July 01, 2014


Once again the issue of too much sugar in our diet, and especially that of our children, has been raised in the news. Research is showing us that we are eating too much sugar for the good of our health and bodies. It is thought to be a major contributing factor in obesity, especially for our children. ( Ref 1 and 2). Maybe we need to be more realistic of the effect of our lifestyles have on what our body needs nutritionally. We have car’s to travel and walk less, remote controls to watch the television instead of getting up to change channel, video and online games instead of playing a game of football or tennis outside etc etc. I even remember washing clothes involved more energy even using the twin tub! (that shows how old I am!!).
This means the consumption of different types of foods that contribute to our daily total calorie intake needs to be adjusted. We have so much choice and food is so available that we need to plan our meals and make shopping lists so that we don’t fall prey to the marketing ploys to persuade you to buy more than you need. We make 200 choices a day about eating and 90% of those decisions are not conscious!! Don’t eat on the run and sit down with your friends and families to eat. It’s more enjoyable and you actually eat less ,digest better and your food gives you more energy.(ref 3)
The evidence shows quite clearly that high free sugars intake in adults is associated with increased energy intake and obesity. There is also an association between sugar-sweetened beverages and type-2 diabetes. The problem looks more grim into the future as In children there is clear demonstration that sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with obesity.

So how MUCH can we eat and what CAN we eat?
Scientists in the UK and US are reviewing the amount of added sugar people should eat each day. The current guideline has a limit of 10-11%. The World Health Organization suggests only 5% of our daily calories should come from sugar.

That means for a woman 40-50gms and 60 to 70gms a day. You can measure this by assuming 1 medium teaspoon of sugar is 5 gms. So that means 8 to 10 teaspoons of sugar for a woman and 12 to 14 teaspoons for a man.

However how do you know how much sugar are you eating? Look at the label every time and equate 5gms of sugar to 1 teaspoon.

There are commonly six types of sugar used in making your food;

  • Glucose: It is a simple sugar raises sugar in the blood. Constitutes of one half of sucrose or table sugar
  • Fructose: It is a simple sugar that occurs naturally in fruit. Constitutes the other half of sucrose
  • Sucrose: Commonly known as table sugar and is refined and occurs naturally in sugar cane or beets
  • Lactose: Milk sugar, which makes up just less than 5% of cow’s milk
  • Maltose: Two joined-up glucose molecules often used in processed foods
  • High fructose corn syrup: Where half of the syrup’s glucose has been converted into fructose. This also is found in processed foods, soda’s and put into animal feed. It is this that is causing so much controversy about sugar addiction, obesity and non fatty liver disease. 

So try to cut down your sugar and watch your waist come back! 
The foods to watch out for are here, including ideas on how to replace them with healthy alternatives;

Sugary Cereals

Replace with porridge oats, shreddies, wheetabix
Supermarket Biscuits and cakes

Bake your own and halve the sugar and replace with honey
Drinks-alcoholic and non alcoholic Soda’s
Drink more water-can try slice of lemon in it
Ketchup/salad creams

Choose the variety that has 50% less salt and sugar
Fruit juice

water it down by half and do not drink in-between meals-too fast acting
Cook in sauces

Make your own using fresh herbs and raw ingredients

Use a bread maker and make your own

Try dark chocolate instead


Use the low sugar varieties

Fruit yoghurts

Plain yoghurt adding fresh fruit and a teaspoon of honey

Ref 1-“Sugar sweetened drinks should carry obesity warnings” - by Simon Capewell (2014) BMJ 2014;348:g3428  
Ref 2- “Fat Chance-the bitter truth about sugar” - Robert Lustig
Ref 3-“Mindless Eating” - Brian Wansink

June 19, 2014

Foods to help you sleep

Sleep is so important not only for our physical health but also our emotional and spiritual health. It has a major impact on cognitive functioning. One in ten visits to the GP are about poor ability to sleep. When you are tired, life problems seem worse as sleep deprivation has a major impact on the part of the brain that controls language, memory, planning and sense of time and 17 hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.05% (two glasses of wine). This is the legal drink driving limit in the UK!
The advice is to eat and live to help good sleep.


Fish - salmon, haibut and tuna – these fish have high levels of vitamin B6 which is needed to make melatonin. Melatonin is a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.

Carbohydrate-rich dinners – a meal with a high-glycemic-index triggering high amounts of insulin increases the ratio of sleep-inducing tryptophan relative to other amino acids in the blood – allowing proportionately more to get to the brain. (Suggested by a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition).

Tart cherry juice – rich in melatonin, in a small study it was shown to aid sleep. When adults with chronic insomnia drank a cup of tart cherry juice twice a day they experienced some relief in the severity of their insomnia.

Yoghurt – dairy products like yoghurt and milk have high doses of calcium and there is research that suggests being calcium-deficient may make it difficult to sleep.

Whole grains - such as bulgur and barley are rich in magnesium. Magnesium plays an important role in muscle relaxation, energy production and the deactivation of adrenaline. 

Green leafy vegetables - such as kale also have healthy doses of calcium.

Bananas – as well as being a good source of potassium, bananas also contain B6 which is needed to make melatonin.

Chickpeas - high levels of vitamin B6

Fortified cereals - high levels of vitamin B6

Seafood, red meat/pork and eggs - high levels of taurine which raises the chemical transmitter GABA. GABA has a calming effect on the nervous system, lowers anxiety and the production of stress hormones that hinder rest.

Citrus fruits and nuts - a form of sugar called inositol is found from these sources. It activates pathways in the brain that stop your mind from racing. Research shows inositol activates serotonin and the orexin pathway to calm your brain and help you go to sleep.

Chamomile and ginseng - chamomile has a sedative effect and research suggests it can calm the brain and help you go to sleep sooner. You can buy chamomile tea or a more concentrated dose in extract form. Ginseng is known for reducing stress therefore helping you get to sleep faster - it can be bought as a tea.


Caffeine as in coffee and tea and coke

Spicy and fatty foods can cause heart burn and leads to difficulty in falling asleep.

Bacon, cheese, nuts and red wine contain amines which not only can cause headaches in some, contains a tyramine and can keep us awake causing the release of noradrenaline a brain stimulant.

Eating too late also disrupts sleep. Best to eat at least 2 hours before bedtime.


Chorizo with chickpeas (serves 2)

400g can chopped tomatoes
110g pack chorizo (unsliced) 
140g wedge Savoy cabbage
Sprinkling dried chilli flakes
410g can chickpeas, drained
1 chicken or vegetable stock cube

  • Put a medium pan on the heat and tip in the tomatoes followed by a canful of water. While the tomatoes are heating, quickly chop the chorizo into chunky pieces and shred the cabbage.
  • Pile the chorizo and cabbage into the pan with the chilli flakes and chickpeas, then crumble in the stock cube. Stir well, cover and leave to bubble over a high heat for 6 minutes until the cabbage is just tender. Ladle into bowls and eat with crusty or garlic bread.

Baked salmon and eggs (serves 6)

6 crusty white rolls 
25g butter, melted
6 slices smoked salmon 
6 medium eggs
A few snipped chives

  • Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Slice off the top of each roll, then gently remove the bread inside until there is a hole large enough to accommodate a slice of salmon and an egg. Arrange the rolls on a baking sheet, reserving the tops. (If you like, whizz the middles into crumbs and keep in the freezer for another recipe.)
  • Brush the inside and edges of the rolls with a little melted butter, then arrange a slice of salmon inside each one. Crack an egg into each and season. Bake for 10-15 mins or until the eggs are cooked to your liking. Scatter with snipped chives. Toast the tops, brush with the remaining butter, then cut into soldiers and use to dip into eggs.

Pork, lemon and potato kebabs (serves 4)

16 baby new potatoes
700g pork tenderloins 
Lemon wedges, to serve

For the lemon marinade
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves, or 2 tsp dried
3 tbsp olive oil
½ lemon, juice only
Oil, for spraying or brushing

  • Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10-12 minutes until barely tender. Drain well. Trim the pork of any excess fat and cut the meat into 3cm cubes. Thread the pork alternately with the potatoes on to 8 skewers.
  • First get the barbecue going or put the grill on to heat up. Mix the chopped rosemary, olive oil and lemon juice together and season with salt and pepper.
  • Brush the marinade over the pork and potatoes. Barbecue or grill for 14 minutes, turning once and brushing again halfway through cooking. Serve with lemon wedges.

Squash, feta and bulgar salad (serves 2)

1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, cut into 3 cm chunks
2 tbsp harissa paste
100g bulghar wheat
Juice 2 limes
1 red onion, diced
3 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
1 tbsp chopped coriander
2 handfuls baby spinach, roughly chopped
50g pumpkin seeds
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Place the squash on a baking sheet and toss with the harissa and some seasoning. Roast for 30 mins or until golden and tender.
  • Put the bulghar wheat in a saucepan, cover with boiling water, then cook for 15 mins, drain and cool. Put half the lime juice in a small bowl and add the onion. Leave to sit for 5 mins, then add to the bulghar wheat along with the feta, cooled squash, coriander and spinach.
  • In a frying pan, toast the pumpkin seeds for 3-4 mins or until they start popping in the pan. Remove, chop 2 tbsp of the seeds and put in a bowl. Pour the rest over the salad. Add the remaining lime juice to the chopped seeds, with the oil, and seasoning. Mix and pour over the salad.

May 21, 2014


In order to increase your chances of conceiving naturally, you should think about improving your diet by increasing nutrients such as zinc in nuts and seeds, essential fats in oily fish as well as cutting out alcohol and nutrient deficient foods such as Coke and sweets. This rids your body of any unwanted toxins that could affect the health of the egg, and also corrects any hormonal imbalances that could prevent you from conceiving. A foetus is created from 50% egg and 50% sperm so the health of the sperm is of equal importance. Therefore it is also important for the man’s diet to be nutritionally balanced without high levels of alcohol to make sure sperm count isn’t lowered. Women nowadays are having children later on in life and therefore it is often harder to conceive. Women having babies in their late 30s has more than doubled from 45.2 births to 114.3 births per 1000. The number of women having babies after the age 40 has also doubled since 1971, from 12.7 to 27 in 1000 births. It is important to optimise the chance of conception hence why eating the right foods and cutting out bad substances is vital.


Fruits and vegetables not only deliver a wealth of vitamins and minerals, they’re also overflowing with free-radical-busting micro nutrients, like phytochemicals and antioxidants. (Free radicals are harmful molecules that sneak into the body on the heels of everything from sunlight to car exhaust and can damage the ova, sperm, and reproductive organs)

Oily fish and shellfish have essential fats called omega-3 fatty acids, which your body needs for optimal fertility – and seafood is the best source.
Can also be found in nuts and seeds.
Omega-3s are important for a baby’s brain and eye development and have many other pregnancy-related benefits, including lowering your risk of preterm birth, reducing your chance of preeclampsia, and easing depression. It’s important to get omega-3 fatty acids from food because your body doesn’t make them.

Load up now, because once you’re expecting, your body has difficulty maintaining its iron stores as your baby takes the mineral from you. Too little iron at the start of pregnancy puts you at risk for postpartum anemia — a condition affecting new mums that causes your red blood cells to fall below normal and drains your energy level. Can be found in dark leafy vegetables, lentils and other beans.

Listeria is a harmful bacterium found in ready-to-eat meats, soft cheeses, and unpasteurized dairy products. Pregnant women are 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get sick from eating listeria-laced food. Those trying to conceive should also be on alert because listeriosis (the infection caused by listeria) can cause a miscarriage early in the first trimester – possibly before you even know you’re pregnant.
To kill listeria, heat high-risk foods in the microwave until they’re steaming hot. Toss any food that’s been at room temperature for more than two hours. Foods to avoid completely: Raw sushi, refrigerated smoked seafood, refrigerated pâté or meat spreads (canned or shelf-stable spreads are safe to eat), soft cheese made from unpasteurized (raw) milk, and other unpasteurized dairy products.

Vitamin D is needed to help the body create sex hormones which in turn affects ovulation and hormonal balance. Yale University School of Medicine conducted a study of 67 infertile women, where it was discovered that a mere 7% had normal Vitamin D levels. Found in eggs.

Without zinc, your cells can not divide properly; your oestrogen and progesterone levels can get out of balance and your reproductive system fully function. Low levels of zinc have been directly linked to miscarriage in early stages of a pregnancy, according to The Centers for Disease Control’s Assisted Reproductive Technology Report. Found in nuts, seeds, fish.


Although studies of alcohol’s effects on fertility are inconclusive, some do show a slight link between drinking and difficulty conceiving. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends that if you do drink, have no more than two drinks a day if you’re trying to get pregnant.

The American Pregnancy Association says that caffeine can hinder your body’s ability to absorb iron and calcium which are required when expecting a baby

Experts at Harvard Medical School say that replacing a serving of meat each day with vegetable or dairy protein such as beans, peas, soybeans or tofu, or nuts can boost fertility.

Make sure you don’t have more than the daily recommended dose of vitamin A, unless it’s all in a form called beta-carotene. Getting too much of a certain kind of vitamin A can cause birth defects. (The kind that occurs naturally in food is safe, so you don’t have to worry about overdoing it by eating foods rich in vitamin A.)

Soy foods have been shown to contain oestrogen mimicking properties. It is best to avoid processed soy foods such as soy milk, soy burgers, soy protein powder, soy chips, soy meats, and soy cheeses to avoid a negative impact on your hormonal balance. If you have hypothyroidism, avoid soy completely.

Foods which are altered to be reduced in fat or fat-free are highly processed and high in sugar. When choosing foods always chose the foods as nature intended. Full fat dairy is one example that was shown in a study by Harvard to increase fertility over the fat-reduced options. Again, fat is what our bodies need to produce hormones.

Grilled Salmon & Courgette with Red Pepper Sauce (high in omega 3, vitamin D and zinc) – serves 4

1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted 
1/4 cup chopped jarred roasted red peppers
1/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 small clove garlic
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika, preferably smoked
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
1 1/4 pounds wild-caught salmon fillet, skinned and cut crosswise into 4 portions
2 medium courgette, or summer squash (or 1 of each), halved lengthwise
Olive oil cooking spray
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

  • Preheat grill to medium.
  • Process almonds, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, oil, vinegar, paprika, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a food processor or blender until smooth; set aside.
  • Coat salmon and courgette (and/or summer squash) on both sides with cooking spray, and then sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Grill, turning once, until the salmon is just cooked through and the courgette is soft and browned, about 3 mins per side.
  • Transfer the courgette to a clean cutting board. When cool enough to handle, slice into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss in a bowl with half of the reserved sauce. Divide the courgette among 4 plates along with a piece of salmon topped with some of the remaining sauce. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Tofu and spinach cannelloni (high in iron) – serves 6

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
50g pine nuts, roughly chopped
400g bag spinach
Pinch grated nutmeg
349g pack silken tofu
300g pack fresh lasagne sheets
4 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs

  • Heat half the oil in a pan, add onion and 1/3 of the garlic and fry for 4 mins until softened. Pour in tomatoes, season and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and cook for 10 mins until sauce thickens.Heat half remaining oil in a frying pan and cook another 1/3 of garlic for 1 min, then add half the pine nuts and the spinach. Wilt spinach, then tip out excess liquid. Whizz tofu in a food processor or with a hand blender until smooth, then stir through the spinach with the nutmeg and some pepper. Remove from the heat; allow to cool slightly.
  • Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Pour half tomato sauce into a 20 x 30cm dish. Divide spinach mix between lasagne sheets, roll up and lay on top of sauce. Pour over remaining sauce. Bake for 30 mins.
  • Mix crumbs with remaining garlic and pine nuts. Sprinkle over top of dish, drizzle with remaining oil and bake for 10 mins until crumbs are golden.

Red Pepper And Goats Cheese Frittata (high in vitamin D) – serves 6

8 eggs
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup sliced red bell pepper
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and sliced
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

  • Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler.
  • Whisk eggs, oregano, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Heat oil in a large, ovenproof, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add bell pepper and scallions and cook, stirring constantly, until the scallions are just wilted, 30 seconds to 1 min.
  • Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and cook, lifting the edges of the frittata to allow the uncooked egg to flow underneath, until the bottom is light golden, 2 to 3 mins. Dot the top of the frittata with cheese, transfer the pan to the oven and broil until puffy and lightly golden on top, 2 to 3 mins. Let rest for about 3 mins before serving. Serve hot or cold.

Beef chilli (high in zinc and iron) – serves 8

2 pounds lean ground beef 
1/3 cup Chili Seasoning Mix
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes with green pepper, celery, and onion
2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce 
1 (16 oz) can black beans, undrained 
1 (15.5 oz) can small red beans, undrained

  • Brown beef in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring often, 4 to 5 mins or until beef crumbles and is no longer pink; drain well. Return beef to Dutch oven; sprinkle evenly with seasoning, mix and sauté 1 min over medium-high heat.
  • Stir in diced tomatoes and remaining ingredients; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Cover; reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 mins.

November 26, 2013

Christmas Spices...

Christmas is here once again and its all sparkle and lots of goodies to eat and drink. This is when we get our bottles of spices out for the traditional Christmas cake and pudding and mince pies. However, is any of this good for us? Spices have been used for cuisine and trade since 2000bc (Wikipedia) and in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, there is the story of Joseph who was sold as a slave to spice merchants by his brothers. In the biblical poem Song of Solomon, the ‘beloved’ is compared to many forms of spices. Spices originated from Asia and Middle East and were among the most demanded and expensive products available in Europe in the Middle ages mainly due to the transport over thousands of miles. They are aromatic and give beautiful spicy tastes to many other now familiar foods that we eat such as curry’s and stir fries. They also have health qualities such as reducing inflammation and helping blood sugar balance.
Most of all, they were ‘Fit for the King’ being given in worship of the birth of Jesus by those who visited Him in those few days after being born in the manger.
Here are a few more nutritional facts about spices.

Cinnamon – 1 teaspoon of cinnamon contains 28mg of calcium, almost 1mg of iron, over a gram of fibre and quite a lot of vitamins such as C K and manganese. Several studies have shown improved insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control by taking ½ teaspoon of cinnamon per day. This in turn will help weight control as well as decreasing the risk of heart disease.

Cloves – The active principles in cloves are known to have antioxidant, anti-septic, anti-inflammatory and anti-flatulent properties. It contains an oil called eugenol which has local anaesthetic and antiseptic properties. It also contains a good amount of minerals such as potassium, manganese, iron, selenium and magnesium which are vital in our body. The spice also contains good amounts of vitamin A.

Cardamom – contains many chemical compounds that are known to have anti-oxidant, disease preventing and health promoting properties. Cardamom is a good source of minerals like potassium, calcium and magnesium. Potassium is an important part of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. It is also an excellent source of iron and manganese. Iron is required for red blood cell formation and cellular metabolism.

Ginger – Ginger maintains normal blood circulation as chromium, magnesium and zinc improves blood flow. It also improves the absorption of essential nutrients in the body by stimulating gastric and pancreatic enzyme secretion. It is a natural powerful painkiller as it contains some of the most potent anti-inflammatory fighting substances. As well as this, ginger decreases bacterial infections on the stomach, helps battle coughs and throat irritation and can help to inhibit fatty deposits from the arteries.

Nutmeg – Nutmeg has anti-fungal, anti-depressant and digestive functions. It is a good source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, zinc and magnesium. It is also rich in many vital B-complex vitamins, including vitamin C, folic acid, riboflavin, vitamin A and many anti-oxidants like beta-carotene which is essential for good health.

Turmeric – Turmeric features antibacterial and antiseptic qualities, so can be used to treat wounds. There is evidence that it aids in the restructuring of skin so may prevent scarring after injuries. It prevents breast cancer by altering cancer cells as it contains a powerful antioxidant compound that has reduced the size of tumours in 9 different studies. It can also be used to ease the side effects and boost the effects of some chemotherapy drugs. Many other medicinal properties include detoxifying the liver, helping in the metabolizing of fat and preventing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by removing the plaque build up in the brain that is believed to trigger Alzheimer’s. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory compounds which work to reduce joint pain and inflammation.

Recipes with Christmas spices

Braised beef with cranberries and spices
(serves 8)  ~ cinnamon, ginger
2 tbsp olive oil
8 thick braising steaks, 1kg meat in total
2 large onions, very finely chopped, preferably in a food processor
4 garlic cloves, sliced
25g ginger, peeled and cut into slivers
good pinch saffron
2 cinnamon sticks, snapped in half
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp harissa
2 tbsp ground almonds
1.2l hot beef stock
2 bay leaves
85g dried cranberries

  • Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole dish. Add the steaks 4 at a time and brown them well on both sides, then transfer to a plate. Now add the onions, garlic and ginger to the oil, plus juices left in the dish, and fry for at least 15 mins, stirring very frequently, until they are golden and soft. 
  • Add the saffron, cinnamon sticks, coriander, harissa and ground almonds, and stir well for 1 min.
  • Tip in the stock, then return the meat to the dish. Add the bay leaves, cover and simmer for 1 hr.
  • Remove the lid and cook for another 1 hr 30 mins, checking occasionally to ensure the mixture doesn’t catch on the bottom. 
  • Add the cranberries 10 mins before the end of the cooking time so they can plump up in the gravy. Check the beef after the cooking time – it should pull apart easily with 2 forks. If not, add a splash more water or stock and cook for another 30 mins.
  • Remove cinnamon and bay leaves.

Gingerbread men
(makes 12 large) 
cinnamon, ginger
140g unsalted butter
100g dark muscovado sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
350g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger and 1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
2 balls stem ginger from a jar, chopped

To decorate
50g icing sugar
a few glacé cherries 
2 balls stem ginger

  • Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment. Melt butter, sugar and syrup in a pan. Mix flour, soda, spices and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Stir in the butter mix and chopped ginger to make a stiff-ish dough.
  • Wait until cool enough to handle, then roll out dough to about 5mm thick. Stamp out gingerbread men, re-rolling and pressing the trimmings back together and rolling again. Lift onto baking sheets. Bake for 12 mins until golden. Cool 10 mins on the sheets, then lift onto cooling racks.
  • To decorate, mix icing sugar with a few drops of water until thick and smooth. Halve then slice cherries thinly to make smiles, and cut ginger into small squares. Spoon icing into a food bag, snip off the tiniest bit from one corner, then squeeze eyes and buttons, and a tiny smile onto 1 man at a time. Stick on a cherry smile and ginger buttons. Repeat; leave to set. Will keep up to 1 week in an airtight tin.

Low sugar spiced fruit cake
(12 slices) 
cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spice
85g self-raising flour
140g wholemeal plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g  low sugar apricot jam 
50gm caster sugar
4-5 cardamom pods
zest 1 small orange
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp nutmeg
140g butter, cut into pieces
100g pecans
85g raisins, preferably golden or green
85g sultanas
85g dried cranberries
1 egg
125ml milk

For the topping
85g frozen cranberries, thawed
25g dark brown sugar

  • Butter and base-line a deep 18cm round, loose-bottomed cake tin. Heat oven to 170C/fan 150C/gas 3. For the cake, stir together the flours, baking powder, 50 gm sugar. Slit open the cardamom pods and remove the tiny seeds (discard the pods). Grind the seeds to a powder using a pestle and mortar, then stir into the flour mixture with the orange zest and all the other spices.
  • Rub the butter into the mix until it looks like coarse crumbs. Coarsely chop half the pecans and stir into the mix with the raisins, sultanas and cranberries. Beat the egg, pour in the milk and stir into the cake mixture the jam. Spoon the mixture into the tin, level the top and scatter over the remaining pecan halves. Bake for 45 mins, then lower the heat to 150C/fan 130C/ gas 2 and bake for another 45 mins.
  • While the cake bakes, prepare the topping. Pat the cranberries dry on kitchen paper, then toss with the sugar in a small bowl. After the second 45 mins of baking, spoon the sugared cranberries over the top of the cake. Return to the oven for another 15-20 mins, or until the cranberries are sticky and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  • Leave the cake to cool in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack. The cake is best kept overnight for the flavours to mellow before slicing.

Thai green chicken curry
(serves 6) 
ginger, turmeric
1kg pack boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 thumb-size piece of fresh ginger, peeled and very finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
15g pack fresh coriander, chopped
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 medium onions
1 tsp ground turmeric
400ml can reduced-fat coconut milk
1 chicken stock cube

  • Slice each chicken thigh into 2 or 3 large chunks, then put in a bowl with the ginger, garlic green thai curry paste, half the coriander, lime juice and 1 tbsp of the oil. Stir well, then cover and leave in the fridge to marinate until ready to cook. For the best flavour, do this in the morning or, better still, the night before. You don’t have to though-it still tastes great done in the moment!
  • Peel and slice the onions, then very finely chop them Heat the remaining oil in a wok or large frying pan, then add the onion and stir-fry for about 8 mins until soft. Tip in the chicken mixture with the marinade and cook over a high heat until the chicken changes colour and browns.  
  • Pour in the coconut milk, and stock cube, then cover and simmer for 10 mins until the chicken is tender. 
  • Stir in the turmeric, adding the pack of stir fry vegetables stirring well  and cook for 5 mins more
  • Stir in the remaining coriander, then serve with brown basmati rice and broccoli.

Sweet Potato, carrot and swede mash
(serves 4) 
3 large sweet potatoes
3 carrots
½ swede
25g butter
splash of milk or cream
good grating of nutmeg

  • Cut the veg into similar-sized chunks. Tip into a pan of cold salted water, bring to a boil, cover, then cook for 15-20 mins until all the vegetables are tender.
  • Drain, leave to steam-dry for a few mins, then tip back into the pan and mash with the butter, milk or cream, nutmeg and some seasoning. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Cardamom meringue nests
(serves 10) 
6 egg whites
350g caster sugar
2 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp cocoa

  • Heat oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2 and line 2 baking trays with baking parchment. Put egg whites in a clean bowl and beat with an electric whisk until they resemble stiff peaks. While whisking, add the sugar, 1 tbsp at a time – meringue will thicken and become glossy. Fold in cardamom.
  • Using a metal spoon, dollop small spoonfuls of meringue, evenly spaced, onto the baking sheets, to make around 48 mini meringues. With the back of the spoon, lightly flatten and hollow out the centres. Sieve a dusting of cocoa over them and bake for 1 hr until crisp. Turn off the oven and leave meringues in the oven to cool. Pile high on a plate and serve with flavoured creams.

October 01, 2013

Gluten Free Foods For Kids

A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye.

Gluten is the main structural protein of wheat and contains gliadins and glutenins.  Research is showing that gluten has a role in the outcome of inflammation, being indicated in the cause of celiac disease.

If you have coeliac disease, your immune system reacts to gluten and leads to damage to the lining of your gut. Gluten causes the immune system to produce antibodies that attack the delicate lining of the bowel, which is responsible for absorbing nutrients and vitamins.

The small bowel contains villi, which are tiny finger-like projections that are only visible under a microscope. They provide a large surface area over which we absorb nutrients such as folic acid, iron and calcium. If you have coeliac disease, a reaction occurs when gluten comes into contact with the lining of the small bowel. The villi are attacked by the immune system and become inflamed and flattened. This results in nutrients from food going down the gut without being absorbed (malabsorption), leading to diarrhoea, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, anaemia and thin bones (osteoporosis). Other symptoms include tiredness, headaches, bloating and nausea.

Cereal Products
Gluten free cereal products include: buckwheat, potato flour, rice, rice flour, quinoa, soy flour, corn flour (from maize), taco shells and coconut flour.

Lunch & Dinner Ingredients 
Gluten-free pasta: www.glutenfree-foods.co.uk
Gluten-free bread: www.glutenfree-foods.co.uk 
Kelp noodles (wheat free): www.rawliving.eu 
Soba Noodles (gluten free): www.healthysupplies.co.uk

Pom Bear potato snacks: www.tesco.com 
Gluten-free cakes: www.glutenfree-foods.co.uk 
Gluten-free pretzels: www.glutenfree-foods.co.uk 
Gluten-free crackers/crisp breads: www.glutenfree-foods.co.uk 
Gluten-free wafers:  www.glutenfree-foods.co.uk
Gluten-free biscuits/cookies: www.glutenfree-foods.co.uk
Gluten-free cake/brownie/pastry mixes: www.freefromforkids.co.uk

Breakfast Suggestions
Gluten free cereals include: ‘Doves Farm Organic Choco Stars’, ‘Whole Earth Honey Oaty Pillows’, ‘Whole Earth Tasty Cocoa Bears’, ‘Barkat Organic Breakfast Pops’. All of which can be purchased from www.goodnessdirect.co.uk

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins - 12 Muffins

175g/6oz rice flour
50g/2oz tapioca flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 rounded tsp xanthan gum
¼ tsp salt
150g/5oz caster sugar
60g/2½oz butter, melted and cooled
1 egg, preferably free-range, beaten
60g/2½oz buttermilk
2 tbsp milk
150g/5oz fresh blueberries

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/35F/Gas 4
  • Sift together the rice flour, tapioca flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and xanthan gum in a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and sugar and mix well
  • Whisk together the cooled melted butter, egg, buttermilk and milk in another large bowl. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the butter, egg and buttermilk mixture. Stir gently with a wooden spoon to combine and finally gently fold in the blueberries
  • Divide the batter equally between the 12 muffin cases and bake in the oven for approximately 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out cleanly. They are nicest served warm
Recipe from http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/diets/gluten_free

For more recipe ideas, and places to get gluten-free ingredients from, visit these websites: