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Welcome to my Feel Good Blog.

I started writing this blog because I want to share with you my discoveries on becoming healthier, happier and more energetic. Over the past couple of years I have been on an incredible journey as a working mother with an 18 month old and finding this required super energy and good health to be able to get through it all.

Tired but wired: why you can’t lose weight?

Today’s article by Sara Berry writing for theLifestyle section of smh hit a real chord with me. If have been convinced for a while now that my stress levels were having an impact on my weight. Reading the article below about Rushing Woman’s Syndrome I can really see myself as one of these women. This book will be going on my list of books to read.

Tired but wired: why you can’t lose weight?

Eating and exercise aren’t the only things that impact our weight and health. Physical and emotional stress can also tip the balance of our nervous system and our scales.

Take, for example, Susan a strikingly tall and physically beautiful woman, whose nutrition was top notch and whose booze consumption wasn’t big.

But, she had started putting on weight and couldn’t understand why.

Slow down ... Dr Libby Weaver ties weight gain to stress.Slow down … Dr Libby Weaver ties weight gain to stress.

So, she went to see dietition and biochemist, Dr Libby Weaver. Weaver herself was stumped by Susan’s mysterious situation and fossicked for extra information. But, Susan was adamant nothing in her life had changed to explain the weight gain.

Except, that is, her intake of coffee.

She had gone from one a day to as many as four a day over a three to four month period. “But, they are all black coffees, so there are no calories in them,” she assured Weaver.

At this revelation, Weaver’s eyes lit up and when Susan saw the look on her face she began to cry. “Please don’t take them away from me,” she begged.

Weaver didn’t take her coffee from her, she simply asked her to drop back to one a day for one month and see what happened. “I did nothing else for this woman,” Weaver said. “Not one other change to her dietary intake, and four weeks later, she burst through my door telling me she had lost four kilos in four weeks.”

The reason was simple, Weaver explains in her book Rushing Woman’s Syndrome and it had nothing to do with a reduction of calories.

“When you consume caffeine, it sends a message to the pituitary gland in your brain that it needs to send a message to your adrenal glands to make adrenalin … [and] get you out of danger that doesn’t actually exist …

“When adrenalin is released, your blood sugar elevates to provide you with more energy, your blood pressure and pulse rate rise to provide more oxygen to the muscles, which tense in preparation for action [the fight or flight response] … you make insulin to deal with that elevation in blood sugar. And insulin is one of our primary fat storage hormones …

“This biochemical state can either lead you to slenderness [often at the expense of your nervous system health] or fat storage, because insulin … will firstly convert unused glucose from from your blood into glycogen and store it in your muscles and what is left over will be converted into body fat.”

The biochemical dance produced by chronic stress, along with its emotional and physical impact, is what Weaver explains in Rushing Woman’s Syndrome.

“We’re tired, but wired,” she says. “So many of the women [I saw] kept talking about being so exhausted or so busy or so stressed. I talk to a biased group of the population. But, I kept hearing the same issues arising – about menstruation, digestion, sleep and the ability to remain calm and patient and kind … I kept hearing the word ‘pressure.’”

In our information-saturated society, Weaver doesn’t believe it is a lack of knowledge that causes people to be overweight or unhealthy, rather this sense of emotional ‘pressure’ can lead us to make poor choices.

“”I was at uni for 14 years,” she says. “But, then when you go and work in the real world, you learn very quickly that often what you thought is not practical … The whole idea that you could just tell some one how to eat and they’d do it … it’s not a lack of knowledge that leads someone to polish off a packet of chocolate biscuits after dinner … of course people need great info, they need accurate info, they need an idea around what’s the right thing to nourish their own body …but, they also need to understand what drives their behaviour…So my work brings together the biochemistry and the emotional [factors].”

While the cause of many weight and health problems are often biochemical and emotional, she says that stress compounds both. For when we are stressed emotionally for an extended period, our biochemistry changes and cortisol kicks in.

“Cortisol traditionally kicked in when we had to deal with chronic stress – famine, wars and floods,” Weaver explains. “When there was no food, it slowed the metabolism down. It thinks it’s doing the body a big favour.”

“But if cortisol tells every cell of your body that food is scarce, and your metabolism slows down as a result, and you continue to eat and exercise in the same way you always have, your clothes will slowly get tighter. It doesn’t matter how amazingly you eat … it is very difficult, if not impossible, to decrease body fat until the cortisol issue is resolved.”

This can help to explain why intense exercise and curbing calories can be counter-productive in times of stress and why weight-loss doesn’t just come down to the calories we consume.

It is also the reason that Weaver believes we need to bring the body back into balance first by addressing our stress issues before our weight issues. “Most people believe that in order to become healthy, they must lose some weight. I believe the opposite is true; in order to lose weight, we must become healthy,” she says.

“Once the body is better balanced and healthier, body fat is readily burnt.”

Weaver’s tips for bringing the body back into biochemical balance:

  • Eat real, whole food. “Amp up your greens.”
  • Invest in your adrenal glands (yoga, tai chi, meditation etcetera).
  • If you can’t get away from your desk, schedule a reminder on your computer to stop and take 20 long, slow breaths into the diaphram.
  • Be honest about how caffeine and alcohol are affecting you. “We know in ourselves [whether we're consuming too much].”
  • Schedule downtime. “Rest and recreation, are as important as work.”
  • Don’t compromise your sleep.
  • Take time just being grateful “[Many people] are losing the ablity to see how privileged they are.”
  • Start to understand what drives your behaviour. “[For many, food is their] pleasure [but, they are eating to] avoid feeling emotional pain.”

 

Potato and Quinoa Gnocchi with Tomato and Herb Sauce

Yesterday I resorted to making a batch of fresh Gnocchi to try and coax more enthusiasm at dinner time from my two year old.  Gnocchi, I must confess I find incredibly moreish and essential comfort food for winter.  Needless to say, I will always try and improve on the nutritional value of a traditional recipe and with this one I added in some Quinoa Flour.

The quantities below are only a guide, you may need to use your own judgement to determine if the consistency of the dough is correct. Variations in the potatoes used and the size of the egg will produce differing results.

Ingredients
For the Gnocchi
2 Medium Sized Sebago Potatoes
3/4 Cup Quinoa Flour
1 1/2 Cup Plain Flour
1 1/2 Cup Fresh Parmesan Cheese (finely grated)
1 Egg
1 Tsp Olive Oil
Pinch of Salt

For the Tomato and Herb Sauce
7 Very Ripe Roma Tomatoes
1/2 Cup Tomato Passata
1/2 Cup of Water
2 Cloves of Garlic
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley and Basil
Pinch of Salt

Method

Wash, Peel and cut the Potatoes into quarters, add them to a saucepan of boiling water and bring to the boil, allow to simmer for approx 45 minutes or until well cooked.
Remove the potatoes from the stove, drain the water and set the potatoes aside to cool.
When the potatoes have cooled,  put them through a potato press or use a hand masher to  mash them to a fine lump free consistency.
In a bowl, combine the potatoes, flour, quinoa flour, parmesan, egg, olive oil and salt and work into a dough.
Your dough should be firm and workable without being sticky to touch, but not  tough, aim for a similar consistency to fresh pasta dough. If your dough is too wet add in a bit of extra flour.
Cut your dough into 8-10 even pieces. Roll each piece of dough out into a long sausage and cut into 1 inch pieces.

Place the Roma tomatoes into a saucepan of water. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes or until the skin on the tomatoes starts to split.
Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and set the tomatoes aside to cool to the point where they are easy to handle.
Peel the skin off the tomatoes, chop them into pieces and set aside.
In a deep frying pan pour in the olive oil and add the garlic. Fry the garlic gently until it starts to turn slightly golden, add back the tomatoes and use a fork to break up the tomatoes.
Allow to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, then add the passata, water, fresh herbs and salt. allow to simmer for a further 10 minutes.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, and drop in the gnocchi carefully a few at a time. When they start rising to the top of the water this is an indication that they are cooked.
Gently remove the gnocchi with a sieved serving spoon and place into serving plates. Add the tomato and herb sauce on top and sprinkle with extra parmesan to serve.

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing Feel Good Market

Over the past couple of months I have been busy trying to find ways of adding more diet and nutrition content, products and information on Feel Good Basket. After much searching I found a way to achieve this. I am now very excited to share with you Feel Good Market which provides a wealth of free information, articles, videos, downloads as well as a store where you will find a wide range of books and supplements for sale.

You will find the Feel Good Market tab at the top of the page beside the Home tab. Please have a browse around and enjoy all the new diet and nutrition content.

Winter Immunity Boosters

On the train this morning on my way into work I was surrounded by people coughing.  Fingers crossed I have not picked up any bugs. Winter is nearly here and so is the cold and flu season. For everyone who finds themselves falling apart in winter and susceptible to colds and flu’s I have listed some natural immune boosting and cold and flu fighting agents. Try some of the options below to boost your immunity and improve your resilience against the many strains of cold and flu viruses which are on their way.

1. Oil of Wild Oregano
Oil of Wild Oregano has exceptional broad spectrum antibiotic properties. The oil contains chemicals with potent antiseptics, antioxidants, antiseptic, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and anesthetic properties. Oil of Wild Oregano is also an exceptional immune system booster. It is many times stronger than Echinacea or Goldenseal and a couple of drops daily are enough to supercharge your immune system.
2. Garlic
The Allicin compound in Garlic has antibacterial, antibiotic, and antifungal properties. Garlic has been shown to help prevent and treat the common cold.
3. Echinacea
Echinacea contains active substances that enhance the activity of the immune system, relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and have hormonal, antiviral, and antioxidant effects. It is believed to assist with making you feel better faster. By taking Echinacea as soon as you feel sick you are likely to reduce the severity of the cold and have fewer symptoms.
4. Olive Leaf extract
Olive leaf is naturally rich in selenium, zinc, iron, vitamin C and betacarotene which are important for maintaining a healthy immune system. Olive leaf contains a broad spectrum of strong antioxidants that may contribute to a healthy heart and benefit the immune system.
5. Vitamin D
Vitamin D, as well as being vital for strengthening bones seems to play a key role in supporting the body’s immune system and aiding against respiratory infections such as colds and flu’s. During the winter months if you are not getting a daily dose of natural sunshine consider taking a Vitamin D supplement.
6. Lemons
Lemons are high in vitamin C. One lemon contains between 50% to 80% of an adults daily Vitamin C requirements. High doses of vitamin C have been shown to shorten the recovery time from a cold. Try hot water with lemon to assist with relieving cold symptoms such as runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chilliness and tiredness.
7. Ginger
Ginger increases circulation and brings warmth to the body.  It has also been found to be beneficial in fighting the common cold. Ginger can assist with loosening and expelling phlegm from the lungs which makes it suitable as treatment for respiratory ailments including asthma, allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, acute and chronic bronchitis where accumulated phlegm or mucous is the irritating factor.
8. Chicken Soup
Sipping hot chicken soup has been proven useful at clearing up congestion. It is believed that chicken soup reduces symptoms of upper respiratory infections by reducing inflammation. It also assists the immune system by making the white blood cells released to attack viral infections and leading to swelling and excessive mucus production less likely to congregate in the bronchial tubes. Chicken soup contains a compound called cysteine, an amino acid released from chicken during cooking which chemically resembles the drug acetylcysteine, which is used for respiratory problems.
9. Coconut Oil
Coconut Oil is rich in lauric acid. When present in the body, lauric acid is converted to monolaurin which has antiviral, antimicrobial, antiprotozoal and antifungal properties. It acts by disrupting the lipid membranes in cold and flu viruses causing them to perish.
10. Mushrooms
Medicinal mushrooms such as maitake, reishi, coriolus, agaracus, and shiitakere well known for their medicinal and immune supporting properties. These mushrooms contain powerful compounds called beta-glucans, which are proven to help activate the immune system.

11. Berries
Blueberries, raspberries, goji berries, and acai berries all contain high levels of antioxidants which protect against free radicals and sickness. These berries also contain essential vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber essential for overall health.

 

Cholesterol ‘good’ and ‘not so bad’

Dr. Ron Rosedale, M.D writing for Prevent Disease.com tell us that our prior concerns regarding cholesterol may be misguided.

“Perhaps one of the biggest health myths propagated in western culture and certainly in the United States, is the correlation between elevated cholesterol and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Unfortunately, despite dozens of studies, cholesterol has not been shown to actually cause CVD. To the contrary, cholesterol is vital to our survival, and trying to artificially lower it can have detrimental effects, particularly as we age.

Cholesterol seems to be one of those things that strikes fear into the hearts of many, so to speak. We have become obsessed with eating foods low in cholesterol and fat. Ask almost anyone, and they can tell you their cholesterol levels.

Rosedale, founder of The Rosedale Center, co-founder of the Colorado Center for Metabolic Medicine (Boulder, CO USA) and founder of the Carolina Center of Metabolic Medicine, goes further to dispel the myth regarding “good” and “bad” cholesterol.

“Cholesterol is needed to make hormones. Without it we would not produce estrogen, progesterone or testosterone. It is vital for the functioning of nerve synapses and provides the structural integrity for our cell membranes. Cholesterol is used by the skin to help prevent water evaporation and to make our skin waterproof. Vitamin D is synthesized from cholesterol. And bile, used for fat digestion, consists mostly of cholesterol. The liver produces about 90 percent of the cholesterol in our bodies; only 10 percent comes from diet. If we eat too much cholesterol, the liver decreases the output of cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a naturally occurring lipid. This means it is a type of fat or oil and it is in fact an essential component in creating and sustaining the membranes of the cells of all bodily tissues. So this alone means we need cholesterol to survive! Most of the cholesterol that is found in our bodies is actually naturally manufactured within our own cells. However there is also an additional contribution that we get from external ‘nutritional’ sources – the foods we consume. In a typical diet providing around 400mg of cholesterol per day from food sources, about half to two-thirds of this amount is actually absorbed through the process of digestion. The body will normally secrete about a gram (1000mg) of cholesterol per day into the bile via the ducts, and approximately three-fifths of this is then re-absorbed.

Where our tissues or organs are a particularly dense complex of cells, which have closely packed cell membranes, there will naturally be higher levels of cholesterol. The key organs that need, and contain, these higher amounts of cholesterol include the liver, the brain and the spinal cord – none of which would work well if we reduced cholesterol too much!

In effect cholesterol plays an essential role in the development and maintenance of healthy cell walls. It is also a critical factor in the synthesizing of steroid hormones, which are a key factor in our natural physical development.

Being a lipid, cholesterol is fat-soluble, but it is not soluble in blood. However it needs to be transported around the body to the places where it can be utilized. This is why, in order to be moved around, it must become ‘associated’ with certain lipoproteins which feature a water-soluble (therefore ‘blood transportable’) coat of proteins. There are two key types of lipoproteins that transport cholesterol around the body: low-density and high-density variants. The essential cellular function of cholesterol requires that sufficient amounts are manufactured by specialized sub-systems (or organelles) within the body’s cells called the endoplasmic reticulum. Alternatively, the cholesterol we need must be derived from our diet. During the process of ‘digestion and assimilation’ of foods, it is the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) that carries dietary cholesterol from the liver to various parts of the body.

When there is sufficient cholesterol for cellular needs, the other key transport mechanism in this amazing ‘logistics system’ – high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – can take cholesterol back to the liver from where any unnecessary excess can be processed for excretion.

The ‘noddy-science’ of the so-called ‘functional food’ manufacturers would have us believe that there is such a thing as ‘bad’ cholesterol and ‘good’ cholesterol. This is, in fact, totally untrue. The cholesterol itself, whether being transported by LDL or HDL, is exactly the same. Cholesterol is simply a necessary ingredient that is required to be regularly delivered around the body for the efficient healthy development, maintenance and functioning of our cells. The difference is in the ‘transporters’ (the lipoproteins HDL and LDL) and both types are essential for the human body’s delivery logistics to work effectively.

Problems can occur, however, when the LDL particles are both small and their carrying capacity outweighs the transportation potential of available HDL. This can lead to more cholesterol being ‘delivered’ around the body with lower resources for returning excess capacity to the liver.

LDL can vary in its structure and occur in particles of varying size. It is the smaller LDL particle sizes that can easily become ‘trapped’ in the arteries by proteoglycans, which is, itself, a kind of ‘filler’ found between the cells in all animal and human bodies. This can then cause the cholesterol the LDL carries to contribute to the formation of fatty deposits called ‘plaques’ (a process known as atherogenesis). As these deposits build up, they restrict the arteries’ width and flexibility. This causes an increase in blood pressure and can also lead to other cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks or strokes.

The LDL itself is consequently sometimes referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’, but you can now appreciate the fact that this is simply incorrect. In fact LDL, HDL and cholesterol are all essential to our health. However, it seems that it has become common for humans to have a preponderance of ‘unhealthily’ small LDL particles, which can become a precursor to heart and arterial disease due to the mechanisms described. It is apparently healthier to have a smaller number of larger LDL particles carrying the same quantity of cholesterol than a large number of small LDL particles might transport, but for some reason this is less common. This is an interesting area that demands more research.

When LDL becomes retained by the glycol-proteins in the arteries it is subject to being oxidized by ‘free radicals’. This is when the process can become health threatening. It has therefore been suggested that increasing the amount of antioxidants in our diet might effectively ‘mop up’ free radicals, and consequently reduce this harmful oxidation. Although the idea of consuming foods rich in antioxidants, or even using supplements, is now widely promoted, the scientific evidence for their efficacy still remains to be fully established.”

Read the full article here http://preventdisease.com/home/tips87.shtml
Dr. Ron Rosedale On The Facts About Cholesterol

Low energy indicators of Adrenal Fatigue

Paul Fassa over at Natural News.com has published an insightful article on identifying Adrenal fatigue. When I read through the list of symptoms I immediately recognised that these symptoms are quite common to a number of people close to me.

“Some call it the 21rst Century Stress Syndrome. Most of us know that we are living with more toxic levels of day to day stress than ever before.

The adrenal glands come in pairs, with each one located above each kidney. They are involved with producing and distributing 50 hormones. When kicked in by the sympathetic nervous system’s “fight or flight” stimulus, the adrenal glands crank up the cortisol.

Even low level chronic stress creates higher cortisol levels that make it difficult to really relax while messing up one’s sleep cycles and digestion. It also produces symptoms similar to hypothyroidism.

Ten obvious adrenal fatigue symptoms

(1) Fatigue is a given. It can manifest as very slow to awaken fully after a good night’s sleep or chronic.
(2) Low sex drive or sexual energy.
(3) Strong cravings for sugar, salt, and fats.
(4) Dizzy or light headed while getting up quickly from sitting or prone positions.
(5) PMS or menopausal symptom increase.
(6) Mood swings that were uncharacteristic earlier in life.
(7) Mental fogginess with memory issues.
(8) Hormonal imbalance and/or depletion.
(9) Constant muscular tension leading to hypertension and high blood pressure. Inability to relax completely.
(10) Autoimmune issues: constantly catching colds or allergic reactions.

There are a few more, however these are the most salient and common symptoms to alert you to the possibility of adrenal fatigue, which is an actual condition that affects many….”

Read more of the article here for suggestions on reversing adrenal fatigue. http://www.naturalnews.com/035356_adrenal_fatigue_low_energy_solutions.html

 

Teaching Fat Cells to Burn Calories

The Science Daily recently published a very interesting article titled ‘Teaching Fat Cells to Burn Calories: New Target Against Obesity Involves Brown Fat‘.

The article discusses how the body’s own fat cells can be converted from the calorie-storing cells to calorie-burning cells.

A protein called PRDM16 commonly found in mice and humans has been found to transform white fat cells to brown fat cells. The interaction of a class of drug known as PPAR-gamma ligands commonly given to people with diabetes with the PRDM16 protein has been shown capable of increasing the body’s brown fat cell content.

The discovery makes PRRM16 and compounds that promote the action of this protein the target for future research in to obesity management.

You can read the full article from the link below:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120307184658.htm

Rhubarb Recipe – Rhubarb, Orange and Ginger Compote

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

Rhubarb is one of the few things I enjoy about the colder months of the year. The healthy Rhubarb, Orange and Ginger Compote recipe below is very easy and quick to make and can be used either as a dessert or as I do for breakfast with yogurt and LSA mixture.

The edible part of the rhubarb plant is the stem, the leaves must not be used as they contain oxalic acid which will cause poisoning if ingested.

The rhubarb plant has a number of health benefits. It is a rich source of vitamin C and potassium and a good source of dietary fibre which is essential for good digestion and regular bowl function. Rhubarb contains antioxidants called catechins, also found in green tea. Researcher from the American Society of Nutrition have shown catechins aid the body’s ability to burn fat by speeding up the metabolism. Studies at the the U.S. Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, at the University of Alberta, Edmonton have found rhubarb is effective at lowering  the low-density lipoprotein in bad cholesterol. According to research at Sheffield Hallam University Rhubarb also contains polyphenols which have anti-cancer properties.

Ingredients
1 bunch of rhubarb trimmed and chopped into 5cm pieces
1/4 cup of water
zest and juice from 1 orange
1 tsp orange blossom water
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup dark brown sugar

Method
Place the rhubarb in a large saucepan  and add the water.
Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes until it starts to soften.
Add in the ginger, orange zest, orange juice, sugar and cinnamon and allow to simmer for a further 5-10 minutes or until the rhubarb has softened entirely.
Remove from the heat and stir in the orange blossom water for extra fragrance.
Serve hot with natural yogurt and sprinkled with ground LSA (Linseed, Soy, Almond) mixture on top.

Best Health, Diet and Fitness Blogs

The blogs below are my personal favourites and have been selected for the quality of the content they offer. These blogs are not ranked in any particular order, they are all top blogs in their own right and offer valuable information on health, fitness, diet and nutrition.

http://www.greatist.com – All about getting fitter, happier and healthier.

http://zentofitness.com/all-posts – Nutrition, Training and Fitness.

http://fatburningtips4women.com – Women’s Fitness and Strength Training.

http://fitnessista.com – Women’s Fitness, Style and Food. Has some great suggestions for working out at home.

http://www.wellandgoodnyc.com – Advice on health, fitness, diet and lifestyle.

http://tarastileseats.tumblr.com – Healthy recipes and yoga

http://fitisthenewbeautiful.tumblr.com – Inspirational health and fitness photos and snippets of wisdom.

http://healthyisalwaysbetter.tumblr.com – Reflections and personal journey on running, getting fit and healthy.

http://www.pure2raw.com – Gluten free recipes, fitness advice and general advice on healthy living.

http://www.livestrong.com – Health and fitness information for Men and Women. Partner of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

http://www.marksdailyapple.com – Information on losing weight, gaining muscle and increasing energy levels.

http://www.fitnesshealthzone.com – Information on Fitness, Diet and Supplements.

http://www.energiseforlife.com – A complete guide to alkalising your diet and getting more energy.

http://www.sproutedkitchen.com – Delicious wholefood recipes and inspirational photography.

http://www.nourishingmeals.com – Information on Gluten sensitivity and Celiac disease as well as gluten-free whole food recipes.

http://wholefoodcooking.blogspot.com.au – Fantastic Wholefood Recipes.

www.superfoods-for-superhealth.com – Information on superfoods and recipes.

http://www.organicauthority.com – Extensive information on organic food & lifestyle and great recipes.

http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com – Official whole foods market blog with great information on products, where to buy, and recipes.

www.slowagingblog.com – Advice and information on slowing the aging process.

http://www.seaweedbathblog.com – Healthy Skin Psoriasis & Eczema.

http://www.globalhealingcenter.com – Advice and information on organic health, natural lifestyle, supplements, skin care, organic living and health foods.

http://www.jonbarron.org – Advice and information on organic health, natural lifestyle, supplements, skin care, organic living and health foods.

http://naturalhealthezine.com – Useful and informative articles on natural health matters.

http://kombuchadiva.blogspot.com.au – Excellent information and advice on nutritional, herbal and energy therapies.

http://www.drweilblog.com – Advice on achieving optimal health through the principles of integrative medicine.

http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project – Great advice on achieving happiness which is essential for emotional and psychological health.

http://zenhabits.net – Health & fitness, motivation and inspiration, Simplicity, frugality, family life and happiness.

Minestrone with Barley and Italian Sausage

Minestrone is one of the most well known  and loved Italian soups of all time. This soup uses a large number of seasonal vegetables, making it a great way of including a wide range of vegetables into your meal all at once.

I have added Barley for its low GI and Italian Sausage which makes this version virtually a meal on its own.

 

 

Ingredients
2tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic sliced
4 bay leaves
1 Bouquet Garni
150g pancetta diced
2 Italian Sausages
6 Roma Tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded and chopped
100 grams barley (soaked in boiling water for 2 hours)
2 carrots peeled and diced
1 parsnip peeled and diced
2 celery stalks sliced
2 potatoes peeled and diced
2 litres chicken stock
100g green beans sliced into 1 cm lengths
2 zucchini diced
250g borlotti beans (soaked overnight)
150g silver beat or spinach leaves shredded
150g green peas frozen

Pre-Preparation
1. The night before, place the borlotti beans in a bowl and cover with water, allow to soak overnight.
2. 2 Hours before cooking, place the barley in a bowl and pour over enough boiling water to cover. Allow this to sit and stand for at least an 1.5 hours before starting on the soup to allow it to soften a little.
3. Peel and chop the onions, garlic and pancetta and set aside on a plate.
4.Peel, slice and dice as required the celery, carrot, parsnip and potatoes and set aside on a separate plate.
5. Place the Roma tomatoes in a saucepan of boiling water and blanche for 1-2 minutes or until the skin splits and the tomatoes have started to soften a little. Remove from heat, drain and allow to cool. Then gently peel the skin off, cut in half and remove the seeds. Chop tomatoes and set aside.
6. Grill the Italian sausage until lightly browned on all sides, allow to cool and then chop into 1cm pieces.

Method
1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy based large soup pot, add onion, garlic, pancetta and bay leaves and stir over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes or until onions are soft and starting to brown.
2. Drain and rinse the barley and borlotti beans and add to the pot. Then tip in the tomatoes, celery, carrot, parsnip, potatoes and stir to coat in oil. Allow to sauté gently for five minutes.
3. Then add 3 litres of stock (if using commercially bought liquid stock, use 11/2 litre stock with 11/2 litre water) and allow to simmer over a low to medium heat for 25 minutes.
4. Meanwhile you can use this time to wash slice and dice the zucchini, green beans and spinach.
5. Add in the sausage, zucchini and green beans and allow to cook for a further 10 minutes.
6. Add the spinach and frozen peas and cook for a further 4 minutes. If you are using fresh peas add these in with the zucchini and green beans as they will require extra cooking time.
7. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese and some crusty bread on the side.