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Saturday, 27 February 2021

Positive Effects Reading Has On Your Brain

There's nothing like sitting down with a good book is there. I often put the kettle on make myself a cuppa pick up my book and before I know it I am engrossed in the story. Did you know reading does have positive effects on your brain, read on to find out more.


"Five Positive Effects Reading Has on Your Brain, why reading remains beneficial in the digital age.

There’s nothing like sitting down with a good book. While the hobby is plenty entertaining, scientists and doctors have observed several positive effects from reading. Books inspire creativity, critical thinking, increase empathy, and offer plenty of other incentives to go and enjoy some word power. Read on (pun unintended) for five benefits everyone can enjoy from books!

1. READING ALLOWS US TO EXPERIENCE MORE SENSATIONS
In a study conducted at Emory University, reading increases the activity in the brain’s central sulcus, which controls our motor skills. If we read a passage where a character is walking along a path, the activity from the neurons in this area make us feel as though we’re experiencing the walk ourselves. Then, there’s grounded cognition; a concept that proves that reading actually puts you in someone else’s shoes through the brain’s biology.

2. IT MAKES US MORE EMPATHETIC
Literary fiction readers have a higher ability to empathize with other’s emotions and thoughts than those who read mainly nonfiction. In other words, fiction readers can be more empathetic, and have an easier time seeing a situation from various perspectives, just by reading about their favourite characters.

3. BOOKS PROVIDE PLENTY OF MENTAL STIMULATION
Mentally stimulating your brain on a regular basis can help slow down Alzheimer’s and Dementia. It’s like physical exercise; the more you move, the better shape you’re in. For your brain to stay healthy and alert, it needs exercise. Reading (along with puzzles and certain games) keeps your activity levels high and your brain power nice and strong.

4. WE BECOME LESS STRESSED WHEN WE READ REGULARLY
When you make a habit of reading, it’s easier for your brain to relax and temporarily transport itself to another world. A good book can daily stressors evaporate, put you in your character's shoes, and keep you focused on the words you’re reading. If you’re looking for an easy way to relax and destress, try to make a habit out of reading more often.

5. READING CAN IMPROVE OUR MEMORY
When you read, you’re engaging more than a few brain functions, such as phonemic awareness, visual and auditory processes, comprehension, fluency, and more. Reading jolts your brain into action, maintains concentration, and allows your mind to process the events happening before you. The more you read and engage that part of your brain, the easier it is to keep your memory strong."
Words above from article here

Are you reading a good book at the moment?

As regular readers know, this blog is presented in a magazine style - we hope something for everyone. You will find a variety of articles, studies, thoughts, photographs, music and recipes! 

However, not all the recipes ideas featured in this blog may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan

Friday, 26 February 2021

Fish : Can Be Fabulous !

Are you a fish eater? We do enjoy eating fish and it often features in my menu plans. Research has shown that eating fish and shellfish regularly is beneficial to our bodies in many ways; here are ten great reasons to introduce a little more seafood into your diet.

1. Great for your heart:
It's no coincidence that fish-eating Inuit populations in the Arctic have low levels of heart disease; seafood is low in saturated fat and high in omega-3, (which can both) protect the heart from disease and lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood. One study has even suggested that an extra portion of fish every week can cut risk of heart disease in half.

2. Clearing the vessels:
Eating fish can improve your circulation and reduce the risk of thrombosis. The EPA and DHA - omega-3 oils - in seafood can save your body from having to produce eicosanoids, a hormone-like substance which can make you more likely to suffer from blood clots and inflammation.

3. Joint benefits:
Eating fish as a regular part of a balanced diet has been shown to ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, a condition which causes the joins to swell up. Recent research has also found a link between omega-3 fats and osteoarthritis, suggesting that eating more seafood could help to prevent the disease.

4. The eyes have it:
Eating oil-rich fish regularly can help to keep the eyes bright and healthy. A recent study has suggested that omega-3 fatty acids can help to protect the eyesight of those suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition which causes the retina to degenerate and the eyesight to become blurred. Fish and shellfish also contain retinol, a form of vitamin A which boosts night vision.

5. Essential nutrients:
Seafood provides the body with many essential nutrients which keep us running smoothly, including iodine, selenium, zinc and potassium. Iodine is important for the thyroid gland, and selenium makes enzymes which can help to protect us from cancer. Fish and shellfish are also excellent sources of many vitamins, including vitamins A and D.

6. Take a deep breath:
A number of studies have indicated that fish and shellfish may help to protect our lungs. Not only can seafood relieve the symptoms of asthma in children, but it has shown signs of preventing it. Eating a lot of fish can also keep your lungs stronger and healthier as you age in comparison to those who don't eat a lot of fish.

7. Brighten your outlook:
Seafood may also play a large part in preventing depression; research has highlighted links between low omega-3 levels and a higher risk of depression. Seafood could also help us to avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and post-natal depression.

8. Your skin looks great:
Not only does omega-3 help to protect the skin from the harmful effects of the UV damage, but eating lots of fish can also help with the symptoms of skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Fish is also a great source of protein, which is an essential ingredient of collagen, a substance which keeps the skin firm and flexible.

9. Good for down below:
Evidence suggests that a diet rich in fish oils can help to protect us against serious inflammatory bowel diseases (BD) including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. There is also evidence to suggest that omega-3 could help to slow the progression of inflammatory bowel disease in some sufferers.

10. Boost your brainpower:
The human brain is almost 60% fat, with much of this being omega-3 fat. Probably for this reason, research has indicated that people who eat plenty of seafood are less likely to suffer dementia and memory problems in later life. DHA, an omega-3 fat found in seafood, has also been linked to improvements in children's concentration, reading skills, behaviour, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
More about fish here

Here is a tasty fish dish you may like to try
Creamy Fish and Broccoli Casserole


Ingredients
Serves 4
8g carb per serving
1 tbsp butter, for greasing baking dish
3 tbsp olive oil
450 g broccoli, small florets
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
110 g scallions (spring onions), finely chopped
2 tbsp small capers 
650 g white fish (cod, haddock, halibut), cut into serving-sized pieces
1 tbsp dried parsley
300 ml heavy (double) whipping cream
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
85 g butter, cut into thin, equal slices
For serving
140 g leafy greens (optional)
Useful tips!
This is a wonderful all-in-one dish that can be varied in many different ways. Use salmon instead of white fish or perhaps fresh or frozen tuna fish. Use Brussels sprouts, asparagus, zucchini (courgette) or mushrooms instead of broccoli.

Please see recipe instructions here
Should you need help with weight/measurement conversion, see chart here

Hope you may enjoy this soon

We bring a variety of articles and recipe ideas to this blog, and not all may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Thursday Thoughts

 Life Is For Living ... Thursday Thoughts

I wrote this post back in 2015, but somehow the words still seem appropriate.

Yes, it's Thursday already and I hope that the week so far has been a good one for you. With many parts of our globe in 'turmoil' sometimes I think we just need to take time out and reflect... I often do this with poetry. Some do not like poetry, whereas others always enjoy reading it. Our youngest when studying English could write a great poem, and still does from time to time! Should a poem rhyme or not? It's up to the author to decide.

I read this poem recently and quite enjoyed it - I'll share it with you here. 

"Life Is For Living"

Life is a gift we're given each and every day. 
Dream about tomorrow, but live for today. 
To live a little, you've got to love a whole lot. 
Love turns the ordinary into the extraordinary. 
Life's a journey always worth taking. 
Take time to smell the roses... and tulips... 
and daffodils... and lilacs... and sunflowers... 

Count blessings like children count stars. 
The secret of a happy life isn't buried in a 
treasure chest... it lies within your heart. 
It's the little moments that make life big. 

Don't wait. Make memories today. 
Celebrate your life!

I know many may feel that with Covid restrictions life is so different, and of course it is. Visits with loved ones not possible, holidays not possible, many shops shut, the list of what we cannot do could be longer but there are still many things we can do to make a nice memory, it is so often the little things, the little moments that make life big. I hope your Thursday will be a good day, I'm planning on walking ... but I may need an umbrella! Have you any plans?

I hope you like the flowers

All the best Jan

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Gammon and Cauliflower Cheese Grills ... tasty


If you like Gammon you may like this recipe suggestion. Have a look, check it out, and if you like it add the ingredients to your shopping list. I think it’s a winner but what do you think?
Would the recipe work well with broccoli florets instead of cauliflower? Yes, it would, it really delivers great nutrient goodness, why not give it a try.

Ingredients:
Serves Four
4 small, raw gammon steaks
1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
100ml half-fat crème fraîche
85g cheddar, grated
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard

Method:
Heat the grill to high.
Snip the sides of the gammon steaks with kitchen scissors so they don’t curl up too much when they cook.
Put the gammon onto a baking tray, then grill on one side for about 8 to 10 minutes until the fat is crisp.
Meanwhile, cook the cauliflower in boiling water for 5 minutes until tender.
Drain and tip into a bowl with the mustard, crème fraîche and two-thirds of the cheese and give it all a good mix.
When the gammon is crisp, flip it over and cook on the other side for about 10 minutes.
Spoon the cauliflower mix over the gammon, sprinkle with cheese, then grill for 5 minutes until bubbling and golden.

This is another great recipe to try and with only 9 carbs per serving, it's tasty!
From original idea here

you can read more about the health benefits of cauliflower here

We bring a variety of recipe ideas to this blog, and not all may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan

Monday, 22 February 2021

Banana Bread : Low Carb Recipe : Gluten Free : Grain Free


"Naturally sweet, perfectly moist, and simple to make. This low-carb banana bread made with eggs and almond flour is perfect for breakfast or as a post-workout, low-carb snack. It is gluten-free, grain-free, and only 3 net carbs per slice. It is a healthy, sweetener-free banana bread that will be a hit with the whole family.

But aren't bananas high in carbs, I hear you ask?
Yes, a medium-sized banana does have around 24 grams of carbs, but in this recipe, included are high protein eggs and almond flour so that only a small amount of banana is included in each portion.

Ingredients
20 servings/slices

2 ripe bananas, cut in smaller pieces
6 large eggs
6 tbsp butter melted
3 cups / 12 oz / 325 g almond flour
4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder

Instructions
more details can be found here

How to store banana bread
Banana bread can keep for 1-2 days on the countertop, but by keeping it in the fridge it will last for up to 1 week in an airtight container. You can also slice and freeze this healthy, low-carb banana bread for a month or more. Take out a slice when you need it!"

who can resist daffodils

You will find a variety of recipe ideas within this blog, and not all may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Konstantin Chaykin Moscow Comptus Easter Clock

I have had an interest in mechanical watches and clocks for a long time. A good mechanical watch, can hold time keeping to plus or minus two seconds a day, this fact I find amazing. Good watches and clocks are mechanical masterpieces. In a world of mass produced junk, please check out this stupendous work of science and art.

Eddie 



Hearty Root Vegetable Soup : Immune Boosting

This immune-boosting hearty vegetable soup is just choc-a-block full of root vegetables. Because being below ground they absorb nutrients from the soil making them a powerhouse for anti-inflammatory vitamins such as A, B, C, and iron. Plus they are chock full of antioxidants. They also nourish our gut with gut-friendly fibre our good bacteria need to survive. Let’s face it, they aren’t the prettiest of vegetables, but they do clean up very well, so why not get scrubbing and prep for this beautiful, flavourful root vegetable soup that will keep you fuelled and warmed in cooler days.


Ingredients
2 tbsp. Olive oil
1⁄2 large celeriac (celery root) peeled and chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large rutabaga (swede), peeled and chopped
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and grated
2 cups spinach
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp. Minced fresh parsley
8 cups vegetable broth
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Method
1. Heat the oil in a large soup kettle over medium heat. Toss in onion and sauté until onion is translucent in appearance (approx. 3min.) Then add in the garlic and sauté for approx. one minute.
2. Toss in the rest of the root vegetables and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Next add broth, parsley, bay leaves.
3. Simmer for approx. 30 min.
4. Toss in spinach and simmer until vegetables are tender (15-30min.).

Tips
For thinner soup: add broth to desired consistency
For thicker soup: take an immersion blender to the pot when finished and give it a few pulses and voila!
Enjoy the colourful blend of root vegetables that bring warmth and comfort to your table, and gut-healing nutrients, minerals, and vitamins to nourish from within.
Choice of vegetables may be amended to suit your likes/dislikes and dietary requirements. If you would like a lower carb alternative to potatoes you will find some suggestions here
If you need help with weight/measurement conversion see here
The above from original idea here


Related Post
Root Vegetables, so healthy - read it here

Readers, you will find a variety of articles, studies etc. plus recent news/views and recipe ideas within this blog, we hope something for everyone to read and enjoy. Please note, not all may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Nuts and Seeds : Carb Count !

Do you like nuts and seeds? Do you have a favourite nut? I do like to occasionally snack on nuts! I also like a low carb cookie/biscuit with hazelnuts or chopped pecans or walnuts as an enjoyable treat with a cuppa.

Snacking on nuts can be so much better than snacking on high-carb junk food, and ground nuts such as almond flour are brilliant for low-carb baking! But make no mistake, the volume you may be consuming and the high carb contents of some nuts, can be the number one saboteur of weight loss.

So let's take a closer look at the most common nuts and seeds with their carb values.

Number of Net Carbs In Nuts and Seeds per 100gram


Please read more at Libby's Ditch The Carbs Site here

Did you know that:-
Almond flour is a good source of Vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium, and several other minerals.
Coconut flour is a good source of iron, manganese, copper, and several other minerals.
Read more here

Dear reader you will find a variety of articles and recipe ideas within this blog, and not all may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan

Friday, 19 February 2021

Take Three P's : Paprika Pork in a Pan !


Take three P's, Paprika Pork in a Pan! This delicious and simple paprika pork dish, is easy to make, and great for home freezing.

Here are the ingredients you will need to serve four:
3, thinly sliced onions
600g pork fillet
2 tbsp. paprika
300ml/½ pint chicken or vegetable stock
100ml crème fraîche (about half a tub)

Here is the method:
1. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a pan add the onions and fry for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened and lightly coloured.
2. Cut the pork into sizeable chunks, then add to the pan and stir over a fairly high heat to seal and brown them all over. Stir in the paprika, cook briefly, then add the stock and bring to the boil.
3. Cover and cook for 30-35 minutes, until the pork is tender. Stir in the crème fraîche and simmer for a further 2 minutes. (You can prepare the dish to this point up to 2 days ahead or freeze for up to 3 months.) If you have a few chives or a bit of parsley handy, snip this over the pork before serving with cauliflower rice and perhaps a green vegetable – broccoli or stir-fried cabbage make the perfect accompaniment to this simple but delicious dish.

Nutrition Per Serving:
Fat 18.7g Protein 36.5g Carbs 11.3g Fibre 1.3g Salt 0.52g
Recipe from here
This recipe also works well with chicken instead of pork.


Did you know that Paprika is the ground bright red powder from sweet and hot dried peppers. It is much milder than cayenne pepper with a characteristic sweetness, and it is a favourite ingredient in European cookery. Hungarian or Spanish, hot or sweet, smoked or un-smoked, these clay-red powders all bring a distinct flavour to the dishes they are added to.

We bring a variety of recipe ideas to this blog, and not all may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan

Thursday, 18 February 2021

A Perfect Bargain !

This is a sort of a re-post, because back in 2015, I got myself a bargain!

Looking back, I had enjoyed a very pleasant afternoon having a mooch around our local shops. It was very nice to spend time 'mooching' as I like to call it.

Those were the days before Covid, because of course at the moment due to lockdown the types of shops that both Eddie and I love looking around e.g. antique shops, old book shops, charity shops are all closed! However, on that particular day back in 2015 I was looking in a local hospice charity shop and this caught my eye.


First I love pink, as anyone who knows me would confirm. The grandchildren at quite a young age knew Grandma's favourite colour is pink. It was my mums favourite colour too, so she may have influenced me there ...

I adore looking at pink roses, pink carnations, pink apple blossom, and there are so many different shades of pink. For some reason it always catches my eye and I find it to be a calming colour. 

So, to come back to the picture above. I picked up this bargain for just £1-50, and when I got home did some research on it. It is made by Hadida Fine Bone China and it said 'Made In England'. Back in 2015 there was one being offered for sale on ebay for £14-99, and recently a similar item was being advertised for £62-00!
Needless to say I was pleased with my purchase and to this day, it still looks excellent on my side.

Happy days and memories.

Have you bought a bargain recently?

All the best Jan

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Parsnip Spaghetti with Sunflower Bolognese : That's Different !


When looking for pasta alternatives, it can be hard to find a gluten-free option that doesn’t descend to mush, but Luke Hines says:-
"I absolutely love this recipe! I really enjoy the al dente mouthfeel from the parsnips, but feel free to swap them out and use any other of your favourite spiralized vegetables such as zucchini/courgette noodles or sweet potato noodles.

Sunflower seeds are rich in B vitamins, which are essential for a healthy nervous system, and are a good source of phosphorus, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, protein and vitamin E.

They also contain zinc, manganese, copper, chromium, and carotene as well as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids – types of ‘good’ fat that may help to protect the arteries.

Ingredients
3–4 parsnips, peeled
500 g (4 cups) cauliflower florets
60 g (1⁄2 cup) sunflower seeds
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1⁄2 onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried mixed Italian herbs
1 tablespoon coconut oil
170 g can tomato paste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
500 ml (2 cups) vegetable stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Plant Parmesan, to serve, optional
1 handful of basil leaves, to serve, optional

Method
1. Using a Mandoline, spiraliser or sharp knife, cut the parsnips into fine vegetable noodles. Set aside.
2. In a food processor, pulse together the cauliflower, sunflower seeds, garlic, onion, and mixed herbs to form a rough, chunky paste.
3. Melt the coconut oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat, add the cauliflower mixture and sauté for 8–10 minutes, or until softened and lightly golden brown. Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the tomato paste, balsamic vinegar and vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lovely and thick.
4. Meanwhile, cook the parsnip noodles in a saucepan of boiling salted water for 3–4 minutes, or until just tender, then drain and divide among bowls. To serve, spoon the Bolognese over the noodles, season well with salt and pepper and scatter over the plant parmesan and a few basil leaves to finish. Enjoy."
Recipe from here

more about parsnips here

Dear reader, this blog is presented in a magazine style - we hope something for everyone. You will find a variety of articles, studies, thoughts, photographs, music and recipes!

However, not all the recipes ideas featured in this blog may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Pancake Day 2021 : Why Not Make Some Low Carb Pancakes !

Yes today, February 16th 2021, is Pancake Day! Will you be enjoying some? Will you be flipping some? Now that can be fun - but have you the skill? Eddie and I will be enjoying some low carb pancakes (see recipe below). We particularly like them with some low carb fruits, but dear reader you choose your accompaniment.

image from google

Pancake Day falls in February each year, and many of us stock up with the  ingredients and toppings we prefer, some like savoury, while others prefer sweet.

Pancake Day, also known as Shrove Tuesday, is an annual feast day which dates back to the 16th century, and a day to indulge before the restrictions of Lent.

Pancake ingredients, various toppings and recipes are spotted everywhere as February begins. With Covid lockdown still in place, many may be looking forward to an excuse for indulging and celebrating before Easter.

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent.

On Shrove Tuesday, traditionally pancakes were made as a way to use up foods like fat, eggs, milk and sugar before the 40 days of Lent.

While this may not be so strictly followed today, many people around the world enjoy pancakes in various forms on Pancake Day.

Whether your favourite topping be Nutella, Biscoff spread, fruit, Greek yoghurt or bacon on your pancakes! Perhaps 
fill them with cream cheese and finely chopped spring onions  - however you enjoy them - the day is here.

Yes, in 2021, Pancake Day falls on Tuesday, February 16th. However, the date of Pancake Day changes each year, as it always falls 47 days before Easter Sunday.

This means Easter Sunday 2021 is on Sunday, April 4.

For those observing Lent, the 40 days of fasting begins on Wednesday, February 17.

Lent marks the 40 days Jesus was said to have spent in the desert, avoiding temptation from the devil.

And so, traditionally those marking the period give up things they usually indulge in or even fast.

Today many give up things like fizzy drinks, chocolate, and even limit screen time.

Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the word shrive, which means "absolve".

In Christianity, the day is a time to confess any sins and ask for absolution from God.

In present times, here in the UK, under Covid lockdown rules churches can stay open, but with limits on capacity depending on the size of the building, following a risk assessment. Where possible, when visiting a place of worship you should stay local and avoid travelling outside your local area, meaning your village or town, or part of a city.
Words above taken from article here

But on to the Low Carb Crepes / Pancakes Recipe


These crepes/pancakes are virtually carb. free and are very easy to make - although you use ricotta cheese they do not taste of cheese.

Ingredients:
makes between 6 and 8 crepes/pancakes
200 Grams of ricotta cheese
3 eggs
I teaspoon of cinnamon
A splash of milk

Method:
1. Mix the cheese, eggs and cinnamon into a small mixing bowl, a
dd a splash of milk if the mix is too thick to run freely.
2. Place a small knob of butter into a frying pan, I use a small omelette pan 8".
3. Heat the butter and spoon in 3 table spoons of mix. Fry until firm then turn over and cook for one minute or until the crepe is starting to brown.
4. Allow to cool and fill with cream cheese and finely chopped spring onions or smoked salmon and asparagus tips, whatever you like. Roll up the crepe and enjoy.
5. Great at any time and very good for the lunch box or picnics.
6. Also great warm with some low carb berries and double cream.
7. Or why not serve with a slice of lemon - gently squeezed over the crepes.

The important thing is to enjoy your pancake day 2021.


Dear reader, you will find a variety of articles and recipes within this blog. Please note, not all may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan

Monday, 15 February 2021

Having trouble sleeping - a new pillow may help!

We all have trouble sleeping from time to time, but have you ever thought it may be down to your pillow? 

"Replacing your pillow is important to enhance your sleep quality, reduce aches and prevent a build-up of allergies. But what are the tell-tale signs you need a new one?


According to The National Sleep Foundation, you should replace your pillow every year or two as they 'absorb body oil, dead skin cells, and hair' which can create the perfect breeding ground for dust mites.

Much like mattresses, pillows don't last forever and will need replacing over time to support your head and neck properly.

'We all know that getting a good night's sleep is important for our wellbeing and so even something as simple as choosing a pillow needs to consider more than just price.' 


Not sure what to look out for? These signs may mean it's time to replace your pillow...

Your pillow is stained or discoloured
You wake up feeling achy, particularly around your neck and shoulders
You have started to get tension headaches
The pillow is lumpy or uneven
If you fold your pillow in half and it doesn't spring back

When replacing your pillow, 'there are several different options available for the fill of a pillow, each changing the weight, firmness and overall feel to suit different preferences. The most important factor is that your pillow is comfortable, breathable and offers a good amount of support."
This handy guide may help, see it here
Words above from article here

sleep well

and after a good nights sleep
enjoy this vegetarian breakfast casserole
it's packed with protein, more details here


You will find a variety of articles and recipe ideas within this blog. Please note, not all may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Happy Valentines Day 2021

Yes, it's Valentines Day 2021, and I wish you a happy day! "February 14th has become one of the key dates on the commercial calendar, with romantic Brits spending an estimated £1.5 billion on cards and gifts (and Americans as much as $19.6 billion). But behind the commercialisation of Valentine's Day lies a fascinating history that can be traced back to ancient Rome" - read more here


Happy Valentines Day
Why not start the day with a special breakfast


Soft-boiled eggs with pancetta avocado soldiers
Soft, creamy avocado wrapped in crispy pancetta, perfect for dipping in your morning egg

Ingredients
Serves Two
4 eggs
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 ripe avocado, cut into slices
100g smoked pancetta rashers

Method
1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil.
Carefully drop the eggs into the water and boil for 5 mins for runny yolks.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a non-stick pan and wrap each avocado slice in pancetta.
Fry for 2-3 mins over a high heat until cooked and crisp.
3. Serve the eggs in egg cups with the pancetta avocado soldiers on the side for dipping.

A gluten free breakfast which per serving is 46g Fat 1g Carb 22g Protein

A start to the day like this will probably take you through to dinner ...
You may wish to consider this for a Valentine's or weekend treat!
Recipe idea from here

Dear reader, you will find a variety of recipe ideas and articles within this blog, but please note, not all may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Pork Loin Steaks with Mozzarella Cheese : A Speedy Low Carb Dinner


Did you know ... "Pork is the culinary name for meat from the domestic pig. It is the most commonly consumed meat worldwide, with evidence of pig husbandry dating back to 5000 BC. Pork is eaten both freshly cooked and preserved. Curing extends the shelf life of the pork products. Ham, smoked pork, gammon, bacon and sausage are examples of preserved pork. Charcuterie is the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, many from pork." ... you can read more about Pork here

I do like to include Pork in my weekly menu plans, and there are so many ways to cook and enjoy it, take this suggestion for instance …

Ingredients
Serves Four
4 lean thick pork loin steaks (about 2cm (1in) thickness)
50g (2oz) mozzarella cheese or similar, thickly sliced into 4
8 fresh sage leaves
4 slices Parma style ham or streaky bacon
salt
ground black pepper

Method
1. Preheat oven to gas 4, 180ºC, fan 160ºC. Place an empty baking tray in oven to heat through.
2. Place the pork steaks on a board, and with a sharp knife carefully make a slit horizontally into the non-fat edge of the pork. Continue until you have created a shallow pocket to stuff.
3. Take a slice of cheese and two sage leaves and push into the pocket. Season and wrap each steak in a slice of ham or bacon.
4. Heat oil in a frying pan and seal steaks on both sides. Place on the hot tray (that has been preheated in the oven) and cook for about 15-20 minutes until browned and cooked through.

Nutritional Information (for recipe above) per serving
Fat 15g Carbs 0g Protein 52.8g

Optional Servings
(Depending on your choice of serving will add to the nutritional details above)
Seasonal green salad, crushed new potatoes and mixed olives.
Cauliflower Mash, see details here
Celeriac Mash, more here

Recipe from an original idea here

Ground black pepper is great sprinkled into savoury dishes at the end of cooking or at the table. It is more than just salt’s other half. It was labelled 'black gold' by 15th century European traders upon discovering the spice in India. Today, pepper is a staple ingredient in kitchens across the length and breadth of the globe. 

It combines a distinctive heat with a wonderfully sweet aroma, and naturally enhances the flavour of meat and vegetables, making it a compulsory component of any dinner table.

Black pepper can also be good for you - read why in this post here

So though you might be used to adding this sensational spice as an afterthought to season savoury dishes, why not put pepper in the spotlight and try a generous shake in one of these delicious recipes?
Celeriac and Apple Soup with Bacon and Parsley - see here
Cottage Pie, this version is creamy and low carb - see here
Frittata, using North African inspired ingredients - see here


You will find a variety of articles and recipe ideas within this blog. Please note, not all may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan

Friday, 12 February 2021

Health Benefits of Aubergines / Eggplants ... and some recipes

"Full of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre aubergines/eggplants are a great choice for salads, stews and beyond. Nutritionist Jo Lewin shares the health benefits, ongoing research and history of this versatile ingredient.


Along with tomatoes, potatoes and bell peppers, the aubergine (solanum melongena) belongs to the nightshade plant family (Solanaceae). In fact, aubergines grow in a manner much like tomatoes, hanging from the vines of a plant that grows several feet in height. They have a deep purple, glossy skin encasing cream coloured, sponge-like flesh dotted with small, edible seeds.

In addition to the classic purple variety, aubergines are available in other colours including lavender, jade green, orange and yellow and in a range of shapes and sizes. The most popular variety of aubergine looks like a large, pear-shaped egg, hence the American name ‘eggplant.’

The modern aubergine owes its origin to the wild version that is native to South East Asia. Prior to the middle ages it was introduced in Africa before spreading throughout Europe and the Middle East. For centuries aubergines were enjoyed more as a decorative garden plant than as a food due to its bitter taste.

Nutritional highlights
Aubergines are an excellent source of dietary fibre. They are also a good source of vitamins B1 and B6 and potassium. In addition it is high in the minerals copper, magnesium and manganese.

A 100g serving of raw aubergine provides:
15kcal 0.9g protein 0.4g fat 2.2g carbohydrate 2.7g fibre

Aubergines are rich in antioxidants, specifically nasunin found in aubergine skin – which gives it its purple colour. A potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger, nasunin has been found to protect the lipids (fats) in brain cell membranes. Cell membranes are almost entirely composed of lipids and are responsible for protecting the cell and helping it to function. The lipid layer is crucial for letting nutrients in, wastes out and receiving instructions from messenger molecules that tell the cell what to do.

Research
Research on aubergines has focused on nasunin. It is not only a potent antioxidant, protecting the fatty acids essential for healthy brain function, but it also helps move excess iron out of the body. Although iron is an essential nutrient, necessary for transporting oxygen in the blood, immune support and collagen synthesis, too much iron is not recommended.

Aubergines are high in fibre and low in fat and therefore recommended for those managing type 2 diabetes or managing weight concerns. Initial studies indicate that phenolic-enriched extracts of eggplant may help in controlling glucose absorption, beneficial for managing type 2 diabetes and reducing associated high blood pressure (hypertension).

Aubergines may also help to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. These positive effects are likely to be down to nasunin and other phytochemicals in aubergines.

How to select & store
On visual inspection, the skin colour should be vivid, shiny and free of discoloration, scars and bruises, which usually indicate that the flesh beneath has become damaged and possibly decayed. The stem and cap at the top of the aubergine should also be free of discolouration. Choose aubergines/eggplants that are firm and heavy for their size. To test the ripeness of an aubergine, gently press the skin with the pad of your thumb. If it springs back, the aubergine is ripe, if an indentation remains, it is not.

Aubergines are actually quite perishable, being sensitive to both heat and cold. Store them whole in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator, where they will keep for a few days. If you cut an aubergine before you store it, it will decay quickly. Once cooked, aubergines can be stored in the fridge for up to three days.

It was recommended that to tenderise aubergines and to reduce the bitter taste you should salt it before cooking. However, modern varieties of aubergine are much less bitter and so salting is no longer necessary, unless you’re planning to pan-fry, because aubergines soak up a lot of oil, and the salting process helps to reduce this.

Safety
Aubergines are a member of the nightshade family (Solanaceae), which includes bell peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. Research suggests a link between aggravated arthritic symptoms and the consumption of these types of foods. However, to date there have been no case-controlled studies to confirm these findings, although some individuals report that when avoiding or limiting these nightshade-family vegetables they experience some relief from their arthritic symptoms.

Aubergines contain significant amounts of oxalate. Individuals with a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones should avoid overconsuming them."
Above article with all research links can be seen here


Searching for recipe suggestions that use aubergines/eggplants
Rustic Ratatouille - see here
Moussaka-stuffed aubergines / eggplants - see here
Posh Roasted Vegetables - see here
Aubergine / Eggplant Parmigiana - see here
Lamb chops with smoky aubergine (egg-plant) salad - see here


We bring a variety of articles, studies etc. plus recent news/views and recipe ideas to this blog, we hope something for everyone to read and enjoy. Please note, not all may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Fillet Steak with Peppercorn Sauce : A Mary Berry Recipe : Valentines Day and Special Occasion Meal



With Valentines Day (14th February) getting near perhaps you may be looking for a special meal to celebrate. How about some fillet steak with peppercorn sauce?

You can make a fillet steak, that's already special, even more special with Mary Berry's classic peppercorn sauce. This make-ahead sauce is a lifesaver if you want to cook a special dinner without spending all night in the kitchen.

I share this lovely recipe suggestion from Mary Berry, who is one of the best-known and respected cookery writers and broadcasters in the UK.

This recipe is for four, so amend as necessary.
Ingredients
4 x 150g/5½oz centre cut fillet steaks
50g/1¾oz butter, at room temperature
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce
100ml/3½fl oz beef stock
½ garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp brandy
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
150ml/¼ pint double (heavy)cream
½ tsp crushed black peppercorns
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Method
1. Using your hands, flatten the steaks to a thickness of about 1½cm/¾in. Season them well with salt and pepper.
2. Heat a large frying pan or griddle pan over a high heat until very hot. Spread the butter directly onto the steak and fry for 2 minutes on each side. Cover loosely with foil, rest and keep warm.
3. For the sauce, add the stock to a saucepan, bring to the boil and cook until reduced by half. Add the garlic, brandy, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, cream and peppercorns. Stir and bring to the boil over a high heat. Season with salt and cook until it reaches the consistency of pouring cream. Stir in the parsley.
4. Divide the steaks between plates, pour over the sauce and serve with vegetables of your choice.
How about some broccoli and Roasted Celeriac with Brussels Sprouts, see here 

Recipe Tips
The sauce can be made up to a day ahead, covered and kept in the fridge. You can just cook two fillet steaks and halve the sauce recipe for a special dinner for two.

The steaks can be cooked in advance and reheated just before serving. Once cool, cover and keep in the fridge for up to 12 hours. Reheat on a baking tray with a knob of butter on top in an oven at 220C/200C Fan/Gas 7 for 6 minutes.
From original recipe 
here

Looking for a nice vegetarian or vegan meal
Vegetarian - Mushroom Bourguignon with Celeriac Mash, see here
Vegan - Moussaka, see here

don't forget the flowers

Dear reader, you will find a variety of articles, and recipe ideas, are within this blog, not all may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

"More wine and cheese, less cognitive decline"

"Diet modifications -- including more wine and cheese -- may help reduce cognitive decline, study suggests.

Date: December 10, 2020
Source: Iowa State University

Summary: The foods we eat may have a direct impact on our cognitive acuity in our later years, according to new research. The findings show cheese protected against age-related cognitive problems and red wine was related to improvements in cognitive function.

The foods we eat may have a direct impact on our cognitive acuity in our later years. This is the key finding of an Iowa State University research study spotlighted in an article published in the November 2020 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

The study was spearheaded by principal investigator, Auriel Willette, an assistant professor in Food Science and Human Nutrition, and Brandon Klinedinst, a Neuroscience PhD candidate working in the Food Science and Human Nutrition department at Iowa State. The study is a first-of-its-kind large scale analysis that connects specific foods to later-in-life cognitive acuity.

Willette, Klinedinst and their team analysed data collected from 1,787 aging adults (from 46 to 77 years of age, at the completion of the study) in the United Kingdom through the UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database and research resource containing in-depth genetic and health information from half-a-million UK participants. The database is globally accessible to approved researchers undertaking vital research into the world's most common and life-threatening diseases.

Participants completed a Fluid Intelligence Test (FIT) as part of touchscreen questionnaire at baseline (compiled between 2006 and 2010) and then in two follow-up assessments (conducted from 2012 through 2013 and again between 2015 and 2016). The FIT analysis provides an in-time snapshot of an individual's ability to "think on the fly."

Participants also answered questions about their food and alcohol consumption at baseline and through two follow-up assessments. The Food Frequency Questionnaire asked participants about their intake of fresh fruit, dried fruit, raw vegetables and salad, cooked vegetables, oily fish, lean fish, processed meat, poultry, beef, lamb, pork, cheese, bread, cereal, tea and coffee, beer and cider, red wine, white wine and champagne and liquor.

Here are four of the most significant findings from the study:
1. Cheese, by far, was shown to be the most protective food against age-related cognitive problems, even late into life;
2. The daily consumption of alcohol, particularly red wine, was related to improvements in cognitive function;
3. Weekly consumption of lamb, but not other red meats, was shown to improve long-term cognitive prowess; and
4. Excessive consumption of salt is bad, but only individuals already at risk for Alzheimer's Disease may need to watch their intake to avoid cognitive problems over time.

"I was pleasantly surprised that our results suggest that responsibly eating cheese and drinking red wine daily are not just good for helping us cope with our current COVID-19 pandemic, but perhaps also dealing with an increasingly complex world that never seems to slow down," Willette said. "While we took into account whether this was just due to what well-off people eat and drink, randomized clinical trials are needed to determine if making easy changes in our diet could help our brains in significant ways."

Klinedinst added, "Depending on the genetic factors you carry, some individuals seem to be more protected from the effects of Alzheimer's, while others seem to be at greater risk. That said, I believe the right food choices can prevent the disease and cognitive decline altogether. Perhaps the silver bullet we're looking for is upgrading how we eat. Knowing what that entails contributes to a better understanding of Alzheimer's and putting this disease in a reverse trajectory."

Willette and Klinedinst acknowledge the valuable contributions of the other members of the research team."

The above, more information and details of the research team can be seen here
h/t to Marks Daily Apple here


Dear reader, this blog is presented in a magazine style, and you will find a variety of articles, studies, thoughts, photographs, music and recipes within it.

Please note, not all recipe suggestions may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Greengrocers Veggie Hotpot : Vegetarian


This hearty vegetarian take on the traditional hotpot has a pretty topping that contains plenty of hidden treasures. The recipe suggestion is from Nigel Slater who is one of Britain's best-loved cookery writers. Despite having written for food magazines since 1988, and also in his own cookery books, it took a long time before he could be persuaded to transfer his skills to TV.

In this recipe each serving contains
10g protein, 32g carbohydrate, 27g fat, 14g fibre, 0.3g salt.

Ingredients
Serves 4/5
8 tbsp olive oil
4 onions, sliced
1 aubergine (eggplant), sliced in half lengthways and then into 1cm/½in-thick semi-circles
1 courgette (zucchini), sliced into 1cm/½in-thick rounds
800g/1lb 12½oz tomatoes (on the vine), cut in half
1 x 400g tin flageolet beans, drained
1 x 400g tin haricot beans, drained
50g/1¾oz butter
1 large carrot, cut into ribbons using a vegetable peeler or mandolin
2 cooked beetroots, sliced into 1cm/½in-thick rounds
6 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 160C/140 fan/Gas 3.
2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a medium, shallow, lidded casserole over a medium heat. Add the onions and fry for 4-5 minutes, or until they begin to turn golden-brown.
3. Add 500ml/18fl oz water and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat until the water is simmering and simmer gently for 20 minutes, or until the water has all but evaporated.
4. Heat another 4 tablespoons of the oil in a separate frying pan over a medium heat. Add the aubergine (eggplant) pieces, in batches if necessary, and fry until lightly coloured on both sides - about 5-6 minutes (add more oil to the pan as necessary). Repeat the process with the courgette (zucchini) rounds. Set aside.
5. Add the tomato halves to the stewed onions, then season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper, cover the casserole with the lid and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until cooked through.
6. Add the flageolet and haricot beans to the onions and tomatoes, then stir in the courgettes (zucchini) and aubergines (eggplants).
7. Melt the butter and the remaining tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Stir in the carrot ribbons until completely coated in the fat, then arrange them in a tangle on top of the casserole.
8. Add the beetroot slices to the frying pan and cook for 4-5 minutes until softened. Arrange the beetroot slices among the tangled carrots. Sprinkle over the thyme leaves.
9. Bake the hotpot in the oven for 45-60 minutes, or until the vegetables on top have turned crisp and golden-brown and the casserole has thickened. Serve.

Flageolet beans are small, creamy, pale green beans with tender skin and a fine, delicate flavour, these are much prized in France. They are actually small, young haricot beans that have been harvested and dried before they are fully ripe.

Haricot beans are small, oval, plump and creamy-white with a mild flavour and smooth, buttery texture. In the US, they are known as navy beans and are the classic ingredient in Boston baked beans. Haricot beans are widely used in the cooking of countries such as France, Spain, Portugal and South America. With little flavour of their own, they absorb other aromas and flavours easily, which makes them popular beans to use in bean salads, vegetable soups, and slow-cooked dishes such as cassoulet or bean purées.

See original recipe here


Did you know that aubergines/eggplants are full of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre! An excellent source of dietary fibre they are also a good source of Vitamins B1 and B6 and potassium. In addition it is high in the minerals copper, magnesium and manganese. Aubergines are high in fibre and low in fat and therefore recommended for those managing type 2 diabetes or managing weight concerns. Read about the health benefits of aubergines/eggplants here

Dear reader, you will find a variety of recipe ideas and articles within this blog, but please note, not all may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan