Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Root Vegetable Risotto

Otherwise known as 'how to use up the leftovers' risotto. It is almost worth making extra on Christmas day, just so you can eat this. It could easily be made from scratch by substituing the gravy and water for chicken stock and the leftover vegetables for peas and spinach or any other no chop vegetables.

2 cups of risotto rice
3 cups of boiling water
1 cup of leftover gravy (or use 4 cups chicken stock)
1 cup leftover turkey or chicken (optional)
2 cups of leftover vegetables (I used carrot, leeks and chestnuts)
Handful of chopped sage
1 tablespoon light cream cheese
Splash of sherry (yes really, it is Christmas, but white wine will do)

Serves 4 generously

Pour the rice, water and gravy into a large saucepan and bring to a low simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15-20 minutes or until creamy and the rice just has a slight bite.

Add the leftover vegetables, sage, cream cheese and sherry. Cook for a further 5 minutes and then dish up.

Arthritis diet notes
This is a great soothing dish, easy to make and eat, which is just what you need after the festive rush. Sprouts, carrots, parsnips, squash, peas, spinach etc would all work in this dish. The only tip is to use a variety of colours and textures to ensure you get a wide range of vitamins and antioxidants.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Oat and Almond Crusted Fish

Fish is traditional in many countries on Christmas Eve so I thought I'd share one of my favourite easy recipes for a fantastic fish supper. It's an incredibly versatile recipe, check out the Christmas stuffing variation for the best alternative use of stuffing mix ever.

4 white fish fillets
4 tablespoons rolled oats
4 tablespoons light cream cheese
2 tablespoons flaked almonds
1 tablespoon chopped parsley or dried herb of your choice
Black pepper to taste
Olive oil spray

Serves 4
Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with foil and place the fish fillets on it.

In a bowl, stir together the herbs, oats and almonds. Season with black pepper.

Spread the fish fillets with the cream cheese and then sprinkle on a tablespoon of the crumb mixture. Spray each fillet with a light mist of olive oil and bake for about 8 minutes (depending on the thickness of your fillets).

Christmas stuffing fish - replace the oats and almonds with a sprinkle of any dried, breadcrumb based stuffing mix.
Pesto-crusted fish - mix a tablespoon of pesto from a jar with the cream cheese. Spread on the fish and top with ciabatta breadcrumbs and pine kernels.
Seedy salmon - add a tablespoon of whole grain mustard to the cream cheese. Spread on fish and top with breadcrumbs mixed with sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Arthritis diet notes:
Regular fish eaters have been shown to be less likely to get arthritis and have milder symptoms, probably due to the omega 3 fatty acids in fish. There is less in white fish than oily fish but you still get some of the benefits. Fish is also a good source of low fat protein. Crumbing the fish with oatmeal, almonds and olive oil helps add cholesterol lowering soluble fibre and boost the omega 3 content further.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Christmas Eating and Arthritis

A few people have been asking me about cooking over Christmas with arthritis and what to eat to help avoid a massive festive flare. I thought I'd share a few suggestions on the eating first. Christmas is about family, friends and enjoying celebrating together. It's important to have fun and not worry too much about the tightening waist band or mince-pie sugar high. But we all want to stay happy and healthy for the holidays,  so here are some practical eating hints and links to the relevant recipes.

1. Love your spices - all the ginger, cloves and cinammon in Christmas cooking are great anti-inflammatories so throw them in everything and enjoy their benefits.

2. Go nuts for nuts - almonds, walnuts, brazils, pecans, cashews and so on are good sources of healthy omega 3 and monosaturated fats which can help reduce inflammation. They are also rich in magnesium, zinc, selenium, fibre and protein. Eat them plain (rather than honey roast or salted) or try using them in your cooking; you can replace some of the cakes with ground almonds or hazelnuts for a delicious and healthy change.

3. Watch your fats - it is very fashionable to cook your roast potatoes in goose fat or beef dripping. For a once off on Christmas day, that's fine but it's much better to roast in olive oil for your heart and joints over the festive season.

4. Be creative with your fruit and vegetables - people with arthritis are consistently found to eat less fruit and vegetables that our un-joint-challenged friends. Probably because carrying and chopping them is such a hassle when Arthur is nipping at your toes! Christmas can seem particularly tricky, with so much to do and prepare. Easy ways to make sure you are getting enough are to have juice with your breakfast, dried fruit as a snack (and there is loads around at Christmas) and serve veg that don't need a lot of work: spinach, peas, sprouts, beans etc all are easy to cook.

5. Drink with decorum - this one is from experience...most of us don't tend to drink much throughout the year because of our medications. Being limited to 5 units or so a week usually can make all the Christmas alcohol a bit of a shock to the system. Falling asleep before the main course is not a good look for a Christmas guest! And a hangover is a sure fire way to set off a flare, so enjoy the mulled wine and eggnog but for every glass, drink one of water. Make sure you eat and take it S-L-O-W.

6. Start the day well - getting in a healthy breakfast is an easy way to keep your eating on track over Christmas. Even if the rest of the day is a wash with champagne and chips (here's hoping...), having a nice bowl of porridge with berries or a banana muffin will set you up nicely for all that shopping,wrapping and partying.

Check back in a few days for some festive recipes and cooking hints.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Healthy Hummus

Everyone likes hummus. It's the universal dip - welcome at any party, in any lunchbox and for any snack. It's very easy to make and the homemade version tastes much better than the odd supermarket sludges. It's also fun to top yourself for some interesting variations; try a spoonful of pesto, harissa or red onion marmalade to ring the changes.

400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Juice of one lemon (you can replace with a tablespoon of white wine vinegar if you find juicing difficult)
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 peeled clove of garlic
Salt (to taste)

Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend and you are done!

Arthritis diet notes:
Pulses, like chickpeas, are a great source of fibre, protein and a reasonable source of both zinc and folate. Using them in dips is a great way to introduce them to the more timid eaters in your house! The olive oil and tahini both provide anti-inflammatory fats which may help reduce pain and inflammation in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. They are also useful in protecting against heart disease.


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