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Healthy Heart Food

I’ve written nothing really to do with Covid-19.  I think Coronavirus is in the news enough, without bloggers jumping on the weekly covid update posts, but it’s also not something we tend to be able to ignore either.  For myself and my family, a lazy spell in the first lockdown, has moved towards a more proactive time for us in the Scottish Mum house.

I’d got lazy with cooking, so have gone back to basics this time around, with the sole intention of improving my own heart health.  I had stopped running when I fell and twisted both ankles in the first lockdown, and having to learn to run again wasn’t the easiest of things to do with two weak ankles.  I’m getting there, and I’m up to 30 minutes of uninterrupted slow running, but it’s been tough going.

Eating better again, is helping.  Here’s a short snapshot of ingredients I use frequently for heart health, with their main nutritional content.

Peppers   Each pepper, average
– Calories: 37kcal
– Carbohydrates: 7g
– Fiber: 5g
– Saturated Fat: 0.36g
– Unsaturated Fat: 0.084g
– Protein: 4g
– Sodium: 2.3mg
Avocado 100g
– Calories:  160kcal
– Carbohydrates:  9g
– Fiber: 7g
– Saturated Fat: 2.1g
– Unsaturated Fat: 11.8g
– Protein: 2g
– Sodium: 7mg
Salmon 100g
– Calories:  88kcal
– Carbohydrates:  0g
– Fiber: 0g
– Saturated Fat: 0.4g
– Unsaturated Fat: 0g
– Protein: 17g
– Sodium: 131mg
Broccoli 100g
– Calories:  34kcal
– Carbohydrates:  7g
– Fiber: 2.6g
– Fat: 0.4g
– Protein: 6g
– Sodium: 33mg
Cauliflower 100g (High in Potassium)
– Calories:  25kcal
– Carbohydrates:  5.3g
– Fiber: 2.5g
– Unsaturated Fat: 0.1g
– Protein: g
– Sodium: mg
Nuts 100g (Walnuts)
– Calories:  654kcal
– Carbohydrates:  13.7g
– Fiber: 6.7g
– Saturated Fat: 6.1g
– Unsaturated Fat: 56g
– Protein: 15g
– Sodium: 2mg
Tomatoes 100g
– Calories:  18kcal
– Carbohydrates:  3.9g
– Fiber: 1.2g
– Saturated Fat: 0g
– Unsaturated Fat: 0.1g
– Protein: 0.9g
– Sodium: 5mg
Garlic Clove
– Calories:  4kcal
– Carbohydrates:  0g
– Fiber: 0.1g
– Saturated Fat: 0g
– Unsaturated Fat: 0g
– Protein: 0.2g
– Sodium: 0.5mg
Potatoes 100g
– Calories:  58kcal
– Carbohydrates:  12.4g
– Fiber: 2.5g
– Fat 0.1 g
– Protein: 2.6g
– Sodium: 10mg
Sweet Potatoes 100g
– Calories:  90kcal
– Carbohydrates:  21g
– Fiber: 3.3g
– Fat: 0.2g
– Protein: 2g
– Sodium: 36mg
Butternut Squash 100g
– Calories:  41kcal
– Carbohydrates:  11g
– Fiber: 6.6g
– Fat: 0.2g
– Protein: 1g
– Sodium: 4mg
Celery 100g
– Calories:  16kcal
– Carbohydrates:  3g
– Fiber: 1.6g
– Fat: 0.2g
– Protein: 0.7g
– Sodium: 80mg
Carrots 100g
– Calories:  kcal
– Carbohydrates:  g
– Fiber: g
– Saturated Fat: g
– Unsaturated Fat: g
– Protein: g
– Sodium: mg
Turmeric 1tsp
– Calories:  4kcal
– Carbohydrates:  0.7g
– Fiber: 0.2g
– Fat: 0.1g
– Protein: 0.1g
– Sodium: 0.5mg
Ginger Root 1tsp
– Calories:  2kcal
– Carbohydrates:  0.4g
– Fiber: 0.1g
– Fat: 0g
– Protein: 0.1g
Soy Beans Cooked 100g
(High in Potassium)
– Calories:  112kcal
– Carbohydrates:  13.8g
– Fiber: 10g
– Fat: 2.5g
– Protein: 8.8g
– Sodium: 25mg
Okra 100g
– Calories:  33kcal
– Carbohydrates:  7.4g
– Fiber: 3.2g
– Fat: 0.2g
– Protein: 1.9g
– Sodium: 7mg
Medjool Dates  Each date – pitted
(high in potassium)
– Calories: 66kcal
– Carbohydrates: 18g
– Fiber: 1.6g
– Saturated Fat: 0g
– Unsaturated Fat: 0g
– Protein: 0.4g
– Sodium: 0.2mg

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Benefits of Bell Peppers & Pepper Recipe Suggestions

Some pepper recipes at the end of this post.

When it comes to health, we tend to overlook peppers quite frequently.  I have to admit to always having some in the freezer, waiting for when I need them.  I remove the seeds, chop and then freeze, which works great for us, but isn’t the best option for everyone.  Peppers do add a little splash of colour, and realistically, my choice of peppers would always be sweet ones, but it’s been an acquired taste for me.  I don’t use them often enough to buy and always have some fresh, so freezer options for me are the best choices.

Why Eat Peppers?

Put simply, peppers add lovely tones of colour and are full to bursting with healthy nutrients.  I don’t include chilli’s in my pepper cupboard, as I class those more as spices, and adding extreme heat to food, just isn’t my choice.   Some of you might be surprised to find that peppers are actually a fruit, in the same way that a tomato is, but with a definite slight kick to them.  We tend to eat bell peppers here in the UK, and we’re most used to seeing them in shades of red, yellow, green and orange.  As they aren’t spicy, they do well in most dishes, but the green it a little too spicy for me, although my kids happily eat them.

Nutritional Content of Bell Peppers

Each pepper, average:

  • Calories: 37kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 7g
  • Fiber: 5g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.36g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 0.084g
  • Protein: 4g

Peppers on average, also contain vitamins and minerals, such as:

  • Calcium
  • Choline
  • Copper
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Folate
  • Pantothenic acid
  • Riboflavin (B2)
  • Niacin (B3)
  • Thiamin (B1)
  • Vitamin K
  • Manganese
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Phosphorus
  • Selenium
  • Sodium

As if that isn’t enough, they also contain Phytonutrients that help alleviate stress.

  • Carotenoids such as lycopene and lutein
  • Polyphenols such as luteolin

The Vitamin C Boosting Ingredient

Bell peppers are high in Vitamin C, which helps the body to regulate its own immune system, to remain healthy.   There is about double the amount of Vitamin C in a red pepper, than there is in a medium sized orange, which I find surprising, and an easy way to get this nutrient into savoury meals.  This is a major boost, given that a lack of Vitamin C can lead to increased risk of colds and infections.

How to cook and eat Bell Peppers

As they’re so versatile, they really can go in almost anything savoury.  I add to burgers, mince, soups, stews / casseroles and stirfries, as well as padding out fishcakes, pasta dishes, pies, bubble n squeak, topping pizzas, roasting them whole with a filling and much more.  Some people even eat them raw in a salad, or use cut them into strips for dipping, but for me, that’s a step too far with a pepper.

Some Pepper Recipes Below

Home Made Burgers with Red and Orange Peppers

Lesley Smith
4 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Mains / Burgers
Cuisine British
Servings 5 -10


  • 800 g Lean Minced Beef.
  • 60 g Red Pepper chopped.
  • 60 g Orange Pepper chopped.
  • 50 g Onion finely chopped.
  • Half Teaspoon Salt.
  • Half Teaspoon Pepper.


  • Put your mince into a bowl, and then pour in the chopped vegetables.

  • Add in the salt and pepper.

  • I use my hands for best effect with this, as I find that a wooden spoon takes too long, and just doesn't allow the peppers and onion to be fully mixed with the mince. It takes a couple of minutes to thoroughly mix the food together until it is in a loosely bound state.

  • I use a cheap burger press I bought from Lakeland that makes burgers around 180g each, but before that, I used to make mine by hand, simply taking a dollop of the mixture and shaping it into a patty with my hands.

  • For smaller burgers, you could easily get around 10 from this mix, but I made 5 larger burgers.

  • Everyone had different requirements for how they like their burgers cooked, ie red in the middle, fully cooked, or almost burned black. I like mine well done, so gauge your own timings for cooking in a moderate oven for as long as you need to.

Roasted Stuffed Peppers – Onion, Mushroom and Cheddar Cheese, Served with Quails Eggs and Salad

Lesley Smith
4 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Mains, Starter
Servings 6


  • 6 Whole Peppers Red, Green or Yellow (can be mixed)
  • 500 g Mushrooms Chopped
  • 2 Large Onions Chopped
  • 250 g Cheese Grated
  • 12 Quails Eggs
  • Salad
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 3 tablespoons Olive Oil


  • Put your oven on to pre-heat at approximately 180 C.
  • Slice the top of your peppers and put it to one side. I had to take slivers off the bottom of mine to make them stand up, otherwise they just toppled over. If you buy your peppers loose, you can look for the perfect peppers to do this with. Hollow out the peppers and remove the seeds.
  • Fill the peppers with grated cheese, pop the lids back on and place them on a baking tray. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the top, and drizzle olive oil over the top of the peppers.

  • Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until the peppers are soft.
  • Lightly fry the mushrooms and onions in a frying pan and put the Quails eggs on to boil. 4 minutes in boiling water only.
  • When the peppers are cooked, place them on a bed of lettuce or salad leaves. Take off the top and fill with the onions and mushrooms, add sliced quails eggs and serve.

Mixed Pepper Bake

Lesley Smith
4 from 1 vote
Course Mains


  • 2 Red Peppers
  • 2 Yellow Peppers
  • 1 Green Pepper
  • 3 Small Onions
  • Handful Green Beans
  • Rapeseed Oil
  • 400 g Turkey Bacon


  • Barbeque Flavouring


  • Stir fry chopped onions and green beans in a frying pan with some rapeseed oil until they soften. If you plan to add some flavouring, this is the time to add it.
  • Use a slotted spoon or spatula to put onions and green beans into a shallow baking tray.
  • With the remains of the oil used for the onions, lightly fry your turkey bacon until is cooked to your taste. With the barbeque flavouring still in the pan, ours took on that flavour.
  • Pop the chopped peppers and turkey bacon into the baking tray and bake at 180C for twenty minutes, or until the peppers are cooked through.

Mashed Potatoes with Chilli Peppers

Lesley S Smith
4 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Sides
Servings 6


  • 3 - 4 Kg Kestrel Potatoes Scotty Brand Potatoes
  • 2 Oz Butter
  • 100 Ml Fresh Milk
  • 2 - 3 Chillies or Peppers Choose brightly coloured options and chop finely


  • Simply boil potatoes in a pan for 15 - 20 minutes until soft.
  • Drain potatoes and begin to mash. After a minute, add the butter and mash a few more times. Then add the milk to finish mashing your potatoes into a thick creamy consistency. I add my milk a tablespoon at a time, just in case. Too much milk will also spoil the consistency of the potatoes.
  • Serve and top with chopped chillies or peppers (or both)

Source Information:

Eating Peppers: Ingredients, Benefits, and Prep Tips (

Bell Peppers: Nutrition Facts, Benefits, and Research | Nutrition Advance


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What is the difference between Swede, Neeps and Turnip

In Scotland, anyone over a certain age, will know them as fairly interchangeable, with simply a different colour to set them apart.  A comment on an earlier recipe post about cooking this versatile and really tasty vegetable, made me decide to do a post about the fundamental differences and why we Scots tend to refer to turnip as swede, or neep, or is it turnip?

It still begs to argue the reason for the different names.  Seriously, it could make a grown woman cry.  It’s not terribly straight forward, and an English/Irish/French/Scottish debate could grow in parliament to get a very uneasy stalemate as each side battled the other to come out on top.  This pair of root veg could cause utter chaos on a dinner menu.

Everyone knows who Rabbie Burns is, and that we die hards North of the border tuck into haggis, neeps and tatties.  So, are those neeps turnip or swede, or a mix of both?    The basics really came from days gone by, when vegetables were more locally sourced.  Scottish grannies knew about turnips versus swedes, but turnips were usually reserved for the more well heeled families that could afford to import them when weather was poor.  Prices were higher.  As a child growing up, the greengrocers always had bins and bins of huge swedes on sale, but never a turnip in sight.  Turnip, when cooked, has a more white fleshy appearance, where swede, when cooked, is a more yellow/orange colour.   Cooking with turnip used to be seen as a sign of wealth, due to the small size and difficulty sourcing in winter months.  Knowing all this though, really doesn’t help much to determine what neeps are either.

In Aberdeen, we often still use the name neep to describe swede.  We also call swede turnip.  Who knows what most people call the white turnip?  I grew up thinking it was a posh veg with no taste.  Maybe they grew more white turnip down south, where the weather is warmer, and crop growing needed to be faster for higher population densities, but I’m seriously guessing.

Growing up, my grannie cooked ‘turnip,’ or ‘neep,’ every week, but it was always actually, very orange, 2 hour steamed swede.  I was clueless.  Neeps, turnip and swede were all the same thing to me then.  Not until our first major supermarket opened it’s doors a few decades ago, did I ever see one of those strange white things in person.

In Aberdeen, and most of Scotland, a burns night supper is really haggis, swede and mashed tatties.  What other nationalities or generations do, I have no idea.  Some may be more politically correct in the terms they use, but I know what I mean…not that my knowing counts for anything much.   In some countries, swedes are pig swill, but they don’t know what they’re missing out on.  Honestly, swedes/neeps/turnips of the orange variety are ultra tasty indeed.  A bit like a cross between a potato and sweet potato to my taste buds.

Just to make this difficult, my grandfather, who was raised on a farm, called both white and orange varieties neeps, which he was adamant was simply a shorter nickname for turnips of any colour, ie both white and orange, and also called them greentops or greenies.  Young ladies now tend to use the name greenies as a term for nail fungus…..  Confused much?  I’m not.

In America, they tend to call swedes – rutabaga.  I spent ages one day trying to figure out what on earth a rutabaga was.  So disappointing to find out it was just a plain old orange neep.

In short, I dislike the little white round things, and love the bigger yellow/orange things.

The major differences:

White Turnips

  • Smaller and more round than swedes,
  • White flesh when cutting into the turnip.
  • Fast growing, but are very small.   Can be grown in around 6-8 weeks.
  • Need more fertiliser, and are higher maintenance to grow than swedes.
  • Do not do well with frosty weather and must be harvested before the first heavy frost, which can be fairly early, and unpredictable in Scotland.

Swedes/Neeps/Rutabaga/Orange Turnips

  • Often very much bigger than turnips, with a longer shape.
  • Yellow or orange flesh, depending on cooking time.  The longer swedes are cooked, the darker colour the flesh achieves.
  • Are very hands off, and low maintenance to grow.
  • Do very well in frosty weather.  The swede is said to be best after the first winter frost.
  • Came from Sweden originally, where to grow, vegetables need to survive heavy winters.
  • High yield per swede, made them a favourite for Scottish grannies.
  • Sweeter in flavour than a turnip, to which they are indeed, related.
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So, Can Burnt Toast Give You Cancer?

This topic smacks right back to earlier days, and the Edwina Currie scaremongering of eggs.  Poor eggs hadn’t done anything wrong, and I was pretty sure that slightly charred food was going to be in the same league….

No point in me just blustering though, as without any evidence, our ‘gut’ feeling isn’t ever going to be enough.  Most of us older people are probably not going to bat much of an eyelid at the claim, but for new mothers, or those with younger children, it probably did cause many of them a right worrying day or two.    And the news since, hasn’t toned it down much either.

And really, how on earth did burnt toast and poor roast potatoes, our Christmas staple, become linked with cancer?

If you read the Guardian, we find out about acrylamide and a 1997 happening in Sweden where cows dropped dead, fish floated lifeless and construction workers became ill.  A subsequent study later showed that the control group also had acrylamide in their systems and that it’s probably present in our environment in some way, despite the chemical being toxic and not found naturally in animals.  The link was eventually found to ‘probably’ be in processed food, more likely in starchy foods like bread and potatoes, cooked at high temperatures.

The Food Standards Agency

Acrylamide is a chemical substance formed by a reaction between amino acids and sugars. It typically occurs when foods with high starch content such as potatoes, root vegetables and bread, are cooked at high temperatures (over 120°C) in a process of frying, roasting or baking.

Acrylamide is not deliberately added to foods, it is a natural by-product of the cooking process and has always been present in our food.

The Food Standards Agency released their Go For Gold campaign.  You can read about it here, from the 27th January.   It aims to minimise harmful levels of acrylamide in our own cooking at home, by:

  1. Aiming for a light colour when frying, baking, toasting or roasting starchy foods.
  2. Checking the pack for cooking instructions and following them.
  3. Eating a balanced diet, with a mix of foods.
  4. Asking us not to keep raw potatoes in the fridge, as they say, keeping potatoes in a fridge can increase acrylamide levels.

Is There A Cancer Risk From Eating Burnt Starchy Foods?

How long is a piece of string?  I have no idea.  Everywhere I have looked, uses the words ‘possible,’ ‘probably,’ or ‘unlikely in daily living.’  Studies are likely to have been carried out at levels far above the consumption of humans, but we don’t know for certain.  Acrylamide could be classed as a possible carcinogen, but then again, so can many other things.

The advice not to burn toast, is likely just a help, to not compound any possible levels inside our bodies already.

Should We Stop Eating High Starchy Foods?

None of us can tell anyone else what they should or shouldn’t eat.  It’s very much a personal choice and we have to look at the potential, then weigh up the risks for ourselves and our families.  For me, that would be daft.  Bread and potatoes are almost a whole food group in our house.

What Do I Think?

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What’s in a Fig?

Figs are a relatively new fruit to me.  Yes, I know, I’ve lived a sheltered life, but until quite recently, one had never reached as far as my shopping trolley.  I blame my mum…..  We tend to buy what our parents bought, and until a couple of years ago, I tended to buy all the same sorts of ingredients.


Figs are tasty whether they’re fresh or dried, but personally, I prefer mine fresh.  I like to use them in soups or smoothies.

Where did figs come from?

Originally, it’s likely they came from somewhere in the Middle East, and then exported around the world.  There are many different varieties, but the ones I come across most often are the ones with black skins and richly coloured flesh.

The seeds and skins are perfectly edible, which makes them ideal for smoothies, with their sweet flavour, which adds depth to any mixture of healthy ingredients.  They’re often used in cooking, and can taste amazing in a jam.

Why choose a fig?

Quite simply, they’re pretty good for us.  When I first thought about buying, I was put off by the calorie count, which was slightly higher than my usual berry purchases, but with great fibre included, as well as helping reduce the size of our appetites, it was a no brainer to try them.

As a good source of calcium, I checked on a nutrition website to see what benefits there were.  In just one large fig, there is around 148mg of potassium, which is one thing I always seem to be missing in my diet. Just for that alone, it was worth including.  As with many fruits, the carb content is around 10-12g per large fig, but I can forgive that for the other benefits of eating them.

The drawbacks.

Yep, the L effect, or in other words, the potential for being a slightly laxative effect if consumed in high proportions, so don’t decide that they’re so delicious that you’re going to eat many of them in one sitting.

People with kidney or gallbladder problems might also want to take advice from their doctor before tucking in, as they may cause problems with the balance of body fluids.

How to eat them?

Your choice is dried or fresh.  I prefer to use fresh, but if there were no fresh around, I might be tempted to add a few grams to a smoothie to sweeten it.

Fresh figs also make a great colourful addition to any salad.  Why not try them for yourself?

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Frozen Veg Versus Fresh Veg – Would you use frozen fruit and vegetables?

If you believe the Daily Mail, the consensus is that frozen food is better than fresh food – and that includes frozen vegetables and fruit.

Using frozen ingredients in recipes isn’t always popular though, and I do often wonder how many of us actually use them.

Von Chef Frozen Strawberries

Coming from a family who always ate from fresh, I found the transition to using frozen food a bit difficult.  It had always been drummed into my head that fresh was the way to go, no matter what.  We grow a lot of our own in summer, so it’s always the winter months where we are lacking in much of the fresh stuff.

Apparently a couple of studies have found that frozen fruit and veg could actually be healthier with the higher levels of vitamins preserved in them, especially the antioxidant leafy veg

The antioxidants fared best, which included Vitamin C, polyphenols, anthocyanins, lutein and beta-carotene.

Frozen Vegetables

Personally, I’m not 100% convinced they’re better for us, but I can understand how they would be just as good for us if they were picked and frozen quickly.  I’ve seen the evidence, but I can’t get my head around how they could possibly be an improvement.

There’s always the benefit of not being in transit for days before they get to us, which can’t be bad though, and the frozen version will keep the freshness they seem to have.

I don’t like frozen fruit and veg when it’s thawed from the packet.  That’s just me, so I rarely use them for just serving up the veg on its own, but I do use them for cooking in other food.  The slightly limp results I seem to get on defrosting tends to put them off my list for just adding veg to the plate as a side dish to a main course.

Von Chef Frozen Bananas

I did find great ways to use fruit I froze myself, with the frozen dessert maker that Von Shef sent to me, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  Strangely, the fruit I froze in my freezer did not have the wetter consistency that the shop bought kind seems to have.

I do buy a lot of frozen veg though.  I love it for last-minute soups, for onions and for garlic and ginger.  I’ve been using more and more frozen carrots too, as they just last so long.  As much as I love fresh carrots, there are times when they’re wasted in the veg drawer and end up in the bin, which I find very wasteful.  Unless I’m buying those for specific meal planning, I keep reserves in the freezer for days we fancy carrots or I’m putting a casserole on and fancy throwing some in without having to visit the local shop.

At the end of the day, unlike a lot of home cooks, I’m very pro the use of frozen veg in recipes.  I’ll use fresh where I can, but frozen is not off my radar.

What about you?