Friday, 27 September 2013

Cooking with Arthritis Gadgets: Kenwood kMix Stand Mixer Review (and a few words about KitchenAid)

Those of you who follow me on twitter will know that I had been dithering about whether to buy a stand mixer for ages to make baking with arthritis easier. I have a very old but faithful electric hand beater that I have been using for years but it's pretty heavy to hold and after one incident of dropping-it-in-cake-batter-and-redecorating-the-kitchen too many, I finally decided to get a stand mixer. I spent a long time researching which to get and eventually settled on a Kenwood Kmix after fiddling with lots of them in store and finding the Kenwood easiest with my arthritis. My decision was helped by the fact that it had a discount on it too, making it £150 cheaper than a KitchenAid. I was also swayed by Kenwood's customer service, having found KitchenAid's somewhat lacking after my food processor bowl cracked. Over a month later, and I've used it enough to give it a thorough review:

What does it do?

It beats, whisks and kneads. The kMix comes with a 5-litre stainless steel bowl and powerful 500w motor. It has a range of speeds and even a folding action for blending in things like egg-whites into a mousse base. It comes with a whisk, beater, dough-hook, batter-paddle and splash guard. You can also buy extra attachments to roll pasta etc.

Does it work?
I've used it for cakes, bread and whisking egg whites so far and it has handled them all easily. It smoothly works up to the set speed and automatically stops if you lift the mixer head. Occasionally, mine doesn't seem to want to get going when I initially turn the dial but this seems to be a freak occurrence. It does a much better job of bread than a hand-mixer and cakes have been very light and fluffy.

Does it make it easier to cook with arthritis?
For me it has made things much easier. My right shoulder and elbow can get very sore and holding a hand-beater is tricky. I like the fact I can just switch the kMix on and leave it to knead etc without any arm-pain at all - I don't think I will go back to a hand-whisk, especially as it manages small quantities well.  I find the mixer head-release easy to lift up and down;  it's heavy but the weight is well distributed so it tips back easily. The bowl is nice and light although I sometimes struggle to get it in and out, I don't think that is an arthritis-issue but more me still getting used to the machine. The attachments are a doddle to fix in and extremely easy to clean. My only real gripe is that I would like spare bowl attachments to be available so you can mix up a cake and icing etc without having to wash-up in between.

The mixer is far too heavy to be moving around the kitchen counter so you do need to be happy to leave it out. Luckily, the kMix looks lovely and comes in a range of colours. It's also very easy to wipe down as it's got smooth sides.

Overall verdict?
A Pricey but worth it if you are a keen baker with arthritis. It is a quality piece of kit.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Arthritis-Friendly Recipe: Beetroot Risotto

I was reading a perfectly sane sounding blog the other day which suddenly declared that beetroot was full of oxalic acid and should be avoided in the diets of people with arthritis. The reasoning was that oxalic acid can block calcium absorption and this would lead to a whole host of unpleasant symptoms from crumbling bones through to heart problems. Now, in theory, large doses oxalic acid can affect calcium metabolism and cause health issues but you would have to be consuming pound after pound of high oxalic acid foods for this to be a problem. It's just another myth about diet and arthritis. In fact, beetroot is packed full of vitamins, phytochemicals and blood pressure lowering nitrates. It's a wonderful vegetable for adding sweetness and colour to dishes and really comes into it's own in the Autumn. It also tastes great in this risotto recipe, so tuck in and enjoy - your taste buds and arthritis will thank you for it.

PS. If you'd like to make the parmesan-crusted chicken also shown in the photo, the recipe is here.

250g pre-cooked vacuum packed beetroot
150g risotto rice
1/2  large onion, finely diced
1 clove crushed garlic
400ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon light cream cheese
Pinch of nutmeg (optional)

Serves 2-3

Purée two (or half the packet) of the beetroot in a jug with the stock. Chop the other two into rough pieces.

Heat the olive oil in a large, oven-proof dish on the hob. Add in the chopped onion and garlic and cook for a few on a medium heat until softened for about 3-5 minutes. Tip in the rice and stir to coat. Then add the puréed beetroot and stock mixture. Give everything a good stir and then cover the dish and pop it in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until the rice is soft and cooked. Mix in the rest of the beetroot, pinch of nutmeg and the cream cheese. Serve.

Arthritis diet notes:
If you want to read more about the health benefits of beetroot, have a look at this post in the 'Arthur Investigate' series on how certain foods in your diet can impact on your health and arthritis.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Almond and Chia Shortbread

Today, I've got a lovely gluten, dairy and egg free recipe for all those with arthritis who are on special diets. I made these for our Arthritis Research UK Great British Garden Party and they were a huge hit with everyone who attended. The basic recipe lends itself well to adaptations, so try using hazelnuts and some cocoa powder or adding some lemon zest or ginger. Have a look at the arthritis diet notes section at the end of the recipe to learn more about chia seeds and arthritis.

175g gluten free flour
75g almonds
100g light brown soft sugar
1 tbsp chia seeds (or you could use ground flax/linseeds)
50ml almond milk or water
2 tablespoons golden syrup (or maple syrup)
2 tablespoons sunflower oil (or you could use rapeseed etc)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Makes 20
Put the chia seeds in a bowl with the almond milk and leave to soak for 5 minutes.Then combine with the syrup, oil, vanilla extract and salt. 

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until you have a stiff dough. Roll into a log and wrap in cling film. Put in the freezer for 20 minutes.
Remove the dough from the freezer and slice into 20 3/4 inch thick rounds.
Place on a baking sheet and bake at 180C/350F for 15 minutes or until just golden around the edges. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to crisp up.

Arthritis diet notes:
Chia seeds are a very small, dark round seeds that have been used in bread baking for years. They have recently become popular and touted as a 'superfood' in the media because of their high omega 3 content and ability to form a gel when added to fluids. From my perspective, they are a useful baking ingredient in gluten-free recipes as they help bind mixtures together. They are also a good way to add a boost of healthy omega 3 fatty acids. However, I don't think they are a miracle ingredient for people with arthritis. You would need to eat an awful lot of them to get a decent dose of omega 3 fatty acids and plant sources lack the fatty acid compounds DHA and EPA that have been shown to be effective in reducing arthritis inflammation. If you are vegetarian, then you might find chia seeds a useful addition to your diet to help you get enough omega 3, alongside other sources such as flax (linseeds), almonds and walnuts.


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