Italian Soda Bread

ITS SUNNY….. and this means picnics! Do you know what picnics mean? Tear-off sharing bread – so here is an easy recipe for summery Italian soda bread – no time for prooving needed! Super quick, easy and healthy!

Makes 8 triangles.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 450g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 50g oil
  • 225ml milk
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp yoghurt
  • 4-5 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 125g low-fat mozzarella, chopped
  • 2 tbsp dried basil or a few sprigs of fresh basil, chopped

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180/4
  2. Mix the self-raising flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Make a deep well.
  4. Add the pepper, then yoghurt, then oil to the well. Then slowly pour in 3/4 of the milk.FullSizeRender 3.jpg
  5. Combine the ingredients from the outside in – bring the flour mix round the inside into the wet ingredients with clean hands.FullSizeRender 2.jpg
  6. Add any extra necessary milk until you have a firm dough.
  7. Add the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil and combine with the dough in a kneading-line action (there is no actual need for kneading in this dough, it is just an easy way to combine the ingredients).IMG_2290.jpg
  8. Form into a ball in a floured surface and place on a floured baking tray.
  9. Cut 4-6 long deep slits in the dough – these should be 3/4 deep, so nearly cutting the dough in half.IMG_2293.jpg
  10. Bake for 30-35minutes.
  11. Enjoy!

NUTRITION

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One serving = one triangle.

Beef-ey Poached Eggs

Yummy yummy yummy… a twist on a shaklaka (of which I will be making soon…) and can be eaten for breakfast, tea or dinner!

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

  • 250g 5% fat minced beef
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 140g frozen peas

METHOD:

  1. Saute the onions for 3-4minutes on a medium heat until soft.
  2. Add the mince beef and turn to a high heat to brown. Then reduce the heat and cook for a further 5minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and mix for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the canned tomatoes and peas, and mix.
  5. Crack the eggs on top of the beef, cover and cook for 4minutes or until the eggs are cooked as wanted.
  6. Enjoy!

NUTRITION:

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Beef – High in protein and low in fat, when the lean version is bought. It is also high in vitamin B3, B6 and B12 for energy release in respiration, and iron for protein and neurotransmitter synthesis and immune function.

Eggs –  Eggs are the most useful protein source as they provide essential amino acids (the building molecules of protein), which are also absorbed most efficiently by the body.

Tomatoes – massively high in vitamin C for protein and neurotransmitter synthesis; it also has functions in detoxification and as an antioxidant. It also gives you vitamin A for vision and immune function, and potassium for fluid balance and muscle contraction.

Peas – providing potassium, vitamin B6 for energy and dietary fibre for bowel moment.

Homemade muesli

BREAKFAST TIME: This recipe can easily be adapted to suit your preferences – whether you are an early riser or need a boost to get you going in the morning.

Makes 28 bowls of muesli (60g per serving).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1kg porridge oats
  • 250g dried fruit and nut mix
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 250g tropical mix
  • 100g flax seeds

METHOD:

  1. Empty 1/2- 3/4 of the porridge oats into a large saucepan on a medium heat.
  2. Keep moving the oats to toast them until they are a golden colour.
  3. Add the toasted oats, the rest of the other oats, and all other ingredients to a large bowl and mix.
  4. Serve with cold milk or low-fat greek yoghurt.
  5. Enjoy!

NUTRITION:

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Oats – A good source of carbohydrate which will keep you going for ages! And high in fibre for digestion and the B vitamins for energy release.

Dried fruit – Depending on what dried fruit you pick, the nutrients will vary however without a doubt it will be high in vitamins and minerals.

Nuts – Another source of fibre, and high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (good) fats, and vitamin E and selenium for immune and antioxidant function.

 

Barcelona: my small but mighty culinary experience

If anyone follows my instagram (if you don’t – go give it a follow ;-)) they will know that I recently went on holiday to Barcelona.

This was VERY exciting.

Not only did I enjoy the many attractions that the city offers, I also indulged in both the healthy (and the occasional unhealthy) food.

So here is my small but MIGHTY experience of Barcelona’s food (and its nutritional value):

PAELLA

Now then, I cannot start a guide on Spanish food without starting with the ultimate fishy dish…

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We were so excited about experiencing this delicacy that we splashed out a little, going to Xiringuito Escriba on Bogatell beach. We had done a full day of beach activities, and with the restaurant being conveniently placed on the beachside, and the raving reviews from the locals, it was a no-brainer on which paella place to choose. We were not disappointed.

Although the restaurant is known for its speciality ‘sea and mountain’ paella (with chicken, ribs, Norway lobster, mussels, cuttlefish, vegetables & mushrooms) which sounded AMAZING, we opted for the special fish paella. For 21 euros a head, we received a generous amount each of sticky aromatic rice and perfectly cooked fish (in shell and out). At the bottom, the rice had toasted to the pan which gave the dish texture and a crisp flavour, which cannot be praised enough – I have discovered now this layer is called socarrat and is essential to a perfect Spanish paella.

We also, to get the full authentic Catalonian eatery experience, bought red wine Sangria to complement this dish. And boy it did! I had actually never had Sangria before as I am not a big drinker, however, in moderation this fruity flavoursome drink was refreshing and, as my mum would say, just what the doctor ordered.

Nutritionally, fish paella is pretty healthy! The rice forms a good carbohydrate base for any future activities you may be partaking in when in the beautiful Valencian capital, and the fish provides a useful protein source without being high in fat – in fact, with most fish paella, the large remainder of the fat will be from the oil that it is cooked in (which generally isn’t that much, especially if you are wanting to recreate this at home). If mixed or meat paellas are chosen, the fat and calorie content may be slightly larger however as long as it is eaten in moderation, it is also a good choice compared to some other restaurant options. The main concern with paella will be salt and calorie content of the dish – it will be high, especially if eaten out. However you just need to be aware of this and make sure that, if you are going to indulge in this delicacy, it is of a normal portion size and paired with low-salt food options for the rest of the day.

To see another review of Xiringuito Escriba, look no further than this one on the Culture Trip that I found: Restaurant Of The Week: Xiringuito Escribà – Culture Trip

MARKETPLACE DELICACIES: LA BOQUERIA

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La Boqueria is the largest and most well known marketplace in Barcelona – so of course we had to visit it! As we walked in, the first thing I noticed is that it is HUGE. So huge that I am surprised we didn’t get lost. The stalls within are arranged in aisle-fashion, with no particular order to them, which I quite enjoyed. They also offer pretty much everything.

The fruits and vegetable stalls were definitely the most abundant, with the produce coming in all shapes and sizes. This was a refreshing concept, with not just La Boqueria but the whole city embracing the uniqueness of their fruit and vegetables, and not just selling the ‘perfect’ products and chucking those that don’t conform away like most of the UKs supermarkets. The fruits were also offered in refreshing smoothie form, so you can get your 5-a-day in whilst cooling down from the Catalonian heat.

There was also meat and fish stands offering pretty much every protein source that you could think of if you are wanting to eat in but still experience the food that Barcelona offers. As Barcelona is a costal city, the array of fish that was offered was impressive (as was the smell…). The cured meat stalls were also remarkable, with large Jamon Iberico – the back leg of an Iberian pig – on display around every corner. They also offered cones of cured meat and cheeses, as shown in the picture above, which are perfect as a light snack and providing protein and calcium!

TAPAS

I didn’t manage to take a picture of the tapas that we ate (sorry!), mainly because we were so hungry it was pretty much gone as soon as it arrived.

We went to Tapa Tapa, a chain tapas restaurant which did not disappoint. There was so much choice… so we ordered a rather large amount of food…

This included: mussels in white wine, shellfish and avocado salad, Spanish omelette, cured meat platter… and quite a few more!

And the thing about tapas is that it is really easy to be healthy! When selecting the tapas, I would think about a few things. What will the food be cooked in? Excess oil or butter will rank up the calories and fat content. Is the food naturally high in fat? Meats and cheeses tend to tick this box, so if opting for these options, make sure they are consumed in moderation. Is the food high in salt? Again, some meats and fish are naturally high in salt, so be careful to avoid this option if needed. There are plenty of salad or potato-based options in the menu, so think about looking for those compared to the fried options.

We didn’t manage to go to this restaurant, however we were recommended Elisabets in El Raval for good tapas – with Bombas, a specific tapa on their menu being highlighted. Check out their website here: EN

EATING IN: CLAM AND CHORIZO LINGUINE

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We actually only ate out a few times in Barcelona, but we still wanted to experience the food, so I whipped up this quick but delicious dish from the food traditional to the city.

Find the recipe here: clam-chorizo-linguine

ICE CREAM

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You cannot go on holiday without enjoying the occasional ice cream, and that is exactly what we did! There are plenty of gelato bars dotted around the city, with Gelaaati di Marco being one of our favourites, with it offering vegan and low-sugar ice cream, as well as sorbet and frozen yoghurt, and some pretty cool flavour combinations (the hazelnut, chocolate and citrus fruit one was INCREDIBLE).

To pick the most healthy option for you, here is a short guide:

Lower-calorie – sorbets are a good option as they don’t contain any fat, however if you are wanting something creamier, choosing the plainer, less chocolatey options may be a good idea. Pick a tub rather than a cone to prevent any extra calories to be added!

Lower-fat – again, sorbets are the best option but frozen yoghurts if offered may also be good.

Lower-sugar – sugar is hard to avoid when eating ice cream, so it may be best to ask the waiter which options that they have.

OR, just enjoy the odd scoop of ice cream – in moderation it is actually quite good for you, providing calcium and protein.

I hope that this has been useful for you! Please leave any questions that you may have about Barcelona below and I would be happy to answer! I cannot stress how beautiful the city is and, if you ever have the opportunity to go, how you should try to experience as much of it as you can.

 

 

Easy Mediterranean-Style Chicken

Protein-packed, 3 of your 5-a-day, and perfect paired with crusty bread or sticky rice!

Serves 3

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 chicken thighs and 4 chicken drumsticks
  • 2 courgettes, chopped
  • 1 vine of tomatoes
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 1/2 bulb garlic
  • 1 tbsp mixed herbs
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Seasoning

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220/8
  2. Mix the vegetables with most of the oil, mixed herbs and seasoning in a baking pan.
  3. Rub the chicken with the remaining oil and herbs, season.
  4. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables.
  5. Bake for 40minutes – the vegetables may need tossing halfway through.

NUTRITION:

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Chicken – a good source of protein which is high in the vitamins thiamin, riboflavin and niacin for energy production; and zinc for enzyme function, immune control and protein synthesis.

Courgette – High in vitamin A for vision, fibre for digestion, and magnesium for chemical reactions in the body and immune function.

Tomatoes – massively high in vitamin C for protein and neurotransmitter synthesis; it also has functions in detoxification and as an antioxidant. It also gives you vitamin A for vision and immune function, and potassium for fluid balance and muscle contraction.

 

6 Tips on Protein Intake for Athletes: Clearing Up the Confusion

Protein intake is important to build and repair muscle – and ultimately aids an improvement in sporting performance. However, as I am sure many of you athletes have found, the information out there on how protein can be consumed effectively is pretty confusing. So, here are 6 tips to consider with regards to your protein consumption:

  1. Consumption before sessions: if protein is eaten before a short session (less than 1 hour), this will help muscle synthesis after the session.

The protein consumed before a session may contribute to increasing the amino acid pool for muscle synthesis after the session, as the digestion time for the proteins will release the amino acids in the body post-session[1].

If the training session is longer than an hour, protein ingested is more likely to be used as a fuel rather than for muscle synthesis. 

  1. Consumption during sessions: in endurance sessions, muscle breakdown without synthesis will be limited if protein is consumed during continuous exercise (above 1.5hrs). With regards to resistance sessions, protein synthesis may be aided by protein eaten during the session (if longer than 2 hours).

Endurance athletes training for longer periods of time – 1.5+ hours – may benefit from protein consumption to limit amino acids from being used as a fuel[2]. It is debated as to whether this protein enhances synthesis4, or just maintains protein balance[3], but it is clear that this consumption doesn’t cause a negative protein balance and may prime the amino acid pool for post-exercise muscle synthesis.

In reference to resistance exercise (comprising of reps and sets) the rest periods may be used for muscle synthesis in sessions lasting longer than 2 hours[4]. If the sessions are shorter, there is limited opportunity for skeletal muscle remodelling as it usually occurs in the hours after the session, not in the minutes between reps.

  1. Consumption after sessions: if athletes are training every day, they should focus more on regular protein consumption rather than an increase in intake ONLY after a session.

Recent research suggests that protein ingestion directly after exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis for up to 4 hours after the session[5]. However, most sources suggest that consumption up to 24 hours after a session can contribute to synthesis[6].

  1. Amount and timing of consumption: for optimal consumption, 0.25g/kg body weight every 3 hours is most effective in allowing muscle synthesis[7]. Athletes training in the evening may consider increasing this to 0.5g/kg of body weight in pre-bedtime snacks due to the protein deficiency occurring in the night[8].

THERE IS NO POINT IN EATING LARGE AMOUNTS OF PROTEIN ALL AT ONCE… in fact new research says that eating more than 20g of protein at once (for an 80kg person) results in the amino acids being used as a fuel rather than contributing to muscle synthesis[9]

So, optimal doses should be at around 0.25g/kg of body weight to stimulate muscle synthesis and induce a positive protein balance. Intakes of 10-16g (lower) can also stimulate synthesis even though body protein balance is negative[10].

General daily requirements for athletes differ from regular individuals who want to offset deficiency. General requirements are around 0.8kg/kg body weight/day[11]– it is important to ignore this figure as athletes consume protein to better performance rather than to stop deficiency.

  1. Type of protein to consume: both wholefood and isolated protein options aid muscle synthesis, however isolated sources may be best to consume post-session for athletes wanting to make muscle gains. Good wholefood options include eggs, milk, beef, fish, soy and beans; and the best isolated protein options are leucine-rich, including whey for initial muscle synthesis and casein for prolonged synthesis.

The best protein sources are impacted by two things:

  • Good amino acid composition – this can be worked out by looking at the biological valueof proteins (the higher the BV, the better the amino acid composition).
    • Egg has the highest BV of any wholefood, with most animal proteins like beef, milk and fish following suit[12].
    • Vegetarian options like soy protein and beans are also high12.
  • High rate of digestion – as this means the amino acids appear in the blood faster.
    • Casein has the slowest digestibility and is found in soy proteins. Animal products however have high digestibility [12].

Sources with both a high biological value and high rate of digestion increase muscle synthesis post-exercise[13].

Mixed protein sources vs isolated protein sources:

Mixed protein sources consist of wholefoods (not supplements) and they have a different amino acid composition compared to isolated sources[14]. THIS IS NOT A BAD THING… wholefoods still cause a positive protein balance. Actually, it has been found that milk, or sources containing large amounts of dairy (high in whey and casein protein), enhance protein synthesis and improve lean body mass10.

However, it is recommended that athletes wanting to initiate rapid post-exercise muscle synthesis should consume leucine-rich rapidly digested isolated protein[15].

  1. MOST IMPORTANTLY… how does this help you?

As an athlete wanting to maintain muscle mass – eating protein regularly whilst making sure that the calories you eat equal the calories that you burn will ensure that protein synthesis and breakdown is equal… it will reduce chance of injury and helps to make your body leaner and stronger.

As an athlete wanting to increase muscle mass – eating protein regularly whilst making sure that the calories you eat exceed the calories that you burn will ensure that protein synthesis is larger than breakdown… it means that the weight that you put on will most likely be muscle, making you fitter, stronger and faster.

Read more on why athletes need protein in one of my previous posts:

https://cookandcontemplate.com/2018/06/17/the-science-why-do-athletes-need-protein/

I hope that this post has been useful… please comment your thoughts and questions underneath and I will try to get back to you!

Continue reading 6 Tips on Protein Intake for Athletes: Clearing Up the Confusion

The science – why do athletes need protein?

Dietary protein provides amino acids, which are components of muscle. The specific muscles that ingested protein progresses are:

  • Contractile – cause muscle contractionsby converting chemical energy to mechanical work.
  • Structural proteins – provide support for muscles to move bone levers and therefore limbs.
  • Regulatory enzymes – to speed up reactions, specifically metabolism of dietary macronutrients to convert them to energy accessible for the body.

As you can see from their functions, strengthening and building these muscles will improve performance.

To maintain muscle mass, its breakdown and synthesis must be balanced.

To gain muscle, its synthesis must be larger than its breakdown – resulting in a positive protein balance[1].

Different muscle masses are gained in different proportions depending on the type of training that is done:

  • Endurance training –
    • Gains mitochondrial mass– increases mitochondria which converts unusable energy to useable energy when oxygen is present.
  • Resistance training –
    • Gains myofibrillar mass– enhances strength and lean body mass.

Both of these types of training increase protein synthesis AND breakdown after exercise; however, to make muscle, amino acids must be present. Without a large pool of amino acids, muscle breakdown occurs without synthesis[2]. Amino acids are ingested from dietary proteins.

Continue reading The science – why do athletes need protein?

Prawn Pesto Pasta

Tasty, tasty, tasty… and providing a whopping 3 OF YOUR 5 A DAY, a solid 32 grams of protein, and plenty of vitamins and minerals to improve your health.

Serves 1

INGREDIENTS:

  • 75g wholewheat spaghetti
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 5 spears of asparagus
  • 70g frozen peas
  • 1 tbsp basil pesto
  • 2 tbsp fat-free creme fraiche
  • 60g king prawns
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp olive oil

METHOD:

  1. Boil water in a pan and add the pasta, set a timer for 10 minutes – with 4 minutes to go, you will need to add the asparagus tips and the frozen peas.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pan, add the tomatoes and prawns (you can use either cooked or raw prawns – if cooking from raw just make sure they are pink all the way through when fully cooked) and heat for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic to the prawn pan and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. Drain the pasta, asparagus and peas.
  5. Arrange the asparagus on a plate.
  6. Mix in the pesto and creme fraiche into the pasta and peas, and serve on the asparagus. Top with the garlic prawns and tomatoes.
  7. Enjoy!

NUTRITION:

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Prawns – high in protein for muscle repair and growth, and low in fat.

Wholewheat pasta – high in starchy carbs for energy which will keep you going, and fibre to improve digestion.

Asparagus – high in vitamin A for vision, vitamin B6 for energy release, and folate for DNA synthesis.

Tomatoes – massively high in vitamin C for protein and neurotransmitter synthesis; it also has functions in detoxification and as an antioxidant. It also gives you vitamin A for vision and immune function, and potassium for fluid balance and muscle contraction.

Peas – providing potassium, vitamin B6 for energy and dietary fibre for bowel moment.

Creme Fraiche – no fat (as fat-free version is bought), and high in calcium for bone strength.

 

Super FLUFFY Omelette

Lazy mornings are times of chilled out breakfasts… enjoy with this fluffy omelette and a cup of coffee to keep you fuller for longer.

Serves 1

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1tsp olive oil

METHOD:

  1. Separate the egg yolks and egg whites.
  2. Use a fork to whisk the egg yolks until combined.
  3. Using an electronic whisk, or a hand whisk, stir the egg whites until peaks have formed (like you are making meringue).
  4. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan (with a lid).
  5. Fold in the egg yolks to the whisked whites.
  6. Add the mixture to the hot pan, reduce the heat to low-medium, and cover for 10minutes until crispy at the bottom and hot all the way through.
  7. Serve and season (add any fillers if needed).
  8. Enjoy!

NUTRITION:

Eggs – Eggs are the most useful protein source as they provide essential amino acids (the building molecules of protein), which are also absorbed most efficiently by the body.

Clam Chorizo Linguine

Spanish food fever has hit; being in Barcelona inspired this meat and fish combo. Easy to make but super impressive.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

  • 300g clams, washed (tap on hard surface before cooking, if they remain un-open they are safe to eat)
  • 70g chorizo, chopped
  • 4 sprigs parsley, chopped
  • 150g dried linguine
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 glass rosé wine

METHOD

  1. Boil the pasta in a pot of salted water for 1minute less than the packet states.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan on a medium-high heat.
  3. Add the chorizo and cook for 3minutes until slightly crispy.
  4. Add the parsley, clams and red wine, stir once, and then cover and simmer for 3-4minutes – the clams are cooked when they ping open.
  5. Uncover, mix in the linguine, and simmer for a further 1 minute so it can absorb all the juices.
  6. Season and serve.
  7. Enjoy!

NUTRITION:

Clams – high in protein, low in calorie, and high in the B vitamins for energy release, iron for protein and neurotransmitter synthesis, and magnesium for nerve function

Chorizo – Although relatively high in fat and salt, this meat is good for adding texture and flavour to meals.

Pasta – High in carbohydrates for a filling base, and high in fibre if a wholewheat spaghetti is picked.