The ultimate guide to healthy summer entertaining

Summer, especially the festive season,  involves lots of entertaining, drinks and nibbles.  Over this time, it’s easy to go for options that aren’t the healthiest, but it’s easier than you think to create delicious, healthy options that aren’t difficult to make.

If you’re gluten intolerant, or have celiac disease, then this time of year can be even more challenging.  But thanks to Sovereign, and their new #lifetakecharge mantra, we’ve got you covered.  Sovereign are all about empowering New Zealander’s to take charge of their health and well being, so this summer, why not take charge and create your own gluten free platters that are healthy and delicious.

Here’s some ideas and recipes to make up that perfect platter that you can take to your event. It’s the easiest way to make sure you’ve got your options covered, and the host will love you for bringing such an amazing platter that’s healthy, gluten free and delicious.

Forget the chips and dip, this platter contains plenty of nutrient rich options that are also gluten free and tasty.

Your traditional snacks for entertaining usually involve chips, reduced cream onion dip, refined wheat crackers, processed meats and creamy dips.  These options are all energy dense and considering platters are normally served before a meal, it’s best to keep them light to avoid overdoing it.  Freshen up your platter by including plenty of fresh, crispy vegetables, healthy dips and a few extras like nuts, a little cheese or some healthy protein like smoked salmon, or chicken.

Platter ideas:

Fresh vegetables – Capsicum, cucumber, carrot, cherry tomato, snow peas, edamame beans,
Dips – beetroot dip, tzatziki, hummus, pesto
Protein – smoked salmon slices, cooked prawns on skewers, mussels, slices of chicken
Cheese – Mainland noble, brie, blue cheese
Fruit – Strawberries, blackberries,  grapes, figs
Other – olives, gherkins, rice/seed crackers, nuts, pickled onions

My mini platter, as above, contains: Feta cheese, figs, walnuts, baby carrots, peas, poppy seed rice wafers and beetroot dip.


Home made dips are actually really easy to make, and often far healthier than store bought alternatives.   Here’s the beetroot dip pictured.


1 large beetroot
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
4 tablespoons natural, unsweetened yoghurt
30g feta cheese

Preheat oven to 190 degrees celcius.  Peel the beetroot and cut into 8 wedges.  Place on a piece of foil, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Fold up the sides of the tin foil.  Place on an oven tray in the oven and roast for approximately 30 minutes.  Remove from oven, open up the foil and allow to cool.  Place the beetroot, yoghurt and feta in a blender or food processor and blend until well mixed and smooth.  Refrigerate until ready to use.



Another tasty, healthy and gluten free dip option is garlic hummus.  This dip is easy to make and requires just a few simple ingredients.   Find the recipe here.

What are your ideas for a healthy summer entertaining? Do you have any delicious dip ideas? 

Let me know in the comments below. 

This post was sponsored by Sovereign. All thoughts and onions are my own.

Crispy potato and cauliflower cheese fritters

I’d been thinking about making a healthier version of both potato bake and cauliflower cheese when I had the bright idea of combining both into a yummy but simple crispy potato and cauliflower cheese fritter.  This is so much easier to make, with no cream involved and they taste amazing.

The fritters are simple.  Just cauliflower, grated potato, Mainland Noble cheese mixed with a little seasoning and egg  and flour to combine. When pan fried, you get a crunchy, flavourful fritter with the goodness of cauliflower and potato without an overload of fat.

I used Mainland Noble cheese for these fritters.  Mainland Noble is a new cheese variety that I’ve fallen in love with.   It contains 30% less fat than tasty cheddar (that’s even less than Edam), yet it’s full flavoured with a smooth, creamy texture.   This cheese took seven years to develop, and you can tell -it’s the best lower fat cheese I’ve tried.  It’s not surprising that it’s award winning.

Here’s how to make the crispy potato and cauliflower cheese fritters.


Two large agria potatoes
1/2 a head of cauliflower
1/2 an onion, finely sliced.
1 1/4 cup of grated Mainland Noble cheese
1 large egg
3 tablespoons cornflour
1 teaspoon baking powder.
salt and pepper

Wash the potatoes well, dry then grate.  Place the grated potato in a clean tea towel.  Squeeze as much liquid as you can from the potato and place the grated potato in a large bowl.

Cut the cauliflower florets from the stalks and finely chop into small pieces.  Place in a pot with a small amount of boiling water and place on the stove top over a medium heat.  Boil the cauliflower for 2-3 minutes and drain well.  Pat with a couple of paper towels to blot up any excess liquid then add to the bowl with the potato.  Add the onion, cheese and egg.  Sprinkle over the cornflour and baking powder and season with salt and pepper.  Mix well until all the ingredients are combined.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a fry pan.  Place spoonfuls of the mixture in the pan and cook over a medium heat until golden brown on each side.

These fritters are delicious by themselves or serve alongside slow roasted tomato and asparagus with a little grated cheese on top.  They’d also be amazing with a poached egg on top.


Caramel Bliss balls

Caramel is my favourite flavour when it comes to sweet foods, and I’ve been wanting to try and make  caramel bliss balls for a while now as a way to combine my favourite flavour into something that wasn’t full of refined ingredients.   So in the weekend I experimented with a caramel bliss ball recipe and the result was delicious!  I took them to work for an honest taste test (gotta love my work mates for an honest opinion!)  and they went down a treat.  The girl that told me she didn’t like foods with nuts had a cautious bite, decided to take back her comment about nuts and promptly finished it off as well as another.  The plate was demolished at morning tea time by the rest of the team in no time at all.     They’re a little more indulgent that your normal bliss balls as they have a delicious crunchy caramel coating.  They also have some added coconut sugar for an extra caramel flavour.  Make these for a bit of an extra special bliss ball treat.


Recipe for Caramel Bliss Balls

Makes 16 bliss balls

1 cup of dates
1/2 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons psyllium husks
1/2 cup raw cashew nuts
1/2 cup coconut
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon coconut sugar

For coating:

2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon cocoa


1.  Place the dates in a small pot along with the water.  Leave to sit for 5 minutes. Stir with a fork then put the pot on an element over a medium heat, stirring the dates until they are soft.  Drain out any excess water and mash up the dates with the fork so they look like this.

Next, you need to crush your nuts.  Now my blender/food processer is on it’s way out and it doesn’t like nuts right now.  So I crushed mine the old fashioned way in the mortar and pestle.  By the way, it’s great stress relief pounding those nuts up into teeny tiny ground up pieces!  But you can wizz them up in a food processor until they’re the texture of almond meal or a bit chunkier if you want.

Add the psyllium husk to the dates and stir well.  This helps absorb any excess water and adds some extra fibre to the recipe.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix until well combined.

Roll the mixture into balls.

To make the coating – gently heat the coconut oil then mix through the other ingredients.  Leave to cool for around 5 minutes then dip the balls into the mixture.  The mixture is quite runny, so roll the balls around in it for a bit and you’ll get a nice thin coating.  Take out place straight on a place covered in coconut and  roll to coat.

Store in the fridge.

Bliss balls

Bliss Balls – by Eat Well NZ


Bliss balls make the perfect sweet, yet nourishing treat.  Made with dates and a range of nuts, they’re a source of monounsaturated fats as well as a range of vitamins and minerals. These nutty bliss balls    have a rich chocolatey flavour yet these little bites have plenty of nutrients rolled into them.

Made with Brazil nuts and walnuts, these bliss balls are a source two nutrients that tend to be lacking in NZ diets.  Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, an important nutrient that acts as an antioxidant.  Research has shown that NZ diets can be low in selenium, so this is one yummy way of getting a selenium boost.  You can read more about your selenium requirements here. Walnuts are a source of plant based omega 3 fatty acids.    Omega 3 fats are essential for a range of functions, from heart health, to skin and mood.

Here’s how to make these Brazil and walnut chocolate bliss balls:


1 cup walnuts
2/3 cup cashews
1/3 cup brazil nuts (you could switch out for almonds or more cashews if you wanted)
1/2 cup chopped medjool dates or regular dates ( if using regular dried dates, soak in boiling water for 10 minutes before using)
2 tablespoons cocoa or cacao powder
1/4 cup coconut
1 heaped tablespoon manuka honey
2 tablespoon melted coconut oil, or cocoa butter melted
2 tablespoons cocoa nibs (optional)
extra coconut, for rolling

Blitz walnuts and cashews in a food processor until finely ground.  Chop the brazil nuts into small pieces (it’s nice to have them a little chunky – adds to the texture).  Add the dates, cocoa, coconut, honey and coconut oil/cocoa butter to the food processor and blitz until the mixture comes together.   Stir through the cocoa nibs at the end.

Roll the mixture into balls and then coat in coconut.

Keep chilled in an air tight container until ready to eat.

Pumpkin, Carrot and Sunflower Seed Quinoa Salad

Quinoa salad has become a go to lunch for me this winter.  It is a great base for so many different flavours and provides a source of protein as well as  slow release carbohydrates.  This quinoa salad recipe combines quinoa along with pumpkin and carrots with a touch of kale and sunflower seeds.

Pumpkin and carrots are winter staples as they’re in season and a good price.  Plus I love the bright orange colour to brighten up otherwise bland looking quinoa.  The bright orange colour of pumpkin and carrots comes from  beta carotene.

Carrots are the richest vegetable source of vitamin A, in particular beta carotene which is converted to vitamin A by the body. One medium carrot supplies enough vitamin A for two days’ intake! Carrots are also a source of vitamin C, Vitamin K, potassium and fibre. Carrots are also a source of the phytochemical falcarinol, which may protect against some cancers.  Pumpkin is also a rich source of vitamin A, and also provide some B vitamins, potassium and vitamin C.

Beta carotene and vitamin A are fat soluble, meaning there must be fat present to absorb them.  That’s why roasting them in a good dose of healthy oil is recommended – and makes them taste amazing too. Bonus!  Kale also contains vitamin A, as well as a host of other vitamins and minerals – hense why it’s known as a super vegetable.

The yellowy colour from this dish comes from turmeric.  Turmeric has a mild, peppery flavour and is one of the spices in curry powder.  It has many health benefits because of it’s powerful anti inflammatory properties.

I’ve used avocado oil for roasting the veges. I love avocado oil as it’s high in healthy monounsaturated fats, has a nice flavour and has a high smoke point, meaning it won’t break down at high temperatures (this causes all sorts of nasty compounds to form), but you could use another oil of your choice.

The sunflower seeds add a nice little bit of crunch and provide vitamin B6, magnesium and some iron too.

So enough about the ingredients, and here’s how to make it.

Ingredients for two servings

2 carrots, cut into chunks
fist sized piece of pumpkin, cut into chunks
3 cloves of chopped garlic
1 tablespoon avocado oil, plus 1 teaspoon
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup vegetable stock
1/ teaspoon turmeric
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 kale leaves, stems removed and chopped finely.
4 teaspoons sunflower seeds
salt and pepper to season.

Place the chopped carrot and pumpkin  on a roasting tray and rub the oil and garlic over the veges.  Place in an oven at 180 degrees Celsius for around 20 minutes, or until cooked.
While the veges are roasting, rinse the quinoa under water, then place in a pot with the vegetable stock.  Cook over a medium heat for approximately 15-20 minutes until all the water is absorbed.

In a fry pan, add the 1 tsp of oil and the red onion and turmeric.  Cook over a medium temperature until the onion is soft.  Add the kale and heat until it is wilted.

Place the cooked quinoa in a bowl and stir through the roasted veges, onion and kale. Sprinkle over the sunflower seeds and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with lemon wedges.

Mini chocolate cups

If you’re living in NZ no doubt you would have either felt or heard about earthquake that happened last week.  O my it sure did give me a fright.  I was in the kitchen making these, at the time!  My first thoughts were I was feeling funny, then I realised the whole house was swaying.  We got up and ran outside to the open lawn, dog and cat were close behind!  Luckily we had no damage around home and it was really just a bit of a fright and reminder to check our emergency kits which are looking ok.

So back to the mini chocolate cups.   These were a bit of an experiment that turned out quite well.  I was trying to make a healthier cheesecake base, but the mixture was too soft for that, so I decided to make little mini chocolate cups which turned out to be quite a delicious little sweet treat.

Here’s how:


1/4 cup of dates, soaked and drained of water
3 tablespoons oats
2 tablespoons toasted buckwheat groats (you can just add extra oats if you don’t have these)
1/2 cup almond meal
3 tablespoons chopped cashew nuts
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons stevia
dark chocolate

Place all the ingredients, except for the chocolate, into a food processor or blender and pulse until mixed together.  Grease some mini muffin tins and press teaspoons full of the mixture into the muffin tin, making a small indent for the chocolate.   Melt the chocolate and spoon a little chocolate over the base.  Freeze until set.   Store these yummy treats in the refrigerator.  I enjoyed a couple with a cup of tea when the nerves from the earthquake had settled.

Makes 12 mini cups

July favourite finds

While some people loathe going grocery shopping,  supermarket shopping (and going to the market) are actually quite enjoyable for me, because I love food and I love to look for yummy, healthy things I can incorporate into my diet. In fact, I probably spend far too long in the supermarket and I’m probably one of those annoying people who stay in one place for ages looking at the different options and reading the ingredients list/nutritional information! I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite things I’ve been eating/drinking lately.

1. Straight Up probiotic yoghurt by The Collective

There are SO many yoghurts on the market, but for a plain yoghurt, this has got to be my favourite.  It has no added sugar, it’s not too tart, and it’s deliciously creamy.  As well as being low in sugar, I love the fact The Collective Dairy don’t use preservatives in their products.  It’s so tasty that you’ll be sure to eat it quickly anyway!  I love this on top of porridge, as a snack with berries or it’s also delicious on top of vegetable soups or curries.

2. Barkers Unsweetened Blackcurrant  drink

Every now and then I feel like something that’s not water to drink.  This unsweetened blackcurrant drink by Barkers is the perfect drink for those occassions.  Where many fruit syrups are loaded with syrup, this is just freshly squeezed blackcurrants – no sugar, no artificial sweeteners.  Not only is it tasty, it’s also full of antioxidants.  Blackcurrants  are also a great source of Vitamin C so this makes a perfect drink for helping ward off those winter colds.    If you prefer things a little sweeter, you can add a few drops of liquid stevia – I did this for my fiance who isn’t so accustomed to less sweet foods!  You can mix this with hot water too for a nice hot drink on a winter’s day.

Buy it online here for $8.90 or at supermarkets nationwide.

3. Oob Organic Berries

So the middle of winter is not berry season but that doesn’t mean you have to go without.  Frozen berries are a great option for the cooler season.  I love stiring them through warm porridge at breakfast time and topping with plain yoghurt and a small drizzle of maple syrup.  My favourite to buy are the Oob brand.  They’re organic and sourced from NZ where possible.  Blueberries are one of my favourite berries due to their high antioxidant levels and their great taste.

4. Green and Blacks 85% Dark Organic Chocolate

I’m most definitely a chocoholic.  While I love milk chocolate (Whittaker milk Madagasca and coconut are personal favs), it’s far too easy to eat too much of it!  Dark chocolate is also healthier for you, being higher in antioxidants from the cocoa, plus it’s much lower in sugar.  My favourite at the moment is Green and Blacks 85% dark chocolate.  It’s got a delicious smooth flavour, and a couple of squares really hit those chocolate cravings without the need for more.    Dark chocolate is high in flavonols – which act both as an antioxidant and as an anti-inflammatory.  Some studies have shown that dark chocolate can reduce bad cholesterol levels, increase good cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure! So enjoy guilt free (in moderation of course).

5.  Alison’s Pantry Goji Nut mix

Nuts are my go to snack – they’re high in fibre, a source of protein and a good source of heart healthy monounsaturated fats.  I’ve been making good use of New World’s bulk bins and trying out lots of different nut and fruit and nut mixes lately and this Goji mix is one of my favourites.  It contains goji berries, cranberries plus pistachios, raw cashews, almonds, pecans and golden raisins. Goji berries are a rich source of antioxidants and also contain contain xanthin and lutein which are believed to help protect the eyes and promote good eye health.  A small handful makes a tasty snack – a nice mix of sweet from the fruit, and crunch from the nuts.  You can find this mix at New World supermarkets in the bulk bins.

What are your favourite supermarket buys?

Caramelised banana with cocoa nibs and pistachios

Some days you just feel like something warm and comforting to eat, and would you believe, roasted banana really fits that bill.  It’s sweet, with lovely caramelised flavours, yet it’s good for you.  The pistachios and cocoa nibs are a must to add a delicious crunch and a little bitter sweet chocolate flavour that is offset by the sweetness of the banana.

This recipe is super simple, you could hardly call it a recipe.  Here’s how:

1 banana1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon chopped pistachio nuts
2 teaspoons cocoa nibs
2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt

Heat a non stick fry pan over a medium heat.  Cut one banana in half and place in the pan. Drizzle with the maple syrup.  Heat for 3-5 minutes on each side, turning regularly to prevent it burning. Serve with the Greek yoghurt and sprinkle with the cocoa nibs and nuts.

Cherry and Hazelnut Seedy Porridge

As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing better than a warming bowl of porridge for breakfast on a cool morning.  It’s something I’ve been having every winter since I was a child.  Mum or dad used to make a big potful in the morning and I’d eat it smothered with spoonfuls of brown sugar, wheatgerm (I’m sure that was the superfood of the 90s) and milk.   Today it’s a bit different though – I don’t add huge spoonfuls of brown sugar, but add yummy fruit, nuts, seeds and sometimes yoghurt for a nutrient packed breakfast that provides a nice slow release of energy.

This version of porridge contains chia seeds, which provide fibre and a source of plant based sources of omega 3.    I discovered dried cherries at a local food store last week and they’re so delicious, so I thought I’d add them as well as some hazelnuts I got given.

Recipe for 1 serve

1-3 to 1/2 cup oats
2/3 cup to 1 cup of water
1 tablespoon of chia seeds
2 teaspoons coconut
small handful of hazelnuts
1 – 2 tablespoons dried cherries
stevia or a little honey to sweeten if desired

Cook the oats with the water in a pot until the water is absorbed.  Stir through the chia seeds and coconut into the cooked porridge.  Top with the hazelnuts and cherries and serve with milk.  You could add a little stevia or honey as well if you wanted it a little sweeter.

Raspberry and Lime Sorbet

This raspberry and lime sorbet recipe contains no added sugar and is a breeze to make. It’s sweet yet tangy and the flavour combination is amazing.

Raspberries provide a source of vitamin C, manganese, and fibre as well as containing lots of antioxidants. Lime makes the perfect accompaniment, adding a slight tang and tropical taste. Combined together in this raspberry This Summer has been the hottest summer in a long time –  33 degrees in the weekend! So something cool yet healthy is a nice treat on a sweltering hot day. This raspberry and lime sprbet is so simple to make, you can hardly call it a recipe.

Here’s how to make raspberry and lime sorbet

For 2 servings

1 1/2 cups frozen raspberries
3 tablespoons lime juice (I used prepacked 100% lime juice)

Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth.  Add a tablespoon or two of water if necessary to help with the blending.  Pour into a small bowl and place in freezer until just set.  Then eat and enjoy! The sorbet is best if eaten just after it’s ready – if you leave in the freezer too long it can go a bit icy (still tastes nice).