Tag Archives: healthy

Mama’s Minestrone

Minestrone1Minestrone is such a wonderful soup.  It’s low calorie yet jam-packed with flavour and vitamin goodness and is so easy to make.  Below is my recipe – not authentic but utterly delicious.  The use of Spanish chorizo gives a delicious, rich smokey undertone that I personally love.  (This would make a good vegetarian supper – just leave out the chorizo – the beans, of course, providing a good source of protein).  That’s the beauty of this soup – make it your own with your own combination of favourite Summertime herbs and vegetables and don’t get too strung out on amounts.  If you over enthusiastically end up with a little too much veg in the pot, just add more stock to compensate.

One word of advice before we begin – try to chop the veg consistently quite small (cm cubes should do it).  It’s not a deal breaker but the finished product will look so much prettier.

Ingredients (serves 6 – 8 )

50g Spanish chorizo, cubed

2-3 tbsps olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 medium carrots (about 170g or 6 oz), chopped

2 sticks of celery, chopped

4 new potatoes (about 170g or 6 oz), chopped

85g / 3 oz  petit pois (baby peas)

85g / 3 oz French green beans, cut into 1-2 inch pieces

1 x 400g tin (14 oz) chopped tomatoes

1 x 400g tin (14 oz) cannellini or white haricot beans

1 tsp fresh thyme

1.5 litres (6 cups) good vegetable stock

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve (optional): fresh, grated Parmesan cheese and maybe a drizzle of olive oil

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and toss in the chorizo and then the onion.  Allow to fry gently for 2-3 minutes and then add the carrots, potatoes, celery, peas and beans.  Stir and continue to fry gently for another 2-3 mins, just to let the vegetables begin to ‘sweat’.  Add the chopped tomatoes, beans, thyme, vegetable stock and black pepper.  (I would only add extra salt, if needed, at the end of cooking because most commercially prepared stocks already contain a lot of salt).  Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat right down, partially cover the pan and allow the soup to simmer gently for 30 minutes.  At the end of this time check how the hardest vegetables are doing – they should be yielding but not mushy – and taste to check the seasoning.  If needed, leave to simmer for a further 10 minutes.

To serve, you can sprinkle this soup with a little fresh, grated parmesan cheese and/or a drizzle of extra virgin olive  oil.  This soup is very nice served with warm, crusty French bread.

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Ratatouille

Ratatouille VegIn late Summer/early Autumn shops here are full of peppers, herbs, onions, tomatoes, aubergines (eggplants) and courgettes (zucchini).  They’re just crying out to be put together for a lovely fresh bowl of Ratatouille.  This would make a lovely light meal on its own, maybe with some crusty French bread on the side to mop up the juices.  If you’re vegetarian and want to add some extra protein then I have occasionally added a tin of ready cooked white haricot or borlotti beans in the last 10 minutes, just to heat through.  Alternatively take the original Ratatouille mix and put it in a shallow, oven proof dish.  Sprinkle with cheese and flash under a hot grill until the cheese starts to brown (very satisfying on a chilly evening).  This dish is absolutely bursting with Mediterranean flavour and goodness – olive oil, brightly coloured veg and garlic – just what the doctor ordered.

Before we begin, let me just say that you should keep the vegetable chunks quite large and stir very gently, otherwise the mix can all too easily lose all texture.

Ingredients (for 4 people)

2 large aubergines (eggplants), roughly chopped

4 courgettes (zucchini), roughly chopped

150ml / 1/4 pint / 2/3 cup olive oil

2 onions, sliced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 large red pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

2 large yellow peppers, seeded and roughly chopped

sprig of fresh rosemary

sprig of fresh thyme

5ml / 1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed

3 plum tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped

8 basil leaves, torn

salt and freshly ground black pepper

sprigs of parsley or basil, to garnish

Method

Aubergines (eggplants) nowadays shouldn’t need salting but if you know you are using an old-fashioned variety: place in a colander, sprinkle with salt, pop a plate and then a weight on top and leave for 30 minutes for the bitter juice to run out.

Otherwise, begin by heating the olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onions and fry gently for 6-7 minutes, until just softened.  Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

If you had salted the aubergine (eggplant) rinse it and pat dry with a clean dish towel.  Add the aubergine to the pan with the red and yellow peppers, increase the heat and saute until the peppers are just turning brown.

Add the rosemary, thyme and coriander seeds, then cover the pan and cook very gently for 40 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Cook gently for a further 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft but not too mushy.  Remove the sprigs of rosemary and thyme.  Stir in the torn basil leaves and check seasoning.  Leave to cool slightly and serve warm or cold, garnished with sprigs of parsley.

Ratatouille

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Home facial

Facial maskHaving a facial at a beauty salon is a wonderful experience – the luxury to lie back feeling pampered and pretty under the hands of an expert in the art of beauty care.  Sadly, most of us can’t afford to do this more than very occasionally, but there is no reason why we need to forego the benefits of a facial.  You can easily do your own at home and if you make an occasion of it, by setting aside some time  just for you, in a warm and comfortable atmosphere, perhaps with some gentle music and a scented candle or two, you can not only pamper your skin but also pamper your soul.

I’m going to give you the basic run-down of what to do and when, but the products you use will depend on your own skin type, budget and what are simply your favourites.  What I mention here are only suggestions therefore, or they may be products that I myself use.  

Before you begin, this is what you will need:Homebeauty care

A face cleanser to remove make-up (I tend to use Olay cleansing wipes)

An exfoliating cream – Simple Cleansing Scrub & Clinique Exfoliating Scrub are both effective but, importantly, gentle 

Skin toner – such as l’Oreal Visible Radiance or Clarins Toning Lotion

A face mask – very dependant on skin type, so check what it says on the packet.   (I often use Clarins ‘Beauty Flash Balm’ as a face pack as its not too drying on my skin)

Moisturisers – one for the eye area and one for the face and neck (For me it’s a l’Oreal product for the area around my eyes and a Dior creme on my face)

A nice, big fluffy towel for drying your face and to create a ‘tent’ to trap steam over a basin or bowl.

A kitchen timer or watch

Some cotton wool or cotton pads

Facial tissues

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The facial:

First, clean your face to remove any makeup or grime.

Gently exfoliate using your favourite product.  Remove the cream following the product instructions then finish by using toner (this helps to remove any last traces of cream)

Fill a bowl or basin with hot water.  Put the timer on for 5 minutes and bend over the water, tenting the towel over your head.  Don’t get too close to the water – the aim is to simply have your face in a steamy atmosphere for a few minutes in order to open up the skin’s pores (this will allow the next stage to give maximum benefit).

Apply the face packAfter 5 minutes, gently dab your face dry and apply your face pack.  Sit back or lie down and relax for the recommended amount of time.

Remove the face pack, blot the skin dry and apply your favourite moisturisers.  After a few minutes, finish your facial by blotting your skin with a tissue to remove any excess moisturiser. 

That’s it.  It hasn’t cost you a fortune and you should now be feeling pampered and pretty with soft, healthy looking skin.  A weekly facial like this improves the look of, and helps to keep the skin in tip top condition.

Home Spa

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You can read my personal blog here

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Say cheese please

Teeth to be proud of!If you’ve had a meal ending in something sticky you might think that it would be a good idea to eat a crunchy apple to clean your teeth.  Apples, whilst being good for you in many ways, wont be doing your teeth any favours when used as a cleaner because the fruit acids in them tend to attack tooth enamel.  You’d be far better off eating a cube of cheese. 

Cheese helps to prevent the bacteria on your teeth from turning sugar into damaging acids, it increases the flow of saliva, neutralising any acids and helping to flush them away, and the high calcium and phosphorous content in cheese may also help by replacing some of the minerals in your tooth enamel. 

So next time, just say cheese please.

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Maintaining a healthy atmosphere

OrchidsOur modern environments and all the convenience they provide come at a price.  We are in fact surrounded by toxic chemicals, in paint, plastics, detergents, dyes…right down to the insulation in our homes and the carpet beneath our feet. 

Plants not only look nice and bring life into a home, research has shown that they are also helpful in maintaining a healthy environment.  In fact, NASA concluded that common indoor plants can dramatically improve the environment by filtering out some of these toxic chemicals and recommend 15-18 plants in an 1800 square foot area.  

If you think that you don’t have ‘green fingers’ don’t worry because some of the best plants at improving the atmopsphere in our homes are also some of the easiest to keep.  Look for English Ivy (hedera helix) and Spider Plants (chlorophytum).  Other recommended plants are azalea, bamboo palm (chamaedorea microspadix), bromeliads, the dragon tree (dracaena marginata), peace lily (spathiphyllum), poinsettia,  and orchids.

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An apple a day…protects your hair

Think beautifulEating a healthy diet containing a good variety of fresh fruit and vegetables is not only good for our bodies internally, our better health will be reflected in our skin, teeth, nails and hair. 

We have all heard that phrase ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ but scientists now think that apples may be more beneficial to us than we at first realised.  Apples contain polyphenols, one of which has been found to be particularly good for our hair.  It is thought that it may even help to slow down hair loss in male pattern baldness.  

We all want luscious locks, male and female, so whether it’s the fruit or pure apple juice, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to regularly include apples in our diet.

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Slow cooked root vegetable soup

This is honestly one of the tastiest soups I have ever eaten with the added bonus that it is low in fat. The slow cooking of the vegetables intensifies their flavour and fills the kitchen with the most wonderful aroma.  Soup in all its varieties is a good and cheap way of getting the family to take in more health-giving vegetables and I defy anyone not to like this one.  Make a meal of it on a cold Winter’s night with some crusty bread and some cheese.

This is from the doyenne of home cooking here in the U.K. – Delia Smith.

Slow cooked root vegetable soup

Serves 6

Vegetable quantities are prepared weights

8oz (225g) peeled carrots, cut into 2 inch (5cm) lengths

8oz (225g) peeled celeriac (celery root), cut into 2 inch (5cm) pieces

8 oz (225g) trimmed and washed leeks, halved and cut into 2 inch / 5 cm lengths

8 oz (225g) peeled swede (rutabaga / yellow turnip), cut into 2 inch (5cm) lengths

1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped

2-1/2 pints (1.5 litres) stock, made with Marigold Swiss Bouillon vegetable powder

3 bay leaves

Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper

To serve (optional): 6 teaspoons of fat free Greek yogurt and a few fresh chives

You will also need a large, lidded flame-proof casserole (capacity of 6 pints or 3.5 litres)

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Pre-heat the oven to 275F / 140C / gas mark 1 

This is such a simple soup to make once you have all your ingredients peeled, cut and prepared. All you do is place everything in the casserole and bring it up to a gentle simmer, then put the lid on.  Transfer the casserole to the lowest part of the oven and leave it there for 3 hours, by which time the vegetables will be meltingly tender and sweet and the aroma emanating from your kitchen just divine!

Remove the bay leaves and process or liquidise the soup in several batches to a puree.  (I find a hand blender is brilliant for things like this).

Gently re-heat and serve in soup bowls with a teaspoon of Greek yogurt swirled into each and garnished with fresh chopped chives.

(This recipe can be found on-line at deliaonline.com and is also printed in her book ‘How to Cook, Book Two, The Delia Collection’, Delia Smith, ISBN  056338431X)

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