Thursday, 7 August 2014

Home made food hourglass oatcakes

Today I made oatcakes. I find I have been using oatcakes quite often but they often contain fats that are not too good for us and wheat flour which is quickly absorbed by the body. Today I mixed equal quantities of medium oatmeal and buckwheat flour with rape seed oil, and the result was very good. They are also very good for you! Here is the recipe.

Hourglass oatcakes

100g medium oatmeal
100g buckwheat flour
50g rape seed oil
Small amount of water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Sea salt crystals
Pinch bicarbonate of soda
1 egg

Mix the oatmeal and flour together and add the oil, salt and bicarbonate of soda. Mix in enough water to give a soft but not sticky dough.

Roll out using buckwheat flour on a board and cut into circles with a scone cutter.

Place on a lightly greased baking tray and brush with beaten egg. Thinly scatter with sea salt crystals. Cook in a pre heated oven to 180 degrees C, 160 degrees C fan, or gas mark 5 for about 12 minutes. Cool on a rack and eat with cheese, pate, sliced tomatoes or use in place of bread to accompany soup.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

My food hourglass Pickering traction engine rally

We set off early for Pickering traction engine show this morning, with Robs daughter and partner and their two little boys. The sun shone in a breezy sky and the clouds scudded. I was prepared as we would be out all day, and food in a show ground is not cheap, and virtually never food hourglass compatible. So I packed a salad of mozzarella, home grown tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, mint and carrot sticks and dressed it with rape seed oil and lemon. I also put in a pack of blueberries, walnuts, dark chocolate, and an orange for each of us, with lots of water.

We must have saved a fortune on drinks and snacks. Every other stall was selling doughnuts slathered with chocolate, candy floss, biscuits, fluorescent ropes of liquorice or hot dogs spilling onions in soft white baps. We avoided these and sat on a landing stage by a pond to eat our pack up. It tasted beautiful in the sunshine with the sound of the fairground and the smell of steam from the traction engines.

We saw glorious machines, shining like new, belching smoke and steam like fiery monsters, with whole families camping in gypsy wagons, living vans and an assortment of caravans and converted horse boxes.

It was a day to remember. In the late afternoon we lolled on straw bales in a big old tent and drank a pint of cloudy cider each as a treat.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Tomatoes in season with pumpernickel

Just eaten the most glorious lunch. I drizzled olive oil onto pumpernickel and let it to soak in a little bit, then I microwaved a big handful of tomatoes straight from our plants in the greenhouse. These tomatoes are tiny, yellowish and each mouthful is a burst of sweetness. Once the tomatoes were soft I mixed them with hard boiled eggs and mashed them together. Then I piled the result onto the bread and it tasted beautiful. Washed down with Pukka cardamom and ginger tea, this was a lunch to remember!

We have lots of Kale which needs to be used up. It is growing too fast to keep up with. Anyone got any kale recipes which can make this great yet difficult to make interesting vegetable appetising and different? Am struggling to do something inspired with it! 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Food hourglass mixed day

Oh I started out well. I had a dollop of oatmeal flavoured with cocoa, accompanied by blueberries and walnuts. Then at 10.30 I had a slice of pumpernickel with tomato. At lunch time I had two hard boiled eggs with more tomato and a peach. Then I was asked out for tea. I had salmon, carrots and Swiss chard (so far so good) a glass of red wine (great), then they served potatoes ( not so good but manageable). After this we had pear tart with ice cream (disaster but tasted heavenly), I also had another large glass of red wine (now not so good). 

I am home now, having enjoyed every minute of our evening, planning how to say no to the extra wine, the potatoes and pear tart the next time...maybe there are just some times you have to say yes.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Food hourglass and mushrooms

I've been re reading the Food Hourglass section on mushrooms. Mushrooms are apparently a really good anti cancer food. If you eat just a few mushrooms a day you dramatically reduce your risk of developing cancer. If you combine eating mushrooms with drinking green tea the cumulative effect reduces the risk further.

Just as a quick example, a woman can reduce her chances of developing breast cancer by 89% if she drinks green tea and eats a few mushrooms every day. If a tablet could be proved to do that we'd pay a fortune for it.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Fish and chips

I have just one thing to say today. Fish and chips out of paper, looking over Sandsend Bay. It was a moment of madness.

The view on the other hand was spectacular, the sea a deep green under threatening cloud and the sun cutting across like bars of gold.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Health benefits of juicing

I have been going mad with the juicer. Juice every day, usually a great mix of fruit and vegetable. My favourite veg juices are beetroot, carrot and spinach, but they are enhanced by the addition of apple or orange juice with a half lemon for sharpness.

The only problem with drinking fresh juice every day is that according to the bible that is The Food Hourglass, once I have liberated the juice from the fruit, the fibre is gone, and the sugar absorption rate shoots up.  Therefore it is not such a good thing? I am a bit confused about this. Perhaps I need to up the veg element and tone down the fruit. Perhaps also I need to make sure I eat something with fibre in it at the same time as drinking the veg juice.

It seems that some foods are better for us when they are consumed whole. So although the juicer is great, it's better still to eat the whole fruit. Vegetables which have a lower sugar content however are fine when they are separated from their fibre, so juicing them is good and they can be a great source of nutrition.

Still such a lot to learn!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Food advertising

Beware adverts that tell you certain cereals are healthy. I have just read about a particular brand of cereal which is aimed at people who want to lose weight. So you should eat this when you are trying to lose weight, yes?


In Britain this cereal is 17% sugar. (It has different amounts of sugar in different countries). That's a lot of sugar. It won't satisfy your hunger for long or make you slim, in fact it is very likely to make you hungry shortly after eating it. Because you will be more than peckish, you will eat anything you can get your hands on. That's probably a doughnut, crisps, or a 'healthy' piece of sugar laden flapjack. The sugar in the cereal will make you fat and the snack will make you fat. (That's fat, not thin).

I've got to drum it into my poor brain that the main motivation of the people behind adverts is not people's health but money. They will tell you whatever makes you buy their stuff. They can't tell a blatant lie, so they imply things, they omit information, they present an image you associate with the product without having to say the lie. Which, in the case of today's specially chosen cereal is:

'If you eat this sugary carbohydrate, you will get a great figure, a red dress and lots of beautiful friends.' 

It would be laughable if thousands of us didn't fall for it every day.

 (Do you know what it is yet?)

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Sugar addiction

Today I bought a book called 'The Sweet Poison Quit Plan' by David Gillespie. This seems to embrace the same ideas as The Food Hourglass. We eat far too much sugar and it makes us fat and unhealthy. 

 Mr Gillespie promises in his intro to show me ways of breaking my sugar addiction. I think that I am well on my way to breaking my addiction already and this will help me on my way. He talks not about giving up sugar, which makes it sound as though I will be depriving myself of something nice, but of breaking my addiction. This makes it sound as though I am moving towards something nice. 

One of the things I really like about the introduction is that Mr G recognises how difficult it is to get through sugar withdrawal when we live in a society where almost everyone else is addicted to sugar. It's isn't like giving up nicotine where there are a few obvious things to steer clear of. As I said yesterday- sugar is everywhere. We even eat it when we are sure we are avoiding it, because it hides in food like a stealth missile. 

There are recipes and other great aids to getting on the right track. There is chemistry, biology and a great dollop of psychology. And all from a lawyer! I've got to read this!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Sugar everywhere!

I was thinking about our society and how we view snacks. Often we will go for a coffee and there will be a number of different ways to introduce a small yet significant boost of sugar into our system, via a biscuit or a piece of cake.

 The thing is, what if you want a small interesting taste of something non sugary? Where is the alternative in most retail outlets? You could opt for crisps, but they are loaded with fat and salt, and also are so easily broken down by the body to release sugar, we may as well eat sugar from a spoon. 

What we need is a radical rethink. If I came to pay for my coffee and there was a bite sized rye with a slice of cheese, or a tomato stuffed with hummus and parsley in a cooler I would choose that. It would satisfy that desire for a little taste treat. We need to wean ourselves off the relentless sugar train.

I had a drink in a cafe with my parents today. They chose Lipton iced lemon tea. A refreshing choice in the sweltering heat. After they had drunk it, we looked at the label and found that each bottle contained 34 grams of sugar- well over an ounce of sugar in a short drink that didn't taste particularly sweet. It's outrageous. I can imagine a time in the future when packaging such blatantly unhealthy stuff will be seen by everyone as a moral if not an actual crime. People are often in too much of a rush to check labels but really aught to make the time. A cup of herbal tea is just as refreshing but has no sugar whatsoever!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Sugar free carrot cake

Here is my own recipe for carrot cake -the food hourglass way!

Sugar free carrot cake

125 grams buckwheat flour
2.5 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
70 grams crushed walnuts
80 grams dates (medjool are good)
3 ripe bananas
3 eggs
80 grams soya yoghurt
50grams rapeseed or olive oil
100 grams grated carrots

Mash the bananas.

Warm the dates in a pan on low heat with the oil for about two minutes then add to the banana mixture. Add eggs and soya yoghurt, then blend until the dates are roughly chopped. Add carrots and stir. In a separate bowl , mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and walnuts. Add the two mixtures together. Pour into a 2lb loaf tin which is lined with baking parchment.

Bake in an oven at 160  deg C fan, 180 deg C, 350 deg F for around 35-40 minutes.

This makes a moist, lovely cake and is very moreish!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Chai spiced hazelnut milk

We have had storms, lightening and weather which alternates between humid and chilly. On the chilly days my clothes seem to be too flimsy and I spend the whole day refusing to wrap up warmly. It's summer for goodness sake! When it's not quite cold enough to light the fire but you need something comforting, how about this chai spiced hazelnut milk? It gives you ten minutes of Christmas. You can almost see the fary lights twinkling. Better shared with a friend.

Hazelnut chai

2 cups hazelnut milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Dash of cloves (a good pinch)
Dash of ginger

Pour the hazelnut milk into a non stick milk pan. Sprinkle in the spices and heat gradually stirring all the time. When the milk begins to form small bubbles on the surface it is ready to pour into two large mugs. Don't let it boil. The hazelnut milk is naturally rather sweet and so it doesn't need any added sweetness. It tastes aromatic and gorgeous. You can drink it looking out at the lightening and feel safe and cosy inside.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Another great brownie recipe and a few thoughts on swimming

You may like to try this recipe which uses beetroot and sweet potato along with dates to give it that sweet kick. It's full of nutritious and easy to find ingredients. It's an ideal way to end a meal or to have as a standby snack for those peckish moments between meals. It is also supremely food hourglass friendly.

Sweet potato and beetroot brownies

I'd like to put in a word for swimming today. I have been going to my local pool a couple of times a week, and have deliberately not tried to complete more and more lengths, to go faster or to improve dramatically in any way. I have gone along for the sheer joy of moving through water. When I have stopped competing with myself or feeling that I should do better, I have been able to enjoy the sun shining, allow the gap in my mental chatter and just be. Despite this, I have noticed that I am getting stronger and faster. Which just goes to show that life sometimes looks after itself without me interfering. Perhaps I could take this lesson and apply it to other areas of life?

Friday, 18 July 2014

Illness and attitude

Just a quick post tonight. We are with family. They are cooking some amazing thai concoction and I have been reading an article on the history of our attitude to illness, specifically cancer.

When my grandfather died I was 11 years old. He was in his early sixties. He came to visit and I remember a thin pale man and a milk pudding only he was allowed to eat. Later, a phone call in the afternoon, my father's quiet voice, understanding, trying to help the person at the end of the phone tell the terrible news they had to tell. People were afraid of cancer, they spoke about it in hushed tones, or they didn't talk about it at all.

Someone very close to me was diagnosed with cancer a few years back. We talked about it. It wasn't a dark cloud to avoid, but something to understand, like an uninvited difficult guest at a party, something to get to the bottom of and work alongside. Treatment, wonderful drugs that didn't cause sickness, a gradual improvement and life went on, if a little more slowly.

Illness is no longer the taboo it was. So many diseases if not curable, are manageable, they have a human face.

When people have experienced an illness that has brought them or someone they love close to death, it changes everything. Then they sometimes find the strength to change lifestyle habits that were making them unhealthy. If your dad dies of lung cancer, it's a whole lot easier to give up your 20 a day habit.

I look at the precious people I have in my life thanks to medical progress and I feel I am honouring them by giving my body the best fuel I know how, and cooking food hourglass food for them whenever they let me. Because selfishly, there are many more happy days I want to share with them - many more happy memories waiting to be made.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Food hourglass cupboard staples

There are now certain foods that I try not to run short of, food hourglass staples that can see me through any crisis, when there is nothing else healthy in the fridge and the Indian meal for two beckons from the freezer. 

Buckwheat flour has become a surprising favourite. It produces a soft, springy texture in cakes and is absorbed more slowly that white or wholemeal wheat flour. It feels fine and silky in its raw state, a little like cornflour. I make sure I always have a bag of it handy.

Rye flour for bread and heavier than usual but delicious savouries.

Fresh bananas and dried dates are a good start for almost any sweetmeat. Cakes or brownies all benefit from the fruit sugars in either and most food hourglass desert recipes feature either or both.

Oils- avocado oil, rapeseed oil, olive oil, coconut oil.
Regular fresh supplies of salad ingredients- leaves, spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, red cabbage, celery, fennel, spring onion, carrots, beetroot, parsley and herbs. 
Soya yoghurt and tofu
Quorn, (mince and fillets).
Free range eggs
Fresh fruit and vegetables, dark fruit and green veg particularly -bought in two or three times a week, for main meals and juicing
Dark chocolate and cocoa
Fresh ginger
Lentils and beans
Chilli flakes, peppercorns
Soya, hazelnut, hemp and oat milk.
White tea and green tea
Lemons and limes for tea, juicing, salad dressing and generally zinging things up.
Walnuts, hazelnuts, other mixed nuts, peanut butter

Not an exhaustive list, but a good start!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Legumes. What are they and why should I eat more of them?

Earlier in the blog I talked about increasing consumption of legumes. These are foods such as beans, peas and lentils. So why are these food better for us than our more usual potato, bread or rice? Well, because they are not quickly absorbed by the gut, they keep blood sugar stable. They also reduce our capacity to produce excess protein. Producing proteins in excess leads to ageing. Mice on a diet low in methionine lived longer. Methionine is a starter amino acid for protein production. Legumes have only very small quantities of it. 

A study showed that people who substituted a portion of rice, bread or potato for beans, peas or lentils every day had a 35% less chance of getting metabolic syndrome. This is where blood pressure is high, the person becomes resistant to insulin and becomes overweight.

So the science points to eating more peas, beans and lentils. It is relatively easy to substitute a portion of legumes for rice, pasta, bread or potato every day. In fact, we can cook legumes in a way which gives them more flavour than the rather bland carbohydrates we are used to eating. A helping of green broad beans, for example, lightly steamed then quickly stir fried in avocado oil with a few chilli flakes, a dash of sea salt and a dusting of freshly ground pepper is a worthy competitor against pasta or rice for taste any day.

I have experimented with different ways of making legumes a little more interesting, and now, I don't see the gap where I used to think the potato, rice or pasta should go. It's a case of doing it and changing those patterns of a lifetime. I am definitely starting to get there.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Glycaemic Index and why it's important for your health

The core of the food hourglass message seems to be about how quickly sugars are absorbed by the body. With this in mind, Dr Verburgh has drawn up a simple list of foods that have a low glycaemic index (GI). The GI of a food tells us how quickly the sugars are absorbed into the body through the digestive system. The higher the number, the faster it is absorbed.

Right at the top of the list (or should that be the bottom?) are foods like lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, courgettes, onions, garlic, tomatoes and aubergines. The sugars in these foods take a long time to get into your blood after you have eaten them. If you eat them along with other foods that have a slightly higher GI the release if sugar into your system is moderated. Which mean less insulin peaks, which means the body isn't put under as much strain. 

Still very low in the rate of sugar absorption are, tofu, walnuts , apricots, soya beans, cherries, plums, grapefruit, dark chocolate and fructose (fruit sugar). These all have a GI of about 20 or less. Apples, oranges, peaches and pears have a slightly higher GI, but at between 30 and 35 they are still good. 

If we compare this to the GI of chips which is a massive 95, the foods above are all good. When we eat chips the sugar is absorbed faster than eating granulated sugar. I know it sounds mad, but sucrose, which is the sugar we stir into our tea, has a GI of 70. Mashed potato which you may think would be much better, isn't. It has a GI of 90. That's a faster absorbing food than white bread which has a GI of 70. When we eat chips we might as well inject pure sugar into our veins and wait for our poor pancreas to go into overdrive. Diabetes here we come.

In brief, the carbohydrates to keep away from or at least keep to a minimum are mashed and chipped potatoes, white and brown bread, white rice, biscuits, processed cereals such as cornflakes (a GI of 85, again, higher than sucrose) and crisps. To be eaten with caution are brown rice (60), white pasta (55), wholemeal pasta (50).

Rye flour has a lower GI than wheat flour, and so if you feel you really must eat bread , then rye bread is better, with a Gi of 40. That's getting close to the Gi of citrus fruits. When you have eaten it for a while, its close and nutty texture is far superior to the fluffy, white, tasteless confection that is white bread. Honestly, give it a week or two and you'll prefer it. 

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Oatmeal health benefits

The food hourglass diet advocates against fast absorbed sugars which includes most cereals. The carbohydrate in breakfast cereals and bread is quickly turned into sugar and absorbed through the intestine walls. This as we have read cause spikes in blood sugar and consequent lows which are not good for us and encourage us to eat the wrong things. 

Oatmeal however is a good cereal. This is because oatmeal contains a large amount of fibre which slows down sugar absorption. A study showed that when diabetes patients ate oatmeal porridge they needed to inject 40% less insulin. This is a dramatic result from such a small lifestyle change. 

Oatmeal also has a positive affect on the metabolism. It has been shown to slow down hardening of the arteries and lowers blood pressure. It is a great substitute for toast in the morning.

I have experimented with oatmeal porridge to make it more interesting and tasty. The plain oatmeal is actually rather sweet without any additions, particularly when the porridge is made with hazelnut milk which is naturally sweet too. 

A basic recipe for oatmeal porridge

42 grams oatmeal
430 millilitres soya, or other non dairy milk.
Pinch salt

Put the oatmeal, salt and milk into a pan and bring to simmering point, stirring all the time. Simmer gently for about 15 minutes, or until the porridge is thickened and the grains are soft. This makes 2 good sized portions. I often make twice the recipe and keep the porridge in the fridge.

You could try adding
Two teaspoons cocoa powder ( high cocoa solids) or a handful of defrosted frozen blueberries.( These are soft and will mix into the porridge giving  a sweet and fruity flavour). If you use fresh blueberries add them a couple of minutes before the end of cooking. Raspberries are also good.

Oatmeal porridge can be eaten any time of day for a treat or a desert with fruit and soya yoghurt. If it is eaten as a snack it won't lead to sugar cravings and will help fill the gap until meal time.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Food hourglass- how do I feel?

It's time for an update. I've been following the food hourglass way of eating since the end of May which is long enough to notice any changes. I haven't weighed myself in all the time I have been doing this food hourglass thing. This is partly because I don't want to weigh myself, find I don't weigh any less, or worse, that I weigh more than before food hourglass; and partly because this wasn't why I started to follow the diet. My motivation was about health and feeling good. Well today I weighed in at 12 st 2lb. So in fact I have lost a little weight. Which I think for me is good. I was eating the wrong things before and I had a sedentary life which added up to extra weight my health could do without.

How do I feel? Well, I have to take out of the equation that I am not feeling too great because of  pain which is under investigation. (It doesn't make me feel ill, but it affects my concentration and my stamina). That said, one of the most obvious differences is that when I breathe it feels like a lung full of mountain air, clear and easy. I have had a minor cold during the few weeks since food hourglass (FH) but it didn't affect my chest at all, none of the congestion I might have expected. It's like yoga breathing -but all the time. I think that is probably due to cutting right back on cows milk and yoghurt.

The second thing is that my energy levels are much steadier than they used to be. I don't get cravings for the wrong kind of food, and I can now recognise this as false hunger, rather than real. If I eat the wrong kind of stuff, which I have done on quite a few occasions, I am quickly reminded of that blood sugar roller coaster and it makes it all the easier to get back on the FH track.

The other big thing is that my taste buds seem to have undergone a complete overhaul. They taste things differently. It's as if they were numb on sugar overkill before - all those heightened flavours which really are chemical yuck. Now I can enjoy the complexity of food that hasn't been artificially stuffed with monosodium glutamate, salt, sugar and other stuff I don't need. The subtlety of flavour has really come out. Savoury things are far more appealing.

I've upped my exercise levels, which really hasn't been too onerous because I was always pretty active, I'd just let things slip. So I am enjoying swimming a couple of times a week, I'm doing a bit of steady circuit training and getting out for a walk.

It's a recipe for life and I intend to give it my best shot. So far, so good.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Sweet potato soup with ginger, coconut and chilli

Here  is a great food hourglass recipe I devised myself which is good on day one and seems even better day two when the flavours have mingled. You will need a blender.

Sweet potato soup with ginger, coconut and chilli

2 tablespoons coconut oil ( or use olive oil, but add 2 tablespoons coconut cream when prompted)
1 onion, peeled and chopped 
I tablespoon finely grated ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 large sweet potato peeled and chopped into smallish cubes
Three vegetable stock cubes dissolved in two pints of water
Half to 1 teaspoon chilli flakes (to taste)
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Fry onion in coconut oil  (or olive oil if using) on medium heat for about ten minutes until starting to brown. Add ginger, garlic and chilli and fry for a further two minutes. Add the chopped sweet potato and stock. Reduce heat to a simmer. Put on the lid and leave for 15 to 20 minutes until the sweet potato is soft when pricked with a fork. Check from time to time and if the mixture is simmering dry, add a little water. If you used olive oil now is the time to add the coconut cream. Stir in until melted.

Take off the heat and blend  until smooth. Season well with sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, add boiling water if the mixture seems a little too thick and serve with chunks of rye bread and cheese.

This is delicious and even nicer if you eat with friends. I took this to my friends Nicola and Pascal for lunch and we ate it with French cheese. They are editors and publishers. You can see their website at

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014


There are days when I find it easy to eat the way I should. Inexplicably there are others, thankfully few, when I find it much harder, when I make myself choose the right things to eat rather than delight in them. I guess other people have this problem too. It's easy to drift with any eating plan, exercise plan, any plan. The first few days and perhaps weeks are great because we are fired up, obsessed, bought into the whole thing. Then words like 'treat' and 'deserve' start to roll off the tongue and we are lost.

Eating out can be easy, but sometimes, like today it wasn't. There was only fast food about. Plan better I hear you shout. That's right. I should have realised I would need to eat before I reached home. As it is, I succumbed to saturated fat, white bread, nothing green or crisp, just flabby grunge. On the other hand, this morning I ate strawberries, blackberries and chocolate oatmeal porridge with a small handful of walnuts. Now I am home I have eaten chicken and salad and now I am drinking white tea. So perhaps not all disaster.

I think the secret to success is perhaps not so much a secret at all. 

It is as simple as get started, keep at it, fall down, get up, try again.

What helps us to keep trying when we are tempted to throw in the towel? Personally I think it has a lot to do with self worth. I want to eat the food hourglass way not because someone else will praise me, or think I look great, though these are pleasant side effects. I do it because I want to feel healthy. I want to be healthy. If my body is going to carry me through all the ups and downs of life it needs the right fuel. It really is a temple. If I don't believe that, after the initial commitment wears thin, the desire to give in will be almost irresistible. 

As some wise person said:

Ever failed. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. 

Monday, 7 July 2014

Food hourglass nut roast

Here is the the nut roast recipe I promised last week. It turned out great and is delicious as a main meal, hot, or as a cold pate.

Food hourglass nut roast

1 onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 leek
2 celery stalks
2 courgette 2 vegetable stick cubes dissolved in three tablespoons of hot water
1 tin black, brown, or black eyed beans
50g rye flour
120 grams ground hazelnuts
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons parsley
I tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

First heat oven to gas mark 5 180C or 160 for fan ovens
Then rub the inside of a 2lb loaf tin with olive oil, then shake 2 tablespoons of rye flour into the tin and tip it around until the  inside has a fine coating of flour. Discarding any excess.

Fry onion for five to ten mins until starting to brown, add garlic and fry for  two minutes, add leek, celery and courgette all chopped fairly small. Add the dissolved stock cubes to the pan, stir, then turn down heat, cover pan and allow to sweat for a further ten minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Add a dash of water if the mix looks like sticking.

Mash the beans and add to the onion mix with the flour, nuts, eggs, parsley and rosemary. Season well with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Mix thoroughly then turn into the 2lb loaf tin.
Place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for about an hour or until the nut roast is set and slightly browned on top.
 Serve hot with a large helping of spring greens or broccoli, carrots and onion gravy.
Eat the next day in rye bread sandwiches, or with a salad of rocket, baby tomatoes, cucumbers, a few sprigs of parsley and a few plump sultanas if you like them. Dress with rape seed oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon well seasoned with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. 

I tried this last week and it was glorious. If you can't get ground hazelnuts, experiment with other ground nuts. They work almost as well, I just love the sweet full bodied taste of the hazelnuts.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Are milk and yoghurt healthy?

Today I've been talking with Dr Verburgh about milk and yoghurt. Apparently we find it difficult to digest milk products. (Cheese is the exception). If we drink a lot of milk we run a higher risk of developing Parkinson's disease. Women also have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer if they drink milk daily. Milk is also linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer.

But doesn't milk contain healthful calcium?  Actually vegetables also contain large amounts of calcium. Kale contains about four times as much calcium as milk. Vegetable calcium can strengthen bones and therefore protect against osteoporosis. We have been brainwashed by advertising to assume that milk is the best source of calcium. The less desirable effects of milk on the system outweigh any benefit. 

Yoghurt upsets the gut and does not help the digestive system. So all those adverts which promote yoghurt as healthy, in fact almost as a medicine are hype and nothing more. Cheese however is fine because it is already partly pre digested.

Overall it seems better to replace milk and yoghurt products with nut milk, soya milk, oat or hemp milk, soya yoghurt and tofu. 

I realise that I need to research more recipes that feature soya products such as tofu. I have always regarded tofu as bland and uninteresting. Now I know how good it is for me, I need to find ways to jazz it up. 

Oh incidentally, bravo Djokovic but all praise to gracious Federer. What an amazing and humbling match to watch. They both deserve so much respect. Roll on next Wimbledon.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Shared meals and tennis

A lovely day today. Breezy, spots of rain, but not enough to spoil anything. My sister Lucy and I had lunch outside her house looking over the view of fields and woods. I'd made sweet potato soup with coconut and chilli and we ate it with rye sourdough laced with walnuts and pumpkin seeds. At least I did, Lucy wimped out and had bought wheat wholemeal. Then Rob, James, Lucy and I visited our parents house for tea. I had to put away the food hourglass plan because my mother had made the most glorious gooseberry pie with 100% white flour pastry. We had that with a blob of custard each and it was wonderful. The rest of the meal was pretty good, food hourglass speaking. We had lots of salad, lean meat, eggs, quorn fillet and giant beans in tomato sauce.

After the meal, (washed down with a nice red wine) we watched the tennis men's semi finals which had been recorded earlier in the day. Fabulous. Can't wait for the final Sunday.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Can alcohol be good for me?

I understand that alcohol, though enjoyable, is not that great for people. I always thought that generally, it would be best to avoid it.  However, it seems a shame to cut it out all together if I don't need to.

Today, Dr Verburgh has been warning me about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, but also suggesting that some alcohol in moderation is actually a good thing.

Taken to excess, alcohol damages the liver, causing cirrhosis, so far no surprise. Alcohol damages the intestinal walls and stomach wall. After a night of excess drinking our stomach would look swollen and sore if only we could see it. With prolonged excess consumption the gut cannot cope with the usual bacteria that is found in the intestines and so toxins leak out into the blood stream. The liver has a hard job dealing with this extra workload and produces inflammatory substances as it would for an infection. These inflammatory substances damage the liver. So the liver sets about damaging itself.

Excess alcohol can also damage the heart, pancreas and the brain.

Even if we don't drink to excess, occasional over indulgence is not good for us either. Alcohol is broken down by the body and produces acetaldehyde, which is the substance that gives us that hang over feeling. It also damages cells which age more quickly. Which means we age more quickly.

But if we stick to a glass of red wine a day we could be doing ourselves more good than harm. This moderate intake of alcohol is good for the blood vessels and protects the heart. The consumption needs to be spread out however.  Drinking seven glasses on friday night and none the rest of the week will not have the same effect. Actually, although studies have shown that red wine is slightly better for us than other alcohol, the protective effects are clear however the alcohol is taken. Wine, beer and spirits all have this protective effect when taken in moderation.

I've been drinking a glass of red wine most nights with my evening meal. The only danger is that once the bottle is open, it easy for one glass to turn into two, and as a woman, that doubling of intake can make all the difference between protecting my health and increasing my risk of ill effects including breast cancer. So the one glass a day comes with a health warning.

 I've also started to have the wine in a small glass so that it is full with a small measure. Some of the wine glasses produced today are so big they can easily fit two measures, and we can kid ourselves that we've only drunk one glass.

I have found that I can really savour a glass of wine knowing that I won't be pouring another. I also put the bottle away when the glass is poured so it's out of sight. I usually have another non alcoholic drink ready for after the wine is finished so that I don't get lazy and just have more wine. So far it's working fine.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Why artificial sweeteners are bad for you and respect for Kyrgios!

What can we safely drink? What will keep our blood sugar steady and not cause damage? How about artificial sweeteners? Dr Verburgh tells me that diet drinks are a no no.

Artificial sweeteners are not good for us, in fact they actually, wait for it, make us put on weight. How is that? Diet drinks contain virtually no calories so logically they should help us lose weight, not gain it. 

Well, aspartame for example causes metabolic changes. Sugar is removed from the blood and stored as fat. Studies have also shown that artificial sweeteners increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Dieters and healthy eaters are unlikely to wish that on themselves. 

In Japan where very few soft or diet drinks are consumed, people tend to have a longer and healthier life than in America where consumption is rife. Of course, there are also other lifestyle reasons why this happens. However, consuming these heavily advertised over flavoured drinks plays a big part in some countries having a poor health and longevity record. 

I've been watching Wimbledon this week and have just finished watching the match between Nadal and Kyrgios. I had to google the Australian's name because I had never heard of him. He just kept on playing great tennis in the face of whatever was thrown at him. Kyrgios was heroically fearless and single minded. For a nineteen year old that shows incredible control over the secret internal voice that would have him believe he couldn't do it. Even his mother thought he didn't stand a chance against the genius of Rafa.

Keeping to the food hourglass principles is as simple as making great decisions every day. Whatever life throws at you, don't give up. Practice makes you into a winner. The prize is a longer, healthier, and hopefully happier life. Now isn't that better than some old piece of plate?! :)

Monday, 30 June 2014

Adapting recipes for that food hourglass look

Today I have adapted a lovely vegetarian moussaka recipe from the original Delia Smith. It's a great food hourglass recipe, because it contains lots of lentils, which are a good source of protein and there are no potatoes. 

Food hourglass moussaka

2 aubergines
10 fl oz stock
100g puy or green lentils
Olive oil
2 onions chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped finely or crushed
A large can of chopped tomatoes (400g tin)
7 fl oz red wine
2 tablespoon tomato purée
1 teas ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried
Salt and black pepper

15 fl oz soya or oat milk
40 g soya or buckwheat flour
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
14 oz ricotta cheese
2 small eggs
40-50 g Parmesan
Salt and ground black pepper

Take some of the liquid out of the aubergines by cutting them into 1 cm circles, sprinkling with salt and pressing them under a weight in a colander for 30 mins.

Cook the puy lentils in the stock for 30 minutes at a simmer,. If you are using green lentils they need only 15 minutes. When they cook, add three or four tablespoons of olive oil to a frying pan and fry the onions for about 10 minutes, until starting to brown. Add garlic for another minute then empty the content of pan onto a plate for later.

Take the aubergines and squeeze them dry. Add another 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan and fry for about ten minutes, letting them brown evenly by moving them around. Add the tomatoes, the onion and pepper mix. Then mix the wine, cinnamon and tomato purée 
together in a bowl before adding to the aubergine mixture. Add the lentils and parsley and let it all simmer together.

For the topping mix the soya milk into the the flour gradually, then pour into a pan with the olive oil, nutmeg and add salt and pepper. Heat gently and stir all the time until it comes to a simmer and forms a smooth sauce. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes befor adding the eggs and the ricotta. 

Transfer the vegetable and lentil mix to a casserole dish, pour the topping over it, sprinkle with Parmesan and cook in an oven pre heated to gas mark 4, 350F (180C) or160 for fan assisted ovens.

 Allow the moussaka to rest for the flavours to mingle for a few minutes before serving.

It came out tasting exotic and delicious. I made a large quantity so that I could eat some for tea, give some to Lucy and Mr J and save some for tomorrow, freezing the remainder. 

I have made meal plans for myself and for Rob and shopped in Whitby for all the ingredients for my week of lunches and evening meals. On the menu this week is the moussaka above, a great nut roast recipe which I found on Pinterest, which I'll share later in the week, and I made Rob a huge steak and Guinness cheesy pie to chomp, courtesy of Jamie Oliver. ( this has little in the way of food hourglass credentials, but Rob loves it).

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Out and about the food hourglass way

I have been in a place with no internet signal for a couple of days, which is why I have suddenly posted three times on one day. I wrote a post every day but couldn't find a place which would let me send it out to you. I have been among mountains and waterfalls and blue slate houses. I have floated in a clear tarn and looked out towards Langdale Pikes in the land of Wordsworth and Coleridge.

Following the food hourglass way of eating was easy when I visited Fellinis in Ambleside. Here they serve wonderful lentil moussaka with roasted vegetables. You can visit them here

Today however I succumbed to a piece of banana cake at

Betty Fold Tea Rooms and Gallery

When I asked if they had soya milk they told me they didn't do healthy stuff. In fact they served a wonderful mild Darjeeling and I noticed they also had loose white and green tea on the menu, so I would beg to differ on the health front. If you are ever near Tarn Howes, Ambleside, I strongly recommend them, though the cakes were definitely not sugar free, they were gloriously light. The sunny, leafy setting was so beautiful it was bliss to stop off and watch the birds in the garden and browse in the gallery for an hour.

The Food Hourglass plan is rooted in science

Dr Verburgh is filled with enthusiasm about the food hourglass way of eating. I have been wondering why someone so young has such an interest in the science of ageing. When I was his age I was happily eating whatever I liked without any visible ill effects. I tried not to eat too many high calorie foods, but as I remember I didn't often succeed. I didn't give ageing a second thought. In fact I thought old age happened to other people. I couldn't truly believe I would some day need to stop running because of back pain or sometimes need a lie down in the afternoon.

Dr Verburgh on the other hand seems to have been born curious about how to keep our bodies younger for longer. I now see that he is also so enthusiastic about his eating plan because of the quality of research behind it. He does not quote obscure, inconclusive pieces of work. They are major studies, with huge numbers of subjects. The evidence is clearly corroborated and published in respected mainstream scientific journals. He is standing on the shoulders of giants to give us his message.

Of course there may be later studies which seem to disprove some of what appears to be the case today. That's true of all scientific research. What the Food Hourglass does however, is present the most up to date, cutting edge thinking about how our eating affects our health and the rate at which we age. 

As I have been reading The Food Hourglass (I have now finished reading it). I am beginning to see food as medicine. Not in some flaky, untested, intuitive kind of way, but in a way that is firmly rooted in science.

The way I was eating was ageing me prematurely. I can stop that now and in a real sense, eat myself younger. 

So can you.

Rye bread is a good food hourglass choice

We've eaten the rye bread and no, I didn't eat all of it myself. I'm sure Rob had a small piece. Anyway, I now have a sensation in my gut like I imagine swallowing an economy pack of scouring pads might feel. Perhaps I've overdone it. The starter is replenished and bubbling nicely.

 My sister Lucy and Mr J sell beautiful rye sourdough bread from their shop, The Dispensary. They buy it from Botton bakery. Botton is an intentional community and a part of the Camphill Village Trust. Bottom bakery produces gorgeous breads and sells to the community around Whitby, Guisborough and the surrounding villages. 

Mr J tells me that the Botton bread is proved in baskets and that the mix is very loose, so the impression of the basket is often imprinted on the finished bread. My next attempt at rye sourdough will be in a loaf tin, to contain the softer textured dough. The starter will be ready Sunday, and I'm looking forward to having another go at getting the bread a little bit lighter. I've only managed to make this latest loaf edible by soaking it for a long time in chicken stew.

I have been doing a bit more exercise this week, though I don't want to overdo things when I am not 100%. I have been swimming and attended a stretching class, which both made me feel much better.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Getting organised- dining in or out the food hourglass way

When does this woman earn a living I hear you ask? Or perhaps you don't ask. By the way, if you feel like leaving any comments I would be glad to hear from you. So far there haven't been any. I don't know whether this is because nobody is out there reading this, or whether you have nothing to say. I am sure it is neither reason-perhaps you're just shy. I am interested in you. Really.

Well, the fact is that I am taking time off work to get myself healthy.  For a month or two now I have been suffering with unexplained pain. I am waiting for a scan and using this unusual and wonderful opportunity to do some of the things I never have time for.

Eating well needs good planning, and when I am short of time, I don't know about you, but the plan goes out of the window. I end up eating something fast and convenient or eating out. Both options can compromise good intentions. I'm hoping to lay down some good habits now while I am taking a break, which will withstand the normal pace of life at work.

An easy way to plan is to make an outline of the things I am going to eat over the next week. I do this each Friday. On Saturday I buy fresh fruit and vegetables and stock up midweek. Most of my meals rely on fresh produce, so a couple of shopping trips a week are essential. I often make three main meals with extra portions which will last me all week. For example, if I am making a chicken bean stew, I make a whole pan at the weekend, use it for two meals then freeze a third for a quick reheat option. 

Salads need to be made on the day of course, but I can pull a few leaves at a time from the greenhouse, and even pick just the right number of tomatoes so there is no waste. The salad will stay fresh enough in a container if I prepare it early in the day. 

Saturday or Sunday has become baking day, where I prepare my stock of sugar free banana bread, made with rye or buckwheat flour, or sugar  and gluten free chocolate brownies. Mostly when I give in and eat the wrong thing, it is when I am with other people who are having sweet cake or biscuits. If I have something naturally sweet I have prepared earlier I don't feel I am missing out. When I have shared my baking with friends they have been amazed by how tasty sugar free baking is.

 I don't worry too much about occasional slips when eating out. I have the philosophy that sustainability is better than being very strict for a short time then giving up altogether when it doesn't work. I have found that most mainstream cafes and restaurants do not cater too well for the food hourglass type of approach. I often end up eating salad with no bread, which can be a little unsatisfying, but then I tend to keep a mini snack box with me to top up, this may contain a few walnuts, raw vegetable sticks, fruit or oatcakes. Eating out in the evening can be easier, there is nothing nicer than a beautiful salmon fillet with lots of green veg in place of potato. I treat myself to a good red wine or a coffee with a shot of spirit in place of sweet desert and actually do not now miss the cloying sweetness of refined sugar. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Green tea benefits

What about green tea? This, like white tea has a very positive effect on our health. It is full of flavonoids and is good for us because it is mildly toxic. (See yesterday's post). The toxicity stimulates our own defences which protect our cells from damage.

Substances in green tea also help to inhibit the development of cancer cells. Studies have shown that people who drink a moderate amount of green tea every day are at less risk of developing cancer.

Green tea positively affects the metabolism, which helps us remain at a healthy weight, and reduces the chance of us developing diabetes. It does this by increasing our sensitivity to insulin, so that sugars are removed from the blood before they can do damage. 

Green tea affects our brains; it helps us to concentrate and to keep calm. It also reduces the risk of stroke and has a positive affect on the cardiovascular system. 

It is better however, not to drink green tea immediately before going to bed. It slightly increases the risk of bladder cancer if the toxins are brought into contact with body tissue for prolonged periods of time. If we drink it in excess, it can irritate the lining of the stomach. Dr Verburgh suggests one to three cups a day is optimum for health.

Today I used the rye starter to make bread. I jumped in at the deep end and went for 100% rye which I knew would have difficulty rising well because of the low gluten content. I was right. The loaf turned out to be, shall I say, compact. The flavour was quite good, and I think the addition of walnuts and herbs was a good decision. Apparently I should have let the dough prove in a basket so that the air could circulate, but I didn't have one and was expecting it to hold its shape on a baking tray. Also I had no idea that the dough would be fairly loose and unlike normal bread, so I added extra flour. I  ended up with a mix that was too solid. Next time I'll use a loaf tin.

I shared some of the loaf with my parents who popped in for a cuppa. I think I'll be eating the rest of it by myself. 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

White tea benefits

So why drink white tea and what is it anyway?

White tea is made from the young leaves and buds of the tea plant. These have many fine white hairs on them and so appear white. They are harvested and then allowed to wither before drying. They have particular health benefits above the more popular black tea.

Dr Verburgh explains that white tea inhibits proteases. These are the proteins that break down the collagen and elastin in our skin. If we drink white tea, we help to keep our skin elastic, which mean less wrinkles. We also get the benefit of less wrinkles on the inside too, which means we slow down the ageing process of the whole body!

There is an interesting website which explains about the benefits of white tea in more detail. You can see it here:

white tea guide

 The website above talks about the antioxidant benefits of white tea, and how antioxidants protect the body from damage by free radicals. Dr Verburgh however, casts some doubt on the effectiveness of antioxidants in this way. He explains that we need free radicals because they act as an alarm system for the body, which will then produce its own proteins to protect itself. It is not so much the antioxidants in white tea that are healthy, but the flavonoids. These have a mildly toxic effect on the body which in turn stimulates our system to protect itself. Whatever the science behind it, it seems that research agrees that white tea is a very healthy drink.

 The agreed benefits are that it helps:

  • Cancer prevention
  • Maintenance of healthy blood pressure
  • To decrease harmful cholesterol
  • To protect teeth and gums
  • To slow the ageing process of skin
That's an impressive number of benefits from one type of tea!

Just as a complete aside, how fantastic was that last episode of Fargo?  I wouldn't have changed a word of dialogue, it was as near perfect a drama as I can think of. A ten hour film rather than a TV series. I am already looking forward to watching the whole thing again at Christmas on the box set.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Kidney health

Dr Verburgh is keen to tell me about how important it is to look after my kidneys. He seems to know that I don't drink enough. One of the problems for me is that I rarely feel thirsty, His explanation however, helps me focus on the damage I do when I leave my kidneys short of fluid. Kidneys are complex. They are amazing filtering machines and in fact filter every drop of my blood 36 times a day. So I can see they work hard. 

Kidney capacity decreases dramatically with age - now, as a fifty one year old woman, they have 20% less capacity than when I was thirty. The fluid I drink lubricates my kidneys like oil. I only need to remember the deaths caused by kidney failure in frail elderly people who don't get enough to drink during a heat wave to realise how important it is to keep well hydrated. 

Dr Verburgh suggests drinking a glass of water on waking. This stimulates the kidneys and helps to prepare them for the work ahead. He suggests drinking mostly water, white and green tea, ginger tea, freshly prepared fruit and vegetable juice and nut milk. More on the benefits of white and green tea tomorrow.

Eating too much protein is harmful to kidneys, also some medicines, for example antibiotics and painkillers such as ibuprofen and naproxen. It's important  to monitor our use of these medicines, and make sure that if we need to take them that we also drink plenty of water to help the kidneys filter out the harmful substances safely.

I've fed the rye starter today. I forgot to do it yesterday. It is bubbling away nicely and getting rather big, I had a slight disaster when I knocked the jar over and some of the frothing liquid escaped, but the recipe I am following tells me this starter is forgiving of error, so I hope it will still work ok.

Today the sun shone, so spurred on following my walk yesterday I pulled on my trainers and went out for a brisk walk in the late afternoon which I estimate was probably around 5 or 6 miles. I broke into a jog for a couple of short stretches. My knees and ankles seemed to find this rather shocking. Best to keep things gradual I think.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Healthy food, a healthy walk and more food hourglass talk

Today I met my friend Katie for a Sunday walk along the cliffs at Ravenscar to Boggle Hole. We are both initiated into the principles of the food hourglass  and so agreed to bring contributions to a healthy lunch. This turned out to be a feast, as we had both provided enough food for a small family.

 The sea was pewter under heavy cloud and it threatened rain. We ate raw carrot, celery, peanut butter sandwiches made from buckwheat bread, oatcakes, Brie, strawberries, no sugar chocolate brownies and green tea from a flask. The village was filled with cyclists and walkers keen to feel the sea breeze and, like us, to look out across huge skies to the tumbling cottages of Robin Hood's Bay.

Our walk took almost three hours. We passed woodland, bridges, fields filled with buttercups and talked about food and friendship. Back in Ravenscar we treated ourselves to a tray of tea at the Raven Hall Hotel which stands majestically on the cliffs above the sea. Beautiful sweeping lawns, croquet, the scent of roses. 

I returned home to a tired Rob who had been preparing for a building job tomorrow. He had also been pottering in the greenhouse, tending his tomato, cucumber and lettuce plants. The tomatoes are the colour of the setting sun. They taste sweet and wonderful like tiny mouthfuls of summer. 

 Our dinner has been left over sweet potato curry for me and steak for Rob. He sometimes falls in with the food hourglass, but at other times, like tonight, goes mad with a splodge of mashed potato smothered with anchor butter.  Almost time to settle down to a nut milk cocoa and the last episode of the TV series Fargo- what could be a better close to a weekend?

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Food hourglass healthy meal plans

Here is my sample five day meal planner which follows the food hourglass principles:

Breakfast: Each morning. Oatmeal porridge made with nut, soya or hemp milk, flavoured with as high a percentage of cocoa solids cocoa powder as possible, (mine is 93%). A handful of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or dark grapes. Ginger tea, made by grating a tablespoon of raw ginger into a tea pot and infusing with boiling water for about five to eight minutes.This makes enough for  about two mugs.

 Mid morning snack: a handful of walnuts.

 1. Smoked mackerel with large green salad, with added parsley and mint, celery and cucumber.
 2. Lean roast chicken with sprouted beans and coleslaw made with red cabbage, carrot and onion grated and dressed with extra virgin olive oil and lemon.
3. Butternut squash soup.
4. Scrambled egg, with slices of beef tomato.
5. Large salad of prawns, flaked salmon, leaves, home grown golden tomatoes, strips of cucumber, celery, parsley, mint, grated carrot and slivers of almond. Side of home made hummus.

Snack: piece of fruit or mix of freshly juiced fruit and vegetables.

1. Chicken and bean stew.
2. Salmon roasted in foil with ginger, lemon and soy sauce served with large portion of broccoli, roast tomatoes and dressed white beans.
3. Sweet potato and chick pea fragrant curry with spinach.
4. Green tofu stir fry with boiled buckwheat.
5. Bread free nut roast with carrot, green beans, broccoli and swede.

Small slices of toasted rye bread (rye flour has a comparatively low GI) topped with hummus and tomato
Handful of mixed nuts
Fresh Fruit
Oatmeal porridge served as desert topped with black currants or blueberries. 
Soya yoghurt and strawberries.

Drinks throughout the day are water, water with lemon, green tea, white tea, fresh juice, herb tea such as peppermint or chamomile, cocoa at night time made with nut milk and no sugar. 

I think as far as food is concerned I am now eating very much according to the food hourglass principles. What I am doing very little of is......


Friday, 20 June 2014

The health benefits of walnuts

Since I first picked up the food hourglass book, I have been happily eating a handful of walnuts every day without really questioning what makes them so good for me. Walnuts have lots of fat in them. Though that should set alarm bells off, the fats in walnuts are omega 3 fatty acids. These type of fats are particularly good for brain function, they slow down the ageing process of the brain and may even   slow the advance of brain diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Walnuts have a great protective effect on the heart and cardiovascular system too. In fact, Dr Verburgh tells me over afternoon coffee (made with half water and half hazelnut milk and of course no sugar), that in a study, women who ate a handful of walnuts a day had a 45 % less chance of getting cardiovascular disease. This is due to the fatty acids and to an amino acid, called arginine, which actually dilates the blood vessels, improves the elasticity  of vascular walls and reduces vascular inflammation. Walnuts are also loaded with different forms of vitamin E. Of course it's not only walnuts that have a beneficial effect on the heart and  circulatory system, nuts in general reduce the risk of vascular congestion. But walnuts are particularly good.

Tonight we are off to see the film Pompeii at our local Whitby cinema. It's a great cinema with digital sound. Living in a very rural area, I appreciate when I can be entertained without  needing to travel 20 to 30 miles. I know the reviews are not too hot for this flick, but it's great having the cheap thrill of those ridiculous Hollywood effects and lame dialogue to look forward to. Can't wait.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Food hourglass juicing

The juicer is here! It's a Philips centrifugal model and really easy to put together and take apart. Cleaning is very quick and simple too. I've had a go at a really simple carrot, ginger and apple juice and I was pleasantly surprised at how much juice I get from a couple of carrots and apples. It comes out tasting beautiful and so fresh.

The rye starter is doing nicely. Bubbles have formed in the mix and I have fed it as instructed. I asked for advice about ergot and have been reassured that the fermentation process is safe.

We had sunshine yesterday and the shrub roses are blooming fantastically, the farmer has cut the hay in the field beyond my garden and the first baby blue tits have flown the nest next door in my sister's garden. People have been out on horses and a number of walkers have passed the door looking happy and dusty from their walk on the dry tracks among the heather.
Have just tried this green juice, I must admit I was a bit dubious because of the amount of green stuff, I thought it would come out tasting bitter, but not at all -the apples and lemon lifted the taste so that it was clean and sharp but lovely.

Four handfuls spinach
Half  cucumber
Two apples
Two handfuls kale
Half lemon
Three stalks celery

Juicing is such an easy way to get a huge shot of flavonoids, vitamins and minerals. Never mind the Red Bull, juicing gives you wings! 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Stacking logs

I have known for some time that some fats are better for us than others, but to be honest, I always believed that a diet low in every type of fat was better for health in the long run. I re read Dr Verburgh's explanation of why unsaturated fat is less of a threat to cardiovascular health. Apparently it's all to do with the way the atoms bond. Saturated and trans fats do not have kinks in their bonds and can nestle up to each other inside our artery walls. They are less likely to be dislodged and can therefore narrow the arteries in a way that can lead to heart attacks or a stroke. It's a bit like piling up logs in a woodpile. Saturated fats give a well constructed deposit inside the artery wall. The unsaturated fat bonds have kinks in them, so they are more difficult to stack up. It's like trying to make a neat wood pile with kinked logs. It's unstable and the logs will easily destabilise. Any accumulation soon disperses and our arteries are soon cleared. Good fats which do not tend to clog our arteries include olive oil, oily fish, walnuts and flax oil (linseed). Omega 3 oils decrease inflammation in the body, which I now know is a good thing.

Incidentally , I have had problems with my Achilles' tendons for around three years. Every morning I have got used to a ten minute slow shuffle until they flex enough for me to walk about unhampered. Running, which I used to enjoy, is now not possible as the Achilles hurt too much and even going on long walks can be a problem. Since I have been drinking ginger tea every morning the problem with my Achilles has improved dramatically. I now get out of bed without a twinge and I can go on long walks with little or no difficulty. If I touch my Achilles they are still sore, but the improvement has been so sudden I can't help thinking it must be down to the anti inflammatory powers of ginger!

I found a recipe for rye sourdough and have begun my rye starter which needs to be fed for a few days before I make the bread. I was and to be honest still am a little concerned about ergot. This is a fungus that grows on rye grains and causes hallucinations. I don't  think breeding yeast in a sourdough starter is any risk, having now read up about it. If anyone else has any info I would be glad to hear it.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Dispensary

The Dispensary is a fantastic little shop off Skinner St in Whitby North Yorkshire, which not only sells some amazing health foods, but also has a holistic approach to health. This means that they are as concerned about your spiritual and mental well being as your physical health. They have an impressive list of local practitioners to call upon, and can help you in virtually any area of your life, or at least point you in the right direction. It's the brainchild of my sister and Mr J, who run the shop, workshops and assist people to access the help they need to live a full and wonderful life.

I bought some hemp milk from them this morning and thought I would try it in my oatmeal porridge. my sister and Mr J are visiting my nephew in Edinburgh for a couple of days ( remember, the one who looks like Dr. Verburgh?) and my dad is looking after the shop. We had a cup of herb tea together and people popped in to buy stuff or just to have a chat.

 This afternoon I'm going to have a go at rye bread. Apparently rye  flour has a great low glycaemic index so is more slowly absorbed than both white and wholemeal wheat flour. It may be a little heavy- I'll let you know how I get on.

Yesterday I ordered a juicer! You can get so much nutrition straight from the juicer it's amazing. Can't wait for it to come and have already been looking up green and healthy juice recipes.

You can see what The Dispensary does at:

Monday, 16 June 2014

Healthy fats

Well, well, Dr. Verburgh has told me that I can eat fats more freely than I thought possible! In fact, even saturated fats, those that we find in butter for example, are not as bad for me as I thought. Trans fats are indeed villainous, and can ambush your heart through mass produced confectionary and fried foods. However, omega 3 fatty acids, such as those found in oily fish, can actually protect the heart and are good for protecting mental health too. They are an all round good food and should be more widely praised by the medical profession. They aren't because nobody can patent something freely available which does not require a special manufacturing process. Where there's no big money there's no big noise.

I've bought smoked mackerel, a lunch meal I used to have often as a child and had forgotten how much I enjoyed. This far into my food hourglass journey a typical eating day will be:

Breakfast: oatmeal porridge made with soya or oat milk with added 93% cocoa powder and a few blueberries.
Snack: a handful of walnuts
Lunch: smoked mackerel with a large green salad, dressed with extra virgin olive oil, lemon and mustard.
Dinner: Tofu stir fry with broccoli, pak choi and cashews, followed by some red grapes with soya yoghurt
Supper: an oatcake with a small piece of cheese and an apple
Drinks: ginger tea, white tea, green tea, water with lemon juice, plain water.

I feel curiously energetic, like I am plugged into a source of smooth electricity which doesn't peak or trough, and I am aware of being able to breath more deeply and cleanly. I didn't think my lungs were congested before I began this experiment, but they feel like they have expanded so that I occasionally feel I could trot up a hill.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Sugarless brownies and a Father's Day treat

I decided to have a go at these chocolate brownies. I can't believe they don't have refined sugar in them, they are absolutely gorgeous, moist, chocolatey and very moreish. 

Chocolate Brownies

200 grams  dark chocolate (70% or more)
½ teaspoon baking soda
200 grams pitted dates 
3 eggs
57 grams coconut oil, melted
 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Melt chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Blend dates, chocolate, baking soda, coconut oil, lightly beaten eggs and vanilla together.
Transfer mixture into a 20 x 20 centimetre baking tin, rubbed with olive oil.

Bake at 180°C/350°F for about 25 mins
Cool on a wire tray.

There is no flour of any kind in these and no refined sugars at all. A food hourglass bulls eye - something sweet for a treat -but also good for you.

As it was Father's Day today, we spent part of the day with Robs daughter, her partner and their two lovely boys Benjamin and Lewis, then we were at my sister's next door for lunch with my parents. My sister and her partner (Mr J), caught the train to Edinburgh after lunch to visit her son. I took her and Mr J to the station then we finished the Father's Day party at her house, without her! Later, Rob and I sat in the garden, watched the blackbirds and admired our weeding handiwork from yesterday. We have a David Austin standard shrub rose called Mary Rose and it has tens of new buds just waiting to burst into pinkness.

 Not a good food hourglass day today. We had vegetation lasagne, with lots of easily absorbed carbohydrate in the pasta, and that was accompanied by white garlic bread (!). It did taste lovely though. The insulin must have been pouring into my blood like Boxing Day shoppers into Fenwicks.

I contributed a desert of mixed red and dark fruit, which we ate with ginger Greek yoghurt. I'm sure I pulled back a few points for that...( I had a quick chat with Dr Verburgh before tea, but he remained unimpressed). A large celery and freshly pulled leaves salad with salmon and a glass of water with a squeeze of lemon may get him smiling again. The pasta made me feel quite sleepy. Or was it the large glass of red wine we drank when we sat in the garden? Happy summer weekends.