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Panic Attacks – Tip – Square Breathing

Why do we have panic attacks and how can we help to control them?

I know I usually write about food but this has come up in my family life and also heard about a few people suffering panic attacks so I thought I would love to give everyone a super simple way to deal with these horrible events. They really are events, because after you have had one you can be left completely exhausted, mentally and physically drained and worst of all for me was the knowledge that I might suffer these for a long time. However, “square breathing” is something I had to learn and want to share with you.

To give a little bit of background as to why this information was shared with me, I had to spend some time in a psychiatric hospital and I was assigned a relaxation therapist for a few weeks after I was discharged. She taught me this and when I had to take it to the real world, I must admit it worked for me.

So before I get into the thing that “worked for me” I did a wee bit of research because that’s how I roll and I was absolutely aware that my experience of a panic attack may differ from everyone else.

Signs of panic attack

Some of the signs you are having a panic attack (btw, everyone is different) you may get all or just a few. Sudden intense anxiety, shaking, crying, feeling disorientated, rapid and irregular heartbeats, dry mouth, breathlessness, sweating, dizziness, chills, hot flashes, tightness in the throat, sense of impending doom or danger, fear of loss or control or even fear of death. .

Are panic and anxiety attacks the same?

This part of my research was actually a learning curve for me because I have always assumed a panic attack and an anxiety attack is the same thing. They aren’t and here is the difference and I absolutely wish I had known this years ago. An anxiety attack is a response to a perceived threat , like you saw an abusive ex or something, you already know the danger, your body responds with anxiety. The difference with a panic attack is it seems to come from nowhere, u don’t see the danger, you just cannot shake this.

Triggers for panic attacks

So triggers for a panic attack are things like over breathing (I researched this because I have never heard this term) so hyperventilation, when you breathe too quickly and you are not getting enough oxygen to the brain, hence the dizziness. Long periods of stress, physical changes after illness, change of environment and lets not forget our main ones, trauma, whatever kind – whether the death of  a loved one to….actually I wont even go there because I guess if you are reading this you know what has made u traumatized. But please be aware and hopeful because life after trauma and panic attacks doesn’t need to be terrifying. Feeling afraid after trauma is absolutely normal and panic attacks can happen when something or someone reminds you of the trauma. Like I said before though, your body is reacting and it is scary.

Square breathing

Here is one of my ways to deal with panic attacks, sorry for boring you with the research but I have never claimed to not be a research nerd.

Find something with 4 corners, anything, it could be a bus when you are waiting at a station, your tv when you feel overwhelmed, anything with 4 corners. What I love about this technique is that we generally all have phones so we are looking at something with 4 corners, or a tv, whatever it is, just find something you can count to 4 with. So focus on the top left hand corner and breathe in all the way along to the top right hand corner, then breathe out to the bottom right hand corner, them breathe back up to the beginning corner and repeat as long as you need.

Don’t even worry about how long it takes for you to get there either, people who think you can keep breathing out for longer than you have breath are not getting the point, your breathing will naturally slow down because your mind isn’t focused on panic. “Square breathing.” Genuinely hope this helps at least one person. Stay safe everyone

Why do we have panic attacks and how can we help to control them?

I know I usually write about food but this has come up in my family life and also heard about a few people suffering panic attacks so I thought I would love to give everyone a super simple way to deal with these horrible events. They really are events, because after you have had one you can be left completely exhausted, mentally and physically drained and worst of all for me was the knowledge that I might suffer these for a long time. However, “square breathing” is something I had to learn and want to share with you.

To give a little bit of background as to why this information was shared with me, I had to spend some time in a psychiatric hospital and I was assigned a relaxation therapist for a few weeks after I was discharged. She taught me this and when I had to take it to the real world, I must admit it worked for me.

So before I get into the thing that “worked for me” I did a wee bit of research because that’s how I roll and I was absolutely aware that my experience of a panic attack may differ from everyone else.

Signs of panic attack

Some of the signs you are having a panic attack (btw, everyone is different) you may get all or just a few. Sudden intense anxiety, shaking, crying, feeling disorientated, rapid and irregular heartbeats, dry mouth, breathlessness, sweating, dizziness, chills, hot flashes, tightness in the throat, sense of impending doom or danger, fear of loss or control or even fear of death. .

Are panic and anxiety attacks the same?

This part of my research was actually a learning curve for me because I have always assumed a panic attack and an anxiety attack is the same thing. They aren’t and here is the difference and I absolutely wish I had known this years ago. An anxiety attack is a response to a perceived threat , like you saw an abusive ex or something, you already know the danger, your body responds with anxiety. The difference with a panic attack is it seems to come from nowhere, u don’t see the danger, you just cannot shake this.

Triggers for panic attacks

So triggers for a panic attack are things like over breathing (I researched this because I have never heard this term) so hyperventilation, when you breathe too quickly and you are not getting enough oxygen to the brain, hence the dizziness. Long periods of stress, physical changes after illness, change of environment and lets not forget our main ones, trauma, whatever kind – whether the death of  a loved one to….actually I wont even go there because I guess if you are reading this you know what has made u traumatized. But please be aware and hopeful because life after trauma and panic attacks doesn’t need to be terrifying. Feeling afraid after trauma is absolutely normal and panic attacks can happen when something or someone reminds you of the trauma. Like I said before though, your body is reacting and it is scary.

Square breathing

Here is one of my ways to deal with panic attacks, sorry for boring you with the research but I have never claimed to not be a research nerd.

Find something with 4 corners, anything, it could be a bus when you are waiting at a station, your tv when you feel overwhelmed, anything with 4 corners. What I love about this technique is that we generally all have phones so we are looking at something with 4 corners, or a tv, whatever it is, just find something you can count to 4 with. So focus on the top left hand corner and breathe in all the way along to the top right hand corner, then breathe out to the bottom right hand corner, them breathe back up to the beginning corner and repeat as long as you need.

Don’t even worry about how long it takes for you to get there either, people who think you can keep breathing out for longer than you have breath are not getting the point, your breathing will naturally slow down because your mind isn’t focused on panic. “Square breathing.” Genuinely hope this helps at least one person. Stay safe everyone


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Food Waste, Guilt and Mental Health

Hi guys, it’s our final day of healthy eating week and today we are going to take a look at food waste. We are now realising that in a lot of areas we need to start to reduce our waste and food is no exception. So as I have done all this week I will give a few suggestions to how we can reduce food waste and then I will go on to how food waste affects our mental health. I must admit I found researching this the most interesting.

I am a huge fan of reducing food waste, I waste very little but we are all different and what is most important is that everyone takes a look at what they can do individually to suit their own lifestyle and circumstances. So as I’ve done before I’m just going to write a little bullet point list with some ideas for you to try or not to try – its up to you.


● Avoid bulk buying
● Store food properly
● Use leftovers
● Create a meal schedule
● Preserve your food
● Buy the ugly fruit and veg
● Understand food labelling
● Make sure fridge is the right temperature
● Make shopping lists
● Freeze leftovers
● Measure your portions
● Freeze acceptable dairy products
● Freeze acceptable fruit and veg
● Use stale bread as breadcrumbs
● Make stock or broth out of older veg, this can be frozen
● Pack a lunch, it could be last night’s leftovers
● Log your food waste to see where changes need to be made


I’m sure there are more ways that you can reduce food waste but this was just a basic list I compiled to give you some ideas. Now, my favourite part, how does this affect our mental health?


I found this part of my research interesting because a lot of the psychology around food waste is related to guilt. Guilt leads to shame and neither are good for our mental health. A lot of people worry that if they were to waste too much food they would be characterised as lazy, excessive or greedy and careless. There is also guilt that if we do not always have access to food for our family or loved ones that we may seem like we do not care about them enough, so we buy more than we need, but then have to waste it. I cannot count the amount of times I’ve heard someone
say it’s better to have too much than too little.


Financial worries also come into play. Especially in today’s climate. Fuel prices are so high and everything else is going up in price so we feel a need to bulk buy and make the trip worth it so to write a list of what we need for the week or month makes money sense. Also keep a list of the
things that you regularly throw away and make a note to buy less to waste life. In a world that feels like it’s out of control, this one little step could really help our mental health, because we are taking control of the things we can.


My last point to make about food waste is that we need to look at our history. For years waste and wealth have been symbiotic. If you could afford to throw away food you were rich and the poor had to beg for scraps. Even until recently some people would never wear clothes that were handed down or from a charity shop, because we didn’t want to be viewed as poor. Thankfully now things are changing and we are starting to see that we can at least make a start to reducing the waste in our lives, not only for the planet but our own mental health as well because remember, you matter. Stay safe everyone. Been great doing all this research and sharing what I have found with you. M

ManyThanks again to our resident foodie – M.

Get Creative with Protein

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Ah Wednesday, we are halfway through the week. Today’s topic is protein and how we can get creative with it. So as usual, I will start with a quick explanation of what protein is, probably a few ideas on how to use it differently but then we will have a closer look at why it is so important for our mental health.


I remember 20 years ago, I was just a young girl in high school with no major health problems to deal with. I remember all the cool older boys with their big muscles all talking about how much protein they had to bulk up and thinking, I will never need to know about that. How wrong I was, I personally feel

weak when I don’t have enough protein.

So what is protein?

The most basic way to explain protein is that it’s the building blocks of our body. Protein helps to build and repair the body’s tissues. We need protein to repair cells but also to make new ones. Protein is very important for growth and development in children, teens and pregnant women. We often think of proteins as meat mainly, and eggs and dairy products. Lean meat is the best so we are not having too much fat in our diets so I thought since meat is pretty self explanatory I’d give a selection, a very small one because I don’t want this to be too long, of different proteins. Some of these I knew and others I had no idea they were protein rich. So I am just going to rattle off a little list of plant based sources of protein that you may or may not have heard of.


● Almonds
● Lentils
● Peanuts and peanut butter
● Quinoa
● Pumpkin seeds
● Tofu
● Pinto beans
● Chickpeas
● Green peas
● Wild rice
● Pistachios
● Chia seeds
● Sweetcorn
● Potatoes
● Asparagus
● Broccoli
● Avocado
● Brussel sprouts


I was amazed about the brussel sprouts, amazed and over the moon, I love them.

So why is having protein so good for our mental health?

A lack of protein means that your body can’t make the required amount of neurotransmitters required. This changes how the brain works. With low levels of dopamine and serotonin we can feel depressed and even aggressive. Protein packed foods can also help us to avoid sugary processed foods because we feel fuller. Lack of a sufficient amount of protein can cause mood changes, hair skin and nail problems, weakness and fatigue, slow healing injuries and slow recovery when ill. It can also make us feel really hungry. I know from personal experience that if I’m low on protein I will snack because I don’t feel satisfied, which then leads me to put on weight , which then affects my depression more, and it goes round in a vicious circle until I can get back on my feet with the healthier eating I do actually enjoy.


I will leave you with this last thought for the day which I found fascinating. 330 billion calls are made/born each day. That takes a good amount of protein. There are 86 billions cells in the human brain, all of which need help to repair. So if we are not looking after these cells by giving them the energy they need, how will we ever feel good mentally?


Tomorrow I will be talking about hydration and how important it is for our mental health. I hope a few of these pieces over the last few days have helped even a little. We can’t change everything overnight but every journey starts with one step. Stay safe. M.

Three cheers for our resident foodie volunteer. x

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Put Plenty on your Plate – Get at least 5 a day!!

Welcome back to healthy eating week, where today I’d like to discuss how getting our 5 a day can really help our mental health. There are days that even as a vegetable fiend I just don’t get my 5 a day. I do try but sometimes it’s an impossibility. As I said yesterday if there are medical conditions that make this impossible for you, consult your doctor about safer ways to include more fruit and veg.

What is a portion? An adult sized portion should be about 80 grams of fresh, frozen or canned or 30g of dried fruits. 150ml of fruit or vegetable juice or a smoothie is also a portion, but do tryto limit these to 150ml per day. There are some simple ways to add more fruit and veg to your diet. You can add extra fruit and veg to the things you already know and love. Add extra vegetables to pasta sauces, pizzas, soups, sandwiches etc.

Clear out the junk food.

Even those of us with the best intentions could be sidetracked to a chocolate biscuit instead of a fresh apple. If it’s not in the house, it ain’t there to tempt you. Even just replacing one snack a day for an extra portion of fruit or veg is a great first step. Vegetable sticks with a dip is a great option if you are not too keen on fruit. A hummus or a salsa is a great way to be adding more fibre as we went into yesterday.

Why Beneficial to Mental Health?

So now to the point, why is this so beneficial to our mental health? Let’s see what I found. There are so many vitamins and minerals that would take me forever to explain them all and why they affect us, so I will only explain a few of the main ones that affect our mental health. I’ll also give a few examples of what vegetables have these specific vitamins and minerals.
Low levels of folate have been linked to depression. We can find folate of folic acid in leafy green veg, spinach, romaine lettuce, asparagus, broccoli.

Depression, tiredness, lethargy, insomnia – sound familiar?

When we don’t have enough vitamin B1 we have problems like memory loss, anxiety, depression, irritability and insomnia. Vitamin B1 is found in cauliflower, oranges, potatoes, asparagus and kale.
Vitamin B deficiency can show extreme tiredness, lack of energy, breathlessness, feeling faint, headaches, pale skin, palpitations. This is of course if it is an extreme deficiency. Foods that contain vitamin B are spinach, beetroot, potatoes, mushrooms, and alfalfa.
Not having enough vitamin D is linked to depression. Our bodies can produce it naturally by being in the sun, but we can also help our bodies out with things like oranges, mushrooms, spinach, kale and okra.
I have covered 4 but there are so many more to consider. This just gives a great example of how important what we eat really is. We need these vitamins and minerals and the fibre to keep us not only physically fitter but also mentally healthier. They help us by giving us more energy and help us think more clearly.


I hope you have enjoyed today’s short piece and look forward to discussing proteins tomorrow.
Take care

Families in Trauma and Recovery Volunteer – M


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Healthy Eating week – Monday – Focus on Fibre

Healthy Eating Week

Healthy Eating Week 13th June2022 – 17th June 2022


Happy Monday everyone, I hope this week finds you well. The British Nutrition Foundation are encouraging us this week to take a look at our diets. There will be a different topic for each day. This got me thinking, how does the food we eat affect us mentally? So along with a few little tips I’ve researched to help us eat healthier, stay hydrated and waste less I thought it would be good to look into a little bit more depth as to why it is so important for us physically and mentally. If anyone has medical problems that could prevent them following these guidelines, consult with a doctor first.

Today’s topic is Focus on fibre – for meals and snacks.


Fibre is such an important part of our diet. It helps to maintain our gut health, normalizes bowel movements, lowers bad cholesterol levels and many many more things. There are so many ways we can increase the amount of fibre we are having, and some are very simple swaps we
can make in daily life, for example using whole grain products like wholegrain breads and pastas. Snacks like vegetable sticks or a piece of fruit are great ways to increase our fibre. If the thought of giving up our normal snacks isn’t appealing to you, did you know that dark chocolate (70-85% cacao) has a high percentage of dietary fibre? Popcorn is also a good source of fibre as long as too much salt and sugar has been added to it. This was great news for me because while I really love vegetables, the thought of eating celery and carrots sticks for the rest of my snacking life did leave a lot to be desired.

The Happier the gut, the happier the mind.


So, with the basics covered, we know what it is and how to get more, but, why is it important for our mental health? I got out my trusty laptop and did some research so that you don’t need to. Studies suggest that a high fibre diet can potentially lower inflammation. With inflammation there is pain present. I’m sure we can agree that when in pain we are not really our happiest. So the result of the lower inflammation is that symptoms of depression were reduced. Another study I found noticed a significant reduction in anxiety and high psychological distress. The gut can send signals to our brain when it’s troubled. Who would have thought that fibre could be so important for our mind? Basically, the happier the gut, the happier the mind. I know this to be true from personal health issues.


I hope this short piece has helped a little. Stay tuned for tomorrow, I have some great info on why getting our 5 a day really helps our mental health. Stay safe everyone


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Warming, comforting, creamy potatoes.

Contributed by our volunteer resident foodie.

So this week I decided to write about rather underappreciated potatoes. I absolutely love a good potato. Cooked in the right way they don’t have to be the enemy either. They do contain sugars but did you know if you are dieting or trying to control your weight that the smaller ones contain less sugar? I found that interesting anyway. Right so a few health benefits for you all first. As much as I love talking about food, I also studied health and nutrition years ago and I love seeing what all of our amazing vegetables can do for our bodies.

*source of vitamin c (great in the winter where everyone and their granny is walking around with the sniffles) 

*good source of fibre which is good for the digestion

*they contain potassium which can help reduce blood pressure 

*contain b vitamins

*contains tryptophan which is an amino acid that can calm you down and help you sleep. As I wrote this I’m trying to justify a big bowl of chips with salt and vinegar for a midnight snack, dear lord

*They have no cholesterol in them so cooked properly can be good for the heart

*they include zinc, phosphorus and complex B vitamins that are good for neurological health

And finally…

*they are rich in calcium so good for your bone health. 

So now a few recipes.

Twice Baked Potatoes.

This is an absolute childhood favourite of mine and I forgot about them until recently. If you are dairy intolerant like me then you will know what substitutes work for you. You will need:

*potatoes, large enough to bake

*butter or spread

*a little milk

*your favourite melting cheese (like a cheddar, gruyere, parmesan if you feel fancy, brie, just anything you fancy, or whatever you have in the fridge ready) 

* spring onions or chives sliced finely

1. Simply bake your potatoes as you would normally and when soft and fluffy on the inside set aside to cool for a while until able to handle or if you are like me and impatient when you are hungry use a dish towel for stage two. 

2. Cut the potatoes in half and scopp out the middle into a bowl. Put in the butter, seasoning, cheese and spring pinions into the bowl as well and mash them all together. I just use a fork for this because I don’t want proper mashed potatoes inside but whatever you prefer is fine. If the mixture is a bit dry add a dash of milk into it. But do remember the cheese will melt so not too much milk.

3. Spoon the mixture back into the potato skins. Top them with extra cheese if you like. Pop them back into the oven until they are piping hot and bubbling and oozing with cheese and begging you to take them out the oven. (can anyone tell I really missed these potatoes?) serve as they are or with a side salad if you are feeling healthy. Although baked beans are a great comfort food option for this that are high in protein and fibre so not entirely bad for you. It’s November, sometimes comfort food is what you need. Your belly will thank you, and me!!!

Homemade Chips (Oven baked)

*potatoes such as king Edwards or maris pipers. Peel if you want to and chop into the size of chips you want to eat. 

*oil

*salt 

Now I know that seems really simple but it’s the cooking method that makes these so lovely. I have tried so many methods to get perfect chips that don’t stick to the oven tray and these are the best. 

1. Boil the kettle and place a pan on the hob with a little salt in it. Put the oil in a large oven tray and a place in a preheated oven. 

2. Place the potatoes into the boiling water and add the boiled water and rutern to the boil. For chunky chips let them boil for 3-4 mins but if you are doing skinny chips/fries, reduce this to about 2-2 and a half minutes. 

3. Drain the potatoes and spread out in an even layer on to either kitchen paper or a clean dish cloth. Let them steam until they are dry. This part is very important to get a golden crispy chip with a fluffy centre. 

4. Remove the tray with the heated oil and tip in the dried potatoes into it and mix thoroughly. I like to season them with a little salt now. 

*Please remember to tip these away from yourself because the oil should makes the chips sizzle as soon as they hit the pan. The oil can spit a bit and I can tell you from bitter experience that oil at that temperature splashing onto your eyelid at that temperature is not an enjoyable experience and you will probably look like you are winking at strangers for a few days while the burn heals.

5. Put the tray back in the oven for about 15-20 mins checking and turning half way through.

6. Serve with whatever you fancy. I’ve been known to just eat a bowl of these with ketchup but you could make your own chicken goujons with this. Gammon egg and chips, sausage and chips, burger and chips, anything you want to put with them. I love a homemade chilli with these chips and some cheese sprinkled over the top. Yummy. 

Potato and leek soup basic recipe

I’m going to write out my ingredients and the basic recipe I use that is totally dairy free but I will add some notes at the end for different ways to serve this. 

*floury potatoes like maris piper or kind Edward’s, peeled and cube

*veg or chicken srock

*onion, diced

*leeks, cut in half lengthways then rinsed thoroughly in case there is any dirt trapped between the leaves

1. Throw all the veg and stock into a large pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 mins until the potatoes are tender and the onions are cooked through. 

2. Check the seasoning. I love white pepper in this soup but if you prefer black then just use what you like. Ready to serve. 

OK so a few little tweaks for this basic recipe. 

1. If you don’t want large chunks in your soup but don’t want it totally smooth just use a potato masher and mash some of the potatoes up. You can choose exactly what texture you would like this way. 

2. If you want a completely smooth soup just use a hand blender or food processor and liquidise it until its as smooth as you like it. 

3. You can add some milk or cream through the soup for a richer taste.

4. If you opt for a completely smooth soup and you have friends over for lunch or dinner just swirl a little cream around the soup before serving, or some crunchy croutons or chives. Or all three if you fancy. This just makes a 4 ingredient basic soup that is stress free to cook look a little bit more fancy. They will never know you haven’t slaved over the cooker for hours.

5. This is a little summer twist I love. For this I don’t use the floury potatoes, I replace this with beautiful little baby potatoes and I don’t mash or blend them. You can still add a little cream or milk but this is such a lovely light summer soup, packed with veggies and the great thing is with the baby potatoes you don’t even need to peel them so it’s even quicker. 

My twist on a Spanish omelette 

So my food is generally very low fat unless I’m doing something fancy for other people but I do that rarely do that these days because I get food envy because I can’t eat it. I can taste it but not enjoy the whole meal. So these potatoes are not fried for 15-20 mins in the normal way a Spanish omelette would be. You can even use leftover cooked potatoes and only leave them in the oven until they crisp up and are golden. 

*either baby potatoes chopped into cubes or bigger potatoes peeled and chopped into cubes

*oil

*eggs

*milk (optional) 

*onions, thinly sliced

*herbs (optional) 

1. Preheat the oven and get a tray large enough to fit the potatoes in an even layer. 

2. Put the potatoes in the pan and drizzle with a little oil, you don’t need too much. Season the potatoes and if you want to add any dried herbs then do so, Ross it all around and make sure all the potatoes are evenly covered.

3. Roast in the oven for about 20 mins until they are tender in the centre and crispy on the outside. Turn half way through if you want but I generally just give them a little shake half way through to make sure they are not sticking. Don’t worry if they do stick, the crunchy bits are even more tasty. Take them out and set aside. 

4. Gently fry the sliced onions in a little oil, in a large frying pan, until soft but not coloured then add the potatoes in and mix it all together.

5. Whisk the eggs and add milk and seasoning if u wish. I use a splash of water to loosen up my eggs a little instead of milk. These eggs can really take a lot of pepper for my family but if you don’t want much just leave it out. Add the mixture to the potatoes and onions and mix everything together. I like to make it almost like scrambled egg then before its fully cooked through I will let it set. 

6. Make sure the potatoes and onions are evenly distributed then the end is totally up to you. 

 *if you want a slight crust on the bottom lower the heat and just leave it until the egg has set completely. 

 *if you would like to finish the top of this cooking quickly you can put it under a grill set at high. This will probably only take a couple of minutes 

 *if you want to let the eggs set in the residual heat of the pan just over the pan with either a lid, or some tin foil and a clean dish towel and turn the heat off and leave for about 10-15 mins. 

This dish is really nice right out the pan hot, warm or cold. 

I like to cook this the night before and leave in the fridge for a protein packed breakfast in a hurry. 

It’s also nice to do this and take for a lunch on the go or a picnic (in summer of course unless you like a November picnic.) 

It’s a nice light lunch or dinner served with a simple salad or try it as part of a tapas, finger food kind of dinner. You can add cheese, cooked meats, grilled artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, olives… I could go on but that with some crusty bread is a great little entertaining platter. Just open the fridge and see what you have available, it’s a very versatile little trick to have up your sleeve. Also very cost effective. 

So I hope that your November is going well so far and hopefully a few of these recipes will give you a little inspiration for another week. If anyone has any suggestions of things they would like to see in my blog please feel free to leave a comment and I will do what I can. As I’ve said before all of my recipes are mine and have been adapted for my dairy free and low fat health issues. But I really don’t mind throwing in some recipes I used to be able to eat, and totally loved. Stay safe everyone 


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Comforting foods for those shorter darker nights.

So on the cold November nights I’d like to focus on squashes and pumpkins. With Halloween being over I’m pretty sure all the pumpkins are being sold off much cheaper so I’ve come up with a few recipes that I really love. I do all my recipes dairy free so if you are like me you will know the dairy alternatives that agree with you and you can just substitute them in. I’ve also done these recipes vegetarian but I’ve added little notes where you can bring in some meat if you like meat and want a protein boost. But firstly I thought I’d do my usual and give you just some of the health benefits of these lovely veggies.

Autumn veg – photo M. Wright

They are high in vitamins A, B6 and C. 

They contain foliate which makes both red and white blood cells. Full of fibre. They contain magnesium which is an anti inflammatory and fights depression (great for the winter when it’s so dark), and they also contain roboflavin which is good for our energy supply so even better for the winter when we aren’t getting as much vitamin d from the sun. They contain phosphorus which filters out the waste in the kidneys and potassium to reduce blood pressure. And the last little nugget of information because I promise to keep these parts short, they contain manganese which is helpful for bone strength and it helps to process fat and carbohydrates. So that’s the health part out the way, let’s get on to the important stuff, the eating. 

Squash and rocket soup

*any yellow fleshed squash, pumpkins are great, peeled deseeded and chopped into cubes

*1or 2 cloves of garlic roughly chopped

*I large onion, peeled and chopped

*oil (butter for a creamier taste but its optional) 

*chicken or vegetable stock

*bag of rocket/baby spinach also works

1. Gently heat the oil (and butter if using) add the onions, squash and garlic and stir. Do not harshly fry. Do this for 5-10 mins ensuring nothing gets colour, we are just starting off the cooking process. If you are in a rush and want to skip this part that’s fine, it still works but this first stage really does give a better taste, I’ve tried both ways. 

2. Add chicken or veg stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer adn simmer stirring occasionally until the squash is tender. When it falls right off a knife when you Pierce the centre you will know its ready. Turn off the heat. 

3. Add a quarter to half of the bag of rocket or spinach. This will wilt naturally in the heat of the soup so there is no need to boil again. Now it seems like you are not putting much in right now but I added too much once and made green soup. But if you can deal with that then trust me it still tastes gorgeous. 

4. With either a hand blender or your food processor liquidise the soup until completely smooth. It will go a bit darker because of the greens in it but if you have judges your amount of spinach or rocket it should still have a dark orange colour. I’ve added too much and it looked like I’d been down to a swamp for lunch. 

5. Return to a very gentle simmer, the lowest heat you can and use the remaining leaves to add some texture. They will not take long to wilt down at all. Check the seasoning and adjust to your taste. Ready to serve. 

Risotto

For this one if you would like meat in this just gently fry off, steam or bake some small slices or chunks of chicken. This can just be added to the risotto 5 mins before the cooking is complete just to warm back through. 

*oil *onion, finely diced

 *1 or 2 cloves of garlic crushed

 *white wine (optional)

 *chicken or vegetable stock

 *finely grayed parmesan

 * squash, finely diced (I love butternut for this risotto)

 *either risotto (arborio) rice or pearl barely. If using pearl barley just cook the grains a little longer than rice as it takes longer to soften but its a great way to get grains in your diet as well. 

*fresh basil to serve 

1. Very gently fry the onions in the oil making sure not to colour. Then add in the garlic stirring and making sure nothing colours or burns. When the onions r softened its time to move on.

2. Stir in the rice or barley and make sure its coated with the oil and onion. If using white wine add now and let the alcohol cook out for a couple of minutes. It’s important with any risotto to stir as much as possible to stop any sticking. 

3. Add in all the squash and make sure that is coated in all the mixture. 

4. Add a ladle of you stock and keep stirring until all the liquid is absorbed. Continue this process with stock and stirring until the rice or barley looks like it won’t absorb more liquid. You can check a grain anytime you like to see if it is cooked to your liking. Bit usually this process takes me around 20 mins for arborio rice. 

5. Once you are happy with the way the rice or barley is cooked take it off the heat and add the parmesan, stir until completely melted. Check the seasoning. I very rarely need to add much salt if any because the stock and parmesan is quite salty but freshly ground pepper is lovely. And I can never resist the chance to use fresh basil in any of my food, it truly is a beautiful herb. But if you don’t fancy that or you can’t find any, the risotto will be just lovely as it is.

Squash curry

This one I’ve quite often left in a slow cooker all day. I haven’t cooked a thing and just thrown it all in the slow cooker and left in on low for about 7 or 8 hours, stirring every hour or two, it just takes care of itself and its so comforting to come back on a cold winter night and smell a beautiful curry ready to just devour. 

*chicken, beef, pork or lamb diced can be added to this in stage 1. 

*any squash, cut into chunks

*onion, diced 

*garlic, crushed (I like mine really strong with garlic but 1 clove would be just fine) 

*tinned tomatoes 

*tomato puree

*chick peas, tinned

*garam masala spice mix or paste

*oil

*spinach 

1. Heat oil in a pan and sweat off the onions and squash (meat if using) for about 3-5 mins. Add the garlic and tomato puree and mix for 20-30 secs. I like to add my tomato puree to any sauce before I ever add tinned tomatoes because I find adding it at the end can leave a bitter taste. This way the tomato puree has a chance to cook off a little. 

2. Put in the spice mix or paste and stir do everything is completely covered. 

3. Add in the tinned tomatoes and the tinned chip peas ( their water is also fine to use to loosen the sauce) and stir until all mixed. 

4. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer for around 20-30 mins if doing it vegetarian or with chicken. If I were using beef, pork or lamb for this though I would tend to transfer to an oven proof dish at this stage and put in an oven on a low heat for 1 or 2 hours covered. If at any point in either of these dishes it starts to go a little dry just add a little water. Once the squash is tender or your meat is cooked the way you prefer add in the spinach and stir. 

5. Take off the heat and and check for seasoning. If using the chickpea water in this recipe it may not need too much salt as the chick peas are usually in salted water. You will know what is right for your taste. As I live alone I will rarely do this and want to cook rice and naan breads just to waste them because I will never eat all that alone so my guilty pleasure is just toasting a pitta bread and getting a steaming bowl of this and dunking my bread in it. But whatever you like with a curry you can do. There are no rules. Apart from enjoy. 

Roast veg pasta (add chicken if you fancy but the veggie version is actually lovely) 

*oil 

*onion roughly chopped (red or white) 

*peppers, roughly chopped, any colours you like

*any squash, peeled and cubed

* tomatoes (cherry are lovely roasted) 

*courgettes, thickly sliced

*mushrooms, optional but add in the final 10 mins of cooking as they tend to shrivel if left a long time. 

*pasta, any kind you like. 

*parmesan (optional) 

*dried mixed herbs

Just a quick note on this if you are cooking for a large amount of people or if you just fancy doing a batch of this veg pasta to freeze for yourself for a busy day when u don’t have time to cook, just add one or two tins of tomatoes to a pan and tip all the roast vegetables in it to warm through, then add the pasta. Portion as you would like to store and this is a very cheap way to make the meal stretch much farther. 

1. Chop all the veg into roughly the same size so they cook evenly. Preheat the oven and get a tray big enough to get all the veg in a relatively even layer. 

2. Pour the oil over the top and season, sprinkle the dried herbs over the top and mix thoroughly. I find it therapeutic doing this by hand but if you like to use tongs or a spoon just make sure it’s all evenly coated. 

3. Put the tray in the oven for around 25-30 mins turning once or twice. If using the mushrooms just cut them into quarters and put them in for the last 10 mins.. 

4. While the veg is roasting and almost ready boil the pasta in salted water for 10-12 mins and drain. Mix all the veg into the pasta and serve sprinkled with cheese and chopped basil. Ready to be enjoyed. Can also be eaten cold. 

I hope one of these recipes tickles your fancy this week. I like to research my veg before I eat it so that I feel like I’m at least doing something good for myself in the day. I hope it’s been interesting. Have a fantastic day and take care all. M

Blog this week written by :

our Resident Foodie volunteer. :}


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Wee foodie blog for November 20 (by our foodie volunteer:)

Hi and I hope this finds you well. I decided that since times are really uncertain and it feels like all our decision making has been all but ripped from us it might be nice to think about the things we can control. So I’ve decided this month I’m gonna try and focus on what I can in my life. And my first thought went to food. As my health has dictated everything I eat I’ve had to find joy in making new ways to enjoy things I’ve always loved. Some have been disasters but some have been favourites for years.

Our delectable Scottish salmon.

For today I’m just going to leave a little list of fruit and veg that are all in season in November. I’m not saying go out and buy them all. As it goes with my taste I love veg, there is only one veg on the list I refuse to eat although I’ve tried all different ways with it and on the lists of fruits there is only one I would eat without screwing up my nose and acting like a big child. So pick and choose what u enjoy or go a bit wild and try something new. Google recipes that include it and you never know you might like it. I’ll try to include some recipes that I have found my family and I really enjoy. Take care.

Fruits : pineapple (first on the list because that’s the one I will eat), winter berries, bananas, carobs, persimmon, chestnut, apple, pomegranate, fig, prickly pear, sorb, pear, plum, grape….. Ok I changed my mind I love frozen grapes

Veg : chard, any kind of cabbage (white, red, savoy etc), swede, beetroot, parsnips (my nemesis), squashes especially butternut and pumpkins right now, potato, cauliflower, chicory, onions/leeks, beans, mushrooms especially girolles, endive, lettuce, pea, radicchio, horseradish, turnip, radish, rocket, celery, celeriac, spinach, artichoke, 

There are plenty more out there I’m sure but this was just a short list I found doing some research. I will try my best to pick just one and come up with some recipes and I’ll even research how good some of these wonderful in season fruits and vegetables are for us medically. Take care all. 


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Pet Loss and Grief !

We are a nation of pet lovers with around 50% of the population owning an animal. According to the latest PDSA’s PAW report around 24% own a cat and 26% a dog – here’s a link to their latest survey if you want to check it out in more detail https://www.pdsa.org.uk/get-involved/our-campaigns/pdsa-animal-wellbeing-report.

These stats in isolation do not reflect the myriad of reasons that families decide to choose a pet for themselves. And it is with these thoughts in mind that I wanted to highlight the many positive mental and emotional effects that pets can have on our wellbeing and also to highlight an often ignored issue – grief over the loss of a pet.

It truly is a joy to own a pet and make them part of our family, with the resulting fun, giggles, antics and learning about another little personality we have just adopted into our homes. (Can you tell I have been a pet owner for many years ??) Apparently, even stroking an animal can have a multitude of health benefits too. Most of us will be able to share precious stories of our beloved pets as we grew up.

Our daughters Jack Russell – Mr Darcy – (Photo – Steve Wright)

However, when you have never owned a pet it can seem incredulous to you to see grown adults crying, sobbing and feeling deep pain for days, weeks and even years. Yet most of us will readily admit we have either seen this or experienced it in our lifetime. My husband and I had a very close friend of over 40 years, a grown man in his sixties, dissolve into grief and depression over the loss of his beloved cat. We too had experienced loss ourselves over our family pets over the years, and so it was not too difficult to understand his feelings. Pets become our family!! Yes, we know, they are not of the human species, but if we invest a huge amount of love, compassion, friendship into our pets, we can become similarly overwhelmed with our feelings at the loss of our pet.

When the worst happens, what are some of the things we can do to alleviate the distress? Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Do not let anyone else tell you how to feel or even yourself. Remember grief is normal and only you know how it has affected you.
  2. Feeling sad, shocked or really lonely is a normal part of that grieving process. Do not be embarrassed to let others see or know how you are feeling.
  3. The grieving process does not have a timetable – so do not try to force or rush things. Accept the feelings of grief for what they are, and take your time to allow those feelings to unfold gradually.
  4. Reach out to others who have lost pets, as they will often be the first ones to identify with your feelings – this can make you feel less alone.
  5. Some people may want to create a legacy – a scrapbook, planting a tree, or anything you feel would help you to celebrate the life of your pet.
  6. Make sure to look after yourself as this can be an emotionally draining time and can often trigger off other feelings which can make you feel overwhelmed. So talk to others, reach out for help if you need it. This grief is real and let no-one tell you otherwise!

During this year of 2020 and the Corona virus still ravaging the world, please be mindful of others who have lost their pets and do not dismiss their feelings – you may make a huge difference to someone else’s life just by being there for them, giving them a listening ear and being patient with them as they struggle to recover from their grief.

Just another day on Neighbourhood Watch


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Tips to help avoid Overwhelm

More than any other year, 2020 has been a particularly difficult year for us all in terms of, not only our own families and the regular issues we may be facing, but on top of that we have a constant barrage of negative news stories. At times it may seem like we are overwhelmed and we might begin to wonder if we can possibly cope with all of this??

Without re-telling any negative stories, we need to find a way to manage and deal with this feeling of overwhelm, particularly in relation to keeping our own family afloat. Here’s one simple illustration which may help us to understand what is going on in our minds. Just think about your kettle coming to the boil. The steam builds up until it reaches boiling point, then it must be released in some way, otherwise it boils over. So either the switch is turned off automatically, or we switch it off, so that it doesn’t boil dry.

So working with this analogy – we have to recognise when we are getting to “boiling point” and find out if there are ways that we can flip the switch before the kettle boils dry. So what can we do?

Accept that we are feeling anxious

It seems like such a simple thing but learning to accept and admit that we are feeling anxious is a positive step in the first place. Most of us feel anxious or stressed, particularly in situations where we have no control or we cannot determine the outcome. No-one is superhuman !

Change your multi-tasking mind set

Have you ever felt you are doing too many things at once?? Most of us will know that feeling of panic as we try to complete everything we have to do by a specific date. However, its good to remember that not everything has to be done right here, right now. Accomplishing one or two tasks a day “WELL”, can make all the difference to that feeling of overwhelm.

Focus on the here and now

This may sound easier said than done – as we all have a tendency for our minds to race ahead of us into the future. But why does that old saying keep getting repeated over and over again, “one day at a time”? Humans have always had the tendency to let their minds plot and plan ahead – it seems ingrained. But often when we do that, we forget to focus on the here and now – and we miss lots of opportunities to stop and smell the roses – here – right now! And sometimes, the thing we were stressing over doesn’t always happen – or at least not in the way we expected.

Take some action that you would enjoy

Often, when we are feeling overwhelmed, we forget that life should have some joy in it. If your life has become so overwhelming, it’s time to do at least one thing for yourself today. Give yourself permission to have a long hot bath, read a book, listen to your favourite music or whatever you enjoy – that you’ve forgotten about recently. But pay attention to how it makes you feel afterwards, and tap into that sensation. Perhaps you might just repeat it again sometime soon – especially when you are feeling overwhelmed.

It sometimes can seem like an oversimplification to share tips like these – especially if your life has become completely overwhelming, but often it is the simple little things that we put into place ourselves that can give us a tiny little bit of control – and that in turn lessens the overwhelm. So try one thing today – and keep it simple. Flip the switch before the kettle boils dry.