Herby sweet potato wedges

They’re not just delicious, but they pack a powerful nutritional punch – just one medium sweet potato provides 400% of your daily needs for vitamin A! These special spuds are also rich in the antioxidant lycopene and fibre providing a whopping 6g per medium veggie. And, the potassium they contain can counteract sodium and may help to promote a healthy blood pressure. More and more research suggests that getting enough potassium from a diet rich in veggies and fruits could be just as important as reducing sodium intake as far as preventing high blood pressure is concerned. Yes, they contain more sugars but they actually have a low glycaemic index so they won’t spike your blood glucose levels. nutritionally speaking, sweet potatoes are a fab choice.

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Tasty herby sweet potato wedges

 

Try this tasty recipe for herby sweet potato wedges.

 

Ingredients

2 sweet potatoes, cut into wedges

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp fresh thyme or rosemary leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.

Cut the washed potatoes into wedges and place in a roasting tin.

Drizzle with oil and use your hands to ensure they’re coated well.

Sprinkle with herbs and season well with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until lightly golden.

Four ways to boost your probiotic pals

Veggie-based foods are good for the planet and better for animals. Yep, we all know that. But did you know it’s also better for the animals that live inside you?

We’re talking about the 100 trillion microbes that live on and in you – and particularly live in the intestines. And just like you need to eat, so do your gut bacteria.

 

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A delicious way to boost your probiotic pals!

 

 

More and more research is proving what ancient cultures have known since history began. That feeding the right bacteria can have profound effects on your health – from your body weight to your mood , reducing the production of compounds that trigger with inflammation and a vital part of your immune system. Plus, certain foods, the ones that contain resistant starch, are favourite foods for your probiotic people. Resistant starch might even help the body absorb more minerals .

Fibre only comes from plant foods – it is a range of plant materials that your body can’t digest. So, they reach the large intestine virtually unchanged and here, they provide food for gut bacteria.

Here’s how you can boost the fibre and the nourishment for your little guys:
1. Eat fewer white flour foods (which have had the fibre and nutrients removed from the unprocessed, natural flour). These don’t feed your probiotic microbes. And without food, they won’t survive and this can have major effects on your health and mood.
2. Love your legumes. Pulses and lentils contain soluble fibre, which probiotics love to eat . Add lentils and beans to your salads, soups and more.
3. Treat your probiotics with special starch. Some foods are especially rich in resistant starch including artichokes, asparagus, leeks, chicory, onions, garlic, bananas, oats, wheat, lentils and pulses – chickpeas and beans.
4. Love chocolate Dark chocolate (fair trade and organic please) are rich a great snack – rich in antioxidant flavonoids for you, rich in resistant start for your probiotic pals.

Eight kinder ways to step into a healthy new spring

Think of spring cleaning when you think of spring? This time, why not go one better and spring clean your body, your mind and our precious planet?

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  1. Clean out your cupboards

Want to eat more healthily? Studies show that if they’re in your cupboards, you’re more likely to succumb to treats and less-than-healthy eats. So get cleaning. Clearing and reorganising will help put you in the mood for a more upbeat attitude and more positive routines.

Get processed picks such as chips chocolates and other junk out of your sight and your reach. And replace with healthier alternatives – unsalted nuts, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit such as plums and mango, dark fair trade chocolate, natural popcorn, wholegrains, extra virgin olive oil, tapenades.

 

  1. Go seasonal

As well as being better value, seasonal veggies and fruits haven’t been hanging around in dark places for months on end. S so they’re more likely to be higher in delicate vitamins such as C and folate (which are easily lost by exposure to air) – and that includes being stored for long periods. Buying local when you can is a great choice as it also means that your food has not had to travel as far as it might have to get to you with the potential large fuel miles and associated pollution.

 

  1. Drink veggie juices

Not all juices are created equal. And juices tend to get a bad rap because they tend to be high in sugar and lack fibre. But juice made from cold vegetables and low sugar fruits are rich in protective antioxidants without a sugar hike.  If your tastebuds are expecting sweetness, these kinds of juice may not appeal. Tomato juice will give you a healthy kick of lycopene and there’s plenty of beta carotene in carrots. Try adding kale, spinach, pear, lemon, lime, and ginger. Like a bit more sweetness? Add a little pomegranate, prune or your favourite fruit juice. If your drink is sweet or very acidic though, swish around your mouth with water after drinking to remove sugar/acids and help your saliva do its mouth-cleansing work. Don’t brush, though – if enamel has been softened by acids, you could literally brush it away.

 

  1. Look at the label

Manufacturers can be sneaky – add all sorts of ingredients to your food. Even healthy options can include unwanted nasties. Take palm oil, for example. Around 80 per cent of this is harvested from Malaysia and Indonesia and the massive demand for it is causing deforestation on a massive scale. Beautiful animals such as the orangutan, Sumatran tiger and Asian rhinoceros are under threat of extinction because of it. Any label on a food – including vegetarian food  –  that contains saturated fat may contain either coconut oil or palm oil. Another name to watch out for is palmitic acid. If your food contains this, the safest option – for endangered animals – is to avoid it. Read more here.

 

  1. Get organised

Could you set aside half an hour on a Sunday morning to plan meals and make up a shopping list? Allowing another hour or two to prepare/cook foods ready for the working week ahead. Curries are a great option – Indian types get better after a day or two as it gives the spices a chance to suffuse. For a delish dish, find out more here. Or, make up a batch of curry paste for a quick dish. Or,

 

  1. Enjoy fresh herbs

As far as quantities are concerned, you don’t tend to consume as much herbs as green veggies. But they do pack a powerful nutritional punch. For example, coriander has been shown to remove heavy metals from the body, parsley is rich in immune boosting vitamin C, rosemary contains Rosmarinic acid which has been shown to suppress allergic responses and nasal congestion (studies use extracts of Rosmarinic acid[i]). So add gorgeous fresh flavour with fresh herbs.

 

  1. Search out seeds

Growing just a little of your own foods is easy – and can be surprisingly quick.  You probably have seeds in your cupboard for cooking purposes – from coriander to fenugreek and mustard seeds, mung beans and chickpeas – all can be sprouted in a little damp soil on your windowsill. Sprouted seeds are very rich in vitamins such as vitamin C and protective plant pigments. Spring is a great time to start growing tomato seedlings. Either from seeds in the tomatoes you love or from the garden centre. Keeping them in the kitchen means they are always in your sight and can help you grow delicious, organic, healthy tomatoes in the comfort of your kitchen.

 

  1. Vote for kindness

If you eat meat/eggs try to buy only humanely treated, pasture-raised meat and eggs. Try to eat more vegetarian/vegan meals – every choice you make can have a positive impact. Select only sustainable seafood. When selecting chocolate and coffee, look for the Fairtrade symbol. A kind word of compliment can make someone’s day. A kind deed can help them live a happier life. Or just live.

 

 

[i] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15630183

Spicy carrot pickle

Enjoy as an accompaniment to Indian breads such as parathas or with rice. Or enjoy on its own or with a cold beer. For me, this spicy carrot pickle is just right when you fancy chips. I go carrot pickle instead!

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Ingredients

2 tsp fenugreek seeds

2 tsp black mustard seeds

Half a teaspoon nigella seeds

Quarter of a teaspoon of asafoetida

Quarter of a teaspoon turmeric powder

1 tsp chilli powder

Half a tsp salt

Three carrots, peeled and cut into batons

1 and a half tablespoons olive oil, heated

1 tbsp olive oil, heated

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Method

Roughly grind the fenugreek, mustard and nigella seeds in a pestle and mortar then pour into a mixing bowl.

Ad the asafoetida, turmeric, chilli powder and salt.

Add the carrots.

Add the hot oil and stir to mix.

Add the vinegar and stir to combine.

Serve immediately or stop in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

 

Petis pois and cashew nut pesto

This fresh pesto is easy and tastes wonderfully fresh. Enjoy with pasta or rice or add a little more oil and dip it! This recipe make lots of pesto so half it or store half in an airtight jar for up to two day.

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Ingredients

4 garlic cloves

One bunch of basil leaves

One bunch of coriander leaves

1 x 400g frozen edamame (soya beans), thawed

Large handful of cashew nuts

Juice of one lemon lemon juice

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper

 

Method

Using a food processor, pulse the garlic, basil and coriander. Spoon into a large bowl.

Now crumb the cashew nuts in the food processor and add to the herb mix.

Stir in the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Add more olive oil if you like a little more moisture.

Serve as a sauce or a dip.

 

Whole fresh garam masala

Need a little spice in your life? Everyone does! Homemade garam masala doesn’t just bring a bit of spice to your veggies dishes, it brings a whole new depth of layered flavour. Try this roasted spice mixture once and you’ll be a fan for life!

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In Punjabi, garam means hot, and masala means blended spices. So,garam masala literally means warm/hot spice mix.

But that doesn’t mean that garam masala is hot in terms of spice. It refers to the way it is said to raise metabolism. It’s also why you should use it sparingly and at the end of cooking or preparing veggie dishes such as salads, soups, bread, dahls and vegetable curries.

 

Ingredients

1 tbsp cumin seeds

2 tsp black cardamom

1 tbsp green cardamom

2 tbsp coriander seeds

2 tsp fennel seeds

2 tbsp black peppercorn

1 tsp cloves

1 x 2.5cm cinnamon sticks

1 tsp mace

4 dried bay leaves (Indian if possible)

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp dried ginger

1 nutmeg

 

Method

Roast the spices (except the black cardamom (to release the fragrant essential oils in a heavy based pan, stirring to ensure they are all roasted event.

Allow to cool and then grind in a clean coffee grinder.

Use a teaspoon or two at the end of cooking your dishes to enjoy the fragrant flavour. Store in an airtight container but try to use quickly – the essential oils lose their potency fast.

Mummy’s saag

Spinach is a great source of nutrients – the darker the leaf, the more concentrated the nutrients. Spinach is particularly rich in eye-protective pigment including lutein and zeaxanthin.

The traditional spinach dish is fast and delicious.

Serves four to six

Ingredients

Olive oil for frying

I onion, sliced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp turmeric

3 fresh tomatoes, chopped

2-4 chilies, sliced

1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated4 x 12g packs of spinach leaves

 

Method

In a large pan, fry the onion until golden brown.

Add the garlic and fry for another five minutes taking care not to burn the onions

Stir in the turmeric, tomatoes and ginger and cook for another five minutes.

Add the spinach leaves, one pack at a time – the leaves will wilt quickly allowing you room to add more. Then add 250ml water.

Using a stick blender, blend until the puree is smoothish.

Serve with roti or flatbread or as a main or as a side veggie for your Indian feast.

 

 

Choccoco blue bites

These easy bake cookies use the goodness of fair trade cocoa full of flavonoids and sweet anthocyanin-packed blueberries. Bound to be your family’s next favourite thing …

 

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Fair trade cocoa plus sweet blueberries equals yum!

Make 16-20

Ingredients

200g margarine, softened to room temperature

100g brown sugar

185g plain flour, sieved

25g fair trade cocoa powder, sieved

60g desiccated coconut

Handful of blueberries

A sifting of cocoa to garnish

 

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Line two oven trays with baking paper.

In a food processor, blend the margarine and sugar

Add the flour, cocoa and coconut and blend until combined.

Take an ice cream scoop full of the choccy dough, roll into a ball and place on the lined tray. Press lightly to flatten.

Add three or four blueberries to each cookie and gently flatten.

Bake, swapping trays halfway if the cookies are baking unevenly.

The cookies are done when they are firm at the edges (10-12 minutes).

When cool, sift with more free trade cocoa powder. If there are any left, these hazelnut chocolate cookies will keep for around two days in an airtight container.

Six stress busting moves for multitasking women

Did you know that stress hormones affect women differently? Did you know that women hang on to them for longer than men? And, did you know that one of the primary sex hormones in women, oxytocin, is what drives women to tend and befriend? But that this might be why women have a tendency to take on more than they should potentially resulting in overloading, overcommitting, and overstressing?

 

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Oxytocin, the so called tend and befriend hormone may mean that women are more prone to multitasking and overtasking themselves triggering stress hormones

 

To get to the heart of what’s causing the stress and distress in your life, it might help to understand stress hormones.

There are a number of these which your body releases  in times of danger. They work to mobilise glucose which your cells need to fight or take flight – just as you would fight for whatever reason primeval woman would have done or take flight i.e run away from danger when your ancestors needed to move, and move fast. Stress hormones also raise your heartbeat and your blood pressure for the same reasons.

 

It doesn’t have to be a major stress that triggers your stress response. It can be a daily  niggle – from traffic to tight shoes. And so can taking on too much. Once whatever is stressing you passes, your stress hormones normalise. But if stress is your daily companion your cortisol level goes up — and stays there.

the result can be a whole range of illnesses including:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Headaches
  • Digestive problems
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems.

One of the results of too much stress for too long includes weight gain. That’s because high levels of glucose when not burned off are changed by your body into fat. One of the places that this conversion takes place is the liver and fat can be stored around the middle region. Hence belly fat.

 

Belly fat is different to the type of fat on other parts of your body. It lies deep inside your body covering and coating the internal organs or viscera (which is why belly fat is also sometimes called visceral fat).

 

Belly fat is also different because it contains four times as many receptors for cortisol as any other type of fat which keeps cortisol high and ever increasing.

 

So what can you do to zap your stress hormones and boost your physical and emotional wellbeing?

 

  1. Enjoy a healthy mixed diet. Natural and colourful. These foods provide vital protective vitamins, minerals, plant pigments and fibre. Fibre hangs onto the sugars in foods releasing them slowly so that your body isn’t stressed by large amounts of glucose flooding the bloodstream followed by a sharp drop as your body tries desperately to normalise it. Plus, you body won’t need to turn excess glucose into fat. Remember, the body treats alcohol in the same way as sugar (which promotes the production of a type of fat called triglycerides). so reaching for a glass or two won’t actually help was stress.
  2. Up your omega-3s. Even more research has shown that consuming a diet right in omega-3 fats from vegetable products (such as walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, green veggies and pulses) and long chained omega-3 fats (from algae or ethically sourced fish and fish oils). Try around 2g per day to lower your cortisol levels.
  3. Work with your fight or flight syndrome. Fighting or taking flight (in the form of exercise such as boxing which means no one get harmed and running or walking which mirrors your flight syndrome) are excellent ways to reduce stress levels and burn cortisol and burn fat – including belly fat and ridding your body of all those extra cortisol levels, too.
  4. Choose yoga or tai chi or both. And, add some Pilates if you can. Two of these ancient wisdoms combine mindfulness and deep breathing – the first two help you slow down your heartrate and blood pressure since deep breathing tells your body to slow down and fights the stress response. Bringing back the calm may help you find the time to make better choices and mindfulness has been shown to reduce belly fat in women according to researchers from the University of San Francisco.
  5. Cut something out. Taking on too much is typical for many women so think about making a list of all the roles and responsibilities that you have. Do you tend to tend and befriend? You’re hardwired to. but see if you can cut the list and think about where you can ask for help, too. Multitasking is great. but overdoing it is bad for your health
  6. Take time for yourself. It’s not selfish – it’s is vital. Take the time to do something you love and make time for exercise. It’s not a luxury – it’s a necessity so book it into your diary like you would an important meeting and make sure you keep it. Do it for you. And do it for those who love you.

Punjabi chole

A hearty and healthy family favourite.

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Serve this tasty favourite with chapati and chopped tomatoes, onion and cucumber

Ingredients

2 x 450g can of chickpeas, drained (or 400g dried, soaked overnight then cooked in fresh water until tender)

3 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 large onions, chopped finely

9 garlic cloves

Thumb size piece of fresh ginger

6 green chillies, finely chopped

1 bunch of fresh coriander

2 tbsp ground coriander

2-4 tsp chilli powder

2 tsp ground turmeric

1 x 700 jar of sieved tomatoes (passata)

3 tsp salt

2 tsp garam masala

2 tbsp lemon juice

 

 

Method

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add the cumin seeds; fry until fragrant (about five minutes).

Add the onion and cook until golden brown (this will help to give the sauce a dark, rich colour)

Blend the garlic, ginger, chillies and half of the coriander and chillies into a pastel add to the pan.

Add the ground coriander, chilli power and turmeric (and more oil if you need to) and cook for a few more minutes.

Pour in the sieved tomatoes and add the chickpeas to the mixture. Add around 1 litre of water.

Bring to the boil then lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until thickened (about 20 minutes).

Before serving, stir in the garam masala and lemon juice and finish with the remaining coriander leaves.