Monthly Archives: February 2016

Banana and Raspberry Ice Cream

Banana and Raspberry Ice Cream

It may be cold outside but those of us trying to lower cholesterol always need a treat even if it is ice cream in the depths of winter. I found a recipe for banana ice cream in a new cookbook by Dannii Martin called Hungry Healthy Happy. I have been frustrated by banana ice cream before as its texture was unpleasant. This recipe pointed out what to do to improve the texture and it really worked. I added raspberries as I had some in the freezer and thought they would add colour, taste and extra vitamins. When I served it to the family they were surprised at just how good a no-added sugar, fat –free ice cream could taste. That’s what I call a result.

You need to start the day before as the bananas need to freeze overnight.

Making this recipe for 4 people involved more banana than my food processor was happy with all at once. I thought it would explode. Next time I will process it in two batches.

For 4 people:

4 -5 ripe bananas – just peel them and slice. Then pop into a freezer bag or a Tupperware and freeze.
A handful of frozen raspberries
Crème de cassis – optional

When you are ready to make the ice cream, place the frozen bananas in a food processor and let the motor run until the bananas have become creamy. In the past I have stopped too soon and landed up with an unpleasant crumbly texture. Dannii suggests stopping from time to time to scrape down the sides. After a while it really does become creamy.

I added a handful of frozen raspberries to the mix after a few scrape downs.

I served the ice cream right away. It would be lovely with a raspberry coulis that you can make by processing another handful of raspberries and pushing the pulp through a sieve to remove the pips. A shot of crème de cassis would not go astray either!

Healthy Food for Hungry People

Keeping healthy can be very rewarding but also rather boring. Healthy meal after healthy meal has to be put on the table, so keeping interested in cooking is important. As I have said many times before, it is a lifestyle change not just a matter of lowering the cholesterol or losing the weight before returning to old habits.

New ideas in the kitchen are such an important part of keeping on track. I love paging through magazines and cookbooks to get my enthusiasm up for the seemingly endless number of meals. As the New Year rolls around so does a new collection of healthy cookbooks. One of these new books made its way to my door thanks to blogger friend, Dannii Martin, who tells the story of how she lost a lot of weight and has continued to maintain her healthy eating habits.

Called Hungry, Healthy, Happy, this cookbook (as well as Danii’s blog, is packed with recipes that will pep up the weekly cooking. What I like most about this book is that the recipes are perfect for everyday cooking. Most of the time I have to put a meal on the table for the family dinner while also trying to eat healthily myself. I have to balance my needs with those of growing teenagers which is not always easy. Sometimes I eat too much fat or they eat too much lean.

Cooking one’s favourite dishes in a lower fat manner is the way to go when trying to maintain healthy eating habits. We all hark after the meals we love and it is too much of a deprivation to give them up forever. A tweak here and there can make all the difference. So I was pleased to find a recipe for a club sandwich (made with fat free yoghurt rather than mayonnaise), chicken tikka masala (fat free yoghurt again replacing the cream) and even mac and cheese which adds cauliflower and yoghurt rather than the full quotient of pasta and cheese.

Each recipe is labelled as vegetarian, gluten or dairy free, where appropriate. This is a useful time saver when paging through the book looking for a suitable dish. Each recipe sets out the nutritional value of the recipe which is such important information for those watching their salt, sugar, fat and calorie intake.

Whenever I look at a healthy eating cookbook I take particular note of the dessert section. This book has far more on offer than fruit platters. I was pleased to find a recipe for banana ice cream which I have previously tried, unsuccessfully. What I really appreciated was that this version of the recipe anticipates the problem the cook will encounter – the banana crumbles – and tells you exactly what to do to remedy this situation and to successfully end up with a smooth and creamy ice cream. When I served my adaptation (I added raspberries) to my family they could not actually believe that it was pure fruit with nothing added. ‘No cream?’ asked my younger son. ‘Not even sugar?’ asked the older one. They were mightily impressed and banana ice cream will now be part of my repertoire. It is a lovely example of a dish that suits the whole family – cholesterol lowering adults and growing teenagers. Wait until I try the chocolate avocado mousse – I will not be telling them the ingredients until after I have seen their faces – looks of pleasure I hope.

Broccoli and Avocado Salad with Pomegranate and Pumpkin Seeds

Broccoli and avocado salad

This salad is bursting with vitamins, healthy fats and superfoods. Just perfect for winter when we need to find appetising ways of eating salads despite the cold weather.

I like to add seeds to all manner of dishes as they are filled with minerals – zinc in pumpkin seeds. I almost always have a pomegranate in my vegetable bowl as it not only tastes wonderful and looks pretty, but is high in vitamins and antioxidants. I have yet to find a dish that is not transformed by the addition of a scattering of pomegranate seeds.

Have the salad ready while the broccoli is steaming gently. Once it is cooked – bright green and retaining some crunch – tip it onto the salad and eat it warm. Dressed simply with a glug of good quality extra virgin olive oil and you have another healthy fat added into your meal.

For four people:

100g mixed salad leaves
1 large head broccoli, broken into florets
1 large avocado – ripe but still firm is best
½ pomegranate, seeds removed
A handful of pumpkin seeds
A glug of good quality extra-virgin olive oil
A glug of good quality Balsamic vinegar – I use my most expensive one for dressing salads
Black pepper

Place the salad leaves on a large platter – I think serving salads in large serving dishes makes them so much more appetising than a bowl as all the ingredients can be seen clearly.

Dry toast the pumpkin seeds in a pan on a medium heat until they begin to pop.

Steam the broccoli florets until they turn emerald green and are tender enough to eat while retaining some bite. Keep an eye while steaming as broccoli quickly overcooks, becomes a dull green and loses its vibrant taste.
In the meantime remove the seeds from the pomegranate by cutting it in half and bending the peel back to loosen the seeds. Remove any of the membrane that may cling to the seeds as you remove them.

Cut the avocado into pieces.

Add the avocado, pumpkin and pomegranate seeds to the leaves on the platter. When the broccoli is ready, add it to the salad.

A glug of extra virgin olive oil and one of balsamic vinegar is next. Finish with a grinding of black pepper.

Healthy living is not just for January – 3 February 2016

January is behind us and with it the endless stream of articles on self- improvement, healthy lifestyle and refusing alcohol for the month. I don’t know where the fashion for ‘Dry January’ came from but I can only imagine that the pubs are fuller than ever this week with some very thirsty customers. With Valentine’s Day in February there is a lovely romantic excuse to start popping the champagne corks again. So much for the liver detox.

The problem I have with Dry January is the way an alcohol– free lifestyle is touted for a month a year and then it is back to normal for most. So much of our health improving behaviour suffers the same fate. Gym memberships bought and not used much beyond the first few months, diets begun on Mondays and abandoned by Fridays; I am guilty of these and many more discarded attempts to be healthier.

The biggest challenge I have encountered over the past three years of cholesterol lowering has been the sheer endlessness of it. Not the short number of months it took to get my cholesterol down initially – that only took 90 days. No, the problem set in when I had to maintain what I had achieved. I succeeded in my initial goal to reduce my cholesterol level through sheer willpower and refusal to be tempted off my path by foods that were off-limits. A bit like Dry January, really, except that there were many more foods and it lasted three months.

Similarly to people who try to reduce alcohol intake on a long term basis, I have to make decisions on a daily basis, hourly even, to keep my cholesterol in check. Some days I am better at it than others. Every meal there are choices to be made – do I eat steak with the family or pop yet another salmon fillet in the oven? Do I eat ice cream with the stewed apples or help myself to a bowl of yoghurt? Do I go for my brisk walk or curl up with a box of chocolates and a book? Especially when it is raining.

Some militants might be able to make the right decisions every day, year in and year out. In the early days of my campaign to keep my cholesterol in check I thought I was one such person. Three years on I know I am not. It is a struggle. It is boring. I want to rebel. I do rebel.

I enjoy reading articles that say that the food advice we have been fed over the past decades has been wrong, that fat is not the enemy. But not all fats were created equal and some fats are better than others. Olive oil, nuts, avocado, oily fish – these are all high in healthy fats. Problem is that they also make you fat if you eat too much of them. As a woman of a certain age, that extra weight seems to be settling in for good around my belly which is known to be the worst area to be carrying fat. It increases one’s risk of cardiovascular problems. Even in the past three years I have noticed how much more difficult it is becoming to keep my weight in check. Is it because I am eating too many slices of cake or could it just be that I am eating too many healthy fats? Perhaps next time I will say no to salmon and just get stuck in to a juicy piece of steak with ice cream to follow!