Seasonal superfoods

If you’re reading this in the UK, you might have spotted a new title on the shelves of your local supermarket or newsagent lately – Superfood, a magazine dedicated to eating well using ingredients that are naturally nutritious.

We hear a lot about superfoods, and sometimes information on the topic can be confusing or contradictory. Even the term itself is much debated and hard to define, so I really hope that this magazine helps clear things up!

The first issue is a Christmas special, so I thought I’d share five wintery fruits and veggies that I’ll definitely be incorporating into my seasonal celebrations.

  1. Cranberries. A rich source of vitamin C and greatly valued for their anti-inflammatory properties, cranberries were even used by Native Americans to treat arrow wounds!
  2. Sprouts. I LOVE sprouts, and have done since I was a baby. Maybe it’s because they’re low in carbohydrates and a 20g serving contains more vitamin C than an orange?
  3. Sweet potatoes. One of the most versatile superfoods around, sweet potatoes are also one of the best sources of vitamin A. Plus, they’re linked to cancer prevention and the maintenance of good eyesight.
  4. Beetroot. Research suggests beetroot can help lower blood pressure, boost performance when exercising and prevent dementia. Even better, it’s a hangover cure! The beta cyanin that gives beetroot its colour is an antioxidant which helps your liver flush alcohol out of your body.
  5. Onions. Do not underestimate the humble onion! It provides many vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, beta carotene and folate, but almost no fat – no wonder we use it in everything!

Thanks to Superfood magazine for the facts. If you’re keen to incorporate more of these natural goodies into your Christmas feast, check out the first issue which has plenty of recipes to inspire you – from a traditional cranberry sauce to a colourful winter slaw. 

  

Butternut squash tagine

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any recipes (I’m finding it true that Londoners don’t cook all that much – there’s no time!), but last week I made a butternut squash tagine that I thought delicious enough to be worthy of sharing. This was first made for me by my lovely friend Charlotte, who I think got it from a Jamie Oliver recipe book. I imagine Jamie’s original is fancier, but the way I like to make it is nice and simple.

1. De-seed a medium sized butternut squash, chop into chunks (I leave the skin on because of all the GOODNESS) and roast in the oven for about 30 mins.

2. While the squash is roasting, dice two onions and soften in some olive oil in a large saucepan over a low heat.

3. Add raisins and cinnamon to the onions. Really helpfully, I don’t measure amounts of either… I just bear in mind that this recipe makes four portions, and I keep tasting as I go along and adding more cinnamon if I think it needs it.

4. Next, add a tin of chopped tomatoes and a tin of chickpeas, including the water. Cover and leave to reduce on a medium/low heat.

5. When your squash is done, chuck that into the pot too, mix well and leave for a little longer so that it soaks up some of the cinnamon flavour.

6. Serve with couscous and a dollop of Greek yoghurt on the top. Delish!

(R)awesome recipes

IMG_0079.JPGI’ve long been intrigued by the raw food diet, so jumped at the chance to receive a review copy of The Raw Food Beginner’s Deck by French chef Emilie McBride.

The idea behind the raw food diet is that heating food kills the nutrients and enzymes naturally occurring in it, so when we eat cooked food we’re only getting a small fraction of the potential goodness. I know that I couldn’t do this type of diet full time (I live in WALES – the prospect of a winter without hearty, warming meals is terrifying to me), but I’m interested in the benefits that introducing more raw meals to my diet could bring.

Unlike a traditional cookery book, and as hinted at in the title, The Raw Food Beginner’s Deck is actually a deck of cards, each of which explains a different technique or recipe. I was put off the diet when I first heard about it because of the various kitchen paraphernalia needed for sprouting, dehydrating, juicing etc., but McBride very helpfully provides easy alternatives – for example explaining that you can usually do the same job as a dehydrator with your oven on a low temperature.

As well as tips on techniques, information on potential health benefits and the philosophy behind the diet, the deck contains 31 simple recipes to get you started on the path to raw.

I decided to begin with the tabouleh recipe, as it’s a twist on something I’m already familiar with. Traditionally tabouleh contains bulgar or couscous, which I love, so I was a bit sceptical about whether cauliflower would be an adequate replacement. However this version was so good that I don’t think I’ll ever revert back to grains! Here’s the original recipe (makes two servings):

IMG_0062.PNGAnd here are the tweaks I made:

* I used more than a cup of cauliflower – I used about half a head. I wasn’t sure whether the one cup meant before or after it had been blended, but this seemed about right.

* I used dried parsley so went with one tablespoon. Didn’t have any coriander either – oops!

* Two lemons seemed like an awful lot to me so I used half and that was enough. I’m having the second portion for lunch tomorrow so have put in an additional wedge in case it needs an extra squeeze!

Having really enjoyed this, I’m definitely going to give more of McBride’s raw recipes a go. If you’d like to do the same, The Raw Food Beginner’s Deck is available from Deckopedia.

Pomegranate power

IMG_0061.JPGOne of my funny food quirks is that I prefer my salads without dressing (which is helpful for cutting out unnecessary calories), but I was keen to try this pure pomegranate essence from Secret Gardens.

Although there’s not enough evidence to place pomegranate firmly in the superfood category, it’s proven to do wonders for heart health. As well as reducing the damage caused by cholesterol, pomegranate has been shown to improve blood flood and reduce the risk of heart attack. It’s a good source of vitamin E, calcium, iron and potassium and is packed full of those precious antioxidants. Plus, it’s delicious!

The Secret Gardens pomegranate dressing and marinade, which I was sent a review sample of, contains six fruits per 340g bottle – and nothing else. The pomegranates are simmered for hours following a traditional Turkish recipe known as Nar Eksisi, which translates as ‘pomegranate sour’. It is quite acidic so you only need a small amount, but it adds a powerful punch to any salad.

I’m devouring my warm salads at the moment, and this evening I had:

Iceberg lettuce
One salad tomato
Olives
One carrot, grated
Half a red pepper
Half a courgette
Butternut squash
Broccoli florets
Two Quorn sausages

It was delicious and super easy as everything that needs to be cooked can just be chopped up, chucked in a baking tray with some olive oil and bunged straight into the oven. Crispy baked broccoli is my absolute favourite at the moment – top tip!

Mix like a pro

IMG_0051.JPGI’ve wanted a PROMiXX mixing bottle ever since I first saw this neat little gadget popping up on the Instagram accounts of fitness professionals, so I was really excited to receive the 2.0 model to review ahead of its launch later this month.

The PROMiXX promises no more lumpy shakes or powdery supplement drinks and it’s true to its word – a motor in the detachable base of the mixer creates a miniature vortex in the bottle, which not only gives you perfectly smooth drinks but also looks incredibly cool. Every element of the design has been careful thought through, right down to the blunt blade – studies have shown that regular blenders damage the molecular structure of protein, so the PROMiXX designers chose a blunt blade to protect the micronutrients in your supplements.

The PROMiXX doesn’t just rely on this one unique feature to make sure it stands head and shoulders above its competitors – its design also takes into account the faults you often find with other mixers. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve ended up with protein shake all down my arms or the outside of the cup from not squeezing the lid tight enough, but you don’t get this with the PROMiXX. The sports flip cap and twist-to-seal lid mean no leaks, but also make it really easy to assemble/dissemble the mixer. It practically cleans itself too – just add hot water and washing up liquid and turn it on and the job’s done – which, for anyone who’s ever left it a little too long to clean their shaker, is a blessed relief…

The original PROMiXX is powered by 2 x AAA batteries but the 2.0 comes with a Lithium-Ion rechargeable motor and USB charging cable, so that you don’t need to keep buying batteries. The new model also features an integrated supplement storage container which slots in between the body and the lid, making it even easier to mix drinks on the go. These features are available separately as the PROMiXX Upgrade Pack until the 2.0 is released, and come in all three colours – black, white and hot pink.

IMG_0039.JPGIt’s possible to get by perfectly well with standard shakers, but the PROMiXX is such a well-designed and durable gadget that it’s definitely a good investment for anyone concerned about getting their supplements on the go. And on top of this the business is based in south Wales, so through buying one you’ll be supporting a local start-up doing some really exciting things.

If you’re in Cardiff you can get your PROMiXX from Cardiff Sports Nutrition, otherwise you can buy online from Amazon.

Sweet potato hash with fried eggs

IMG_0020.JPGWhen I was younger and ate meat, corned beef hash was one of my favourite meals. Here’s how to make a high protein and equally delicious veggie alternative:

1. Peel and dice one sweet potato, then boil for about 8 minutes or until tender.

2. While the potato is boiling, dice half a red onion and fry in coconut oil. Once the onion has softened, add in the chick peas.

3. Drain the sweet potato then add it to the frying pan, combine with the red onion and chick peas and season with salt, pepper and paprika.

4. Flatten down the mix and when the potato starts to go crispy, break it up again.

5. Create two dips in the mixture and crack an egg into each. Once the eggs have fried, it’s ready to serve!

The measurements for this aren’t precise – you’ll need one sweet potato for each person but the rest is up to individual taste.

Health hacks: H2O

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Although no one seems to be able to agree on exactly how much of the stuff we should neck a day, drinking lots of water is essential for good health whether you’re an athlete or you’re looking to lose a few pounds. Here are just a few of its benefits:

Weight loss

It’s proven that being fully hydrated helps with weight loss and scientists believe this may be due to the respective functions of the liver and the kidneys. When you’re dehydrated your kidneys don’t function as they should so the liver has to step in and help them out. This means the liver is less able to focus on its job of breaking down fats into energy which leads to you maintaining or even putting on weight.

Minimising water retention

Water retention functions in the opposite way to what you might think. It actually occurs when you’re dehydrated – your body thinks it’s in drought and starts saving reserves. Once you’re into the habit of drinking plenty of water every day your body will realise that it doesn’t need the extra it’s been stockpiling in your cells and will get rid of it.

Peak performance

Lean muscle is around 80% water. As soon as you start to workout you lose water through sweat, and a drop in the percentage of water in your muscles mean they don’t function as effectively as they should. It has been stated that a drop of 1% from optimal hydration can lead to a 5% drop in physical ability, which is why it’s essential you stay topped up – not just so that you feel well but also so that you can perform your best.

Having said all of this, drinking enough water is one if the things I really struggle with. Although I know how important it is I somehow seem to just forget all about it until I wind up with a headache mid afternoon. I imagine it’s because it is pretty hard to get excited about the old H2O, but I’ve found that these jazzed-up ice cubes help. I like mint flavoured ones, made by just adding two or three of the smallest leaves to each compartment, but you can make them with berries or lemon juice too.