Anti-Inflammatory Recipe Courgetti w/ Pesto

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Nothing is better than a “Courgetti”with pesto
One that doesn’t take forever
 to make, and you can make wherever you are and even take with you for lunch. Let’s start out with the ingredients:

2 medium to large courgettes (zucchini)
25 grams basil
25 grams kale
60 ml olive oil
Pinch of salt

2 cloves garlic
50 g ground almonds
Squeeze of lemon juice

Serves 4 people.

Prepare 1/2 courgette per person. You can either use a vegetable spiralizer, or use your regular box cheese grater. Place the grater on it’s side with the thickest grate facing up, and move your courgette forward on it’s side against the grate to create long pasta-like ribbons.

Place basil, kale, salt, oil and garlic into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add ground almonds, lemon juice and 2 tbsp of water until you have the consistency that you desire. Garnish with freshly chopped tomatoes. Voila! Enjoy!

How To Become an Anti-Inflammatory Activist

Inflammation isn’t all bad. It is one of our natural defences. If we sprain an ankle, it will swell to help protect that area until our body has started to heal. The immune system is the same. When effected by outside sources such as bacteria or viruses, the immune system will cause inflammation until the problem has been resolved. The issue for some comes in when the immune system stays switched on due to an auto-immune disease such as crohn’s, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes; skin problems like psoriasis and eczema; as well as food intolerances like histamine intolerance and gluten intolerance.

When I started researching and experimenting with anti-inflammatory foods back in 2008, there was very little information out there on the subject. I was suffering from recurring pericarditis, which is an inflammation of the lining that surrounds the heart muscle. Pericarditis can be very painful, and at the time I was put on very high doses of NSAIDS, which worked in the short-term to control the pain and inflammation, but seemed to do nothing to reduce the length of time the condition remained present. Also having to take them in such high doses for an extended period of time left me with side effects. So this led me to search for a different way to treat and try to prevent this illness from happening in the future.

Anti-inflammatory foods are the main dietary change that I’ve found have really made a difference in my health and well-being. But this is not a diet I am suggesting. This is a lifestyle change! A way of eating that helps to prevent illness from occurring in the first place, and to manage that which you might already have. It’s not good enough to change the way you eat only when you feel or fall ill. It must be something that you commit to in order to regain and remain in good health. For many people there are three major things that you can do to help reduce inflammation:

1. No soft drinks/refined sweets including diet (replace with water, fresh ginger tea, green tea, and fresh juices)
reason: these substances increases levels of inflammatory messengers called cytokines.
2. No processed pre-packed foods/fried foods (if you can’t pronounce it, please don’t eat it!)
reason: this food increases inflammatory markers and promotes high cholesterol and heart disease
3. Cook most of your meals at home and take your own lunch to work
reason: you’ll make healthier choices, can incorporate items from your AI diet, and you’ll save money!

Avoiding dairy is something that a lot of lists tell you to do. I eat dairy almost every day, as long as it’s fresh (cream cheese, fresh goats cheese, ricotta, milk) and organic. Current research points to dairy not having an effect on inflammatory markers but this obviously does not apply to you if you are sensitive to dairy in the first place. If your body rejects it, it’s a sign to remove it.

Such a lifestyle change takes commitment, but when you’re able to run up the stairs without aches and pains, find you have loads more energy and are no longer nauseous and itchy all the time, then you’ll understand why it’s so important! Here’s my master list. Keep in mind that not all foods are for everyone and you need to make sure to exclude the foods that aren’t suitable for your food intolerance or other dietary restrictions. I’ve marked the foods that are not suggested for those with histamine intolerance and salicylate sensitivity.

Arugula (SS?)
, Broccoli (SS), 
Brussels Sprouts
, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, 
Fennel Bulb (SS)
, Garlic (SS), 
Green Beans, 
Green Onions/Spring Onions (SS)
, Kale, 
Leeks (SS), 
Olives (HI)
, Spinach (HI), 
Sweet potatoes (SS), Zucchini (SS).

Fruits
Acerola Cherries (HI), 
Apples (golden delicoius are OK with SS), 
Avocados (HI) (SS)
, Black Currants (HI) (SS), 
Blueberries (SS), 
Fresh Pineapple (HI) (SS), 
Kiwi (SS), 
Lemons (HI) (SS), 
Limes (HI) (SS), 
Oranges (HI) (SS), 
Raspberries (HI) (SS), 
Strawberries (HI) (SS), 
Tomatoes (HI – the green ones are OK) (SS).

Proteins
Almonds (HI) (SS), Cod (HI)
, Flaxseed
, Halibut, 
Herring (HI), 
Lemon Sole, 
Rainbow Trout (HI), Salmon, 
Sardines (HI?), 
Snapper Fish (HI?), 
Sunflower Seeds, 
Tuna (HI), Walnuts (SS), 
Whitefish. (Fish must not be farm raised, for those histamine intolerance it must be very fresh or frozen from fresh)

Oils
Ghee, Flaxseed Oil
, Olive Oil (SS), 
Fish Oil.

Beverages
Fresh Ginger Tea (SS), Green Tea (HI) (SS), 
Dandelion Tea
, Nettle Tea.

Herbs and Spices
Basil (SS)
, Boswellia, 
Butterbur, 
Chillis (SS)
, Cinnamon (HI) 8SS)
, Cloves (HI) (SS), 
Cocoa (raw cacao or 70% + dark – in small amounts if you are histamine intolerant) (SS), 
Ginger (SS), 
Holy Basil (SS), 
Mint (SS), 
Nigella Sativa (SS), 
Oregano (SS), 
Parsley, 
Rosemary (SS), 
Thyme (SS), 
Turmeric (SS).

This list was a bit daunting to me in the beginning as I travel a lot for my work and was eating lots of stuff I should have been consuming. (Crisps, sweets, etc.) My leg up in the situation is that I am trained as a chef and have done quite a lot of recipe development for my places of work. I now find that the easiest way for me to make sure I’m getting proper nutrition and anti-inflammatory foods on a daily basis is to have a fresh juice at least once per day. I usually have mine first thing in the morning. I find that I am able to travel with my juicer and shop along the way no matter where I am. Here’s a basic recipe of my juice each morning:

1 fennel bulb
1 rib of celery
1/2 cucumber
2 carrots
2 apples
1 handful of kale, romaine (peashoots even better!)
You can also add in 1/4 inch piece of fresh ginger if you need it

There are lots of other great anti-inflammatory recipes out there. Here are some more from my blog:


12 Minute Vegetable Soup

Spicy African Stew (omit the dumplings)

I wish you all success and health in your own experimentation with an anti-inflammatory diet. As with all dietary changes, it is a good idea to consult your doctor or a resourceful nutritionist before making any major changes.

Further Inspiration from people who have used anti-inflammatory foods to heal their bodies:

The Low Histamine Chef: Yasmina is a journalist and researcher who writes amazing cookbooks based on anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine foods. Her level of commitment to researching and learning to heal herself (and others) naturally is truly inspiring.

Sondi Bruner: Sondi is a writer and a holistic nutritionist who has successfully weaned herself of all medication for her Crohn’s disease by eating healthy unprocessed foods. Her recipes are simple and delicious and there is a wealth of information to be found at her website.

Further reading:

No drug, anti-inflammatory diet shows positive results in clinical trials 
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/45447.php

Online Health Chat with Amy Jamieson-Petonic

Harvard Medical School on what you eat can fuel or cool inflammation.

Nutrition and inflammation data on multiple foods

Histamine Intolerance. Just when you think it’s safe to go back into the larder….

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Many times in my life I have been AFRAID OF FOOD. When people ask me how I’m feeling, I often want to say “Just fine, as long as I don’t eat!” I keep silent because I know it’s difficult to understand my unusual love/hate relationship with food. I’ve spent my adult life reacting to certain foods on one occasion, and having no reaction on other occasions. One day a banana works for me and the next day it leaves me doubled over in pain. I’d been diagnosed with atypical food allergies and was told by one of the best allergists in London. “I can’t help you and I don’t believe that anyone else can either.” Thanks Doc. Clearly helpful in that I am now more motivated than ever to HELP MYSELF.


I consider myself to be pretty well clued in on food. Intolerances, allergies, anti-inflammatory vs. inflammatory foods, vitamins etc. Being a chef and a recipe developer with my own host of food problems I am constantly reading, experimenting, and learning. But I had never heard of histamine intolerance. In the last 3 months I came down with chronic hives. This was after a few months of horrible “panic attacks” that were making my life unbearable. I was becoming agoraphobic, made worse by the fact that I have a pre-schooler and was afraid to take him out with me as we live by a busy road and couldn’t risk passing out while we were out together. I was back and forth to the doctor and A&E and put on various medications, some of them quite dangerous, and still nothing helped long term. It was on yet another visit to my GP where he discussed a scromboid fish allergy that he had experienced after eating at a restaurant. He said he wouldn’t have believed such a thing was possible, until it happen to him. In scromboid poisoning, when a fish that is  caught is improperly prepared or stored, it contains loads of toxins. One of the toxins implicated in the syndrome is histadine which is broken down by the body as histamine…the resulting effects present like an allergic reaction with redness of the skin, flushing, wheezing, headache, increased heart rate with arrhythmia, dizziness and so on. This got me thinking (as these were the same kinds of things I was experiencing during my panic attacks) Was I experiencing problems due to histamine in my food?

The answer to that is a simple YES. I discovered upon experimenting with a list of low histamine foods, that  I was able to control and pretty much cease the panic attacks over the next few weeks. There are many things to remember in Histamine Intolerance. The first is that there is really no “master list”.  There has been very little research into the matter at present, and I fear that there are many misdiagnosed people out there in the world. I found the lists to be somewhat helpful…but found people who had taken control of their disorder, like Yasmina Ykelenstam to be the most helpful. The low histamine lists excluded too many of the foods that I used on a daily basis for their anti-inflammatory properties and without them I was starting to feel malnourished, achy and lethargic. I bought one of Yasmina’s books, Low Histamine on the Go, along with Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live both which were just what I needed to inspire me to take control of of this war that was happening in my body and try to heal, using the very thing I loved and feared the most….FOOD. The bottom line was that I had to find the foods that worked for me…which seems to be an on-going process. That’s the problem with histamine intolerance, it’s a constant struggle to find what works. I believed the only way to be able to eat somewhat normally again was to cleanse my body of as many toxins and histamine as possible and start adding back in the food I needed gradually.


Now that I was not experiencing the horrible panic attacks, my main goal was to tackle the hives. By chance when I was visiting my parents in the US early this year, I saw a documentary called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. In the film, two men were plagued by chronic hives just like me (at the time when I saw the film, I’d never had a hive in my life!) and they overcame their conditions and obesity with quite lengthy juice fasts. Both men experienced complete remission of their urticaria and astonishing weight loss. There were differences between us, because whilst I could stand to lose some weight, I am not considered obese by any means, and I had already been vegetarian for 12 years. Here’s a note of interest. Some of the most unhealthy people I know are vegans/vegetarians. It takes hard work and loads of knowledge to achieve health as a vegetarian. As a vegetarian, one may not consume the flesh of an animal, or creature, but they can still have unhealthy fats, sugar, white flour….all the things that make us horribly unhealthy. I don’t eat meat because I don’t believe in commercial farming and the way animals are treated, and I don’t digest meat well. But I don’t believe that meat is the culprit in our lack of health. I believe it is processing. Companies mass producing loads of inexpensive food that have had all the goodness extracted from them and then put back in through fortification. I believe that my illness came about because I was eating way too much dairy and drinking too much red wine. Two things that are meant to be good for your health no? Well, both contain loads of histidine, and since my body was not properly breaking down histamine, I was getting sicker each time I had them. The histamine level in foods rises as food ripens or ages. Hence why a banana might bother me one day and not the next. If I consumed one that was ripe, I was more likely to have a reaction to it.


So on to tackling the hives. For this I decided that a similar juice fast that Joe started in Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead would be the way to go. I needed to purge my cells of toxins, clean my liver, and give my body a chance to heal. The act of digestion is extremely taxing on the body. When you are drinking freshly juiced vegetables and fruits, your body is able to utilise loads of micro-nutrients without the difficult job of digesting fibre. I knew that I’d probably be unable to go for the 60 days that Joe achieved, but 10 days sounded like a good place to start. In 10 days I was quite confident that I could purge myself of many of the toxins, and histamine that was making me ill. If I continued after that to eat a wholesome vegan diet adding in soups and salads to my juicing routine then I might just be able to get myself healthy again.

So that’s what I’ve done. 10 days, no food. Mostly just green juices 3-4 times daily. I didn’t use any particular recipes (and I don’t recommend this!) I was just interested in packing as many nutrients into my system as possible.  The veg and fruits I used were

  • Fennel – Anti-histimine, aromatic, contains B6, Vitamin C, Folates, Good for circulatory system, anti-inflammatory
  • Celery – Help to balance body’s PH, lower blood pressure, natural laxative, high in b1, b2, b6, Calming to the body
  • Kale – High in iron, vitamins K, C, A, and Calcium. Highly anti-inflammatory. Juicing superfood!
  • Carrots – high in alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lutein, helps to flush liver of fat and toxins
  • Swiss Chard – rich source of minerals like copper, vitamin K, loads of phyto-nutrients, high in vitamin C
  • Cucumber – Low calorie, high in potassium, helps eliminate toxic compounds from the stomach
  • Sprouts – rich in Vitamin A, minerals, heart protective and rich in iron. Another juicing superfood!
  • Cabbage – helps to reduce bad cholesterol, rich in vitamin C, minerals, anti-oxidants and cancer fighting compounds
  • *Leek (oh no, a juicing mistake!) -anti-inflammatory, protects the linings of the  blood vessels, high in folate, K and C
  • Beetroot – folates, folates, folates! High in B complex vitamins, vitamin A, maganese, iron and copper
  • Ginger – Highly anti-inflammatory, anti-histimine, improves absorption of nutrients by the body, helps to improve and maintain circulation, calms the tummy
  • Apple – contains quercetin, epicatechin, and procyanidin B2, high in vitamin C, help to regulate bad cholesterol
    I also tried dandelion tea, nettle tea, and green tea. Although it has caffeine in it, green tea was the only one I could tolerate. I got through one cup of nettle tea, but the second caused a nasty reaction. At that point (because I didn’t want to consume too much caffeine) I started grating ginger into a cup with hot water and drinking it. Very anti-inflammatory and delicious.

* In my haste to put anything of nutritional value into my juice, I added A WHOLE LEEK into my juice one day. WHOA. Tears ran down my face throughout the whole large glass of juice but I kept thinking…this is like five quid of organic veg, I HAVE to drink this!🙂


The biggest thing I noticed right away during my juice fast is that the oedema that I had been suffering with the hives was no longer an issue. I was still getting 1-5 hives per day that were lasting up to 5 days, but they were less itchy and there was no major swelling like there had been before. For me day 3 and day 8 were the hardest to get through….mainly because I was soooooooooo hungry on day 3 and on day 8 I was sick of the taste of juice. As I told you before, that was my own fault, being more concerned about nutrients than taste at that point.

So have I gotten rid of the hives? No. But I am getting a LOT less of them and am off the anti-histamine I was on during the day. (still taking the H2 blocker at night) Also they are less bothersome than they were before…they might itch a little but they seem to be fading into the background. Not like the hives that were covering me and controlling my life just 10 days ago. Nothing like those. Here are some other benefits I have experienced over the last 10 days….

  • My joints do not hurt
  • My head is clear most of the time, no brain fog
  • I notice my own heartbeat a lot less often
  • I wake up alert
  • I lost 15lbs in 10 days
  • My skin looks amazing
  • My vision has improved slightly
  • This is the one that is hard for even me to believe…My vitaligo is lessening and I am getting pigment back in my hands.

If you are experiencing something similar and you’d like to do a juice fast…please consider these things that I’ve found very helpful.

  • Drinking more water (make sure you filter it as well)
  • Cleaning out your bowels (I know, I know) loads of toxins and I suspect histamine live there. Get rid of it all and start fresh. I didn’t do this, thinking the juicing would take care of things. It didn’t. This may be why the hives have not gone completely.
  • Use acupressure, meditation, yoga to help you cope
  • Get as much sleep as you can. If this means going to bed at 7pm, do it! Let your body heal!
  • Make sure you’ve consulted your doctor and had blood work done. If you’re anaemic, low in vitamin D, etc this will make the fast harder for you
  • Try not to cheat, but if you do, don’t be so hard on yourself. Just think of all the good you’ve done for your body. Start again the next day. (don’t use “all the good I’ve done” as an excuse to chain some Krispy Kremes please….you’ve not done that much good YET!😉
  • This is your life, the only one. Yes this hurts at times…but getting well is your goal and I assure you, IT’S WORTH IT!

I am confident that if I keep juicing in the morning and adding in blended soups and salads as discussed in Dr. Joel Furhman’s books that I can and will beat this thing and be healthier than I’ve ever been. Sure I’ve had to modify my diet massively…but it’s more important to me to feel well. Nothing is ever easy. Just when you think you’ve conquered something, another foe arises. For me, and many others, that foe is food. It’s a food fight! But I think, especially if we keep helping one another, we can win!


Helpful links:
The Many Faces of Histamine Intolerence
Histamine and Histamine Intolerance/American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance
Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Website
The Low Histamine Chef
Reboot with Joe Cross

Crossing Over with Tideford Organics

I’m often asked to review products on one of my blogs or give an opinion. I turn down most companies, mainly because I believe in clean, healthy food. It’s the kind of food we planted and harvested on the farm in West Virginia where I grew up, and the kind of food I prepare for my own family still. I could never be bothered to review products that don’t fit into that profile, and sadly, many do not. Enter Tideford Organics. A most unusual company. Unusual in all the best ways.

If you haven’t yet heard of Tideford Organics, they have been around since 1996 and were built on a commitment to organic food and the environment. They are now in a purpose built factory in Devon and designing food that tastes like you made it at home. If you haven’t already read it, here is my review of the products I was sent.

Back in October, one of my friends/readers saw that Tideford was looking for food bloggers to review their new line. Normally, I would pass the link on to another blogger, but I found Tideford intriguing. I’d seen their products while perusing the gluten-free tag on the Ocado website. I always look at the ingredients lists of products if they are available and was impressed by the fact that their soups and sauces seemed to be all prepared from fresh organic ingredients. So I agreed to review all the gluten-free vegetarian items that they’d like to send my way.

A few weeks after my review went live, you can imagine my surprise when I got another email from Tideford saying they were sending me a second batch of goodies that had been “tweaked in response to your comments on your blog.” What? I was stunned. Where was the normal “thank you for your review, we’ll take your comments into consideration” or the dreaded “like us on facebook you could win in a £250 voucher!”  I told you they were unusual! I was also amazed at how much they’d accomplished with just a few lines of suggestion. For that is what it was, only suggestion, I had no idea that after a 3rd batch tasting and discussions with the managing director that we’d be in negotiations for my consulting on next season’s line.

So there it is. I’ve now crossed over from independent reviewer to consultant. I thought you should know, and I’m hoping to be able to share as much of the experience as possible in the coming months. I’m headed down to Devon on Thursday next and cannot wait to meet up with the team. I’m so pleased at the prospect of working with a company that holds the same ideals about food that I do. Stay tuned for the next chapter!

Organic Box Deliveries

How many of you have tried an organic box delivery? What’s your perception? Here in the UK, they are marketed as a bit of a luxury and in the USA, people who use CSA vegetable share schemes are usually seen as hippies or tree-huggers. If you’ve never seen one before-they consist of a variety of vegetables, or fruit and vegetables, often from local farms utilising what is in season at the time. Each scheme is slightly different, but most will let you regulate or substitute items that you don’t like or will not eat. You can also add other things, bread, milk, eggs and more in the case of Abel and Cole and Riverford…much much more! I have always thought my weekly box delivery to be something of a luxury so  I have to say that I was quite surprised by the results of my research.  Here’s to debunking the myths! Please read on.

Last year we moved to Birmingham from London. We wanted a bit of a change of pace, and to get out from under London’s crippling rent and travel costs, not to mention the time we spent on public transport! One of the things I’d never thought about before the move was my organic box delivery that I’d been receiving for 2 years. I was with a company called Riverford…whom I LOVED. I’d had a couple of different driver/franchise owners whilst in London and both were brilliant. The North London one in particular. My veg was always perfectly put together and the medium box was an excellent value.

When I moved to Birmingham I was able to stay with Riverford, but the quantity and quality seemed vastly reduced. At this point I switched to Abel and Cole whom I’d had for several months when living on a Dutch barge in central London. The medium box didn’t seem to be as carefully prepared or have nearly the variety. But I’ve since switched to the large box I’ve been very happy indeed, with the exception of the driver coming at 6am and having to leave the box on my doorstep. That I don’t mind, it’s the neighbourhood cats that like to “claim” the veg as their own! Eww. Anyway, I digress. Let’s get comparing!


My Recent Abel and Cole Large Box Contents

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Leeks
  • Milva New Potatoes
  • Portobello Mushrooms
  • Red Oak Leaf Lettuce this is ony my dislike list so they exchanged it for onions
  • Red Pepper
  • Savoy Cabbage this is on my dislike list so they exchanged it for Chicory
  • LargeTomatoes
  • Turnips

£18.50 + £1 delivery= £19.50


Sainsbury’s

  • turnips: 1
  • endive/chicory: 2.40
  • Carrots:  1.15
  • potatoes 1.75
  • portabello mushrooms 1.50
  • onions 1
  • red pepper .80
  • tenderstream broccoli 2
  • squash 1.80
  • leeks: 2
  • tomatoes  1.80
  • cucumber: 1.25

18.45 + 5.95 delivery= £24.35/ (£40 min required for delivery) 6 items not organic


Ocado

  • turnips: 1.15
  • chicory: 3.00
  • carrots: 1.69
  • potatoes: 2.99
  • portabello mushroom: 2.19
  • squash: 1.99
  • red pepper: 2
  • onions:  1
  • tenderstem broccoli:  1.99
  • leeks: 2.35
  • tomatoes: 1.80
  • cucumber: 1.38

£23.53 / +  6.99 delivery /total: £30.52/ £40 min delivery  (2 items not organic)
This is the time to mention that Ocado do their own organic box which I’ve purchased a few times. You get a LOT of produce. But for me the flavour just isn’t there. It’s the reason why I rarely buy produce and fruit from Ocado. It looks nice, but there’s something lacking.


Waitrose

  • turnips: 1.99
  • chicory: 1.50
  • carrots: 1.69
  • potatoes: 1.69
  • portabello mushroom: 1.59
  • squash: 1.99
  • red pepper: 1.5
  • onions:  1.07
  • tenderstem broccoli:  1.99
  • leeks: 4.99
  • tomatoes: 2.29
  • cucumber: 1.38

21.98 +(free delivery over £50) = £21.98/ (£50 min required for delivery) (4 items not organic)


Tescos and Asda do not carry enough organic produce in order to do a comparison but I feel quite sure that  they’d not be cheaper.

As for other box schemes that I’ve tried, there’s also Farm Fresh Organics. Whilst I loved the produce…I found the website rather difficult to use (in MAJOR need of a redesign) and almost no communication once I had ordered. I have a feeling if the website were sorted and there was more of an online presence and communication about them that they could get a lot more business here in the West Midlands. I’d love to see that happen and would be the first in line to order on a regular basis!
So there you go! Sainsbury’s came in under cost for the actual produce but went over with the delivery charge and a whopping 6 items were not organic. Again I was genuinely surprised by my findings! I always thought that my organic box was something that I splurged for each week because tasty organic fruits and veggies were something on which I wasn’t willing to compromise. Well, here’s to not compromising and getting the best for less! Please support local farms, and companies that make box deliveries like this possible!

I’d love to hear from all of you. Do you have an experience with organic box deliveries? What do you think of them? What made you consider an organic box delivery?

Many thanks to Sarah Braun for the lovely photo at the top of this posting. It is licensed though creative commons. Please click on the photo for more from her on her flickr page!

Tideford Organics Review

My first impression of the line of soups and sauces that we were sent from Tideford was the simple fresh ingredients. For those of you who are “eating clean” or limiting the amount of ingredients in each meal, these may fit your lifestyle. I was so pleased to find that their products are not only wheat and gluten free but also vegetarian and organic. This includes many products for vegans as well! Every day we see more and more gluten free products on the shelves, but they are often filled with less than healthy ingredients and are rarely organic. Kudos to Tideford for raising the bar. Below are our opinions on the soups and sauces we were sent to try.


Organic Italian Tomato Soup with Red Pepper & Lentils

First impression was that this soup tasted fresh and home made. Lovely balance of tomatoes, red pepper and lentils. Garlic isn’t overpowering and you can taste each individual flavour in turn. A bit light on seasoning for my taste, but great for those who are concerned about sodium intake and you can always add more if you wish!

what the other taster said: (@solobasssteve)
Tastes wonderfully home made yet light on seasoning which means you can embellish.


Organic Jalepeno Pepper Salsa with Lime Juice

I was not keen on this salsa. My readers know that I’m a bit of a salsa snob and this tasted like the base was tinned tomatoes rather than fresh. That might not be the case, but it was what came to mind after the first bite. Tomato seemed to be the dominating flavour and the other ingredients were hard to perceive. Salsa for me needs a bit of a pepper bite, which this did not have. There was a hint of garlic but could not pick out the coriander and lime.. I liked the consistency, it was like a true mexican salsa…but it just needs more flavour to be considered a salsa rather than a bland tomato sauce in my opinion.

what the other taster said: @solobasssteve
This tasted like cold soup.


 Organic Spicy Butternut Soup with Sweet Potato

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one as I am normally not a fan of butternut soup that isn’t home made but said “WOW” after my first bite. The first flavour to hit my palette was cumin which was unexpected. This soup was flavoured very much like a subtle Indian daal. Absolutely lovely favours that all mesh well together and it was perfectly seasoned.  Also I felt great after eating it. Fantastic combination of butternut squash, sweet potato and red lentils. Well done. My favourite so far!

what the other taster said: @solobasssteve “This not only tastes home made…but like you made it.” (I have him brainwashed!)


 Organic Beetroot Soup with Creme Fraiche & Dill

Ooh! Another lovely soup! Tastes light and delicious and comes the closest to the beetroot soup that I make at home.  I’d love to taste it with a tiny hint of acidity to balance the sweetness (apple cider vinegar would be perfect)  but this is being picky as it works fine without it. Again, not overly seasoned and lots of room for embellishment at home. Add some plain yogurt, soured cream or fresh dill on top!

what the other taster said: @solobasssteve
“Tasty. Feels like a well balanced canvas that has room for more paint. Understated but delicious.”


Organic Spinach and Split Pea Soup with Nutmeg

I enjoyed the soup but I think that the name is misleading. If it had been called Organic Spinach and Split Pea Soup with Cumin, I would have known what to expect. Tasty though, and just the right amount of salt. But don’t expect the subtle flavours of a normal pea soup or the flavour of nutmeg. I added a bit of strong cheddar to mine halfway through and it was delicious.

2nd taster skipped this one as he wasn’t feeling well that day.😦


Organic Tomato and Basil Sauce

This was my favourite of the lot. I NEVER buy pre-made pasta sauce but this is already on my shopping list. I defy you to find a better tasting pasta sauce with more flavour and less ingredients.   Deep rich tomato flavour, perfectly seasoned with a nice edge of basil. I used it to accompany my gluten-free penne and it was a perfect companion. Can’t wait to try this as a pizza sauce on a delicious wheat-free and gluten-free base!

 what the other taster said: @solobasssteve As the husband of a chef, one of the best complements that I can give to a product is to say that it tastes home made. This does. This sauce is perfectly balanced, rich and creamy and I’d be happy to have this on a regular basis. This does not taste like it came from a jar. Well done!!

If you’re interested in trying Tideford Organic products for yourself, including their range of porridge, rice pudding and jellies, click here to find a local stockist. Or buy online from Ocado!

5 Tips For Transitioning Into a Gluten/Wheat-Free Home Environment

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What happens once you are diagnosed with a wheat of gluten allergy or intolerance? Although it gets easier as awareness and need grows for gluten and wheat-free food, there are many concerns that one needs to address whilst adapting to a new lifestyle. Especially if you are living in an environment where other members of the household will continue to eat wheat and gluten containing products. There are a few steps that you can take in order to protect yourself from having a reaction through cross contamination.

1. You’ll need a separate toaster that has not been used with wheat and gluten containing breads. Setting up your own station for preparing gluten free bread products is a must. Clearly label your toaster GLUTEN FREE ONLY so that guests know not to use it for normal bread. Also make sure that normal bread products are being kept away from your food preparation area and that family members/ house mates know to clean up their crumbs!

2. Do no use/share condiments/butter  Unless it’s a squeezable bottle or something that a knife can not be inserted into. Condiments and butter are one of the biggest causes of cross contamination at home and in restaurants as people do not realise that these items are full of gluten and wheat. You’ve done it hundreds of times….you’re making a sandwich and putting mustard on it….you scoop some out on your knife and it’s not quite enough so you dip the knife back in again for a little more. Now the mustard is unusable for someone who is avoiding wheat/gluten.

3. Chopping Boards Collanders and pots are items that you should not share with people in the household who are using them for wheat/gluten containing products like bread and pasta. As a whole it’s worth it to invest in a few kitchen items only used for what you prepare for yourself.

4. Learn to cook this may be a fairly obvious one. But I do realise that in some ways, even though there was virtually no awareness about food allergies or easily recognised safe products at the time when I was diagnosed…I was already a cook/chef at the time so learning to modify ingredients in my diet was a challenge I embraced. I did go through some trial and error, but the cooking bit was always easy for me.  If you don’t like to spend loads of time in the kitchen…all you need to do is start out with a few simple recipes that you can do in 5 minutes or less.  Omelettes, quesadillas, GF pasta and simple salads are a good start. There are loads of pre-packaged gluten-free options out there now…but they are pricey and often filled with ingredients that are often less than healthy. Learning to cook will save you loads of money and keep you healthier.

5. Educate others  Don’t expect other people to know how to keep you from having a reaction. You need to educate other family members and friends on how to keep you safe. They love you…they want to help. Not long ago, it seemed that people viewed food allergies and mental illness in the same way. So many times I’ve been told..”It’s all in your head!” Things have changed. Allergy UK states that around 45% of people in the UK suffer from some sort of food allergy/intolerance. Don’t be afraid to ask people for what you need. You will probably encounter some resistance along the way, but being clear about what you can eat and how it’s prepared is a lot easier than spending the night doubled over or a trip to the hospital. Get used to speaking up…you’ll need to do it a lot.

Obviously there is a lot more to say on this subject, especially about the foods you now can/can’t eat…but that is for another time and I find there’s a lot of good info already out there on the web. I will be posting soon on that subject…but if you need help for now here are some great places to start:

http://www.coeliac.org.uk/

http://www.foodallergy.org/

http://www.glutenfree-crawley.org.uk/index.php

all photos used in this blog are sourced from flickr and licensed through Creative Commons. To find out more info about the photographer and enjoy more of their photos, please click on the picture itself and you will be taken to their flickr page! Enjoy!