Courgette gratin

Courgette and tomato bake

Gratin is a French term for a dish that is baked and has a browned crust on top. This dish is usually made with aubergines but I think it is also very nice with courgettes and if like us at this time of year you are looking for recipes which use the courgettes and tomatoes from the garden, this dish is perfect.

Courgettes are not very nutrient dense but do contain some immune-boosting vitamin C and blood pressure regulating potassium and of course fibre. Tomatoes contain good amounts of vitamin A for eye health and immunity and lycopene which has cancer-protective properties, as well as fibre. If you are using fresh tomatoes, the nutrient level can be increased by storing them at room temperature rather than in the fridge.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 large courgettes, sliced

Butter and olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and sliced thinly

350g/ ¾ lb tomatoes, skinned and chopped

1 tablespoon fresh parsley

1 teaspoon dried basil

sea salt and ground pepper

175g/6 oz cream cheese softened with 2 tablespoons of milk

4 tablespoons grated cheddar

4 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs *

1 tablespoon butter

 

*the breadcrumbs can be made by grinding up a stale piece of bread in the food processor after first cutting the crusts off.

Method:

Heat a little butter and a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan.

Add the courgette slices, enough to cover the bottom of the pan, and fry until browned on both sides.

Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper.

Fry the rest of the courgette this way, and set them aside on kitchen paper.

In the same pan, fry the onion until golden brown. Stir in the tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Cook gently for 5 to 10 minutes until the mixture begins to soften.

Remove from the heat and season to taste.

Take a baking dish and put one third of the courgette and tomato mixture in the bottom.

Spoon half of the cream cheese on top.

Repeat these layers finishing with the cream cheese on top.

Mix the cheese and breadcrumbs together and sprinkle over the top of the dish.

Cook at 180°C for 30 minutes.

This can be served with meat and a potato dish, or on its own with potatoes to make a meal.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Prawn and butternut squash red thai-style curry

prawn-curry-002

Apologies, it has been such a long time since my last blog. It has been a busy time with work, family birthdays, and Christmas preparations, but now it is time to get back on track and time for a new recipe.

This is one that I like to cook on Saturday night as it is quick and easy and comforting. It uses mostly ingredients you have in the store cupboard or freezer, but can be made extra special by the addition of some fresh coriander and fresh lime juice.

I am using brown rice to add extra fibre, because most of us don’t eat enough.

You can also use a mixture of butternut squash and sweet potato or other types of squash.

I have used the coconut cream you buy in a block as this involves less wastage (a little of this goes a long way), and less unwanted chemicals, though you can use the tinned coconut milk if you prefer (use a quarter of a tin). The fat in coconut cream and milk is mostly saturated and government advice is to not have more than 10% of your energy from this or about 20g per day. This recipe will give you roughly 15g saturated fat, so just below this.

Prawn and butternut squash red thai-style curry

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2/3rd of a mug of brown rice (dried)

boiling water

olive oil

½ onion, finely chopped

250g butternut squash, deseeded, peeled and cut into cubes

1 red pepper, washed, deseeded and cut into medium-sized chunks

a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

pinch of chilli flakes

2 teaspoons curry spices such as garam masala

cayenne pepper to taste

1 tablespoon of tomato puree

1/8 of a block of coconut cream

1 tsp of mango chutney or ½ teaspoon of sugar

200g frozen prawns

squeeze of lemon or lime juice

salt to taste

Method:

  1. Prepare the ingredients as above. Put the prawns in a bowl of cold water to defrost them a bit.
  2. Wash the rice in boiling water. Then add double the volume of water so for 2/3rd of a mug of rice add 1 1/3 mugs of boiling water. Put in a saucepan with a lid on a very low heat and leave for 20-25 mins. When cooked all the water should have disappeared, if it is too dry add more water.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion for a minute, then add the red pepper, ginger, garlic, curry powder, chilli flakes and cayenne and stir fry for a few minutes.
  4. Add 250ml boiling water and crumble in the coconut cream, mango chutney and tomato puree.
  5. Stir well and bring to the boil, then add the butternut squash and simmer covered for 15 minutes or until the butternut squash is tender.
  6. Drain the prawns and run them under the cold tap to remove the excess ice. Then add them to the pan and bring back to the boil. Add the lime or lemon juice and cook for a few minutes to ensure the prawns are heated through. Taste it and add salt to taste.
  7. Serve on warmed plates sprinkled with chopped coriander and with the rice.

The drinking guide – how to negotiate the party season whilst enjoying a few drinks

Red wine BrianHolm

Glass of red wine. Image courtesy of Brian Holm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Alcohol is not good for us from a scientific point of view.

The scientific spiel goes something like this:

Alcohol adversely affects every organ of the body and levels of most vitamins and minerals are reduced by its consumption. It irritates the lining of the gut. It prevents the release of digestive enzymes and leads to the malabsorption of vitamins such as folate and thiamine. It can cause diarrhoea due to fluid overload, as alcohol passes rapidly to the colon, or overstimulate microorganisms in the colon.

So whilst all that is potentially going on each time you have a drink, depending to what extent by how much you have, why do we drink at all?

Well perhaps because there are some benefits to drinking. Teetotallers have a lower life expectancy (in population studies, so not proving cause and effect so this may be due to other factors apart from alcohol intake). Also alcoholic drinks don’t just contain alcohol; there are other parts with nutrients in as well. For example, the tannins in red wine protect against heart disease and resveratrol helps to remove chemicals responsible for blood clots. Beer is high in B-vitamins, which have many functions including B-12 which helps to prevent a type of anaemia. Also alcohol makes us more relaxed and sociable, to a point and many feel a glass of wine makes a meal a bit more special.

Alcohol can be a part of a common sense healthy diet, but at this time of year there is more opportunity to drink and this can sometimes get out of control.

So what can you do to ensure drinking has a positive effect both in your life and on your health?

  1. Always eat before you start drinking. Okay so you may be at an event where it wasn’t possible to eat first, you came straight from work or another event. What do you do? If nothing else is available go for a bag of crisps or peanuts from the bar. This will help to slow the absorption of the alcohol from the stomach and reduce the irritation to the gut. It can also mean you won’t be so ravenous later when you do come to eat.
  2. Really enjoy the first one or two drinks. Then ask yourself each drink after that do you really want it. Alternating drinks with glasses of water can also help. Often when drinking you do enjoy the first glass and then don’t really taste the others. This goes back to mindfulness of what you are eating. If you eat (and drink) for enjoyment, then you can stop when you are not enjoying it, instead of making it a mindless habit.
  3. The next day make sure you have good food. Replace vitamin and minerals with orange juice and eggs on toast for breakfast and plenty of water. Eat plenty of vegetables throughout the day and make sure you have a good protein portion with lunch and dinner.
  4. If you drank and ate more than you intended on a night out, don’t beat yourself up. Slips happen when trying to make changes and perhaps you really enjoyed the night out? Don’t let this one incident knock you off track so you no longer keep going with your health goals and give up. Go back to your healthier ways and keep going with your plan.
  5. Don’t weigh yourself the day after the blow out. Salty food and alcohol can affect your fluid balance so it won’t give you an accurate picture. Weigh yourself no more than once per week or use other measurements such as waist circumference, hips and arm circumference.

If you would like to know more about how a few drinks can be a part of a healthy diet contact me to book you free Common Sense Nutrition Strategy Session where you will find out 3 things you can do now to improve you energy, enjoyment of food and health.

5 Ways to Create Time For Your Health When You Feel You Don’t Have The Time

It is still November thankfully, but with Christmas just around the corner, it is easy to feel overwhelmed with the number of things you need to do at this time of year. So much so that health can seem to be a lesser priority. Food preparation needs to be quick and easy, and there may not be much time for relaxation and exercise. So what can you do to keep your healthy intentions on track?

  1. Make some goals for your health

Once you have decided you want to improve your health, energy, or lose weight the next stage is to make some goals. These may be short-term goals such as exercising twice per week, cooking a nice meal twice per week, or long-term goals such as dropping a dress size or being able to run up the stairs without feeling out of breath. Whatever your goals, it is important to give them a timescale (such as in one week, or in three months) and make them measurable (such as exercise for 45 minutes twice per week) so that you know when you have reached them.

2. Plan

Plan when you are going to do the work required to meet your goals, so each week, make some time to plan your exercise, plan your meals and your shopping list, plan your week so you have the time to cook your meals.

3. Record and reward yourself

Then mark on your calendar when you have met your goal (you may want to give yourself a gold star) and give yourself a monthly reward, such as a trip to the cinema. It is important to keep track of your progress, in any way you like, so that you can see you are making progress.

4. Make some time to eat

You may be rushing around for most of the day so breakfast and lunch could be a hurried affair, but in the evening, you may have a bit more time to slow down and relax and food can be a part of that. So twice a week, or more, depending on your schedule, plan an easy meal and take time to cook it and eat it (at a table). Make it a ritual: have a nice space to eat, use a table decoration or table cloth, have some relaxing music on and take your time to eat it. Really notice what you are eating.

5. If you don’t achieve your goal one week, go back to it the next week, instead of giving up.

Persist with your goals and allow for times when you give up, or don’t make the time to meet them. If you miss meeting your goals one week, start again on them the next week. If you really are struggling to meet your goal every week, review whether it is something you really want to do or the end goal is something you really want. If you are not motivated to do it, you will not find the time.

I hope these tips are useful to help you create some space, time and good health during the party season. Let me know which you have tried and what success you have had.

Relaxing sceneImage courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Mindful eating – what is it and can it help you to feel healthier?

Mindfulness is a way of thinking which is popular today in healthcare. Put simply it means paying attention to our thought, emotions or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis but without judging them. The intention is that we pay attention to what is going on in our minds.

That sounds like quite a lot of work doesn’t it? Listening to your thoughts, emotions and experiences every moment! Well another way to think of it is that if we are in a neutral state we have a connection already to these things. We notice them. But in todays world because we have so many things to do, so many places to go, so many things to read and listen to, and so many things to eat, we have lost touch to a large extent with how we feel inside. So mindfulness attempts to redress the balance and now it is being applied to eating, where as well as paying attention to what is going on in our mind, we also pay attention to what is going on in our body.

Instead of categorising foods into right and wrong and then feeling proud or guilty for eating those foods, depending on which types of food you eat, mindfulness acknowledges that there is no right or wrong way to eat but varying degrees of awareness around eating.

This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter what you eat, rather, there is no need to feel guilty about eating certain foods. Instead you take note of what you feel (without judgement) mentally, emotionally and physically when eating and view eating as a positive and nurturing opportunity and one where it is helpful to listen to your own inner wisdom. This can bring about a gradual shift of your relationship with food so that you eat food that you really enjoy and is nourishing to your body, rather than seeing it as just ‘fuel’.

Mindful eating also means the awareness of the link between the earth, living beings and cultural practices and the impact of a person’s food choices on those systems, so that you have an appreciation of the food and where it has come from.

So what does this mean in practice?

1. You listen to your thirst and hunger more

We all have a routine around eating. If it is a work day, we may eat breakfast soon after we get up, regardless of hunger, eat lunch at 1 o’clock, because that is our lunch break, and eat dinner once we have prepared it and got all our jobs for the day done. Mindful eating is not saying that that is a bad thing, remember it is a way of thinking that is non-judgemental, but encourages us to be aware of how we feel eating, whether it is hungry, not-so-hungry, full, thirsty, rushed, stressed or relaxed. This way of eating could help with eating to your appetite when you do sit down to eat, rather than clearing everything on the plate.

2. You allow yourself some time and space to be able to listen to what is going on inside and also around you?

In terms of space, that might be making sure you eat at a table instead of in front of the T.V., where you can feel more relaxed whilst eating rather than trying to watch tele and get food in your mouth. It may mean that you don’t eat at a crowded table with non-food related things all over it but you make sure the table looks nice and you have all the things you need, and maybe even a nice table decoration.Vegetable soup_table decoration 028

In terms of surroundings, make sure you don’t have loud music or the T.V. blaring out, but gentle music and if possible someone else to talk to whilst you eat. On your lunch break, you try to leave your desk and find somewhere else that you can go and eat. It means doing what you can to create a nice eating environment so you are able to relax and respond more to your body’s cue that you are full (or still hungry).

3. You listen to the effect of foods on your body?

We are all different and different foods affect each person differently, but to apply mindful eating, you may notice the effect that first coffee of the day has on you (good or bad), or that can of coke, or bag of m&ms in the evening. Being more aware of how you feel eating foods will help you to change habits that are really not making you feel very good.

Mindful eating is an approach to eating that could help you to enjoy your food more and make better food choices by freeing yourself of habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and eating.

I would be interested to know if you have applied any of these suggestions to your eating and what the results were?