Happy New Year! I hope you had a relaxing break and are raring to go for 2007.
You may notice that this newsletter is a little late - that's because I'm changing the delivery date to mid-month. Many newsletters are sent out at the beginning of each month, and Inboxes tend to bulge on the 1st. I would like your full attention, so you'll be getting this mid week mid month from now on.
So, here we go for 2007:
What's in Season
It's good to eat seasonally, so here's a list of what's in season in Scotland:
Vegetables: beetroots, all cabbages: red, white and green, celeriac, kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichoke (see recipe), leeks, onions, potatoes, spinach and chard.
Fruit: The last of the apples and pears
Have you ever wondered how much body fat you have? Some people do wonder, and some people don't bother. If you'd like a reading of your body composition, please let me know. In conjunction with Amanda Gilles, a friendly Herbalife person, I am now offering Bio-Electrical Impedance testing. It's an accurate measuring device that sends an imperceptibly tiny electrical current from your foot to your hand measuring how much fat and lean tissue you are carrying around. Test sessions are £20.
A Social Bike Ride
I will be leading an informal bike ride for the Sunday Brunch Club this Saturday 13th January. It's a social gathering of mixed abilities and we will stick to bike tracks. Our route is the rather scenic (and flat) round trip from The Shore at Leith to Cramond, where we can stop for a bite to eat at the Cramond Inn before returning back. We'll be leaving from outside Café Truva on The Shore at 11am on Saturday, returning before it's dark… Friday is forecast to be awful weather, however it's meant to clear by Saturday. You can telephone / text me on 07743 741 088 if the weather is squiffy to make sure it's definitely on.
Oatcake Topping of the Month
It was the night before this newsletter was to be sent out and I still hadn't come up with a topping. In desperation, a solution:
one can kidney beans (drained) blended with a random selection from the cupboard: cumin, chilli sauce, pepper, squeezed lemon, a chopped spring onion and a handful of parsley.
Throw the whole lot in your blender, blend until creamy, serve straight onto oatcakes at room temperature. It's enough for about 20 oatcakes for about 50 pence. You can change the ingredients, adding your favourite fresh herbs and other seasonings. Suprisingly tasty, it's a humble can of beans gourmet style.
(serves 4, or two people two meals)
150g dried polenta
40g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
300g corn kernels
1 Tab melted butter
1 Tab finely chopped spring onions
2 egg whites
pepper and salt (optional)
- mix polenta, flour and bicarb in a big bowl with the milk
- stir in corn, melted butter and spring onions
- whisk egg whites until peaks form and gently fold into mixture (do this just before cooking)
- In a heavy bottom frying pan, heat a drop of olive oil to a moderate heat
- drop large spoonfuls of the mixture in and cook both sides until golden.
The batter keeps OK in the fridge if you'd like to save some for the next day.
Serve with Fennel and Tomato Bake. In winter, you can replace the fresh cherry tomatoes with a good quality tomato sauce / puree. If you don't fancy the bake, serve the fritters with something rich and tomato-ey.
A Salad for Winter
I have recently discovered Jerusalem artichoke, it's actually not an artichoke at all, but a winter root native to Peru (fancy that!). It has a mildly sweet, smoky flavour and crunchy texture and can be eaten raw or cooked. And it's in season. Fab! Be aware that it discolours when sliced, so pop the sliced root into a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon until ready for use. See Eat The Seasons website for more information.
2 Tab roasted pumpkin seeds
2 handfuls rocket, washed
1 little gem lettuce, washed and chopped
1 Jerusalem artichoke
½ lemon, juiced
drizzle olive oil
1 Tab balsamic vinegar
- To roast the pumpkin seeds: heat them in a heavy bottomed saucepan on a medium heat. Agitate regularly or they will burn. Give the pan a shoogle when you see the seeds puffing up. Place aside in a bowl to cool.
- Wash and chop lettuce and combine with the rocket in a salad bowl.
- Finely slice the Jerusalem artichoke and it place into a bowl of water with a dash of the squeezed lemon until time for serving.
- In a small bottle or jar combine the rest of the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Stopper the container and shake.
- When the seeds have cooled down, add them to the salad
- Just prior to serving, add Jerusalem artichoke and toss salad to combine
- serve with dressing on the side
Resisting Temptation Hint of the Month
If you're anything like me, you will have ended up with boxes of Christmas chocolates, puddings and biscuits… Instead of thinking that you need eat them all to empty the cupboards, see how long you can make them last.
Can you make a box of chocolates last until March? An easy way to do that is to hide them at the top back of the cupboard behind healthy food. See if you can make these things last until the expiry date… I dare you!
Exercise of the Month
The days are getting longer with almost eight hours of daylight, and it's important to get outside as much as possible to avoid that winter slump. The best thing about cold weather is that you can move at a fast pace without getting hot and sweaty. Get out for a fast walk, walking at such a pace that you're feeling nice and cosy on the inside, even if it's chilly on the outside. You might even want to take it up to a jog - this time of year is a great time to start.
Article - Too Much Pressure? All about High Blood Pressure
We all know that we have a measurable blood pressure, but have you ever stopped to think about exactly what your blood pressure means? What is your GP measuring when they place that nifty inflatable cuff on your arm and what relevance does it have to your well being?
Your heart pumps blood to all parts of your body through arteries. When your heart beats, and a surge of blood is pushed through your arteries, the pressure against your artery walls is at it's highest. This is called the systolic reading (the higher number of the two). When your heart is at rest between beats, this is the lowest pressure, or diastolic pressure.
Your blood pressure reading always shows both your systolic and diastolic blood pressure, the systolic (larger number) over the diastolic (lower number).
Your blood pressure varies throughout the day depending on your level of activity and / or emotions (i.e. nervousness temporarily increases blood pressure). However, overall you have an average resting blood pressure, which is why you are seated when you have your blood pressure measured.
An overall higher blood pressure reading means that your heart has to do more work to get the same amount of blood to your extremities. Not only this, but your arteries have a harder time as there is more internal pressure on them. This can lead to the walls of your blood vessels thickening to deal with the increased pressure. A thickened blood vessel wall means less blood can get through. High blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure.
Normal blood pressure is 130/85 or below, while up to 140/90 is called 'high normal' and anything above 140/90 is high (hypertension).
If you have high blood pressure, or are keen to keep yours at a healthy level, there are a number of lifestyle aspects to consider:
Salt - Reduce the amount of sodium that you consume. Studies have shown that an increased consumption of salt leads to higher blood pressure in many individuals. Salt causes our body to retain more water. In turn this extra water in our blood vessels can increase blood pressure (as there is more liquid being pumped through). Excess salt can also damage kidneys, which remove sodium from the body.
Processed food is where the western diet gets most of it's salt. If you do eat supermarket packaged food, check the labels for the level of salt (sodium). Even better, eat fresh natural food and avoid pre-packaged meals.
A simple guideline is to avoid foods that contain more than 0.2 grams of sodium per 100 grams of food and choose foods that contain less than 0.1 grams of sodium per 100 grams. The aim is to get your salt intake to less than 5 to 6 grams a day (or lower if possible), which is the same as 2 grams of sodium (one teaspoonful).
It should also be noted that salt levels vary wildly from one brand to another. For example, Morrisons baked beans contain 3.2g g of salt, that's 53%, over half of the recommended daily salt levels. Co op and Heinz contain a more sensible 2.1g, which is 35% of the daily salt levels. This example also illustrates that packaged food contains a disproportionately high level of salt.
As a personal note, when I first met my husband Andy, he ate microwave meals nearly every day - the life of a bachelor! Anyway, we started cooking food together and he started eating freshly prepared food every night. After a year or so, he bought himself a microwave meal as a treat and couldn't eat it as it tasted too salty. Our tastes do adjust and you can make fresh food tasty using herbs, spices and lemon or lime juice.
Exercise - getting regular exercise can help lower your blood pressure. Regular pulse raising activity exercises your heart, the most important muscle in your body. Many athletes have a low resting heart rate and low blood pressure as they regularly train their body to deliver oxygen more efficiently around their bodies, thereby moving more easily and breathing more effectively. Losing weight is a very effective way to lower your blood pressure!
Alcohol - excessive alcohol consumption (more than 14 - 21 units per week for women, 21 - 28 for men) can cause an increase in blood pressure. Increased alcohol consumption also leads to increased weight, and so the individual has more physical bulk to carry about.
Give up smoking - a fairly obvious one methinks!
Cholesterol levels - as per my previous article on cholesterol, which can build up in blood vessels and cause a restriction to the amount of blood that can be pumped through. If you have high cholesterol levels, a high blood pressure can prove fatal.
Stress levels - Do you have a stressful job? Or are you always worrying about something? High stress levels can lead to an increase in blood pressure. If you are 'stressed' for a large portion of the day, this may mean your blood pressure is elevated unduly. Try going for a walk at lunch, or try a yoga or mediation class. I find Hatha Yoga a great way to unwind and chill out.
By considering all of the above points and making some (sometimes small) changes to your lifestyle, you can bring down your blood pressure and improve your quality of living.