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.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Growth hormone and protein.

Today I had a cup of white tea with Dr Verburgh. He was talking about how a lot of sugar in our blood causes us to release a type of growth hormone which stimulates tissue growth. Sounds healthy? Well, no actually, because if we eat a lot of sugar, we produce too much growth hormone, and this accelerates ageing. As we know, cancer occur when particular cells grow and multiply quickly. Growth hormone encourages this multiplication so is clearly not something we want to produce in great quantities.

So can we eat lots of protein instead? Well, apparently not. Too much protein is unhealthy too. Many diseases associated with ageing happen because proteins deposit around our cells, causing them to die. Protein places pressure on the liver and kidneys. This, Dr Verburgh tells me, is why people with kidney failure are placed on very low protein diets. People who eat large amounts of meat have a higher risk of cancer and heart problems. Also, any undigested meat protein in the gut can make the body respond as if it were a threat to the immune system. This raises the risk of autoimmune system diseases such as asthma, eczema and inflammatory disease. Should we all become vegetarian? No. That isn't necessary unless it's something we want to do for other reasons. Meat does contain vitamins and minerals that are good for us. It's just that we need far less than we may think. A small piece of meat about the size of the circle made by your thumb and index finger each day. That's a seriously small amount of meat.

So if I am to eat less sugar and less protein what can I eat without encouraging my body to age like Ursula Andress in the film She? Don't tell me I can eat fats Dr Verburgh because I just won't believe you.

Anyway, I made a satay chicken tonight, my own recipe, with only a little chicken, peppers, and a sauce made from chopped tomatoes, peanut butter, soy sauce, chilli flakes and lots of garlic. I ate this with a dollop of boiled roast buckwheat and a large salad made from a freshly pulled lettuce, freshly cut mint, parsley and basil in a rapeseed oil and lemon dressing. It tasted divine.

PS. I got the results back from the blood test. Thankfully it came back fine and I don't have type  2 diabetes after all!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Back home

Hi all, I am back from my hols and had a great time. I managed to eat well much of the time because we were self catering and there was a fantastic supermarket just five minutes walk from our apartment, selling lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and lovely cheese.

 Though it's a little sad to leave such a beautiful island, it is also good to be home. From the state of the garden you would think we had been away for a month so some serous attention needed there. While we have been away the shrub roses have started to bloom. Summer is really here!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Rain and the Greek island of Kos

This morning I'm off on holiday to the beautiful Greek island of Kos. I weighed out oatmeal to take with me (sad) and am hoping for lots of glorious Greek salads and fresh fish. If I can find a place to blog from while away I will, but I think it is more likely that I will sign off for the week and catch up with you when I return next Thursday.

Pablo the cat will be looked after my sister who lives next door. She will practically move in so that she can look after everything, water the rose garden and feed Rob's pigeons. There are few sights more uplifting than seeing the pigeons burst out of the loft when they are let out in the morning. They circle round and round the valley with a singing beat of their wings which makes them sound mechanical.

The grass has been cut between spring showers, the first blooms of my David Austen Munstead Wood are unfurling under the heavy drops of rain. The woodpecker drills across in the wood at the bottom of the field and it seems a shame to go when everything is so green and lovely. But it's not very warm and we have seen so little sun in the past couple of weeks it will be good to dry out and get a top up of vitamin D.  Until next week! :)

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Changing the habits of a lifetime...

One of the greatest challenges going forward with this diet I think will be getting used to replacing the potatoes, rice, pasta and bread which I'm used to eating every day with a slower absorbing carbohydrate. The plate just doesn't seem complete without a splodge of mash or rice. But if I am to prevent blood sugar peaks and troughs and those ravening cupboard monster moments I'm going to have to find a way around this.  A simple way is to always have at least two types of vegetable on my plate and eat more beans. Yesterday I had smoked mackerel with a large salad of raw spinach, grated carrot, fennel, tomatoes, cucumber, celery and seeds, grapes, and dressing made with rape seed oil, lemon and mustard. For tea I had a chickpea and sweet potato spiced curry which I will definitely try again. I modified it slightly with the addition of a little coconut oil, which really brought out the flavour. I has this with toasted buckwheat-really great. There's enough for a couple of meals too. After that I had some strawberries with soya yogurt and white tea.  It was a day of delicious eating!

Try the chick pea recipe here.

Chick pea and sweet potato curry

Breaking news this morning -my GP surgery contacted me  today to say that a test from four weeks ago had revealed sugar in my urine. Nobody had picked this up at the time, but they now want me to go for a blood test. As I am sure you know, sugar in urine can be a sign of type 2 diabetes, which is one of the illnesses I am trying to avoid with this new way of eating. Ironic? If I have diabetes then the food hourglass way of eating will be the best thing to keep it under control. Blood test is booked for later this afternoon, so fingers crossed.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Danby Health Shop

There's a great little health food shop in a village not far from me, called, unremarkably, Danby Health Shop. It's run by two sisters and their mother. The shop looks out over a glorious view of fields and trees. It's not too far from where the TV series Heartbeat was filmed and the scenery is spectacular.  They look after people in the very best sense of the word.  I was in there the other day and an elderly man came in. The sisters were all ears for news about an outing he'd been on, asking him what he'd decided to wear. He left with a beaming smile. A lady with mobility problems stood at the door while the sisters became her obliging personal shoppers. I can't find a website for this shop, but another company has featured them when they had their first anniversary after opening. You can read about it

I bought buckwheat kibbles, soya yoghurt, dark chocolate and root ginger.  I started off the day today with a glass of water, then I had my oatmeal porridge flavoured with unsweetened cocoa (93% cocoa solids), a handful of walnuts, some raspberries and dark grapes and I drank ginger tea made with slices of fresh ginger infused for a few minutes. I'm going to try buckwheat instead of white rice because it gets turned into sugar by my body more slowly, which I now know is a good thing. Apparently consuming a lot of cows milk and yoghurt  is not so  great so I am giving soya a go. Dark chocolate is brilliant for making our insulin response stronger and helping the cardio vascular system stay healthy (see chapter 4 step 4), so I intend to include a 10gram piece in what is becoming an array of colourful food for breakfast. Ginger, incidentally tastes fantastic as a tea and is a powerful anti inflammatory. This doesn't just mean it will help with external inflammation, but works at the level of our cells. Inflammation in the body can lead to disease so is best kept in check. (See page 115). 

My drinks have changed from:
Diet coke, tea with milk, shop bought fruit juice and too many cafe lattes, to 
Water, ginger tea, white tea, green tea, and coffee with soya milk.

I feel a little bit better than I did yesterday and alot better than at the beginning of this blog -and I haven't even tackled the demon exercise yet! 

Sunday, 1 June 2014

A bit about sugar...

Yesterday we met up with Rob's family for a 60th birthday meal. The food hourglass way of eating went out of the window and we ate thai crackers, green curry and rice. Great. However, later that evening Dr Verburgh took me to one side and explained a thing or two.

When I eat stuff that's high in sugar, it gets absorbed into my bloodstream quickly. Insulin mops the sugar up, and gets it where it can be converted to energy to help my survive, or, more likely, to where it can be stored for later emergencies. If sugar is left to roam around free in the blood for long it does bad things. Ok so far, but what's so bad about bread, pasta, rice and that good old staple, potatoes? Well, here's an interesting thing. These foods contain starch which is really easily converted into sugar by the body. So when you eat these type of carbohydrates you are practically eating sugar. Your body responds to mashed potato in much the same way it would to a few spoons of white sugar.

Amazing! When these 'fast' sugars are mopped up by insulin they cause a dip in blood sugar levels pretty soon afterwards. That's the time you get so hungry you could eat anything, and often do, and because you are feeling desperate, you'll often eat more high sugar foods which sends the whole cycle off again.

So today I have eaten my oatmeal porridge, with a few blueberries, and a handful of walnuts. The sugar in oatmeal is released slowly so I didn't  get ravenous by 10 am. The blueberries have sugar in them but they are bound up with fibre and so again, the sugar is released slowly, the walnuts are apparently to prevent heart attacks. I haven't read up on this yet, but I'll take Dr Verburgh's word for it. Today I didn't get any of the highs and lows of energy I am used to. In fact I got glimmers of well being that I hadn't felt for years. Who would have thought that ditching sweet supermarket fruit juice and substituting it for water with a squeeze of lemon would taste so good?