Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Roasted Spicy Chickpea Snack

These are delicious, crunchy, moreish little chickpeas with a lovely spicy coating. Serve them as a tasty pre-dinner snack or stash them in your lunch box for a great healthy snack. You can buy very similar snacks in the supermarket now for vast amounts of money - don't bother these are way better and very cheap to make!

2 cans of chickpeas
2 tablespoons of your very best olive oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried powdered garlic
Salt to taste

Makes enough for about 4 snack-hungry people

Pre-heat your oven to 180C.

Drain the chickpeas well and blot off any excess water with kitchen roll (this will help them go really crunchy). Tip them into a bowl and coat with the olive oil, paprika, garlic and salt to taste.

Spread them out on a large baking tray so that there is enough room for them to roll around a little and pop in the oven. Roast for 30-40 minutes, shaking the tray gently every 15 minutes. The chickpeas are done when shaking the tray makes them rattle against it.

You can spice these with pretty much any combination you like but try:
Spicy Indian - switch the paprika for 1 teaspoon of turmeric and also add 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin, ginger and coriander.
Sweet Chilli - use 1 tablespoon sesame oil and one of sunflower oil. Add 1/2 teaspoon each of dried chili flakes, ginger and garlic. Roast until almost done then add one tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce and stir to coat the chickpeas. Pop back in the oven for 5 minutes until the sauce caramelises (but remove before it scorches!).

Arthritis diet notes:
Chickpeas are a great sustaining snack as they are a good source of fibre and a good vegetarian source of protein. They will help give you a long lasting energy boost whilst satisfying that snack urge. Chickpeas are also a good source of folate for those of you taking drugs like methotrexate.Cooking them with olive oil means you are getting a dose of healthy monounsaturated fat and adding spices (like paprika, which contains capsaicin) gives them an added anti-inflammatory boost.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Cannellini Bean, Rosemary and Garlic Spread

I say 'spread' but you could use this in so many ways - it makes a nice mash substitute, a great dip or can even be thinned down with hot chicken stock into a super speedy soup. Try it in a roast chicken sandwich on some good wholemeal bread with a handful of salad leaves for a delicious lunch.

1 tin of cannellini (navy) beans
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of light soft cheese
1 clove garlic
A good handful of fresh rosemary

Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender an blitz until smooth. Dish out and serve.

Arthritis diet notes:
Cannellini beans are an excellent source of vegetarian protein, fibre, folate and magnesium all of which are important in a healthy diet with arthritis. The magnesium in beans and pulses helps develop and maintain healthy bones. Three heaped tablespoons (about 1/4 of this dip) count as one portion of your 5-a-day and about a third of your magnesium needs.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Cooking with Arthritis Gadgets: Master Class Food Chopper

There are an enormous number of gadgets and tools on the market for helping you cook with arthritis. Some are good, and some are...not so good. I've tried most of them and so thought I would share my reviews with you.

What is it supposed to do?
You put whatever you would like chopped-up in the little container at the bottom. You then put the top on and push down on the plunger. The zig-zag blade slices the food and then shifts about 90 degrees as it comes up, ready for the next chop.

Does it work?
I've tried it with onions and nuts; it did an ok job of dicing the onion but really struggled with the nuts. It occasionally got stuck chopping the onion. The bottom bowl can be put in the dishwasher but the top needs to be washed by hand.

Does it making it easier to cook with arthritis?
It was pretty difficult for my wrists chopping either with it as you have to really push the plunger down and then it sort of springs back up so it feels pretty high impact. I think if your main problem is your grip though, this could be very handy.

Overall verdict?
B- Must try harder.

You can buy the chopper online here and there are lots of similar gadgets around. If you have come across a better version, let me know!

For some helpful tips for making life easier when you are cooking with arthritis, click on the 'Handy Hints' page.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Guilt-free Chocolate Mousse (FODMAP friendly)

I'm afraid my only excuse for posting so many puddings recently is that we keep having people over and I wouldn't dream of serving dinner for people without giving them pudding! I'm not a great fan of low-fat dessert recipes, if you are only having pudding once or twice a week then you should have something delicious and thoroughly enjoyable: the real thing - not a substitute. But, that doesn't mean it can't be nutritious. This chocolate mousse recipe is an adaptation of Raymond Blanc's 'maman's chocolate mousse'; like the original it only uses egg whites and good chocolate to make a cloud of frothy dessert.

80g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
3 egg whites (or equivalent of pasteurised egg whites - see notes at end)

Serves 4

Break the chocolate into squares and heat in the microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds. Poke around and microwave again for another 30 seconds. Let it rest for a moment and then stir - it should be molten but if not give it another 30 second blast. Put the melted chocolate to one side.

In a large bowl, use a handheld electric whisk to beat your egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Your chocolate should now have cooled a little so stir in one large spoonful of the egg whites to lighten the mix. (If the mixture suddenly seizes up and goes grainy, your chocolate is too warm still. Don't panic! Add a splash of milk and stir gently until it loosens back up and goes smooth again).

Take the lightened chocolate and pour into the bowl with the egg whites. With a large spoon gently fold the two mixtures together until just combined.

Spoon the mousse into 4 little ramekins and leave to set in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Arthritis diet notes:
Young children, older people and those on immune-suppressants for arthritis, such as methotrexate or anti-TNFs (Humira, Enbrel etc), should be cautious with raw egg white because of the risk of salmonella. You can buy pasteurised egg whites in the fridge section of most supermarkets now and these are safe to serve.

The anti-oxidant properties of cocoa are being investigated: I'm sorry to say that I can't really find any evidence that they might help arthritis but who really cares when chocolate tastes so yummy?! If it is any comfort, there is no evidence that cocoa is bad for you either - it's the sugar and fat in chocolate that is naughty.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Chicken Curry

This is my spin on homemade curry. I've reduced the fat content by cutting back on the coconut and using butternut squash and yoghurt to make the most delicious,thick and satisfying sauce. Whizzing up the ginger, onion and garlic spice paste saves on chopping but if you prefer you could crush or grate them yourself. 

Butternut squash can be tricky to cut up. It has skin thicker than a rhino and takes quite a bit of brute force to slice through. You can buy it ready chopped but I make it softer to chop by pricking the skin all over and then popping it  whole in the microwave for about 7 minutes or the oven for about 30 minutes. Let it cool and then it should be easy to deal with. For other tips see the Handy Hints page.

Try serving this with steamed basmati rice, yoghurt with mint and cucumber and some good chutneys. Lightly spiced spinach makes a nice side dish. Pop your own poppadoms buy purchasing the uncooked ones at the supermarket and then putting them one at a time into the microwave for 30 seconds. They will puff right up and make a fantastic, cheap and grease-free alternative to the ready made variety.

400g chicken breast fillet cut into thumb sized chunks
250g peeled and cubed butternut squash
1 red onion
2 cloves garlic
2 inch piece of fresh ginger
21/2 tsp mild curry power
1 tsp turmeric
Pinch dried chilli flakes (optional)
150 ml chicken stock (from a cube is fine)
1 heaped tablespoon dessicated coconut
150ml low fat natural yoghurt
1 tablespoon sunflower oil

Toasted flaked almonds and coriander to serve

Serves 4

Peel your ginger, garlic and onion. Put in a food processor with the coconut and oil and blend until just combined.

Tip into a casserole dish and gently fry the mixture for 3-4 minutes until the onion goes translucent. Add the turmeric, chilli (if using) and curry powder and stir.

Add your chicken pieces and fry for a further 5 minutes. Then tip in your squash, stock and half of the yoghurt and bring pot to a simmer.

Cook covered on a low-medium heat for 25 minutes, until chicken is tender and the butternut squash has begin to breakdown into the sauce. Stir in the rest of the yoghurt and serve sprinkled with toasted almonds and fresh coriander.

Arthritis diet notes:
A healthy homemade curry is very close to a perfect meal for those with arthritis.This recipe is packed full of anti-inflammatory spices which can help with the pain and swelling in both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Using lean cuts of white meat, and reducing the amount of coconut dramatically, also keeps it low in saturated fats. 

There is more info on turmeric here in the 'Arthur Investigates' series of posts. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

One Pan Honey Mustard Salmon

The nights are drawing in, so I felt like making something with a real autumn flavour.And, what could be more seasonal than golden, roasted root vegetables? This is a very easy one-pan salmon supper that will cheer you up on a grey day.

2 salmon fillets
3 medium sweet potatoes (or mix up other root vegetables - squash and parsnips are tasty)
1 red onion
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

Serves 2 (easily doubled)

Mix the mustard and honey together in a small bowl then spoon onto the top of your salmon fillets and leave to marinade whilst you get the potatoes roasting.

Slice the onion into rough quarters. Chop you sweet potatoes (skin on) into rough cubes (about the size of your thumb). Put in a roasting tin and add olive oil. Stir around until all covered and then pop in the oven at 180c for 25-30mins.

When your potatoes and onion are looking nicely roasted, take out of the oven and add your salmon fillets to the tin. Pop back in the oven for about 7-10mins (depending on the thickness of your salmon fillets).

Arthritis diet notes:
As a recipe, this is an arthritis-busting treat.Sweet potatoes are full of betacarotene (vitamin A) which is a powerful antioxidant and has been linked to a reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Onions have anti-inflammatory properties, whilst mustard is a traditional home remedy for aching joints (although that often involves putting it in your bath). Finally, salmon is packed with healthy omega 3 oils which can help reduce pain and inflammation in arthritis (see this post for more info)


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