Tag Archives: healthy eating

Maggie’s Munchies

On Wednesday I participated in the fourth of four nutrition workshops at Maggie’s in Dundee. Sue, the tutor, is a retired dietitian, and runs this group for people who live with Cancer, on a drop-in basis. The aim is to explore how various dietary choices can support your feeling of wellbeing on your Cancer journey.2016-09-04 15.15.54.jpg

I don’t have Cancer; but I’ve recently been studying the connections between the so-called Mediterranean Diet, and Cancer prevention. My friend Amanda works alongside Maggie’s, and when she heard about my interest, made the necessary introductions. This has been a brilliant opportunity for me, to see how theory gets translated into practice, and I’m very grateful to Amanda and Sue, and all the women and men with Cancer who allowed me to join in their conversations. It was a privilege.

Sue’s four sessions were based on the government’s Eatwell Guide. So we had two hours on each of Fruit and Veg; then Carbs; then Oils and Fats; and finally, Salt and Sugar. In each session, Sue prepared some recipes and talked us through the whys and wherefores of various foods and their provenance. There was plenty time for discussions. And then we ate all the food! What a brilliant learning opportunity – so much better than just reading a recipe book, or even watching a dish being made on television. I saw things being made that I’d read about – like Bircher Muesli – which I just didn’t fancy enough to try. (Oats soaked overnight in milk? Doesn’t sound promising …) Yet the results were delicious, and I’ll definitely make it again.

2016-12-10 20.41.11No surprises in the fact that there isn’t a magic dietary bullet for Cancer. The advice is the same as eating for general good health: lots of fruit and veg, high fibre unless it’s upsetting your system (sometimes affected by the condition or the treatment), oily fish a couple of times a week, and avoid processed foods because they are usually high in salt and sugar. Not too much red or processed meat, not too much dairy. Straightforward, really. But we all get into ruts, cooking the things we know; and Sue showed us some dishes which were easy and tasty and unknown to many of us.

For example, we had mung bean salad; red pepper soup; winter dried fruit salad, with yoghurt and toasted hazelnuts; lentils with red onions in a mustardy-horseradishy dressing; soda bread rolls; smoked mackerel, beetroot and potato salad; hummus; spicy red pepper dip; lemon-tossed popcorn; little oaty-cranberry bundles. And the Bircher Muesli as mentioned earlier. It was all beautiful to behold, and delightful to eat, and left you feeling nicely satisfied afterwards. There is no hardship at all in eating like this; it just takes a bit of planning. Sue’s approach to the recipes was very refreshing too – if you don’t like one ingredient, just substitute another. No major fuss about measuring – a handful will do. We were given recipes too. The links I’ve added here aren’t Sue’s but have the same kind of slant. Also, you can buy a recipe book from Maggie’s.

Maggie’s Centres are architecturally acclaimed, and provide a calm, warm, safe space where people can drop in, have a cup of tea, a chat, browse some great resources, get some specialist advice if they need it, share their experiences with other people with similar conditions, and attend a range of classes if they want to. The emphasis is on empowerment – nurturing people through some difficult times and helping them find the courage and confidence to carry on. People who go there praise the skills and dedication of the doctors and nurses and others who help them on the clinical side of their treatment. And then they say that Maggie’s gives them back a sense of themselves.

I hope none of you ever need Maggie’s – but if you do, I’d say this; you couldn’t find a better source of wisdom.

Teamwork, Tarts, Type 2 …

Well our big Macmillan effort made £350 on Friday afternoon, thanks to a great team effort. My new pedometer/watch registered 11,500 steps or close on eight miles – my highest yet, and that was just walking round the kitchen, up and down the corridor to the tea rooms, filling tea and coffee pots and dodging round our cheerily chatting customers to pass the buns. Big shout-out especially for our youngest baking donor, Eilidh, who at the tender age of 14 made a huge batch of beautifully, neat, uniform Empire Biscuits such as I could never do in a thousand years.mackerel pate ragged smile

Sorry about the negative note in the title … I am strongly exercised by the need to avoid developing Type 2 Diabetes as the years go by.  So now that the sugarfest is over, it’s back to the healthy stuff. I said on Friday night that I’d never eat cake again … naturally that barely lasted the evening! However – the time has come. Here’s a ragged smile on a plate of smoked mackerel pate which I hope demonstrates my joie-de-vivre at the prospect.

slow-roasting tomatoesAnd here’s a good and easy – and healthy – thing to do if you have a greenhouseful of lovely tomatoes and are running out of ideas: just cut them in half through their equators, scoop out the seeds, sprinkle with olives and herbs of your choice, and dry them (you could hardly call it baking or roasting) at 50 degrees or as low as you can get your oven to go. After several hours they should be tastily chewy and not too charred (stop when they char as they’ll taste bitter). Put them in a screw-top jar and fill it up with a nice oil. A mixture of your best olive and a common-or-garden sunflower will do fine. Add a garlic clove or two, a chilli if you like it hot,  a sprig of rosemary for visual effect, and any other herb you fancy. They’ll keep for up to three months, and give an instant, gorgeous oomph to a fresh tomato sauce. Here’s health!

Mothers aren’t to be trusted

Sometimes the Oldies at work rebel a bit about fruit and veg and I remember the devious depths I have plumbed in the past to try and convince people what’s good for them.minach

For example, when the Wunderkind was six years old he had a certain antipathy to various green veggies, notably spinach and courgettes. Nothing unusual in that of course but I thought I should help him get over it. For his own good, obviously. His cousin Stephen, two and a half years older but less precocious, was visiting at teatime one day and I was serving up spinach. ‘I don’t like spinach,’ says the Wunderkind.

‘It’s not spinach, it’s minach’, says I.

‘Minach? Minach? What’s minach?’

‘Oh a lovely vegetable that tastes great and gives you immense brains and muscles. Do you like it, Stephen?’ (Wink from treacherous mother).

Stephen’s penny drops: ‘Mmm, yes, we have minach all the time, I love it.’

Wunderkind extends the tip of his tongue and licks half a gram of minach from the end of his fork. ‘Yes it’s okay,’ and eats it up. Ha! I win.

Next day I serve up courgettes. ‘I don’t like courgettes,’ says the Wunderkind … similar conversation ensues in which I assure him these are bourgettes, yum yum, and Stephen is nearly wetting himself with the joy of another  joke against Smart Wee Cousin. Wunderkind tastes, swallows, concedes bourgettes are okay whereupon Stephen and I fall about in fits and Wunderkind realises he’s been had. He looks at me as if I’ve murdered the tooth fairy. How could I be so BAD?

Yeah I know. I mustn’t try it on the Oldies. But evil or not, 19 years later, the Wunderkind is still enjoying his minach and bourgettes.