Sunday, 29 March 2015

What to cook when you don't want to cook!

Generally, despite my arthritis, I love to cook. However, every now and again I lose interest - maybe because I'm having a flare, maybe because the toddler has worn me out or, sometimes, just because I'm in a rut. On those days, I want to get something healthy and arthritis-friendly on the table as quickly as possible. Here are some of my favourites:

1. Thunder and lightning pasta - I *think* that this is a genuine Italian dish but regardless it makes and amazingly quick arthritis friendly supper and you probably have all the ingredients in your store cupboard. Simply cook and drain some pasta and then toss with cooked chickpeas (from a can), olive oil and garlic. 

2. Baked sweet potato - packed full of goodness and on the table in 5 minutes if  you have a microwave. You can read my suggested topping ideas here.

3. Pitta pizza - a wholemeal pizza smeared with tomato paste, sliced light mozzarella and topped with bits of torn pepper and basil. You can get this on the table faster than you can call for pizza delivery! If you have any jars of marinated peppers or artichokes then use these for the topping and it will be even tastier.

4. Steamed fish and rice - pop fish and vegetables like mangetout, sugarsnaps or green beans in a steaming basket over a pan of rice whilst it cooks. Try placing slices of ginger and spring onion on the fish and cooking the rice with a spoonful of coconut milk.

5. Pasta with raw tomato sauce - so quick, easy and healthy.It's a good recipe if people are coming over as it seems like a proper dinner but takes no longer to prepare than the time it takes the pasta to cook. Find the recipe here.

Those are my top five arthritis-friendly suppers - what are yours?

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Easy Healthy Meat Loaf

Red meat is always a bit of a controversial topic when people discuss diet and arthritis. Red meats, like beef or lamb, have been linked to higher rates of incidence of rheumatoid arthritis, perhaps because red meat tends to be high in pro-inflammatory omega 6 fat, arachidonic acid. Red meat is also a source of saturated fat (which is sooo controversial at the moment that I'm not going to delve into it here otherwise we'll never get onto the recipe - and that would be a shame). Either way all that fat means it can be higher in calories than lean white meats which is worth bearing in mind if you struggle to maintain a healthy weight.

However, having said all that, red meat is also a wonderful source of iron. People with inflammatory arthritis can often suffer from anaemia and couple of portions of lean red meat a week can help boost your iron intake.

So should you eat red meat if you have arthritis? My advice is, if you like red meat, then enjoy lean cuts of it a few times a week and don't worry.This tasty meatloaf recipe is an easy way to prepare it and you can make it in advance and freeze it for days when your arthritis is flaring. I've used a food processor to make it really quick but you could also chop the ingredients by hand and make it in a bowl. 

Ps. If meatloaf feels a bit 1980s to you then try thinking of it as a burger in a loaf shape...

Ingredients:
500g leanest beef mince (veggie mince won't work here but you could use turkey mince)
1 red onion
2 slices of stale bread (or approximately 60g breadcrumbs or porridge oats for a gluten-free option)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 peeled clove garlic
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 medium egg

Serves 4-6

Peel the onion and halve it. Put it in the food processor with the clove of garlic and pulse until they are finely chopped. Add the bread, egg, tomato puree and paprika and pulse again to combine everything.

Top the mixture out into a bowl and add the mince. Give everything a good stir.

Spoon the mixture into a well greased 2lb/large loaf tin and bake for 45-50 minutes or until browned on top and cooked through. Let it cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out and slicing.

You can eat it hot or cold.

Variations:
Italian meat loaf - omit the paprika and add a tablespoon of grated parmesan and some oregano to the mixture. Top with a little more parmesan

Mediterranean - add some fresh basil, pitted green olives and roasted peppers to the mixture

Moroccan - add a tsp of ground cumin and coriander to the mixture with some dried chopped apricots and lemon zest.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Flexiseq Review - Does it Work?

I don't normally review non-kitchen related arthritis things on 'Cooking with Arthur' but over the past year I've been approached various times and through various agencies about Flexiseq - a pain-relieving gel for osteoarthritis. After a bit of umming and ahhing, I recently decided I would give it a go. Having my daughter has been tough on my joints. Lifting 10kg of exuberant toddler 30x plus a day it hard work and whilst my PA is relatively well controlled by the Humira, old mechanical problems like the OA in my back and shoulders have fared less well. I get by with physio and handfuls of painkillers but it's not always enough and I felt open to trying something different.
The idea behind Flexiseq is a simple one; if you imagine that osteoarthritis makes you feel like the tin-man, well, Flexiseq is supposed to act like the oil can. The 'sequessome' technology is claimed to deliver phospholipids right to the joint to lubricate it and relieve pain. 

Having worked in health and medicines policy, I'm inherently sceptical about anything that makes claims to help arthritis but Flexiseq has pleasantly surprised me. 

Morning and evening you spread a fairly large amount of the gel onto the soft tissues around the affected joint and let it dry (this takes 10 minutes). The gel has very little scent and is actually quite cooling and pleasant to use (certainly compared to an ibruprofen or diclofenac gel). My first experience with the gel was applying to to my back: I have OA in my spine and was keen to see if it could make much of a difference. Back pain is notoriously difficult to treat and I'm afraid Flexiseq didn't do much better than any other non-prescription treatments I have tried. I gave the gel a go on my shoulder instead however and found it did seem to help with that. The joint felt more comfortable and less stiff. The effect wasn't enough to stop me taking painkillers but it certainly helped on very difficult days. Finally, I let a friend with OA in the base of her thumbs and index fingers try the gel and she found it really helpful on mornings when her hands were stiff. She noted that the gel seemed to work from the first go but that she didn't feel like it got more or less effective over the course of 5 days testing.

 I think our differing results probably reflect on our suitability as users. I have an underlying autoimmune condition (the psoriatic arthritis) and therefore have widespread inflammation as well as little bonus pockets of OA. I'm used to taking pretty strong painkillers and am physically quite tough on my body (pushing a 25kg buggy up hills whilst singing nursery rhymes for example). For people like me, I think Flexiseq is probably of marginal benefit. However, for people like my friend with a discrete and well defined number of affected joints, then Flexiseq may well be a real help. I know both myself and my friend liked the fact that we didn't have to worry about it interacting with medications and it doesn't cause the heartburn of most inflammatory drugs.

You can buy Flexiseq in most chemists or online. If you'd like more information about it and the research conducted on it's effectiveness to date then visit Arthritis Research or the Flexiseq website.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Savoury Carrot and Courgette Flapjacks

Savoury flapjack?! Before you click on with a shake of your head and wonder whether my arthritis has somehow gone to my brain, let me tell you how delicious these are. I came across them on the wonderful Riverford Organics website (which is full of some great recipes) when looking for a good portable savoury snack for my cheese-monster of a daughter. I've adapted Cath Critchley's recipe slightly to add courgette, a bit more egg to make them less crumbly (for little hands) and a mild kick of paprika.

If your arthritis affects your hands then you might prefer to buy ready grated cheese, as I do. I'd usually use a food processor to grate carrots but as it's such a small amount in this recipe a good sharp microplane grater makes it fairly easy. 

Ingredients:
200g rolled oats
2 medium eggs
150g grated cheese (you can use reduced fat if you prefer)
1 small grated carrot
1 small grated courgette/zuchinni (the grated weight of the carrot and courgette combined should come to about 175g)
1/2 tsp paprika (I like the smoked kind)
1/2tsp dried garlic (or you could use a clove of fresh)

Makes 12

Beat the eggs together in a small bowl with the garlic and paprika.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, cheese, and grated vegetables. Add in the beaten eggs and mix everything together until it seems evenly distributed.

Spoon the mixture into a 20cm square tin and press down firmly with the back of a fork.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cut into 16 squares and then immediately turn out onto a wire rack to cool - this keeps them crumbly and crisp, rather than getting soggy bottoms!

These will keep in a tin in an airtight tin somewhere cool for 2-3 days or you can freeze them and warm them up in the oven as needed.

Arthritis diet notes:
These are a much healthier snack than the sweet kind of flapjack and will keep you going much longer thanks to their low sugar content and boost of fibre from the oats and vegetables. Although the cheese is high in salt and saturated fat, it also provides calcium and protein. The eggs provide a bit more protein along with vitamins A, D and the B group. 

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.

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