Posted in Food

Mash Up Sausage Sunday

With a newborn in the house we are all snatching sleep when we can. A must on the menu is quick and easy comfort food. In the fridge stands a packet of sausages nearing their sell by date: sausage and chips, toad in the hole, sausage and mash. Out of eggs for toad in the hole, chips a no no – trying to shed a few pounds. Sausage and mash it is then.

Oh wait, the potatoes in the veg rack are growing new potatoes, and turning a shifty shade of green. The green is caused by chlorophyll a naturally occurring plant pigment. Chlorophyll is tasteless and harmless. But be aware not to consume to many green potatoes and their shoots, because it is a sign of another more sinister substance. Solanine begins to form once a potato is exposed to light. It is toxic with the sole purpose of protecting the potato from insects and other animals. With a bitter taste, it causes stomach pain and vomiting, if ingested in large quantities can even be fatal.

Now what?

Time for a little bit of creative food thought. Disposing of the inedible potatoes, I notice other vegetables starting to wither and look sorry for themselves. Keen to spare them from the compost heap I decide upon a vegetable stir fry. And tagliatelle with tomato and mascarpone sauce.

I begin by adding the sausages to cook in the oven, on a medium oven.

Vegetable Stir Fry

Ingredients

  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 1 Yellow Bell Pepper
  • Mushrooms
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Handful of Kale
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • 1cm piece of Ginger
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Dash of Olive Oil
  • Dash of Balsamic Vinegar

Method

Peel and slice the onion. Deseed and slice the peppers. Halve the cherry tomatoes, and slice the mushrooms. Peel and grate the ginger, and crush the garlic.

Add a dash of olive oil to a frying pan on a medium heat. Saute the onions until soft, but not brown. Add the peppers and fry for another couple of minutes. Add the rest of the veg and stir until softened. Season to taste and then add a generous dash of balsamic vinegar.

Turn off the heat.

Tomato and Mascarpone Sauce

Image by Olga Kropman from Pixabay

Ingredients

  • 1 Can Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 heaped tablespoon Tomato Puree
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • handful fresh Basil
  • handful Parmesan
  • 125g Mascarpone Cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil

Method

Over a medium heat fry the garlic in the olive oil until golden but not burnt (approximately 1 minute). Pour in the chopped tomatoes and half a can of water. Add the tomato puree, and oregano. Season to taste. Stir well and then turn down the heat. Simmer for 8 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering cook the tagliatelle according to packet instructions. When the pasta is al dente add a tablespoon of the cooking water to the mascarpone sauce, before draining the tagliatelle.

To complete the sauce stir in the mascarpone and add freshly chopped basil. Stir once more and switch off the heat.

Plate up the sausages, stir fry, tagliatelle and sauce. Add grated mozzarella or cheddar over the pasta.

Posted in Health & Wellbeing

Magnesium: Natures Chill Pill

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

The pressures of the developed world is hardly conducive of a stress free existence, and poor mental health has become a global pandemic. Numerous external aspects of the 21st Century are considered to play a part in our declining emotional well being. Most of us consider our mobile devices as a third arm. Expected to respond to vast forms of communication instantly, whether via: social media, text, email or talking on the telephone. Taking a break from the outside world is increasingly difficult. Consumerism, and pressure to climb the social and financial ladder is also prevalent. Widely encouraged to always want more, frowning upon contentment. The ethos of many is live for the future and rarely stop to enjoy the present.

In May 2019 the World Health Organisation reflected on this when it included burn-out, in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases. Defining it as:

“a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

World Health Organisation

Could there be another internal factor involved in our overall declining mental health? Scientists have noticed a correlation between rising anxiety and plummeting magnesium intake in the last half century. To strengthen this theory, researchers have discovered they can induce anxiety in laboratory animals by simply depriving them of magnesium (apologies to animal rights activists, I am only the messenger). Involved in more than 300 biochemical reactions magnesium has two roles directly related to stress.

  1. Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands and is mainly released at times of stress. It has various important functions and is directly responsible for the necessary fight or flight response required to deal with imminent danger. However to much cortisol contributes to: mood swings, anxiety, insomnia, depression, brain fog, concentration issues, dementia, mental illness and memory loss. Magnesium acts as a filter, restricting the release of cortisol and preventing it from entering the brain.
  2. Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) is a naturally present amino acid. Its role as an inhibitory neurotransmitter is to slow brain activity. Magnesium is essential for GABA to work effectively, by binding to and stimulating the receptors in the brain to counteract stress. Not enough GABA makes it impossible to relax, causing people to become: disorganized, easily overwhelmed, suffer with racing thoughts and excessive worrying.

An intricate balance is essential for these biochemical reactions to be effective. The whole process is a bit like the snake chasing its own tail. Increased stress requires more magnesium, but prolonged stress depletes the body of its magnesium.

So how much magnesium does the body need?

Recommended Dietary Allowance of Magnesium in (mg)

AgeMaleFemalePregnantLactating
Birth – 6 months30mg30mg
7 – 12 months75mg75mg
1 – 3 years80mg80mg
4 – 8 years130mg130mg
9 – 13 years240mg240mg
14 – 18 years410mg360mg400mg360mg
19 – 30 years400mg310mg350mg310mg
31 – 50 years420mg320mg360mg320mg
51+ years420mg320mg

The mineral is found naturally in the body, and is present in many foods including: green leafy vegetables, fruit, seafood, legumes, nuts and seeds. Certain medicines such as laxatives and antacids contain magnesium. It is added to certain foods and is available as a supplement (but always seek professional advice before taking).

One positive thing to come from increasing poor mental health is societies increasing willingness to speak out about this once taboo subject, gradually prioritizing mental and emotional well being in much the same way as physical health. Currently medical professionals encourage a combination of talking therapies and medication to improve mental health. Could tackling magnesium deficiency be added to the list.

Posted in Natural World

Pink is the New White

I was eight when the Great Storm of October 1987 blew in from the channel, battering our three storey town house near the Solent. It was gone midnight when the lashing of rain and wind rattling the window panes roused me, the noise outside like an unleveled washing machine on spin cycle.

At that time, me and my older sister shared a bedroom in the basement. My parents at the top of the house seemed a long way to tread shivering in my nightdress, instead choosing as I often did, to pull my torch from beside my bed and read a few pages of my book. The trail of words in black ink against white page soon blurred and I drifted into contented sleep, the sound of the storm like a lullaby.

A study published March 8th 2017 suggests the storm that woke me, may have also helped me drift back into slumber. So here is a little bit of simplified science to explain. Colour is used by scientists to categorize sound. White noise is a consistent static sound like the whir of a fan or hum of an air conditioning unit. They can aid sleep by drowning out the sounds that wake us, or prevent us from dropping off in the first place – a barking dog, the slam of a door, a partner snoring. Natural sounds like babbling brooks, crashing ocean waves, falling rain, whispering winds or brutal gales are known as pink noise – sounds with a consistent frequency. These sounds slow and regulate brain waves and are associated with a deep phase of sleep, which leave us feeling fresh and well rested when we wake.

Posted in Food

Quick and Easy Crossing Carbonara

Moving home and a stay in hospital, has had a profound effect on my cooking and eating habits. Time: I haven’t had any. Motivation: I haven’t had any. And appetite: I haven’t had any.

Crossing Carbonara came about as a pantry leftover meal. The unusual name is in reference to the red bell pepper, green courgette and pedestrian crossings.

Pasta versus rice: my daughter and I have always sat on different sides of the fence, but this meal bought us together, it was a hit.

Oh! The low fat creme fraiche makes it dieter friendly too.

Continue reading “Quick and Easy Crossing Carbonara”