‘What’s For Dinner’ a fab recipe book by Romilla Arber…

A familliar phrase ‘whats for dinner ?’ and often one parents groan to hear. Coming up with endless tasty treats and making sure they are nutritiously packed and sticking to a budget after a hard days 9-5 is not easy……….’Mc Donalds’ it is then.  Working parents who are on a budget concerning time and money have increasingly opted for  ready-meals and fast-food to-go.  Sold the ‘you can have it all’ dream women have found juggling career and house hold chores near impossible. Food manufactures have known this and fed into this manic fast-paced era by giving us fast-food-to-go and seducing us with their photo-shopped images of food. This mega recipe book that I was lucky enough to be sent as a press release is a a vital tool for busy people who dont want to sacrifice their health.

It seems people are stirring from their mono-sodium malaise and awakening to the fact that in reality we don’t ‘want it all’ just enough to stay healthy and simple seems to be the new buzz word. By trying to ‘have it all’ the baby-boomer generation have also realised-somethings gotta give-that something has been our health. Disease has never been so prevalent in the western world. But this seems ironic as today we are more technically,industrially and medically advanced than ever. So what’s failing our health? A lack of simple fresh organic produce, less relaxation time & non media stimulation (ie TV,internet,computer) and less community spirit are the main issues.
But things are comming full circle and people are demanding healthier food choices and getting down and dirty in their own kitchens. They are rejecting the capitalist food industries ethos of quantity over quality. Movements like  ‘Slow Food’ and farmers co-operatives, Fair trade and The Soil Association are all getting a stronger following. The book featured in this review encompasses this belief, its not simply a cookery book for busy mums, on an ideological level it represents a much deeper cause, a movement away from the processed and back to the humble family kitchen. This I believe is the root of improving the nations health.
The aptly named book by Romilla Arber ‘Whats for Dinner?’ is a reflection of our move towards a slower healthier life and a focus on quality simple food forms. The book offers you 365 days of fast-healthy-food.Recipes you can russle up in the time you can say ”Big Mac ‘n’ fries”. Fast food can be healthy food too.

What’s for Dinner?” is the essential cookery manual for 2012, divided into weekly sections with a menu and shopping list for each week of the year. Romilla felt that knowing what to cook is what puts off most people from going into the kitchen, rather than the actual act of cooking. She discovered that parents who relied on convenience food were less likely to pass on basic cookery skills to their children.

Each week starts with a time saving shopping list – a quick check list for everything needed from freezer, store cupboard or fridge. All recipes are easy to follow including tasty snacks and desserts. It makes pre-prepared meals a thing of the past and invites you to cook in your own home without the stress of endless planning and shopping. The key is the organized shopping lists that encourage you to buy multi-functional food types. Basically its about re-training our way of thinking and getting away from that modern tendency to always think things should be done for us. Yes shock of shocks you may have to wash and peel your own carrots ha ha ! But pardon the supermarket pun you will ‘taste the difference’ m! Romilla empowers you as a cook to really connect with food again and make you think about what you buy in the shops as opposed to shoving things mindlessly into the trolley and arriving home with nothing for a decent meal. Food needs a little planning, not hours slaving in the kitchen but with just a little pre-planning and thought you can make a healthy meal and save yourself a packet too!
Weekly menus are well balanced, healthy and nutritious. It is widely accepted that a diet combined with regular exercise is the key to a healthy existence. “What’s for Dinner?” reflects the wisdom that for a sustainable future we should not, as a nation, be eating meat everyday of the week. Consequently each week contains two  vegetarian vegetable-based meals and one fish meal, while the rest of the week includes different meat dishes including old favourites such as Spaghetti Bolognaise and Shepherd’s Pie to Maldivian Chicken Curry and Spicy Sliced Lamb. However you can pick and choose as you wish.
Whats more when you buy this book you can feel good doing it! All profits from the sale of “What’s for Dinner?” go to Romilla’s Food Education Trust. Romilla believes that as well as parents bearing a responsibility to introduce their children to the joy of home cooked food, schools could also be providing more old style home economic classes. The Food Education Trust will raise awareness of the importance of home cooking to families and educate both parents and children. Additional information can be found at www.whatsfordinner.org.uk
and you can purchase the book from amazon-Whats for Dinner? 
As a Nutritional Coach and Wellness writer I am always pursuing new avenues to promote healthy eating and since having a child this has become a mission! Since  discovering my son is  Autistic the link between diet and mood has become ever more apparent to me. Simply put the relationship between your gut and your brain is direct and unquestionable-you are what you eat.  The odd meal of fast-food wont kill you (though ethically it is usually produced in appalling conditions using the cheapest meat cuts) however people are now relying on processed foods as their main  food source and this is where the health problems have arisen.
Food habits start at a young age and simple home cooking skills are one of the best lessons you can learn in life. We need to go back to basics and re-discover the joys of food glorious food and have fun cooking at home.  Under this sub-text  I began researching on the subject of school dinners and if home economic still meant fairy cakes and flour fights….. Everyone remembers Jamie Oliver’s noble attempt to battle the suet loving dinner-ladies of the north, it was a great mission he set out upon but was like the nature of television fast,of the moment and gone in a flash. So what happened after he left? Did the schools return to there old ways and what about all the thousands of schools he didn’t visit?
Is there a national organisation that seeks to educate our young on healthy cooking?
The answer is yes, the http://www.foodeducationtrust.com/ set up in 2008 by Romilla Arber focuses on educating adults & children on healthy eating and does this via fun and practical cooking lessons given by the founder and mum of 4 Romilla. I found out about  Romilla after research led me to seek out an education outlet to help children learn about the joys of healthy eating and cooking. As a Nutritional Therapist I see children as the future of our new eating habits and want to educate them because they are our worlds hope. This research led me first to find the Food Education Trust and then discover the book ‘Whats For Dinner?’

Romilla is a woman after my own heart and  recognised that many people were relying on convenience foods to feed their kids as they found alot of recipes too time consuming to fit into their busy working lives. A community based project is the best way to reach a large cross section of society and Romilla with 4 children all of school age used her local  primary school as her starting point.

Press releases describe the Trusts mission statement as;
The Food Education Trust has devised a programme for children that ensures that they acquire as many useful skills as they can during their cooking sessions. This includes learning to follow recipes, learning about cooking terms, chopping, washing and preparing vegetables. The new kitchen facility means that the Moortown Primary children can now learn how to prepare and cook a nutritious meal, such as pasta with a fresh sauce, delicious stews and hearty soups. They will gain cookery skills for life, enabling them to cook healthy nutritious meals”.

As a Nutritional Therapist I have seen all too often the results of eating a diet made from a large proportion of ready meals and convenience frozen ‘food-stuffs’ ( I say food-stuffs’ because allot of this processed re-formed animal shaped eats are so far removed from their original natural form  and contain so little vitamin and mineral nutrients that they cant fully be designated as a food as such). With child-hood allergies on the rise, Autism and so called ‘Learning Difficulties at epidemic levels thinking about what we put into our children’s bellies has never been so important. I have wanted the government to set up a food-education curriculum for schools for some time and Romilla’s Food Trust does just this.  What we need now is her trust to be government backed and for them to invest and make her  lessons part of the national curriculum. This may in the climate of recession and economising seem frivolous but by educating the young on healthy eating you actually reduce the NHS bills of the future. It is said that 70% of illness and dis-ease is caused by  lifestyle choices. Scientists say 40% of cancers are lifestyle related and the biggest costs for the NHS are on diabetes, blood-pressure,heart-disease and osteoporosis medications in the UK and western world.
In our Grand-parents time things were more simple. GM crops were nothing but a science-fiction nightmare, Ready-meals were un-heard off and generally people didn’t mess with nature so much. Children were raised on local in-season produce and what’s more it has been scientifically recorded that fruits and vegetables had a higher vitamin/mineral content in the past because there were less pesticide residues in the soil, less air pollution, food travelled less and was consumed fresh and quicker. Meat was not injected with antibiotics and was sourced locally an eaten as a treat once/twice a week. With all this in mind Romilla made it her mission to feed her family  healthy, quick and easy to prepare meals on a budget. From this this came the book ‘Whats for Dinner?’
I am super excited by this book and loved the idea that the proceeds of her cookery book  go towards forming a trust that’s aim is to eductae children at an early age to be interested and enchanted by cooking healthy food.  Healthy eating and a persons relationship to food can start at any age but its best to teach the children, cause they are the future. Our babies will be running the country in 20 years time and they need the best nutritional defence against the on slaught of pollution and stress levels that exist in the modern industrialise world. Fact:Food can heal. Romilla’s trust visits schools all over the UK and delivers cookery lessons to primary school children who then re-educate their parents on healthy eating-genius!! Whats more is the kids learn skills for life so generation after generation will benefit, it really a fantastic concept. The children learn to think about where the food comes from, they get to feel it,smell it and are introduced to new tastes. They learn to follow instructions and skills in team-work and health and safety that are valuable to many situations in life.
Food education has as it were gone out of vougue with the schoold national curriculum.I remember my Home Economics lessons were about making scotch-eggs (fried) and fairy-cakes and the teacher how can I say this polity was obese. Not great food lessons for life me thinks.

But why have processed food been so successful? Cause their cheap n easy, they are like the one-night-stand of the food world and you will catch some nasties from them.Processed foods need high salt,fat and additive contents to make their lack lustre ingredients tasty. We as humans are hard-wird to enjoy salt and fat, this is a primevil desire and was essential when we were hunter gathers. We needed high fat meals to give us energy and we would sweat out excess salt as we used to live pysically active lives. Today we lead more sedentary lives but we consume triple the fat in take that a cave man would have.  Studies confirm it, people generally know what is good and bad food wise for them but why do a large proportion opt for the later? Money, time and convenience  all come into play in today’s fast paced lifestyle. Today we want food and we want it fast and brightly packaged with bows on it. The media bombards us with glossy adverts and super marketing campaigns that make that salty high fast food seem ooh so appealing. They rely on us never questioning the origins or content of this food stuff. The ingredients is listed and it appears to be the same as the well lit photo on the box so why question it? You cant go through a day now without hearing about the obesity epidemic in UK and world-wide, the complications and dis-eases that arise from bad food choices.

To this end The Food Education Trust has been working to educate adults and children in basic cooking skills since it was established in 2008, and has already had a huge impact on those it has helped. People like Romilla Arber should be saluted for their contribution to society and its a positive indication that we are finally going back to our food roots. We owe it to our own health, the environment and our children’s children to think locally, eat consciously and act globally concerning food.The Food Education Trust is wholly funded by sales of founder, Romilla Arber’s cookery manual –‘Whats for Dinner?’ For more information and the trusts latest  infomation go to www.foodeducationtrust.org
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Spice up your winter and beat the bugs….

Winter Spice tonics….for medicinal use…

Here are 5 amazing spices/herbs that can help you banish the winter blues and fight colds,flu and infection while improving your circulation,so keeping you warmer!!
MEDICINAL USE OF GINGER
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) was one of several valued spices that was traded on the spice routes out of Asia and ended up in Medieval Europe. Ginger is used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. The medicinal part of ginger is extracted from the rhizome root of the small, perennial herb. Medicinally, ginger has been used in Arabic, Indian and Asian traditional medicine for centuries
Some of the medicinal uses of ginger include:
  • nausea and vomiting – including pregnancy related nausea and travel sickness
  • indigestion
  • arthritis
  • rheumatism
  • catarrh.

MEDICINAL USES OF NUTMEG

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) is another of the spices that is frequently used in culinary dishes. The nutmeg tree, which grows up to 65 feet in height, produces seeds that, once dried, are used for medicinal purposes. Nutmeg is primarily used for digestive complaints (such as nausea, indigestion and flatulence) but other medicinal uses of nutmeg include:
  • arthritis
  • rheumatism
  • bacterial infections.

MEDICINAL USES OF CINNAMON

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), an ancient Eastern traditional medicine, has various parts that can be used for medicinal purposes (however, see cautions below). Both the leaves and the bark of the tropical cinnamon tree are used for medicinal purposes. Cinnamon has the following medicinal uses:
  • digestive complaints
  • colds and flu nervous
  • exhaustion
  • rheumatism diabetes – clinical studies show that the use of cinnamon is valuable to regulating blood sugar levels in people who suffer from diabetes

MEDICINAL USES OF CLOVE

The clove plant (Eugenia caryophyllus) also produces various parts that are used for medicinal purposes; the buds, leaves and stalks of the tropical, evergreen tree are all used in traditional medicine (however, see cautions below). Use clove for the following medicinal uses:
  • digestive complaints such as nausea and dyspepsia
  • asthma
  • colds and flu
  • acne
  • as an insect repellent.

MEDICINAL USES OF BLACK PEPPER

Black pepper (Piper nigrum) has been used for over 4,000 years in traditional medicine. According to Lawless, Indian monks used to swallow between 7 and 9 grains of pepper a day to help them maintain the endurance needed to walk the daily distances that they covered. The seeds (or dried berries) of the perennial pepper vine are used for medicinal purposes; these include:
  • arthritis
  • poor circulation
  • nausea
  • flatulence
  • heartburn
  • colds and flu
  • colic.

CAUTIONS FOR USING SPICES FOR MEDICINAL USES

Spices are used in various formats for medicinal purposes; for example, they might be used as an essential oil in aromatherapy or as actual plant parts in herbal medicine. The way in which they are used will dictate which part of the plant should be used and how. Plants are chemically composed in different ways, depending on whether they are used as an oil or in whole parts (and different parts of the plant are also composed differently).
Several of the spices mentioned in this article (in particular, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon) are made up of what can be described as “hazardous” chemical components. You need to understand the plant profile of each spice and when and how it can (or cannot) be used. This is particularly important if you are pregnant, breast feeding, a child, are taking certain prescribed medications or have a medical condition. Consult a qualified health care practitioner for further advice.

Chocolate should be raw and natural

The smell is seriously sexy, the texture can be silky smooth or chunky but whatever the size, shape or texture we cant get enough of the stuff! As a nation we are addicted to the stuff, with each of us consuming about 10kg a year – more than any other Europeans. The ancient Mayans and Aztec tribes of Mexico knew the healing properties of chocolate long ago and used Raw chocolate beans to cure many ills.

What is RAW chocolate?

The shift to organic, fair trade and higher cocoa varieties over the past five years may have lessened our favourite treat food’s impact on the world, its people, and our waistlines. But now there’s a new type of chocolate on the block and it looks set to further raise the bar for green and healthy confectionary.

Producers of this kind of chocolate are expecting interest in it to far exceed the hype around the goji berry last year.
They say what they’re offering tastes superior and will appeal to the rapidly growing number of people interested in living a more natural lifestyle.

This is raw chocolate: the bean, or nib of the bean, in its natural state – not cooked, over-processed or mixed with a vat of cheap filler ingredients. It’s also known as cacao and is being fused with coconut butter or agave syrup, as well as berries and nuts, to create confectionary. No vegetable fat, milk or sugar goes near it and, importantly, it isn’t heated above 42C, the point at which nutrients start to die.

“Cacao was never meant to be a candy bar loaded with rubbish – it is a powerful, healing, alchemical ingredient,” says Richard Turner, founder of the Raw Chocolate Shop.

Indeed, cacao is a very complex foodstuff with more than 300 chemically identifiable compounds. It is said to be significantly richer in antioxidant flavanols than green tea, red wine or acai, and contains protein, fats, calcium, iron, carotene, thiamine and riboflavine.
As with a lot of ‘superfoods’, it doesn’t come cheap at around £2.50 for 40g. But Kate Wood, director of Brighton-based Raw Living, argues: “the taste and experience is more intensely chocolaty, so you need less to satisfy you”.

Raw pioneer

The raw community is at the forefront of the move away from processed foods, and it is a member of that community, known as Shazzie, who is credited with bringing raw chocolate to the UK three years ago.

“The thing about raw chocolate is that it tastes amazing and it’s good for you”, says Shazzie, the 38-year-old author of Naked Chocolate and MD of a company called Detox Your World. “Every week there are news stories on the benefits of chocolate and they are right, but conventional chocolate has had the life and nutrients cooked out of it. Even dark chocolate has nowhere near the nutritional profile of raw cacao.”

natural cocao pods

The raw chocolate makers predict their wares will become huge in Britain this year. A few are in the process of acquiring larger premises for the increase in business they’ve had just in the last few months. And for the first time this year you will spot raw chocolate mini eggs and bunnies at health food shops, including Fresh & Wild.

“A couple of years ago we started buying about 100 kilos of cacao each month. Now we’re ordering five tonnes at a time and we need much more space to work in to keep up with demand,” explains Shazzie.

Producing the raw chocolate is far less energy intensive than making normal chocolate. The packaging used is also very minimal and the labels are made from recycled paper.

All of the raw chocolate companies are working with South American cooperatives, mostly in Peru or Ecuador, which are part of fair trade organisations. Shazzie supplies a handful of UK companies as well as making her own products. She works with the EcoAndino farmers, who are members of the Fair Trade Federation.
A number of raw chocolate companies also have accreditation from the Organic Farmers & Growers Association.

Pumpkins are a great winter tonic…..

Health benefits of Pumpkin

It is one of the vegetables which is very low calories; provides just 26 cal per 100 g and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol; but is rich a source of dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins. Recommended by dieticians in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.

Pumpkin is a storehouse of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C and vitamin-E.

beta-carotene rich pumpkins in full bloom.....

With 7384 mg per 100 g, it is one of the vegetable in the cucurbitaceae family with highest levels of vitamin-A, providing about 246% of RDA. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. It is also an essential vitamin for vision. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A helps body protect against lung and oral cavity cancers. Continue reading