Archives November 2015

Nadia Lim’s Fresh Start Cookbook – a review

I can remember the day when Nadia Lim won Masterchef – the deciding food challenge was a giant macron tower that looked so amazing! Even though this wasn’t exactly a ‘health food’ challenge, I knew a dietitian winning could only mean good things.  Since then Nadia has been a knowledgeable advocate for healthy yet delicious food and a balanced approach to living well. I’ve not been disappointed with her recipes, so I was excited to check out her new Fresh Start cook book.

This cook book comes with a bit of a difference.  It is a recipe book, but it’s also a weight loss book.  Nadia provides advice for healthy eating, and shares 12 steps for health and wellbeing.  There is also a section at the back of the book on exercise, written by Nadia’s friend and personal trainer Michael McCormack.  From this, you can create your own exercise programme without the need for special equipment.

Nadia’s food philosophy is around a “nude food” approach which focuses on wholefood basics, without fuss and inflexible food rules on what you shouldn’t eat.  There’s no fads or misinformation, simply sensible nutrition advice with plenty of delicious food.

Nadia says:

..I’m not going to prescribe you a strict diet or set of food rules to follow, my focus has always been making healthy eating as simple, easy and delicious as possible.

Nadia mentions she isn’t a fan of calorie counting, although all the recipes do have calorie and macronutrient counts.  She’s more of an advocate for paying attention to food groups and portion sizes and there is some information on the book on this.

For me, I was more interested in the recipe side of the book and there is plenty of recipe inspiration, with over 100 recipes.

The recipe section is divided into breakfasts, lunches and dinners as well as a section of delicious desserts and sweet treats. All the recipes are beautifully photographed and there are so many fresh ideas, I have the feeling that my breakfasts and lunches in particular are going to be looking particularly exciting over the next few weeks!

A number of the recipes are inspired by Asian flavours, as well as other ethnic dishes such as Mexican.  None of the recipes are too fussy and are made with ingredients most of us would have in our pantry, as well some herbs and spices.

First on my list to make are the following:

Lemongrass chicken skewers with mango salad
Spicy Jamaican jerk chicken
Spanish meatballs, beans and cauliflower parsley mash

And for a sweet treat:

Lemon coconut slice
Chocolate berry fudge brownies.

I’ll let you know how I get on over on my Facebook page 🙂

You can buy the cookbook online  here – it’s currently on special for $35.99. It’s also available at all good bookstores.

My Christchurch trip – relaxation, delicious food and fun

This year has been a busy one for me.  Working full time, contributing to other publications as well as maintaining a blog has been rewarding and I love it, but it’s also been tiring.  As the end of the year approaches, I really felt like I needed a mini break to keep me going. With no arm twisting at all my friend said she’d love to join me so I signed up to Jetstar Price Radar and found some fantastic value flights for relaxing few days away, heading to Christchurch.

Price Radar is great, especially when you have a busy life.  It does all the hard work for you to find the best priced flights.  You search for your flights, then simply hit “activate price radar”.  You’ll then get email updates when flights hit your ideal price.  So when I got the magic email, I locked it in.

Give it a go for your next trip or even have a play around for a spontaneous trip if the price is right – you can use it for both domestic and international flights. Check it out here

Here’s what we got up to on our relaxing weekend away.

1. Hanmer Springs

Since flights were such great value, I had extra spending money so we decided go on a bit of a road trip and hired a car with GPS to show us the way.  We jumped off the plane, picked up our car and drove to Hamner Springs for the ultimate in relaxation – lounging in the thermal hot pools.  If you haven’t been to Hanmer Springs, you need to go.  It’s a small but very beautiful alpine town surrounded by mountains and is of course most famous for it’s natural hot pools.

The Hanmer Springs thermal pools were actually bigger and better than I had imagined.  There are a range of different hot pools, including rock pools, sulphur pools and Aqua Therapy pools. Aqua Therapy originated in Europe and is a new form of water relaxation which helps relax your muscles and body.  One of the pools has amazing powerful water and air jets which massage your body as you lay there in the warm water.

The sulphur pools were amazingly warm,  and the rock pools were very relaxing too.  You just sit back soak up the heat and admire the gorgeous surroundings.  We lounged around until we turned prune like and then decided to head off to explore the town a little.



Image from here


2. Conical Hill Walking Track

Hanmer Springs has plenty of walking tracks and we decided to track up to Conical Hill to get a better view of the gorgeous area.  Conical Hill is an hour round trip, although I’m sure we did it faster than that and we were in our jandals. So even though it’s all up hill it’s not too strenuous which was nice since we’d just been relaxing in the hot pools.

There’s something special about being in nature and the walk was really enjoyable. It’s so peaceful and tranquil with only the sounds of trees rustling and birds chirping.  The views from the top were gorgeous – miles of lush green trees, blue skies and snow tipped mountains. After admiring the views, it was then a nice meander down through the tall trees before heading to Christchurch.  You can find out more about this walking track and others in Hanmer Springs here.

3.  Day 2 – breakfast at Hello Sunday Cafe

There’s nothing like a delicious, healthy breakfast to start the day and Hello Sunday was just perfect for filling those requirements on our second day.  The cafe provided perfect combination of great food, good service and a beautiful setting.   The food at Hello Sunday caters for a range of dietary requirements and is made from scratch using fresh locally sourced and often organic produce.  The coffee was perfect, and I chose the smashed avocado served with crispy polenta, poached eggs, goats curd and toasted multigrain. This was pretty much my ideal breakfast with my favourite things – eggs, avocado and feta – delicious.    Hello Sunday was recommended to me by a few people, and if you head to Christchurch I’d also recommend checking it out.


4. The Christchurch Farmers Market

The Christchurch Farmers Market is a must see for any foodie.  The market showcases some of the best of Canterbury’s produce, artisan and prepared foods.

For the healthy foodie, I’d recommend checking out the BearLion stall.  BearLion make delicious salads, healthier sweet treats, cereals and preserves using wholefood, natural ingredients.  There’s also plenty of options for those who have allergies.

I bought one of their organic cacao cakes topped with salted caramel sauce and it was truly amazing!  It had a rich chocolate taste and a fudgey consistency that just melted in your mouth. It was also really filling. Washed down with a green juice from Green Roots Organics, it was the perfect mid morning snack to keep me going.

The other place I would recommend checking out is Posh Porridge. If I hadn’t already had breakfast I so would have picked that option.  I was drooling looking at their menu board and I may or may not have stolen some ideas for porridge at home.

Another yummy food stall was Whiteheart hazelnuts. Grown by Ann Joseph in Christchurch, she creates a wide range of delicious hazelnut products – from a range of hazelnut butters to granolas and bliss balls. I bought a hazelnut butter to take home and my friend Caroline tried out their cacao hazlenut granola.

We spent a leisurely few hours sampling many delicious delights and left with full bellies and happy hearts!



5. The Vintage Peddler Bike Hire

For a cruisy, active afternoon we hired bikes from The Vintage Peddler and explored the city a little, including a bike ride through Hadley Park and following the track along the Avon River.  We had a quick nosey in at the Botanical Gardens too.  I particularly liked the conservatory full of tropical plants and greenery.

The bikes were lots of fun, and those old fashioned bike seats sure are comfy.  I now think I need to trade in my bike at home for an old fashioned number.

Christchurch city centre, although still under construction, has lots going for it.  I loved admiring the sculptures and graffiti art around the city which really brightens it up amongst the new construction and empty sites.

We checked out the Re:Start mall, the Cardboard Cathedral as well as having a nosey at the ruins of the old one, which was quite sad to see.

Christchurch is the perfect city for biking in – it’s nice and flat and the roads are wide, without too much traffic.  I felt perfectly safe and secure peddling around.



6. Retail therapy

A little retail therapy was the perfect way to round up a relaxing weekend away.  I was super impressed with Christchurch’s shops.  In fact I think it’s some of the best shopping I’ve seen, with gorgeous homewares, clothing stores and shoe shops. There’s even a Lorna Jane Active store, the only one in NZ.
We had a quick browse around the Tannery, Colombo as well as the Re:Start mall.  Since I got such great value flights, I had some money for a little retail therapy.  Here’s a few of of my shopping finds, including some new Nike shoes, a glass drink bottle from Lululemon and a very cute raindrop necklace with a gold, rose gold and silver raindrop made locally in Christchurch.

7.  Dinner at 50 Bistro

Just arrived! How cool is the living wall in the courtyard?!

We decided to treat ourselves to dinner at 50 Bistro, an award winning restaurant located in the George Hotel. My dinner at 50 Bistro was one of the nicest meals I’ve had out for a long time.  The food was delicious, well presented and the service as also spot on.  I chose the pork dish:

Slow Cooked Free Farmed Pork
monteiths cider & sage cured pork belly & grilled tenderloin, celeriac, nut ranch organic hazelnuts & apple gel

You choose your main then add to it from a range of delicious sides – from templeton shiitakes, green beans, wok fry sauce, crispy shallots to simple sauteed kale with coconut oil and garlic.

The pork was tender, cooked to perfection and had amazing flavour. I only had my iphone here so the photo isn’t amazing, but the taste was!

Because I’m a believer in moderation and the dessert menu sounded divine, I had dessert too. My option was:

50 Bistro “Pavlova”
crisp raspberry & vanilla poached meringue, white chocolate cremeux, basil & granny smith gel

That white chocolate cremeux has me drooling thinking about it.  Total deliciousness!

Our trip away was short, but very enjoyable and I came home feeling relaxed and revived.  I’m now thinking about what my next trip should be!  To book your own trip away at a great value price, check out Jetstar Price Radar and start planning a little getaway.  You deserve it 🙂

Homeward bound. Christchurch to Wellington is only 45 minutes which makes it perfect distance for a weekend trip.

This post was made possible thanks to Jetstar.

Chocolate Chia Banana Bread


When we were kids, one of the cakes mum used to make was a chocolate marble cake, and I loved the way it looked.   I don’t know why, but the idea for a similar concept with banana bread popped into my head randomly the other day when I noticed the over ripe banana stash in my freezer was getting a little out of control (does this happen to anyone else when the weather gets warmer?!).  So I gave another banana bread recipe a make over and created this chocolate chia banana bread. It’s very tasty for a bit of a healthier sweet treat.

It’s quite dense and chocolatey, and super delicious when you bite into a lovely chunk of dark chocolate amongst the bananary goodness. Store in the fridge.  This freezes well too.

Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Chia Banana Bread

1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups wholegrain oats
1 cup flour (Gluten free, plain, wholemeal, spelt – your choice)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1/2 cup coconut
100g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks.
1/2 cup coconut oil (or butter)
1/4 cup stevia or sugar
1 tablespoon honey
3 large ripe bananas, blended
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 to 1/3 cup milk

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a loaf tin with non stick baking paper
  2. Mix the cocoa,oats, flour, baking powder, chia seeds, stevia/sugar, coconut and half of the chocolate in a bowl and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil and honey together, stirring well.
  4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the coconut oil/honey mixture, the banana, eggs, milk.
  5. Gently fold together until just combined. Add a little extra milk if required.
  6. Place half of the mixture in a smaller bowl and stir in the cocoa.
  7. Tip the cocoa mixture back into the rest of the banana bread mixture and loosely fold through to create a marbled effect.
  8. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for around 45 minutes or until cooked.  An easy way to check is to insert a skewer in the middle.  It will come out clean once cooked.
  9. Tip the loaf out onto a rack to cool. While still warm, sprinkle the rest of the chocolate over the top, and as it starts to melt, spread over the loaf.
  10. Garnish with a little coconut.


Creating the perfect salad

If you’re a salad lover but want to devour the entire fridge when you get home from work, you might need to re-evaluate what goes into your salad. While vegetable packed salads are very nutritious, for a lunch time meal you need to make sure you get the balance right to stop you from feeling starving an hour or two later. So while there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ salad (only one that’s perfectly delicious for you!),  here are some guidelines to create a salad with some balance.  Utlimately, choose what fits best with you and what makes you feel good.

Here’s how to create the perfect salad with some balance.

  1.  Vegetable base

    Pick your favourite non starchy vegetables and aim for 1-2 cups. To keep it interesting, think of texture when you create your salad.  I personally like a bit of crunch in my salad, so I’ll mix red cabbage, red onion, capsicum or cucumber or a mix of these with some leafy greens.Some of my favourite mixes are:

    •  Finely sliced red cabbage, red onion or spring onion,  italian parsley, grated carrot and finely sliced capsicum
    • Baby beetroot, red onion and baby spinach
    • Shredded lettuce, spring onion, fresh herbs, baby spinach and cucumber
    • Finely chopped red onion, tomato, cucumber and herbs

  2. Protein

    Protein is the king when it comes to helping keep you full.  Having a serve of protein at most meals helps with maintaining body composition as it provides amino acids for muscle repair.

    Protein can come from both animal and plant sources.  I will often have boiled eggs, chicken or left over meat from dinner in my salads, and sometimes I’ll add legumes such as chickpeas for a plant based protein.  Legumes like chickpeas, black beans and lentils not only provide protein, but also a source of slow release carbohydrate and fibre so they’re great for helping keep you feeling full.

  3. Healthy fats

    Nuts, seeds, avocado, cheeses and good quality dressings fit here.   They make your salad super tasty and add fats that provide beneficial nutrients.  Some vitamins need fat for your body to absorb them, so to best utilise the vitamins in your vegetables, a little fat is needed.  Fat is energy dense so for most people a small serve is all you need.  For example, 1/4 to 1/2 an avocado or a small handful of nuts.
  4. Carbohydrates

 I like to have a serve of carbohydrate with my salad.  Sometimes I add fruit (grapes or mango can be yummy) or eat it separately afterwards.  Legumes, grains such as quinoa or brown rice are nice on the side, and starchy vegetables such as potato, kumara, parsnip and corn taste great mixed through. You could also have it with some good quality bread.   Not everyone is a fan of carbs at lunch, but personally I find my energy levels are better if I include carbohydrate, especially If I’m planning on exercising after work.  If you’re not going to have the carbohydrate, you could increase your healthy fats a little to help keep you feeling full.

Here’s two of my favourite salad recipes:

Citrus chicken salad with macadamia nuts and avocado

Roast vegetable salad with crispy chickpeas

What is your perfect salad combination?

Chocolate Fudge Protein Bars

I’ve been thinking of creating a home made protein bar for quite a while.  My go to snacks are usually nuts, yoghurt + berries or fruit, but every now and then I feel like something a little different. Protein bars are not something I would normally buy as they’re often full of sweeteners that upset my stomach and some of the better brands tend to be quite expensive.

I had a big tub of Clean Lean Protein in the pantry that I needed to use up so I decided to create a DIY protein bar and it turned out quite delicious. They have a fudgey type texture and chunks of chocolate which always make things taste even better!  These protein bars contain 9.5g of protein, as well as providing some healthy fats.  This combination make them a filling snack that is perfect for those on the go times when you want something to keep you satisfied that’s tasty too.

Here’s how to make the chocolate fudge protein bars.


1 cup sunflower seeds (you could also use cashews)
6.5 scoops chocolate flavoured Clean Lean Protein
1/2 cup coconut
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/4 cup almond slithers
80g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks + 20g (1 row) extra
3 teaspoons honey (or use stevia if you want to lower sugar)
1 dessertspoon peanut butter
2 tablespoons water

Place the sunflower seeds in a food processor and blend for 4-8 minutes, pausing and scraping down the sides with a spatula.   You want them to come together into a butter type consistency.

Next, add the protein powder, coconut, cocoa, honey, peanut butter and water. Blend again until the mixture comes together when pinched.  If need be add a little more water. Add the chocolate chunks and gently mix in.

Tip the mixture into a small dish (approx cm x cm) and press down very firmly with clean fingers or the back of a spoon.

Melt the remaining chocolate and drizzle over the top.

Place in the freezer for 1 hour, then slice into 10 bars.

Store in the fridge.

Are you a protein bar fan?