What’s the first ingredient I look for in recipes to support my mid-life body, heart and mind?
This is not a time of life where we need to put ourselves under any additional pressure.
However, it is a time of life when we need to nourish ourselves really fully, in a variety of ways.
So what’s the second most important ingredient?
But nourishment isn’t just about nutrients, it’s about satisfaction and pleasure. So guess what’s the next most important, or possibly equally important ingredient?
These two recipes fulfil all those priorities for me. They may not be quite so perfect for you. But that’s the whole point! These are foods that I pretty much made up as I stood in my kitchen thinking “what would make my body, my taste-buds and my brain feel satisfied by today?”
Why my brain?
Because we need to know stuff so we know how to mind our changing bodies. So we do the learning: which foods do I need more of in perimenopause and beyond? Which foods may be unhelpful for my symptoms and health?
Why taste buds?
Because in perimenopause and beyond we can find ourselves in a less-than-comfortable relationship with our changing selves: that may be weight changes, changes of mood, changes of mobility, changes in energy etc. Sometimes our own body becomes the enemy and we may start to fight ourselves every step of the way, and lose any pleasure in being, well… us. So, if we can honour our taste buds (“what would bring me pleasure?”) we start to see that we are worth a bit of pleasure, and that pleasure is available in all sorts of places.
Once we start to feel more pleasure, we start to notice more and more places, even subtle ones, where pleasure is available. And if you’ve attended any of my workshops, or done my Teacher Training, you’ll have learnt that pleasure is not just an indulgence, it’s also medicinal in very scientific ways.
Why my body?
In perimenopause especially, our body can become much more sensitised to stimuli around us: some women develop allergies, some find that certain foods trigger hot flushes like an “on” button, some find certain foods and drinks disturb their sleep hugely, some find that a violent movie, or some bad news on the radio can unsettle them and even enter their dreams more than such things used to.
So, we start to feel the reactions in our bodies to certain things, and we may listen to our body and avoid these stimuli. We may also begin to notice what makes our body feel better: what helps my energy, what helps my bowels, what helps my mood? Etc.
Putting the science, the knowledge and the tips in place, we can begin to move towards attuned eating which empowers us to make our own choices from an informed standpoint. In my workshops with Petra Fulham (Nutritional Therapist and Bachelor of Food Science) we offer the facts. We give an achievable view of what bits of us need more care than before, how to create those supports, and then we help you find your way through. As Petra suggests, we offer you tools that are achievable and sustainable so that you can be flexible around your choices to find something that works for you.
This blog would be nothing without the years I have spent working with my friend, teacher and colleague, Petra Fulham. She has helped me learn what the background essentials are, how to increase variety and pleasure, and how to prioritise getting enough nourishment for my changing body. She is an inspirational, pragmatic, wise and knowledgeable professional and a super human!
Oat and Stuff Bread
Great if you are trying to reduce your refined carbohydrates, increase your protein and add more nuts, seeds and fibre to your diet.
This bread shouldn’t really have a name! I took a recipe Petra gave me where Oats and Yogurt were the 2 basic ingredients (also some salt and bicarb) and I adapted it. But I continue to adapt! My latest one worked great for me, in terms of texture, flavour and nourishment, without it being as crumbly as my usual Oat and Almond version.
Why this preamble? To suggest to you that you can tweak it to include your favourite ingredients, and to remove what you don’t like. Why not change it every time, and increase your plant-food variety?
You can use gluten free oats if you like. You could use a non-dairy yogurt, but add a good squeeze of lemon to activate the bicarb.
- One 500ml pot Natural Yogurt
- One yogurt pot porridge oats
- One Yogurt pot of a combination of:
- Ground almonds
- Psyllium husks
- Lightly ground seeds of your choice:
- sunflower etc
- 1 teaspoon of Bicarbonate of soda
- Half a teaspoon of salt
Grease and base line a loaf tin
Heat the oven to 170 degrees C (fan assisted)
Pour the pot of Yogurt into a medium mixing bowl
Refill that pot with porridge oats (I aim for organic, but whatever is available)
Add the oats to the bowl
Refill the pot with a combination of the other ingredients you are choosing. I find that about a quarter of the pot filled with each ingredient works well. For example
- one quarter psyllium husks
- One quarter ground almonds
- One quarter each of the two other seeds*
(Or half ground almonds, and the rest a combination. Pinhead oatmeal works too, or more oats if you want to leave out psyllium or seeds. Even just the whole loaf half oats, half almonds is a simple, possible more kid-friendly alternative.)
Add your bicarb and salt.
Give the dry ingredients a little light mix to disperse the salt and bicarb before bringing the whole thing together.
The mixture shouldn’t be runny, but it should be moist all through. If you’re using psyllium, or ground chia, you may need to add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water to loosen the mixture.
Transfer to the tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 50-55 mins. If the top is browning too soon, put a little blanket of foil on top!
To check if it’s done, turn it out and ensure the underside is golden and springs back when you squeeze it.
It won’t have the same hollow sound as other breads if you tap it, but it should be getting there.
If I’m concerned it might be a bit underdone on the bottom, I take off the baking paper and pop it back in the oven for 5-8 more mins.
*If you like a more cakey texture, or you don’t like/have any seeds, use more ground almonds. If you’re moving from a low to high-fibre diet, go easy on the psyllium husks until you see how you get on. The second pot can have some oats in too, especially if you don’t have the stabiliser of the psyllium husks.
It keeps well in the freezer if you slice it first. It toasts quite well form frozen, but one slice won’t take long to thaw.
I like mine for breakfast, toasted, with nut butter and some stewed apple and cinnamon, for lunch with lazy scrambled eggs and a colourful salad with rich olive or rapeseed oil and vinegar dressing, or as a balanced snack with a smear of jam or honey and a cup of tea,
What’s in the Fridge Miso Soup
Variety is so important for our whole body, especially our magic gut! We should aim to eat 30 different plant foods per week. But that doesn’t have to be in massive quantities. A spoonful of spice in a stew can be one of those 30. With this soup, you can add a little bit of pretty much anything!
I was advised to add more fermented foods into my diet. Miso is one of them, and also has phytoestrogens. So I bought a pack of miso, made some of Petra Fulham‘s Miso caramels once, and then I left it in the fridge and never touched it again!
BUT! There are some yummy instant miso soups out there. You can buy them in a box of 4 or so, and the cheapest ones are… not cheap. They work out at more than a Euro per sachet.
BUT! If I can make myself a tasty soup that’s ready in about 10 minutes instead of yet another boring lunch of houmous and celery sticks, and given that I spend zero Euro on alcohol any more, I feel it’s an investment worth making.
Ingredients for 1 person:
1 sachet of instant miso soup
Some oil (olive, coconut, ghee)
Open your fridge.
See what’s there!
A typical example for me might be:
- Leftover chicken
- Tofu chopped
- Quarter of a tin of any type of beans (pre-cooked)
- Small tin mackerel fillet
- A small stick of celery
- Half a small red onion or 2 spring onions
- A chunk of red pepper
- 2 mushrooms
- A quarter of a courgette
- Maybe some rocket leaves or kale or other leafy green
- A small handful of herbs if there’s any
- A clove of garlic
- A small bit of ginger (about the size of half my thumbnail)
- Leftover brown rice
- Instant noodle
- Slice of toast on the side
The key is to pop in as much variety as possible, without adding things that a) you don’t like, or b) take very long to cook to a palatable level.
Chop all the vegetables pretty small, julienne-style, or thin slices.
Take a medium saucepan and put on a medium heat
Add a tablespoon of the oil of your choice.
Add the veg that tend to take longest to cook (like celery, onion, ginger, garlic in the case above).
Let them sautee for about 3 mins.
Add the next selection of veg (the mushrooms, spring onions, courgette and peppers here perhaps)
Sautee for another 2 mins
Sprinkle in the sachet of instant miso soup
Pour on just boiled water to just cover the veg.
Add your protein, already cooked carbohydrate and/or green leaves and herbs if using.
Bring back to a simmer and let it cook for 3 minutes, or until everything is heated through
Pour into your favourite bowl.
Garnish with some seaweed and roughly ground seeds if you like and… enjoy!
If you would like to learn more about how to nourish yourself and your changing body, get in touch with me. I offer private sessions, classes, workshops and teacher training in Yoga for the Stages of Menopause.