Sunday, 25 January 2015

Winter Wellness - Part 1

Winter Wellness - What does that mean to you?

How well are you during the winter months? Are you constantly fighting off a cold or some other nasty bug? Or are you prone to cold after cold and fed up of a runny nose or constant sneezing? Have you been faced with taking to your bed with a chest infection or the flu? There are so many colds, bugs and viruses that seem to be flying around at the moment and I seem to be surrounded with people who are fighting off one illness or another. 

Maybe you're keeping the winter bugs at bay but you're feeling quite down in the dumps. Does the cold and lack of sunshine impact on your mood. Do you dread the dark mornings and dark nights and feel deprived of sunshine? Do you dream about far away shores, where you can almost feel the warmth of the sun on your back whilst you walk along the beach smelling the fresh sea air. 

Maybe like me you seem to have a handle on the attack of the bugs and viruses that are out there and can just about handle the short winter days knowing that spring is only round the corner but you are suffering too. I seem to be having various 'flare ups' of inflammation, bursitis, tennis elbow, sciatica, now that doesn't sound too healthy either does it? I'm not alone either I know of others that are suffering with some pain due to inflammation.

With all that in mind I decided to investigate further and see if your diet can help you fend off the bugs, make you feel brighter and put a stop to musculoskeletal pain. I was actually amazed at what my little amount of research found and I for one will be making some changes to my diet, staying vegan of course.

Today I'll be sharing with you two recipes; a smoothie for breakfast and a quick and easy soup to give your immune system a boost and fight off those nasty bugs and colds.

Over the coming weeks I'll be sharing other recipes with you, which are packed with ingredients and fantastic foods to help with your winter wellness, whether its aches and pains, your well-being or to boost your immune system and ward off those nasty bugs. 

But for part one of this Winter Wellness Series lets look into what foods can help with strengthening your immune system and fighting off the sniffles. 

Foods to help fight off colds include:
Foods rich in vitamins A and C and vitamins B6 and B12 paired up with zinc and iron are the foods that you need to boost your immune system along with less commonly known nutrients.

Garlic - Thanks to its antibacterial and antiviral properties (to name a few) garlic will help boost your immune function. In fact garlic should be a regular ingredient in your cooking.

Onions & Leeks - These vegetables belong to the allium family along with garlic and chives. They are rich in vitamin C and B6 as well as iron, making them a good choice to fight off a cold.

Ginger - We all know the warming feeling that ginger provides you especially on a cold day so it's bound to be good for you right? Its a good source of vitamin C and it has many other healing properties such as settling an upset stomach or helping with nausea. It will help soothe a sore throat and reduce your fever. Ginger tea anyone?

Spices - Black Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, Horseradish, Wasabi, Turmeric, Cloves, Anise Seed and Cinnamon are all ideal spices to help fight of colds.

Fennel - The bulb of fennel is an excellent source of vitamin C, while the fronds are a good source of vitamin B6, so be sure to use both parts.

Red Peppers - High in vitamin C and E, in fact it contains more vitamin C than an orange! Eating foods high in vitamin C regularly will boost your immune system.

Sweet Potato and Carrots - Exceptionally high in vitamin A and a good source of vitamins C and B6. Vitamin A is important in maintaining a healthy immune system and if we do catch a cold vitamin A will keep our first line of defence functioning well.

Mushrooms - Crimini and Shiitake are reported to be most beneficial to your health, but all mushrooms thankfully contain antioxidants which boost your immune system, they are also a good source of B vitamins and potassium.

Leafy Greens - The darker the better, so opt for Kale, which is high in vitamin A, C, K, iron and calcium. It is the powerhouse vegetable and I cook with it a lot. This vegetable also contains all 9 essential amino acids which are required to form the proteins within your body. Get some in your diet now!

Blueberries - Their colour alone should give you a tip to how good they must be for you, in fact come to think of it are they the only true blue food? The nutrients that give the blueberry its vivid colour are known for the natural ability to neutralise free radicals.

Goji Berries - If you're looking for protein in a fruit then the Goji Berry is the one as it has the highest concentration of protein in any fruit. They also contain 18 kinds of amino acids, of which 8 are considered as essential amino acids. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and have 15 times more iron than spinach.

Raspberries They are rich in B vitamins and are another excellent source of vitamin C, along with vitamin E and iron.

Oats - You probably already know that starting your day with oats will boost your morning energy levels but it will also boost your immune levels too. 

Citrus Fruits - Everyone knows that citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits contain vitamin C and whilst it might not be the food with the highest amount of vitamin C its still a good food to incorporate in your diet. Citrus fruit also has other health properties such as helping to heal cuts and repair body tissue.

Recipes

Breakfast - Winter Wellness Smoothie

Ingredients 

25g Goji Berries
100ml GreenTea
100g Raspberies, frozen
150ml Hemp milk
1 Satsuma, peeled
30g Oats

Method

Soak the Goji berries in the green tea over night.

Add the Goji berries and green tea to your blender and add the frozen raspberries and hemp milk.

Segment the satsuma removing the pith as you go and add to the blender and top with the oats.

Blend until all parts have been incorporated and you have a smooth bright red smoothie.

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Lunch - Winter Wellness Soup

Ingredients 

1 Red Pepper
3 Carrots
2 Onions, seperated
3 Garlic Cloves
Black Pepper
Olive Oil
1 Leek, sliced
¼ Tsp Cayenne pepper
¼ Tsp Grated Ginger
¼ Tsp Turmeric
750ml Vegetable stock
2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
To serve:
Chives, chopped
Hemp Seeds

Method
Cut the red pepper into chunks and throw onto a baking tray. Peel the carrots and cut into chunks and add to the tray.

Peel and halve one of the onions and cut into half moon shapes and add to the tray. Peel the garlic cloves and add them to the tray whole. Next add the mushrooms halved.

Give the vegetables a good dusting of black pepper and then drizzle a little olive oil over them. Massage the vegetables with your hands so they are all coated in the oil and black pepper.

Roast in a moderate oven for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

While the vegetables are roasting sauté the sliced leek in a little olive oil for 5 minutes then add the ginger, cayenne pepper and turmeric. Stir through the spices so the leeks are coated and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add the nutritional yeast and stir to combine.

Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the leek mixture to your blender and top with the roasted vegetables.

Blend until you have a smooth and silky soup. Pour into bowls and top with a sprinkling of chopped chives and a few hemp seeds. Enjoy!



I'll be sharing more winter wellness recipes with you soon, please feel free to share your tips on how you stay healthy in winter in the comments below. I'd love to hear what you eat and do to keep those bugs at bay.

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Caroline from Tea and Sympatico left me a comment the other day asking about the aromatherapy blends I use to ward of bugs and colds. I'm a great believer in aromatherapy and I have found it has helped me in numerous ways. 

I am not a qualified aromatherapist but I have taken a course on aromatherapy blends and I will share with you the blend I frequently use in my home to help defend the winter colds and coughs. 

Please check that the aromatherapy oils are suitable and safe for you to use personally.


Common Cold Blend (for use in a oil burner)
2 Drops Cederwood or Chamomile
2 Drops Peppermint or Tea Tree
2 Drops Eucalyptus

Drop the oils into the water and as the candle warms the water and oils the fragrance will circulate your room.

If you want to use as a room spray, add water to a small spray bottle and add 3 drops of each. Shake before use.

Common Cold with Cough Blend (for use in a oil burner)
2 Drops Cederwood
2 Drops Marjoram
2 Drops Scots Pine

Drop the oils into the water and as the candle warms the water and oils the fragrance will circulate your room.

If you want to use as a room spray, add water to a small spray bottle and add 3 drops of each. Shake before use.

Jasmine x

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Notice Board: Savvy Spreads Review

A while ago Katie from Savvy foods got intouch with me to ask if I was interested in reviewing the two vegan spreads Savvy foods make. The two varieties are Chocolate Super Spread and Date and Sesame Luxury Spread. 



Of course I wanted to try them and I was more than happy to review, who wouldn't want to, chocolate was involved! So earlier on this month a parcel arrived and I couldn't wait to try them.

The spreads are 100% natural and have no added sugar, oils, dairy, gluten, additives or GMO's, which makes them a healthier alternative to other sweet preserves on the market.

Both spreads use tahini (sesame) as an ingredient which provides depth to their flavour and balances out the sweetness of other ingredients used. The tahini used in the Chocolate Super Spread (yes, it lives up to its name) is combined with carob, agave nectar, cocoa powder and spices to give it an individual taste which is not too sweet and has a hint of bitterness, not unlike a piece of good quality dark chocolate. The tahini used in the Date and Sesame Luxury Spread is combined with dates, carob syrup, agave nectar and spices and has a rounded taste which was luxurious and therefore also lives up to its name. It reminded me of toffee, with the added benefit of not breaking your teeth! 


My favourite of the two spreads was the date and sesame luxury spread but it was a close call, a very close call! I'll let you into a little secret; the jar is sitting next to me, well what's left, which is not a lot and I keep dipping into it for another quick sample, it really is hard to stop going back for another taste!

Suggested uses for the spreads include spreading on toast, crackers or pancakes and stirred into porridge or drizzled over ice-cream as a sweet topping. I wanted to go one stage further though, and try them out as an ingredient of a dish, could I cook with them and what could I make. I wasn't disappointed! The first dish I made didn't even need cooking, I was too eager to see what it was capable of and I made banana and chocolate ice cream and wow did it taste good! Even better it was actually good for you!



Using my favourite piece of kitchen equipment I was able to knock this wonderful dessert up in seconds.

Banana and Chocolate Ice Cream

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
3 Tbsp Vanilla yoghurt, I used Alpro
1 Banana, frozen
3 Tsp Chocolate Super Spread
6 Ice cubes

Method
Put the ingredients into your blender (make sure you can use ice in your blender) in the order listed and blend until a soft serve ice cream is made. 

If it starts to melt just return to the freezer for 30 minutes before serving.

Serve with a drizzle of the Chocolate Super Spread over the top and a sprig of mint.

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The next recipe I created had to use the Date and Sesame Luxury Spread before I ate it all just out of the jar! My first experiment was to mix it with warm almond milk and it actually made a pleasant drink, but I knew this spread could be pushed further.......

Quick & Easy Oat Bars (with chocolate and nuts)

Ingredients (makes 12 bars)

1 Tbsp Flax Seed
3 Tbsp Cold water
100g Date and Sesame Spread
1 Banana
125g Rolled oats
50g Mixed nuts
50g Dark Chocolate drops

Method

Turn on your oven to a medium heat, around 180 - 190°C.

Next mix the flax seed with the water and put in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Line a baking tray or oven proof dish with grease proof baking paper so the oat bars are easy to remove.

Place the date and sesame seed spread into a large glass bowl and heat in the microwave for 20 seconds just to loosen the spread. 

Slice the banana into the bowl with the date and sesame spread and mash.

In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients; oats, mixed nuts and chocolate drops.

Take the flax mixture out of the fridge and add to the bowl of wet ingredients; date and sesame spread and banana and give everything a good stir. 

Transfer the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until everything is combined.

Spread the mixture into the baking tray and bake for 15 minutes or until the top is golden brown and bubbling. The cooking time will depend on the size of your baking tray and the depth of the oat bars.

Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes to cool down then tip upside down on to a board and peel off the baking paper from the bottom of the oat bars.

Wrap individually in baking paper and store in the fridge or freezer if you want to store for longer.



I'm so pleased I had the opportunity to try these two spreads and I'll definitely be buying more as they are so versatile. If you want to try them for yourself you can purchase them from a range of health food shops and more recently Suma! For a full list of stockists please visit their website.

Thank you Jonathan and Katie :o)

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Nutrient Rich Foods - Goji Berry Sparkler


Previously I told you that after undertaking a little research I decided to include some of the most nutrient rich foods into my diet. My last post showed you how easy it was to include Spirulina into your diet by adding it to fruit shakes, much to the amusement of my colleagues at work! 

This weekend I've been experimenting with Goji Berries. I already include them in my diet as they are an ingredient in my home made muesli, but I wanted to see what else I could make so that it wasn't just breakfast that I ate them.


I gave up drinking back in September after one mother of a hangover suffering with a nasty headache and nausea. I didn't use to drink a lot, but I had found that the units per week had started to creep up. After a bad day at work I would pour myself a glass of wine instead of having my usual green tea with jasmine. So after the mother of all hangovers, I decided enough was enough and stopped! And do you know what I haven't missed it in the slightest even over the Christmas break! I've been enjoying my tea a lot more and trying different blends and drinking lots more water. Some people have even said too much water! 

I wondered if I could make a drink using the Goji Berry and started experimenting.


The Goji Berry is a powerhouse berry! My research has found out that they have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 5,000 years. These little berries are regarded as a strength building food, can you imagine how strong Pop-Eye would have been if he ate them! They are also associated with longevity and they contain 18 kinds of amino acids, of which 8 are considered as essential amino acids. Other nutrients they contain, to name a few, are: 
  • over 20 different trace minerals, 
  • significant amounts of antioxidants, 
  • iron and 
  • B & E vitamins. 
See what a mean a powerhouse berry for sure!

We can only get dried berries over here, but they can be purchased from supermarkets or health shops so they are easy to find. As I was making them into a drink I soaked them over night so they would be easier to blend.


The Goji Berry has quite a powerful taste when dry and to some it may taste a little bitter, personally I like them and could snack on them on their own but as a drink I figured it needed sweetening up. I also wanted to include another health improver ingredient, which I had read has anti-inflammatory effects; ginger. As you know this has a very strong taste so I was careful with the amount I used as I didn't want it to overbear the other flavours. Here's what I did:

Ingredients
50g Goji berries, dried
100ml Cold water
1 Orange, zest only
Small knob of ginger, finely grated
(I used about 3g after peeling)

1 Tsp Agave nectar
Sparkling water

Method
Soak the Goji berries overnight in the water. They plump up nicely!

Transfer the Goji berries and the soaking water to a powerful blender, I used my faithful vitamix but any powerful blender should do the trick.

Add the zest of the orange, the grated ginger and finally the agave nectar.

Blend until you have a smooth liquid, you may still have a few flecks of berry, but don't worry. 

Add at least a teaspoon of the mixture to a tall glass and top with sparkling water and serve with a sprig of mint.

If the flecks of berry bother you then filter the drink through a fine mesh sieve, but remember if you do you'll be throwing out goodness.

Play around with the ingredients, the above will give you a hint of orange to take away the bitterness of the Goji and the ginger just gives it a very subtle hum of warmth.

I'll definitely be trying more drink creations with this little berry, I think mint would work too instead of the orange, but you could also try lemon or lime.



Sunday, 11 January 2015

Nutrient Rich Foods - Spirulina Fruit Shakes

Personally, I don't like the term superfood, especially how it has been banded around the media over the last few years. You don't hear the terminology "superfood" referred to with carrots do you? But to me carrots are one of the healthiest foods out there, if you don't believe me do some research yourself, you'll be amazed at the power of a carrot!

This month I am focussing on "nutrient rich foods" which are high in a number of vitamins and minerals, which are said to have a number of health benefits. They are the most potent and super concentrated foods you can find, which will improve your overall health. Now, I'm not a dietician or medical expert but an individual who after undertaking research for myself has decided to include some of these foods into my diet. 

Today, I'm focusing on Spirulina, which is a blue-green algae which is found on water. In other words its like pond scum, but that doesn't sound appetizing at all does it? So lets stick with calling it Spirulina, it sounds far more appealing and kind of exciting! 

Spirulina provides a vast array of minerals and my research has unearthed that it is the worlds highest source of complete protein! In fact around 65% of Spirulina's dry weight is protein. Spirulina also has over 100 types of nutrients including B complex vitamins, which is great news for vegans.

There are many reports of health benefits associated with Spriulina although it appears that more research is needed before it can be determined whether or not Spirulina can treat certain health conditions.

Personally, after the research I have undertaken I have decided to include Spirulina in my diet for the following health reasons:

  • To strengthen my immune system so I'm less likely to experience colds and other winter bugs.
  • To help with inflammation, it is said to be one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory agents in nature.
  • To ease the symptoms of pre-menstrual tension, it is said to be one of the leading sources of Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) 
  • To help my body detox naturally, and provide a boost in energy, Spirulina has a very high concentration of chlorophyll, a natural detoxifying agent 
  • To ease my heyfever symptoms, it is reported that Spirulina can alleviate allergies. Since transfering to a vegan diet my heyfever is mild into comparison what it has been previously so I'm all for an extra boost to make it disappear altogether!

So, how can you introduce Spirulina into your diet? The easiest way is by adding a teaspoon into your juices, smoothies or just adding it to a glass of water. But I wanted something a bit more exciting than that, enter fruit shakes.

Fruit shakes have the consistency of a milk shake but use frozen fruit instead of milk.Thanks to my beloved Vitamix I can make fruit shakes in 2 minutes flat, which includes cleaning up afterwards! Any powerful blender should work though, just make sure it is suitable for ice!

I've been playing around with fruit shakes for a while now and I have three out right favourites, strawberry, raspberry and a combination of mango and pineapple. Just add a teaspoon of Spirulina to the mix and there you have it a green fruit shake.

When they are first made they are the thickness of soft serve ice cream, in fact I can hold my jug upside down and they don't budge. But after transferring to a glass they soon start to melt a little and are easy to drink through a straw.

I make one every morning, transfer to a plastic cup so I can transport it to work and as soon as I get to my desk its ready for drinking, delicious. In fact I'm drinking my green fruit shake right now!

Green Fruit Shake
Take any of the recipes below and add 1 teaspoon of Spirulina to your blender and whiz up! My favourite to add the Spirulina to is the mango and pineapple fruit shake as you get such a vivid green colour. The raspberry and strawberry fruit shakes are more brown than green in colour. Any recipe you choose though is delicious.





Mango & Pineapple Fruit Shake

Ingredients
4 Tbsp Lime and Lemon yoghurt
(I used Alpro)
1 Frozen banana
150g Frozen mango & pinapple pieces
(great if you can freeze your own but a bag from the supermarket works well)
100ml Cold water

Method
Add the ingredients to your blender of choice in the order above and blend until you have a smooth consistency similar to soft serve ice cream. I have to use a tamper with my Vitamix machine to push the frozen fruit down towards the blades. 





Raspberry Fruit Shake

Ingredients

4 Tbsp Rhubarb and Strawberry yoghurt
(I used Alpro)
1 Frozen banana
75g Frozen raspberries
(great if you can freeze your own but a bag from the supermarket works well)
100ml Cold water

Method
Add the ingredients to your blender of choice in the order above and blend until you have a smooth consistency similar to soft serve ice cream. I have to use a tamper with my Vitamix machine to push the frozen fruit down towards the blades. 



Strawberry Fruit Shake

Ingredients
3 Tbsp Vanilla yoghurt 
(I used Alpro)
12 Strawberries (frozen)
1 Banana (frozen)
200ml Coconut water

Method
Add the ingredients to your blender of choice in the order above and blend until you have a smooth consistency similar to soft serve ice cream. I have to use a tamper with my Vitamix machine to push the frozen fruit down towards the blades.