Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Healthy Juice + Win 1 of 2 Makeover Kits

Give yourself a makeover from the inside out...in just one shot a day!

We all lead such busy lives, I mean, I'm the first to complain that there just aren't enough hours in the day! It's all too easy to get caught up trying to juggle family commitments, work, a social life and some sort of relaxation. Try adding an exercise regime and a healthy diet into the mix and you begin to get the picture. It's tiring just thinking about it all. Seriously. 

But it doesn't all have to be hard, there are small changes we can all make to our daily schedule that can help keep us healthy.

For me, this now includes having a small shot or glass of Sunraysia's Prune Juice.



Sunraysia Beverage Company is a proud Australia company which was founded in 1985. They remain 100% Australian owned and manufactured. Their juices are also sold in 25 other countries including Singapore, the U.K and Hong Kong and they were also the first to introduce Prune Juice to Australia.

Now, I love prunes and have been eating them since I was little, either straight out of the packet or stewed over yoghurt or ice cream, they are just delicious! So when I first saw that prune juice had entered the market I was pleasantly surprised. Other than the fact that they are a great source of fibre, prunes actually contain more antioxidants than any other fruit or vegetable. Antioxidants are great because they tackle ageing by neutralising the toxic free radicals we come into contact with everyday which attack skin cells and cause nasty wrinkles. Nice!

I was lucky enough to be sent a sample bottle of Sunraysia's Prune Juice and after trying it I can honestly attest to it's quality - I've since purchased and gone through two more bottles. If you like the flavour of prunes then you too will love the taste of this juice. The flavour of the juice itself is very pleasant, with just the right amount of sweetness. One shot a day is all you really need to reduce the effects of ageing, maintain a healthy digestive balance and keep your skin healthy. If you choose to have more, a 200ml glass will actually provide you with one of your daily '5-a-day' fruit and vegetables.

I am also planning on developing a few healthy recipes using it too.

The 2002 Journal of Women's Health & Gender based Medicine reported that eating prunes every day actually enhances the bone formation of women when compared with eating similar amounts of dried apples. Similarly, in 2011, a study conducted by Florida State University and published in the British Journal of Nutrition claim that prunes can help to prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures in us all.

One thing I find difficult about choosing a good juice at the supermarket is that SO many juices are packed full of range of ingredients that...well, aren't juice! Many of them are actually full of added sugar too. No thanks.

What I actually love about this juice is the fact that it contains no preservatives, no added sugar, artificial colours, sweeteners or flavours. It remains 100% prune juice. Yay!

Sunraysia Prune Juice is available in most supermarkets including Coles & Woolworths and comes in 250ml (RRP $2.45) and 750ml (RRP $4.99) bottles. 

Thanks to the Sunraysia Natural Beverage Company, two lucky readers will win a 'make-over from the inside out' kit complete with prune juice, shot glass and loofah gloves - all vital elements to achieving healthier looking younger skin. For a chance to win all you have to do is tell me your favourite 'food inspired' health or beauty tip. The competition ends at midnight AEST 14th September, 2011. You can enter this competition once daily and it's open to anyone in Australia.


Best of luck,


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

hermes birkin handbag cake

Have you ever had one of those moments where someone asks you if you recognise something or someone expecting you to say "oh yes of course" yet you have absolutely no idea?

Well, enter the Hermes Birkin handbag.

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to win a surprise cake thanks to Wendy from Sydney food blog Obesebaby and Jessica Pedemont from Chocolate Artisan. Pedemont is a well established pastry chef, chocolatier and part of the Planet Cake 'Dream Team', not to mention a champion kick boxer!

Image Source: Planet Cake
This photo made the top ten finalists of the 2010 Shoot the Chef competition. Impressive huh?!

Ok, back to the Hermes Birkin... After arranging delivery over the phone the lovely Jessica kindly delivered the mystery cake. Instantly, I could see it was a gorgeous pink handbag but when Jessica asked me if I recognised it, I honestly had know idea.

Jessica informed me that you only have to type the name Hermes on the Internet and THIS bag will appear in the search. Named after singer Jane Birkin the bag is synonymous with wealth due to its exclusivity and high price - retailing from anywhere between $9,000 and $150,000 depending on the materials used.

Crazy!



So upon stumbling across these facts I felt rather chuffed to have this gorgeous edible version sitting on my table. I almost didn't want to cut it, well, that thought only lasted about 5 seconds after I discovered it was a filled with a rich truffle like chocolate mud cake with ganache.

check out the amazing detail!
The cake itself was absolutely stunning, Jessica had added such gorgeous detail which included makeup and a beautiful white and gold dusted flower. Everything was completely edible accept for a small ring attachment on the bag and two rings on the cake board.




The guys and girls at work thoroughly enjoyed this for morning tea, as did I.

Thanks again to Jessica and Wendy.

A truly stunning cake indeed! If only it had been real...


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Australia's First Sustainable Tuna in a Can

Do you often eat and cook with canned tuna? If so keep reading....

The tuna market in Australia is worth an estimated $300 million a year, with canned tuna being our highest selling seafood product. Unfortunately though, scientists from the International Union for Conservation of Nature have warned that 5 out of the 8 tuna species are at risk of extinction.This includes the ever popular yellowfin tuna which is near threatened. Sadly, there are still some major tuna brands available on our shelves that catch and sell yellowfin tuna. In addition, bluefin tuna is actually listed as number 6 on the worlds 10 most endangered species list. Whilst canned in places like Thailand, the majority of Australia's tuna is caught in the Pacific where tuna stocks are plummeting!

What does this mean for the consumer? Well, rest easy... it doesn't mean you have to stop eating or buying tuna, it just means that we all need to start making informed choices about the canned tuna we purchase.

Earlier this month, Greenpeace revealed Australia's first sustainable canned tuna range by major Australian tuna brand Safcol at the launch of it's tuna ranking at Sydney Aquarium. I was lucky enough to have been invited to this event thanks to the lovely Elsa from Greenpeace Australia. Also in attendance was celebrity chef Ben O'Donoghue and representatives from Greenpeace, Safcol and First Ray - Fish 4 Ever.



What we all learnt was that there are two major issues:

1. Certain tuna species are overfished and this is has contributed to 5 out of the 8 species of tuna being threatened or near threatened.

2. That the majority of tuna available in our supermarkets is caught in a way that catches turtles and sharks and is wiping out threatened tuna species. The tuna is caught in nets called 'purse seines' along with Fish Aggregation Devices ( FADs). 

I wasn't aware of what a FAD was until it was explained that these devices are floating objects , often equipped with satellite-linked sonar devices, around which tuna instinctively gather. Unfortunately, these devices also attract juvenile tuna, sharks and turtles which are all scooped up by fishing nets and are mostly discarded as waste. This near broke my heart!!!  What made it even more heart breaking is that sustainable methods of fishing are available, they just aren't being used by the majority of brands.

The Greenpeace tuna ranking is a great tool for the conscientious consumer who is concerned about ethical and sustainable food. It aims to expose which brands are selling over fished tuna species and are using destructive fishing methods. Check it out below or to find out more about the Greenpeace tuna ranking click here



The day was significant because not only did it promote the new Greenpeace tuna ranking guide but it was the first time that a major Australian tuna brand has committed to change it's approach to tuna fishing by switching to 100% pole and line caught tuna. According to Dean DeVilliers from Safcol, they adopted this new sustainable fishing method in May earlier this year and no longer target yellowfin tuna, opting to target skipjack tuna instead. He also mentioned how they use 1 hook, 1 line and catch 1 tuna at a time and they don't use any barbs on their hooks. A major step forward indeed!

Celebrity Chef Ben O'Donoghue greeted the crowd and spoke about the industrialisation of our food chain, the destructive nature of FADS, how educating and empowering the consumer is important and how we need to adopt sustainable practices particularly when it comes to tuna fishing.

Finally, Belinda from Fish 4 Ever discussed the positive impact of the tuna ranking system and how it is important that we continue to promote community education about tuna fishing practices. Fish 4 Ever are ranked #1 on the Greenpeace tuna ranking ahead of Safcol and whilst not available in major supermarkets yet, it can be purchased at Thomas Dux, IGA supermarkets and at Organic Food stores around Australia. You can also purchase and find out more about Fish 4 Ever online here.



We don't have to stop buying canned tuna, but as consumers it is important that we make informed choices about how our food is produced. Through our collective voice we can help demand better fishing practices and the Greenpeace Tuna Ranking guide can help us all to do this. For a delicious tuna rigatoni recipe you can make using tuna you have purchased using the new tuna ranking guide head on over to my guest post at Eat Yourself Skinny here



Friday, August 19, 2011

New Blog Design

I have recently had a blog makeover and thanks to Pete who designed my new logo




and Violet from Viva la Blogette who put together the rest - it appears to have come together quite nicely. I still have a few final touches to implement and I have to finish off the additional pages but so far I am really pleased with it. I hope you all like the new design I would love to hear your thoughts...

I am currently working on some new and exciting content I hope you will all find interesting. Stay tuned and keep smiling :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

GUEST POST - Tuscan Pasta with Tomato-Basil Cream

Today I would like to welcome Kelly from Eat Yourself Skinny as the first guest blogger on The Food Mentalist. Kelly's blog is so vibrant and exciting, presenting fresh, healthy and easy to follow recipes. It is for these reasons that I often find myself perusing her blog. Kelly also  provides readers with the nutritional information and points value for each of her recipes, you have got to love that! 


Make sure you head on over and check out her fantastic healthy recipes at Eat Yourself Skinny .


I would like to thank Kelly for taking the time to provide us with this delicious recipe. Please welcome her and enjoy making this great dish!


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Hey guys!  I’m Kelly from Eat Yourself Skinny and I’m SO excited to be sharing this guest post with you all today for my favorite Aussie Erin!  Her blog The Food Mentalist has always been one of my favorites and the passion she has for cooking is incredibly infectious!  She’s actually guest posting on my blog right now so go check out her Delicious Tuna Rigatoni.  It looks amazing!

So I must confess…despite always trying to eat healthy, I absolutely LOVE pasta!!  Seriously, it’s my biggest weakness.  I’m constantly trying to find new ways to lighten up classic Italian dishes and it is always very exciting when I’m successful.  I found this particular recipe on a fluke from Southern Living while searching for dishes containing basil.  I literally have SO much of this herb on hand that I was worried it would go bad so I wanted to use it all as soon as possible (as you can see I hate wasting anything).



Anyway, this Tuscan Pasta with Tomato-Basil Cream was outstanding and definitely one of our new favorites!  I mean you really can’t go wrong with ingredients such as sun-dried tomatoes, white wine and fresh basil…yum!!  The combination of flavors was delicious and the extra wine we had left over wasn’t too bad either ;)

The original recipe called for a jar of Classico Sun-dried Tomato Alfredo Pasta Sauce, but I lightened this up by using my light Alfredo recipe and adding sun-dried tomatoes.  I thought it turned out really great and I was able to cut a lot of the fat that a typical Alfredo sauce would normally have containing heavy cream.  {If you’re not concerned with calories and want something quick and easy, go ahead and by the pre-made sauce, it will still taste delicious!}  Add your wine, diced tomatoes and basil and you’ve got a kickin’ sauce!  Feel free to substitute the ravioli with three-cheese tortellini if you wish, either one would taste wonderful!




Thanks again Erin for inviting me to guest post on your fabulous blog!  Hope you all enjoy this dish as much as we did and I’d love for you to stop by Eat Yourself Skinny for more lightened up recipes!

Here are your ingredients:
Recipe adapted from Southern Living

1 (20 oz) package refrigerated four-cheese ravioli
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of skim milk
1 cup of chicken broth
4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup (6 oz) chopped or julienned sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
1/2 cup grated low-fat Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp white wine
2 medium-size fresh tomatoes, chopped OR 1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, full drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Prepare ravioli according to package directions.  In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and sautĂ© until golden brown.  

In a small saucepan, stir together milk, chicken broth, 3 Tbsp flour (save 1 Tbsp of flour for later), salt and pepper over low heat until smooth and thick.  Stir into garlic and add sun-dried tomatoes.  Continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thick.  Add the Tbsp of flour (for additional thickness) and stir in with Parmesan cheese.

Allow sauce to thicken up a bit then stir in wine, chopped tomatoes and 1/2 cup chopped basil.  Cook over medium-low heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated.  Toss with ravioli and garnish with Parmesan cheese and chopped basil.  Enjoy!



Friday, August 5, 2011

A Quick Lunch @ Sydney Dumpling King - Burwood

I was lucky to have a few days off in the middle of last week to tend to a few errands and on this particular day I found myself in Burwood in Sydney's Inner West. Wanting a quick bite to eat, Mum who I was with suggested Sydney Dumpling King. I had visited this place once before a few years ago and given my re-discovered love of all things dumpling - I jumped at the chance to try it again. I had honestly forgotten it was there.


We were a little early for lunch as it was only 11:30am but already, there were a few people inside. Upon being seated we were brought a fresh pot of complementary hot Chinese tea which was a welcome relief from the chilly breeze outside. 

The menu has a large selection of dumplings which come in serves of 15. Alternatively, you can choose the half/half option and select two different choices which are served as 16 dumplings.

A bonus dumpling. Score!



To start we order the shallot pancake. Now, I don't claim to be a shallot pancake expert, having only ever tried the ones at New Shanghai in Ashfield but I must say that this one is really good. I much prefer this one as it is significantly bigger and jam packed full of tasty shallots. It is nice and crispy on the outside and has that slightly chewy and delicious texture in the middle. At $4.80 for 8 pieces you can't go wrong with this option as a starter to share. After we had placed the order I was happy to see a procession of them make their way from the kitchen to the other tables around us.

Shallot Pancake $4.80
We decide to share a serve of the half/half option (of course - not forgetting the bonus dumpling) and Mum opts for the fish and coriander dumplings and I select the pork and eggplant ones. 


Mixed Dumplings $11.90
The fish ones are a real treat and are full of white fish, coriander and a hint of ginger. The soy sauce and brown vinegar on the table compliment the flavours really well. 


Fish & Coriander Dumplings
The pork and eggplant ones are also very nice and are filled with a brown gravy of pork mince with a hint of star anise. I spot chunks of braised eggplant which I absolutely love. I am after all the official eggplant queen - if it's on a menu - I order it.


Pork & Eggplant Dumplings
We finish our dumpling feast very satisfied and at $8.30 each it was a great cheap lunch. By the time we were ready to leave there was hardly a spare table available. A good sign.


So if you are ever passing through Burwood and feel like getting your dumpling on, Sydney Dumpling Kitchen is a great and affordable choice.


Erin x


Sydney Dumpling King on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Soulful Classic - Beef Tagine

Warm up this winter with this simple and delicious beef tagine by Jamie Oliver. 




During these cold months there is nothing better than some cosy winter soul food. It just so happened that the latest Cookbook Challenge theme was 'hearty'.




This recipe comes from the Jamie Oliver mini cookbook which also happened to be one of my May Favourites. The cookbook is a miniature version of 'Jamie does Spain, Italy, Sweden, Morocco, Greece & France' - now that's a mouthful!


I've already made it twice once with beef and once with lamb and Pete and I both love it. The spices blend together really well resulting in a gorgeous combination of classic Moroccan flavours. I also love the fact that you can use a cheaper cut of meat and the the slow cooking ensures the meat is very tender and just falls apart, yum!


The best thing about this dish is that you can throw it on the stove and it pretty much cooks itself. With the addition of the pumpkin, prunes and more stock at half time you can just sit back and relax while it does the rest. It's a simple and delicious dish that I am sure your family will love. If you don't own a tagine don't worry, we don't either. I just use our cast iron dutch oven but any heavy based saucepan will do the trick.
We serve it with cous cous but you can have it on its own or it would probably taste great with creamy mash if you prefer it.


I have adapted the recipe slightly


Beef Tagine


Ingredients
600g stewing beef
olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

a small bunch of fresh coriander
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
800ml vegetable stock
1 small squash
 (approximately 800g),deseeded and cut into 5cm chunks
100g prunes, stoned and roughly torn
2 tablespoons flaked 
almonds toasted ( Optional)
For the spice rub
sea salt and freshly ground
black pepper
1 tablespoon ras el hanout spice mix* 
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon 
ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon sweet paprika



(*Ras el hanout (Arabic for "top of the shop") is a blend of the best spices a vendor has in his shop. The mixture varies depending on who is selling it, but can be a combination of anywhere from 10 to 100 spices. It usually includes nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, aniseed, turmeric, cayenne, peppercorns, dried galangal, ginger, cloves, cardamom, chilli, allspice and orris root)


Method
Mix all the spice rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Put the beef into a large bowl, massage it with the spice rub, then cover with cling film and put into the fridge for a couple of hours – ideally overnight - that way the spices really penetrate and flavour the meat.

When you’re ready to cook, heat a generous lug of olive oil in a tagine or casserole– type pan and fry the meat over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add your chopped onion and coriander stalks and fry for another 5 minutes. Tip in the chickpeas and tomatoes, then pour in 400ml of stock and stir. Bring to the boil, then put the lid on the pan or cover with foil and reduce to a simmer for 1½hours.

At this point, add your squash, the prunes and the rest of the stock. Give everything a gentle stir, then pop the lid back on the pan and continue cooking for another 1½ hours. Keep an eye on it and add a splash of water if it looks too dry.

Once the time is up, take the lid off and check the consistency. If it seems a bit too runny, simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, more with the lid off. The beef should be really tender and flaking apart now, so have a taste and season with a pinch or two of salt. Scatter the coriander leaves over the tagine along with the toasted almonds, then take it straight to the table with a big bowl of lightly seasoned couscous and dive in.





Tell me, what's your favourite winter warming dish?


Erin x