Monthly Archive for January, 2021

Top Tips to Boost Your Immune System

All of us from time to time make efforts to improve our health, and boosting our immunity is one of the best ways to do this and there are many dietary and lifestyle changes that can strengthen your body’s natural defences and help you fight harmful bacteria or microbes.

Even small lifestyle changes can help improve our immune systems. Below we have a range of things you can do to improve your body’s resistance. Changing even one thing will be of benefit.

1. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep and immunity are actually closely tied and getting enough rest may strengthen your natural immunity. This makes sense as we sleep more when sick to allow the immune system to better fight the illness.

If you are having trouble sleeping, the best thing to do is to follow the same routine every day as this will help your body become accustomed to sleeping at the same time. Also try to limit screen time (including TV, computer, phone, or tablet) for an hour before going to bed and sleep in a completely dark room or use a sleep mask.

2. Eat More Fibre

The recommended daily amount of fibre is 30 grams. This should be enough to help your helpful, healthy gut bacteria thrive. Good sources of healthy fibres include vegetables, fruits, oats, legumes, nuts, dark chocolate, avocados, chia seeds and many other foods.

Eating fibre not only helps our gut bacteria, but also produces a chemical called butyrate, which recent research has shown helps us fight harmful bacteria and boost our resistance up to 80%.

3. Cut Down on Sugar

Cutting your sugar intake can decrease the chance of inflammation in your body generally and, fairly obviously, aid in weight loss, reducing your risk of developing a chronic health condition.

It is a fact that excessive sugars in our diet contribute significantly to obesity, type two diabetes, and heart disease, any of which can weaken your immune system. Lessening the amount of sugar in your diet will help you avoid this.

4. Stay Hydrated

Preventing dehydration is important to our overall health. Dehydration can cause headaches and hinder our overall physical performance, focus, mood, digestion, and even heart and kidney function. Tea and juice are hydrating, but water is better and studies have shown that drinking water can help relieve headaches in those who experience these frequently. Drinking plenty of water also helps prevent and relieve constipation.

Keeping hydrated even helps our cognitive abilities as our memory, energy and ability to concentrate can suffer when we’re dehydrated. And according to recent research even our mental health may be reliant on adequate hydration levels. By drinking enough water, we can reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.

5. Manage your stress levels

Although this is easier said than done, it has been shown that lowering your stress levels can help keep your immune system functioning properly.

Activities that will help you manage your stress include meditation, exercise, yoga, and a general cultivation of mindfulness.

6. Exercise regularly

This may seem to be obvious, but most of us just don’t get enough regular physical activity. It’s one of the easiest ways to reduce the risk of chronic disease and to help improve your quality of life.

Not only does exercise make you physical fitter, boosting your immune system in the process, it also increases endorphins and other feel-good brain chemicals and reduces your levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This makes it a proven remedy for both depression and anxiety. Even a short workout or a brisk walk can make us feel so much better.

However, if the thought of a regular exercise is daunting, the secret is to start small. On your first time out go for a short walk, workout or bike ride for just 5-10 minutes and then add an extra minute on each subsequent day. This helps to form and then maintain a positive habit. As you continue you can set yourself more ambitious exercise goals.

Any and all of these lifestyle changes can help to strengthen your immune system. You don’t have to try to change everything at once. Start with one or two and you will soon see the benefits.

10 Incredibly Indulgent Chocolate Treats

The year we may have started with resolutions and cutting back after the excesses of Christmas, but as we move into February, it’s time to indulge ourselves a little and what better indulgence than chocolate.

Why do we love chocolate so much?

In raw form cocoa beans are intensely bitter, but roasting them releases a range of chemical compounds which, when combined with other aroma molecules creates a unique chemical signature our brains love.  Chocolate also contains a number of psychoactive chemicals, including anandamide, a neurotransmitter which stimulates our brain in much the same way that cannabis does.  It also contains tyramine and phenylethylamine, both of which have similar effects to amphetamines.

When making chocolate, we usually add sugar and fat in a ratio of about 1g of fat to 2g of sugars This is the same ratio of fats to sugars found in many biscuits, doughnuts, ice cream. In fact, this particular ratio is reflected in many of the foods that we find hard to resist.

Starting with just a block of chocolate, there are many, many things you could do, like swirl into ice cream, make a chocolate rich ganache or make hot chocolate.

Here are 10 incredibly indulgent things you can do with chocolate.

1. Chocolate Ganache

The perfect treat in and of itself, but also a base for many other chocolate bases, it can be used as a glaze, icing for cakes, sauce or a pastry filling. It’s very simple too;, all you need is a packet of chocolate and double cream.

2. Salted Caramel Filled Molten Chocolate Cake

Do you like Chocolate? Do you like Salted Caramel? Do you like Cake? You’ve come to the right place.

3. Double-Chocolate Mousse Cake

Double the chocolate, double the deliciousness. Start this recipe 1 day ahead.

4. Chocolate Bark

This couldn’t be easier. All that is required is melting a block of chocolate, pouring on a baking tray and adding on your favourite dry ingredients. Anything can be used; nuts and raisins, shredded coconut, crushed biscuits or swirl two types of chocolate for a marbled effect. Here’s one of our favourites.

5. Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake Trifle

There’s indulgent. There’s very indulgent. There is over-the-top indulgent. And then there’s Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake Trifle.

6. Nutella Tiramisu

Tiramisu. Nutella. Tiramisu and Nutella. To be honest, you had us at Tiramisu.

7. Hot Chocolate

Want the richest, most decadent and indulgent hot chocolate ever, just by using a spare block of chocolate. Try this.

8. Peanut Butter Chocolate Heaven

It’s peanut butter chocolate heaven time. Peanut butter chocolate heaven time

9. Decadent Chocolate Fudge Squares

We couldn’t leave out Chocolate fudge. These decadent delights will be a sure fire winner with anyone you share them with. Wait a minute! Share?

10. Malteser and Mars Slices

No baking required, just melting and mixing. Greatest. Thing. Ever!

There are many more incredibly indulgent chocolate treats to try. Don’t waste time reading this. Go and have some!

Over 50 Keyboard Shortcuts for Microsoft Excel

Working in MS Excel involves a lot of pointing, clicking, switching menus and general use of the mouse. And, as anyone who has ever tried to select a large range of cells within an Excel worksheet will tell you, using a mouse cursor is not always simple or efficient.

However, Keyboard shortcuts are efficient and time-saving. When you are not constantly reaching for the mouse and instead using shortcuts, there will be a boost to your productivity. For instance, selecting all of the charts in a particular worksheet can be achieved by using the key combination of Ctrl + A.  Key combinations also more accurate than even the best mouse when it comes to precise actions like this.

Using keyboard shortcuts can also have measurable health benefits, reducing the risk of  RSI (Repetitive Syndrome Injury) and ULD (Upper Limb Disorders), which repetitive tasks like mouse use can cause.

(NB: Many of the shortcuts below use the Control key, the Alt Key, the Tab key or the Shift key. In some cases, two or more of these are used in combination, along with other keys.)

The Most Frequently Used Shortcuts in Excel

To do thisPress
Close a workbookCtrl+W
Open a workbookCtrl+O
Go to the Home tabAlt+H
Save a workbookCtrl+S
Choose a fill colorAlt+H, H
Go to Insert tabAlt+N
Go to Page Layout tabAlt+P
Go to Data tabAlt+A
Go to View tabAlt+W
Add bordersAlt+H, B
Go to Formula tabAlt+M
Hide the selected rowsCtrl+9
Hide the selected columnsCtrl+0

Ribbon Keyboard Shortcuts

The different tabs on the Excel ribbon can also be accessed using keyboard shortcuts.

To do thisPress
Open the File page and use Backstage view.Alt+F
Open the Home tab and format text and numbers and use the Find tool.Alt+H
Open the Insert tab and insert PivotTables, charts, add-ins, Sparklines, pictures, shapes, headers, or text boxes.Alt+N
Open the Page Layout tab and work with themes, page setup, scale, and alignment.Alt+P
Open the Formulas tab and insert, trace, and customize functions and calculations.Alt+M
Open the Data tab and connect to, sort, filter, analyze, and work with data.Alt+A
Open the Review tab and check spelling, add notes and threaded comments, and protect sheets and workbooks.Alt+R
Open the View tab and preview page breaks and layouts, show and hide gridlines and headings, set zoom magnification, manage windows and panes, and view macros.Alt+W

Keyboard Shortcuts for Moving around Worksheets

To do thisPress
Move to the previous cell in a worksheet or the previous option in a dialog.Shift+Tab
Move one cell up in a worksheet.Up arrow key
Move one cell down in a worksheet.Down arrow key
Move one cell left in a worksheet.Left arrow key
Move one cell right in a worksheet.Right arrow key
Move to the edge of the current data region in a worksheet.Ctrl+Arrow key
Move to the last cell on a worksheet, to the lowest used row of the rightmost used column.Ctrl+End
Extend the selection of cells to the last used cell on the worksheet (lower-right corner).Ctrl+Shift+End
Move to the beginning of a worksheet.Ctrl+Home
Move one screen down in a worksheet.Page Down
Move to the next sheet in a workbook.Ctrl+Page Down

Keyboard Shortcuts for Making Selections

To do thisPress
Select the entire worksheet.Ctrl+A or Ctrl+Shift+Spacebar
Select the current and previous sheet in a workbook.Ctrl+Shift+Page Up
Extend the selection of cells by one cell.Shift+Arrow key
Extend the selection of cells to the last nonblank cell in the same column or row as the active cell, or if the next cell is blank, to the next nonblank cell.Ctrl+Shift+Arrow key
Add a non-adjacent cell or range to a selection of cells by using the arrow keys.Shift+F8
Start a new line in the same cell.Alt+Enter
Fill the selected cell range with the current entry.Ctrl+Enter
Complete a cell entry and select the cell above.Shift+Enter
Select an entire row in a worksheet.Shift+Spacebar
Select the current region if the worksheet contains data. Press a second time to select the current region and its summary rows. Press a third time to select the entire worksheet.Ctrl+A or Ctrl+Shift+Spacebar
Select the first command on the menu when a menu or submenu is visible.Home
Repeat the last command or action, if possible.Ctrl+Y
Undo the last action.Ctrl+Z

Keyboard Shortcuts for Formatting Cells

To do thisPress
Open the Format Cells dialog.Ctrl+1
Enter the current time.Ctrl+Shift+colon (:)
Enter the current date.Ctrl+semi-colon (;)
Copy a formula from the cell above the active cell into the cell or the Formula Bar.Ctrl+apostrophe (‘)
Move the selected cells.Ctrl+X
Open the Paste Special dialog.Ctrl+Alt+V
Italicize text or remove italic formatting.Ctrl+I or Ctrl+3
Bold text or remove bold formatting.Ctrl+B or Ctrl+2
Underline text or remove underline.Ctrl+U or Ctrl+4
Switch between hiding objects, displaying objects, and displaying placeholders for objects.Ctrl+6
Display or hide the outline symbols.Ctrl+8
Use the Fill Down command to copy the contents and format of the topmost cell of a selected range into the cells below.Ctrl+D
Open the Insert hyperlink dialog.Ctrl+K
Display the Create Table dialog.Ctrl+L or Ctrl+T

There are many, many more Excel keyboard shortcuts.

Pancakes of The World

We all love pancakes. Sweet or savoury, of various thicknesses, tossed, stuffed or covered in sauce. But types of pancakes are incredibly diverse and it seems every country has a pancake of its own. Even if you think that you are a bit of a pancake expert, you might find that there are types that you haven’t come across before. And whether you like yours covered with butter and syrup, or rolled up with falafel and cheese, there may be something new to delight your palate.

We all know the English pancake, made with plain flour, eggs and milk. Although some drizzle them with golden syrup or wrap them around savoury fillings, they are traditionally topped with lemon juice and sugar. (Even now, the supermarkets are stuffed full of Jif on the run-up to pancake day.) The recipe for them is fairly simple and the secret is a very hot pan and a confident wrist action when flipping.

But If you want something slightly different, then there are many, many different types of pancakes to try:

French Crêpes

Although we usually associate them with France, this very thin pancake is also common in Belgium and Switzerland and other parts of Europe. They are probably the closest counterparts to English pancakes, although their ingredients contain sugar. They can also be served sweet or savoury, with almost any filling you could wish for. The key is to make them super-thin. There are some great tips for perfect crêpes here.

Dutch Baby Pancake

Don’t be fooled by the name. The pancake actually originates in German and it’s not small. It’s giant in size, baked in the oven rather than fried and actually resembles a Yorkshire pudding. Usually seasoned with cinnamon or vanilla, they are mainly served sweet. Here’s a version by Nigella.

Scotch Pancakes

These are similar to American pancakes and are made with flour, eggs, sugar, milk, salt and cream of tartar. Often called drop-scones, they are much smaller and thicker than a traditional English pancake. Scotch pancakes are often served with jam or cream, like normal scones.

Russian Blinis

Considered a symbol of the sun in pre-Christian times these light, thin pancakes and are still eaten during religious occasions. Typically served with sour cream, butter or caviar, Blinis are yeasted pancakes traditionally made from buckwheat flour. Mini blinis in the UK are often eaten with smoked salmon. They are the pancake most often found in a party buffet.


These pancakes usually found in southern India can be made with a batter of fermented rice and black lentil, mixed with spices and chopped onions. It’s a spicy variant on the pancake theme.

Potato pancakes (Irish Boxty)

Whilst we usually think of flour as the most important ingredient in pancakes; many Eastern European cuisines feature potatoes in their versions. Pan-fried and made with batter from grated potatoes, flour and egg, there are many different types, such as the Swedish Raggmunk. The Irish Boxty is a pancake-hash brown hybrid and is best served as a savoury snack.

Indonesian Serabi

Something completely different, this pancake is made with rice flour and coconut milk and only cooked on one side. Mostly Serabi are eaten sweet, but you can add cheese and meat for a savoury snack. Some recipes which add pandan leaf juice mean that the pancakes are green. Making them isn’t as straightforward as other types of pancake, but they are naturally gluten free.

Danish Aebleskiver

The pancake equivalent of doughnuts, Danish Aebleskiver are served hot, fluffy and round! You will need a special frying pan with deep holes for each pancake. They are even eaten like doughnuts; dipped in jam and sprinkled in sugar

Venezuela and Colombia: Cachapas

Part of traditional Venezuelan cuisine, these corn pancakes are usually folded over fresh melted cheese and are a popular “street” food.

Japan: Okonomiyaki

Savory pancakes, Okonomiyaki, comes from the word okonomi meaning “What you want” and “Yaki” meaning grilled. Made with flour, egg, cabbage and really whatever else you want.

American-Style Pancakes

Perhaps the most popular pancake type in the UK, even beating the traditional English style pancake, the American recipe uses a rising agent like baking powder to form thicker, fluffier pancakes. Traditionally served with maple syrup and bacon for breakfast, or often served with sweet toppings such as fruit, cream or yoghurt, it is possible it is possible to add batter mix-ins such as blueberries or chocolate chips.

There are many more types of pancake from around the world to find out about and enjoy.