Quick Flatbread – grain free, dairy free

Flatbread with bacon, mushrooms and sauerkraut

These flatbreads are great for breakfast, brunch or lunch. Ideal if you’re cutting out wheat, gluten and/or grains, this recipe uses coconut flour and arrowroot powder. They can also be made with a linseed ‘egg’ – this makes the flatbread hold together so well you can roll it as a wrap. Linseeds add extra texture and nutrition too.

These flatbreads work really well with smoked salmon & avocado or bacon & tomatoes, mushrooms, etc. You can take them with you too – add some hummus and salad for a quick packed lunch.

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 egg (or a linseed ‘egg’ – see below)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup arrowroot powder
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170C.
  2. If using a linseed egg, soak 1tbsp of linseeds in 2tbsp of water while you prepare the rest of the ingredients or until it becomes gloopy. Then blitz it in a NutriBullet, spice grinder or blender.
  3. If using a hen’s egg, beat the egg in a large bowl, add the sea salt, lemon juice, olive oil and water – mix well.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix into a ball.
  5. Roll out to about 1/2 cm thickness between two sheets of baking paper
  6. Bake on one of the sheets for about ten minutes or until the edges are golden and the bread is firm to the touch.

My thoughts on vegetarianism

Veg & fruitI couldn’t possibly be as biased as The Two Fat Ladies (a BBC cookery programme from the 1990s – see clips of their hilarious comments on vegetarians here) but I must admit to having a couple of concerns about vegetarian diets. I’m talking here about ‘western’ diets … not traditional vegetarian diets around the world.

I think the main issue is protein. It’s a really important macronutrient (fat and carbohydrate are the other two macronutrients) made up of combinations of 20 amino acids, of which 9 are “essential” which means we must eat them in our diet. We need amino acids to make new cells (something we’re doing every day, all day long). If there aren’t enough or the amino acids required, the new cells we make will be faulty … and this leads to disease. Cancer is a defect in cell reproduction … to learn more about how we make new cells from amino acids (protein), watch this brilliant video.

Closeup view of a bunch of upright ears of ripe wheat harvested for their seeds and used as a staple grain in foodstuff or as a winter feed for livestock
Whole grains are a source of protein but can cause digestive problems and intolerances.

The fact is protein from animal sources is “complete” (contains all the 20 amino acids we need). Vegetarians will argue that they can get these from combining whole grains, pulses, nuts and seeds … yes, they can. However, I have only ever met one vegetarian whose diet consists of vegetables and these foods. Most British vegetarians seem to live on “replacement” foods – highly processed, manufactured from goodness knows what stuff made to look and taste like meat or carbohydrates with dairy (jacket potato and cheese, pizza, pasta, etc). These foods are low in lots of nutrition, high in anti-nutrients and people can end up overweight, lacking energy and really ill.

There are usually two main reasons why people choose a completely vegetarian diet here in the UK. One big reason is animal welfare. I get this. I love animals. In fact, all my babies have had four legs and fur! I would never buy eggs from caged hens, having kept hens myself. And I buy the best animal products I can afford – as close to the source as possible, whenever possible. However, it is a fact of life that human animals are higher up the food chain than farm animals … in fact, we give farm animals life … we engineered their species in most cases … in order to sustain our own lives. That’s just the way it is – and always has been.

egg
Eggs contain 13g of “complete” protein

The other reason for being vegetarian is because of the mistaken belief that meat is bad for us and that fat is the enemy of health. This is a leftover piece of bad science from the 1960s and I sincerely hope it will be lost forever soon. Read more about why fat is NOT the enemy in my article.

I admire and often refer to Dr Adamo’s work on blood type diets. I know it works for me – I’m O+ and I definitely feel best on a diet of meat, fish, eggs and vegetables. Dr Adamo says those with blood group A are likely to be healthier on a diet lower in animal products and higher in whole grains, pulses, nuts and seeds. However, complete proteins are still required – we need all the amino acids every day.

Here’s some helpful information:

  • the recommended daily intake of protein is 0.75g per kilogram of body weight (you may need more if you exercise regularly or you’re looking to gain weight/muscle). So, if you weigh 75kg, you need 56.25g of protein per day. Two eggs provide 26g of complete protein (you’d need to eat 1kg of cooked brown rice to get the same quantity of protein and it would still be lacking in some amino acids)
  • amaranth, quinoa, soya, dried split peas and chickpeas are the best sources of vegan protein
  • eating eggs, cheese and a combination and wide variety of whole grains, pulses (lentils, beans, peas) and nuts and seeds every day is the best way vegetarians can ensure they get all the amino acids
  • read more on the Vegetarian Society‘s website

Pulses and grains contain naturally-occurring chemicals which can cause digestive problems and intolerances. If they give you excessive amounts of indigestion, bloating and wind, book in for a kinesiology session with me. We can look at food intolerances and ways to get your gut healthy again. If you live too far away from me, taking a course of probiotics with a prebiotic may help. I can recommend this product. Contact me and I’ll send you a discount code for ordering from this website.

 

Soup, glorious soup!

IMG_0502While salads are the mainstay of my diet in summer, in the deepest, darkest days of winter the last thing you want to eat is cold food. Your body has to get it up to body temperature to start with – before it can begin digestion. That takes up a lot of energy and effort.

So, we have soup just about every day for lunch at home and I promised a client I would share some recipe ideas. These are not soups for entertaining … these are for everyday lunches or light dinners. It’s more about getting in some good nutrients rather than impressing. So, the absolute best base to start with is bone broth – stock made from the carcass of a chicken or meat bones which have been simmered on very low heat for a long time. See my post on chicken soup here.

IMG_0734Other than that, here are my top tips for healthy, nutritious soups:

  1. If you don’t have time to make stock, then this vegetable bouillon powder is the best start: Marigold Organic Bouillon. (I like the Organic version best as it doesn’t contain as much added salt or any hydrolysed vegetable protein.) A heaped dessertspoon of this powder and a litre or two of cold water from the filter is the start of most of my soups.
  2. Chop vegetables small so they cook quickly. Use a wide variety of veg.
  3. Add onion, garlic, chili, ginger, fresh herbs, dried herbs, etc
  4. Try half a cup of red split lentils for extra protein and body
  5. No need to fry anything … just add raw veg to the stock.
  6. Cook only until the veg is just soft and then blitz with a hand blender.

Some recipe ideas:

  1. Carrot, parsnip, red split lentil, ginger, garlic, chili.
  2. Leek, potato, kale, garlic (blend most but leave some chunks)
  3. Meat stock, finely chopped carrots, beetroot, cauliflower, cabbage, onion, garlic, dried rosemary (don’t blend)
  4. Butternut squash, tin of coconut milk, ginger, turmeric root, red split lentils, garlic.
  5. Rice noodles, finely sliced carrots, peas, broccoli, onion, garlic, chili, ginger & raw king prawns, coconut creamIMG_0747

 

NEW YEAR, NEW YOU – Step 2: SKIN

girl-1723686_1920Our skin appears to be waterproof, tough and protective. It is … to an extent … but it’s also porous. Think of your skin as lots and lots of layers of finely-meshed gauze. It allows small molecules in and out of your body. In my aromatherapy training, I learned that essential oils are absorbed into the bloodstream, and found in major organs like the heart and kidneys, within seconds of application to the skin. I even experimented myself to prove the old adage that a clove of garlic in your shoe gives you garlic breath within minutes. It’s true! Try it!

On the basis that everything we put on our skin is absorbed directly into our bloodstream and carried to our organs, we could think more carefully about the products we use every day. If you wash with a supermarket shower gel, shampoo and conditioner and then apply body lotion, moisturiser, perfume, antiperspirant and make-up … first of all you’re probably blocking your skin from being an elimination route for toxins and, secondly, all (or most of) those chemicals are going straight into your bloodstream. There are a lot of conflicting reports about the effects of the chemicals in personal care products – from harmless to cancer-causing (read this balanced article for more information). I take the view that if my grandparents didn’t use it, then I probably should question it because we don’t actually know the long-term effects yet. However, sweating and body odour are not widely acceptable in the UK in 2017. Here are some of my ideas and product suggestions:

  • Pitrok crystal deodorant – still wet from the shower, I rub my armpits with this salt crystal and it creates a skin environment in which the bacteria that cause body odour cannot grow. You simply don’t get smelly. There’s also a spray version that might be easier for hairy armpits. Now, this is an effective but NOT ideal solution to body odour because it’s an alum salt crystal … so potentially you could be absorbing aluminium from it (although they say the molecules are too large to pass through the skin).
  • I use a blend of organic seed and nuts oils as a natural moisturiser for face and body. Ask me for a bottle next time you’re in.
  • For extra winter moisturising, add a tablespoon of fractionated coconut oil to a hot bath once a week. You could include a few drops of essential oil to make a really luxurious soak!
  • Try sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners such as this UK brand or this one.
  • Wash with a bar of soap … any simple, unfragranced brand will do. I buy these soaps unwrapped from Down To Earth in Dorchester.
  • Perfumes used to be made from essential oils – now they’re made from thousands of chemicals. Save wearing perfume for special occasions and put it on clothes, not skin.
  • If you wear make-up all day, every day you’re exposing yourself to lots of toxins all day long. Give yourself a break from it when you’re at home and try natural brands from health food shops. Dr Hauschka and Lavera are usually widely available. Read this article for more on make up.
  • Finally, toothpaste – our mouth and gums absorb even more quickly than the skin (sub-lingually is the fastest route into the bloodstream for medication). Fluoride is a nerve toxin so I prefer not to use it in my mouth! I used to like this natural toothpaste but I’m now using a refillable jar from Purple Nanny in Abbotsbury. (That’s one less plastic tube in landfill.)

So our skin is highly absorbent, but it’s also an important elimination pathway. We sweat out water-soluble toxins – especially lactic acid and urea. These are the waste products of glucose and protein use – so we’re producing them all day and all night. If we block this elimination route with antiperspirants and personal care products which form a barrier on our skin, then we are making other elimination routes (especially the kidneys) work harder, and could even potentially cause a backlog of toxins – which the liver then has to handle.

We need two things to help the skin be a good elimination route and therefore support our kidneys … which in turn supports our liver:

  1. See Step One – WATER! It’s what dissolves and carries the lactic acid, urea and other toxins through the skin.
  2. Healthy, supple, unblocked skin.

skin-1648752_1920Our skin cells need fats or oils (as well as water) to keep them supple and porous. We can apply as much moisturiser as we like to the outside layers but it will only help on the surface (fat cells are too big to fit through the layers of gauze). Drinking plenty of water and eating a diet rich in healthy fats and high in vitamin E makes for healthy skin. Read my fats article for more about healthy and unhealthy fats.

Your homework for Step Two:

  1. Add one of the following to your daily diet: half an avocado (or a whole one!); a small tin of sardines or similar oily fish, preferably in olive oil; an egg; a handful of raw, unsalted nuts and seeds, or consider supplements with fish oil or a spoonful of flaxseed oil.
  2. razor-414909_1920Go through your face and body products – do you really want those chemicals in your blood stream in seconds? Chuck out any products that are old – they can actually damage your skin cells. Question whether all the products are really necessary – and are they stopping your skin from being porous? Stop using an anti-perspirant now!

*Join my mailing list by emailing me and I’ll send you a discount voucher code to use when ordering the products and supplements I recommend in this article.

 

Chicken soup (my version of bone broth)

Chicken and veggie soupThe aroma from this bowl takes me straight back to Christmas as a child! The day after Boxing Day (ie, 27 December) we’d always have a version of this soup. The turkey carcass would have been simmering for hours in a pot on the stove and any leftover veg, stuffing and turkey bits would be added to the soup.

My version starts with organic chicken carcasses (from Riverford – currently great value at £2.45 per kg) slow-cooked in water for 24 hours. After a few hours, I remove the meat from the bones and the first extraction of stock. I put the bones back in and pour over more fresh water and simmer them again – usually overnight. I add lots of fresh veggies to the stock to make a really nourishing winter soup. I could also use the stock as a basis for risotto or for cooking vegetables such as leeks, cabbage, kale, etc – sort of steaming them in stock makes a really tasty side dish.

For variety, I grate in fresh turmeric and/or ginger root, add a handful of lentils or fresh herbs. Enjoy!

What is it with crisps?

checkoutI needed some extra income this summer so I’ve been working weekends on the checkout at a supermarket. It has really brought home to me the message that WE ARE WHAT WE EAT. Spend any amount of time looking at people and their shopping and you can clearly see the absolute correlation between health and diet.

One of the things that has shocked me most is the ubiquity of crisps. Just about every shopping basket contains a bag of crisps – of one size and type or another – from posh hand-cooked named potato varieties to strange puffs of something unrecognisable and flavoured like an exotic meal. There is a whole aisle of the supermarket dedicated to these savoury snacks.

CrispsAs a nation, us Brits must be eating our bodyweight in crisps each year. Why on earth do so many people buy sacks of 24 bags of crisps? (The quantity of non-recyclable packaging alone makes me feel queasy.) I wonder … is it because it’s only a small, light bag that we think they don’t count as food? Or that we can get away with eating them? Worse – why do we think every British adult’s and child’s lunchbox should contain a bag of crisps? Why does a supermarket ‘meal deal’ always include a bag of crisps? Do we think they are adding something to our nutrition? Or do we just believe they’re harmless to our health?

Crisps are BAD food. For a start, they wreak dental havoc because they are basically just starch – their digestion starts with the saliva in our mouths and they stick to our teeth better than sweets or chocolate. They are deep-fried at high temperatures in oil. (Don’t be duped into thinking the oils are healthy because they have pretty made-up names!) Any seed oil at high temperature becomes unstable (begins to create free radicals) and re-heating creates even more instability. Free radicals are most definitely a huge threat to our health. The ‘free’ (hanging on by a thread) molecule bits scavenge our body’s cells for a mate – at any price. They will even steal molecules from our very DNA to try to stabilise themselves. This is what causes diseases like cancer. Read the ‘Processes’ part of this Wikipedia article for more detail.

Unrecognisable ingredients!
Unrecognisable ingredients!

Furthermore, the ‘bad fats’ they contain cancel out the ‘good fats’ (omegas) in our diet – and the average UK diet is already very low in these essential fats. Finally, the flavourings they are coated with are high in artificial flavourings, sugar, artificial sweeteners (why??) and of course salt. Artificial chemicals are alien to our bodies and have to be neutralised and processed by our liver. A single serving pack of ready salted crisps contains at least 0.5g of salt. That isn’t a problem in itself but I bet crisp eaters are eating more than one of those little bags a day and I bet they’re also eating plenty of other foods high in salt – preserved meats (bacon, sausages, etc), ready meals, convenience foods (pasta sauces). So one of those little bags could well take them over the 5g recommended daily salt intake – for an adult.

Yes, crisps can be tasty but before you tuck in, please remember they are not food – in fact, they are anti-nutrition! If you’re in great health and your diet usually consists of lots of fresh vegetables and good sources of protein, then you can probably afford to ‘treat’ yourself once in a while. Otherwise, please leave them out of your daily diet!

If you want a salty snack, open a jar of olives or try one of these favourites of mine:

  • Tamari Seeds: put a handful each of (raw) sunflower and pumpkin seeds into a frying pan on medium heat. Stir all the time – do not allow them to brown! You will see the seeds begin to swell and puff up – at this point, remove the pan from the heat and drizzle on a teaspoon of tamari (wheat free soya sauce). Stir quickly and well. Leave to cool before serving.
  • Salt and Pepper Cashews: melt a teaspoon of coconut oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add two handfuls of raw cashew or cashew pieces (they’re cheaper!) – stir continuously – don’t let them burn. As soon as they begin to turn a golden colour, remove from the heat and sprinkle on sea salt and fine black pepper to taste (do NOT stir). Leave to cool before serving.
  • Linseed crackers – get my recipe here.

All of these recipes should be stored in an airtight jar for a few days only (if there’s any left over!).

Banana & walnut muffins (grain-free, dairy free, no added sugar – of course!)

Banana paleo muffins
Banana & walnut muffins

I’m always on the look out for snacks or sweet treats which are nutritional – something I can grab to eat which fills a gap or have with a cup of my favourite earl grey – and know there’s only good ingredients. I’m hooked on this recipe at the moment – big thanks to the Civilised Cavemen for this inspiration! I’ve even served one with garden raspberries and goats yoghurt on top as a dessert and everyone’s enjoyed them.

You will need:

  • 3 large or 4 small ripe bananas
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 140g almond butter (I make mine in a Nutribullet with 140g whole almonds + a dessert spoon of coconut oil)
  • 4 heaped dessert spoons of coconut oil (+ some for greasing the tray)
  • 2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder (I use Doves Farm)
  • a heaped teaspoon of cinnamon (buy true cinnamon, not cassia bark – it doesn’t have the same health properties. You can find true cinnamon here.)
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 75g coconut flour
  • handful of walnut pieces (optional – or use any nut you like)

I make my muffins in my very ancient (but still going strong) Magimax. Here’s how:

Herbs: how to keep summer flavours alive for longer

Fresh organic basil from Goldhill Organics
Fresh organic basil from Goldhill Organics

Nothing says summer more than a fragrant bunch of basil. Fabulous with tomato salad and added to omelettes. But I don’t eat pasta very often so making pesto with this bagful in my veg box from Goldhill Organics isn’t an option. I’ve come up with two ways to make my bunches of summer herbs last longer … Even into the winter months.

  1. Basil oil – I thoroughly blitzed all the stalks and some of the leaves, two cloves of fresh garlic, some sea salt and a good glug of olive oil in my Nutribullet. This will keep for weeks in the fridge. I use it to drizzle on salads and roasted vegetables. I brush it onto stuffed peppers before roasting them and drizzle it onto steamed fish or roast chicken.
  2. Basil butter – I chopped all the leaves, added a pat of butter, the zest of a lemon and one clove of fresh garlic before roughly blitzing in my Nutribullet. I put teaspoonfuls onto a plate and quickly froze them before bagging them for the winter. A taste of summer melted onto steamed fish, veggies, steak, jackets potatoes, etc.

Raw Slaw – you can live on it!

raw slaw 1This recipe is ideal if you want to (a) get more nutrition from your diet, (b) cut down or cut out carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, etc, and (c) lose weight. It can be made either savoury or sweet. When I first started seeing a kinesiologist and she shared this recipe with me it was to replace breakfast cereals and gluten free bread. I was really sceptical about eating raw veg for brekkie but even my husband loved it and said it was better than muesli because it’s not as dry or bland.

Raw vegetables contain lots of vitamins, minerals and natural sugars – as well as two extra beneficial ingredients: the tiny fibres which feed the ‘good’ bacteria in our guts; and lots of active enzymes which we need for great digestion.

raw slaw basicsI love this recipe so much I probably eat it three times a week – but most often for lunch now, especially on the go. It’s great to pack in a lunchbox with some sardines or mackerel – what a nutrition-packed meal! That won’t give you an afternoon slump!

Here’s how to get some raw slaw in your life. The basic ingredients are nearly always carrots, cabbage (any kind) and beetroot. I get a weekly veg box delivery from Riverford so my raw slaw ingredients vary quite a bit. I use my ancient but trusty Magimix processor to grate the root veg and thinly slice the cabbage – but it works fine with a hand grater and a knife. Here’s a list of all the veg/fruit I can remember adding to the basics in my raw slaw:

  • turnip
  • kohl rabi
  • fennel root
  • spring onion
  • peppers
  • red onion
  • apple
  • courgette
  • celery

raw slaw 3When I worked in an office I used to take this for lunch most days. To save time, I grated big batches of carrots and beetroot in advance and kept them sealed in a box in the fridge. Each morning, I then added the extra ingredients and topped and dressed my slaw. If you store it dressed, it gets a bit soggy.

Toppings: add raw nuts, seeds and a little dried fruit for extra nutrition. I always add sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Cranberry and almond was my favourite breakfast version. (Make sure your dried cranberries are not coated with vegetable oil and/or sweetened with sugar!) You could also add walnuts, brazils, pecans, cashews, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, dates, raisins …

Dressing: drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, add plenty of raw cider vinegar and choose from tamari (wheat-free soya sauce), lemon, lime or orange zest and/or juice. You could also add flaxseed or hemp oil for extra omegas.

Suggested combinations:

  • breakfast/brunch version = the basics + cranberries + almonds
  • savoury version = the basics + spring onion + seeds + the dressing + tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
  • the basics + grated apple + celery + sliced dates + walnuts – with goat’s cheese
  • the basics + sliced fennel + cashews – with fish
  • the basics + sliced peppers + olives – with feta cheese

Let your raw slaw imagination run wild!

“Go to work on an egg!”

eggThis famous slogan was first used in a 1950s and 60s UK advertising campaign for the Egg Marketing Board and I’d really like to re-launch it! At that time, Britain was beginning to swap its traditional, cooked, savoury breakfast for cereals with milk. Egg sales dwindled for a number of decades, however, they’re on the increase again – and for good reason.

Eggs are packed full of high quality protein (12%+) and relatively low in calories (66 each). They contain essential amino acids and are fairly easy to digest. Cooking with them can be incredibly versatile and I think of them as the perfect fast food. You can make scrambled eggs or an omelette in minutes – literally. You can even hard or soft-boil two eggs in the morning omeletteand take them with you on a trip or to work. Unbelievably, eggs contain ALL known vitamins except C. They are particularly high in B vitamins as well as containing A, D and some E. Their mineral content is impressive too – they contain iodine, iron, selenium and phosphorous. Yes, they are 9% fat – they’re high in omega 3, monounsaturated fats (as in olive oil) and polyunsatured fats. There is some saturated fat (approx. 28% of the 9%) and I can’t write a better article about why that’s NOT a problem than Chris Kresser here.

eggApart from the sugar-laden lures of cereals, egg sales also declined in the 1980s and 1990s because of old and bad research – the results of which are still perpetuating the myth that eggs are high in cholesterol. When I tell people that I have two eggs for breakfast most days, I usually get raised eyebrows and concerns for (a) my blood cholesterol score and, (b) my bowel movements! I’d love to know how the anti-egg campaign is still being waged when all limits on the number of eggs we should eat per week was lifted years ago. Read more here. The cynic in me says that Big Food is working so that we line their pockets again. Breakfast cereals are high profit products – really cheap ingredients, highly processed to make tasty, sugar-filled easy eating which is easy to bring to market. At best, cereals with milk will spike your blood sugar (which does cause high cholesterol – of the worst kind) and give you a crash an hour later so you have to snack on something sugary.

Break the sugar cycle! Swap your breakfast cereals for a spinach or courgette omelette, boiled eggs or scrambled eggs with smoked salmon or bacon … go on, go to work on an egg!