This week’s recipe – a healthy Christmas cake

Healthy Christmas Fruit Cake

A healthy Christmas fruit cake recipe that’s gluten free, dairy free and grain free using almond flour and coconut flour. Easy to make!

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
 

Ingredients
500 grams mixed dried fruits         
75 grams walnuts
1 orange
125 grams almond flour/meal 
67 grams coconut flour 
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp salt
3 tsp mixed spice 
1 tsp ground cinnamon
5 eggs
50 grams butter or coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp vanilla extract
60 ml amaretto or other liqueur of choice (optional)

Glaze (Optional)
2 tbsp honey or other liquid sweetener
2 tbsp amaretto or other liqueur of choice

Instructions

1.        Start by soaking the fruit. Fill your kettle and pop it on to boil while you organise all the dried fruit into a large bowl. If you’re using larger fruit like dates and apricots, roughly chop them up first (my quick tip: snip them with kitchen scissors – it will save you so much time!). Pour the hot water over the fruit and allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes to soften and then drain and allow to cool to room temperature (get on with your cake prep while this is happening).

2.        Preheat your oven to 150 C. Line a 20 cm cake tin (preferably spingform) with baking paper along the base and sides.

3.        Combine the almond flour, coconut flour, bicarb, salt, mixed spice and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Zest the orange and roughly chop the walnuts, and add the zest and walnuts to the bowl too. Keep the orange.

4.        In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, melted butter (or coconut oil), vanilla and amaretto. Squeeze in the juice of the orange (doesn’t matter if some pulp goes in).

5.        Create a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and gradually stir in the wet mixture, stirring as you go (coconut flour is very absorbent so it’s better to add it gradually). You should end up with a very thick batter, almost like a wet crumbly dough.

6.        Make sure your soaked fruit is well drained, and then add this to the cake batter. Fold it in with a spoon until combined evenly.

7.        Scoop the cake batter in to your lined baking tin and press down with your fingers or the back of a spoon until there are no gaps and the top is smooth.

8.        Bake the cake for between 60 – 70 minutes, or until the top is well browned and the centre feels firm to touch.

9.        If you’re going to glaze the cake, do so immediately while the cake is hot, brushing on your glaze of choice with a pastry brush. You can also poke a few holes in the cake and then drizzle it over, if you want to use a lot and really soak the cake. To use the glaze I have suggested above, simply heat up the honey so it’s really runny, mix with the amaretto and then brush over the top of the cake.

10.    Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 30 minutes and then place on a wire rack to cool to room temperature. (Store in the fridge for about 1 week or freeze for a longer life.)

10 ways to reduce stress over Christmas

We’ve reached December! Festive greetings to you all at this wonderful, though at times stressful, season of goodwill. I’m struggling this week, there is so much to do and we place such high expectations on ourselves. I would like this Christmas to be about spending quality time together with family and friends, and not about presents presents presents! This week, I’ve put together 10 ways to reduce stress so you are not completely broken by the New Year, and so that you can take some time to enjoy yourself!

1. Silence your inner critic

Don’t worry if you’ve chosen the slow queue at the supermarket, can’t find the perfect colour scarf or are on a tight budget and fear friends will secretly criticise your gifts. It’s not the end of the world if it takes five minutes longer to get to the checkout or if that scarf’s a slightly paler shade of blue than you’d like. And anyone who judges a present’s worth on its monetary value… well, they’re not the best of friends.

2. Practise mindfulness

Accept that if you’re shopping for presents – either online or in heaving retail parks – it’s likely to be frustrating. When the wheel of doom sabotages an online transaction or a fellow shopper jumps the queue, try not to get anxious. Focus on your breath, be aware of the situation but don’t judge it or question why it’s happening. Accept it’s happened, calm your thoughts and slowly let go of the angst. Keep in mind that the frustration is temporary.

3. Duck out of the crowds

You don’t have to spend all day shopping (in fact, you don’t have to spend any time shopping at all if you don’t want to). A great way to hide is to pop into your local cinema and lose yourself in a movie. Public libraries are also a great place to sit quietly away from the hordes.

4. Show self-compassion

Whether it’s a night in reading a book, taking a long, luxurious soak in a hot bath, knitting in front of the TV or lying on the sofa listening to your favourite music, take time out of the festive preparation to do something you love. Indulge your senses, feed your soul and make time just for you.

5. Make time for meditation

If you can, schedule 10 minutes a day for some quiet time.

  • Sit comfortably somewhere peaceful, keeping your spine straight and gently resting your hands, palms facing up. Your eyes can be open or closed. If they’re open, focus on an object on the floor a few feet in front of you.
  • Take five deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth.
  • Bring your attention to the rhythm of your breath. Don’t try to change it or try too hard to relax.
  • Pay attention to the full in-breath and the full out-breath. Focus on where you feel it most strongly.
  • Continue to observe the breath. If your mind wanders off, observe where it goes and try to bring it back. Don’t judge or get anxious if your thoughts are lively, just look at them and let them go.
  • When you’re ready, lift the palms of your hands up, open your eyes – or shift their gaze – and slowly take in your surroundings.

6. Head out for a walk

A leisurely stroll is a great way to alleviate stress, clear the head and lift the spirits. Don your warmest woollies and let nature soothe your woes. Observe the light, feel the ground under your feet and ponder the resilience of our winter wildlife among the sparse trees. For urban dwellers, respite can be found in city parks, gardens and squares. Wrap up, fill a hot flask and take in the scene, there’ll still be birds and probably a few squirrels too. You could even do this on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day – perhaps a slow, mindful pre-breakfast walk watching the sunrise could become a new festive tradition.

7. Play a game

Come the big day, remember you don’t have to stop behaving like a kid just because you’re no longer 10 and under. Laughter is good for the soul, eases tension and gets you in touch with the present moment. Playing a game with family and friends is a great ice-breaker, and really brings people together.

8. (Over) indulge – if that’s your thing

Don’t be frightened of embracing the festivities. It’s a time of year when excess is positively encouraged. Listen to your body – it will tell you when you’ve really had enough. But by the same token, practise mindful eating and drinking.  Before reaching for another drink or canape, just pause and minute and consider if you really want it, or if you are just mindlessly consuming. Take time to actually enjoy what you are eating or drinking!

9. B r e a t h e to reduce stress and relieve aches and pains

Cooking, cleaning and socialising all take their toll. If you find you’re getting overly anxious about the roasties or worrying excessively about who’s not getting on with whom, step away. Head to the quietest place you can find, observe your breath and breathe deeply. Taking a few deep breaths all the way down to your stomach and breathing out slowly will help to calm your mind, body and nerves. Here’s how:

  • Sit in a comfortable position with your hands gently resting on your knees, palms facing upwards, or in a mudra position, where the first finger and thumb are touching.
  • Breathing gently, take a moment to allow your body and mind to settle. Then slowly close your eyes and imagine a big, bright hot sun.
  • Now, take a deep breath in all the way down to your stomach, for a count of three. As you are breathing in, picture a hot sun in your mind’s eye.
  • Hold this image for a count of two or four, whichever feels most comfortable.
  • Gently breathe out for a count of six and, as you breathe out, imagine you are the sun radiating light out into the world.
  • Repeat this pattern for three to five minutes and observe how your body feels. You may feel warm energised light bright afterwards.

10. Enjoy yourself!

Perhaps most important of all, enjoy yourself!

Squeeze and breathe, Love Hannah x

This week’s healthy recipe – Oriental salmon and broccoli traybake

You only need 5 ingredients to make this delicious and healthy mid-week supper.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

  • 4 skin-on salmon fillets
  • 1 head broccoli, broken into florets
  • juice ½ lemon, ½ lemon quartered
  • small bunch spring onions, sliced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce

METHOD

  1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Put the salmon in a large roasting tin, leaving space between each fillet.
  2. Wash and drain the broccoli and, while still a little wet, arrange in the tray around the fillets. Pour the lemon juice over everything, then add the lemon quarters.
  3. Top with half the spring onions, drizzle with a little olive oil and put in the oven for 14 mins. Remove from the oven, sprinkle everything with the soy, then return to the oven for 4 mins more until the salmon is cooked through. Sprinkle with the remaining spring onions just before serving.

Yummy! Hope you enjoy it.

Squeeze and breathe,

Love Hannah x

Strong Saturday recipe – Ottolenghi’s ratatouille

This is taken from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Ratatouille book Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi

Note: Follow the instructions closely, over-cooking the vegetables “is the point,” according to Ottolenghi.

Ingredients:

7 tbsp sunflower oil

4 garlic cloves, sliced

2 small onions, cut into 1 1/4-inch dice

1/2 fresh green chilli, thinly sliced

2 small red peppers, cut into 1 1/4 -inch dice

1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 1/4-inch dice

1 small parsnip, peeled and cut into 1 1/4-inch dice

1 cup French beans, trimmed

1 medium courgette, cut into 1 1/4-inch dice

1/2 large aubergine, peeled and cut into 1 1/4-inch dice

1 small potato, peeled and cut into 1 1/4 inch dice

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1/2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp tomato paste

salt and black pepper

1 cup water

chopped coriander to garnish (optional)

Method:

Pour two-thirds of the oil into a large heavy casserole dish or a pot and place on a medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, stir in the garlic, chilli and red peppers and fry for another 5 minutes. Add the butternut squash and parsnip and continue frying 5 minutes. 

Using a slotted spoon, lift the vegetables out of the pot and into a medium bowl, leaving as much of the oil in the pot as possible. Top this up with the remaining oil. Add the French beans, courgette and aubergine to the hot oil and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Return the contents of the bowl to the pot. Add the potato, tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste and plenty of salt and pepper. Stir well, then pour in the water, or just enough to half-cover the vegetables. Cover with a lid and leave to simmer gently for 30 minutes. Taste the vegetables and add more salt and pepper if you like. 

Finally, preheat the oven to 400 F. Use a slotted spoon to gently lift the vegetables from the pot into a large, deep roasting pan to make a layer about 1 1/4 inches thick. Pour the liquid over the vegetables and place in the oven to cook for 30 minutes. At this point all the vegetables should be very soft and most of the liquid evaporated. Garnish with coriander, if you like, and serve. 

Enjoy!

Squeeze and breathe.

Love Hannah x

Recipe of the week for strong bones – Mushroom Risotto

RECIPE OF THE WEEK

Mushroom risotto

INGREDIENTS

 Mushroom preparation

1 8-ounce package Crimini or baby Bella mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt

Rice preparation

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup dry Arborio rice
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 ½ cups of chicken stock – Hom,e made if you can
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste


INSTRUCTIONS

  1. To prepare the mushrooms, clean the mushrooms by brushing them off (avoid washing with water) and cut into quarters (stems may be left on).
  2. In a medium sauté pan, melt the one tablespoon each of butter and olive oil. Add the cleaned and quartered mushrooms and sauté over medium-high heat until lightly browned, stirring frequently. (Note – it’s important to sauté the mushrooms over somewhat high heat in order to get the mushrooms to release their moisture without steaming.) Once the mushrooms are lightly browned and tender and plump, sprinkle lightly with just a touch of salt and allow to sauté for another minute more – this step will release just a bit more of the moisture in the mushrooms. Remove the mushrooms from the heat and set aside.
  3. To prepare the rice, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter and olive oil together over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and sauté for 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent.
  4. Add the Arborio rice, stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes until the rice is just starting to turn lightly golden.
  5. Quickly pour in the white wine and allow the liquid to boil and be absorbed into the rice. Then pour in ¼ cup of chicken stock to the rice, stirring constantly. (If necessary, adjust the heat under the pot – you want a medium simmer.) Add more stock ¼ cup at a time – adding more stock just as most but not all of the liquid has been absorbed before adding in more stock.)
  6.  Cook the rice and stock together in this manner for approximately 25 minutes or so – until the rice is tender but not mushy. Turn the heat off when there is still some liquid remaining in the rice and stir in the Parmesan cheese and mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine completely.
  7. Remove from heat and cover – let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
  8. Note: Risotto may be reheated by adding in some additional chicken stock and stirring to incorporate into the risotto.

Yum….ENJOY!

Best Foods for strong Bones from Farnham Pilates

Farnham Pilates Weekly Blog –
Get Stronger Saturday

Best foods for strong bones

Here is your weekly post on Bone health.

A few Osteoporosis/Bone Health Facts and Figures
Bone remodelling is a lifelong process, but unfortunately bone loss starts to outpace bone gain as we age.  This starts to happen around aged 34 when peak bone mass is achieved for most people….this is not an ‘old person’s issue’!   The decline in oestrogen production also has a negative impact on bone remodelling activity for both sexes – this isn’t, as many think, a ‘female only ‘ issue.  Men are less susceptible to developing osteoporosis but their stats are still pretty compelling.

·         The first 3-5 years following the onset of menopause are associated with an accelerated period of bone mass loss before the decline, settling to a more linear decline as menopause progresses.  Most women are hitting Peri-Menopause in their late 40’s and Menopause in their early 50’s.
·         As bone mass declines and the threshold for osteoporosis is approached and exceeded, the risk of fractures to the hip, spine and other fall fractures is also greatly increased.
·         In the UK and the US 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over 50 will experience a fracture.
·         Research by the National Osteoporosis Society estimates that the daily cost of caring for those who experience disability due to hip fractures is somewhere in the region of £6 Million PER DAY!!
·         The mortality rate for those who experience hip fracture increases by 20% in the 12 months post fracture.
·         There are actually more ‘fragility fractures’ – (300,00)  in  the UK than strokes (275,000)  and heart attacks (110,000)
·         Hip fractures cause the most morbidity with reported mortality rates up to 20-24% in the first year after a hip fracture, and greater risk of dying may persist for at least 5 years afterwards. Loss of function and independence among survivors is profound, with 40% unable to walk independently, 60% requiring assistance a year later. Because of these losses, 33% are totally dependent or in a nursing home in the year following a hip fracture.
·         A 50 year old woman has a 2.8% risk of death related to hip fracture during her remaining lifetime, equivalent to her risk of death from breast cancer.
·         Studies have shown that bone mineral density in postmenopausal women can be maintained or increased with therapeutic exercise.

How diet can help increase bone density for strong bones

Here at Farnham Pilates we marked World Osteoporosis Day with a bone density health check for all Pilates clients. This week we are looking at ways your diet can make a difference to your bone health.

Calcium is vital to bone health and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. This is why food supplements often pair them together. If you would rather not take food supplements, consider adjusting your diet to include calcium-rich foods.

Calcium-rich foods

If you tolerate it, including cows’ milk and milk products in your diet is a great way to improve bone density. Other calcium-rich foods include:

  • Figs
  • Plums
  • Dark, leafy greens
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Almonds
  • Molasses.

Good sources of vitamin D: 

  • oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel 
  • eggs 
  • fortified fat spreads 
  • fortified breakfast cereals 
  • some powdered milks 

If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, your doctor may prescribe calcium and vitamin D supplements as well as osteoporosis drug treatments if they have concerns that your calcium intake may be low.Extra tips –
– Cook soups using bone broth from Sunday’s chicken (cook the bones and use as the stock!). I also use miso which is good for skin. 
– It’s also helpful to reduce your caffeine intake (caffeine affects how the body absorbs calcium) and to eat a healthy amount of protein every day.
– Reduce salt – excess salt is excreted in the urine along with calcium.
– Alcohol – Chronic alcohol consumption increases level of the parathyroid hormone, which leads to a leaching of calcium from bone; alcohol also has a role in decreasing osteoblast (the bone-making cell) formation.
– Check medications such as steroids – steroids can cause Steroid Induced Osteoporosis
– Reduce high sugar drinks – as phosphoric acid – found in Coca-Cola type drinks has been linked to lower bone density in some epidemiological studies – great information in this blog via Healthy But Smart and it’s also been included in a discussion in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
– Smoking – Research also suggests that smoking impedes the hormone calcitonin, which helps build bones; Nicotine and free radicals generated whilst smoking destroy ssteoblasts.
– Excess Sugar + Diabetes – High blood sugar slows new bone formation, accelerates bone resorption and impairs fracture healing.

Next week we will look at lifestyle changes you can make to improve your bone health. 

Squeeze and breathe 
Hannah

Weekly recipe – Warming Butternut squash or Pumpkin with Cauliflower soup with ginger and chillies

RECIPE OF THE WEEK

My favourite soup – Butternut Squash or pumpkin & Cauliflower Soup with Ginger and Chillies

Now the weather is getting colder this is my staple soup recipe. It is always slightly different each time depending on what is left over in the fridge but it’s packed full of brain boosting and bone strengthening ingredients and its quick and easy.

Top tip: keep your fresh ginger in the freezer, then grate it directly in to the soup, skin and all. I use a parmesan grater resting across the pan of the bubbling soup as the steam helps defrost the ginger slightly making it easier to grate.

Ingredients
1 medium butternut squash or pumpkin
1 onion
2 celery sticks
2 carrots
1/2 cauliflower
2 large handfuls of washed spinach
2 large garlic cloves
1 red chilli, seeds removed (or chuck seeds in too if you like it spicy)
2-3 inches of grated ginger (more if you like it more gingery.. if that’s a word?!)
1.5 litres chicken stock (bone broth or veg stock if you are vegetarian)

Method
1. Prepare all your vegetables, I chop the celery and onion fairly finely, the rest of them can be chopped chunky fashion.
2. Fry the onion and celery on a medium heat for a few minutes until softened, don’t let them burn.
3. Keeping the heat fairly low add the crushed garlic and chillies. Fry for a few minutes.
4. Meanwhile boil the kettle and prepare your stock.
5. Add all the other prepared vegetables. Cook over a medium low heat coating everything in the oniony garlicky mixture.
6. Add 1 litre of the stock and stir, add more if need be.
7. Get your ginger (either from the freezer, see tip above) or fresh and grate it in to the soup mixture, I love ginger so you can do as much as you like really. 
8. Simmer for 20 minutes. Check if the vegetables are cooked.
9. Let it cool for a bit then get an electric whizzer and blend it all together. Add a bit more stock if the consistency is too thick.
10. Roughly chop the spinach and add this to the mixture with a good few twists of black pepper. Give it a stir and leave to wilt in the soup mixture for a few minutes. 
11. Serve immediately or leave to cool and freeze later. You can add a blob of creme fresche too with some chopped parsley, chives or coriander to give it extra zing.