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Let's talk potatoes, peppers, pasta and pears...

This week we're a little carb heavy - but found out some great ways to use these great carbohydrates in your meal times.

Potatoes

A staple to any diet - they have been around for thousands of years they have a very rightful place on every plate as they are cheap, rich in nutrients and can also be loaded up as a delicious treat.

Fun fact - every year people consume up to 25kg of potatoes each!


What are the benefits of eating potatoes?

Even though potatoes have declined in popularity recently because of the demand for a 'low-carb' diet they can help contribute to weight loss as they are full of fibre - so help keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Fibre is also important as consuming fibre can help mitigate against heart disease as it helps to keep blood sugar levels and cholesterol in check.


Potatoes can help keep digestive health in check too - as they contain a special type of fibre which is called 'resistant starch' and which has the benefits of both soluble and insoluble fibre. Resistant starch also acts as a prebiotic - which helps promote gut health and helps prevent constipation or irritable bowel syndrome.


Lowers blood pressure

Potato skins contain good levels of potassium and magnesium. When your body is lacking in potassium, your body holds on to extra sodium which can push up the sodium levels, increasing blood pressure. Potassium rich diets can help to reduce blood pressure which then helps reduce the risk of heart disease and potential risk of stroke.


Worried about gluten?

Potatoes are gluten-free so are a great addition to any gluten-free diet and can be eaten by pretty much everyone.


Cooking potatoes:

Nutrient density can vary greatly by the cooking and preparation method. If possible try and leave the skins on potatoes when cooking as that is where there is a good number of nutrients. By leaving the skins on you are making sure you are maximising the number of nutrients; fibre, vitamins and minerals in each serving.


How to store potatoes:

It's important when storing potatoes to store them in a cool, dark, dry place between ideally 7-10 degrees. This is because leaving potatoes exposed to sunlight leads to solanine forming - which is what causes potatoes to go green. This is toxic.

Try not to store potatoes around onions either as both vegetables can cause the other to go bad. Potatoes should keep in the right conditions up to two months. Ensure you always remove any rotten potatoes to make sure they don't make those surrounding them go rotten.



Quick hacks: Stopping potatoes going brown

If you happen to peel potatoes for something specific - once peeled, they will turn brown. this is because potatoes contain an enzyme which when exposed to the air, like with apples, pears, bananas, causes discolouration on the surface of that item.


To stop this from happening, you must provide a barrier to keep the air out - cold, heat or acid can help with this.

The simplest way to do this with potatoes is as soon as they have been peeled to put them in to a bowl of cold water.



Quick eats: Super simple jacket tattie

There are an inordinate amount of ways you can eat a potato. Baked with a crispy skin are one of my absolute favourite.

A baked potato can make the base for a really good simple, filling meal.

Top it with beans and cheese, or a delicious tuna mayo. The opportunities are endless.


Here is a super simple tuna may recipe to laden on to a baked potato.

You can add in to this sweetcorn, sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, whatever it is you fancy.

Fresh herbs like coriander, basil, parsley, tarragon to the filling also go brilliantly.

Or to bulk it out also you could add cannellini beans, or cooked green lentils. The options are endless.

And then you can decide whether you take the filling and mix it with the cooked potato and heat or simply load the filling on top and have the hot cold balance.

It's also great to load it with a green salad - with a simple vinaigrette to dress; there's a great recipe here.


Pasta

Dried, fresh, egg, short, thin, long, twisty, wheat, lentil, black bean, quinoa.

The lists are ENDLESS when it comes to pasta and the options you have to include it in to your everyday dishes. It's incredibly versatile, its cheap, fast to cook and filling.


What are the different types of pasta and what dishes should they be used for?

There are about 350 different types of pasta but it can be overwhelming when we start to think which type of pasta is best suited to what type of recipe.

This is a super simple list of the basic types of most commonly available pasta and what they are best used for when it comes to shapes and the types of dishes the are best suited to. Click here to read the list.


Food hacks: How to cook pasta

It's a super simple ingredient to cook but is so easy to get wrong! and no one wants a soggy bowl of stodge (well, not on my watch at any rate).

Here is a super simple 6-step way to cook pasta like a pro. Click here to watch how.




Quick tip: Always use the pasta water


Often referred to as liquid gold as it takes al dente pasta and turns good pasta in to silky saucy pasta that you'll be dreaming about.


Why? because it helps emulsify the sauce to bind the pasta and sauce together.


Always save a little back when draining pasta to add to your sauce - the starchiness of the water adds a richness to your sauce and the saltiness adds that extra flavour. Stir it in to the sauce just before adding the pasta in and serving.


Generally a cup per pot of pasta is a good amount to save.


Quick eats: Orzo and tuna salad

Image: Olive magazine

This is a super quick, super easy salad which uses minimal ingredients and is great as a supper or easy lunch when time is short.

It is made with tuna, but feel free to swap out tuna for salmon, halloumi, feta, or even chicken. Make it your own.


You can swap the jarred peppers for slow-roasted peppers you've made yourself, or add in some fresh, or slow-roasted/sundried tomatoes too, and the dill is optional.


Find the recipe here.


Peppers

Chilli, romano, bell, jalapeno...the list is pretty long when it comes to peppers. They're a brilliantly versatile food that are just as tasty raw as they are cooked.

Low in calories, they're packed full of antioxidants, vitamins and carry many health benefits.


From the same family as tomatoes, potatoes, and aubergine - they're a great addition to your diet.

Bell peppers which are the big bulbous peppers most of us think of when we think of peppers - are known as sweet peppers and are a non-hot relative of the fiery chilli peppers.


Bell peppers come in a range of colours from red, orange, yellow and green. The red are the sweetest as the green are ultimately unripe. Orange and yellow are in between.


Why should I eat peppers as part of my diet?

Peppers have many health benefits such as the following:


  • May reduce risk of eye problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts forming.

  • Help reduce the risk of anaemia

  • Can help protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer

  • Might help delay age-related memory loss


Peppers are often ok for most people to include in their diet but for some people it might cause heart burn or be difficult to digest - in this case it might be sensible to avoid eating them.


Load peppers in to your diet in a few of the following ways:


  • Always have a jar of slow roasted peppers in your fridge. Slow roasted peppers are super easy to make and utterly delicious - they can be added to side-dishes like couscous, salads, simply on their own as a rightful part of any plate, mixed in to other roasted veggies like courgettes, onions. The options are endless.

  • Raw as a snack - peppers are great to eat raw as a snack when you're feeling peckish. Especially red, as they are much sweeter.

  • Add to salads raw - just chop or slice and throw in to add extra flavour and colour to any type of salad.

  • Add in to stews, chilis or even a bolognaise - peppers are great for bulking out these sorts of dishes

Pears

Pears are a delicious and nutritious fruit with a very strong health benefit profile. They've been a beneficial addition to the fruit bowl for many generations.


They come in all sorts of varieties (worldwide apparently there are about 3000 varieties) but the commonly found ones on our supermarket shelves are often conference - the tall green ones; and the anjous (the short squat ones).


Pears are also brilliant to add to the diet in terms of the health benefits they can bring and here's why:


Pears are great for gut health

Laden with fibre - they're great at helping to keep everything functioning smoothly and regularly when it comes to gut health. A medium pear alone contains up to six grams of fibre which is 1/4 of the recommended daily allowance for adults.


Pears are anti-inflammatory

Pears are rich in flavonoid antioxidants which have anti-inflammatory properties when it comes to helping protect against inflammatory and also reduce chances of chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Other vitamins found in pears such as vitamin K and C are also known to help reduce inflammation too.


Pears can help lower the risk of diabetes

There are couple of ways in which pears can help with lowering the risk of diabetes.

It tends to be the red varieties which are helpful for this.

Studies have shown that those who consumed five or more weekly servings of red pears were 23% less likely to get type-2 diabetes this is because pears contain anthocyanin which is directly associated with diabetes.

Seconds because pears contain so much fibre - it helps to slow down digestion which helps to regulate blood sugar levels properly which can help with preventing and controlling diabetes.


Pears are also low calorie, high in water and high in fibre, so brilliant to add in to your diet as a snack when you're feeling peckish too as they will help you feel fuller for longer.


p.s. make sure you eat your skins as they are where most of the nutrients are held.


Way's in which you can use use pears in your diet:

  • Raw in salads (delicious with cheese, nuts, rocket etc)

  • Made as a puree - and used in things like breakfasts where it can be added to yoghurt.

  • Added as a sauce in baking - just like you might use apple sauce - they are very interchangable.

  • Added in to puddings - again instead of apples you can used pears in things like crumbles, sponges, added to sticky toffee pudding.

  • Poached pears for breakfast or again as a snack or pudding.

  • Raw - as a snack



Quick Eats: Poached pears

Poached pears are delicious and they are so so easy to make - they can be kept in the fridge in a tupperware and will last for a few days. They're also delicious warm - with lashings of cream of ice cream as a yummy and easy pudding.

Click here for the super easy poached pear recipe.

If needs be you can also take out the cinnamon and vanilla pod. But you could also do an alternative version if needs be with cider of water adding in some lemon zest slices, a cinnamon stick and also a few slices of fresh chili.


Quick Eats: Delicious pear, walnut and blue cheese salad

This combination is a match made in heaven. Salty blue cheese, earthy walnuts and sweet crunchy pears. Doesn't get much better and it is SO easy to make.


Follow this delicious recipe. If you don't have maple syrup you can always use a little honey as a substitute.




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