Stilton, Chilli and Pear Bruschetta

Perfect for evening entertainment and easy to prepare earlier in the day.

Serves 2

Don't eat all the pears first...
Don't eat all the pears first...

100 ml cider vinegar
2 tbsp golden caster sugar
1 crumbled dried red chilli
1 large pear, peeled and cut into thin slices
100g stilton
25g butter
lemon juice
1 tbsp cranberry juice
2 large slices bread

1. Lightly toast the bread (preferably on a hot griggle pan)
2. Boil the vinegar, sugar and chilli for 1 minute. Then pour over the pear slices and cool.
3. Mash together the stilton, cranberry juice and butter with a dash of lemon juice. Set aside a little butter for spreading.
4. Spread butter thinly over the outside area of the toast (to prevent burning). Add the stilton mash and grill until browning.
5. Garnish with extra chilli and serve with the pears.

Natural ways to defeat hayfever – how about kissing (and other options)

Only in Japan would researchers ask couples to kiss for 30 minutes to find a cure for hayfever.

Hayfever season... kiss me quick!
Hayfever season... kiss me quick!

But apparently scientists from the Satou hospital discovered that a good ol’ smooch will lower your histamine level which means you sneeze less.

But for those of us who haven’t got the time or perhaps a willing partner for so much loving, there are other natural alternatives to anti-histamine drugs which dry you up and leave you drowsy.

I have to say that the most encouraging natural solution I’ve seen out there is HayMax – a pollen blocking cream which you can rub just under nose. Many people testify to it’s fantastic results.

But I also have a friend whose husband used a homeopathic tincture – his hayfever was very bad – New Era H For Hayfever and Allergic Rhinitis might work well for you.

To really beat the hayfever blues the natural way you have to look at your diet and overall fitness. Eating the right foods really will build up your defences. For example garlic and horseradish are both good for sinus problems, garlic in particular is extremely anti-inflammatory and great for your immune system.

Fortunately, natural healers like garlic and echinacea are used in Potter’s Allerclear range, so immediate relief is available. It may pay to invest in their nasal spray, eye-drops and tablets.

Long term

For longer term solutions start early in the year before the pollen season hits.

Maximise your Vitamin C levels. This not only supports the immune system, but assists the body’s defences against too much histamine. It can also help reduce the release of histamine.

Eat vegetables rich in colour – the bioflavanoids will boost the Vitamin C effect and repress histamine even more. Quercetin particularly is a natural antihistamine and can be found in red and yellow onions, shallots, squash, courgettes, and broccoli. However, to get your entire quota you’d need to take quercetin in tablet form.

If you already have lots of antioxidant and omega 3 foods in your cupboard, you are doing well. Food with these properties have been found to defend against inflammation.

Also stock up on your nettle tea as your common stinging nettle also has immune-boosting properties and anti-inflammatory agents. A daily teaspoon of local honey in your tea is beneficial.

Final tip

A little tip I’ve picked up is to simply cover your bedding with a blanket during the day. This will ensure your pillow won’t be covered with pollen and give you a much easier night’s sleep.

Win a Baby and Toddler’s Cookbook

The food you serve your little one every day will effect their development.

A BBC programme earlier this year investigated the standard of food served to children in nurseries and bought pre-packed in supermarkets (see blog).

Children aged 0-5 need different nutritional meals to adults; but unfortunately current nutritional advice is the same for whatever age you are.

There is a campaign to change this, but you may want to get ahead of the pack.

Win a Baby's Cookbook
More than 100 easy recipes in this book

Win a Cookbook for Babies & Toddlers

Renée Elliott, mother of three and founder of London’s Planet Organic stores, has written a book,  The Best Recipes for Babies & Toddlers.

It’s designed to guide every parent through how to provide the best nutritional start for their baby. It’s a wonderful read filled with recipes, tips and sensible advice for feeding children of the relevant age.

The Best Recipes starts with a good introduction explaining why it’s best to cook organic, what cooking utensils to use, useful cooking techniques etc. And there are lots ideas on what to do with wholegrains such as quinoa, beans and millet which are so nutritious.

You can enter the competition to win this book just by sending me an email with your address – competition ends 3 May 2010.

Ella’s Kitchen – Organic food for kids

Ella’s chefs have done it again. Ella’s Kitchen have created some of the healthiest kid’s food around – and the coolest.

Ella's Kitchen organic food for kid's
Ella's Kitchen organic food for kid's

I’ve been looking forward to their organic Pack O Snacks for a while and now they’re here: all the goodness of snacky fruit with totally natural ingredients for the little ones to enjoy; enticingly named The Chompy One, The Chewy One and The Crumbly One. There’s no added sugar, no extra salt and no e numbers.

Ella’s dad, Paul Lindley, says he promised to make the wholesomest food for his children to eat. He makes sure that everything in the food, its taste, colour and texture, will appeal to his children’s senses.

But there’s more, because Ella’s now got Bakey Bakies Oat-Bakes, new Baby Cookies and Stack O Sticks Breadsticks too – all made from good organic natural ingredients, with nothing else added.

Lick your lips at the thought of apple, raisin and cinnamon or cream cheese and spinach oat-cakes, say yummmm to apple and ginger or milk and vanilla cookies, or just enjoy a munch of the orange and pear or wholegrain breadsticks.

Watch this space for even more fab food from the coolest kid’s kitchen around…

Rhubarb and cream cheese cake recipe

This week, the first harvest of organic rhubarb is in.

Time to make some lovely orange and rhubarb crumble.

This juicy and pink but slightly sour vegetable is so wonderfully versatile.

You can use it in creamy deserts, dairy-free cakes, smoothies, with porridge or fish or even raw.

Like a stick of natural sherbert lemon, rhubarb is beautifully refreshing and adds such zest to a meal that a little culinary imagination will go a long long way.

Here’s another rhubarb suggestion: a delicious recipe for a very easy Rhubarb and Cream Cheese Cake

Fresh organic rhubarb
Fresh organic rhubarb

1 box of gluten free vanilla sponge cake mix
4 oz melted butter
2 eggs
8 oz mascarpone or full-fat cream cheese
5 stalks chopped rhubarb
3 tbs caster sugar
2 tbs water
icing sugar for dusting

1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C
2. Stir the butter, eggs and cake mix into a stiff paste. Press the mixture into the bottom of a spring-form cake tin.
3. Blend the icing sugar and cream cheese with a fork. Apply onto the top of the cake mix. Use a spatula spread out from the centre, making the sweet mixture a little thicker in the middle and thinner at the edges.
4. Place in oven a for 40 minutes or until the top is turning golden. Test that the cake does not wobble when you shake it. There should be a shallow dip in the centre of the top of the cake. Leave to cool.
5. When the cake has cooled you can add the rhubarb. Simmer the rhubarb, caster sugar and water together (for best results avoid using an aluminium pan) so that the rhubarb is soft and coming apart. Spoon the rhubarb into the shallow area on top of the cake and sprinkle with icing sugar.
6. Serve immediately.

Coconut water could save your life as well as your thirst

It’s nature’s answer to those hot summery days… and yes, Madonna drinks it.

Coca Vita coconut water
Vita Coco coconut water

It’s also one of the most refreshing drinks I know.

Coconut water is different to coconut milk because it is harvested when the nut is green rather than brown. Athletes drink it as a healthy alternative to sports drinks. You could describe it as nature’s isotonic beverage.

It contains essential salts and minerals in the same concentration as the body.

In fact you only have to google “coconut intravenous” to discover that because the juice is so good for you doctors use it to replace lost blood in life threatening situations. The electrolyte profile of coconut water is similar to human plasma.

Summer’s coming so get ready to treat your body with this perfect thirst quencher, bottled by Vita-Coco. This liquid nectar rehydrates your body, cleanses your kidneys and boosts the immune system. It’s low-calorie and fat-free, and just one glass has more potassium in it than a banana.

The juice is a powerful antioxidant, and it has none of the artificial colouring or added sugar sports drinks often contain.

After all, what could be better than coconut juice on a warm summer’s day?

Coco Vita now also do a variety of lunch box flavours: 100% Pure, or with Acai & Pomegranate, with Passionfruit, with Peach & Mango, and with Pineapple.

Incredibly delicious gluten free cookies from Byron Bay

Byron Bay Gluten Free Cookies - delicious!
Byron Bay Gluten Free Cookies - delicious!

I’ve been enjoying some amazing gluten free biscuits, sublime almost –from The Byron Bay Cookie Company.

I think your friends will want these whether they are coeliac or not.

If you’re coeliac you’ll know as well as I do that fine-tasting gluten-free cookies are hard to come by.

But Byron Bay Cookies (sold by Selfridges and Harvey Nichols) have now created a cookie of gluten-free of such quality each mouthful is an indulgent melt-in-the-mouth crunch – you’ll just have to try them to know what I mean.

You can choose from the dreamy White Chocolate and Macadamia, the sophisticated Tripple Chocolate Fudge, or the luxurious Sticky Date, Ginger and Walnut.

Trust me, every little nibble is pure delight.

Perfect I think for Coeliac Awareness Week’s ‘Free For Tea?‘ Campaign on 10-16 May.

Baby edamame beans – great for vegans

I thought I’d write about Edamame beans as they’ve been out of the spotlight for a while, but they’re still good for you if you’re on a diet: a large handful is about 60 calories.

The beans are full of nutrition, fun to pop, great for dinner parties and full of for protein (a complete protein in fact like meat so they are brilliant for vegans, plus they’re high in vitamins A,B and C). They’ve got a slightly nutty flavour – similar to broad beans but with a stronger taste.

The little fellas make a wonderful snack food (…a snack food that’s good for you??). Some people say they’re an aphrodisiac! But what’s certain is that as a type of soy bean they help lower cholesterol as well as being high in fibre, iron, calcium and folic acid.

However, I haven’t found any edamame experts out there yet… What’s the best way to prepare them? I’m tempted by the suggestion to serve them garnished with chilli and ginger, or tossed in butter and black pepper, but most recipes suggest simply salted, which would be nice enough.

Here’s a different recipe, I think you can just season them with anything that hits your imagination! Does anyone out there have any tips?

Edamame Beans with Chilli & Salt (serves 2)

225g edamame beans
1tsp sesame oil
1/2 red chilli, de seeded & finely sliced
1tsp salt

1 Steam the edamame beans for around 2 minutes. Drain thoroughly.
2 Fry the chilli in the oil and then add the beans to stir fry for 1 minute. Serve sprinkled with salt.

Look amazing and feel happy with a vegan nail-polish, eyeliner, mascara and hairspray from Suncoat

Why can’t you find a good vegan nail polish at your local natural-body-care shop?

Modern nail polish came into fashion at the same time as car paint. Because it’s designed in the same way, it’s full of chemicals like formaldehyde (which artist Damien Hirst preserves dead animals in), toluene (what glue sniffers get high on) and phthalates (messes up hormones and reproduction). If you have chemical sensitivities, you’ll already know all this.

Vegan nail polish
Vegan nail polish

Canadian chemist Ying Liu had to act when saw her young daughter painting her nails. She produced a vegan water-based nail polish free from the harmful chemicals that can build up in your body. It’s environmentally friendly, not tested on animals and better for your health.

There’s no nasty chemical smell with Suncoat, it can’t dry out or discolour your nails like more noxious polishes would. It’s long-lasting and comes Highly Commended by the Natural Health Magazine 2010 Beauty Awards. When applying Suncoat, think emulsion paint rather than gloss, you paint it on in thinner strokes but it’s faster drying!

Ying also designed a nail polish remover to compliment the polish – and it actually performs better than its acetone counterpart – it is bio-degradeable, made of corn and soya, and adds, rather than removes, moisture to your nails. Suncoat’s range has expanded to include mascara, eye liners and hairsprays. In each one toxic plastic chemicals are replaced with a naturally based sugar foundation. So, when you wear Suncoat’s vegan range (approved by the Vegan Society) you can feel positive that this make-up will sweeten up your summer.

We like Bears

I like being a Bear… grrr 🙂

When you are a Bear you like eating natural food, you don’t want to be forced out of your natural habitat to eat all that junk food those noisy humans eat. You want things like fruits and berries, nuts and seeds, and most of all you like to sleep.

Bear Snacks
Bear Snacks.... Yum!

That’s why I’m interested in Bear Snacks, they do some lovely food that’s 100% natural, made purely of fruit, or fruit with oaten wholegrain granola, all with no extra sugar or anything else. My bear-cubs keep swiping their fruit yo-yos even though I like playing with them myself (…growl). And we Bears know how to get fat and get slim again, so I am very happy that every Bear Snack is under 100 calories.

Now, if ever you feel like raiding a picnic then choose one that has some Apple Crumble Nibbles or Coco Cherry Pie; but take it from me, now that those funny people at GoodnessDirect deliver straight to my cave, I can concentrate on other things… like my afternoon nap.