Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Why We Need Education About Psoriasis

So there I was, scrolling through Twitter, when I saw this:

Obviously, it generated quite a response, with people shaming the coffee shop he'd been in...

So let's look at this for a minute. 

First off, there's no video available of this event - the only evidence that this happened is from this tweet. I've done some digging around and the coffee shop in question haven't issued any comments about the incident (that I can find) and there's been no news coverage of it. But, for the sake of this post, we'll assume that it did happen. Because I generally find, that apart from those of us who suffer from it, not that many people seem to be very clued up about the disease anyway. 

Secondly, there's quite a bit of panic about Ebola at the moment. It's a scary illness, I get that. Psoriasis, on the other hand, is more annoying than it is scary. But then people don't know much about psoriasis, even though it already affects millions of people around the world. 

But I think it's not quite fair to launch attacks at multi-millionaire global organisations, or their employees. The real problem here is that a lot of people know NOTHING about what psoriasis is, or even what it looks like. 

We psoriasis sufferers probably haven't helped matters. We try and hide our red, scaly patches with clothes or makeup. If someone asks us what it is, we might shuffle and say 'Oh, it's just dandruff' because we don't want to get into a long conversation about autoimmune diseases. 

So here goes. 

Psoriasis is not catching. You can't get it from skin to skin contact with someone who has flaky psoriasis patches. And you don't get it ON PURPOSE. The patches of red, scaly skin are a symptom of something underlying - that's not really on the skin at all - but indicate some sort of problem with the immune system. They can be brought on by stress, illness or injury. There's evidence that it might even be passed on through our genes. Bottom line is - it's not your fault.

I've seen people politely but clearly back away from me, because I've had psoriasis. Children are more honest - they just ask you outright why you have sugar in your hair, usually on a crowded bus or train. Hairdressers would part my hair and make a face to themselves, or to colleagues, as they saw the inflamed and often bloody patches on my scalp. I can SEE you in the mirror, I wanted to say. But never did.

There are emotional problems, too. Psoriasis sufferers are thought to be more likely to suffer with depression and anxiety. The Psoriasis Association reported that 10% of sufferers had considered suicide and 1 in 5 of people with the disease feel "stigmatised" by their condition. This all isn't helped by behaviour that's described in the tweet above - being refused service, while people run away screaming. Yeah, that's going to do a lot for your self-confidence. 

So I made this little picture. Share it if you like. In a snapshot, it sums up some of the main points about psoriasis, and reminds us to be mindful if we come across others who have it. 

I'm sure the hairdressers I'd been to didn't really want to hurt my feelings - they probably just thought: "What the HECK is THAT in her hair??". And the people that are linked to this tweet - if they'd known it was psoriasis and not contagious - and certainly nothing to do with Ebola - I expect they wouldn't have behaved that way and just written "Shane" on a paper cup and served the next person in the queue, instead. 

Do you have any experience with psoriasis? What do you think could be done to raise awareness of psoriasis? 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Halloween Gooey Brain Cupcakes

Mwah ha ha ha haaaa.......

Yep, Halloween's on its way and look what I've got for you... 

Gooey Brain Cupcakes. 

Genius, right? 

It occurred to me one day that walnut halves look a lot like brains - and would look a lot more like them if they were covered in white chocolate. 

You just prepare your cupcakes and cut out a circle of ready-rolled fondant icing - you could use black if you wanted to - and put them to one side. Then, take 12 walnut halves, one for each cake, and dip them in melted white chocolate. Put them on a sheet of greaseproof paper to dry off and set. Meanwhile, top each circle of fondant onto your cooled cake, using a smear of jam if you like. Once the chocolate on the walnut halves is set, (about half an hour to an hour, depending on how hot or cold your room temperature is) you just blob a little raspberry or strawberry jam onto the fondant-topped cupcake and push a white chocolate-coated walnut half on top. 

Gooey brain cupcakes. 

What are you all cooking up for Halloween? 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

13 Easy Family Dinners

Family meals. 

I know what you're thinking. 

You want something that's not too fussy or complicated to make, that the kids will actually eat and that hopefully has some kinds of vitamins and other good things in it, too. 

I got ya. 

I've rounded up some of my favourite and most popular recipes that would make brilliant family dinners. Some cook in the time it takes to watch an after-school episode of The Amazing World of Gumball (I know you do), while others might take as long as five or six hours, but the actual work YOU have to do (rubbing some spices into a joint of meat) might be seconds. 

There are vegetarian and gluten-free recipes here too, as well as conventional ones, to help cater for all dietary needs. 
I hope you find these useful, let me know if you make any of them. 

Breakfast Meatloaf (dairy-free, gluten-free, nightshade-free, paleo)
Don't worry - I'm not suggesting you make this for breakfast unless you get up REALLY early and fancy cooking the equivalent of a roast dinner before 7am. I've included it here, because every child I know loves breakfast food for dinner. And this meatloaf, with its hidden egg centre and crispy bacon on the outside, tastes quite like breakfast. Serve alongside a salad or some chips or just some veggies. Or baked beans. Easy to make, and it'll sort you out for leftovers for a few days too. 

Keema Karai - Minced Meat Curry (gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo)
Quicker to make than a spag bol, and sorts out an Indian food craving at the same time. It'll take you less than 30 minutes to get this on the table - don't even bother with rice - my girls like this with just some naan breads on the side. You might want to skip the green chilli topping if feeding very young kids or anyone that doesn't like very much spice. 

Mozzarella, Ham and Basil Stuffed Focaccia (vegetarian if you leave out the ham)
OK, just think of this as a huge toasted sandwich. I took a recipe that took an hour to make and cut the time down to about 25 minutes. Just cut it into chunks and let everyone dig in. 

Turkey, Tomato and Mozzarella Gnocchi Bake
My children love anything hot, tomatoey and gooey with melted cheese. So I figure that yours might, too. This gnocchi bake takes a little more prep than some of the other recipes here, but you just fry off the mince, add the sauce, pour it over the gnocchi dropping the cheese all over and then slide into the oven to bake. Easy peasy. 

Gouda, Spinach and Garlic Quesadillas (vegetarian)
Quesadillas seem a bit like a lunch dish, but they make a cracking family dinner, too. And they take just literally a few minutes to make. You can serve them with chips or some salad if you like - and fill it with practically anything you like, as long as you add in some cheese to help it all stick together. I've made some lovely Brazilian Chicken quesadillas too - with chicken, avocado and mozzarella. A great idea for using up leftovers.

Thai-Inspired Turkey Meatball Curry (gluten-free, dairy-free, nightshade-free, paleo, AIP)
I like this one, because it introduces children to the flavours of Thai food - lemongrass, basil, coriander, lime, coconut - without being at all spicy. I've used turkey mince because it's light, but you could also use pork or beef. 

10-Minute Buttery Mushroom Pasta  (gluten-free if using GF pasta, nightshade-free, vegetarian, can be adapted for vegans)
Dinner in 10 minutes. I kid you not. Mushrooms cooked in butter and then tossed in your choice of pasta. If you want to make this dish vegan, just use your preferred butter alternative (or just use olive oil) and use vegan cheese. 

Pulled Pork (dairy-free, gluten-free, nightshade-free, paleo, AIP)
OK, so this takes a while (6 hours) but you're not actually doing anything with it for 5 hours and 50 minutes of that time. You can shred it and serve it as a roast, or pile it into bread rolls with coleslaw if you like. We love it as a salad with some lettuce, guacamole, salsa and maybe some white rice on the side. You can make a slow-cooker beef brisket, instead if you like (contains nightshades).

Quick and Cheap Tuna and Lemon Pasta (Gluten free if using GF pasta, dairy-free, nightshade-free)
Cook pasta. Toss with a can of drained tinned tuna and some lemon. Eat. It doesn't get much easier than that. 

Gluten-Free Meatballs (dairy-free, nighshade-free (serve with no-mato sauce), paleo, AIP, gluten-free)
No egg, no breadcrumbs - just meat and spices. Whether you serve it with veggies, pasta or in a sub roll it'll be a comforting dinner that you'll make again and again. 

Crispy Grana Padano Chicken (Gluten free if using GF breadcrumbs)
You won't buy processed chicken nuggets again once you've had these. Honestly. You get to choose the chicken you use (use organic or free-range if you like), and the cheesiness from the Grana Padano works so well with the crispy breadcrumbs. Make these and have dinner on the table in 15 minutes. You could use Parmesan, if you prefer, instead.

Aromatic Roast Chicken with Leeks and Lemon
OK so this is Sunday lunch. The flavours of the lemon and leek work brilliantly with the chicken, which just takes an hour and a half in the oven. And no slaving in a hot kitchen - just prep the chicken, chuck it in the oven and go and do something else until it's cooked. 

20-Minute Macaroni Cheese (gluten-free with GF pasta, vegetarian)
And you thought mac and cheese was one of those dishes that took hours to turn all golden and bubbly in the oven. Nope. This one is an adaptation of a Jamie Oliver recipe which cleverly uses mascarpone cheese as an all-in-one mac and cheese sauce. 20 minutes. Honest. And if you fancy something meaty, I've made one with beef, too.

What are your favourite family meals? 


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