Monday, 26 March 2007

Roundup #1


In the beginning of the month Joanna and I announced a new event called The Heart of the Matter- eating for life that concentrates on promoting food that is good for your heart. We all need to think about this, it doesn't really matter whether we are young or old, sooner or later bad eating habits catch up with you but unfortunately we often realize this when it's too late. Now personally I don't have this problem, nor does anyone in my family but I still think it's important to at least try to think ahead in order to avoid it. If possible. But rigidity doesn't make anyone happier does it? I can't say that I always eat heart friendly, now and then I just have to splash out on something unhealthy but the good thing is that I don't feel too bad about it because it's not something that I eat all the time. Anyway here I am with the first round up that is going straight to The Heart of the Matter blog where all the roundups are going to end up so that we all can go there when we need some new recipes or ideas for heart friendly food. Next month it's Joanna's turn to do the roundup and I can already tell you that theme is going to be desserts so start thinking now about low fat desserts, I have already a lot of ideas. And please tell me if you don't want your photo to appear here or if there is something wrong with the links.

The first to send me a link to her HotM post was Sally from The Tip of the Iceberg who came up with these wonderful spicy Party Shrimps that I'm sure will make their way to many buffet tables this spring and summer!

Then came Doodles from
Peanut Butter Etouffe with
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus served with Pita Bread Crackers. I have to say that the addition of red peppers really makes this an interesting dish!

Over at Mele Cotte Chris made these pretty Sweet Potato Bundles and if that wasn't enough, she even gives us a one by one picture story of how to make them!
And she even gives us dip recipes! Thanks Chris!

Lydia of My Kitchen, a food blog that is new to me, sent me this wonderful post with Vietnamese Spring Rolls, they look both healthy and fresh, really inviting me to take a bite!

Tanna of The Half Cup who every day delights me with her comments has even made two posts for the event, first out was a great way to 'cheat' with cheese, with the help of a neighbour Tanna has discovered a way to make cheese a possible heart friendly food item and as that wasn't enough, she also came up with a Fat Free Guacamole version!

I really appreciate my friend Kalyn's of Kalyn's Kitchen entry because I know how busy she is and I know that you too will like her Heart-Healthy Shrimp Dip served with Veggie Dippers which both looks and sounds great!

I discovered a new food blog when Allen from Eating Out Loud sent me his entry, a fantastic Heart Healthy Fava Dip. Allen started to think about what he was eating after his father had an emergency bypass operation and he proves that eating healthy is both good and easy. (No photo because I don't dare to use the one Allen uses so now you just have to go and take a look at it yourself!)

Sher from What Did You Eat has come up with these enticing Spiced Walnuts, the only problem is that if I make these I won't be able to stop! I love walnuts and these are a little spicey and a little hot...

Anh's has the food blog A Food Lover's Journey and her weakness for Japanese food is our gain as her entry here is Sesame Miso Tofu & Eggplant Skewers that look really very very good! And perfect on a buffet table for example (if they manage to reach it...).

And yet another food blog that is new to me: Mostly Eating is the creation of Sophie who works as a dietist (thus adding even more credibility to this event!) and she not only gives us the recipe for Bambuddha Leaves: Heart friendly finger food with asian pesto but also explainst which type of fat we should go for when we want to eat heart friendly food! Thanks!

Alanna of A Veggie Venture claims that appetizers aren't her strong point but after seein g this entry I don't believe her! Her Green Chutney is not only good, it's versatile as well! And please notice how elegantly the cat's tail echoes the lines of the bowl in the background of the photo!

Helena from the bilingual food blog
Neues aus der K├╝che / News from the kitchen has made
Dwarfs´bags, I can't see the photos on her blog today but I did last week and i can tell you that they are really pretty and when you see what she has put into them, you get hungry, I promise!

I discovered a completely new vegetable(?) over at Janelle's new blog brown bag blues where she gives us an interesting serving suggestion for it: the juice on jicima. I better get out and start looking for some jicima...

My fellow eventer Joanna came up with three entries, one better than the other. first out was her Hearty oatcakes with smoked trout pate, and then she posted about Carrot Bites which was followed by Kale salsa, all three of them perfect finger food and lovely to look at even though she claims to not being good at finger food presentation!

And I made Miniature Farro and Poppy Seed Cup Cakes, Quinoa Crackers With Avocado and Smoked Tuna, Simple Strawberry Serving Suggestion: Ginger and Honey Marinade and Rosemary and Balsamic Vinegar Marinated Miniature Chicken Rolls with Capers.

So, now it's done! Great entries and I would like to thank all of the participants for caring enough and for taking the time to participate in the first The Heart of the Matter-eating for life round, I have really enjoyed reading all your entries and seeing all these great recipes. So start thinking about heart healthy desserts, send as many entries you want to Joanna who is doing the roundup and remember that the last day is 22 of April!

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

If you want to use the HotM logo in your post you are welcome to lift it!

Here you have the current logo for the Heart of the Matter - eating for life event in two different sizes so that you can use the one you feel like!

Friday, 9 March 2007

We were lucky

In July 2004, we set off on our summer holidays, the car laden, as usual, with sports kit - tennis racquets, golf bags, fishing rods, walking gear, several changes of footwear each: everything that was needed for the usual active family holiday. We drove to Scotland, stopping on the way to visit friends, where we would be staying with several other families from our wider family in a huge 18th century mansion in Angus, before going to to visit good friends on the island of Mull.

We both really needed a holiday: Lucius had an issue at work which made his shoulders hunch up with tension whenever he talked about it. I was embroiled in an unpleasant spat with our village council, and the first of our four children was about to go to university which would mean change for the family (this was the first family holiday which didn't include everyone). The children were happy in the back of the car, surrounded by stuff, and plugged in to their music.

We were the last to arrive: everyone was on the terrace overlooking the River North Esk having drinks in the early evening sunshine. We joined them, had dinner, and then went to find our rooms, Lettice sharing with her cousin, the boys together in the room next to ours. There was chatter and laughter, it was good to be surrounded by family; there was the promise of a whole week of activity and exploration in this beautiful place in the foothills of the highlands. Plans were made for golf the next morning, and for a group of us to visit Glamis Castle nearby.

I remember that on the way to Glamis we talked about illness, we talked about how it would affect us, we talked about cancer, everyone's fear. But, looking back, we didn't really address it, we talked about it as something that would affect other people. Despite our increasing middle age, we still felt invincible, whatever evidence there was to the contrary, and however much we knew it wasn't so.

All that confidence was shattered within moments of returning to The Burn. Lucius was playing tennis with Horatio - no longer a gentle game of adult v child, but now, a game between two males who both wanted to win, one improving every day, the other wanting to carry on unbeaten as long as he could.

"Joanna, Joanna! Lucius has come in and he's lying on the sofa and he's not very well." As soon as I saw him, I could see that something was really wrong. He was grey. He looked weak, he looked wounded. I went to the office to see if we could telephone a doctor, but the surgery was closing, and it was difficult. James, my brother-in-law, and an orthopaedic consultant, took one look and said we should take him to the nearest A&E. So off we went.

Lucius's brother Chippy drove, in his brand-new car that was not yet properly run in. James sat in the front, telephoning the emergency services to find out where to go, and whether an ambulance could meet us. No. So he talked to the hospital direct. All this in a low voice in the front. Lucius was lying across the seats at the back, his head in my lap - clammy, silent, sick.

It was an hour's drive to Dundee. We had to drive through the city, one we didn't know, and with confusing signposts. All the time, James was talking to the hospital, taking a pulse every so often. Lucius groaned, James turned to examine him in the confined space, whispered to Chippy, and suddenly, the car, already going at speed, shot forward.

"Please be alive when we arrive at the hospital, please be alive when we arrive, please be alive when we arrive ..." I couldn't stroke him, he didn't want to be touched; I couldn't talk to him, he was turned in on himself. I bit my tongue - literally, to stop myself from crying - and repeated my mantra in my head: "please be alive when we arrive."

When we got there, he was bundled into a wheelchair and rushed in to the cardiac unit. I was directed to the front desk, where a smiling Scots lady asked for his name, and I burst into tears. "It's all right, lassie, it's all right," she soothed. It was the first of many small acts of kindness of strangers.

After an eternal little while, the doctor came to find us, to tell us what had happened, but, also, to get my permission to use heavy-duty drug treatment. He talked that medical language that the healthy never learn. "So, does that mean he's had a heart attack?" He looked surprised. He explained again, only this time I understood. A clot had come to rest in Lucius's heart, luckily for him in a place where damage tended to be less; luckily for him, he lay down more or less immediately; luckily for him, he was in the cardiac unit within a couple of hours.

We didn't see him until after he had taken the clot-buster. He was in a high-tech chair, wired up to the nines, still grey, still wounded, but smiling weakly, beginning to look out again. We went home after he was settled onto the high-dependency ward, where staff outnumber patients, and where patience and kindness are everyday virtues.

It was a bad moment, telling the children. It was worst for Horatio - he couldn't believe it was serious: "Mum, he just said he wanted to stop playing because he felt sick, and then he collected up all the balls." So H had wandered off to find another tennis partner, and never gave the matter another thought. It's not like the movies - it's not even how you imagined it would be.

He stayed in hospital a week, champing at the bit by the end, longing to get back to his life. But he wasn't allowed to go to Mull, for fear of another attack, and he wasn't allowed to drive for a month. Every day he got stronger, but not as quickly as he wanted to believe. Now you would never know. We were lucky. We were very lucky.


We were in shock. How could this happen to my virile, averagely fit, strong husband? We got answers from the British Heart Foundation. You know them, too: smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, lack of activity, stress, heredity.

We needed to DO something. We both read the BHF booklets:

People who eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day are less likely to have heart disease. We do not know exactly why, but it is thought to be due to the antioxidant vitamins they contain ... there is not yet enough evidence that taking vitamin tablets has the same effect.

Eating oily fish once or twice a week may help to reduce your level of triglycerides (fatty substances found in the blood), and prevent blood clots from forming in your coronary arteries. It can also help to improve your chances of survival after a heart attack. The particular oil in fish that has these beneficial effects is known as 'omega-3'. It is found mainly in oily fish such as herring, kippers, mackerel, pilchards, sardines, salmon, fresh tuna, trout and anchovies.

Well, wouldn't you give it a try? In practice, we were doing quite a bit of it anyway, but, as we looked carefully at the advice, we could see that changes were needed.

Five portions of fruit and veg a day is the most effective change you can make. If you only make one change, this should be it. Lots of people say they don't know how much there is in a portion. Well, it's one apple, or banana, or orange; it's two clementines, two Kiwi fruit. It's a slice of melon, a cup of berries. It's two or three tablespoons of fruit salad or stewed fruit. It's a small bowl of salad, a couple of serving spoons of veg. Just eat more, and keep on eating them!

Eat less fat overall, and cut right down on saturated fat. So butter, hard cheese, lard, suet - all obvious no-noes. Ghee, too, if you're keen on Indian food. But also coconut oil and palm oil - and these are used extensively in industrially processed food. So: read the labels. Welcome monounsaturates (olive oil, walnut oil, avocado), polyunsaturates (sunflower oil, soya oil, fish oils), omega-3 fats (oily fish, walnuts, soya).

Keep a healthy weight. I struggle with this. Although this way of eating helps, it is not a slimming diet in itself. Kalyn has inspired me to explore the South Beach Diet, and I'll post on how that goes. The BHF recommends checking by measuring your waist - anything over 32" is bad, over 35" very bad.

Cut down on salt. There's a strong connection between high consumption of salt and high blood pressure. There's a HUGE amount of salt in industrial food, although things are beginning to improve. Read the labels. Better still, make your own food; don't add salt, you'll get all you need from the processed food you do buy.

Watch out for hidden fats and salt. Here are the daily guidelines (men first, women second): fats 95g/70g (less than a third should be saturated); sugars 70g/50g; fibre 20g/16g; salt 6g/5g.

It's forever and it works. So don't beat yourself up when you backslide, and remember the 80/20 rule - if you get it right four-fifths of the time, that's fine. Enjoy. And then, please, share your recipes with the rest of us.

How The Heart of the Matter works: The first theme is going to be Finger Food, we thought that it would be perfect for the 'introduction party' of this event. The last day to send your entry is the 22 of March (this month, send it to i_beretta AT yahoo DOT it), please remember to link here and that we want only one-event entries.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

The Heart of the Matter-eating for life

I think it's fairly safe to say that we all know or know about someone with heart problems. After all the heart is what keeps us alive but we often forget that we are responsible for making its work easier within this body of ours. One year ago Michelle of the Accidental Scientist wrote this post about women and heart disease and that prompted us to start talking about making a monthly event about heart friendly food but there was always something getting in the way and it petered out into nothing. Michelle has taken a sabbatical from food blogging, she's busy finishing her PhD and getting married to this man (scroll down to see him, LB do you hate me now??) and moving so she can't participate now when I finally is moving in the right direction but I hope she will join later on. I have another partner though, Joanna from Joanna's Food who has experienced how it is living and cooking after a heart attack of her husband, her blog is full of recipes of heart friendly food. We plan to make this a monthly event with different themes each time and after the roundups on our blogs, these roundups are going to be posted on a special blog named after this event, The Heart of the Matter-eating for life, because this is an event with a difference, it's made with the hope of building up a recipe base that will be useful for all of us when we want to cook healthy meals so every time you participate you are not only presenting us with a nice recipe, you are also doing a good deed. And who can resist that? Well I can when I feel that it's too much of goody two shoes over something but I hope you don't feel like that about this, after all it's about your health as well as mine!
One of the main reasons that has driven us to start this event is to show that eating healthy isn't boring, nor is it difficult or time consuming. To prove this I can just say that since I moved to Italy and really began to eat the Mediterranean way, I not only eat healthier and better but I also eat tastier food! So you don't have to make it difficult for you if you want to participate, often a simpler recipe with the right ingredients is the healthiest one! And remember that we want all types of food here, 'normal', vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free -- whatever that qualifies as good for the heart food is welcome!
If you want to find out more about what healthy heart food is about, check out these links:
Joanna has made a very useful and easy to follow list here. And then we have this, this, this, this, this and this. Kalyn told me that the South Beach Diet actually started out as a diet for a healthier heart so you may find this post of hers useful. Please feel free to give me more useful links, this is just the beginning!

The first theme is going to be Finger Food, we thought that it would be perfect for the 'introduction party' of this event and then finger food recipes are always good to have at hand (sorry I just can't resist making these horribly bad puns sometimes), the last day to send me (i_beretta AT yahoo DOT it) your entry is the 22 of March, please remember to link here and that we want only one event entries.
Any thoughts?