Organic gardening update

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

After a slow start there are now signs of life in the greenhouse.  At the moment the beetroot is growing well and is almost ready for planting out in the raised bed.  

The cucumbers are doing well too and have been potted on.  This means moving the stronger plants on to bigger pots to allow them more space to grow.  

The aubergines and tomatoes should be ready to pot on soon too.  

Disappointingly the onions are not showing any growth as  yet.  A more experienced neighbour started onions earlier in February and kindly gave me some of hers that she had started, so onion growing is still a possibility.  

I have also decided to grow potatoes after seeing a local farmer planting a potato crop while out for my power walk.  For potato growing you need to buy some seed potatoes from your local garden centre. 

Potatoes can be earlies, second earlies, middles or lates so if you want to plant them now you need to buy middles (check at your garden centre).  Potatoes need to be grown where they will get plenty of sun in a well drained soil. If you are planting middles there is no need to 'chit' the seed potatoes but ealies and second earlies benefit from chitting.  This means putting them in egg boxes, placing them in a frost free position and allowing them to sprout. This is something to bear in mind if you get hooked on potato growing and want to plant earlies or middle earlies next year.  When planting the seed potatoes, place them at a depth of 10cm and 75cm apart.  The end that looks like it might sprout should be placed upright. 

Elsewhere in the garden raspberry canes are coming into leaf

The chives are growing well

  as is the parsley

Please see also my blog article 'It's spring-the organic fruit and vegetable gardening year begins'

I'll keep you posted of further developments
Happy gardening
Janet x

Meatless Monday: Peanut and soy tofu ramen

Monday, 27 April 2015

A ramen is a Japanese broth made with noodles.  This recipe is for a vegan ramen made with tofu.

Serves 2
You will need

For the peanut and soy tofu

300g organic tofu, firm, cut into cubes
1 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp organic olive oil

For the broth

2 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp miso
800ml water
3 large chestnut mushrooms
handful of organic spinach
2 bundles (or recommended portions) udon noodles
Making the peanut and soy tofu
Mix the tamari and peanut butter then coat the cubed tofu.  Allow to marinate for up to an hour.  Heat 1 tbsp organic olive oil and fry the marinated tofu over a low heat for 1-2 minutes.

Making the broth
Meanwhile heat the tamari and miso in the water and bring to the boil . Add the mushrooms and spinach and simmer for 2 minutes.  Add the noodles and continue to simmer for 2-4 minutes.
Serve the broth with the peanut and soy tofu.

Janet x

Recipe Copyright © 2015 40plusandalliswell

Earth Day 2015, Wednesday 22nd April

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

On the yoga blog there is a grounding practice which will re-establish your roots to the earth. When we become ungrounded we may suffer with anxiety or feel stressed. There is also a grounding meditation on the video

Earth Day is a celebration of our beautiful planet which hopefully inspires us to take more care of Mother Earth. What better way to connect with her than spending time outdoors? 
In the UK at this time of year everything is so very beautiful.  The trees are bursting into leaf and the blackthorn blossom, which appears before the leaves, is spectacular.  On my daily walk the other day, I went through a field with a blackthorn hedge.  It looked like a wall of snow.  The daffodils are still with us and the first tulips are in bloom in the garden.  Out in the wooded areas wood violets, wood anemones have appeared as well as the first bluebells. Marsh marigolds have grown by streams.  
On the river there are ducklings now and in York, the resident geese now have goslings.  In the garden there seemed to be a unanimous decision among the birds to start building their nests.  Over the winter, a blue tit nested in my nest box (I have a camera in there).  In March she left but last week she returned to 'spring clean' 'her' box, which was full of poo!!  Then the nest building began and as I write there is a nearly completed nest. In the fields the lambs are growing up and the oil seed rape is like a golden sea.
Each season and every place on earth has its own beauty and its own bounty. Think of the luscious summer fruits, the autumn apples, pears and pumpkins and how the earth always provides for us. 
If you feel inspired to give a little back, here are some of the ways you can help protect our beautiful earth for future generations.   

  • Use environmentally friendly products or use store cupboard ingredients as cleaners. For instance half a cup of white wine vinegar in a litre of warm water is a good window cleaner. You can also use it undiluted to clean shower heads.  The smell of vinegar disappears as it dries.  You can mix baking soda with a little water to make a paste that is a good oven cleaner.  Spread the paste over the inside of the oven leaving the heating elements clear. Leave overnight clean off with a cloth soaked in dilute white wine vinegar next day.
  • Take a shower instead of soaking in the bath to save water.  Reuse washing up water to water the garden.
  • Plant a tree
  • Plant bee friendly plants
  • Reuses left overs where safe to do so.
  • Buy local, organic produce
  • Have at least one meat-free day each week
  • Walk or cycle short distances
  • Opt for paperless billing to save trees
  • Do not leave electrical appliances on standby
  • Insulate your home (loft insulation)
  • Think about installing solar panels to generate electricity

Love your earth, and it will give you so much more back

Janet x

Meatless Monday: Chickpea tabbouleh

Monday, 20 April 2015

Serves 2 as a main, 4-6 as a side

You will need
120g bulgar wheat
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice 
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic salt
8 organic tomatinos, halved
1 can organic chickpeas
handful basil leaves, chopped

organic Little Gem lettuce leaves to serve
lemon quarters to garnish (optional)

Place the bulgar wheat in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Leave for 30 min.  
Drain the bulgar wheat if necessary then stir in the remaining ingredients. 
Cool in fridge before serving.  Place lettuce leaves on serving plate and spoon the tabbouleh into the centre. Garnish with lemon quarters if using.

Janet x

Recipe Copyright © 2015 40plusandalliswell

Nettle tea - a delicious way to aid spring allergies

Thursday, 16 April 2015

I love spring but I know that for many people, the first flowers and tree blossoms signal the start of allergic rhinitis.  The symptoms of this are itchy, watery eyes, sneezing and runny nose.  For other people these symptoms occur when the grass pollens arrive usually towards the end of May.  The good news is that nettle tea, available from supermarkets and health food stores, is effective in relieving the symptoms of allergic rhinitis without any of the side effects associated with antihistamines.  It is thought to be effective by reducing the production of prostaglandins, the body's inflammatory chemicals.

Other teas may help too.  For instance green tea has antioxidant properties and helps reduce swelling and inflammation in the nasal passages.  Peppermint tea is antibacterial.  It can also help reduce inflammation and congestion.

Time to put the kettle on!!

Enjoy a healthy spring
Janet x 

Note - even though nettle, green tea and peppermint tea are safe when taken in moderation, always consult your doctor if you are on medication or if you are pregnant.
The article refers to mild allergies. If you suffer from more severe allergies resulting in asthma attacks, hives, etc please consult your doctor.
Personally I would not recommend making your own tea from nettles.

Meatless Monday: Open tortillas with refried beans

Monday, 13 April 2015

You will need
For the tortillas (makes 4)

150g rye flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt 
1 tbsp organic olive oil + extra for greasing the frying pan

For the refried beans
1 tbsp organic olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 can organic mixed beans
1/2 tsp of cumin
1/2 tsp dried coriander
1 tbsp tamari
avocado and halved tomatinos to top

To make the tortillas, place the flour,baking powder and salt in a bowl.  Make a 'well' in the flour and add the olive oil and water.  Mix the ingredients together to form a dough.  Turn onto a floured surface and knead for around 3 minutes.  Divide into 4 and roll each portion into a ball.  Allow to rest for 10-15minutes.  Roll each ball out on a floured surface to about a 6 inch round.  Grease a frying pan with olive oil and cook each round on a medium heat for a minute or two each side.   
To make the refried beans, fry the onion in the olive oil.  Add the remaining ingredients and heat through.  Mash to a chunky consistency using a potato masher or blender.  Serve with the tortillas and avocado.

Janet x

Recipe Copyright © 2015 40plusandalliswell

Yoga poses for power walkers

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Earlier this week I talked about the benefits of power walking  I mentioned that yoga would help release the muscles that power walking tightened.  Power walking is wonderful but it can tighten your hamstrings and lead to stiffness in the hips.  The following poses will help reverse this tendency and strengthen the ankles and knees which have to work hard when power walking.  

Supta padagusthasana sequence (releases hamstrings and opens hips) 

Start lying down. Bend your right knee and take a belt (or dressing gown tie) around the ball of the right foot. Holding the belt in two hands raise your right leg to 45 degrees (if this feels like it is a strain on your lower back modify the pose by having your left knee bent).   Straighten your right leg by pressing your right heel away from you (hello hamstrings!!). Relax your shoulders.  As you hold the pose, your hamstrings may start to release and you will find that you can bring your leg closer in.  Now take both sides of the belt in your right hand and press your left hip down with your left hand.   Take your right leg up and out, bending your knee if you need to. Bend your knee to draw your leg back in and release your right leg back down.  Notice how your right leg feels compared to your left before repeating the sequence with your left leg. 

Keyhole Stretch (opens up the hips) 

Remain lying down and bend your knees.  Bring your right foot onto your left t thigh flexing your foot to protect your knee.  The nearer your foot is to your groin, the more intense the pose, the nearer to your knee, the less intense.  To go further, post your right hand through the gap made by your right leg and join hands with the left hand behind the left thigh.  Keep your head and neck relaxed.  You could place your head on a cushion.  If you cannot reach use a belt around the thigh.  If you have no knee problems, you could hold your left shin for greater intensity still.  Repeat with the left leg. Come onto all fours.  

Knee down lunge (opens the hips, stretches the  quadriceps, which are the large thigh muscles)

From all fours, bring the right foot through, making sure your knee tracks directly over you ankle.  You should feel a stretch in your left quadricep.  Hold for a few breaths then switch sides.  Make your way to standing.

Fierce Pose (strengthens and stretches the muscles around your ankles and knee and your quadricep muscles) 

Stand with your feet at hip distance.  Breathe in and lift your arms up, breathe out and bend your knees deeply as if you are about to sit in a chair which is a little too far back.  Hold for a few breaths, then breathe in straighten your legs, breathe out float your arms down.

Ankle strengthener 


Stand up straight.  Raise your right foot just and inch or two from the floor.  Now close your eyes.  Your ankle muscles will have to work very hard to keep you steady!!  It's harder than you think!!

These poses can be practiced before or after power walking (or both). 
A bath with a scoop of epsom salts or a massage with sweet almond massage oil are also great for relieving sore muscles.

I have two yoga videos on my YouTube channel, 'Flexiladiesyoga' ,'Yoga to compliment summer activities' which you may find useful to watch. The links are below.

'Yoga to compliment summer activities -Running - Part 1' -
'Yoga to compliment summer activities -Running - Part 2' -

Happy power walking!
Janet x

Walking my way to stronger bones

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that I love being out in nature and so I walk around an hour every day.  This is fine in many ways.  Walking like this means I am getting fresh air, gentle exercise, and natural daylight.  It is also good for mental health. But I do tend to stop to ‘smell the roses’, ‘for what is life if full of care we have no time to stop and stare’ (WH Davies).  In my case, it is not so much roses as birds, squirrels, flowers and if I am really lucky some wildlife spectacle.  The other day for instance, I saw a bird of prey carry a baby rabbit off in its talons.

However a recent bone scan has convinced me that as far as my bone density is concerned, there is still some room for improvement.  I went to my doctor to discuss doing some more aerobic exercise with a view to strengthening my bones.  She agreed and suggested doing some power walking for 30 minutes five times a week.  I might also she suggested, try some exercises using weights.

Full of enthusiasm, I went out next day and bought a pair of ‘running’ trainers.  Since then I have been discovering just how beneficial power walking is for your health.  Here are some of the amazing benefits of this way of exercising:-

  • Power walking burns as many calories as running but it is not as hard on your joints.
  • Power walking is aerobic, that is it improves the efficiency of your cardiovascular system. Your heart is a muscle and needs exercise to keep it healthy and strong.  Also by improving the efficiency of your cardiovascular system, you help lower blood pressure and by boosting circulation you also reduce your risk of strokes.
  • Power walking reduces LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol while increasing HDL (‘good’) cholesterol
  • As well as strengthening your bones (the main reason I am power walking) power walking lubricates your joints.
  • Power walking ‘burns off’ the stress hormones and so reduces stress.
  • Power walking reduces the risk of some cancers.

If you want to give power walking a try, I would urge you to get a good pair of ‘running’ trainers.  Other than that, power walking is free!  Do a few warm up stretches before and after.  Your hamstrings will get tight! Do not be tempted to do more than the recommended amount as this is of no greater benefit and may even be detrimental.  A good way to stay motivated is to get a walking ‘buddy’(in my case my daughter) who will spur you on if you are flagging. 

I still walk my ‘smell the roses’ walks but feel that power walking is a good addition to my exercise routine.  My scan next year will reveal how much benefit it is to my bone density.    

Be healthy, be happy 
Janet x

Article Copyright © 2015 40plusandalliswell

Wishing you a very happy Easter

Monday, 6 April 2015

Meatless Monday:Split pea and butter bean stew

It's a beautiful Easter Monday here in Yorkshire and I hope it is where you are too. 
Easter Monday is traditionally a time to relax and have fun with such activities as egg rolling, Easter bonnet competitions or Morris dancing.  This hearty, one-pot meal can be made ahead and warmed through before serving when you arrive home.

Serves 2-3
You will need
100g green split peas, pre-soaked for at least an hour
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium leek, sliced 
1/3 medium swede (yellow turnip), peeled and chopped
1 medium parsnip, peeled and chopped
1 large sweet potato, scrubbed and chopped
Stock made with 2 tsp organic reduced salt bouillon in a 750ml hot water
1 tsp dried thyme
1 can organic butter beans

Fry the onion in the olive oil, add the garlic and continue.  
Add the split peas, vegetables, thyme and stock. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to simmer. Cook 40 minutes to one hour until the stew is thick.  Stir frequently and add more hot water if necessary.  
Stir in the butter beans and heat through.

Janet x

Recipe Copyright © 2015 40plusandalliswell

Raspberry and 'cream' sponge cake-Gluten free, no added sugar, egg free, dairy free.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Who would believe that a gluten free, no added sugar, egg free and dairy free cake could be so delicious!

Serves 6

You will need
200g dairy free spread
20g stevia
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
egg substitute equivalent of 4 eggs made up according to manufacturer's instructions
200g rice flour
175g frozen raspberries, thawed
stevia to taste
'cream' from a can of full fat organic coconut milk

Cream the dairy free spread and stevia.  Add the egg substitute and rice flour sieved with the baking powder. Mix thoroughly and add a little extra water if necessary to form a dropping consistency.  
Divide between two 7 inch cake tins.  Bake at 200 degrees (moderately hot oven) for 15-20 minutes.
Turn out onto a cooling rack.  
Blend the 'cream' from a can of coconut milk until smooth adding a little coconut milk if necessary.  Spread on the bottom sponge.
To make the raspberry filling drain the juice from the thawed raspberries and combine with stevia to the sweetness that you like.  Spread over the 'cream and place the top sponge over the raspberry filling.

Janet x

Recipe Copyright © 2015 40plusandalliswell