Saturday, 5 November 2016

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Lighter Toad in the Hole

Given it's Guy Fawkes (bonfire night) here in the UK, I thought I would post a lighter, arthritis friendly version of the traditional toad-in-the-hole recipe. It makes a great bonfire supper served with green vegetables and baked potatoes. It also reheats well so you can make it in advance for a party.

I've reduced the fat content of the traditional recipe by using low fat sausages or quorn ones and cutting down on the amount of oil used. I like to add some roasted vegetables to the batter too - here I have used carrots but red onion, parsnip, squash and even leeks all work well. 

I personally prefer to use a tin foil tray to make this in, I find it conducts the heat well and helps the batter rise as well as being lighter to use on your joints but an ordinary roasting pan or even earthenware dish works fine. Do think about using a hand blender to make the batter if you have sore wrists or hands - it makes it the work of seconds and because it helps add air to the batter gives a really crisp toad in the hole, after all no-one like a soggy toad!

Ingredients:

75g plain flour
1 egg
200ml semi skimmed milk
Handful of baby carrots (or chop up some normal sized ones)
3 low fat sausages (I used quorn ones)
1/2 tbsp sunflower or rapeseed oil
Salt and pepper to season

Serves 2-3 (easily doubled)

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/392F.

Place the flour in a jug and break in the egg, add a small amount of the milk and start to beat the picture with a fork. Gradually keep adding the milk until you get a thin batter (about the same consistency as single cream). ALTERNATIVELY chuck the batter ingredients in a jug and whizz up with a stick blender until smooth. Season the batter mix with a little black pepper and salt.

Set the batter to one side.

Slice any rough tops of the baby carrots and halve any that look a bit squat. Place them in a small roasting tin or foil tray and coat with the oil. Add the sausages and roast everything for about 20 minutes or until the carrots have softened and the sausages are beginning to colour.

Remove the roasting tin from the oven, quickly spread out the carrots and sausages and then immediately pour the batter in. Return the tin to the oven and whack the temperature up to 220C/430F.

Cook the toad-in-the-hole for around 25-30 minutes or until the batter is well-risen and browned. Don't be tempted to open the oven door until it looks cooked otherwise the batter will sink. Serve immediately.



Monday, 19 September 2016

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Spicy Turmeric Chickpea Fritters

Hello! I'm back in the kitchen after far too long away with an easy arthritis-friendly recipe for these sunny yellow fritters packed with anti-inflammatory turmeric.

These little fritters make a great quick lunch or accompaniment to a curry. Gram or chickpea flour is sold quite widely now, it's traditionally used in Indian cooking (especially to make bhaji) and goes wonderfully crisp and light when fried. Chickpeas are also a great source of protein, fibre, folate and magnesium. People with all types of arthritis have been shown to get less magnesium and folate than their healthy peers so it's a good idea to look for easy ways to increase the amount you get in your diet through things like peas and beans. You can use whatever mix of sweetcorn and pulses you like here really but you may need to add a little more flour accordingly. 

I tend to make this recipe in a jug using a hand blender. I find snipping spring onions easiest on my joints but you can chop them or even blend them if you prefer. If you find grating difficult just skip out adding the carrot.

Ingredients:

250g mix of peas, sweetcorn and chickpeas (I used a 165g tin of sweetcorn and some chickpeas)
75g gram/chickpea flour
1 small grated carrot (optional)
1 medium egg
4 spring onions, roughly snipped or chopped
1/2tbsp garam masala
1tsp turmeric
1tsp mango chutney or brinjal pickle

Sunflower or rapeseed oil for frying
Tzatiki for serving

Makes about 10 fritters

Put a rough 2/3rd of your peas, chickpeas and sweetcorn in a blender of food processor jug and whizz them up with the egg, gram flour, spices and chutney/pickle until you have a rough paste.

Stir in the remaining peas etc, grated carrot and spring onions. 

Heat a large frying pan with a thin layer of rapseed or sunflower oil. Drop dessert spoonfuls of the mixture into the hot oil to make little fat pancakes. You should be able to cook 3 or 4 at a time. Flip the fritter when the edges look set and the underside is golden - fry the other side for about 90 seconds until also crisp and golden, then serve immediately.

Monday, 18 July 2016

What's (not) been cooking recently

I am a fountain of idioms and adages - I haven't the 'foggiest' why but I scatter them throughout my daily speech. At breakfast, I 'waste not, want not' by scoffing my daughter's leftovers, driven mad in the middle of the day, I 'start crawling up the walls' and by bedtime I'm ready to 'turn into a pumpkin'. 

And recently, I've been living one of my favourites 'every cloud has a silver lining'...

An annoying crop of health niggles meant I had to turn down a whole series of work and personal opportunities over the last few months that would either be too physically demanding or impossible to organise childcare for. I was feeling a bit down in the dumps about it when some wonderful non-cooking related projects landed on my lap.

One of the most recent ones I have been involved with is the launch of new site for people with psoriatic arthritis called PsAandMe. It's a project sponsored by Novartis that aims to help people with PsA share their own experiences of the condition and get us all talking about the swings and roundabouts of having a chronic illness. As a contributing editor to the site, I've written my usual healthy recipe but also shared my thoughts of parenting and psoriatic arthritis, or how not to let PsA be the monster under the bed.

Do check it out if you suffer from PsA. There is some great content on the site including tips on flying with PsA (so not fun), the old work/life balance conundrum, dealing with anxiety and relationships.

And if you have made it to the end of this post and survived the cartload of idioms, congratulations and just be grateful you don't have to live with me ;)

Friday, 27 May 2016

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Xylitol and Sunflower Oat Bars

We're cooking with arthritis and a few unusual ingredients today! The first of these is xylitol, a natural sweetener derived from birch trees (you can read more about it's origins and safety on the NHSChoices site here). Xylitol has some impressive health benefits that have been widely researched and are well evidence based: it has been shown to help prevent ear infections, has a lower glycemic index than sugar and may help protect against tooth decay. Now you might quite reasonably wonder what the state of you teeth has to do with your joints, but it turns out that there is a wealth of research linking tooth decay (or periodontal disease) and rheumatoid arthritis. It seems that people with periodontal disease may be more likely to develop severe arthritis and that some of the conditions associated with inflammatory arthritis, such as having less saliva due to Sjorgren's, may worsen existing tooth decay too.

You can find xylitol with the sugar in most supermarkets and online. It works well in sweet treats - especially ice creams or mousses as it has a cooling effect. If you are baking with it though you may want to add a little of another type of sugar as it doesn't caramelise like normal sugar so your baked goods can look a little pale and sad looking.

The second unusual ingredient is sunflower protein powder - it has a a mild nutty flavour and works well in baking, unlike a lot of protein blends. I've added it to these bars to help boost the protein and fibre content. Feel free to leave it out if you don't like the idea of it, you could either substitute it with another vegan protein powder (whey won't work as well) or simply replace it with oats.



Ingredients:
200g oats
50g sunflower protein
50g oat flour (grind oats in your food processor or replace with wholemeal flour)
2 small bananas
100g butter/low fat spread or coconut oil
50g honey
100g xylitol
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (optional)

Makes 12

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter (or other fat), honey and xylitol - keep the heat low and don't let it bubble too much. Take this mixture off the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes whilst you get on with the dry mix.

Mix the oats, sunflower protein, flour and seeds (if using) together in a large bowl. 

Add the two bananas to the warm melted butter and xylitol mix. Use a stick blender to puree the mixture until smooth. Add this liquid mix to the dry mix and give everything a good stir until. The mixture will get quite thick and gummy - don't worry! Plonk the whole lot into the greased tin and bake for 20-25 minutes at 180C/375F or until the oat bars have risen slightly and are golden at the edges.

Allow the mixture to cool for 20 minutes before cutting into squares.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Crispy Quinoa and Bean Burgers

This recipe for arthritis friendly bean and quinoa burgers is adapted from 'How to Cook' by Anna Jones which is an amazing vegetarian cookbook. Her recipe uses all quinoa and chickpeas, neither of which I massively enjoy, so I've switched things up to use a brown rice and quinoa mix and a tin of mixed beans. Do taste your harissa paste before adding it - they vary so much in terms of heat and strength, so you may need a little more or little less.

If you find shaping patties difficult due to your arthritis then you might want to try simply spooning this into a baking tin and pressing it down before spraying or brushing the top with cooking oil. Simply cut the cooked mixture into pieces once cool.

Peas and beans are a great source of fibre and protein. They also contain plenty of folate which research suggests that people with all types of arthritis may struggle to consume enough of. Moreover, a recent review of studies found that not only can eating pulses help you lose weight but it can also help you keep it off in the long term - great news if your joints would benefit from a lighter you!


Ingredients:

250g cooked brown rice and quinoa (I used a seeds of change pouch but you could use leftovers)
200g frozen peas, thawed (I zap mine in the microwave or you can leave at room temp for a few hours)
1 drained can of mixed beans (approx 230g drained weight)
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 dried apricots, roughly chopped
1/2 preserved lemon (optional but really good)
1tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon harissa paste
2 tsp nigella seeds

Serves 4

Put all of the ingredients into a large bowl and mix until everything is well combined. Remove half of the mixture and put it into a smaller bowl and blend until it forms a rough place with a hand blender (you could also use a food processor). 

Tip this paste back into the large bowl and stir everything together. Take tablespoons of the mixture and shape them into patties with your hands then place them on a greased baking sheet. I make about 8 or 9 small patties with the mix.

Pop the shaped patties into the fridge to firm up for half and hour. Once they are a bit firmer, spray them with cooking oil and then bake them at 180C/375F for 30 minutes or until golden.

Serve them with flatbreads, salad and yoghurt or houmous.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Hot Cross Loaf

Here is an easy recipe for a quick Easter hot cross loaf. At it's heart this is a soda bread recipe so there is no kneading or proving, which is great for arthritic hands. It's best eaten warm or within a day or two of making - something we have never had any trouble with. I'd say it is a good fibre-packed, healthy alternative to hot cross buns, but for me inhaling as many hot cross buns as is possible during the Easter period is a tradition in itself. Happy Easter!

Ingredients:

225g wholemeal flour (or you could use 1/2 white and half wholemeal)
25g rolled oats
1 medium egg
150ml milk
1.5 tsp baking powder
75g sultanas
1 tablespoon honey or golden syrup
1 tablespoon mixed peel (or you could use lemon or orange zest)
2tsp mixed spice

Mix the flour, oats, baking powder, spice and dried fruit together in a large bowl. In a separate jug, beat together the egg, milk an honey.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients and give everything a good stir until you get a rough dough. Add a little more flour if the dough seems to wet to hold a loaf shape or a little more milk if it feels to dry to come together.

Flour your hands and roughly shape the dough into a round loaf shape. Pop in on a baking tray and score a cross on it with a sharp knife. Bake for 25-30 minutes until well risen and lightly golden. Allow it to cool on a rack.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Cloud Bread

Other than the chocolate variety, my two year old will not normally touch eggs. This is perhaps unsurprising as I couldn't stand even the sight of them until I decided to learn to cook them myself in my teens and discovered that actually frittatas, tortillas and eggy bread were all pretty delicious. However, as she also isn't fond of meat, I've been on a bit of a mission to encourage her to eat them recently - and I think I have finally cracked it (yes, pun intended) with this gluten free cloud bread. We've eaten these fluffy clouds with fillings for lunch and as a tea time snack with maple syrup. If you follow a low-carbohydrate (such as the AS/London/no starch diet) or a gluten-free diet then they also make a great alternative to a bread roll.

The recipe is quick and easy to make as long as you make sure you whisk the whites until they are really stiff and fold the yolk mixture in carefully. I wouldn't personally attempt this without a stand mixer but there may well be braver and stronger whisk-ers out there than me!


Ingredients:

2 large eggs

30g (2tbsp) light cream cheese
1/4 tsp ground psyllium husk or 2tsp ground flaxseed (optional but helps the texture and adds fibre)
A little sunflower or rapeseed oil for greasing a baking tray

Makes 6 clouds
Preheat the oven to 150C and grease a large baking tray with a little oil.
Carefully separate the eggs. In a small bowl, beat the yolks together with the cream cheese, psyllium husks or flaxseed (if using) until smooth.


In a clean, large bowl whisk the eggs whites until they form stiff peaks. You should be able to turn the bowl upside down without them budging if they are whisked enough.
Fold one spoonful of the whisked egg whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it, then gently tip this yolk mixture into the large bowl of whisked eggs whites. Fold everything together by delicately scooping around the outside and then cutting through the middle with a large spoon. Be very careful not to overmix - it's better to be left with a few little specks of visible egg whites than a floppy mix!


Dollop large spoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking tray, then place in the oven and cook for around 20 minutes or until the clouds are a gentle gold colour.
If you eat the cloud bread immediately it will be very light and puffy but it is also nice the next day split and warmed through.



Arthritis diet notes:
Eggs are packed full of protein, B vitamins, iron and selenium, all nutrients that several studies have shown people with arthritis sometimes struggle to get enough of. Many years ago it was recommended that we restricted our intake of eggs but the advice has changed -  nowadays you can eat as many as you like provided you don't have familial hypercholesterolaemia.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Arthritis Kitchen Gadget Review: The Garlic Card

I have a pile of new arthritis kitchen gadgets to test this year and one of the first I got my creaky joints on was this GarlicCard.

What is it supposed to do?
GarlicCard is a small brightly coloured plastic card with raised bumps on it's surface against which you are supposed to puree a peeled garlic clove.

According to the manufacturer, 'GarlicCard is a Swedish invention for grating garlic quickly and easily. GarlicCard lets everyone enjoy fresh garlic whithout bothering with hard-to-clean garlic presses, razor-sharp graters or time-consuming chopping'.

Sounds great for those of us with arthritis but...

Does it work?
In theory, you simply rub your clove of garlic against the card and you get a fine puree.This video shows you have it is supposed to work.

In practice, you diligently rub your garlic against the card and all you get is a bit of squashed garlic. I don't know whether the problem is partly with me - I find it hard to hold the card steady and manoeuvre the piece of garlic with my stiff arthritic hands . However, it also feels like a slightly pointless invention. Squashing a garlic clove under a knife blade is easy and requires no extra tools. Similarly, garlic presses can be hard to use if you have arthritis but there are some good ones out there and at least they always work.

On the plus side, it is super easy to clean -you can throw it in the dishwasher or rinse it under a tap. 


Overall verdict
F It's a long time since a kitchen gadget has made me quite so angry actually. I love the concept; I love the styling; but, it is less than useless and I can't quite get my head around how something could have gone so wrong between the idea and the execution. 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Black Kale, Quinoa and Pumpkin Seed Bowl

This kale, sweet potato and quinoa bowl is quick and easy to put together. I like to use leftover quinoa or brown rice that I cooked the night before and leftover roasted sweet potatoes but you could also buy a bag of ready chopped sweet potato and butternut squash and just use that. Equally you can buy 250g pouches or ready cooked rice and quinoa so if you are having a bad flare day do seek them out.

Cavolo nero or black kale is delicious and it's dark colour means it is packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals. Kale is also a useful source of vitamin K. Several studies have suggested that vitamin K may help prevent or slow the deterioration of joints in osteoarthritis but there is little evidence to suggest it can help joint repair once the damage has occurred. There have been few studies about the role vitamin K might play in inflammatory arthritis ( i.e.  rheumatoid, AS, and PsA) however some laboratory experiments have suggested that it might help block the inflammatory processes.

Ingredients:


250g cooked quinoa or brown rice (I used a mix of both)
150g cavolo nero/black kale, finely chopped
A small courgette/zuchinni, coarsely grated
300g cubed cooked sweet potato
1/2tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
1tbsp pumpkin seeds
1tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp smoked or regular sea salt

Serves 2-3



Heat the oil in a large skillet or frying pan. Add the chopped kale and stir fry until it has just softened. Add the smoked paprika, courgette, quinoa and cooked sweet potatoes and heat until everything is piping hot.


Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds and smoked paprika over and serve.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Arthritis-Friendly Recipe: Wholemeal Flax and Sesame Crackers

I'm an avid reader of the back of food packets: I like to know what we're eating and there are certain ingredients (like palm oil) that I prefer to avoid. Snack foods in particular often seem to be full or  unhealthy and unpronounceable ingredients. I found myself staring at the back of a packet of crackers the other day wondering how on earth there were 15 ingredients in some simple cripbread. Luckily, it's actually very quick and easy to make your own arthritis friendly crackers. 

I prefer to make these in the food processor but you could easily stir the ingredients together. I've added flaxseed for the anti-inflammatory omega 3 it contains (and you can read more about why omega 3 is good for arthritis here) and calcium rich sesame seeds. You can easily swap in different seeds, spices or herbs to taste. Unfortunately this recipe won't work with gluten free flour though!

Ingredients: 
250g wholemeal or spelt flour
30g ground flaxseed (linseed)
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
120ml cold water
1/2tsp smoked sea salt (or ordinary if you prefer)

Makes 24 large crackers

Put all the ingredients except the sesame seeds in a food processor or bowl and mix until combined in a stiff dough. You may need a little more or less water depending on the absorbency of your flour.

Once the dough has come together, roll it out between two sheets of baking parchment to about 5mm (1/6inch) thick. Scatter the sesame seeds over the top and press them into the dough with the rolling pin.

Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into long, rectangular cracker shapes. Transfer them to a greased or lined baking sheet and prick them all over with a fork.

Bake the crackers for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are just golden. Don't worry if they seem a little soft when they come out the oven, they will crisp up as they cool.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

New Year Resolutions

A belated Happy New Year to you all! We've had a bit of a rough start to the New Year so far - I basically broke my body in 2015 (looking after a toddler full time is an extreme sport) and it has been a difficult time for some of our family and friends as well. However, onwards and upwards...

I've made a few resolutions for the blog this year: firstly, I'm going to write more product reviews as so many people tell me they find these the most useful thing and whilst there are lots of websites with healthy recipes, there aren't that many where a real person with real arthritis gives cooking implements a real test! Secondly, I want to myth-bust a little more. There is a lot of 'nutri-babble' out there. Too many articles and so-called experts regurgitate a load of pseudo-science and claim that their particular eating regime will cure all our ills. I entirely respect individual dietary choices but let's be honest about the facts behind them. And, finally, I'd like to grow the tips sharing bit of the site, so if you have a great hint for others on how to make cooking or life easier with arthritis then please share.

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