Author Archives: carolinementzer

About carolinementzer

Caroline Mentzer is a Nutritional Therapist, Herbalist and Writer from Oxford, UK. Married to and Infectious Disease doctor, her blog discusses the benefits of combining holistic and conventional approaches to find unique solutions to many health and parenting challenges.

Home made tortilla recipe

Melissa making gluten free tacosTortillas are such a flexible meal for the family. You can whip them up in 2 minutes and you’ll never buy shop bought again! They are perfect for a picnic lunch and used as a wrap with your favourite fillings. My daughter loves to make them, placing each dough ball in the cast iron press and making perfect little rounds.

I bought my cast iron press from Mexico – via E-bay – it really wasn’t expensive. It’s great for entertaining guests as makes good party food. Here’s the recipe:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (if you’re gluten free use Masa Harina – Mexican corn flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

    In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Stir in water and oil. Turn onto a floured surface; knead 10-12 times, adding a little flour or water if needed to achieve a smooth dough. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes in the fridge.

    Melissa eating gluten free tacosDivide dough into 12 portions, and roll each portion into a little ball. I use a tortilla press, but you can easily use your hands or a rolling pin. On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a disk. In a large non-stick skillet cook the tortillas over medium heat for 1 minute on each side or until lightly browned. NB/ You don’t need any oil to do this.
    Serve with whatever filling you like. (I did a pulled pork, salsa and guacamole for Father’s day, but you could easily do re-fried beans and cheese for a delicious frugal lunch.

 

Beetroot and feta burger

Beetroot and feta burgerWe like to make a concious effort to eat less meat and more vegetable, but we do love a burger. So I thought I’d create a healthy meat-free burger that we could all enjoy. This week in the veggie box I got a bunch of beetroot.

Beetroot comes into season around this time and you can pick your own at Medley Manor Farm.

Usually I’d make beetroot into chocolate fairy cakes (see recipe here), but I thought for a change I’d make a dinner savoury delight. Beetroot’s are packed full of vitamins, minerals and protective antioxidants demonstrated by their beautiful colour. This recipe is super easy and can be whipped up in less than 5 minutes. Instead of a bun you can also use lettuce leaves, or get the mini buns for when you’re entertaining others children.

Here’s the recipe; Take a 150g tin of chickpeas, drain and mash them (or soak and cook your own – it’s much cheaper!). Add 200g of grated beetroot, 100g of flour (any flour works – for gluten free try rice or chickpea flour), 100g of crumbled feta, two eggs, 1 tbsp of horseradish sauce and handful of chopped coriander. Combine all the ingredients thoroughly in a bowl and then portion them into 4 burgers (or 8 little burgers for kids) with your hands. Grill the burgers for 5 minutes on each side and serve with a dollop of hummus or mayonnaise and some salad. Healthy and delicious!

Leftover veg Flat bread with Broad bean Mash

Leftover veg flatbread and broadbean mashThis recipe is perfect picnic food. Early Summer Broad beans make a lovely healthy dip and a good alternative to hummus that children and adults love. Plus the bread can be made by using any sad looking vegetables that have been forgotten at the back of the fridge. I used a savoy cabbage that I’d lost inspiration for, but you could easily use spring greens, beetroot, carrots or parsnips instead.

Cabbage has been touted as one of the worlds healthiest foods! It contains cancer fighting properties as well as the ability to lower cholesterol. Although it may make some people a bit windy, the juice of a cabbage has shown to cure stomach ulcers. We should all be including it in our diet every week.

For this recipe take 250g of grated cabbage (or any vegetable you prefer). Squeeze out as much moisture as possible and add 80g of plain flour, 1 egg, 1 tbsp of sunflower seeds, 30g of soft cheese and 2 tbsp of freshly chopped herbs from the garden such as rosemary, thyme or parsley.

Once combined, split the dough into 6 parts. Line a tray with baking paper, take a piece of dough and squash it onto the baking paper with a spatula or your fingers until it is a flat bread shape. Do this with 2 other pieces of dough and bake in the oven for 20 minutes on gas mark 5, 190C, 375F until golden brown.

Repeat with the last 3 pieces of dough. In the mean time shell 3 cups of broad beans, steam them for 5 minutes and blend them with a clove of garlic, some lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper. When done, allow the bread to cool a little and serve with the Broad bean mash, some spring onions and cherry tomatoes. Delicious! Or store in the fridge and pop in the toaster when you’re ready to eat it.

Asparagus ENDS – mini quiche

Asparagus endsIt always make me sad when the asparagus season comes to an end. We’ve been picking our own from Rectory Farm at every opportunity. But there are many other PYO’s in Oxfordshire doing the same and all of them are worth a visit – read more on that here.

Towards the end of the season the asparagus ends begin to get tough. Not one for throwing things away I’ve been thinking about a recipe I could devise that uses up these delicious and nutritious ends that would have previously gone in the bin. I found that if you chop them up finely and sauté them in a little butter with onion and garlic, that they make a delicious quiche filling. If you got any leftover cheese – a scattering on top really makes these mini mouthfuls a wonderful summers picnic treat.

Here’s the recipe which makes 12 mini quiches

Asparagus ends mini quiche2oz/50g butter
4oz/100g plain flour
2fl oz milk
2 eggs
1 small onion
1 garlic clove
10 asparagus ends
50g cheese, grated
Water

Method – Rub together the butter and flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add a few tsp of water and combine until you have a nice ball of pastry. Cover with cling film and put the pastry in the fridge to chill for about 10 minutes.

Slice the asparagus ends into small disks and gently fry in a little butter or olive oil with a finely chopped white onion and some crushed garlic. This should take about 5 minutes. In a jug, whist the eggs and milk together and season with salt and pepper. Grate the cheese.

Roll out the pastry very thinly on a floured surface. Cut out circles from your pastry large enough to fit the muffin tin. Using some extra butter, grease your tins, and then sprinkle on a little flour. Gently press in a circle of pasty in to each space.

put a tsp of grated cheese at the bottom of each one. then add a little of the asparagus / onion filling. Now fill up the cases with the egg and milk mixture.

Cook for 12 – 15 minutes on 220C, 350F or Gas Mark 7. Allow to cook before removing, then serve with a fresh leaf salad. Yummy!

The BEST PYO in Oxford

Pick your own (PYO) is a wonderful way to get really fresh local produce on the cheap. It’s also a fun afternoon out for the family. Here’s my top places to PYO in Oxford –

1) Peach Croft Farm

Peach Croft Farm OxfordPeach Croft Farm rear award-winning geese and turkeys, so are especially busy at Christmas time. Their Farm Shop stocks soft fruits, vegetables, cream, free-range eggs, free-range poultry, cakes, pies, preserves, fruit juices, and honey.

If you’re looking for something fun to do during a Summer weekend with the family you could try a tractor trailer ride to the pick-your-own fields. The also have a lovely little cafe that serve light lunch using their produce. Delicious!

What’s for picking?
Asparagus – mid-April until mid-June.
Strawberries and other berries are available from the end of May.
Peas and broad beans, available from the end of June.
Runner beans are available from August.
Pumpkins are available from late September to October, in time for Halloween.
Potatoes all year round.

Peach Croft Farm PYOWhere?
12 Acre Drive, Radley, Abingdon, OX14 2HP
01235 520094 / 01235 535978
Opening hours: Farm and Farm Shop open Mon-Sat 9.00am-5.30pm.
Also open Sun 10am-4pm in season (mid-May to August). Wheelchair friendly.

2) Medley Manor Farm

A beautiful small, family-run farm within the Oxford ring road, Medley Manor Farm provides pick-your-own as well as home made ice cream and honey made on the farm. A lovely walk from Jericho or Wolvercote (or a much shorter one from Botley) across Port Meadow. There’s also a cafe open every day serving light lunches (with soft drinks or wine or beer) and afternoon teas.

What’s for picking?
Asparagus: late April – mid June.
Strawberries: mid June – early July.
Sweetcorn: August – late September.

Where?
Binsey Lane Oxford OX2 0NJ Website Tel: 01865 241251
Opening Hours: Check out their website or call to find out if they’re open when you want to visit. Wheelchair friendly.

3) Q Gardens
Q Gardens signWorth a visit to see the proud home of the Harwell cherry, Q Gardens has a wonderful farm shop, which stocks deli and butchers selling cheeses, pies, sausage rolls and home made ice cream made from their own fruit! It’s open 9am-6pm daily and the tea room serving hot food until 2.30pm and tea and cake until 4pm.

What’s for picking?
Their website offers information and advice about the pick-your-own. The asparagus season begins in April – Mid June to be bought in the shop only. The other soft fruits (cherries, raspberries, currants, plums, damsons are ready towards the middle of June for PYO.

Where?
Q Gardens, Milton Hill
Steventon, Abingdon
Oxfordshire, OX13 6AB
01235 820988
info@qgardensfarmshop.co.uk

4) Rectory Farm
Strawberry picking at Rectory FarmRectory Farm has grown in stature over the past 2 years. It’s Country Cafe and terrace area has been extended and the shop is well established. Always a fun afternoon out for the family. A wide variety of PYO followed by tea, a delicious selection of home made cakes and a bounce on their bouncy castle (sorry children only).

What’s for picking?
Asparagus season begins end of April and has just finished for the year.
The main pick-your-own and the farm shop are open from the 15th May to the end of August every day, 9.30am to 6pm; the Country Café is open 10am – 5.30pm. PYO crops include strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, whitecurrants, blackberries, asparagus, broad beans, carrots, beetroot. Lots of potato varieties.

Where?
Pound Lane, Stanton St  John, Oxford, OX331HF
01865 351677
Wheelchair friendly.

5) Millets Farm
Millets Farm PumpkinsA huge, rurally situated farm centre with large farm shop, garden centre, craft and art gallery, cafe/restaurant, summer maize maze, falconry site, farm zoo and playground. Large selection of fruit and vegetables plus dairy products, fish, patisserie, wine and meat.

What’s for picking?
Open for PYO from June to September 9-5.30pm. A massive choice of over 30 different fruits and vegetables can be picked throughout the warmer months and many new varieties of certain crops.

Where?
Kingston Road
Frilford, Nr Abingdon
Oxfordshire, OX13 5HB

The Farm Shop: 01865 392200
The Restaurant: 01865 391169
The Garden Centre: 01865 391923
Pick Your Own: June to September – 01865 391555
Maize Maze: July to September – 07826 132416

Do you know of any other PYO’s in Oxfordshire? Please drop me a line in the comments below or and email at carolinementzer@gmail.com

 

Still waiting for the strawberries to ripen at Rectory Farm

Strawberry picking at Rectory FarmGosh they are late this year. I remember picking loads of juicy strawberries in early May last year. But the cold weather and lack of sunshine means they’re all still rather white – and that would just give everyone a sore tummy. Thursday’s weather forecast is looking up so here’s hoping that its enough to turn those white strawberries a deep lovely red by the weekend.

Failing that you can pick the last of the Asparagus (quickly, it’s coming to an end soon) and take the kids for a jump and slide on the bouncy castle in the cafe area. It’s a great way to pass and hour or two of time.

Rectory farm strawberries

 

Find Rectory Farm…..
Pound Lane,
Stanton St John,
Oxford OX33 1HF
Phone: 01865 351677
Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Vitamin D is free

Vitamin D are we getting enoughSummer is finally here. After all the wind, rain, gales and even hail stones the sun is finally starting to push through. And with its rays comes much needed vitamin D. In the UK we can only really get vitamin D from the sun during the spring/summer months – April to October, and only when the sun is high in the sky around 12-3pm.

When you’re on a tight family budget there’s no money for expensive supplements, so you need to maximise the sunlight and also get it right nutritionally.

In the UK we apparently don’t get enough vitamin D because we don’t get enough sun! What I really think the problem is that in the UK we don’t get enough TIME in the Sun. We’re a nation of desk addicts that rarely take a lunch break as opposed to other Europeans who regularly take time off during daylight hours for leisurely lunches and siestas.

Our children have a more indoors lifestyle thanks to too much homework, TV, computers and video games as well as a fear of letting them play freely on the streets as I used to do as a child.

To top it off, skin cancer awareness has been heightened in recent years and sun screen is liberally applied at any sign of a small ray of sun for fear of burning. I witnessed this over last Summer at Melissa’s nursery where factor 50 was slapped on at every opportunity for an outside play.

This is despite data showing that skin cancer is in fact still on the rise, and that some sunscreens do not protect against the more dangerous UVA component of the spectrum that may cause malignant melanoma. Furthermore, some sunscreen ingredients have carcinogenic (cancer forming) properties, and also block production of Vitamin D resulting in deficiency which has been shown to increase your risk of other cancers.

Yet just 10-15 minutes a day of decent sunlight is all you need to get enough vitamin D! And unlike other nutrients it’s free this way; no need for expensive supplements or modified diets.

What is Vitamin D?

Summer in OxfordUnlike other nutrients, vitamin D isn’t really a vitamin at all; it’s a hormone, made by your body as you are exposed to sunlight. Its relationship to bone metabolism is more complicated than you might guess as it acts to increase calcium in the blood stream by increasing your ability to absorb calcium from foods and by reducing the amount of calcium you lose in urine.

So sadly, if you don’t have enough Vitamin D in your body, then all the milk and cheese in the world won’t give you strong bones.

How to maximise your vitamin D!

1) Get some SUN!

Expose yourself to 10-15 minutes of sun every day in the UK from April to October before applying sunscreen, covering up or simply getting out of the sun so you avoid burning. If you have dark skin you may need longer.

Eat Vitamin D rich foods.

beetroot mackerel salad10% of your vitamin D intake comes from the food you eat. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin so you need to eat fat to get it. Fat is good for you as long as it’s the natural kind (none of these man-made margarines – that’s a whole another blog post). Fortunately oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, pilchards, herring and anchovies is pretty cheap as are farm eggs if you can find a good local source. Try this beetroot and mackerel salad for starters. Here’s where I like to buy fish and eggs in Oxford. So load up on these goodies and enjoy the sun!

5 easy ways to use up leftover rice

Rice is a food staple for half the world’s population, yet in the West, we seem to value it so lightly. Of all the rice cooked at home in the UK, we throw away a massive 40,000 tonnes every year….what a waste!!

Furthermore, when you throw out 1kg of rice you’re also wasting over 2000 litres of water if you take into consideration the amount of water needed to grow and obviously cook it.

That said, I don’t think I have ever cooked the exact amount of rice the family needs. Mainly because I’m never sure how much is going to be eaten, and also because there are actually many great frugal and delicious things you can do with leftover rice. Okay, here goes…..

leftover rice stuffed peppers1. Stuffed Mediterranean Veg. I use leftover rice for stuffing peppers, courgettes and aubergines. It’s great for getting mince to go further. Mix it with some fresh thyme, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper, layer on top with a smattering of cheese and bake in the oven. It’s also great for stuffing vine leaves – or just some dark green blanched cabbage leaves when you’re on a budget! Delicious dipped in home-hummus.

2. Make Arancini, which are Sicilian fried rice balls (recipe here). They are absolutely delicious and a budget show stopper for a dinner party. Children love them too.

home made rice milk3. Rice Milk – If you are cow’s milk intolerant, you’ll know that alternative milks can get pretty pricey. A litre of rice milk can set you back £1.50 in the shops, but you can make it for just 6p. All you need is a cup of rice, a litre of water and a blender – blend for a good few minutes, add a drop of vanilla essences, strain and keep in a jug in the fridge.

Leftover Rice pizza crust4. Rice Pizza Crust. Here’s an awesome cheap and gluten free recipe for a rice pizza crust – it uses leftover rice, an eggs to bind and cheese to flavour the base, you bake it before adding your favourite toppings. Delicious and cheap!

5. Leftover Rice pudding. Of course, this is an obvious one…a simple and cheap pudding for all the family. Add raisins or chocolate shavings to make it decadent. Here’s a good recipe to follow.

A note of caution. We’re all told not to eat re-heated rice – but actually, it’s not the reheating that causes the problem, but the way the rice has been stored before it was reheated. Here’s what the NHS website says on how to eat leftover rice safely.

How does reheated rice cause food poisoning?

Uncooked rice can contain spores of Bacillus cereus, a bacterium that can cause food poisoning. When the rice is cooked, the spores can survive. If the rice is left standing at room temperature, the spores can grow into bacteria. These bacteria will multiply and may produce toxins that cause vomiting or diarrhoea. The longer cooked rice is left at room temperature, the more likely it is that the bacteria or toxins could make the rice unsafe to eat.

Tips on serving rice safely

  • ideally, serve rice as soon as it has been cooked
  • if that isn’t possible, cool the rice as quickly as possible (ideally within one hour)
  • keep rice in the fridge for no more than one day until reheating
  • when you reheat any rice, always check that the dish is steaming hot all the way through
  • do not reheat rice more than once

 

 

Feed a Family Oxford got published!

Caroline Mentzer & Family (4)Earlier this year, after we’d completed the first few months of feeding the family for just £100 pcm, I contacted the Green Parent Magazine with our story. They decided they would like to publish us and here is the finished article which you can find in the June/July edition of the magazine – in the shops now.

‘Thanks to The Green Parent for taking such and interest in us, also to Mark Bassett , our local Oxford photographer, for snapping some lovely photos, as well as The Market Garden at Eynsham for letting us use your beautiful shop as a back drop for the photos’.

Mark did a good job to capture a happy Melissa, as moments after the nettle photo was taken she got stung and it was melt down and game over for us all. Anyway, if you’d like to read the article please click on the photos below to enlarge. We’re very excited to share it. I hope you enjoy reading it! Caroline x

Feed a family in the Green parent page 1Feed a family in the green parent page 1aFeed a family in the Green Parent page 3Feed a family in the Green parent magazine page 2

Rhubarb Crumble!

It’s rhubarb season and we were given a generous bunch by a friend here in Oxford. I like nothing better than a good old fashioned rhubarb crumble. Though I hate it went they get all soggy and floury. So here’s my healthy version. It contains tonnes of oats and a few ground almonds to give that crisp yet nutritious crumbly crunch.

Rhubarb crumbleBest known for its digestive properties, rhubarb is high in fibre easing constipation and promoting regularity. Full of antioxidants as well as vitamins K, C and A it helps limit age related brain damage, fight infections, improve vision and possible protect against lung and mouth cancers. And if that doesn’t convince you to include it in your diet, it also contains just as much calcium as milk!

To make the fruit purée for this crumble, stew 4 cups of chopped rhubarb and 2 tbsp of sugar until soft. For the topping I use 1 cup of each – ground almonds, whole oats, and brown sugar, plus 1/2 cup of dessicated coconut. Place them all in a bowl and mix together. Now rub a tbsp of butter into the crumble mixture. Put the stewed rhubarb into an oven proof dish and scatter the crumble on top. Bake in the oven for approx 20 minutes on 200C, 400F gas mark 6 until golden brown. Serve with natural yoghurt – delicious!