September Recipe: Roast squash and sweet potato soup

nzThe roll down to the autumn season is getting closer. The first oysters fresh off the boat are, frankly, irresistible, but the rest of September’s harvest can be saved for deep midwinter. Preserve apples and freeze blackberries for use in wintry fruit pies. Here are two great autumnal recipes that you can enjoy right now:

 

 

Roast squash and sweet potato soup with buttermilk blue cheese sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 butternut squash, unpeeled, halved, seeds scraped out, sliced into 2.5cm x 2.5cm cubes
  • 500g sweet potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 2.5cm thick rings
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1.5 litres/2 pints vegetable stock
  • 125ml marsala wine
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the buttermilk cheese sauce

  • 125g blue cheese, crumbled
  • 250ml buttermilk

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas 6.
  2. Place the onion, chopped butternut squash and sweet potato onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with the cinnamon and nutmeg. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until tender.
  3. Allow the vegetables to cool slightly, then place half into a food processor and add 500ml of the vegetable stock. Blend to a purée and transfer to a large pan. Repeat with the remaining roasted vegetables and 500ml more of the stock – transfer the purée to the pan.
  4. Add the remaining 500ml of vegetable stock to the food processor and stir to catch any remnants of the vegetable purée, then pour into the pan.
  5. Add the marsala wine and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a little more water if the soup is too thick for your liking.
  6. For the buttermilk cheese sauce, place the blue cheese and buttermilk into a clean food processor and blend to a paste. Transfer the blue cheese sauce to a jug or bowl.
  7. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle some of the blue cheese into each bowl. Leave the sauce on the table for your guests to add more if they wish.

Marinated beetroot

Ingredients

  • 650g raw beetroot
  • 500ml white or red wine vinegar
  • 2 litre/3½ pints water
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 500ml olive oil

Method

  1. Wash and scrub the beetroot under cold running water. Place them in a saucepan with the vinegar, salt and water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover then pan and simmer for about 1¼ hours until the beetroot is tender. Meanwhile, combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Once the beetroot is cooked, drain, place on a cloth and pat dry. Remove the skins with the help of the cloth. Cut into slices, place in the marinade and mix well. Leave for a day before serving. The beetroot will keep for several days in a covered container in the fridge but should be brought to room temperature before serving.
  3. Serve with some salami or air dried tuna.

The above recipes are courtesy of Nigella Lawson’s latest book!

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Melon and Feta Salad

I visited my mum recently for some good food and have to share her recipe for Melon and Feta Salad. It is delicious – and perfect for a hot summer evening!

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Try it at home and let me know what you think to it….

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon (juiced)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 spring of mint, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ Cantaloupe melon
  • 2 bags of baby spinach leaves
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • ¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced diagonally

Method

  1. In a large measuring cup, whisk lemon juice with pepper, garlic, mint and ½ cup olive oil.
  2. Peel cantaloupe, discard seeds and cut into very thin wedges.
  3. Line a large salad plates with spinach.
  4. Arrange cantaloupe on spinach.
  5. Sprinkle salad with cherry tomatoes, feta and green onion.
  6. Drizzle to taste with the dressing.
  7. Sprinkle with any remaining mint.

Is it ok to have sugar after a workout?

45Many soft drinks are often referred to as ‘energising’, ‘refreshing’ or ‘hydrating’. They should really be called ‘weight-gaining’, ‘tooth-decaying’ or ‘health-disrupting’.

Products like ketchups, cereals and sweet treats are typically full of sugar. They can be hard to spot as they often appear in different guises (caramels, syrups, etc.).

They recommended amount of sugar we should have in our diet differs from country to country, but the most are around five teaspoons for women and nine for men. So how many are we having?!

The average can of coke has ten teaspoons; a can of Red Bull has seven teaspoons; a Vitamin Water has eight teaspoons and a sports can bottle has seven teaspoons. If you’re a female all of the above will push you over your daily recommended allowance.

There was a time when fat was blamed for globally increasing waistlines and too much saturated fat, but sugar now takes the centre stage. This is because you primarily because the body struggles to cope if you continue to overtax the pancreas (which is employed to keep the blood glucose levels within safe limits) and body cells (which overtime get tired of opening the gates to let yet more sugar in). Insulin sensitivity then develops which normally leads to weight gain and can lead to insulin resistance or an increased risk of type II diabetes.

Many innocently assume that swapping full sugar soft drinks for ‘diet’ versions is the answer but the body doesn’t see it that way. Artificial sweeteners do nothing to dull your cravings for more sugar. Plus they still promote the insulin spikes that require the pancreas to work overtime!

If you train regularly try to swap your sports drinks for a banana, which provides vitamins, minerals, and fibre – and drink water!

August Recipe: Skinny Golden Mojito

djdIt’s time to make the most of the long summer nights before they begin to draw back in and Christmas crops up out of nowhere! August meals should be al fresco! Why not enjoy delicate scallops, with barbecued sea bass or homemade burgers with fresh sweetcorn? Whatever you decide to enjoy this summer make sure you try this delicious cocktail recipe for a skinny golden mojito.

 

Ingredients

  • 8 fresh mint leaves
  • 2 wedges fresh lime
  • 2 tsp agave syrup
  • 25ml/1fl oz golden rum
  • Sparkling water, to top up
  • Fresh mint sprig, to garnish

Method

  • Place the mint leaves, lime wedges and agave syrup into a cocktail shaker and crush with the end of a rolling pin.
  • Add the golden rum and a handful of ice and shake hard.
  • Strain the cocktail into a highball glass, top with sparkling water and garnish with the mint sprig.

The most outlandish food health claims

I recently came across this article on The Guardian and wanted to share it because it is so fantastic that we believe some of the below claims that are often created by marketers! Have you come across any food claims like the below? Did you fall into the trap and believe any of these claims?

Advert for Coca-colaCoca-Cola to cure impotence

Fizzy drinks might now be considered the root of all evil, but when Coca-Cola was created by American pharmacist John Pemberton in the late 19th century, it was said to cure morphine addiction, dyspepsia, and headaches – even impotence. Cola, wrote Pemberton, was “a most wonderful invigorator of sexual organs”. Adverts described it as the “ideal brain tonic”. It is fairly well-known now, of course, that drinkers may have felt a certain buzz, as the cola leaf used in early versions yielded traces of cocaine, which weren’t eliminated until the turn of the century.

 

 

 

Guinness is good for youGuinness advert

When this famous ad was introduced in 1931, it was reported that enjoying a pint of stout a day promoted strength, aided digestion and relieved sleeplessness. Since Guinness contains iron, it was fed to post-operative patients, blood donors and, on occasion, pregnant women. In fact, while Guinness is high in flavonoids, which can reduce the risk of heart attack from blood clotting, the iron content is relatively low. You’d have to drink a reported three pints to get the same amount provided by an egg yolk.

 

Mars advertA Mars a day helps you work, rest and play

Often wrongly attributed to racing commentator and ad man Murray Walker, the original “A Mars a day …” slogan was first used in the UK in 1960, appearing in print well into the 90s. With 229 calories and 30.4g of sugar a bar, it is hard to imagine the ad getting past health authorities today. A modified version of the slogan – “Work, rest, play” – was introduced in 2008.

Sugar as a diet aid Advert for sugar

In the 50s, America’s Sugar Association took out a series of ads arguing that sugar could help dieters lose weight. How? By sating the appetite “faster than any other food” and keeping diners “satisfied on less”. Today’s research suggests precisely the opposite: in the form of fructose, sugar may actually stimulate the appetite.

 

 

 

McDonald's advertGet your protein needs from McDonald’s

Eggs, chicken, salmon – all fantastic sources of protein. But a Big Mac, milkshake and fries? Yes, according to this Australian ad, apparently from the 80s. A similar campaign claimed that “not only are McDonald’s meals good to eat, they’re good for you”. Judging by this advice given to the company’s own employees late last year, their definition of “good for you” has changed somewhat.

 

 

 

Cheat death with pomegranate juice Pomegranate juice advert

Want to live longer? Then buy some pomegranate juice. That appeared to be the implication of POM Wonderful’s notorious ‘Cheat Death’ campaign. The Advertising Standards Authority duly slapped it down.

Today, you can buy “low-calorie” Skinny Water at supermarkets – a confusing prospect for those of us who thought all water was calorie-free– and, until a few years ago, sugar-laden breakfast cereals were being sold as a way to improve attentiveness and bolster the immune system. All of which goes to show that miracle claims are far from a thing of the past.

 

Picnic Ideas

Now that summer’s here it’s time to load up your picnic basket and enjoy some alfresco eating. Try these healthy and delicious recipes >

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Summer Frittatas: This protein-rich meal is full of colour and flavour.

Ingredients
350g sweet potato, peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced
125g fresh or frozen peas
7 medium eggs
1 tbsp chopped mint
1 tbsp snipped chives
Freshly ground black pepper, to serve

Method
1. Cook the sweet potato in a pan of boiling water for eight minutes until just tender. Drain.

2. Heat half the oil in a frying pan and cook the onion with the sweet potato and red peppers for five to six minutes. Add the peas and cook for one minute more.

3. Beat the eggs in a large bowl, pour in the vegetables and mix well. Season and stir in the herbs.

4. Heat the remaining oil in the same frying pan and pour the egg and vegetables back into the pan.

5. Cook over a low heat for 15-18 minutes, until the bottom of the frittata is golden. Meanwhile, preheat the grill to hot.

6. Finish cooking under the grill for six to eight minutes, until golden on top. Leave the frittata to stand for a minute, then run a knife around the edge of the pan, place a plate or board on top and turn over to remove from the pan. Cut into wedges to serve hot or cold.

Red Cabbage, Orange & Cashew Salad Recipe: a refreshing salad that is full of crunch and a delightful citrus flavour

Ingredients
1 tbsp cashew nuts
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 large orange, segmented
¼ small red cabbage, shredded
2 small carrots, peeled and grated
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Method
1. Toast the cashew nuts and cumin seeds for two minutes, then remove them from the heat.

2. Toss together all of the ingredients and leave them to stand for 10 minutes at room temperature before serving, to allow the flavours to develop.

Spinach, mushroom and ricotta quiche with sautéed spinach: Cook this vegetarian quiche for a special picnic.

Ingredients
For the quiche
butter, for greasing
400g ready-made shortcrust pastry
350g flat mushrooms
3 sprigs thyme, leaves only
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g baby spinach leaves
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g ricotta cheese
1 tbsp grainy mustard
3 free-range egg yolks
300ml double cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the spinach
25g butter
1 garlic clove, lightly crushed
500g baby spinach leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method
1. Preheat the oven to Gas 4 and grease a 25cm/10in loose-bottomed tart tin with butter.

2. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry to line the tart tin. Cover with cling film and place into the fridge to chill for 15 minutes.

3.Remove the pastry tart case from the fridge, cover with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Transfer to the oven and bake blind for 10-15 minutes.

4. Remove the beans and greaseproof paper and return the tart case to the oven to bake for a further 3-5 minutes, until golden and just cooked.

5. Turn the oven temperature up to Gas 6. Meanwhile, place the mushrooms onto a baking tray, sprinkle over the thyme, drizzle over one tablespoon of the olive oil and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place into the oven to bake for 5-6 minutes, or until the mushrooms are beginning to soften. Remove and set aside.

6. Heat a large frying pan until hot and add the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil and the spinach and cover with a lid. Cook until the spinach has just wilted, then remove from the pan and drain.

7. Season the spinach well with freshly grated nutmeg and salt and freshly ground black pepper.

8. Place the ricotta into a bowl. Add the grainy mustard, season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well.

9. Spoon the mustard and ricotta mixture into the bottom of the tart case, top with the wilted spinach, and carefully place the roasted mushrooms on top.

10. Place the egg yolks and cream into a bowl, season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper and whisk together. Pour the egg mixture into the tart case.

11. Transfer to the oven to bake for 40 minutes, or until golden-brown and bubbling. Remove and cool slightly before serving.

12. For the sautéed spinach, heat a frying pan until hot. Add the butter and swirl the garlic clove around to flavour the oil.

13. Remove the garlic clove, add the spinach and sauté until wilted down. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

14. To serve, cut slices of quiche and place onto plates with a spoonful of sautéed spinach alongside.

Image via: http://www.apacolorado.org/content/epp-annual-picnic-save-date

Summer Skincare

With the heat of the sun beaming down it is important to take care of your skin in the summer months.

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Stay safe in the sunshine with the following tips…

1. Cover up

Make sure that you cover up in the midday sun with a stylish hat and good quality sunglasses. Getting sunburned will increase your susceptibility to skin cancer in later life. Who wants to look like a lobster?! Sun creams do protect you from getting burnt but they don’t protect you from the suns damaging effects – so cover up to protect yourself from UV.

2. Know yourself…

Check for any new moles and take note of existing moles that are darkly pigmented, change in colour and/or size, have an irregular outline and itch, bleed or crust. If you are unsure or concerned that you may have one or more of these symptoms, visit your GP.

3. Know your chemical sunscreens from your mineral sunscreens

There are two main types of sun cream: chemical and mineral. The main difference is that chemical sun care products need to be applied 20 minutes before sun exposure while mineral sun creams work right away. That’s because mineral sun creams form a protective barrier on top of the skin while chemical sun creams contain UV filtering ingredients that need to be absorbed.

4. Reapply sunscreen regularly

Apply liberally and evenly every four hours and each time you get out of the water. Don’t forget commonly missed areas like your ears, under your chin and the soles of your feet. Alternatively, if you don’t want to be slapping sun cream on every couple of hours try a long lasting lotion. Most are non-greasy and sweat/water resistant.

5. High-tech sunscreen?!

If you would like something a little fancier, try Gel Cream Colour SPF 50, which offers advanced protection both on the skin and from within. It is the only UV protection to contain Fernblock Photoimmunoprotection Technology – a plant extract clinically-proven to protect skin from damaging effects of sun exposure.

6. Eat a skin-boosting diet

A good diet with plenty of fruit and veg will boost antioxidant levels in your body to help strengthen skin so it can cope better with the sun.

7. Don’t get me wrong…

While it is really important to make sure that you protect your skin from harmful sun exposure, your body actually needs some direct exposure to the sun. Around 50% of adults in the UK have low levels of vitamin D which could be solved by 20-30 mins of sun exposure up to three times a week. It’ll make you feel happier too!

Health: Brain Food

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For most of us life is hectic but a stressful day at work doesn’t have to be so stressful. When work life gets a little crazy try to balance it with healthy food!

Food can be powerful for both your brain and your body but certain foods can have more of an impact on your brain than others…and her are a few of them:

Oily Fish

In order to boost concentration, the nerve fibres that send messages between brain cells need to be insulated by a fatty substance called myelin. Essential fatty acids such as omega-3, found in oily fish, help build myelin, so try making mackerel on toast in the morning or taking a can of tuna into work to eat as a snack or, alternatively, take fish oil supplements such as cod liver oil every morning.

Blueberries

Blueberries have been labelled a super-food due to their high levels of polyphenols, anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory compounds that positively impact the nervous system and brain function, helping to combat memory loss and enhance your mood. Not only will your colleagues appreciate a happier you, but your day will also be infinitely more productive.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes have been proven to have a positive long-term effect on the brain, so by eating a portion each day you are investing in your health. Tomatoes contain an antioxidant called lycopene which prevents free radicals from damaging brain cells. By avoiding cell damage, your attention span, memory and problem solving skills will be preserved and enhanced.

Goji Berries

These berries are powerful antioxidants that are rich in carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which produces vitamin A; a vitamin known for its ability to prevent an energy deficiency in the body. In the long-term the polyphenolic compounds in Goji berries have been proven to prevent depression. Try swapping your usual chocolate bar for dried Goji berries for an effective pick me up in-between meetings.

Green tea

Many of us are guilty of relying too heavily on coffee to get us through the day – especially those days when you have meeting, after meeting, after meeting. Although coffee stimulates the mind and improves concentration, it is common to experience short bursts of energy followed by a sharp plunge. For those wanting to kick the coffee habit, green tea is a great alternative; it contains less caffeine than coffee but will still act as a mild stimulant whilst simultaneously improving your health due to the amount of antioxidants and flavonoids it contains. Not only can it hinder the development of tumour-spreading blood vessels but it also helps offset the effects of alcohol by repairing liver damage, making it a great hangover remedy. But, most importantly, remember to drink lots of water – carry a water bottle with you at all times to ensure you are constantly hydrated.

Recipe: Spiced vegetable soup with chicken and coconut soup

Spiced vegetable soup with chicken and coconut soup

Baby it is still cold outside so it is time for a little winter warmer…

Ingredients:

  • 2tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 3cm granted ginger
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 6 spring onions
  • 1 red pepper, finely sliced
  • 4 carrots peeled and sliced
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 300ml coconut milk
  • 750ml vegetable stock
  • 500g cooked chicken
  • Lime juice
  • Fish sauce
  • Fresh coriander
  • 8 sugar snap peas
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Put the oil in a saucepan over a high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, chilli, spring onions. Toss, and then add the peppers, carrots, celery and the coconut milk and stock.
  2. Stir in the tomato purée paste and add the chicken then pop the lid on and simmer for a few minutes. Season to taste with lime juice, fish sauce and the chopped coriander.
  3. Before you serve, throw in the sugar snap peas and spring onions. Serve the soup in bowls with chilli oil.

10 Good Food Vows

Many of us promise to keep up better eating habits at the beginning of each week but by Friday (ok, Tuesday) this goes out of the window. The best thing to do is to consider the benefits of good nutrition and try to stick to this as a whole.

Here’s a top ten of what to stick to:

  1. Fill up on plenty of wholesome, fresh food to fuel up for an active lifestyle
  2. Try to cook meals from scratch as often as possible
  3. If you have a few treats don’t beat yourself up for it
  4. Make a small changes each week to step towards a healthier lifestyle
  5. Savour every mouthful and enjoy it
  6. Eat a balance of all food groups instead of trying to cut  groups out
  7. Avoid eating in front of the TV or at your desk as this can cause overeating
  8. Make an effort to cut back on sugar, caffeine, and alcohol
  9. Be adventurous with cooking – healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring
  10. Always have healthy snacks stashed in your handbag