• Guest post

    Guest post: planes, trains and yachts

    Welcome again to KJ for some luxury virtual travel; something that is, for the time-being at least, a pipe dream.

    Over the years, I have enjoyed several career paths, all of which have enriched my life in one way or another. My first foray into working was as a short-order cook, at fourteen years of age, which eventually grew into bartending and other restaurant positions, up to hotel management. These activities gave me a broad understanding of the workings of a kitchen, in a service environment. As I matured, in both age and abilities, I spent some time travelling from west to east, and north to south, in the USA for my business, and I paid some attention to the food service on different aircraft. In that environment, food is prepared and packaged separately, to be doled out to the folk on the aircraft sometime after take-off and, hopefully, before landing, from a tiny galley which is serviced by a dumbwaiter from the hold of the aircraft. So, there isn’t much about the preparation which causes me to wonder, nor do I expect a man (or woman) wearing a chef’s cap to wander into the passenger area asking us how we enjoyed our meal. This is probably a good thing, for I cannot fail to imagine the chaos that would have ensued, with trays of inedible food flying through the cabin at the perpetrator who would have claimed responsibility for our meals. There is this thing called karma, after all.

    Some of our more renowned trains, such as South Africa’s Blue Train, considered by many to be the most elegant train experience in the world, do have chefs on board, who miraculously seem to be able to provide haut cuisine from what a New Yorker would consider a basic studio apartment, elongated, while rocking back and forth on the rails. Their ability to maintain their equilibrium, with a hot skillet in one hand and stirring with the other, while shifting about to allow the sous chef squeezing-by room, is a skill worthy of applause. The food prepared by these masters of their craft is enough to cause any food lover to salivate, just from reading the menu. Below is a sample of the Blue Train menu, but you view it at your own risk, for I accept no responsibility for moisture-damaged keyboards.

    On the other end of the scale is the yacht where, on a decent-sized vessel of 120 feet or more, there is a primary galley (kitchen) below deck and a service galley next to the dining area on the main deck, which is accessed via a private stairway, so as not to have soup spilled on the public stairs – the latter of which are often carpeted, internally. I have to admit, I have a fondness for the sea, and have spent some time on the water, both professionally, and for pleasure. The example I am providing for this element is a rather nice 143-foot yacht, L’Albatros, which is currently on the market, and has such an arrangement of two galleys to support the guests.

    This ship would be my ideal home-on-the-high-seas. ( I call it a ‘ship’ due to my experience with the captain of a 110-foot yacht, at a Florida marina, where I was an apprentice boat carpenter and, when asking permission to board his ‘boat’ to check the bilge pumps, I was told to stay on the dock until I ‘learned the difference between a boat and a ship.’ ) There is also a bar, on the upper deck of L’Albatros, to refresh those enjoying the sun on its outer deck or an afternoon lunch served al fresco, as well as another service area aft, on the first deck, for covered dining – not to mention the Jacuzzi area on the top deck. All in all, it’s a rather nice arrangement for the guests. The chef and his crew, on the other hand, have less space in which to produce their results than the crew on the Blue Train. Yet, they seem quite capable of providing exquisite meals while at sea, or dockside. You might well imagine what they could provide on a super-yacht, such as the 590-foot Azzam, would likely rival any Michelin four-star restaurant, when one considers the potential.

    With the ‘elephant’ that is sitting outside our doors, worldwide, I cannot see myself on a plane, or a train, any time soon. Alternatively, the thought of spending time at sea, and only docking to refuel and renew the ships provisions, is an extremely attractive idea and has been causing repeated daydreams to interrupt my work habits. Unfortunately, I doubt my banker can be enticed to float a loan so I may acquire L’Albatros and enjoy fine dining on board, any time in the near future.

    In keeping with my thoughts about dining at sea, tonight’s meal will be very simple: salmon baked with butter, lemon, and herbs de Provence, a side of rice, and a small salad of Romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes and cucumber, in oil and vinegar. Simple fare, made in a small, but homey, German kitchen – on land.

  • Guest post,  Nutritional information

    Guest post: Dick Strawbridge, a walled garden, and my need to change…

    I would like to welcome back KJ, who last wrote a couple of guest posts in 2013.

    Although my partner and I live in Germany, we are able to enjoy British television, compliments of those wonderful discs that sit on our rooftop. One of the shows that I will not miss, under any conditions, is ‘Escape to the Chateau’, with Dick and Angel Strawbridge. If you enjoy good food and French architecture, but have not seen this amazing show, your life is incomplete. They are also two very funny people and down to earth, to boot.

    When these two intrepid British souls moved to France, it was to restore an amazing, but neglected, French Chateau, with outbuildings, acres of woods and a moat. Fortunately, Dick is a retired Army engineer and has done most of the work himself, with the help of a few friends and professionals.

    Besides building things, Dick Strawbridge’s domestic passion is cooking, and one of his dreams was to find a chateau with a garden, and a walled garden was his ultimate, which he now has, at the Chateau de la Motte-Husson. The secret of a walled garden is how it can be divided into four sections, each one receiving sunlight at a different time of day, throughout the year, allowing for changing growing seasons, in each quadrant. I have to say I have seldom seen anyone quite as overjoyed as he was, when he discovered the garden on the property. Now, he can grow his own vegetables for his kitchen, and he has planted fruit trees, as well as his beginning the cultivation of truffles for his kitchen – and I hope you will have an opportunity to see his restored kitchen.

    The ‘my need to change part’, comes from having a body part removed about seventeen months ago (gallbladder), which has altered what I can eat. It was recommended to me that I follow the FODMAP method of eating, which is for persons with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Fortunately, I have been eating in a similar manner, for years. However, there are now some not-so-subtle changes which require an adjustment and I am having to adapt.

    First, it is a must that I cut out meat on a regular basis and only allow beef into my diet twice per month, and not on consecutive days. The same for pork and chicken, at this point, as the body does not process meat as well as it did before. I am not a fan of most fish, but, I realize the Mediterranean diet is the healthiest one, so I am going to put a clothespin on my nose and hope for the best. Finding good, fresh fish in the middle of Germany is not easy and I will have to make do with the frozen salmon and such that I can find, locally, for now. The crab meat I wanted for Fiona’s crab cake recipe is nonexistent, in my part of the world. I might try using the prawns I have, instead, as an experiment.

    Second, because of the current crisis, the choices in most materials, including vegetables, locally, are inconsistent, much like the paper products, which have been nonexistent for five weeks. Did anyone ever imagine buying toilet paper on Amazon? I’m not saying I did, and I’m not saying I didn’t.

    In the photo below, I have gathered the vegetables I am able to procure with some regularity. My challenge is finding ways to prepare them, for either a solo performance, or in tandem with another vegetable, in a ‘new’ way, other than my usual steaming, salting, and peppering – with a dollop of butter. Whatever I do with vegetables, they will likely be paired with prawns, mini frozen shrimp, tuna (canned), or North Atlantic Salmon. All of these I am able to find at our local stores, and I can enjoy, unlike octopus or clams. I have the salad angle covered, with Romaine, one of the sea creatures mentioned, and appropriate additional vegetables. Where my talent suffers is vegetable dishes on the side, in a main course. Ideas are welcome and, if I use your suggestion, proper attribution will be given during the meal. I promise. I may even raise a glass and sing your praise to my fellow diners. That’s a maybe.

  • Breakfast,  Guest post,  Sweet

    Guest post: Sugar-free loaf

    Today I’d like to welcome Susan from Our French Oasis, who, like me, lives in the South West of France with her husband, various children, chickens and naughty dogs.
    I have lived in France with my husband and five children for many years; we used to live close to the Spanish border, then work took us to Florida for four years and when we returned permanently two years ago we bought a house close to the coast in the Charente Maritime, a department we have all come to love.
    Last year I decided to give up all forms of added sugar, for absolutely no other reason than I thought I would see if I could do it, we don’t after all need sugar, and I wondered if I could really live without it? The answer is yes, seven months later and I still have not had a grain of added sugar, honey, maple syrup or any other form of non naturally occurring sugar such as that found in fruit and wine (of course). Now our French friends think I am quite mad, they all eat healthily but they don’t do fad diets and they do eat sugar, a little coffee is always taken with sugar, a little dessert after dinner, bien sur, they don’t do large portions but they do have a little, something sweet to finish a meal, in fact they look at me quite aghast! But in truth we really do not need sugar, I had no withdrawal symptons and sometimes I do look at a chocolate or a biscuit and think, gosh I’d like one, but I won’t! Why? Because I have never felt so full of energy,  I need less sleep and I feel totally invigorated and I know it is very good for me, I scarcely miss it at all and I won’t go back to eating it!
    125g wholemeal spelt flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon allspice
    50g butter, softened (I use salted butter)
    100g raisins
    2 teaspoons vanilla essence
    3 large bananas mashed
    1 egg
    1 tablespoon milk
    4 dates (optional)
    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a loaf tin with baking paper. Put all the dry ingredients into the mixer and turn on to low. Add all the remaining ingredients excluding the dates and mix further. Place the mixture in the prepared cake tin, pressing four dates along the top (optional) and bake for about 40 minutes. Test with a sharp knife; if it doesn’t come out clean, cover with some tin foil to stop the top burning and bake for a further 10 minutes. Turn out onto a cooling rack and try not to eat it all at once!

  • Breakfast,  Guest post,  Sweet

    Guest post: Patient, heal thyself (part 3)

    I had intended to continue sharing my recent benefits from switching in April to the ‘Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type’ plan, when last weekend put my intentions on hold. However, there was the added benefit of an experience important to all of us who need to watch what we eat, so I will share some of what occurred in this post.
    While helping my partner erect an aluminum (aluminium, for those northwest of here) and plexi winter garden house, I suffered what appeared to be the beginnings of a heart attack. Germany has one very important aspect to their health care which I applaud: if the call is of a serious nature, an ambulance with a doctor on board is also dispatched to the scene. I won’t take you through the hooking up of a colourful assortment of tubes and such, and just say that after Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride through the German countryside, I arrived at a hospital with a highly-regarded cardio unit, where I spent several hours on monitors and bleeding into little glass tubes, on demand.
    Upon determining that I was not in immediate danger, I was sent upstairs to a room, where they brought me the evening’s repast.  Before continuing your digestion of this post, I suggest making certain that you are in a comfortable chair, as what I am about to share will stagger the imagination of most, and might even cause one to stagger in a literal sense. A caution has been made.
    Dinner, for a person who has just arrived in the hospital’s cardio wing, and was under strict monitoring, was: two slices of bread, a slice of Emmentaler cheese (like Swiss cheese), three assorted slices of cold cuts, including salami, bologna and one that was unidentifiable, to me, and three tablespoons of watery yogurt.  There were also two packets of mustard and a small cube of butter.  No, I didn’t miss anything and I even looked under the tray, to be certain of this.
    If you are a Type A person and you have already started the program, and know what the dos and don’ts are, you would recognize only the yogurt as being of any benefit, while the rest of the lot are absolute ‘don’ts.’  I mentioned this to the night nurse who remarked, ‘Everybody gets the same. No special treatment.’  Having passed two very elderly women in wheelchairs, as they were bringing me to my room, I wondered how they expected these two souls to be nurtured back to good health on such a meagre and very unhealthy diet.
    Serving the least amount of food, with no regard to nutrition, is endemic in German hospitals and I have personally witnessed this in three other medical establishments. I have also asked physicians how they expect their patients to heal without proper nutrition, but they just shake their heads in a ‘it’s not my problem’ way. It is not a German attribute to rock the boat, so it is likely the insurance plan most patients are subscribed to determines costs for such things.  It goes to prove the point that when bean-counters enter the picture, all compassion disappears. But, I digress.
    Due to many issues, I had a sleepless night, one of which was being denied a sleeping pill, because, as the night nurse put it: ‘You are asking too late.’ Had I known my roommate could rattle the rafters with his snoring, I might have asked when I came to the room. But, unarmed with such important information, I was left without the necessary tool to overcome this obstacle and spent the night awake.
    In the very early morning hours, nurses came to take blood and chose to poke a new hole in my other hand, although all previous blood samples had been taken from the hand with the nifty accoutrement that had been attached to me in the comfort of my best chair, the day before. Then, a young male nurse came to take my blood pressure, after which he presented a needle.  When I asked what it was for, he told me it was to prevent thrombosis’ to which I replied: ‘No.’  I saw no need to have this additional toxin in my body, when I was still ambulatory and was not bedridden. He was perplexed, but he didn’t force the issue.
    Later in the morning, one of the cardio doctors came to see me and spent some time telling me that I had not suffered a heart attack, stroke or anything severe enough to leave a telltale message in my system.  The numbers they were giving me were the same as I had received from my cardio specialist, during my annual checkup in June, so I breathed a sigh of relief, and told her I wanted to go home. I was immediately counseled on the possible ‘consequences’ of such a decision, in view of their desire to keep me for observation and further tests, all of which I had experienced in June, and passed with flying colors. I then told her about my sleepless night, which seemed to go right past her, without reaction or comment.
    The young doctor was adamant that I stay put, so I shared with her the details of my morning meal, which was: a slice of what looked like a mixed deli meat, two bread rolls, two packets of processed jelly, a cube of butter and three tablespoons of yogurt. I then continued with a description of the all important mid-day meal that had been brought to me, which was a vegetable consume, including remnants of carrots, potatoes and beans with a long, beef sausage placed in the middle of the bowl, a packet of mustard and two pieces of stale bread.  After sharing these details with her, I told her about my eating plan and how it had cleared up two issues for me, which all of the ingredients the hospital had offered were sure to bring back to the fold. She shrugged in a kind of ‘what do you want me to do about it’ way, although I surmised that she was already thinking in her mind that there had to be some prescription that would do the trick rather well, in place of nutritious food.
    When I asked her how she felt about serving the kind of food that was presented, to a person presumed to have a heart issue (after all, the did want to keep me for observation), she changed the topic back to the issue of ‘the possible consequences of going home.’
    I thought about it and came to the realization that if I stayed there for the recommended period of time, taking the drugs they wanted me to ingest, in spite of showing no symptoms requiring drugs, and eating their food, I would have other serious issues returning to my life. I opted to leave, after telling her that I would much prefer to expire at home, eating healthy food, rather than in a hospital’s cold, dispassionate environment, while slowly being poisoned.  She was not amused.
    There were forms to fill out, more cautions expressed and then I was able to step outdoors, in the cool, dark afternoon, accompanied by my partner, who had brought one of our fun cars as a treat, in which to bring me home.  The first breath of fresh air was rejuvenating and I continued to feel better during the ride home, in spite of my lack of sleep.
    For that first meal upon my return to our home, I chose a breakfast meal of freshly chopped walnuts, Greek yogurt and blueberries. I also added a small dollop of maple syrup, which has been my sweetener of choice for more than thirty years. In the photo, you will see that I used frozen blueberries, as we are out of season for fresh, here, and I rather like having them year round. Frozen also allows me to vary the types of berries I use during the winter months, and allows me to thaw just what I need to avoid any spoilage, as well as providing a sugar-free juice from the thawing process.
    I did see my GP this week and he reviewed the information about my adventure and came to the conclusion that, since this was a one-off event, that I should take it easy, lessen my work load some and give stressful situations a boot in the behind. I do have a tendency to work like I am still twenty-three, which is not to my benefit, now, and I had been overdoing it for a couple of weeks, even though I was experiencing a cold. My instinct tells me that it was just overloading the system with commitments and physical stress that caused my body to stop functioning at its optimum. When pressed for a reply, my GP begrudgingly admitted that leaving the hospital was a good idea, in this circumstance.
    The point of sharing this experience is to demonstrate that in all cases, we will be responsible for our own health, even in an environment that is supposed to consider all aspects of our health its foremost concern.

  • Guest post

    Guest post: Patient, heal thyself (part 2)

    Chicken_broccoli florets_chives_garlic_goatcheese
    Following on from his previous post, I welcome back KJ to share more of his ‘eating according to blood type’ journey.
    To begin our trek through my experiences of late, Fiona suggested I share some of the challenges I was facing before beginning the Type A eating plan. To begin, I feel compelled to mention that, for nine years before I moved to Europe, I was under the care of one of what I believe to be the greatest naturopathic physicians of the last and current centuries, Dr. N. V. Tyree, who has since retired. He never prescribed a drug for my ailments and his treatments were everyday ingredients found in most homes. I also might add, just to see those eyebrows rise up in unison, he and I never met. The breadth of ailments he treated for me are numerous and his diagnosis was never flawed, no matter how many ‘carrots’ I threw into the soup. However, the details of this history are better suited for another topic, so I shall get back on track.
    After several experiences with physicians on this side of the pond, I came to realize that my personal health was just that: personal, and if I wanted to maintain my health, it was going to be up to me to do so. We could spend hours on this topic, but the most recent events that were left hanging were my inability to get a skin condition properly diagnosed, a sleep pattern that was erratic, the need for a cane when walking (three years after my second hip replacement – on the same side), which was having a profound impact on my attempts to exercise to lose weight. I was significantly overweight, at the time I began the Type A plan, but my heart, was apparently, as the cardiologist said, ‘perfect.’ He also stated that diabetes was not in the cards, which was a relief. This good health report I attribute solely to eating properly. I believed that I had the basics down, from my previous experience with Dr. T.
    So, with Fiona’s assistance, I began the plan with the hope of tackling at least one of the issues at hand: the skin issue. This problem was where my skin became inflamed by reasons other than mosquito bites (to which my body responds very negatively). In one instance, my skin was so red and began to swell, that the doctor who was looking me over called for an ambulance. This issue was present for a year, off and on, before ‘specialists’ prescribed a fourth-generation antihistamine and high doses of cortisone, which I took for a year. Anyone who has experienced cortisone knows that it is a soul-altering concoction that can cause even the most saintly among us to metamorphose into a Beelzebub with the ability to invoke unknown levels of terror. I sorted this out when I realized that the cat was spending an inordinate amount of time hiding in the flowerbed at the end of the patio. My partner just retired to his den, while shaking his head. His natural instinct for survival comes in handy, on occasions such as this.
    When I began the plan, I vowed to follow Fiona’s advice: ‘if you call it a diet, you are doomed to fail.’ She’s right. Following a plan such as this will require a lifetime of commitment, not six months to make ready for the bikini season (they don’t wear well on my body type, anyway). During the first week, I was surprised by how much the Type A plan paralleled the very information that Dr. T. had suggested for me, years ago. It goes to show that truth is truth, no matter when and where you find it. I took this as confirmation that I was now on the right track.
    What I learned from the Type A eating plan was that I had some of the basics, but there was much more to address and this plan provided the necessary information for me to expand my knowledge and increase my self-reliance.
    Within two weeks of beginning this plan, my skin appeared to lose some of its sensitivity to heat and the small red spots began to disappear. Within four weeks, my skin was almost normal, and by the sixth week, the redness had all but disappeared. Within eight weeks, I began to gradually – and continually – reduce my intake of cortisone, until I could stop it altogether. Within ten weeks, I was able to cut my intake of the antihistamine down to half. Within twelve weeks, I was able to cut it down to weekly doses, or as-needed, depending on how sinful my cooking was at the time. Fiona may appear to be an angel, by most accounts, but she does prepare concoctions that would tempt most of us to sin.
    My current physicians – all of them, specialists included – say that this change came about by time and good medicine. When I explained to them that this was a new eating plan, and had nothing to do with their prescriptions (which I would still be taking, if not for this eating plan), they scoffed and – to the man (and woman) – they discounted the eating plan as having any direct benefit. I should have screamed in the face of such ignorance, but it caused me to only shake my head in disbelief. One has only to understand that students of medicine in Germany are taught: ‘natural medicine does not work.’ This was told to me by a recent graduate from medical school and it explains much about the current attitudes in medicine. If you take up an eating plan that is based on the blood-type eating plan, you will have to prepare yourself for this reaction from your physician.
    However, one should keep in mind that eating according to one’s blood type is not a ‘medical treatment of an ailment,’ but a change in what we take into our bodies for fuel. The reality that it just might help diminish some of our health issues is a bonus – although not an unexpected one, for those who have experienced this change.
    One aspect of this new direction (no, it has nothing to do with those singing lads from the UK, sorry) which causes me to smile to myself – and my partner to frown with worry, that this might finally be time for the white-coat-brigade – is that the food I am preparing is simple, easy and rather tasty. From looking at the photos of my meals you may question this, but don’t be put off by the imagery. The food is very tasty. Case in point:
    Dinner tonight was chicken breast sautéed in walnut oil with a clove of minced garlic, an abundance of chopped chives and poached for a few minutes in Prosecco, before draining out the remaining liquid and then gently browning the meat. The broccoli florets were steamed and then dressed with the liquid drained from the chicken/chives/garlic and then topped with finely grated (and aged) goat cheese, while the chicken was topped with the sautéed chives and minced garlic. A sprinkling of sea salt on the lot added just a bit more flavour to the meal. A glass of chilled Prosecco was a necessary complément, of course. While the photo may not be complimentary, I assure you my taste buds thoroughly enjoyed the event.

  • Guest post

    Guest post: Patient, heal thyself (part 1)

    Today I would like to welcome KJ. KJ has been unflaggingly following the ‘eat according to your blood type’ plan, reaping quite substantial benefits. Here is what he has to say:
    A couple of months ago, I was wandering around the interweb and came upon the portion that Fiona has carved out of the virtual world for her blog. At the time, I was attempting to regain some control of my eating pattern and, to abbreviate what could become a long and not-very-noteworthy tome, I read her section on ‘Weight Loss,’ wherein she described her own bout with nature’s disagreement regarding her preferred eating pattern, the outcome of which was that surprising weight-gain that happens when we get older and are still eating the ‘good stuff.’ I was also looking for a natural means of repairing a medical condition for which doctors had provided no relief, other than chemical. Within her weight loss topic, she has listed several options that she employed, including Dr. Peter D’Adamo’s suggested method of eating according to one’s blood type.
    After a few messages back and forth between Fiona and myself, I ordered two books from Amazon, related to Dr. D’Adamo’s method and, possessing some aspects of a Type A personality, as well as having Type A blood, I implemented the plan immediately. I stayed within the list of ingredients in the ‘Eating for Blood Type A’ book, but, temporarily lacking the cookbook for blood types, I was left to devise my own menus. As a result of many discussions with – and much guidance from – Fiona, she has asked me to contribute some of the menus that I have developed over the course of the past few weeks. As I have been carefully adhering to the plan outlined in the books I received, anything I contribute will be related to my specific blood type. If you are reading this post carefully, you will already know what that type is. Or, you can start at the beginning of the alphabet and select the first letter. Whichever method produces the best results for you will enable you to follow my notes.
    Fiona has respectable credentials in her field and has established herself as a credible source for solid information regarding proper nutrition and healthy living. Not to mention that she combines ingredients that, at times, appear almost sinful and, for my blood type, many of her tasty morsels are just that. So, Fiona suggested that maybe we should share some of what I am experiencing and cooking to benefit others who are on the same path as am I.
    Before progressing further, one might wish to learn what credentials I possess in this field, and it is a fair question to ask of me. After all, I will be suggesting that you place some ingredients on a fork, raise it to your lips and then slip this concoction between them. A wise person would require that, at the very least, a smidgen of trust be established beforehand – a premise with which I am in complete agreement. So, here are my credentials: Zip. Nada. None. Reason enough for me to confine my contributions to what I cook and my experience with this eating plan. Did I mention that this portion of Fiona’s enterprise would be for folks with blood Type A? And, while I may appear to have one hand on the rudder in this undertaking, Fiona will be at the helm to make certain that I do not poison anyone.
    I will admit to spending several years in hotel food/beverage and I learned table-side flambé service as a young lad, although I have since noticed that very few of the talents I learned during these early years can provide any support for my eating patterns to date.
    Pan-poached chicken salad for Type A: I begin this dinner dish by sautéing garlic and chives in olive oil, adding raw chicken breast and when the ‘spittle’ from the pan is embracing the walls for one second, I add a generous dollop of Chardonnay. I should mention that one must be careful about the cooking temperatures for oil. I only sauté for a few seconds and do not use a large amount of oil. I will leave it to Fiona to discuss in depth how best to cook with oils. If I had worked the garlic and chives in the oil for a longer period, and then fried the chicken in the remnants, I would have had the makings of a rich and tasty concoction, which I am not supposed to eat, and which reminds me of an experience I had when living in south Texas, many years ago.
    A wonderful cook of distinguished years (older than my grandmother), gave the leftovers in the pan a name. “You see, boy,” she remarked, with an accent rich in Southern US culture, and while stirring the darkened remnants of oil and spices left in the pan from cooking a hefty slab of beef, “this here drippin’s is what we all call fixin’s. It’s what you gots to have, to make a good gravy, or sauce. You can’t make no good gravy without the fixin’s.”
    My partner would have knelt at her altar in supplication, had he had the opportunity to make her acquaintance. It is his belief that the ‘fixin’s’ are a basic food group and all meals should begin with this foundation. Although I am working diligently to disengage him from this mindset, a satisfied look of vindication takes possession of his countenance, when he sees me sautéing garlic and chives in olive oil – no matter how short the time span is in which I am performing this task.
    Another experiment which made fast friends with my taste buds was spinach pasta with roasted garlic and chopped broccoli in walnut oil, topped off with feta cheese with herbs. Accompanied by a chilled glass of Chardonnay, it was a very good meal, from my point of view, until the cooking book for this eating plan arrived and erased my smug look of self-satisfaction. The reason for the alteration of mon visage, you might well ask? Spinach pasta is a no-no, according to the cooking book, whereas it received no mention in the first book. It shows that you have to have all of the tools to be successful at any undertaking and ordering both books at the same time would have allowed me to avoid this mistake. Fortunately, I did not fade away and the meal was fantastic.
    What this demonstrates is that we can poke a pin hole in the hull of this craft, without sinking it. I had no immediate, overpowering reactions to the spinach pasta and now that I know it is not ‘allowed,’ I will substitute a more appropriate pasta for this dish. What still surprises me during this process, is just how easy it is to stay within the structured parameters of this eating plan, while still enjoying a meal that even causes my partner to glance over at my plate with some curiosity. Believe me, that is a rather significant development.

  • Guest post,  Sweet

    Guest post: Clementine and almond cake

    Hi there, it’s Louisa here from Chez Foti and I’m guest blogging a recipe today for Fiona. We recently stumbled upon each other in the wonderful world of cyberspace and interestingly both happen to live down in deepest, darkest South West France. Well, Fiona lives in the bordering region of Aquitaine and I’m in Midi-Pyrenees, but that makes us practically neighbours in these distinctly rural and empty parts. And it’s not often you meet fellow English foodie bloggers down this way, so I’m delighted to meet her!
    Over at Chez Foti I blog hearty, generally healthy, wholesome family friendly fodder that’s always seasonal and uses local as possible fresh ingredients. Since I have a two and a four year old to nourish most of my recipes are quick and simple to prepare and obviously very child-friendly. Though there’s the occasional dalliance into grown-ups-only fair and a little naughtiness here and there. Life really is too short to be good all the time!
    My recipe for you, on our little cakey blog swop, is a fabulous (chocolateless!) Clementine & Almond Cake. A wheatless, dairy-free delight which, without deliberately intending to be, is actually pretty darned good for you and almost as good as cake can get. Though if you want to naughty things up a little it’s wonderful with a big dollop of crème fraiche or Mascarpone!
    375g of clementines, tangerines or satsumas (they all work!)
    5 large free range eggs
    175g of cane sugar
    250g of ground almonds
    a heaped teaspoon of baking powder, sieved
    a tablespoon of Amaretto, optional
    a little icing sugar for dusting
    Special Equipment: a 21cm spring-sided baking tin lined with greaseproof paper
    Place the clementines in a saucepan and cover the fruit with cold water. Bring to the boil, cover and leave to simmer away for 2 hours. Top up the water level as it drops. After 2 hours remove from the water and allow to cool for a few minutes before whizzing to a pulp in a processor (or with a stick blender).
    Pre-heat your oven to 190ºC.
    Now on with this cinch of a cake. Whisk up the eggs in a large bowl, using a balloon whisk. Then whisk in the sugar followed by the ground almonds and baking powder. Finally stir in the clementine pulp.
    Pour the cake mixture into your lined cake tin and bake in the pre-heated oven for around 40 minutes. It should be golden on top, firm to touch and an inserted skewer will come out clean. Leave to cool in the tin on a cooling rack.
    Once cool carefully remove from the tin and lightly dust with sieved icing sugar. Serve as is or with a naughty spoon of creme fraiche or mascarpone. And if you can possible wait, this cake is even better the next day…
    Thank you Louisa for this recipe — I can vouch for it because I made it and it was pure ambrosia. Visit Louisa’s blog, Chez Foti,  for other delicious recipes like this one and some excellent vegetable gardening advice.  Fiona, The Healthy Epicurean 🙂

  • Guest post,  Nutritional information

    Guest post: Eight herbs and spices with fantastic health benefits


    Photo: ©The Healthy Epicurean

    Today I welcome Rose Marie Baker, a nutritionist who believes in a responsible lifestyle through healthier eating. When she’s not in the kitchen, you can find Rose reviewing herbs and spices online. Some of her favorites can be found here.
    We all want to eat healthier so that we can stay in shape, live longer, and keep our bodies free of unnatural chemicals and pollutants.
    The problem is, many of the healthiest foods out there are just kind of, well, boring. At least that’s the opinion of many people, and it’s hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle if you find it bland and tasteless.
    What’s the solution? Try some herbs and spices. Tasty and aromatic, these typically ground-up plants and seeds are nature’s way of dressing up your food without adding lots of unnecessary calories and fat. Find the right combination and you can make even the most boring food into a culinary delight. Even better, many herbs and spices actually have quite a few health benefits as well. Here are eight of best ones out there.
    Cilantro. Not only is it great tasting (unless you’re one of the unlucky few for whom it tastes like soap), cilantro does a bunch of wonderful things for your body. Because of the large amount of vitamin K in cilantro, it helps blood clot better and makes bones stronger.
    Ginger. Most people know that this spicy, delicious root can help with nausea (why do you think so many people drink ginger ale when they feel sick to their stomachs?), but some recent evidence points to the fact that it’s also a pretty decent painkiller, easing muscle soreness and joint pain related to arthritis.
    Cinnamon. It’s not often that you can find a food that’s high in fiber, contains no fat or calories, and still manages to do a great job of satisfying our cravings for sweets. Oh, and did we mention that it also may help to lower your cholesterol and help people with type-2 diabetes to better manage their blood sugar levels?
    Fennel. With its licorice-like flavor, lots of people find the taste of fennel to be pleasing. But what they like even more is the fact that it can help to ease heartburn and assist with digestion issues like gas and bloating.
    Turmeric. This jack-of-all-trades spice has been used to help people suffering from everything from skin problems to depression to liver disease. Many of these applications don’t have conclusive evidence showing that they work, but there is quite a bit of research showing that it can help with heartburn and arthritis pain.
    Cumin. This diabetic-friendly spice not only works to regulate blood-sugar levels, just like cinnamon, it’s also a great source of iron, calcium, and magnesium- and it fights the germs that can cause ulcers.
    Rosemary. With its high levels of antioxidants and rosmarinic acid, rosemary can be a great help in protecting against inflammation. Many people also believe that it can boost your memory and learning by producing acetylcholine.
    Holy basil. Yes, that’s right. Not just basil – holy basil. With a name like that, how could it not be good for us? Commonly used in the treatment of people suffering from high cholesterol, research indicates other benefits, such as alleviating asthma, upper respiratory infections, and diabetes. Experts argue that these effects are due to the compounds of the herb reducing swelling and pain.
    These eight herbs and spices represent only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to healthy spices, and aren’t even necessarily the best ones out there. There are at least another dozen herbs that could just as easily make that claim. That means that you have a lot of healthy (and tasty) options available to you.

  • Guest post

    Guest post: The importance of good nutrition with cancer

    Today I welcome Jillian McKee, who has worked as the Complementary Medicine Advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance since June of 2009.  She also has a blog.
    Here is what she has to say about the importance of nutrition with regard to effectively fighting cancer.

    Cancer patients and the benefits of good nutrition

    Cancer patients have a host of health concerns to attend to. As well the more obvious issues surrounding their course of treatment and their physical condition they must also look after their nutritional needs. Proper dieting is no cure, but it will help give patients the strength and energy to maintain a better quality of life throughout the process. Whether it is mesothelioma cancer or another form of cancer, there are many benefits to be had by maintaining high standards of nutrition through all stages of the disease.
    Energy : To help them through the many difficult cancer treatments, patients should ensure that nutrition is enabling them to maintain good energy and strength levels. Chemotherapy and radiation are known to take their toll. Proper dieting will help replenish lost nutrients. Good nutritional practices will help the body maintain proper muscular levels.
    Immune System : With all of the various invasive procedures that take place, cancer patients are always at risk of infection, further complicating their condition and knocking treatment off course. Protecting the immune system is vital. According to the National Cancer Institute one of the principal goals of good nutrition is to make sure patients have a strong immune system.
    Wellbeing : High nutritional standards can lead to a better quality of life. The National Cancer Institute indicates that proper nutrition can help improve wellbeing. This can make the difficult days a little bit easier. Having the psychological strength to face another day is one of the primary challenges that cancer patients face.
    Complications : One thing that physicians worry about is the existence of complicating conditions. They want to treat cancer directly without other worries. Nutrition can play a role in preventing other health problems. Good diet is closely linked to good heart health and good blood pressure. It will not, in itself, heal a patient, but it will provide a healthy environment in which to treat their disease.