Sunday, 24 February 2008

Wet, wet, wet

As anticipated the mixture was too damp. The pancake idea worked well, we had it with soup for lunch, but the bread was too puddingy. However I have a few new ideas for the next iteration and will report back when I have perfected the recipe. Umm - vegetable pudding anyone? It's yummy - no honest, it is - (sigh).

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Alien Bread

This is my first experiment in making something vaguely like bread but with a better nutritional profile. So far the ingredients include wholemeal flour, grated courgettes (zucchini), skim milk powder and V8 vegetable juice. I’m using the dough-only cycle in my bread machine to mix it up. At the time of writing it has another 30 minutes to go and I have something that looks like off-green slurry. My other half says it reminds him of something out of Quatermass and the Pit. I am still wondering how to cook it and am toying with the idea of pouring the sludge into a pan and baking it on a very low temperature with foil on top so it doesn’t brown. On the other hand it does remind me of some of those fermented batters used for Asian flatbread and pancakes, so I could try some of it in a covered pan on the stove where it will steam. Wish me luck. If I write no more, the evil green-flecked slime will have got me.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

There was an old woman who

I was reminded the other day of a song that used to amuse me when I was a child – There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly – sung by Burl Ives. It ends up with her swallowing a horse with fatal consequences. I was thinking about this recently because I ate a whole cabbage. Now it wasn’t a real big huge cabbage but it was a cabbage, and I shredded it up and braised it in vegetable broth with mushrooms and garlic and ginger. I didn’t start with the intention of eating the whole thing but it was so delicious, and I loved the way the fine shreds wound around my fork like pasta. Amazing how, when you don’t add sugar to things their lovely natural sweetness comes through.

So I could do a variant of the old song.

‘There was a small woman who swallowed a cabbage.

She doesn’t eat garbage

She just swallowed a cabbage’

And the song ends

‘There was a small woman who just ate one course.

She’s CRON, of course’

Obviously a project to work on in my spare moments!

And now I’m off to bathe my face to stop me from blushing red ‘cos April says I’m cute!

Monday, 18 February 2008


Funny how this CRON business grows on you. Following my New Year resolution to monitor my nutrition better and identify the foods that work best for me, my meals, at least the ones I make for myself alone, have become odder but I have been getting to really like them. I call them my freaky-deaky CRON meals. Even the ones I make for myself and the other half are good healthful CR friendly meals but they look more normal! Yesterday, as I went to work with my boxed salad, tuna, almonds, yogurt and blueberries, I was thinking only of the meal I was going to cook that evening. Lots of steamed kale as a base – then lots of pumpkin on top – what next? One the way home I mentally added cherry tomatoes, and by the time I thought of hot sauce I was drooling with anticipation. Not hunger – anticipation of the delight that was to come. At home, a quick rummage in the vegetable drawer produced an organic leek, and that went into the tower too. Dessert was my fortified skim milk yogurt and strawberries.

I know a lot of people in the CR society don’t approve of juicing or smoothies, on the grounds that whole fruit and veg are better and I do understand this point of view, but for those of us with little tums, especially if gas is an issue, vegetable smoothies, as Kay rightly pointed out, are a good way of adding nutrients without exploding. My liquidiser is currently on the blink and needs replacing, but in the meantime I am glugging V8 vegetable juice which has an impressive nutrient profile and really helps me get my minerals and vits from food rather than rely on supplements.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Egg whites

I have just spotted - and forgive me if I am giving old news - that the website gives details of where to get their product in the UK and also some tips on using it, including how to hardboil in the microwave. Not that I am recommending anyone to make the meringues . . . .

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Against the grain

After a lot more work with CRON-o-Meter I can see why little people are often advised not to eat grains. If you are a big person on 1800-2000 calories a day you can fit in some wholegrains pretty easily, but on 1200 calories a day there isn’t really much room for something that doesn’t provide serious nutrition, and grains, as are legumes, are pretty borderline. Yes they do provide some decent values of vitamins and minerals but not in the starry, ‘every calorie works hard for you’ way that vegetables do. Everything you can get from grains and legumes you can get from other stuff in better amounts per calorie. That doesn’t mean I am going to avoid them completely. As long as the overall daily nutrition is good, I can fit in a small amount of oats with other things for breakfast, some beans as part of a main dish, or the occasional half slice of wholewheat bread, though I wouldn’t do all of those things on the same day! I make my own bread and am experimenting with ways of fortifying it to give it more oomph nutritionally.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Cottage industry

I had always imagined cottage cheese to be a good source of calcium, as is skim milk, but when I checked this on CRON-o-meter I found this wasn’t the case, so I did some checking. Apparently hard cheeses such as cheddar which are coagulated with an enzyme retain the calcium in the curd, whereas cottage cheese which is coagulated by a different process does so to a lesser extent. Also, as Sara rightly pointed out it is high in salt. So 120 calories worth of cottage cheese, or 167g (10% of my daily calories) provides only 8% of my RDA of calcium and a massive 52% of my sodium whereas the same calorie value of cheddar gives me 18% of my calcium and only 14% sodium plus 12% zinc. Of course most of the cottage cheese calories are protein, (20g per 120 cals) whereas the cheddar is mainly saturated fat and the cottage cheese is a better source of some B vitamins, but all the same it wouldn’t do to rely on it for calcium. I have experimented with the idea of fortifying the cottage cheese. 10g skim milk powder, (this can be whizzed in a food mill to make it finer) can be stirred into a 250g carton of cottage cheese making what I call ‘fortified cottage cheese’. 120 calories worth of this – 145g – gives 13% of my daily calcium, but still 44% sodium. The powder thickens the cottage cheese – no very bad thing, and of course the end product tastes milkier which may not suit everyone. But I am thinking of abandoning the whole cottage cheese thing for a better prospect – drained yogurt.

I make my own fortified low fat yogurt with a product called Easiyo, which is amazingly easy to do. I use their probiotic low fat mix (it’s 98% skim milk solids, plus lecithin and cultures) and add 25g skim milk powder to bump up the protein and calcium. I prefer a thick yogurt so instead of making it up to 1 litre with water I make it up to 900ml, but that’s just my personal taste. I have inputted the recipe into CRON-o-meter, using the detailed vitamin and mineral values for skim milk since the pack only gives basic nutritional data. 120 calories worth of this yogurt gives a fantastic 36% of my calcium RDA, 12% of my zinc, 85% of my B12, 12g protein, and hardly any sodium. If I drain some of it in a sieve for a few hours I get a soft spreadable cheese. I also incorporate the yogurt into frozen desserts. This is still possible without an ice cream maker – just whiz up the yogurt with some frozen berry fruits such as raspberries and serve at once. Mmm – mmm!

Saturday, 2 February 2008


First the good news – it is possible to get all your RDAs of nutrients on 1200 calories a day. The not quite so good news is that it takes a lot of effort. First of all it involves eating very large amounts of vegetables, which for little people with little tums can be a bit of a strain, and then of course it is not just any old veg. The only way of achieving this is to concentrate on those foods which supply particularly high values of a wide range of nutrients, particularly the ones in which it is easy to be deficient. Forget about eating one foodstuff per nutrient, you will end up eating 2000 calories a day like – er – oh yes, like the CRd menfolk. In the last few weeks I have in such spare moments as I have, painstakingly been creating a chart of star foods, based not on values per 100g or per cup or per tablespoon, but per 120 calories worth. It is only by comparing them with a fixed percentage of my daily intake that I can really judge how hard they are working for me. I have also been looking at how available the nutrients are, since I did remember – and then checked up – that not all the huge amounts of iron and calcium in spinach are actually absorbable, though it does provide lots of other good stuff. In practice I am finding that I need to concentrate only on those nutrients in which there is any danger of being deficient if I take my eye off the ball. These are for me – potassium, zinc and Vitamin E. Once I have those locked down, I tend to find that I have made my RDAs of all the others. I also like to ensure that I have good values of calcium, and protein. The chart is far from finished, and I am sure there are many very wonderful foods which don’t yet appear as I haven’t checked them out yet. However, these are my preliminary results. The top star foods to date are Swiss chard, spinach, red peppers, lettuce, broccoli, butternut squash, courgettes, pak-choi, Chinese leaves, mushrooms, cauliflower, asparagus, kale, Brussels sprouts, cucumber, celery and low fat milk products, (but cottage cheese doesn’t make the grade on the calcium front). For additional top quality protein I add eggwhites, chicken and fish, especially salmon. Now I am not advocating that anyone should confine their intake solely to these starry foods- rather that by allocating a lot of your calories to these, the other good but less starry foods will easily provide the rest of what you need, and you will still be able to get some variety into your diet.

The whole thing is much easier if you are cooking only for yourself or your best beloved is also CRd, but if not, as is my case, I have to balance the freaky CR meals I do on those occasions when I do cook for just me, with the less freaky but still very healthy meals I do when the other half and I dine together.

Lots of other veg are also very good - this means in my book that they provide between 10 and 19% of nutrients per 120 calories. The best fruits so far are kiwi strawberries and melon. However it is interesting that 120 calories worth of dried apricots (not something usually thought of as CR friendly) provides really useful amounts of potassium iron and Vitamin E. I don’t see why they can’t be used soaked overnight to add bulk, and they have the advantage over fresh of being available all year round. OK I’m off to make lunch now, which will be a big plateful of steamed asparagus, mushrooms and Chinese leaves topped with an eggwhite and skim milk omelette, and some organic tomato chilli sauce. (Yep, my poor darling has had to work today)