Friday, April 18, 2014

Eggs, eggs, eggs...

With Easter upon us this weekend many people around the world are thinking of chocolate eggs, and understandably so, who doesn't love them!
But let's not forget one of the most awesome 'superfoods' available for those of us not living a vegan lifestyle - the humble chicken egg! Be they scrambled, boiled, poached, fried, made into an omelette or a frittata, or even used in baking, don't miss out on this beauty of a food. Long ago were the myths surrounding the so called dangerous levels of cholesterol debunked; here's a couple of useful articles but don't be afraid to do your own research and make up your own mind;
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/eggs/
http://authoritynutrition.com/why-are-eggs-good-for-you/

But before we go crazy for these punch packing nutritional power balls we need to understand the difference between certain types of egg and their true benefits - or otherwise. A perfect egg has all the ingredients to build a whole healthy chicken, a store bought egg however, may not! Something to think about...

Battery eggs are by far the worst eggs to buy; the chickens live in the most dire conditions, (five minutes on Google will show you just how dire!) are pumped full of growth hormones and antibiotics - which get transferred to not only the eggs, but to you too! They live distressed lives and have no room to flap their wings never mind walk.

Free range eggs are often sold as the ethical option, suggesting that the egg laying chickens get to live outside. This is not the case and the (Canadian) law only insists they spend a few minutes each day outside.

Organic eggs suggest not only a more ethical upbringing but also a healthier egg. Organic chickens certainly have to be fed organic feed, but chickens don't naturally eat feed, they eat whatever they can get from the ground. Organic chickens may also have their beaks cut off and can be force moulted to increase yield. Not all organic eggs are 'raised' this way but how will you know?

Pastured eggs.  Now we're talking; these are from chickens that live outside all day, foraging for the food that chickens eat naturally, (bugs, worms etc) and are full of the most amazing nutritional vitamins and minerals.  They will have plenty of space to run around, are unstressed and only get tucked away at night to keep them safe from predators. Not everyone of course has access to this type of farm, (or neighbour) but if you do then I highly recommend you skip the stores and buy your eggs this way. Larger and with much darker yellow yolks, they will also last a lot longer than store bought eggs. The reason - store bought eggs are washed to 'look the part' which also rids them of the protective coating they are born with - pastured eggs don't even need to be refrigerated and will still last a couple of weeks.

And so using the time honoured common sense advice of 'all things in moderation', enjoy your eggs and of course in the meantime, enjoy your chocolate versions and have a great Easter.

By the way - the darker the chocolate, the (generally) healthier the egg - and did you know - dark chocolate is less 'addictive'... :-)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What's the big deal with organic food anyway!

These days there seems to be a lot of pressure to only eat organic if we want to be healthy - but is it true?

Most of us know that organic food is better for us, better for the environment and in the case of animal products, it's generally better for the animal. And for those who don't know or have forgotten the whys and wherefores and the details, here's a quick run-down.

The term “organic” refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. Specific requirements must be met and maintained in order for products to be labelled as "organic". Organic crops must be grown in safe soil, have no modifications, and must remain separate from conventional products. Farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides, bio-engineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Because of the lack of preservatives, organic food is generally fresher as it has a shorter shelf life. Organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and be given organic feed. They may not be given antibiotics, growth hormones, or any animal-by-products.

More and more these days the large supermarket chains are joining the organic bandwagon and there is a myriad choice of organic products on our shelves, but is organic food always better and worth the extra cost? Not necessarily and here's why;

Some foods are far more susceptible to, and will absorb more of the pesticides than others. The following is a list of the most contaminated products, often referred to as 'The Dirty Dozen' - from worst to least; Apples, Celery, Sweet bell peppers, Peaches, Strawberries, Nectarines, Grapes, Spinach, Lettuce, Cucumbers, Blueberries, Potatoes

Conversely, others are less affected; this next bunch are 'The Clean Fifteen', in that they are the least contaminated. In order of least contamination they are; Onions, Sweet Corn, Pineapples, Avocado, Cabbage, Sweet peas, Asparagus, Mangoes, Eggplant, Kiwi, Cantaloupe, Sweet potatoes, Grapefruit, Watermelon and Mushrooms

So it's my belief that we really don't have to obsess about organic food all the time, and certainly from a cost point of view it's worth choosing carefully what you buy organic and what you don't.

The term organic can be misleading sometimes; organic eggs for example means the chickens must have been given organic feed, have been allowed minimum access to the outside and cannot have been treated with hormones or antibiotics. However...they only need to be outside for a few minutes, (yes minutes) a day, they are still allowed to have their beaks clipped and to be force moulted. As for organic 'feed' - pastured chickens don't eat feed, they eat bugs and worms etc. so the organic feed they eat isn't necessarily the right food for them, it just happens to be organic...

Another reason to potentially avoid organic foods, (although the word avoid is a little strong) depending on where you live, is the origin of the produce; I would much rather buy my produce from a non organic local farm than an organic one thousands of miles away. Not just from the travelling distance point of view but some foods from other countries may not be quite as organic as they seem; not everyone has the same rules. Many smaller producers simply cannot afford to certify as organic and stay in business, so it's more important to check for yourself how local farms operate, many are more ethical and 'organic' in the way they do business than some larger food suppliers who merely tick the right boxes and pay lip service to the rules.

So yes, organic food is, for the most part, the better option but it's really worth looking a little deeper to find the truth. It does take a bit of research but once you know where your food comes from and how it's produced, you will have the knowledge and the confidence to know you're doing the best for you and your family - happy 'hunting'...

(Use the image above as a quick check-list for when you're shopping - just right click and save!)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sweet Disposition

Today I'm handing over the blog to my talented and wonderful sister - Sue. She is the original 'health food nut' in our family and she runs a small business in North Wales making delicious handmade chocolates

Take it away Sue...
......................................................

My life has been turned around by my discovery of Raw Chocolate some years ago. I love sweet things, especially chocolate, but found more and more that sugar was giving me problems. I will never forget the moment when I realised somebody had invented chocolate that was sweetened in other ways. And it was made from something called Raw Cacao. So I began my sweet adventure.

'Blue Agave' syrup

First of all, for me, there was Agave syrup ~ that golden liquid made from cactus sap. The Blue Agave plant (Agave tequilana) produces tequila as well as the most valued Agave syrup. Evoking sunshine. Siestas. Sombreros. Beautiful to look at. Lovely to partake of during windy wet Welsh winters. As I began to create my own Raw Chocolate delights, I used this sweetener often.

In recent times there has been a lot of criticism about Agave, due to its high levels of fructose and, therefore, possibly detrimental effects on our health. Some damm it as one of the top ten worst foods you can consume ~ up there with aspartame and high fructose corn syrup. Confusing, though, because even as I write this, it is being sold as a healthy alternative to sugar by respected (even raw food) websites.

The Agave plant has medicinal qualities. I was very interested to learn that pulque, the fermented juice of the Agave cactus, was regarded as sacred by the Aztecs.  To them it was a divine gift, not to be abused. The Tarahumara Indians believed that the soul of the Agave plant is extremely sensitive and must be treated with great respect so that it will continue to be willing to help humankind.

I rarely use Agave in my chocolates these days. I have moved on to making tempered chocolate and Agave wouldn't work well. I do have some on my shelf, however. There is a customer who asks for it in her chocolate. I like it mixed up with crème fraiche.

And, (I'd just like to whisper quietly), when I go past, I offer a  nod of respect to an amazing plant. I hope it doesn't get too pissed off with us.

The Blue Agave plant
Sue Frisby has been creating chocolate with raw cacao for about four years. She sells her creations as chocoMAMA. Her aim is to create chocolate that deeply satisfies, that goes to the source of what chocolate lovers are looking for. She makes it at home, gently, in small batches, right by the sea in North Wales. You can find her at www.chocomama.co.uk and on facebook.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Why long haul flying is good for you!


I'm a firm believer that however busy we are in our lives, as the consumer society we live in certainly likes to remind us, there is always time to relax and wind down. However, we don't always get the choice of when to relax, it is often forced upon us.

Forced relaxation - now there's a novel idea, and here's how I came to this conclusion... Right now as I sit here at 30,000 ft writing this, (at least I assume I'm writing this as the seat in front of me is so reclined and so close that the angle of my lap-top screen means I can't see a thing - I hope it's turned on...) in my slightly too cramped space, with my slightly too close neighbours and my total lack of 'control', I realize that 10 hours flying over the Atlantic is the perfect de-stressor!

I know what you're thinking; I've had too much of the complimentary cheap wine with my dinner and I'm not making sense. Well you're wrong, I'm making total sense, and this is why; My day started early after a late night of last minute socializing; a screeching alarm, last minute stuffing of last minute shopping into too small luggage, weighing bags, hurried goodbyes, hustling my baggage through the impatient rush hour commuters, checking in line-ups, seemingly endless airport security - boots off, belt off, watch off, lap-top out, empty pockets - boots on, belt on, watch on, lap-top away - only it doesn't seem to fit any more, like my carry on bag has shrunk while being X-ray'd, grab my pocket contents and 'move away quickly sir'! I've yet to figure out why the pace of undressing before the X-ray machine is so much more sedate than the speed dressing after - I feel like the elicit lover making his quick escape because the front door opened... and there's still two hours before boarding - a classic case of hurry up and wait!

But now we get to my point; I now have nothing to think about until sometime tomorrow other than which gate I need to be at and at what time. One glance at the departures screen and I'm all done - my responsibilities are over for the next 12 hours - and it's bliss! I can spend more time in a book shop than I ever normally get to, I can sit in a bar on my own with a beer at 11 am without looking like a desperate drunk, I even enjoy browsing all the naff gadgets in the duty-free shops - and as for the people watching, don't get me started...

Once boarded, life actually gets even easier; grab a few necessities, (book, music, headphones, water) from my carry on and stuff what's left into the overhead storage - sit down, belt up and relax. Ok, so it's not the stretched out seating they tease us with as we make our way through first and business back to cattle class and I seem to be surrounded by over-tanned shorts and flip-flop wearing 'two weeks in the sun' vacation types and everyone seems to be carrying a crying baby but it's reassuringly calming and relaxing. From now on, the whys, hows and wherefores of getting us to our destination is down to a small group of strangers dressed is slightly strange attire. I am out of control - literally - there is nothing I can do about anything and I accept this fact with ease and total comfort. Even my meals are planned for me; what I can eat at what time, right down to my choice of wine - red or white! I now have 10 hours of complete and utter selfish 'me' time. I can flick through the airline's magazine and dream about where I want to go next, read my book, listen to music, write a blog post, watch my choice of TV from comedies and dramas to a whole bunch of films - both up to date and classic oldies. I can even grab a few hours sleep - ok, perhaps that's a little wishful thinking... What's a little cricked neck and aching knees in exchange for 5,000 miles of guilt free laziness... This is my time to really lay back, (well, maybe not actually lay) relax and recharge :-)

So, is there a message in this post for those who don't find themselves in this situation very often? Yes, there absolutely is; although most people's days start just as early with at least as much pressure and stress as any pre-flight travelling, most days also have at least some time where we have no control of what goes on; stuck in traffic, waiting in a queue, on hold on the phone... These moments are precious, we should embrace them, switch off the thinking, the worry, lose the self importance and just go with the flow - try it sometime, it really is rather refreshing and totally stress relieving... :-)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Make your own Almond Milk

Now we've finally invested in a Vitamix one of the first things I was eager to try was making our own almond milk. It really is crazy simple!

Ingredients
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 5 cups filtered water

...yep, that's it! (of course you can sweeten it if you need to with a little stevia or honey, and you can add some vanilla essence if that's your thang, but we just like it plain so we can add to smoothies where's there's already plenty of flavour and natural sweeteners!)

Directions
  1. Soak the almonds overnight in 2 cups of water
  2. Rinse and drain
  3. Add to your high speed blender along with 5 cups fresh filtered water
  4. Blend on high speed for 2-3 minutes
  5. Sieve through a nut bag or fine mesh cheesecloth - however if I'm just making my almond milk to use in a smoothie or to add to oatmeal for example, I don't sieve it at all. That way I get all the benefits of the nuts in one go!
  6. And Voila! You have your almond milk. Store in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 3 days

If you do decide to sieve your mix, don't throw the 'residue' away - spread that out thinly on a baking tray and pop it in a 180 degree oven for 3-4 hours to dry out. Once dry, put it in a food processor to smooth out all the lumps and you have yourself some almond meal!


Thursday, February 6, 2014

What does Good Health mean to you?


There is so much emphasis put on healthy eating these days, but is it somewhat missing the point? Most of us have heard the cliche that "It's 20% in the gym and 80% in the kitchen" but I think that over simplifies things a bit.

Most of us know we should be eating more veggies, less processed food, drinking more water and taking some form of daily exercise/physical activity. Simple - but if all know that why are so many of us overweight, underweight, prone to chronic decease and generally unhealthy?

We have to go back further, dig deeper, question ourselves. And the first question we need to ask ourselves is "what does it mean to ME to be healthy?". And I have the answer… but unfortunately it's only my answer, not yours!

We are all different and we all want different things out of life. For me, health means living to be 100+ years old and to be of sound mind and body to enjoy life right up until the time the lights go out. My version of 'enjoy life' will undoubtedly change as I get older, as it has done since I was younger and I'm OK with not partying the night away and still make work the next day as I did 20 years ago - and in another 20 years time I may not have the same passion for fast motorcycles. But my point is, I don't want to spend the last 10 or 20 years of life weak in mind and infirm in body, so NOW is the time to invest in that future.

We all consider investing financially for our twilight years but what about our minds and bodies to be able to enjoy a position of financial independence… If we're too overweight, or weak, or regularly ill and it's having an an effect on our 40/50 year old selves, imagine what it's going to be like as we get older! Things won't get easier unless we take ourselves seriously right now! (But that doesn't mean lose the sense of humour - quite the opposite in fact - a light hearted outlook to life is definitely a god thing!)

So we need to incorporate a 'gap analysis' into our lives. Simply put, we figure out what long term health means to us on an individual basis, we look at where we are now and where we want to be in the future. Then we just have to figure out how to get from point A to point B. If we don't eat healthily now - why not? It could be a lack of education, bad habits, something from our past or simply that we've never been too bothered about it all, until maybe, (hopefully) now! We need to know what's wrong before we know how to fix it.

So ignore the fad diets, the 30 day weight loss promises, the gym memberships that you have no interest in, the media driven image of what health should look like and talk to yourself, (it's not too crazy - trust me!) about what YOU and only YOU want from your life. Have you ever 'really' considered what a health coach could do for you? They say life is too short but it's also too long not to enjoy it...

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pin It Party!


Today I'm linking up with Lindsay over at The Lean Green Bean and her 'Pin It Party' - I'm featuring 5 of my posts I’d love to see on Pinterest. Click on the link or the image below to be taken to the original post and PIN away!!

You can also come follow me on Pinterest!

So here are my 5 favourite 'pinnable posts'!;



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Make your own awesome Kombucha Pro-biotic
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Why you should pay your friends back


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