Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Jewelled Quinoa

If you have been on some kind of arthritis diet this New Year then chances are you have cooked, eaten or wondered about quinoa. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is a small seed that is cooked and served like rice or couscous. It is gluten free with a nutty, mild flavour and is unusual in that it is a complete plant protein source, containing all 9 amino acids. It’s quite widely available in supermarkets and health food stores nowadays. I find the flavour best if it’s lightly toasted first in the pan before you add any fluid. If you struggle to find it or want a substitute, this recipe will also work well with brown rice but you will need to adjust the cooking times accordingly.

Ingredients:

120g 1/2 cup quinoa1 grated carrot100g kale (or two large handfuls with the tough stems removed)25g/ 1oz dried cranberries500ml hot chicken stock1tsp ground turmeric1tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
1 clove crushed garlic

Serves 2
Rinse the quinoa well and then put it in a saucepan. Cover with the chicken stock and bring up to the boil. Simmer the quinoa for around 15 minutes or until the edge of the seed begins to come away from the germ - it will look like little white squiggles! Drain the quinoa well and set to one side.




Heat the oil in a pan and then add the garlic, carrot, kale, turmeric and cranberries. Stir-fry for 3-5 minutes - just long enough to soften the vegetables. Tip in the quinoa and mix everything together. Serve hot or eat as a cold salad.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Arthritis Gadget Review: Spiralizer Comparison

So, in my Christmas stocking was an interesting new arthritis kitchen gadget - a vegetable spiralizer (pictured). I've been playing with it over the holidays and also have had the chance to test a freestanding model (like this) and I thought I'd do a quick review  and comparison of the models available for those of you wondering whether they could ever be and arthritis friendly kitchen tool.

What does it do?
If you read many healthy eating blogs etc you may well of heard of a spiralizer before but for those of you reading this going 'What?!', a spiralizer is basically a gadget that turns vegetables into long spaghetti or noodle like spirals. The vegetable spirals can be used as an alternative to pasta or can be added to salads, noodle dishes etc. In my household they are most popular with my 10 month old who loves dangling courgette ribbons from her high chair! 

Does it work?
I find that the handheld model could only really cope with courgettes. It tended to break up the carrot spirals. The larger freestanding model (in this case the Lurch Spirali) was much better at spiralising (is that a verb?!) carrots, potatoes, aubergine etc. Both were very easy to clean and dishwasher friendly but the blades are very sharp so you have to be a little cautious when dismantling them.

How easy is it to use with arthritis?
A freestanding spiralizer is much much easier to use with arthritis. You need to apply some pressure to the vegetable using a small lever and then crank a handle but both are relatively comfortable to use for a short time. I found harder vegetables, like carrots, a bit tricky with the Lurch Spirali as it was the lever does get a bit stiff and hard to grip with sore hands or wrists.

The handheld sprializer is useless if you find it hard to grip or twist with your wrists. I find it ok to do a small amount of courgettes but wouldn't want to use it for too long.

Overall verdict?
The freestanding spiraliser is more expensive and takes up more space but is probably a better bet if you have arthritis and think you might spiralize regularly.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Best Diets for Arthritis

Happy New Year! After the excesses of the Holidays, I'm sure many of us are embarking on a New Year's healthy eating plan, whether to help manage our arthritis or to lose weight. I know I've hidden my chocolate stash and promised myself that 2015 will be the year I learn to love oily fish. A healthy diet may not be able to cure arthritis but it can certainly help you manage the symptoms. Moreveover, if you are overweight, losing weight can help reduce the pressure on your joints and the amount of inflammatory processes occurring in your body. But, what's the best type diet for arthritis? Here's my assessment of some of the popular diets for weight loss and arthritis

Juice fasts - I watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead the other day and got a bit annoyed with them banging on about how juicing could cure arthritis. Juice is fine - as an occassional snack or drink but blitzing up fruit and vegetables destroys alot of the fibre they contain, means you miss out on essential macronutrients like protein and fat and can lead to you consuming way too much sugar (you'd never eat three apples and a banana in a sitting but you might drink them in a juice). Also from a practical persepctive, not that many people with arthritis frankly find operating a blender 5 times a day that easy! Yes, you'll lose weight on a juice diet but only because you aren't eating. 

Atkins/Dukan - supposedly the Duchess of Cambridge's diet of choice, these  high protein, low carbohydrate diet can help you lose weight by encouraging your body to enter ketosis (where instead of burning carbohydrates, your body switches to burning fat stores). These kind of diets can be quite useful for people with epilepsy or type 2 diabetes but aren't necessarily the healthiest diet for someone with arthritis as they cut out a wide range of fruit and vegetables and all their powerful antioxidants and generally mean that you end up consuming more pro-inflammatory fats. 

Vegan diets - apparently going vegan is the big health trend this year and there have been several studies which have shown it can help people with rheumatoid arthritis manage their symptoms. However a large scale review found no consistent evidence of the benefits of a vegan diet for arthritis and warned that people with arthritis were likely to miss out on nutrients on a vegan diet partly because of some of the difficulties they have with shopping and preparing a wide range of foods. Personally, I think that if you plan your vegan diet well then you should be able to get all the protein, calcium and B vitamins you need and it's a good way to increase your intake of fruit and vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. 

Mediterranean diet - if  I had to pick one diet to recommend to people with arthritis, this would probably be it. The Mediterranean diet involves eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, fish, lean meat, wholegrains and olive oil. It's not necessarily the most exciting or on-trend diet out there but it's one of the most healthy, sustainable and enjoyable - plus it's really the only diet that has been shown to reduce people's risk of heart disease and stroke and even increase life expectancy. There haven't been any specific studies on it's benefits for people with arthritis but the charity Arthritis Action has lots of information on how to follow it if you have arthritis.

Gluten free or dairy free diets - unless you have a specific problem with either gluten or dairy, such as coeliac disease or some cases of enteroparthic arthritis. Anecdotally some people do feel that cutting out gluten and dairy can help their arthritis but there isn't alot of evidence for it unless these wont' help you arthritis sypmptoms . If you do decide to give gluten or dairy the heave-ho, make sure you are replacing them with healthy options, for instance a lot of gluten-free bread is much higher in fat, salt and sugar than ordinary bread. You can read more about gluten free or dairy-free diets for arthritis with these links.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Arthritis Friendly Recipe - Sesame Crusted Miso Salmon

It's that point in the year where everyone is feeling a bit run down. Rushing around doing last minute Christmas errands today, all I heard was people coughing, snuffling and sighing into their coffees about how tired/poorly they felt. In our house, we've all had the obligatory hacking cough although my little 9 month old daughter got over it most quickly and with less moaning than her parents. We're now in need of a bit of a health boost pre-Christmas so I've been trying to cook lots of fresh, virus-busting and arthritis-fighting meals.

This easy salmon recipe has been one of our favourites. It's incredibly quick and easy to make but the sesame crust transforms the salmon into something really special. I like to use white miso paste to coat the salmon but if you prefer you can just use sweet chilli sauce or any other sticky sauce you particularly like. When my arthritis is difficult I sometimes struggle to grate fresh ginger and use the ready made paste instead - it's not quite as aromatic but it does the job.

Sesame seeds are an excellent source of calcium and combined with the omega 3 oils in the fish you have a lovely bone boosting supper for arthritis. I like to serve it with sweet potato mash and green vegetables smothered in garlic and ginger - a sure fire way to help send the lurgy away until this time next year!

Ingredients:

2 salmon fillets 
2 tablespoons miso paste (I used white but see notes above)
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
1tsp fresh grated ginger (or use a jarred paste)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Serves 2

Mix the miso paste, chilli sauce and ginger together in a small dish. Brush the top top and sides of the salmon fillets with the marinade and then sprinkle each one with a tablespoon of sesame seeds. Pat the sesame seeds on to make sure they stick.

Put the coated salmon fillets on the baking tray and bake for 12-15 minutes (depending on the thickness of your salmon fillets), then switch the oven onto the HIGH grill setting and grill for 3 minutes or until the sesame crust is golden. Serve immediately.


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Cooking with Arthritis Gadgets: Maximix 5200XL Review

Those of you who follow me on twitter (@CookArthritis) will know that my KitchenAid food processor broke for good a few weeks ago. We hadn't had a good history together. The bowl cracked on me after the 5th use and was impossible to replace, it was difficult to assemble and then finally the locking mechanism broke two weeks out of warranty and leaving the blade dangerously running with the lid open. Cue lots of cursing and asking people which food processor they would recommend for people with arthritis. Time and time again people recommended a Magimix, so after a bit of research, I picked up the 5200XL when it was on offer and here is my verdict on whether it is cooking with arthritis must-have or must-avoid.

Ps. The Guardian Money ran an interesting column last week (which mention Cooking with Arthur) on people's rights when buying kitchen equipment with arthritis. The gist of it is, if you can't use something because of your arthritis then you are entitled to return it in the UK under the Sale of Goods Act because it 'isn't fit for purpose'. You can read the full piece here.

What is it supposed to do?
The Magixmix 5200XL is a family sized premium food processor with a capacity of up to 1.8 litres and extra wide feeder tube.. It comes with three different sized bowls - a small one for chopping herbs, nuts or little portions, a midi bowl for using with the grating and slicing disks and a large bowl for making doughs, mincing, blending, whisking etc.

The Magimix 5200XL also comes with a range of accessories included: a dough kit which is basically a bowl you can use in the food processor for making, proving and baking dough; a smoothie/juicing kit and a mash/puree bowl.  A whisk, dough blade, grating and slicing discs are also included.

Does it work?
I've been putting the Magimix through it's paces doing a range of kitchen tasks that are difficult or time consuming with arthritis over the last few weeks and I've been pretty impressed.

The basic processor function is excellent: it will mince vegetables or meat quickly and smoothly, and, unlike my old KitchenAid processor, it does so very evenly. I was a bit sceptical about the dough blade but it made lovely light scones and kneaded bread dough well although it did take longer than my stand mixer.The grating and slices plates work very well and the extra large feed tube means you can do whole slices of potato rather than having to cut them in half like you need to do with most other processors. The only attachment I haven't found brilliant is the whisk, but to be honest I've never found a food processor that can whisk egg whites as well as a stand mixer or electric whisk.

Does it make it easier to cook with arthritis?
Definitely. The processor parts are easy to assemble or detach. The bowl clicks into the base unit nicely and I haven't had to struggle to fit the lid or any of the attachments despite the arthritis in my hands being quite challenging at the moment. There are only three buttons to control the food processor motor: on; auto; and, pulse and they are easy to use and wipe clean - even with sore or weak fingers. The box you put the attachments opens out like a bread bin which is quite helpful and means that unlike a lot of processor parts boxes, you don't need to take everything out just to get to the grating disc you need. Having said that, it's still a bit fiddly to put the blade in the box if your arthritis makes you less dtrouser

I haven't tried putting the parts in the dishwasher but they are straightforward to wash up. The lid and funnel are a bit of a hassle to dry but if you aren't OCD about limescale/watermarks like me then that probably isn't a problem! 

The actual processor is very heavy (11kg) and quite large so I'd recommend making sure you have the counterspace to leave it out as it wouldn't be fun taking it out of a cupboard with arthritis. 

The Magimix 5200XL is expensive, even if you buy it on offer like I did. If you have arthritis but aren't cooking large meals or needing to blend things frequently then I think you could manage quite happily with a good handblender with mini processor attachment (more on that soon...) and a mandolin for slicing

Overall Verdict
A - an indispensable investment for keen cooks with arthritis


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