Monthly Archives: January 2016

Festive Fruit Platter

Festive Fruit Platter From The Healthy Heart

To celebrate the third birthday of From The Healthy Heart it feels appropriate to feast on fruit rather than on cake.

Any fruit will do of course, but I do think that choosing a colour theme looks special. For this winter fruit platter I chose clementines, papaya (my all-time favourite fruit), physalis (Cape gooseberries) for a bit of pizzazz and raspberries for extra, contrasting colour.

Simply peel and cut the fruit into similar sized pieces. I like to leave the physalis attached to their papery skins as they look so elegant. They are divine dipped in dark chocolate, by the way, but that is a story for another day.

Now all you need to do is to put on the kettle for a pot of herbal tea.

From The Healthy Heart is 3 Years Old – 20 January 2016

Two weeks ago I overlooked a rather significant birthday – From The Healthy Heart turned three. I was too busy celebrating a family birthday with cheesecake (several slices since you are wondering) to notice. It has naturally set me to wondering what has changed – if anything – over the past three years.

I had a good think about this while I walked yesterday. It was one of those fabulous winter days when the sky is bright blue and the sun is blazing coldly. There were patches of ice on the ground but I was warm in my coat and rather pleased to be on foot. Then it struck me that one aspect of my life that has definitely shifted in the right direction is my attitude to exercise. No, I have not yet come to love it exactly but I do now walk 3-4 times a week. Previously I rarely walked. Ever. Hard to believe now. Although I tumbled off the exercise wagon for quite a few months over last summer, I have picked it up again. I also have spent the past year attending a weekly Pilates class so hopefully my core is in better shape although you wouldn’t know it to look at me.

Over the past three years I have read countless articles and research studies about the importance of regular exercise for our general health and life expectancy. Most recently I discovered that whereas previously, people with serious illness or recovering from surgery were encouraged to rest, now the thinking is that they should exercise as much as they can manage. The reason for this is that exercise has anti-inflammatory effects on the body. That is probably also why it helps to mitigate the effects of stress which causes inflammation.

On the food front I am much more aware of what not to eat and, as importantly, what to include in the diet – oats, almonds, pulses, oily fish, good fats (avocado for example). In truth, I am far better at adding in than in taking out. So I find it easy to include the above items, some daily and others weekly. However, it is turning down the homemade cake, the scoops of ice cream, the roast potatoes, the winter puddings and the summer ones come to think of it – all this I find difficult and waver in my ability to stand firm.

Hence, my weight – which dropped rather pleasingly along with a dress size – hovers now somewhere between what I was three years ago and where I got down to at my best behaved. Not that I embarked on this programme specifically to lose weight, but getting to your normal size is all part and parcel of lowering cholesterol.

As for that actual cholesterol result – or more importantly the ratio between HDL (the good stuff) and LDL (the baddie) – that hovers too. It is coming up to that time of year called the annual test. If you have not had your cholesterol tested in the past year, please be encouraged to do so. Everyone over the age of 20 should have their cholesterol tested.

To celebrate the blog’s birthday I will not be treating myself to cake. No, I will start the year as I mean to go on with a healthy and colourful platter of fruit.

Thanks for reading From The Healthy Heart – let’s all enjoy a healthy year together.

Crunchy Beetroot and Carrot Noodles with Avocado Dip

Crunchy Beetroot and Carrot Noodles

This recipe is from a new cookbook called Spiralize! 40 nutritious recipes to transform the way you eat, written by Stephanie Jeffs and published by Pavilion Books. I don’t usually blog about other people’s recipes, but am making an exception today as I have written about the book in today’s blog post.

The dish is easy to make, gorgeous to look at and delicious to eat. So that gets it onto my ‘must repeat’ list. My kids loved it too.

If you don’t have a spiralizer, Jeffs suggests using a vegetable peeler although you will then get ribbons rather than noodles.

The recipe does not state whether or not to peel the vegetables. I did peel although no doubt I reduced the nutrient content by doing so. Next time I will try it unpeeled.

The recipe serves 1 so I used 4 times the beetroot and veg and 2 avocadoes. I did not use the coconut oil but it tasted delicious nonetheless.

For one person:

1 small beetroot
1 medium carrot
1 tsp coconut oil, warmed until liquid
1 pinch Himalayan salt – I don’t have this to hand so I used Maldon sea salt
1 ripe avocado

Preheat the oven to 170 C

Spiralise the beetroot and carrot – using blade 2 if you have a spiralizer. Spread the noodles on a baking sheet and drizzle over the coconut oil. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until crispy and slightly browned. I kept mine in the oven for ½ hour.

In the meantime scoop the avocado flesh into a bowl and mash with a fork. Add a pinch of salt. Some black pepper won’t go amiss either. Nor would a squeeze of lemon, although these last two ingredients are not in the recipe.

Plate the noodles and serve along with the dip.

Spiralising: Foodie Fun for the New Year – 6 January 2016

Happy new year!

This January I am not going to start up on the new year resolutions. I thought instead I would let you know about a new cookbook I have been having a look at over the past few days. It is simply called Spiralize!

During the summer I bought myself a spiralizer. A table top model. I returned home genuinely excited with my new gadget and happily set about making courgette noodles for my dinner. My family, tucking into their pasta, looked at me with raised eyebrows. When they tasted my noodles they agreed that the taste was good but they were hungry soon after. Perhaps spiralising is not for teenage boys. Mind you, they liked the gadget itself and my son made a delicious carrot and apple noodle salad topped with walnuts. Eaten with several slices of bread and cheese.

Spiralising has gained in popularity especially due to the growing interest in clean eating (a term I find confusing), raw food and veganism. While I am no convert to these eating habits, I am always keen to find delicious ways to reduce my cholesterol and keep my weight in check.

Spiralize! – 40 nutritious recipes to transform the way you eat (Pavilion Books) is written by Stephanie Jeffs. The title itself introduces the possibility of transformation, and for those seeking to do just that, this book offers a range of new ways to cook and eat.

I was not looking to become vegan or even to cut gluten out of my diet. But I did want to dust off my spiralizer which was gathering dust at the back of my cupboard as many gadgets do once they have been used a couple of times.
The first thing I learned was that I was not using my spiralizer correctly, so that was helpful information. I had also only used one of the three available blades. The recipes gave me the confidence to extend my blade repertoire. Jeffs warns that caution is needed with the apparatus as the blades are sharp. True. In fact, I ended up coming unstuck with the dangerous skewer with which I punctured my palm while trying to stabilise an apple on the spiralizer. Ouch.

Jeffs divides the recipes into chapters on breakfast, light meals, hearty meals, sides and desserts. Each dish has full nutritional details provided.

While perusing the recipes I found that I did not have many of the ingredients in my cupboard. That was when I realised that this book is not meant for people like me who want to spiralise alongside eating gluten and dairy. The recipes use a lot of coconut oil rather than olive, coconut flour, coconut yoghurt, yeast flakes to get the cheesy taste; 14 recipes contain maple syrup, 15 contain coconut.

Those trying to lower their cholesterol may well have some discomfort using coconut oil. I know I do and that goes beyond not liking the taste. As coconut oil is high in saturated fats it can in fact raise your total cholesterol so your GP may be unhappy with your numbers. However, it also tends to raise HDL cholesterol (the good stuff) which can improve the ratio between the HDL and LDL (the bad stuff). Overall, therefore, coconut oil can have a positive effect on cholesterol as the ratio is considered to be more important than the total cholesterol number. However, many people sitting in front of their GP may not have a chance to get into these details before statins are suggested.

As I don’t like the taste of coconut oil – or the smell – I prefer to use olive oil.

It being winter, I was immediately drawn to the chapter on Hearty Meals and set about making the Tomato Pasta Bake as I was already familiar with courgette noodles. I was wary of adding dried apricots to a tomato sauce as the recipe suggested, but gave it a try. At this point I nearly gave up on the book as I found the sauce to be both watery (all that tomato and courgette give off a lot of water when baked) and unpalatably sweet. I don’t want my tomato pasta bake sweet. An alternative would be to cook down the fresh tomatoes first into a jammy consistency. This provides plenty taste in my book, especially if sautéed slowly along with onion, garlic, celery and carrots. That is perfectly vegan too.

I continued to try out a few more recipes and thought that the Hot Noodle Pudding with Pistachio and Pomegranate looked enticing on a cold night. I was happy with the outcome although the addition of maple syrup and coconut milk made this quite high in sugars. But then it is a dessert after all and not a dish for every day. I liked the texture of the pistachio nuts and the pomegranate seeds and the overall taste was good. I have earmarked this recipe to serve to a vegan guest and will be interested to get the view of someone who prefers custard made with soaked cashew nuts, vanilla extract, maple syrup and coconut milk.

Lastly, I tried the Crunchy Beetroot and Carrot Noodles with Avocado Dip from the chapter on Sides. This the whole family enjoyed. The noodles were attractive to look at and delicious to eat, the flavour of the vegetables enhanced by having been roasted. I served it as a nibble before dinner and my sons licked out the bowl with the avocado, albeit with crackers.

Not being a vegan, I don’t intend making a Noodle Pizza or a Noodle Burrito but I am sure that there are a growing number of people who might wish to use their spiralizer in these ways.

Spiralize! sets out to help readers transform the way they eat and it certainly introduces many creative ways to do so. I am still planning to try the Asian Noodle Soup, the Cucumber Noodle Salad with Fennel, Chard and Quinoa, and the Raw Chinese Stir-Fry with Crunchy Noodles. Wild Mushroom Yakitori has also caught my eye along with a number of other recipes. I may just leave out the maple syrup in the recipes. I never cook with sugar so I don’t want to add an alternative sweetener.

Spiralize! is a good option for vegan cooks and has certainly encouraged me to use my spiralizer more creatively. It has got me thinking that there may be another spiralising book waiting to be written – one for omnivores. I love courgette noodles with chopped tomatoes, a handful of olives, a scattering of feta cheese and a bunch of torn basil leaves. I have enjoyed courgette noodles with my regular turkey bolognaise sauce mixed in. I look forward to trying a wider range of vegetable noodles with baked salmon or a chicken stir fry. All of these options would make for good cholesterol lowering dishes. I am keeping my spiralizer on my worktop from now on. That sounds like a new year resolution to me.