Saturday, 29 August 2015

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Quick Berry Crumble

We're very lucky that we live by a bramble strewn park full of blackberries, so for the last few weeks the toddler and I have been picking our afternoon snack and coming home with berry-stained mouths and purple hands. We've picked so many that I've had to begin coming up with alternative uses for all of the blackberries we've scavenged - one of which is this easy crumble. It's barely a recipe - I can put this together even on days when my arthritis is as miserable as the weather and there is nothing quite like tucking into a wholesome, comforting home-cooked crumble.

This recipe is healthier than many traditional crumbles. Rapeseed oil replaces butter and keeps things light and crisp. It's high omega 3 content means it is good for your joints too. All dark coloured berries are a wonderful source of anti inflammatory anti-oxidants. The deep pigments that stain your hands and mouth are a phytochemical called anthocyanin.

Feel free to use whatever berries you have to hand. Frozen fruit works well too - simply defrost it before cooking and bear in mind that it may take slightly less time in the oven as the frozen fruit breaks down quicker. 


Ingredients:

250g berries (I used blueberries and blackberries)
1tbsp golden caster sugar (no need to use if your berries are very sweet)
60g porridge oats
10g chopped nuts (or you can use seeds etc)
25g runny honey
1 tblsp rapeseed oil (I used Cooks&Co butter flavoured)
1/2tsp cinnamon (optional)

Makes 1 small crumble or 2 generous individual portions


Preheat your oven to 180C/375F. 

Place the berries in your baking dish and sprinkle over the sugar, if using.

In a small bowl, mix together your porridge oats, nuts, honey, oil and cinnamon until every thing is evenly mixed. Sprinkle this mixture over the berries and then pop the whole dish in the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the crumble is golden.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Arthritis Gadget Review: Peta Easi-Grip Knives

I have some shiny new kitchen kit to review today - the Peta UK Easi Grip knife range. If you have not come across Peta before (and not, they aren't that PETA - read their hilarious 'who we're not' page), they are a lovely company who design and make products to make living with a disability easier. I was sent a selection of their knives to review.

What are they supposed to do?

I tested the bread knife, carving knife and all-purpose knife.The knives are designed to make chopping easier in the kitchen. They have wide, non-slip soft grips and an angled handle to help keep the wrist and hand joints in a comfortable position. 

Do they work?

Yes. I'm really impressed by the knives. The thing I was actually most worried about was how sharp the blades would be. If you have ever been at one of my talks, you will know the first thing I say is 'a safe knife is a sharp knife'; a blunt knife makes it harder to cut and requires more pressure. So many knives I try are just not sharp enough to cut with but all three of these knives worked well. I was especially impressed with how the bread knife cut good slices of a crusty loaf.

The grip is comfortable to hold and doesn't add too much weight to the knife. I found it very good for my thumb joints. The knives were also easy to clean. 

My only caveats would be that if you had very bad elbow arthritis (rather than wrist or finger problems) then you might find the knives trickier to use because the grip requires more of the motion to come from there. Also they are a pain to store because of the large handles, although the company do sell a good magnetic rack for them. Finally, I couldn't actually get into my knives at first because I couldn't remove the plastic blade cover without requesting my husband's help. A small niggle but it did cause me several aggravating minutes of cursing - like my toddler when she wants to get into a cupboard but can't!

I was sent the knives free to review but they retail for a reasonable £11.95 each and you can buy them direct from Peta here.

Overall verdict? A 
There are so many supposedly arthritis-friendly kitchen gadgets on the market but very few that you really do feel have been designed and tested by people with a proper understanding of the challenges of cooking with arthritis. With these knives I really did feel like they were made to help with the frustrations of arthritis - not add to them.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Sweet Potato Caramel Muffins

These yummy sweet potato muffins are like a cross between a very good sticky toffee pudding and a carrot cake. The dark brown sugar and sweet potato combine to create a lovely gooey caramelly crumb without needing to use as much refined sugar or fat as a regular muffin. I won't lie - grating sweet potato when you have arthritis is not easy. I either get my husband or the food processor to do it! The recipe also uses yoghurt - I actually like them best made with soy yoghurt but you can use any yoghurt except the greek kind (which would make them too dense and fudgy - unless you'd like them like that). You could even use a toffee flavoured yoghurt if you liked but this will add a lot of sugar.

Despite my mixed views on coconut oil and arthritis, I do find it works well in cakey things. Because its a solid fat at room temperature it gives a particularly crisp outer crumb and moist centre to baked goods. I leave it up to you as to whether you want to use it or not...

Ingredients:

150g grated sweet potato 
200g wholemeal flour (or you could use gluten-free)
100g low fat natural yoghurt (you can use dairy free yoghurt too - I used soy yoghurt)
2 medium eggs
30g ground almonds
75g dark brown soft sugar
2 tablespoons rapeseed oil or coconut oil
1tsp baking powder
1tsp caramel flavouring (optional)

Makes 12 muffins

Mix the wet ingredients (yoghurt, eggs, oil) together in a jug. 

Put the flour, ground almonds, sugar and baking powder in a large mixing bowl and stir together. Then pour in the wet ingredients and stir until everything has just come together. The batter will seem a little thick but this is a good thing because the sweet potatoes will release moisture as they cook.

Spoon the mixture into a well greased 12 hole muffin tin. Bake for 20 mins at 180C/375F or until they are well-risen and golden. Allow the muffins to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before you attempt to turn them out.


Sunday, 19 July 2015

Arthritis Friendly Recipe - Puy Lentil and Walnut Hummus

Some of you may know the charity, Arthritis Action, which has recently had a fantastic relaunch. The charity is really focussed on helping people learn to manage their condition through healthy diet, exercise and support. I write a monthly column for them and had been down to do a recipe demonstration at their AGM. Sadly, the toddler and I got struck by a horrid chest infection (humira and play groups don't always mix) and I had to miss it. The upshot of that was that I was left with lots of packets of puy lentils from the demonstration I had planned. Once we had them in pilafs, burgers and salads I began to run out of ideas until I decided to make a dip. 

This puy lentil and walnut hummus is absolutely delicious and incredibly quick to make - which is a good thing as we scoffed it all over one long lunch time. Lentils have a reputation as being a bit worthy and boring but they are a fantastic source of fibre, folate and b vitamins - all of which are really important for people with arthritis and something that studies show we often fail to consume enough of. Walnuts are also great as they are the nut richest in in inflammation fighting omega 3 fatty acids.



Ingredients:
200g pouch of ready to eat puy lentils
30g walnuts
1/2 clove of garlic
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons water

Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth. If the dip is a little thick, you can add a touch more water. Check the seasoning and add a touch of salt or more vinegar if required. Serve immediately or it will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Amazing Arthritis Friendly Cooking Hacks (or Why the Internet is Amazing)

If you have arthritis, the internet is amazing. Yes, certain corners of it are filled with health jumbo jumbo, trolls and scams but it is also the most amazing source of company, support and entertainment when you are stuck home with a flare.

Every now and then, when I'm having trouble preparing an ingredient in the kitchen, I tap my problem into the search engine and 90% of the time some incredibly creative brain somewhere has come up with an ingenious easier way to do it. Here are some of my recent favourites:

1. How to chop lots of cherry tomatoes quickly - I often make a quick supper of chopped cherry tomatoes, basil, olive oil and pasta but, gosh, how tedious and sometimes painful it is slicing them all up. Turns out you can simply pop all your cherry tomatoes onto one saucer, cover with another and then slice through them with a sharp knife. Here's a video  which explains how it's done. I've found it only works with fresh, firm tomatoes and a very sharp knife - otherwise you just get a soggy mess.

2. Ginger doesn't need to be peeled - !!! I've peeled ginger my entire life and it turns out this isn't at all necessary as long as it is fresh and has firm skin. Oh, the hours I've wasted...If your ginger is a bit old and gnarly, instead of a peeler, try using a spoon to scoop off the skin. And, did you know you can cook and eat squash skin?

3. How to peel potatoes without a peeler - I feel much better about peeling potatoes now I have this little gadget but you can also try this method: simply score around the middle of each potato piercing the skin. Boil them as normal and then allow them to cool. Once cool you can just peel off the skin. Or alternatively, boil the potatoes with the skin on and then pop them in an ice bath. You should be able to just rub the skin off afterwards.

4. Avoid having to turn or flip food during cooking - instead of having to get the tray out of the oven halfway through to turn your chicken or chips, simply pre-heat the baking tray first. The blast of heat ensures the underside gets crisped too without getting the tongs out.

What are your favourite arthritis kitchen hacks?

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