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Category: I Tried It

I Tried It: Making Bone Broth

Bone broth preparation with ginger

2015 has been the year of bone broth or stock, as your grandmother would call it. From Brodo to #boilyourbones, the Hemsley sisters’ catchphrase, it seemed like everyone was getting into the long simmer.

 

Real talk: I made a half hearted attempt at making bone broth towards the end of last year, but it didn’t turn out very well, so I didn’t bother trying again until recently. Meanwhile, lots of beef bones and chicken carcasses have been thrown out, giving me a regretful, wasteful feeling.

 

No more. I’ve since realised bone broth is the one of the easiest things to make, especially if you have a slow cooker. Even easier if you have a pressure cooker as it only takes 2 hours.

 

My chicken broth recipe is really simple and you can easily substitute chicken for turkey (how seasonal!), beef or lamb bones or whack all the bones in together:

 

  1. Strip any excess meat off the chicken carcass and place the carcass into the slow cooker.
  2. Add 3-4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. This helps release the collagen from the bones.
  3. Add 3-4 garlic cloves, an onion, chopped in half, 3-4 carrots and a leek, chopped in half.
  4. If you want a deeper flavour, add 3-4 circular pieces of ginger, 3 cm in diameter.
  5. Season to taste with himalayan sea salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary.
  6. Cover with water.
  7. Set your slow cooker to low, cover and leave for at least 24 hours, stirring it occasionally and topping up the water as necessary.
  8. When you’re satisfied with the taste, or the bones have crumbled, remove the broth from the heat and pour the mixture through a strainer.
  9. Store it in the refrigerator for up to 7 days and in the freezer for up to 6 months.

 

Bonus tip: if you don’t have enough bones to make broth, stockpile them from individual meals in a big Ziploc bag in the freezer. After a while, you should have enough to make at least 2 litres of broth.

 

What can you do with your freshly made bone broth?

1. Sip it. It’s great for helping to repair a leaky gut and as a nutrient source in illness, as it’s full of collagen and protein.

2. Make soup! Knowing the soup has homemade broth in it is such a rewarding feeling.

3. Risottos are even lovelier with a homemade broth.

4.  I like to add a little zing to little J’s rice by adding a little broth to it for flavour and nutrients.

 

What do you do with your broth?

 

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I Tried It: Improving My Knife Skills

When you cook, a good knife or set of knives is really important. And they must be sharp.

I learned this the hard way when I sliced my finger open trying to cut through a particularly tough sweet potato. It was there and then, I decided two things – to sharpen my knives properly and to go on a course to learn to proper knife skills.

I booked myself on to a course at the fabulous Leith’s School of Food and Wine in West London. When the day came, for some unknown reason, I was a bit nervous, but all nerves were swept away by the friendly staff and instructors.

They started the 3 1/2 hour course by running through the basics – explaining the names of the different knives, their usages, how to hold a knife properly and how to sharpen a knife. Did you know that you should ideally sharpen your knives at least once a week, if not more? Nope, me neither.

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We then started off by dicing a celery, then went on to french frying and cubing potatoes and julienning carrots and leeks.

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It was very eye opening to see how easy cutting vegetables could be – with the right technique. I had recently begun to rely on my food processor to slice and dice onions, garlic, peppers and herbs and since taking this course, I haven’t used it. I’ve become so much more precise (and faster!), so all the food prep needed for cooking is much easier now!

The instructor and her assistants walked around to make sure we were all using the right technique – an almost ‘rolling’ action with the knife in our dominant hand, pulling the knife up and cutting with a forward motion. Then repeating, without letting the tip of the knife leave the board. With the other hand, holding the vegetable with a claw like action, so that the tips of the fingers and nails are curled under and the knife is resting of the middle section of the fingers. Here’s a nice set of images demonstrating this technique with an onion.

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We spent the second half of the course focusing on herbs and fruit. We learnt how to finely chop fresh herbs (the picture above is my attempt to finely chop chives, rosemary and parsley), as well as how to chiffonade big leafy herbs like basil.

The hardest part of the course was sectioning oranges to make nice little wedges with no pith on them. My poor attempts (that I didn’t bother to take a photograph of) show that this is clearly something that takes a lot of practice, so I have even more respect for the chefs and sous-chefs that produce such lovely orange wedges for breakfast buffets!

And best of all, we didn’t go home empty handed! We used the herbs to make a lovely herb & garlic butter, put the oranges wedges in caramel sauce and  put together a tomato & basil salsa to take home to show our loved ones the fruits of our chopping efforts.

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I can’t wait to take another course at Leith’s. It was such a wonderful and very practical experience, that ended very pleasantly with a lovely ploughman’s buffet lunch with lovely French wine.

I Tried It: Barry’s Bootcamp

Barry’s Bootcamp has been on my fitness to-do list for ages, but it’s taken me a while to ‘gee’ myself up to try it out.  Any workout that combines treadmill sprints (not my favourite, at the best of times) and strength training is always going to be tough. Add in ‘bootcamp’ and well, you can understand why I was nervous when I rocked up to the London Central branch yesterday morning.

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Reader, it was f*cking hard. Two circuits of 15 minutes on the treadmill and 15 minutes of strength training nearly wiped me out for the day. The beginners treadmill speed is 6 mph (9.66 km/h!), which is much faster than I run, EVER. You then go up by 1 or 2 points (miles) throughout the sprints. If the instructor is being nice, you might change it up and let you go up by 0.5 mile intervals. The fastest I ran was 8.5 mph (13.8 km/h!!!!!!) and I thought my legs were going to come up from under me.

Real talk: since giving birth, my pelvic floor isn’t what it used to be, so I had to contend with that, as well as holding back the urge to vomit, during and after the sprints. Note to self: wear black running trousers next time!

The music was absolutely amazing, with lots of uptempo house and hip hop to keep energy levels up. Our instructor for the session was Faisal and he was super motivational, continuously trying to push all of us to our limits and reminding us that it’s supposed be hard. And of course the class is going to be hard – that’s what you pay £20 for. And that’s how you get results.

barry's bootcamp protein shake menu

I ordered a much needed recovery shake to pick up after my workout, custom made with almond butter, banana, cinnamon and almond milk. My only complaint would be that all of their ‘off the rack’ shakes have either chocolate or vanilla whey protein in them and if you don’t do dairy, then you need to go for a custom option to get your protein. I opted for almond butter instead, but I might go for vegan protein next time.

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Have you tried Barry’s yet? What do you think?

I Tried It: DNA Testing

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Photo by Tim de Groot

Have you tried DNA testing yet? I have and I find it utterly fascinating.

23andMe, the American company started by Anne Wojcicki, the ex-wife of Sergei Brin, one of Google’s co-founders, was the vanguard in the mainstream take up of DNA testing. And it’s so easy to do (and available in Superdrug in the UK!). Just a spit into a tube, send it off and a few weeks later, a full analysis of your health (risks, responses to certain drugs, inherited conditions and traits) and ancestry appears on your online 23andMe dashboard.

It’s compelling stuff. And if you have the stomach, you can find out what your risks are for common and complex diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and type 2 diabetes. It goes without saying that are many ethical issues surrounding the disclosure of this sort of information without an intermediary to explain – here’s a good overview. I took the plunge and chose to reveal the risks, because like the Questioner I am, I like having all of the available information about a subject to hand in order to make a decision.

The ancestor analysis is equally fascinating. I found out that my mixed race heritage is much more diverse that I thought. It’s roughly 49% European, 46.6% Sub-Saharan African, 2% Native American & East Asian, 0.4% Ashkenazi and the rest is unassigned.

If you want to do a deeper dive into your genome, there are services like Genetic Genie that will take your 23andMe data and give you more specific health information, such as your methylation and detox profile. According to their analysis, I don’t have any MTHFR mutations but I do have heterozygous mutations in several genes that support methylation and detoxification. I’m genuinely looking forward to finding out more about what this means and what I can do to support methlyation and detoxification in my body.

If you’re more interested in your genetic response to nutrition and fitness, DNAFit is a good service. They sent me a comprehensive report telling me that I have a fast post exercise recovery response, medium endurance exercise is best for me, and I’m slower to clear free radicals, i.e. detox, so I have a raised requirement for dietary antioxidants and omega-3s.

For the average person, all of this information can feel overwhelming, which is why it’s important to find a trained professional to help guide your interpretation of the genetic data.

The emerging field of epigenetics tells us that nature and nurture both have an effect on your genes, but that you can make lifestyle and dietary changes that can make a difference. Within epigenetics, the field of nutrigenomics is what I’m most interested in – the effect that food and supplements can have on your genetic expression. Can the foods you eat change your genes? This is exciting stuff that is on the ‘bleeding edge’ of nutrition. Dave Asprey is doing some great work in this area.

Have you done any DNA testing? What did you think?

I Tried It: Foam Rolling

Foam rolling. It’s so hot right now, isn’t it? Goop’s talking about it, Kayla’s released her own branded grid roller and many gyms now have rollers as standard in their cool down sections.

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But what is foam rolling? in a nutshell, foam rolling or myofascial release, to use the technical term, is a way of using a small foam tube, with grids or without to stimulate your fascia, the thin layer of connective tissue that surround your muscles. When we stretch after a workout, we help relieve soreness in large muscle groups, however we do nothing for the fascia. Foam rolling can prevent / reduce stiffness in the fascia, which in turn helps to increase mobility, range of movement and even lymphatic draining. Which is important, even if you’re not an Olympic athlete.

Foam rolling has become really important for me, especially since I’ve increased the amount of exercise I do. Even though I’ve discovered that genetically, I have a fast exercise recovery time, I don’t enjoy the mild stiffness I get the day after a workout. Real talk: the day after I did my first Kayla pre-training workout, I struggled to sit down and stand up properly at work because my legs were so stiff and sore. Not a good look, especially in an office of sports-mad blokes!

I love how easy it is to do. You’re ideally supposed to do some foam rolling after your workout but I never have enough time, so I tend to foam roll in the evening when I’m watching TV or chatting to my husband. Just bear in mind that depending on how often and intensely you exercise and how often you foam roll, it can be painful. Almost that pleasure / pain, where you know the pain is a sign of relief. It’ll make sense when you try it!

Here are some easy foam rolling exercises to try out. The key is not to go too fast – it should be a slow, fluid movement. If you start to experience pain, stop rolling and stay on that part of the muscle for 30 – 90 seconds to try to release the tension.

Here are some good foam rollers:

  1. A lightweight grid roller that gets deep into any knots.

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2. I use this one regularly – it’s a good starter foam roller.

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3. This looks like a great two in one option.

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Happy foam rolling!

I Tried It: Oil Pulling

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Photo by Thomas Lefebvre

I’m a huge fan of natural health and beauty products and really try to stick by the adage, ‘if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin’.

This past February, my Nutrition lecturer mentioned oil pulling and alternative dental hygiene products in one of our classes and this naturally piqued my interest. I had been thinking about this a little bit already when doing research in natural children’s toothpastes for little J, and hearing the feedback from my fellow students that had already been oil pulling for a while was very intriguing, so I decided to try it out.

I opted to use food-grade extra virgin coconut oil for my oil pulling – I figured if it was okay to eat, it would be okay to swish around my mouth.  I usually buy coconut oil from Chi, Biona, Fushi or Lucy Bee and try to pick up a few whenever I see them on sale in Whole Foods or As Nature Intended.

Oil pulling is apparently best to do in the morning, before you eat or brush your teeth, as it helps to get rid of the bad bacteria that accumulates overnight and has been shown to reduce the number of Streptococcus Mutans bacteria (the bacteria that causes decay and cavities) in the mouth, especially when done with coconut oil, which has anti-bacterial properties. I started off with a tablespoon of coconut oil. I let melt in my mouth for a minute and then swished it around gently for as long as I could manage. The first time, I could only last for ten minutes and I eventually built up to the recommended twenty minutes.

Oil pulling takes time to get used to. Over the twenty minutes, the oil liquefies in the mouth, getting bigger as saliva and mucus get added. When it got too much, I would spit a bit out, otherwise all the liquid would make me gag! When you’re done, it’s really important to spit the oil into the trash, not the sink, otherwise your pipes will get clogged!

It took about a week for me to notice results. My breath was definitely fresher throughout the day and my teeth and gums became less sensitive. But something strange happened. Parts of my teeth became whiter, while some, specifically my top four front teeth, developed a bit of staining. At first, I thought that I needed to focus more on swishing the oil around the front of my mouth, so I became more diligent about that. After a week, there was no difference.

I started to think about the things I was doing after I finished oil pulling in the morning. Drinking my usual fresh squeezed lemon juice with water, grated ginger and turmeric? That couldn’t cause any problems. Eating an omelette? Again, shouldn’t cause an issue. Drinking a cup of black coffee? Okay, that’s probably it. What I’ve since learned, is that oil pulling makes the teeth slightly more porous, which means you need to be careful about what you drink for a few hours afterwards.

Happily, my dentist was able to remove the stains after a fairly brutal clean and polish.

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I am still a fan of oil pulling, but am not willing to give up coffee for it. I’ve decided to try incorporating it into my night time routine instead to see if that makes any difference at all.

Have you tried oil pulling? I would love to hear your story!