Saturday, 28 August 2010

Bananas - are you getting enough?

Various fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains; ...Image via Wikipedia
Have you ever thought about the goodness in the food you eat?  and if you are getting enough of your daily nutritional intake? or do you just eat what you like?
Well I was thinking about it the other day when I was craving a banana... 
yes banana... not a "gin and tonic" or "french patisserie"  but an actual banana....
sometimes I think we need to be aware of the reasons for the craving...
is it just a craving for the taste or is our body really trying to tell us something...???
have you ever thought about it?
and do you feel much better after you have eaten the food or drink you are craving?
So back to my craving for a ripe banana....
mind you I didn't want just a banana.... no the flavour I was craving was....
a banana with cheddar cheese....
Borough Market Cheddar cheeseImage via Wikipedia
you may screw up your face or gag.... but try it ... the flavours accompany each other.... perfectly...
so the facts are, bananas, as we all know are high in potassium....
which is a vital mineral for muscle and nerve function and potassium also helps to regulate blood pressure.  Maybe my body was giving out signals for bananas because I needed a dose of potassium to help regulate an imbalance in my body?  Quite possible, I hadn't eaten a banana for at least 10 days... and normally it is in my daily intake of fruit.  And then there is the cheese factor, which is interesting, especially since I prefer my white cheeses, cottage, feta and goats, and there I was craving a bit of cheddar with my banana.  Very interesting.... Cheese is a good source of protein and a rich source of calcium.... and it is well known calcium plays an important role in building stronger, denser bones early in life and keeping bones strong and healthy later in life.

If I take it a bit further .... we have some interesting facts:

Potassium is a mineral that is required in significant amounts for human health. 
Potassium - balances sodium in the body to regulate hydration. 

Functions of Potassium:
  • Regulation of pressure between the inside and outside of cells. With inadequate potassium, cellular wastes are not efficiently transported into the extracellular spaces and carried away. Toxic material is left to accumulate in the cell can cause premature cell death.
  • Conversion of blood sugar into glycogen for storage in the liver and muscles. Inadequate glycogen storage leads to physical and mental fatigue.
  • Maintaining proper pH balance of blood.
  • Maintaining proper body water balance
  • Stimulating insulin production
  • Maintaining digestive enzyme function and efficiency
  • Maintaining optimal nerve and muscle function
  • Relaxing muscle contraction in balance to calcium, which induces contraction.
Deficiency can lead to:
  • Lactic acid (and other waste metabolites) buildup in body, which leads to
    • Muscular weakness
    • Irregular heartbeat
    • Paralysis
  • Problems in nerve conduction, which leads to
    • Mental confusion
    • Heart disturbances
    • Problems with muscle contraction
Calcium - is the most abundant mineral in the human body. 
About 99% is in the bones and teeth - where it plays a structural role. 
Remainder 1% is present in body tissues and fluids - where it is essential for cell metabolism, muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmission. 

Low levels of calcium in the blood and tissues can cause hypocalcemia - which involves sensations of tingling; numbness; and muscle twitches. 
In severe cases muscle spasms may occur, called tetany. 
More likely to be due to a hormonal imbalance in the regulation of calcium rather than a dietary deficiency.
Excess calcium in the blood can cause nausea, vomiting and calcium deposition in the heart and kidneys
This usually results from excessive doses of vitamin D and can be fatal in infants.

Vitamin D is needed for absorption of dietary calcium - therefore calcium deficiency may be linked to rickets in children. 
In adults, calcium deficiency may lead to osteomalacia (softening of the bones). 
This may be related to repeated pregnancy with lengthy breast feeding.

Osteoporosis can be due to calcium deficiency - which 
involves loss of calcium from the bones and reduced bone density. Bones become brittle and liable to fracture. 
Bone loss occurs with age in all individuals - usually occurs after 35-40 years and involves the shrinking of the skeleton. 
Bone loss is greatest in women following the menopause - due to reduced levels of the hormone, estrogen. 
Post-menopausal women are particularly at risk from osteoporosis.

So my craving for a banana (potassium) with cheese (calcium) could easily be interpreted as a vital signal from my body...  a call for help to regulate chemical imbalances..... 
what do you know?  
next time I will be closely monitoring my cravings... 

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    Monday, 9 August 2010

    Lamb Bolognese

    bolognese, lamb recipes, italian ragu,

    Abused Italian Ragu - Ragu alla Bolognese

    My recipe for Lamb Bolognese would make an Italian chef throw his arms up in the air with dismay.  The true bolognese or "ragu" would be made with beef and served with tagliatelli and not spaghetti!

    However as I am not a big fan of beef, I prefer to cook bolognese with lamb (or turkey mince), for me it tastes just as good, maybe even better?
    I also like to add a few extra bits, all depending on what I may have on hand, sometimes the bolognese (ragu) will be simple and sometimes it will have a variety of vegetables added, like zucchini (courgette), capsicum (red peppers), and possibly eggplant (aubergine).  Yep I do like all those vegetables in my ragu (bolognese), so you can just imagine what a true Italian would be saying about my abused ragu (bolognese) recipe, maybe something like "mamma mia" with accompanying hand gestures of course!

    What bacon (pancetta)?

    I have never ever put bacon (pancetta) in my spaghetti bolognese, I know some chefs recommend you do, however for my recipe you don't need it, there is enough delicious flavour already.

    Too much Tomato

    Hey what? Apparently the use of tomatoes is suppose to be minimal, if any at all! So that must mean my ragu (bolognese) recipe is so not authentic Italian, mind you if I had started with the real Italian ragu recipe then maybe I wouldn't be making it my way, who knows? All I can say is that my family love this version of spaghetti bolognese or Ragu alla Bolognese.



    500g mince lamb
    2 x red onions
    4-5 x cloves garlic
    1-2 x carrots
    1-2 x sticks celery
    50g portobello mushrooms
    1 x zucchini (optional)
    1 x red pepper (optional)
    1-2 x bay leaves
    3-5 anchovies in oil or 1 tablespoon x anchovy paste
    2 x 440g tinned chopped tomatoes
    1 glass x water
    1/2 cup x tomato puree/paste
    cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon
    smoked paprika
    1 tablespoon x sugar
    salt and pepper
    olives (optional)
    olive oil
    1 glass x red wine (for the bolognese - and a 2nd glass wine for the cook)


    In a large pot, add a dash of olive oil, chop and saute for about 10 mins, the onions, celery, red pepper and grated carrot. 

    Chop the mushrooms into small cubes, add to pot and saute another 5 minutes.

    Remove all the sauted vegetables from the pot and put aside.

    Add a dash of olive oil, add the minced lamb and with the lid off brown the mince all over.

    Add crushed or sliced garlic, careful not to burn the garlic.

    Add tomato puree, seasoning (salt and pepper), cinnamon, bay leaves, smoked paprika and sugar.

    Give it all a good stir, make sure the mince is well coated with the seasoning and tomato paste.

    Allow to simmer for a few minutes.

    Add red wine and tinned chopped tomatoes and the water. Now add the sauted vegetables.

    Stir well and bring to a gentle boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer for approximately 2-3 hours without the lid.  Check and stir every 30 minutes.

    Replace the lid and turn down the heat if juices are evaporating too quickly.

    Serve with your favourite pasta, spaghetti or tagliatelli

    Make sure you have plenty of freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese available so everyone can add as much as they like.

       Buon appetito!

    I have made this bolognese with turkey mince instead of lamb, home-made passata instead of tinned tomatoes, celeriac instead of celery stick, added chopped dried porcini mushrooms, added eggplant, added dried rosemary, sage, thyme, and oregano, left out the red wine and water, and cooked it for only 1hr 30 mins instead of longer.  And it was still deliciously yummy!

    Ragu alla Bolognese is definitely a dish a recipe which can be bastardized with satisfying results!  GO AHEAD GIVE IT A TRY!

    Friday, 6 August 2010

    How to read your labels

    Do you read your food labels?  Have you every wonder what the different terms and symbols mean?

    Are you confused?  or you never bother?

    Well look here - an interactive label has been developed by Food Standards Agency's eatwell  - a consumer advice and information site. 

    To help you learn about the terms and symbols which appear on your food packaging.  

    Go ahead start investigating the foods you buy.

    Just click below to launch it. Then guide your cursor over any term or symbol you want to find out about, and an explanation will pop up on your screen.
    The definitions provided are for guidance only.

    Click here to view the interactive label

    About the Food Standards Agency

    The Food Standards Agency was set up by an Act of Parliament in 2000 to protect the public's health and consumer interests in relation to food.

    The FSA's guiding principles are: 
    • putting the consumer first
    • being open and accessible
    • being an independent voice

    Although the FSA is a Government agency, it is independent, which means it works at 'arm's length' from Government because it doesn't report to a specific minister and is free to publish any advice it issues.