March 31, 2012
Stevia is a natural herb sweetener that has zero calories. I use the sugar replacement in many baked goods and desserts, and I find it an excellent sugar replacement with a pleasant taste. Some consumers have reported a bitter aftertaste, which I have not picked up from Stevia (I use the Natvia brand) but I have tasted this bitterness with Splenda, another sugar replacement.
Since I use Stevia at least once a week in my baking, I wanted to find out more on its safety record. I was pleased to find that Stevia has a solid track record in safety for consumption, unlike many other sugar replacements which have been linked to cancer and digestive disorders. Stevia has no reports of any adverse reactions.
As for sugar itself, while it is a natural product too, after reading "Sweet Poison" I felt even more compelled to cut sugar from my diet. The author of Sweet Poison explains that sugar is not detected by the body and deposits straight to fat.
Sometimes it can be difficult to judge the safety of these sugar replacements, especially with conflicting reports, some which seem to be biased (sugar companies obviously won't want these products to be successful). After doing research, I will keep using Stevia happily and I would encourage others to use it, especially in baking.
Read the information below and make your own mind up.
March 29, 2012
March 27, 2012
March 21, 2012
Now I know I am a skinny cook, but confectionery is of such interest to me. The packaging, creative flavours and pure diversity is just so darn enticing! Damn those clever marketers! I am still coming to grips with the fact that while chocolate and candy should comprise a tiny part of our diet, it takes up half our grocery stores. While I resist the urge to buy chocolate most of the time, one chocolate bar that has sparked my interest is the humble Kit-Kat. While it may not have an illustrious career in Australia, the Kit-Kat is Japan's most beloved snack. And conquering the competitive snack food market in Japan is no small feat. Visiting a convenience store in Japan is a breath-taking experience, with glittering packaging, inventive and umimaginable foods, and endless choices. For someone like me, who would admittedly buy anything in pink or glitter, I would find an excuse to pop in just to gawk.
Now while I think chocolate dominates our grocery stores enough, in Japan, Nestle's faithful chocolate bar the Kit-Kat has its own dedicated aisle. Visitors to this aisle will find Kit-Kats in a stunning array of flavours, from soy sauce or sweet corn, to salty caramel or blood-orange. Kit-Kat has something for everyone.... I'm sure there is someone out there who just has to have that soy sauce Kit-Kat!
Over a decade, Nestle has produced more than 200 Kit-Kat flavours to suprise and delight. So famed, one advertisement depicted a student taking a rhinestone emblazed Kit-Kat to an exam as a good luck omen and now one quarter of Japanese students do the same! Some flavours are traditionally inspired, such as pickled plum, mashed edmame or red azuki bean. Others capitalise on particular seasons in Japan, such as the cherry blossom Kit-Kat, only sold in Spring. Some Kit-Kats are sold in specific regions, the potato Kit-Kat is sold in Hokkaido, which is famous for producing spuds.
While it is impossible to list all the Kit-Kat flavours, let your tastebuds imagine these: pineapple, green tea, chestnut, caramel macchiato, apple, espresso, pumpkin, muscat grape, watermelon, vegetables galore, sweet vinegar and beef! Beef?! Have you tried any of these? I think I need to do further investigation... think of the cupcake possibilities!
The texture of these cakes is brilliant, just really lovely and crumbly. This rich texture is complemented beautifully with a vanilla glaze adorned with gorgeous little marshmallow flowers. While not officially gluten-free, spelt flour is easier to digest than regular flour and can be a great alternative to those who can be sensitive to gluten but are not celiac or have Crohn's disease. Made with light olive oil, rice milk and Natvia, these cupcakes do not have any saturated fat, dairy and are reduced in sugar. The sweet flowers made with sliced marshmallows and Smarties were first made by my mother for my 4th birthday party cake, courtesy from The Women's Weekly Birthday Cake Book. These a super fun to make and will be popular with all. Perfect for Mother's Day, a girly bridal shower or a homemade high tea - minus the food guilt!
Skinny spelt flower power cupcakes
- 1 1/4 cups of organic spelt flour
- 4 teaspoons of baking powder
- 4 tablespoons of rice milk
- 1 tablespoon of good-quality vanilla extract + 1 teaspoon
- 1 teaspoon of coconut essence + 1/2 teaspoon
- 4 tablespoons of light olive oil
- 2 whole eggs and 1 egg white
- 3 tablespoons of Natvia
- 3/4 cup of pure icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon of hot water
- pink and white marshmallows
- Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl.
- In a seperate small bowl, mix together oil, vanilla, coconut essence and rice milk.
- With an electric mixer, beat the eggs together until fluffy (3 minutes should suffice).
- Add the sugar to the eggs and continue to mix for 5 minutes until frothy.
- Pour half the flour mix into the egg mixtures and lightly fold flour in.
- Add the rice and oil mixture and fold this in carefully.
- Add the remainder of the flour and lightly mix in until ingredients are combined.
- Divide the mixture between lined muffin tins (I made small cupcakes, which equated to 16 cupcakes).
- Bake in a moderate oven for 12 - 15 minutes until golden brown and slightly risen.
- Transfer to a wire rack.
To make flowers:
- Using a sharp knife, cut each marshmallow into four pieces lengthways.
- Dip each piece carefully in sprinkles and arrange into petals. Add a Smartie into the centre of the flower.
- Repeat until you have made enough for each cake.
- When putting these flowers on the cupcakes (after icing is on), carefully transfer onto the cake and lightly press Smartie into the cake to secure flower.
To make icing:
- Sift icing sugar into a small bowl, add water, vanilla and coconut essence.
- Mix together with a spoon until all is combined.
- It should be of a consistency that is thin enough to drizzle on the cakes but thick enough to stay on the cakes. Play around with this consistency to what suits you. If too thick, add a drop of water at a time until you have reached desired consistency. If too thin, sift in a tablespoon at a time of icing sugar until you have created the right icing mix.
March 20, 2012
March 19, 2012
A basic vegetable soup can be made from organic low-sodium stock (chicken or vegetable) and a selection of vegetables (like mushroom, carrot, celery, onion and broccoli), cut into small cubes. To incorporate protein into your dish, add some diced tofu, lean chicken breast or chickpeas. For more soup ideas, I have included some Tracy Anderson soup recipes in this article. Tracy Anderson is a renowned fitness and weight loss expert, with celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow crediting their bodies to Tracy's advice and guidance.
Carrot Ginger Soup
- 2 cups of low-sodium vegetable stock
- 1 1/2 cups of peeled and chopped carrots
- 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, chopped
- 1/4 cup of chopped Spanish onion
- 1/4 cup of peeled and chopped sweet potato
- 1/8 cup of chopped celery
- 4 sprigs of parsley
- cracked pepper
Pour two cups of the stock in a heavy saucepan, then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat, simmering until the vegetables are soft. Then puree the cooked mixture in a food processor or blender. Add a little water or stock if you want to thin the soup's consistency. Top with cracked pepper to serve.
Tomato Minestrone Soup
- 2 cup of low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup of peeled and chopped white onion
- 1/8 cup of chopped celery
- 1/2 cup of peeled and diced sweet potato
- 1 cup of drained and chopped tinned tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh chives
- 1 cup of steamed spinach (frozen or fresh)
- 1 cup of chopped and steamed kale
- cracked pepper
- cayenne pepper
In a saucepan, combine 1/4 cup of the stock with onion, celery, sweet potato and sweat vegetables for 10 minutes on medium heat. The stock will reduce and vegetables will start to brown; then add tomatoes and the rest of the stock. Add herbs, spinach and kale and simmer for another 5 minutes. Season with pepper and cayenne pepper. Serve.
March 18, 2012
This extract is taken from Backwards in High Heels by Tania Kindersley and Sarah Vine.
For some reason, it has taken us almost forty years to master this one, and even now we're not sure we've quite managed it. You know how it is: you've been good all day, you've eaten your five fruits and colourful vegetables, you've drunk water, you've avoided caffeine and crisps. You've eaten your nutritionally complete supper and now you're just settling down to watch a nice bit of television, or read a book, or wander about on the internet and something, somewhere, in the darkest recesses of the most primitive corner of your brain, starts up the mantra: cho-co-late; cho-co-late. It's like some ancient drum-beat, an irresistible siren call. Before you know it, you're surrounded by empty wrappers, and you can't even remember how. Or why. All you know is how much, and it's a lot, enough to awaken the serpent of self-loathing, who more often than not takes one look at the carnage and says, in a hissy voice: Oh what the hell, you may as well scoff the whole lot!
Rule number one: count to ten before you reach for the box, bar or tin. It's a very simple rule but it works. Then select no more than three chocolate and put them on a small plate. Now put away the remaining chocolates. Do not take them with you. Eat your chosen chocolates slowly and consciously. Savour it. It helps also if the chocolate is of highest grade. Embrace the smug feeling of being in control.
I love tea; it is a fantastic alternative to higher calorie hot drinks like coffee or hot chocolate, and many teas have great health benefits for the body. Making your own iced tea is also a great option as opposed to store-bought iced teas or other sugary beverages. Nicole Scherzinger is a tea fan, as is Guiliana Rancic who uses teas to ward off sugar cravings. I drink green tea all day long, have chamomile tea before bed, and also use peppermint or ginger tea for stomach ailments. In this article are some inventive tea recipes taken from a gorgeous book called 'Tea' written by herb expert Margaret Roberts. She has collected her favourite tea recipes, based on different herbs and their healing properties.
March 15, 2012
Being fit doesn't have to mean you have your nutritionist on speed dial, you see your personal trainer more than you see your mum and you pay more on your gym membership than you do on your rent. The road to fitness can be much more simple (and less expensive). You can and should be moving your body everyday; think walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift, parking further away from the grocery store and carrying your shopping with a slightly bent elbow (to work your biceps), or just jumping off the bus one stop before you normally would and walking the extra distance.
Be mindful of your core muscles and squeeze your abs when you are doing household chores, like wiping the bench, vacuuming or scrubbing the shower (yes, scrubbing the shower but let's face it, everyone has to do it!). Core muscles are often weak in those who sit down for long periods each day, which is most of us if you have an office job, and these muscles are crucial in ensuring your back doesn't do all the work in powering your movements. Weak core muscles can also be problematic when you become pregnant and terrible back ache can ensue.
A great approach to each day is to wake up in the morning and do some star jumps, simple squats and push-ups. Or just switch of the radio and do a rendition of Cameron Diaz in Charlie's Angels in the scene when she wakes up in the morning, that looked like a pretty solid morning workout to me...
Whatever you do, avoid anything that makes you feel negative; do things that make you feel good and you will associate that positive feeling with exercise. You'll realise there is always time to exercise.
March 14, 2012
While Carrie is adamant she will never eat meat again, she is drawn to the thought of having her own farm and consuming her own produce saying "...if I could raise my own cows and chickens and produce my own eggs and cheese, it would be awesome! " Carrie explains her motivations for becoming vegan by saying, "my veganism is based on a concern about where my food is coming from."
To achieve her body and fitness goals, Carrie religiously keeps a food journal, which can be a helpful tool in managing your food intake and exercise regime. She also avoids stodgy foods explaning to Self, "I lay off starches. I'm not a fan of the nocarb thing; you're going to get yourself in trouble that way. So I have lots of veggies and fruit but no other starches or bread."
To keep her body in check, Carrie works out with a trainer and is dedicated to incorporating exercise into her daily life. "In the beginning, my biggest fear was being criticized. Now I'm a lot better with saying, I feel good about myself and that's enough."
I thought these tasted best when very fresh, otherwise 10 seconds or so in the microwave revive the moistness of the cakes. I don't frost all of mine and freeze half the cakes immediately if I don't have enough of a crowd to please. The icing can go in a small zip lock bag and also into the freezer. To defrost the icing, just spoon out how much you think you will need for one cupcake (or however many you want to ice) and leave in a bowl for a 10 minutes to reach room temperature. Then you can spread away!
On a decoration note, I did think little green apple candies would look sweet on top of each cake. This was my plan but I ended up finding too much solace in my kitchen to leave! Let me know if you have any other cute ideas for decoration inspirations.
Everyone knows I love Nigella and as she is the queen of comfort food, I thought I would turn to her in my current time of need. Of course Nigella has the answers to my food prayers and I found it in her lovely rich golden soup. Super easy to make, healthy, filling and COMFORTING!
Soup is a soothing comfort food and unlike a tub of ice cream or a block of chocolate, soup doesn't come with the repercussions of cellulite and food guilt! It's also packed with vitamins and will keep you 'calmly' satisfied. Plus I always find the process of making soup very cathartic; something about it's old-fashioned family feel. Time to start cooking!
Nigella's butternut squash and sweet potato soup
Serves 2 (or as Nigella says, 1 in great need - Oh how I love her commentary!)
March 13, 2012
The always beautiful Jennifer Love Hewitt flaunts her gorgeous curves in Maxim magazine, weeks before her racy new show 'The Client List' hits screens. As 'The Client List' centres on Jennifer's character engaging in some risqué behaviour to earn extra money when her family hits tough times, it isn't surprising Jennifer is talking about her new found love for pole dancing. She explains pole dancing is a way for her to stay in touch with her sexual side and get the benefits of a work-out at the same time. I was dragged into doing a pole dancing class once and it was extremely difficult! Climbing that pole is no small feat, let me just say that. Apart from her unconventional exercise routine, Jennifer also talked of how she loves to bake - my kind of girl! - revealing her domestic side. Sounds to me like pole dancing and cake baking would certainly be the way to a man's heart but at 33, Jennifer remains single, although she has acquired a busy dating history. As for being dateless right now, Jennifer reasons that despite what some may think, men never approach her. “It might sound so stupid, but guys do not hit on me. I'm not really sure why.” Intimidation comes to mind! Regardless, I think she looks amazing and has clearly not lost her appeal just yet.
Want to try this cute tie-died hair trend but don't want to wake up tomorrow and be over it? Try these easy and temporary ways to colour your locks.
Clip-in extensions: pick up coloured extensions from fancy dress shops, Ebay or buy blonde extensions and dye them (with your colour of choice). Coloured extensions are also stocked at some hairdressers or wig shops. This is a good approach to take if you have hair that is in poor condition (you don't want to stress it out with more colour, even if temporary) or if it will be a hot and sticky environment and you don't want 'your colour to run!'.
Spray In Colour: I'm talking about those little spray cans of colour you may have excitedly purchased in your school days to experiment with colour in the only way you could without your parents having a heart attack. These are the kind of colours that wash out straight away. Try Stargazers Colour Spray in pink (which you can buy via Amazon) or search in your local dress-up shop for coloured sprays. To do this properly, first pop on some rubber gloves, and make sure you're not near walls - just in case that wasn't obvious... Cover the floor around you in some old towels or newspaper. Use another towel and place around your shoulders and have it styled by this stage (it will be a disaster if you try to curl your hair after doing this activity). Start by sectioning the hair in half and bring it around to the front and leave the strands flat against your shoulders, then spray colour onto the ends. Voilà!
March 12, 2012
March 11, 2012
|Freshly baked strawberry chocolate muffins|
|Cake batter in progress|
My cakes turned out to have a lovely texture and rich taste, and I actually think they are much nicer than a 'low-fat' regular cake mix, which I think can taste very artificial and cake-mix detectable. I enhanced my batter with some added flavours (see my recipe below), but the mix is very versatile so add whatever you like. I would suggest banana chunks, dark chocolate chips or chopped nuts.
March 10, 2012
This cake boasts one of my favourite flavours, Nutella! And I cannot resist anything baked in a gorgeous bundt tin, I consider bundt tins one of the great wonders of baking, it just makes cakes look more impressive. This moist and rich buttery cake is swirled with the sweet hazlenut spread to create the most delicious afternoon tea treat.
I have adapted this recipe from Taste.com.au to cut down on the fat and sugar.
March 08, 2012
For the last 30 years, my family and I have vacationed at the same resort over the winter holidays. As I lay by the pool last month, I reflected on the wide spectrum of body types I have occupied over time in those chaise lounges. I also tried to recollect how I felt about my body at those times in my life.
As a cuddly 4-year-old, my biggest concern related to my fingertips wrinkling when I played in the water all afternoon. Moving into adolescence, I recalled feeling uncomfortable as my body started to soften and develop new curvatures. At age 16, I remembered hiding under my bathing suit cover-up, feeling shameful of the 40 extra pounds I carried as a high-school sophomore. I also thought about the self-consciousness I experienced as an emaciated 25-year-old doctoral student as I was recovering from a life-threatening illness.
This year, I had fully expected to feel completely at ease in my bikini. I am in arguably the best shape of my life, having recently developed a passion for weight lifting and yoga. I am part of a community where “strong is the new skinny,” and I usually take pride in my “guns.” However, as I looked around the pool at some of the willowy figures around me, I suddenly felt like a linebacker. The old voices of self-doubt started whispering, “You’re so bulky. Those women look much better than you.”
Fortunately, a wise part of me could step back, observe my thoughts, and be curious about them – rather than immediately accept my thoughts as facts. After all, our body image is a subjective experience, reflective more of our current emotional state than of the reality of our physical shape and size. If you are one of the many individuals who struggle with poor body image from time to time, try the following:
- Focus on Function: Remind yourself of all of the wonderful things your body allows you to do. Your arms hug your loved ones and your legs allow you to explore the world. Regardless of its aesthetic qualities, your body has value and importance.
- Nevermind the Numbers: The bathroom scale can give you faulty information and contribute to inaccurate and negative feelings about your body. Because muscle takes up less space in the body than fat, your “look” at a particular weight can vary greatly. I weigh 10 pounds more than I did last year, but my clothes are looser, I can sprint faster, and I can flip a 500lb tractor tire. Thus, if you are only using a number to make assessments about your body, you may be overlooking important positive changes.
- Cut the Comparisons: There will always be someone in your environment with longer legs, a flatter stomach, or less jiggle under her arms. (Further, it’s very likely that someone is looking at you and feeling envious of your best feature.) Thus, using someone else’s body to measure your satisfaction with your own physique is a set-up for disappointment.
- Accentuate Your Assets: When you look in the mirror, focus on what you like best. Maybe you have striking eyes, broad shoulders, or a long and graceful neck. Play up that feature as you make decisions about how you style yourself. This will build your overall confidence in your appearance.
You only get one body in this life. Care for it. Respect it. Learn to love it … just as it is right now.
Miss Dior encaptulates the timelessness of Dior scents, like the original Miss Dior, Poison and Dior Essence.
Miss Dior now has three types of fragrances, including a fresh new floral scent.
Visit your nearest Dior counter for a free sample.
Miss Dior now has three types of fragrances, including a fresh new floral scent.
Visit your nearest Dior counter for a free sample.
March 06, 2012
|Courtesy of Shape Magazine|
Kelly has said goodbye to her days of eating chips and cookies, and drinking soda all day long. She now follows a high-protein, low-carb diet of fish and vegetables and regularly exercises to keep her body fit and healthy.
Dancing with the Starts kick-started Kelly's new lifestyle. "I started losing weight and I realised this whole diet and exercise thing works! I was always looking for a quick fix, diet pills or even gastric bypass."
Winning her body battle has been a challenge but Kelly recognises it was a worthwhile change for both her health and her happiness. Making a commitment for life to keep her healthy lifestyle, Kelly doesn't see herself repeating her mistakes.
"Getting in shape was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I really do love my body now."
One of her favourite recipes on her reformed diet is turkey burgers, see below.
March 04, 2012
'I like to wear things that have a sense of humour and are adorable' Katy Perry
'I can't run, from where I come from, no one can!' Katy Perry
'I'm such a collector of all things cute' Katy Perry
|View from the Park Hyatt|
Staying at the Four Seasons, we felt absolutely pampered and enjoyed divine spa treatments, buffet breakfasts and room service. I could almost say my favourite part of the whole hotel experience was the luxurious king size bed and steam shower! Yes I have fantasies of living in a hotel.
|Enjoying dinner at Park Hyatt|
|My cauliflower and fontina croquettes|
|Fabulous Billie-Cart Salmon Rose|
|Halfway through our delicious dessert plate|
|Loving the beautiful giraffes at the zoo|
|Braving the rain to see the Sydney Harbour Bridge|
|My Four Seasons Spa manicure|
|One of my shopping purchases - love anything leopard!|