Look after your skin in winter

Freezing temperatures, low humidity, and indoor heating can easily dry out your skin at this time of year. Here’s four tips to protect you from the worst of winter.

Cold-weather breaks down the  collagen in your skin, resulting in lots more fine lines, cracked, rougher skin, and a dry, flaky complexion. As your face and hands are more exposed to the cold, wind and sun they will suffer the worst of the winter.

Moisturise with a cream not a lotion
Moisturise with a cream not a lotion

Moisturise for protection
Moisturiser fills in gaps and cracks in the skin, restoring elasticity and giving you a smooth, soft appearance. You don’t need fancy cosmetics, but you might want to use a cream or ointment instead of a lotion. Thicker creams contain more oil and protect your skin longer than thin more water-based lotions.

Don’t forget the sun-lotion
A winter sun can still give you sunburn — as you might discover after a day od sledging on the bright white slopes. Use a moisturiser with SPF 15 or above. Don’t worry about buying  something that will wash off in water, unless you’re crazy enough to try a winter hot-tub.

Wear gloves everywhere
Love your hands. If you find your hands are still dry from the winter air, before you go to bed try putting some vaseline on your hands and cover them with thin cotton gloves and then enjoy a good night’s sleep. (You can do the same trick for your feet.)

Wash intelligently
Water strips oil from your skin, so wash sparingly or at least reapply moisturiser after each wash.
– Try mild soap-free cleansers, they don’t dry your skin as much.
– Only wash your face at night to remove makeup and grime. A morning wash removes the protective acid-mantle from your skin which builds up overnight.
– On your face, use warm water to wash and cool water to rinse. A cool rinse constricts the blood vessels and calms the skin to retain the moisturiser in your cleanser.
– Don’t stay in the shower for ages. And apply moisturiser within three minutes of washing to seal in moisture.

Four ways to keep your skin soft through the colder months
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VegeSet – the new vegetarian gelatine alternative – try it with this Panna Cotta recipe

Has anyone tried VegeSet yet?

It’s a carrageenan based vegetarian setting agent that can be used with sweet or savoury foods.

A new gelatine alternative
A new gelatine alternative

I’m sorry to say that alternatives to gelatine can be a bit tricky. I’ve read people say they are more difficult to cook and the food doesn’t last as long, they can be less versatile and might even smell funny or feel slimy.

However, VegeSet boasts that it is usable in a huge range of recipes: from cheesecakes and mousses to vegetable terrines – and it’s easy to use. Is this the breakthrough vegetarians have been looking for?

The Vegeset website is looking for recipes from people who have tried Vegeset. So if you discover something good – make sure you post it there… (It works well with soya milk). Here’s one from the site:

Vanilla panna cotta with mixed berry coulis

9 fl. oz milk
9 fl. oz double cream
1 vanilla pod (or vanilla extract)
1oz sugar
1 large teaspoon VegeSet

Place milk, cream, vanilla and sugar into a pan. Sprinkle VegeSet evenly on the top, whisk immediately whilst bringing the mixture to almost boiling. Remove vanilla pod, pour into ramekins and leave in fridge to set.

Make the coulis by whizzing 100g mixed berries, the juice from 1 lime and 1 tbsp of icing sugar in a blender.

Chill and serve with the panna cotta – lovely!

Partycakes – special offer for gluten-free and vegan sweetmeats

If you’ve got a party coming up I want to recommend a good source of cakes.

For wholesome and entirely natural cakes and tray-bakes try Peck & Strong. They cater for vegan, no wheat and gluten free diets.

Most importantly party guests will say they taste fantastic! That’s because their cakes are made by hand, with no short-cuts or manufacturing, just good ingredients, baked with flair and supplied frozen. (They’re ethical too.)

So, if it’s a tray of brownies, flapjacks, shortbread or cake you’re after for your party then Peck & Strong could make your celebration a real piece of cake!

Another idea is Sweetcheeks – a cupcake delivery company serving coeliac and vegans with a bit of a sweet tooth…

They offer cupcakes, cookies, whoopies, brownies, cake pops and giant cupcakes, all made fresh to order with the finest ingredients. Their cakes are healthier than traditional baked goods, due to the special ingredients used in their unique recipe.

And as a GoodnessDirect customer they want to offer you 10% off your first order.

Coeliac London say the cakes “must be tried to be believed!” So you can serve them a party safe in the knowledge that everyone can relax and have fun.

To get the discount all you have to do is quote GOODNESS when you place an order before 31st December 2010. (Offer excludes discount on delivery charge.) To find out more visit www.sweetcheeksltd.co.uk or email sweetcheeksltd@hotmail.com.

The big pie competition is back!

We were so excited by the massive response to the Clive’s pies competition – we decided to do it again!

After all, what could be better on a cold winter’s evening than a warming pie?

Clives – the vegetarian organic bakery – make lots of healthy and delicious free-from foods, especially vegan and gluten-free pies, (which in my opinion have the best pastry ever and I’m not coeliac).

Now, it’s your chance to try them for free! Whether it’s a Hungarian Goulash Pie or a gluten-free Vegetable Chilli Pie don’t miss this chance to indulge in a pie or two.

So delicious... and warming
So delicious... and warming

To win 6 Clives pies all you have to do is email me with your name and address to enter the competition (make sure you put ‘clivespies’ in the subject line); and I’ll draw 3 lucky names from a hat this Friday (17th December 2010, UK only).

Clives make much more besides their pies, such as their vegan and gluten-free ready pot meals.

The selection is huge, and so tempting, I warn you, you might not be able to wait to win some.

Homemade mincemeat and mincepies – recipe

Homemade mincemeat tastes worlds apart from shop bought, this recipe is naturally sweetened with Sweet Freedom syrup (made 100% from fruit) and has no other added sugar.

Note. If you’re making the mincemeat then you’ll need to leave it a day before you make the mince pies.

Mincemeat (1 kg )
200g Sultanas
175g Raisins
150g Currants
100g Shredded Vegetable Suet
Zest & Juice of 1 Orange
Zest & Juice of 1 Lemon
2 Tsp Mixed Spice
½ Tsp Ground Cloves
½ Tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ Tsp Ground Nutmeg
175g Sweet Freedom Natural Syrup
300g Bramley Apples, peeled, cored and cut into small dice (prepared weight)
50ml Brandy

1. Mix together all the ingredients, apart from the brandy, in an ovenproof dish, cover with foil and leave overnight in a cool place.
2. Preheat the oven to 110C/Fan 90C.
3. The next day, place the dish in the preheated oven for 3 hours. Remove from the oven, add the brandy and then leave to cool, stirring every now and again. When the mincemeat is cold pack into sterilised jars and store in a cool place until required.

24 Mince Pies
225g Butter, at room temperature but not soft
75g Sweet Freedom Natural Sweetener
375g Plain Flour
3 Medium Free Range Egg Yolks
600g Mincemeat
Also 2x 12 hole bun trays
And 2x round fluted cutters measuring 8cm (3”) and 6.5cm (2½”)

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan 160C.
2. Dice the butter and add to a mixing bowl with the Sweet Freedom. Beat together the butter and Sweet Freedom and then add the plain flour and egg yolks. Mix until a soft dough forms. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead into a ball. Chill until firm enough to roll.
3. Take two thirds of the pastry and roll out thinly, cut out rounds with the larger cutter and use them to line the bun trays. Fill the pies with mincemeat, then roll out the remaining pastry and cut out rounds with the smaller cutter. Place the lids on each of the pies and lightly press down with the palm of your hand to seal them.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Leave to cool slightly in the tin before transferring to a cooling rack.

5 ways to greener baby care

If you’re a mum or dad, you will want to do everything possible to look after your baby’s health. Personal choices that are good for your child and for the planet is an investment in their future.

Look after their world
Look after their world

Self-educate
“No parent can do everything, but every parent can do something” says Christopher Gavigan of Healthy Child Healthy World. The most important thing is to cultuivate an awareness of “the products we use in our home, the foods we buy, the toys our children play with, all can affect the health of our family.”

Green clean
As you furnish your home for your baby think beyond covering electric sockets and safety gates. Switch to non-toxic, environmentally friendly household cleaners. Remember your garden too and use natural pest control.

Shop organic
Start to buy organic foods. It’s easy to do this at baby stage with products like Babynat or Ella’s Kitchen, but getting used to cooking with organic food will put you in practice for the years to come.

You can also limit exposure by thinking about organic toiletries and choosing naturally dyed organic fabrics for clothing and furniture. Toys and books can be made from untreated wood, paper, organic fabric or metal, materials that are non-toxic and safe for a baby to chew on.

More natural less plastic
Many baby bottles, rattles, and bath toys are made from plastic. Whenever possible opt for glass, nonleaded ceramic, wooden or stainless steel alternatives. The most eco- and baby-friendly are bioplastics, which are made from corn and other substances. Check the labelling.

The bottom line
The typical child goes through 8,000 nappies before they are toilet trained. That’s a lot of landfill – where they will remain for the next 200 to 500 years before they decompose. You could choose other nappies: disposable nappies that are chlorine and perfume-free, or dual-layer “hybrid” nappies with a washable, reusable outer layer, and a biodegradable inner.

You can’t do everything, but you can do something” – a few steps toward a greener environment can have a positive impact on your baby’s health and will limit your impact on the planet your children and their children will inherit.

What is Coeliac Disease?

I am often asked by those newly diagnosed as coeliacs or those who suspect they have an intolerance to wheat, barley, rye and oats more about coeliac disease. For you and for those hundreds of others who suffer and are not sure why, here is a basic overview of coeliac disease.

What is Coeliac disease?
Coeliac disease is an auto immune disease caused by the intolerance to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat , barley and rye and oats. Much research has been done on and around the subject of gluten allergy and intolerance and  it has shown that an estimated one in 100 people have coeliac disease.  However today only 1 in 8 are actually diagnosed.

What symptoms to those with coeliac disease have?
A wide range of symptoms are common for those with coeliac disease. Most common are  diarrhoea, constipation, bloatedness, tiredness, and anaemia. If it is a child suffering from coeliac disease they may experience stunted growth or other signs of malnutrition, or a wide variety of tummy based symptoms. With such diverse symptoms you can understand why there is a little confusion over if you have a gluten allergy or not.

How do I get diagnosed?
If you have any suspicions that you may have coeliac disease go and tell your doctor. Ask for a blood test to test for coeliac disease. The blood test is very accurate but must be followed up with biopsy. Even though the blood test confims if you have coeliac disease or not it is the biopsy  which confirms the damage done to the gut. The symptoms of coeliac disease can be similar to irritable bowel syndrome, so the blood test and biopsy will finally identify the problem .

If I have coeliac disease what do I do?

Coeliac disease is completely managed by diet by the avoidance of gluten. The condition is totally managed by diet, that of avoiding gluten.

Once diagnosed you may want to contact the Coeliac Society who have a great wealth of resources for those with coeliac disease and their families. You may also want dietary advice and to see which foods are gluten free. Take a look at www.GoodnessDirect.co.uk

Avoiding gluten
Cooking from scratch can be the easiest way of planning your diet as all fruit, veg, meat and other basic foods are of coarse gluten free. Just avoid wheat, rye, barley, oats and wheat derivatives like spelt and you will be fine. The problems begin when you begin to introduce processed and convenience foods into your menus.  Fast food, sandwiches etc are often our of the question but more and more companies are catering for those intolerant to gluten giving a very varied gluten free range of foods.

For more information on gluten free foods contact GoodnessDirect or the Coeliac Society.