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.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Arthritis Friendly Kitchen Gadget Review: Peta UK Food Preparation Board

This is a long overdue review of a new chopping board developed by Peta UK. I was sent the board to look at back in August and thanks to haring around after my toddler, work projects and a spell of ill health I've only just got around to reviewing it. Regular readers will remember that I'm quite fond of Peta UK - their equipment so far has always actually worked rather than being gimmicky or flimsy (I'm looking at you masterclass chopper...). So, how did I get on with their board?

What is it supposed to do?


Designed to help people with weak hand function or those who can only use one hand well, the Food Prep Board is wooden chopping board with extra features intended to make it easier to slice, grate and prepare food. Peta UK have spent 10 years designing and finessing the board and it shows - it's a stylish, solid piece of kit suitable for any keen cook.The board has a removable wooden oval section that you can flip over to skewer food on wooden spikes making it possible to use a knife with two hands and cut more securely. You can also take out the oval section of the board and slide in one of the two graters (one coarse and one fine with a slicing attachment) or a stainless steel bowl to collect your chopped food or waste in.

This video shows exactly how it works.

Does it work?

Yet again, I'm really impressed by a piece of Peta UK kit. I've been having a bad flare recently and my wrists and elbows have been very sore so the board Multi Function Food Prep Board has been a real help.

The graters and slicer are nice and sharp making it easy to shred vegetables or cheese. It took me a little while to get the hang of grating horizontally comfortably but once I found a position that worked for me then it was straightforward. The skewered section is brilliant at holding most things steady - I found it particularly good for using on halved onions although I nearly skewered myself attempting to use it on a carrot as pictured on the box. Possibly my carrots were too wiggly! If you do want to chop something very hard using the skewered section, like a butternut squash, then I'd recommend giving it a quick zap in the microwave first to soften it (pierce the skin a few times and cook it on medium for 2-3 minutes).

The board is relatively easy to clean. I love that you can put the graters and stainless steel bowl in the dishwasher. I personally wouldn't want to prepare meat on it because it is a little tricky to get the whole thing in the sink to scrub well. The board itself is quite heavy and difficult to store vertically as the wooden section tends to pop out (although on mine it does fit in tightly one way around and flops out the other way which is handy but probably not part of the design :)).This means I think it would be best for people with the worktop space to store it out on display but that is no hardship as it looks beautiful and could easily be used as a pan rest etc as well as a chopping board. 

Overall verdict?A
A stylish and helpful tool for anyone who has weak grip or problems using both hands when preparing food. At £65 it is certainly an investment but I can imagine it lasting many, many years. Maybe one for the Christmas list? You can buy the board direct  from Peta UK here.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Black Rice Sushi Salad

Here's a recipe I wrote for the lovely PsAZZ support group's newsletter - you can read about this great bunch of psoriatic arthritis-ers here. Having people you can share triumphs and tribulations with is hugely important if you suffer from any chronic illness so do look them up and see if you can support them in any way. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients for the salad, it’s extremely quick to make and also travels well for pack lunches.

Black rice is incredibly high in antioxidants thanks to the phytochemical anthocyanin which makes it that rich dark burgundy-black colour. Anthocyanin is the same plant pigment that makes blueberries blue and blackberries black. Studies suggest that it may help reduce inflammation and even protect against cardiovascular disease but there isn’t enough evidence yet to say how much anthocyanin we need to eat and how effectively it is absorbed by the body. Black rice is also an excellent source of fibre as unlike white rice it hasn’t been hulled. Fibre is great for your body if you suffer from psoriatic arthritis as it helps keep your bowel healthy and keep your blood sugar levels stable. You can find black rice in most supermarkets now but you could use brown rice if it’s not available.

Salmon is also an excellent lunchtime choice. It’s a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids which have been shown to help reduce pain and inflammation in all types of arthritis. If you can afford it, buy wild salmon over farmed as it has a much higher ratio of healthy omega 3 fats to unhealthy omega 6 fats.

If you don’t like or can’t find frozen soybeans (although Birdseye sell them now), you can use frozen peas. I prefer soybeans as not only are they more authentic, but they are also little nutritional powerhouses. Soy beans are rich in protein, fibre, B vitamins and are a good source of omega 3 fats. They are also packed with isoflavones which some research suggests have anti-inflammatory properties.

For those of you with bad hands or who find chopping difficult, I make a very quick, no-chop version of this on flare days that uses tender stem broccoli and fine french beans in place of the cucumber and peppers. Just throw them in the pan with the rice for the last 5 minutes of cooking time. I also find it much easier to chop the spring onion and smoked salmon with scissors rather than a knife.

Ingredients:

Salad:
120g Thai black rice
100g cooked or smoked salmon cut into bite sized pieces
1 spring onion, chopped
100g cooked soybeans
100g cucumber chopped into cubes
1/2 red or yellow pepper, sliced into dice

Dressing:
1tbsp mirin (or 2tsp honey mixed with 1tbsp water)
2tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp wasabi (or more to taste - you can also use horseradish sauce)
1 tsp fresh grated ginger (or you can use paste from a tube or jar)
1 tsp sesame oil

To serve:
Toasted sesame seeds and sliced nori seaweed sheets (optional)

Makes enough for 2 people

First cook the rice by simmering it in boiling water for 30 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the dressing. If you find this difficult with a fork, you could use a small, lightweight milk frother.

Now add the salmon, cucumber, pepper, spring onion and soy beans to the rice. Add the dressing and give everything  good stir until evenly mixed.

Top the salad with a good sprinkle of sesames seeds and crumbled nori sheets and serve.

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