Thursday, 26 May 2011

Little Chocolate Cheesecakes

Warm, wobbly and wonderful. These rich little chocolate cheesecakes are somewhere between cupcake and molten chocolate babycake. Made in muffin cases, they are a very quick dinner party or tea treat.


300g cottage cheese (trust me...if you are chicken you can use ricotta but really you need to try these)
85g light brown soft sugar
1 egg
1 egg white
35g cocoa powder
1tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp plain white flour
6 rich tea/graham cracker biscuits

Makes 9
Smash your rich tea biscuits up by putting them in a sandwich bag and then attacking with a rolling pin.

Share the crushed biscuits out between the muffin cases and press down until compacted with your fingertips.

Mix together all the remaining ingredients in a food processor or with a hand blender until fully combined.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases until each is about 4/5ths full. Bake at 150c for 20-25 minutes or until set but still slightly wobbly in the centre. Open the oven door and allow to cool for further 1 hour. Remove from oven and turn peel away cases to serve.

Arthritis diet notes:
Absolutely nothing wrong with the occassional treat - just remember a treat isn't a treat if you are having one every day! Cocoa is rich in flavonoids which can benefit cardiovascular health. The cottage cheese is also a good source of calcium. I've trimmed the saturated fat back from this recipe but remember it is still high in sugar.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Cumin Carrot Dip

Obviously this is the orange dip in the photo and very delicious it is too. I can eat the whole batch myself with a teaspoon quite happily. It's quite Middle Eastern in flavour and goes well as part of a mezze, in wraps at lunch or just with chopped up raw veg and warm pitta bread.


500g organic carrots
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika (smoked if you have it)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp apple balsamic (or other good sharp vinegar)
Salt to taste

Roughly chop the carrots and put in a pan (there is no need to peel them if you have organic ones). Cover with boiling water and simmer for about 20 minutes or until tender. Drain the carrots and leave in the sieve.

Heat the oil in the pan and add the peeled garlic, cooked carrots and spices. Cook on a gentle heat for a couple of minutes.

Remove from heat and add vinegar. Puree with a hand blender (or if you prefer you can mash by hand but the texture will be less smooth) until just blended.

Season to taste.

Replace 1 tablespoon of the olive oil with 20 grams of nuts or seeds for a earthy flavour and slightly grainy texture - hazelnuts, brazil nuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds all work very well.

Arthritis diet notes:
Carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant, which your body also turns into vitamin A. Beta-carotene has been shown to be protective against some cancers and some studies have shown that those with rheumatoid arthritis have low levels of it.

Cumin is used in traditional herbal medicine to soothe digestion which might help you if you find your arthritis medication causes you a sore tummy or nausea,

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Arthur investigates...Calcium

Continuing our series of looking in depth at ingredients and nutrients that can help you keep healthy, today it's the mineral that makes up about 1kg of each of us!

Calcium – is vital for strong bones and healthy teeth. Lack of calcium can lead to osteoporosis so people with a family history of the disease or those who have been on steroids for a long time can reduce their risk by ensuring they eat enough calcium rich foods. Calcium works best combined with vitamin D and magnesium.
Easy  ways to get enough are to have 2-3 servings of dairy a day, like plenty of milk on your cereal, a yoghurt and a matchbox sized piece of cheese.  Lower fat dairy products are better – semi-skimmed milk is both richer in calcium and lower in saturated fat. There are quite a few studies showing that low fat dairy products can aid weight loss – although quite why has not be established. Other good sources of calcium are sardines, tofu, leafy greens (like kale and watercress), pulses, sesame seeds and fortified soya milk.
Taking weight bearing exercise, like walking, can help maintain bone mass. Making sure you get your essential fatty acids (oily fish, nuts etc) can also help ensure you absorb the calcium in your diet.

If you want to find out more, I recommend starting here at the US National Institutes of Health factsheet.

Speedy Moussaka

Please don't be put off by the long list of ingredients. This is a very simplified version of moussaka and takes very little time to whip up - especially if you have a food processor. There is no time-consuming frying of aubergines or making bechamel sauces. The fromage frais topping is a doddle and well worth trying on other bakes. If you can't get fromage frais, low fat greek yoghurt works well and is probably more authentic.

It freezes well so I often pop portions in foil containers and keep as homemade ready meals to chuck in the oven when I'm feeling to exhausted to cook.


500 g extra lean beef mince
1  onion
1 carrot
2 tablespoons of tomato puree
1  clove of garlic
1 tablespoon of olive oil
250 grams mushrooms
1 stick of celery
2 good sized aubergines
500g fat free fromage frais
1 egg
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
1\2 teaspoon of dried (or even better fresh) oregano (optional)

Serves 3-4
Slice your aubergine into thin rounds. Place in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and microwave on high for 4 minutes (or if you prefer, lightly brush a baking sheet with olive oil and grill on high turning occasionally until soft and golden).
Put onion, carrot, celery and mushrooms in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the pulsed vegetables. Cook, stirring occasionally until they all begin to soften. Add the mince and the tomato puree – if the mixture looks a little dry add a splash of water. Cook gently for about 15 minutes until mince is cooked through and everything is well combined. Season to taste and add the cinnamon and oregano if using.
Place mince into ovenproof dish and then top with aubergine slices.
Beat fromage frais together with the egg and then pour over the top of the aubergine.
Bake at 180c for 20 mins or until top is golden and set.

Arthritis diet notes:
This is a great way to get plenty of hidden vegetables down yourself and your family. It's also much lower in saturated fat than a traditional moussaka - saturated fat can encourage inflammation so it's best to trim back on it if you have any kind of arthritits. 

Mushrooms are a good source of folic acid. If you are taking disease modifying drugs like methotrexate for your arthritis supplementation with folic acid is really important. It helps manage side effects and prevent problems associated with deficiency and anaemia.

Monday, 23 May 2011

L-B Soda Bread

This is a great bread recipe for anyone who has trouble with all the kneading (and proving) needed to make bread. Incredibly quick and easy to make, it’s absolutely delicious fresh served with soup, scrambled eggs or smoked salmon. If by some miracle the whole loaf isn’t scoffed in a day, it’s delicious the day after lightly toasted.

The recipe below came to me via my fiance's wonderful Aunt Izzy.


250g wholemeal flour
50g porridge oats 
240ml of buttermilk (or low fat plain yoghurt and milk
1 heaped tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp of brown sugar
Pinch of salt

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the buttermilk and stir until everything is just combined.Don't overmix -  the mixture should be a bit damp.Shape into a rough round and score a cross on the top. Bake at 35-45 mins at 160c. Remove from oven and leave to cool on wire rack for 20 minutes before slicing.

Be brave, almost anything will work as long as the proportion of wet to dry ingredients stays the same. Here are my favourites:

Olive soda bread - I had to make this variation as my other fiance cannot get enough of olive bread. Replace the flour and oats with all white bread flour. Add 50 grams of green olives, a tablespoon full of extra virgin olive oil and some dried rosemary.

Raisin and walnut -  Try adding a  tsp of cinnamon, 25g of walnuts and 25g of raisins. Yum.

Sweet potato, sage and cheese - Add half a grated sweet potato and cut back 30mls of buttermilk. Add fresh chopped sage and 50 grams of cubed goats cheese or other strong flavoured cheese.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

What to feed Arthur - or anyone else for that matter

I don’t believe in ‘special diets’ – there is no robust evidence to suggest that for any kind of arthritis, other than gout, cutting out certain foods or eating particular things will help treat the condition. Anecdotally, some people do find symptom relief from avoiding foods that don’t seem to agree with  them (I know I seem to get more sore when I drink white wine, no idea why and funnily enough it doesn’t seem to happen with gin). What is proven to help is eating a healthy, balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight. Yes, very boring, I know, but try to think of it this way:
-          Every extra pound you lose reduces the pressure on your knee joints by four pounds (Meisser;2005)
-          A healthy diet helps protect you against cardiovascular disease and cancer (Scarborough, Nnoaham, Clarke, Rayner, Capewell ; 2010)
-          Vegetables give you an attractive glow (Stephen; 2011)
So, eating well equals moving better, living longer and looking hotter. Not so boring now!


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