Monthly Archives: December 2015

Quince and Apple Fool

Quince and Apple Fool From The Healthy Heart

In this season of overindulgence it is good to have a quick and easy way to eat something nutritious, tasty and sweet. It helps to prevent the temptation to guzzle another mince pie or to keep dipping one’s hand into the box of assorted chocolates while watching holiday television.

A fruit fool is a lovely way to eat some of our 5 a day. The only problem is that cream is definitely not on my table when I am trying to lower my cholesterol. I have therefore made my fool with yoghurt instead and I find it delicious. I always use Total 0% because it is the no fat yoghurt with the least amount of added sugar that I can find. One of these days I must learn to make my own!

Stewed fruit must be one of the easiest dishes to prepare. Stewed apple freezes really well which is just as well as we have a glut of apples each year and the freezer is full. In this recipe I have added quince as I adore its aroma and the taste. I encourage you to give quince a try if you have not yet done so. I get mine at a local fruit and veg shop as I have never come across this fruit in my local supermarket. The flavour of quince intensifies when it is roasted.

This dish is lovely as a healthy dessert or can be added to a bowl of muesli in the morning.

For 4 people (with leftovers):

2 quinces
8 apples – I use a sweet apple for this so that there is no need to add sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 unwaxed lemon
250g Total 0% yoghurt or other low fat yoghurt (check the sugar content)
1 pomegranate

Peel, core and chop the quince and apples. The quantity depends on how much fruit you have and how much you wish to make. I use a ratio of one quince to about 4 -5 apples. Place the quince in an oven proof dish and bake in a medium oven for about 45 minutes. Check it is soft with the point of a knife. Set aside to cool and then peel.

In the meantime place the chopped apples in a pot with two to three strips of lemon peel and a stick of cinnamon. Add a couple of tablespoons of water and cook on a low heat. After about 10 – 15 minutes the apples should be collapsing. Set aside.

Combine the apples and the chunks of quince and refrigerate until ready to use.

When you want to serve, simply add a tablespoon or two of yoghurt to each helping of fruit and mix together into a creamy, fruity yumminess. Add a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds for extra vitamins, a burst of colour and the contrasting texture and juiciness.

Eating Well – 23 December 2015

Christmas is upon us. Again. No doubt you have been tempted over the past weeks, not only by the canapes at drinks parties but also about just how much to eat over the next few days.

I have been to a number of Christmas parties recently and have discovered that it is not so much what you eat as how you eat it. Having dined in the company of many slender women, I have noticed that while they eat most of the food on offer – even cake – they only have one helping. My walking friend and I were chewing this over and reflected on how, when we eat at friends’ houses, we tend to go for a second helping. I know I do so even if I am no longer hungry and refill my plate simply because it tastes so good.

Over the past weeks I have eaten several times at buffet tables filled with delightful platters of healthy foods – grain based salads, vegetables in every form from raw to roasted, bowls of nutritious dips, dinky savoury pastries, delicious breads and, yes, desserts that threaten to undo me. On every occasion I have taken the lead from the other guests and have therefore eaten only one helping. Only once was I actually a little hungry at the end of the evening. The other times I was full after one good plate of food.

I realise how much I eat for the wrong reason and that I really need to put more effort into enjoying my one helping and be satisfied with that. I do think that this approach is possibly more sustainable that constantly trying to cut out certain foods from my diet. Yes, I know that old adage ‘everything in moderation’ but clearly I have been unable to integrate it into my life. Otherwise I would not, every Christmas, find myself engaged in the same tedious attempt to lower my cholesterol and my weight.

I am planning to try out a new approach over Christmas. A low fat Christmas meal is never going to cut the mustard of course, and why should everyone else suffer because my genetic inheritance sends my cholesterol in the wrong direction by just looking at the mince pies?

This year we will be tucking in to a large, slow cooked shoulder of venison – a lot less fatty than our traditional goose. I hope no-one will leave the table feeling deprived. I am also not planning a cheeseboard – which only serves to make me feel ill from overeating. I will make two desserts (one a fruit salad) rather than far too many. All this adds up to less temptation to overeat.

Most important, I am going to attempt one helping – a substantial one as befits the day. I will think about eating the leftovers on Boxing Day, rather than scoffing so much on Christmas that there are no leftovers!

As we move towards the new year I hope to resolve to try to eat more mindfully and increase my exercise regime which has staggered somewhat over the past months and is just stuttering back to life. Keeping cholesterol under control is a lifelong process and has its ups and downs. A bit like the rest of life.

I wish you all a very peaceful festive season and good health and contentment in 2016. Thanks for reading the blog over the past year and do keep in touch.

Guinea Fowl with Bramley Apples

Guinea Fowl wiith Bramley Apple From The Healthy Heart

This has to be the epitome of a glorious autumnal dish. It tastes gorgeous and I urge you to try it. If you have not cooked a guinea fowl before please don’t be put off. It behaves in the pot much like a chicken except that it has a better flavour. The Bramley apples and the onions cook slowly and collapse into a sweet, fruity sauce that will literally have you licking out the pot. That is the effect it has on me at any rate.

One guinea fowl will feed 4 people happily but if you want to you can cook a couple at once in a large casserole pot. Not only is this recipe utterly moreish but it is also low fat as a guinea fowl is not a very fatty creature – must be all that running around.

I usually serve this with a celeriac and potato mash run through with a slick of Dijon mustard. A heap of steamed, wilted greens is all you need on the side.

I usually make this dish a day ahead as I do believe that anything that has been casseroled tastes even better the following day.

For 4 people:
1 guinea fowl
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
3 onions, roughly chopped
3 Bramley apples, peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup (250ml) brandy – I don’t use the expensive kind but rather what I call my ‘cooking brandy’
1 cup (250ml) apple juice – I use a refrigerated,fresh apple juice from the supermarket, not a long-life kind
1 cup (250ml) chicken stock

For celeriac mash:

2 celeriac, peeled and roughly chopped
4 large-ish potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cups semi skimmed milk
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard
Black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Heat the olive oil in a large casserole and brown the guinea fowl on all sides. In the meantime chop the onions and apples. When the guinea fowl has taken on some colour add the onions and the apples to the casserole. You will need to push them to the sides of the guinea fowl so that they can soften a little.

Add the brandy and allow to bubble for a few minutes. I have long given up lighting the brandy with a match and much prefer burning off the alcohol by turning up the heat so that the liquid comes to the boil briefly. I once nearly came to harm when huge flames from brandy, lit with a match, leapt up towards my air extractor above the stove.

After a few minutes add the apple juice and the chicken stock. Stir to combine.

Cover the casserole with its lid and place in the oven for an hour.

To make the celeriac mash, bring two pots of water to the boil and add the celeriac and the potatoes to boil separately. It won’t take long because you will have chopped them into pieces. About 15 minutes should do but test with the point of a knife. Drain and set aside to dry off.

In the meantime put the milk in a small pot along with the garlic clove and bring the milk to the edge of the boil. Set aside.

Place the celeriac in a food processor along with the milk (remove the garlic clove first) and puree.
Mash the potato with a potato masher as it turns gloopy if you put potato in a processor. Add the mustard while you mash.

Mix the potato and the pureed celeriac in a bowl. Add a little more milk if you need to.

One Size Does NOT Fit All – 9 December 2015

Ever envied the fact that your friend can happily eat cake without putting on an ounce, while you seem to gain weight just looking at the blueberry muffins? Me too. Now it turns out that our informal observation is scientifically accurate.

Research published in November by the Weizmann Institute confirms that each of us has a different blood sugar response to foods. This means that the same foods – for example ice cream or sushi – have a different response in different people. I may experience a spike in my blood sugar level after eating a pastry and you may not. This is also true of what we consider to be healthy foods or foods considered low GI. These findings throw into question the whole low Glycemic Index diet plan whereby we are encouraged to stick to complex carbohydrates that convert slowly into glucose.

All carbohydrate turns into glucose in our blood stream. This glucose is either burnt off through exercise or turned into fat. It lies at the heart of the epidemic of obesity and diabetes which is why the problem with sugar in our diet is now replacing fat as the new evil.

However, it turns out that we all respond in individual ways to carbs. Similarly it turns out that we respond differently to meat and to fats. So a one-size-fits-all diet is of limited value as is all the calorie counting that so many diets are based on.

What the researchers at the Weizmann Institute have shown is that what really determines how each of our blood sugar levels responds to food is our genes and our gut microbes, called microbiomes. They have developed an algorithim that can predict how individuals will respond to different foods. This is the first step towards what they call personalised diets. In the future, we may be able to have a tailored diet that is based on our own bodily responses. The idea is that this could help millions of people to lose weight and reduce the worldwide obesity and diabetes rates.

This research helps make sense of why I went wheat free for 3 weeks without losing an inch while people I know have lost loads of weight. If anything I seemed to feel a little heavier. Turns out that some people do actually put on weight going wheat free. All those gluten free products have to have something to hold them together. A bit like all the low fat goodies that are packed with sugars. Of course if one is gluten intolerant then going wheat free is indicated, and I know that many people report feeling better and losing a lot of weight going wheat free. I just don’t think it is for me.

I feel so frustrated by the annual yo-yoing of my weight and cholesterol level. I look forward to the day when a personalised eating plan is available to all and that for once I will know what really works for me. Who knows, I may just be one of the lucky ones whose blood sugar does not spike after eating ice cream! Fat chance.