Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Pasta with Tenderstem Broccoli

Broccoli and oily fish are both great additions to your diet if you have arthritis and, handily enough, they go very well together - especially in this classic Italian pasta dish. It's a great quick and easy dish to make: I managed it with one sore arm and between dealing with my daughter's hiccups and stopping the cat from redecorating the kitchen with muddy paw prints.

Traditionally, this dish is made with orrechiette (little ears) but I prefer wholemeal pasta. It's earthy taste really complements the taste of the sauce and, as a bonus, it is higher in fibre. I haven't tried it with spelt pasta but for those of you who are adventurous, I imagine it would go really well. If you don't like anchovies, then replace them with almonds or pine nuts which are both high in healthy fats and inflammation fighting vitamin E. 

150g (5oz)  wholemeal pasta
250g (1/2 lb) tenderstem broccoli
1 clove crushed garlic (you can use paste or granules if easier)Dried chilli flakes to taste1 small tin of anchovy fillets, drained OR 25g sliced almonds or pinenuts1 tablespoon olive oil

Serves 2

Put the pasta on to cook in a large saucepan. Cook according to timings on packet.

Add the broccoli for the last 3-5 minutes of cooking time, depending on how al dente you like it.
Drain in a large colander.

Return the saucepan to a medium heat and pour in the tablespoon of olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes and anchovies (or nuts). Heat for a minute or until the garlic softens, then add the pasta and broccoli. Give everything a good stir to ensure it is evenly coated. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Arthritis diet notes:
Broccoli (like other cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, kale and cauliflower) is rich in sulphur compounds that can help reduce arthritis joint inflammation. It's also a good source of vitamin K which studies suggest may help slow or prevent joint deterioration in osteoarthritis. 

Anchovies supply omega 3 fish oils. These fatty acids have been shown to reduce pain and inflammation in both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. If you really can't stand anchovies, pine nuts or almonds are a good alternative as they are rich in the antioxidant vitamin E which studies show people with arthritis tend to consume less of than their more happily jointed peers.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Coconut Banana Bread (and a new member of the 'Cooking with Arthur' family)

Since my last post, I've gained a wonderful 4 week old daughter who is filling my days (and nights) with lots of joy. However, feeding her is leaving my stomach feeling perpetually empty! I can only compare it to having the munchies with a massive arthritis flare or a course of steroids. Every time a visitor comes I secretly hope they have brought cake; but, whilst we have had many incredibly thoughtful baby gifts, there still hasn't been enough cake delivered for my midnight snacks. So, I whipped up this quick, healthy-ish coconut banana bread - it's easy to make, even when your hands are aching with arthrits (or you are juggling life with a newborn), as you simply throw all the ingredients in a food processor and blend.

250g ripe bananas (about 3 medium ones)
200g  flour
100g soft brown sugar
3 large eggs whites
50g dessicated coconut
100ml milk 
1tsp  baking powder
1tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1tsp ground cinnamon (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Grease a 1lb loaf tin.

Put all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blitz until well combined and no large pieces of coconut remain.

Pour the batter into the greased loaf tin and bake for around 30-35 minutes or until well risen. lightly browned and firm to touch. If the cake looks like it is browning too quickly during cooking, cover with tin foil for remaining cooking time.

Leave to cool in tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

Arthritis diet notes:
If you prefer to eat a gluten-free diet for your arthritis (and you can read my views on the pros an cons of gluten-free and arthritis here) , then simply swap the flour and baking powder for the gluten-free variety. Gluten-free baking can be a a bit tricky and often cakes turn out very crumbly or dry, however most cakes that contain fruit or vegetables can be adapted very successfully because the added fibre and moisture helps keep the texture firm.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

A Little Break - Or Pregnancy and Arthritis

I'm sure some astute regular readers may have noticed that I've not posted so frequently over the last 8 months. I haven't written about it before because this is a cooking/diet blog really and not a lifestyle blog, but, it's actually because I've been pregnant. Those months have trundled by and in a few days time, all being well, we will have a very much wanted little one. So, if you come on here and there are no new recipes - it's not because I'm not still Cooking with Arthur, it's just that I'm probably currently Nappy Changing with Arthur (or similar) and will be back soon!

PS.  At some point in the future, I may post about the trials and tribulations of being pregnant with psoriatic arthritis and auto-immune disease. If you think that would be an interesting or useful post (or have your own experience to share), let me know.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Easy Roast Chicken

There are loads of articles floating around now about how not to waste food and the benefits to your wallet and your health of eating sustainably. One way of doing this is to cook up a weekly roast and then use the leftovers throughout the week. Chicken is a great bird to use as it's relatively lean, high in protein and inflammation-fighting selenium (I've written about this nutrient's role in arthritis here). You can use the left over meat for healthy stir fries and the carcass for flu-busting soups (or not - read this great article on the chicken soup myth).

Roasting a joint for a meal can seem daunting when you have arthritis but don’t be put off, it’s actually very simple and involves little more than seasoning the chicken and then popping it in the oven.  You can vary the seasonings you use depending on what you want to serve it with. Keep things fresh and nutritious by making healthy roasted vegetables to accompany it – simply toss baby carrots and new potatoes in a tablespoon of oil before roasting for 40 minutes. 

1.5kg /3lb 6oz chicken
1 tablespoon olive, sunflower or rapeseed oil
1 lemon (optional)
4 whole cloves of garlic
Salt, black pepper

Serves 4
Place the chicken in a roasting dish. Pop the 4 unpeeled cloves of garlic and lemon (if using) into the cavity – you may need to cut the lemon into half or quarters to do this.

Pour the olive oil over the top of the chicken and then rub it all over. Season the chicken liberally with the salt and black pepper.

Put the joint in the oven and cook for 1hr and 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and check it is cooked by piercing a leg with a knife or skewer – if the juices run clear, it is done.

Tip the chicken so any fluid in the cavity drains out and transfer the whole thing to a carving board. Leave it to rest for 10 minutes and then serve.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Arthritis Diet Friendly Recipe: Healthy Shepherds Pie

After my last post on New Year's arthritis diets, I wanted to post one of my favourite recipe make-overs - Shepherds' (lamb) or Cottage (beef) Pie. Traditionally, the recipe was to use up leftovers from the weekend roast but many 'chef' versions today are anything but frugal and are often filled with not-so-arthritis friendly ingredients like double cream. My version is packed full of vegetables and much lower in saturated fat but still tastes rich and comforting. 

This isn't an easy recipe to make if you have bad arthritis in your hands, wrists or arms. My top tips are to  use a food processor to chop the vegetables and soften the celeriac before cutting it by giving it a 4 minute blast in the microwave. 

400g (14oz) lean beef mince, lamb (10% fat or less) or veggie mince
300g (10z) cup mushrooms
1 onion
2 sticks of celery
2 medium carrots
500g (1lb) celeriac (or cauliflower, see notes above)
1 medium sized potato
1 low salt beef or vegetable stock cube
½ small glass red wine (optional, can be replaced with water)
100ml (4 fl oz) semi-skimmed milk
Black pepper and salt
Olive oil

Serves 3-4

Top and tail the carrots (peel them if they have very thick skins). Put the onion, celery, mushrooms and carrots in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan and tip in the chopped vegetables. Cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened. Add the mince and cook for a further 10 minutes. Crumble in the stock cube and red wine, and stir. Leave to simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes then tip out into a medium, oven-proof dish. Spread into an even layer and leave to one side whilst you prepare the mash.

Peel and slice the celeriac into medium-sized chunks. Do the same with the potato. Put in a large pan and cover with boiling water. Simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Drain and then return the vegetables to the pan. Add the milk. Mash the celeriac and potato, either by hand or using a blender, food processor or electric whisk. Season to taste.

Spread this mash mixture on top of the prepared mince. Fork the top into attractive lines and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Bake the cottage pie for 25-30 minutes at 180C/375F or until the top is golden brown. Allow to rest for 5 minutes and then serve.

Arthritis diet notes:
Red meat can be an important source of iron for people with arthritis. Anaemia is common in sufferers due to both the inflammation caused by the disease and the side-effects of non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Choose the leanest cuts you can find to reduce the levels of unhealthy saturated fat and always eat it alongside plenty of vitamin-rich vegetables to help your body absorb the iron.


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