Daily Archives: 14 January 2015

Have fun and exercise your mind

Have fun and exercise your mind


Have fun and exercise your mind

We’ve started a new regime, my other half and I, where on our Friday ‘date’ nights, one of us is totally responsible for choosing what we eat, drink and do.

Mwhahahaha, now’s my chance to dust
down the board games (all in the spirit
of the Dairy Diary of course!)

In our Brain Training feature, in this year’s Dairy Diary we talk about the benefits of keeping our brains active so it has given me the perfect excuse to sneak out the Crossword game.


Brain training

The ability to think quickly, clearly and creatively, and to concentrate better, can be cultivated. If you have the motivation, and are prepared to put in a little effort, it seems to be entirely possible to improve your mental capacity, whatever your age. The key is to keep challenging yourself – giving your brain a gentle workout will strengthen it and improve its power.

Messages are passed through your brain via neurons, using chemical and electrical reactions that travel with mind-boggling speed. Part of each neuron is insulated with myelin, a fatty substance that helps electrical transmissions. The thicker the insulation, the speedier and more accurate your thinking and the better your memory. Learning increases the density of neuron connections, and repetition increases the thickness of the myelin. Bingo!


What can you do to boost your brain power?

Anything that engages different parts of the brain at the same time is especially effective. The left side is concerned with logic, sequential thinking and decision making; the right side with creativity, imagination and random ideas.

Tackle crosswords, sudokus, quizzes and puzzles, or take up bridge. Solving cryptic puzzles involves several parts of your brain – logic, recall, creative thought, analysis, deciding on likely options, dealing with frustration – and the benefits increase if you do it with someone else.

Learn something new and challenging e.g. chess, crochet, a musical instrument. Learning another language may seem ambitious but is especially good because it forces your brain to switch tracks continuously, which is one of the most mentally demanding things you can do. It helps hone the frontal lobes, the brain’s mind managers, which tend to shrink as part of the ageing process.

Study a subject that you find interesting e.g. botany, nutrition, a specific era of history.

Read, and maybe join or start a book club. Discussing books with others hones your critical/analytical skills.

Make up brain games to play with friends e.g. think of an animal or food for every letter of the alphabet. Focusing on simple tasks helps to improve concentration as well as boosting brain power. Include memory games, so that each person has to repeat what has already been said.

Listen to music. Listening to Mozart has been shown to improve spatial and mathematical reasoning.

An exercise to help improve your concentration is to spend a few minutes every day emptying your mind and thinking of nothing but your breathing. Practising focusing on one thing will help you to de-clutter and calm your thoughts, so you can concentrate better the rest of the time.


As working parents with several young children, it’s pretty impossible to find the time to take up a new language or join a book club. We can, however, squeeze in the odd board game or two when the children are asleep (the games that we play with the children are not particularly intellectually taxing just yet!)


Here’s my menu for Friday evening:


Smoked Mackerel Pate

Smoked Mackerel & Dill Pâté

Time 10 mins plus chilling. Per portion: 185 Kcal, 8.4g fat (1.3g saturated). Serves 4

Smoked mackerel 225g (8oz), skinned
Chopped dill 3 tbsp
Lemon juice 2 tbsp
Garlic 1 clove, peeled and crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
Double cream 150ml (¼ pint), lightly whipped
Egg white 1, whisked
Lemon wedges to serve (optional)
Melba toast to serve (optional)

1 Place the mackerel flesh in a bowl. Add the chopped dill, lemon juice, garlic and pepper and mash together well or blend in a food processor.

2 Fold in the cream and egg white; chill.

3 Serve with Melba toast and lemon.


Cheddar Cheese Risotto with Bacon

Cheddar Cheese Risotto with Bacon

Time 30 minutes. Per portion: 478 Kcal, 23g fat (12g saturated). Serves 4

Butter 25g (1oz)
Risotto rice 225g (8oz)
Spring onions 8, trimmed and chopped
Hot vegetable stock 900ml (1½ pints)
Smoked streaky bacon 8 rashers, de-rinded and halved
Frozen peas 200g (7oz)
Freshly ground black pepper
Mature Cheddar cheese 110g (4oz), diced

1 Melt the butter in a large non-stick saucepan and add the rice, coating it well in the butter. Stir in the spring onions and about 150ml (¼ pint) of the stock and simmer until almost absorbed. Pour in more stock, a ladleful at a time and each time waiting for the liquid to be almost absorbed before adding more, simmering until the rice is almost cooked. The mixture should not be dry.

2 Meanwhile, grill the bacon rashers until crisp.

3 Add the peas and season well with pepper. Heat through, then stir in the Cheddar cheese. When the cheese starts to melt, serve with the bacon rashers piled on top.


Raspberry Syllabub Trifle

Syllabub Trifle

Time 20 minutes plus chilling. Per portion: 395 Kcal, 27g fat (15.1g saturated). Serves 6

Trifle sponges 4
Raspberry jam 110g (4oz)
Lemon 1, grated zest and juice
Caster sugar 50g (2oz)
Dry cider with elderflower 120ml (4fl oz)
Double cream 300ml carton
Mixed frozen fruits 200g (7oz), just defrosted

1 Slice each sponge cake in half horizontally. Spread jam over half of the slices, then cover with the remaining slices, cut to fit and place in six individual glasses in a single layer. Spread any remaining jam over the top of the sponge cakes.

2 Place most of the lemon zest, the lemon juice and sugar in a bowl. Add the cider and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Drizzle a little of this liquid over the trifle sponges until just moist.

3 Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Gradually whisk in the remaining cider mixture.

4 Spoon the fruit over the sponge and then cover with the flavoured cream. Top with any remaining lemon zest. Chill for 1-2 hours before serving.


Accompanied by Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and
followed with a couple of games of Crossword.


Dairy Diary 2015 collection

The 2015 Dairy Diary is still available and if you like the look of the recipes above, they are taken from our cookbook, Fantastic Food for Less.

You can buy both books with FREE DELIVERY throughout January!


I would love to know what activities you participate in to expand and exercise the mind.








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