been a fuss about children and energy drinks.  See #notforchildren The majority of kids drink them, often having a litre at a time which is very dangerous. It’s like taking a chainsaw to their adrenal glands. Supermarkets have taken steps eg reducing promotion to kids and trying to prevent sales to children.

Here’s what Jamie Oliver’s site says about them.

On to Something Better

Well that was all a bit dismal, so what’s the solution? It’s surprisingly easy to wean yourself off sweet drinks; your palate can change in as little as two weeks. Here are some healthy alternatives:

Tastes much nicer than it looks – a refreshing salad in a glass!

– Vegetable juices – juice your own for a brilliant way to get lots of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients. Use 80% vegetables (eg celery, cucumber, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower stems, leafy greens, sprig of parsley, some ginger). Add small amounts of fruit to improve flavour (½ a lime, some lemon, a bit of pear, few cranberries, bit of tomato). Drink within an hour or freeze.

– Smoothies – use avocados and green leaves with almond / coconut milk or plain live yoghurt. Add a few berries or an inch of banana.

– Milk – shown to be even more hydrating than water when exercising. The sugar in milk (lactose) can cause weight gain if you have a lot, the fat doesn’t.

The Moody Cow at Allonby sells the real thing – unpasturised. It tastes delicious.

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– Coconut water – a great isotonic refresher. Best if you buy a coconut, pierce the top and pour it out. Bought coconut milk will be older and may have additives so read the label.

– Iced tea. Not the syrupy type in a can or bottle. Make some delicate green tea, add a slice of lime and some ice.

– Water – fruit infused. Put a strawberry or a couple of raspberries / blackberries or a slice of lemon / lime in a mug and pour an inch of boiling water over. Let it sit for 10 minutes then top up with cold.

– Water – re-hydration solution. Make your own if it’s very hot and you’re doing a lot of exercise. Add a little salt and sugar to your water.

– Water – great choice – would be even better if they stopped fluoridation!

Top tip – switch to healthier drinks.

Eat Well News

To get my full Eat Well News, sign up here. It’s so much more than the blog posts I write. I’ll be in touch with you about nutrition and health, and to provide articles, and updates (eg research and campaigns relating to nutrition and health), and marketing (eg events, products, services, talks and courses), and recipes, and things to bring a smile. Please let me know all the ways you would like to hear from me either by using this form or sending me an email.

Enjoy Eggs

Eggs were back in the news recently – now the Food Standards Agency says they’re good for everyone, even raw. Call me reckless but I never stopped eating runny eggs in the 80s (sorry Edwina). Salmonella levels in UK eggs are low and when British Lion-marked the hens have been vaccinated.

Does anyone remember ‘Go to Work on a Egg’ in the 1950s? OK it was an advertising slogan (Tony Hancock originals on YouTube). That’s much sounder advice than breakfast cereal ads today, so it’s galling they were not permitted a rerun in 2007 on the grounds that they promoted a non-varied diet.

An egg is a superb food in its own little package. They’re a great source of protein, used as the reference standard against which all other foods are assessed. They provide a full set of essential amino acids, in the right proportions and contain several vitamins including B2, B12, D, A and E, plus minerals like selenium, iodine and phosphorus. The fats are mainly mono-unsaturated with some brain healthy, long-chain, omega 3 fatty acids (DHA). (The fat profile depends on the hens’ diet, with free-range hens beating corn-fed, caged hens hands down.)

Don’t fear the cholesterol; it won’t affect your blood levels.  The advice to restrict the number of eggs you eat has been dropped.  I almost always include an egg in my breakfast so I don’t need to snack before lunch. Two favourites are fried steak, egg and mushrooms or a green smoothie, both of which last me about 6 hours.

Protein is very good for satisfying appetite. When I’m travelling, I take Jon Gabrielle’s omelette pizza (recipe on YouTube). It’s delicious cold as well as hot.  He uses 3 eggs but for me one is enough for a lunch.

There are lots of other great recipes at http://www.eggrecipes.co.uk/recipes. I tried the egg and chorizo one-pot. A bit of a starch-fest but a tasty and filling winter warmer.

Top tip – Go to work on an egg!