Monday, January 28, 2013

Tackling 12WBT

In two weeks time Round 4 (2012) of the Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation (12WBT) will come to an end.

It has been an amazing journey, so much so that I have recently signed on for the next round which commences on 11 February - Round 1, 2013. 

My first introduction to 12WBT was through a friend and work colleague who told us she was doing the program. It didn't mean much to me then although I was intrigued and impressed at the level of organisation and preparation that went into her daily lunches and snacks at work. We would all sit down in the lunch room and out would come a myriad of fresh and healthy ingredients which often included mountain bread wraps, lean meats, chutney ( I love chutney!!), salad greens, ricotta, and grated carrot. 

We would also listen in awe about the intense workouts she was undertaking and something called a Super Saturday Session (SSS) - which sounded rather intense and a little scary. What impressed me most was her steely determination.

And it worked.

The results spoke for themselves and over the weeks we watched our friend shrink. I left before her transformation was complete but was impressed to hear she had lost a total of 17kg over the course of the program.


We were further impressed to discover that a friend of ours in Perth who also completed the program and was now 15.5kg lighter and has signed on to do a marathon in Paris later this year. 

Feeling pumped I signed up and am happy to say that with 2 weeks left of the program I am 7kg down and am looking to lose another 7-10kg in Round 1, 2013. You can imagine my excitement when I received the following in my inbox the other day. A small error in the text reads Round 3, but you can see Round 4 is clearly marked at the top which is correct.

Being a foodie, I was worried that I would have to give up eating delicious food, but that has not been the case. 

Quite the opposite in fact. 

The food is fantastic and I really look forward to the meal plans, recipes and shopping lists being released each Thursday morning. As an example tonight we are having a delicious Beef, Quinoa and Capsicum Salad followed by Cacao Fudge Bites for dessert. Yum! The program also allows for treat meals so everything is covered.

Cacao Fudge Bites  (Source: Pinterest)

After 10 weeks, I am so much fitter and actually crave exercise which is something I haven't done in years. The fitness plans are tailored to individual fitness needs, with several to choose from.

If you are thinking of signing up for the 12WBT or have any questions please feel free to leave them below.

It really DOES work.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cider Sunday - Dr Pilkington's Miracle Cider

It's raining and humid here in Sydney at the moment. Yesterday Pete and I celebrated Australia Day by having a relaxed Vietnamese lunch in Marrickville and for dinner we indulged in the more traditional BBQ with sausages in rolls with all the trimmings. Thankfully, with our National day falling on a Saturday this year we can all look forward to a sleep in tomorrow morning with Monday being the default public holiday. 

This week's cider Sunday brings you Dr Pilkington's Miracle Cider. Made in South Australia by Bellevue & Gloucester, I was drawn to this cider by its quirky off beat label which promises to help cure the drinker from selected ailments. It tells us that it is made using 100% fresh apples under the Doctor's orders, but with no website - little else is known about these guys. Here's a snippet of the quirkiness behind the brand:

Little is known of the enigmatic Dr Pilkington and less has been written. Some say he won his famous apple orchard in a card game, others say he drank with famous bushrangers, then ran off with their women. Clattering into town with his covered wagon and trademark theatrical flair, Dr Pilkington would sell by day and fly by night. In the watering holes of the wild frontier he is recalled as a mad genius, master distiller and the very best kind of scoundrel.

I chose bottle batch No.72.0 because it resonates with having a cat and an inability to whistle properly. To explain - I can whistle, but Pete has always made fun of me because for years I used to whistle by sucking air in rather than blowing it out. Weird I know, but it's how I taught myself as a kid and it just stuck. 

Right, now for the cider...

On first opening, I am able to distinguish slight apple and floral aromas. It pours quite heady but settles quickly and has a very pronounced carbonation. A balanced sweetness prevents this cider from tipping over into the commercial sickly-sweet cider category which is nice to see.

A refreshing cider with a strong zing and acidic structure that lingers long on the back of the palate. I find that the acidic structure of this cider doesn't quite work for me, but on the other hand Pete likes it.

At 5% alcohol, a 500ml bottle will provide you with 2 standard drinks. 

I absolutely love the concept behind this cider and will be watching this one closely to see if they introduce any line extensions into the market. I would be very interested to see how this cider goes in cooking. Its volume is perfect for that roast meat and vegetable dish or a moist apple cake.  

Woolworth's Liquor and Dan Murphy's
$6.99 per 500ml bottle
$69.99 per case of 15 

Tell me, have you cooked with cider? What is your favourite cider dish?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Westons Wyld Wood Organic Pear Cider

"Westons has produced organic cider for over 15 years and Wyld Wood is a brand that comes straight from the heart of our values. It illustrates our deep and on-going passion for good quality cider and our respect for nature and wildlife. We wanted to refresh the brand so consumers feel more connected with the simple, natural beauty of its origin" - Managing Director of Westons Cider - Helen Thomas

I had the pleasure of being seated next to the lovely Helen Thomas, at the 2012's Australian Cider Awards. I was therefore really excited when I recently discovered this re-branded organic cider.

You may have previously seen Westons Premium Organic Pear Cider pictured left. I think the re-branding has really worked - I personally love the new name, design and earthy concept. It has a better fit with the values of the company and the sustainable practices which they have embraced.

I'd like to start by suggesting that all ciders have their place. There are commercial ciders, often made from concentrate and whose labels you see on billboards and at major events, and then there are more boutique ciders that can be really special.

This week's cider falls somewhere towards the latter end of these two extremes. Made by Westons in the UK, this cider is one of only a handful of organic ciders on the market.

Westons are very mindful of the environment and have converted 10 acres of their land to an environmentally friendly wetlands waste management system, where all of their waste water is processed naturally through creating a haven for wildlife.

Purified water is then pumped back into their orchards,sustainably increasing yields. Westons also works closely with the Soil Association and Wildlife Trusts and pride themselves on such practices.

Produced using fruit sourced in Herefordshire's organic orchards, the cider is matured in old oak vats.

This one pours clear and soft and has a gorgeous caramelised pear aroma. To taste, I tried it without ice in order to experience its true flavour. It is a very sweet cider with delicious pear flavour. As it is fairly sweet, I would be unable to drink large quantities of it. That said, it has a sticky quality akin to a delicious dessert wine. I would definitely serve this one after dinner with a nice cheese platter or some fresh fruit.

As it comes in a 500ml bottle, it is perfect for sharing with friends after dinner.

At 6% a 500ml bottle will provide you with 3 standard drinks.

The Food Mentalist purchased Wyld Wood Organic Pear Cider at Dan Murphy's for $6.99 per 500ml bottle.

Check out who snuck in on today's photo shoot.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Healthy Wheat Free Banana Bread

Banana bread can be healthy. Seriously, it can.

This is my wheat free low fat ( healthy) version. It's really good and you won't even be able to tell it's wheat free.

3/4 cup rolled oats
1 3/4 cups gluten free plain flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence or paste
3/4 cup low fat milk
1 small egg (lightly beaten)
2 medium bananas ( mashed)
75g butter ( melted)

Preheat oven to 180'C. Line one large loaf pan with non-stick baking paper so that it comes up on the sides. This will make it easier to remove from the pan once it is cooked.

Combine oats, flour, baking powder and brown sugar in a large bowl.
Make a well in the centre and add mashed bananas, milk, lightly beaten egg, vanilla and melted butter and mix until well combined.

The batter will be fairly thick, so you may need to add a small splash of milk if it looks too dry. 

Spoon mixture into loaf pan and spread out evenly with spatula or a bread knife. 

Bake in oven for approximately 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Slice into 8 thick slices. 

You can freeze individual slices until needed.

For the ultimate healthy breakfast, lightly grill/toast a slice of banana bread and serve with a dollop of low fat greek yogurt and a few berries. 

Each slice is approximately 280 calories per serve.

Like most wheat free baked products this bread tastes best on the day it is made. Therefore, I find that it is better to warm or toast defrosted slices prior to serving.

For a non-wheat free version simply replace the GF flour with a regular or wholemeal plain flour.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Cider Sunday - Weka Apple Cider

This week's apple cider named after the Weka bird is crafted in the Marlborough region of New Zealand. Made using 100% Nelson grown apples, this cider is delicious.

Labelled as a Super Premium Cider, I find it to be sweet, but it's sweetness will not prevent you from having another. In fact this cider is very drinkable and goes down way too easily. 

The Weka Bird - NZ
French oak fermented and aged, Weka apple cider has lovely Granny Smith aromas and is crisp and refreshing on the palate, with a fine carbonation. There are no strong acidic notes and overall it is a very well-rounded cider, perfect for the warmer weather we have been experiencing here in Australia.

Produced by the MOA Brewing Company, Weka has won several accolades including Gold at the Brew NZ Beer Awards and Silver in the Asia Beer Awards in 2011. More recently, this cider has won Bronze twice at the NZ Fruit Winemaker Awards.

At 4% a 330ml bottle will provide you with approximately one standard drink.

MOA Brewing Co. recommend that this cider is best paired with the following range of dishes:

  • Pork square with blue cheese and pear cream.
  • Native herb and apple potato cakes topped with razorback pork.
  • Risotto with mushrooms, corn salad, rucola and truffle.
I'll have the risotto thanks :)

The Food Mentalist purchased Weka Apple Cider in NZ.

To find your local stockist click here

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Concrete Blonde @ Kings Cross

Have you heard about Concrete Blonde? It's a funky little bar and restaurant tucked away on Bayswater Road in Sydney's Kings Cross. I was lucky enough to sample some of their delicious food a few weeks ago. 

I was impressed by the fantastic cocktail menu and every Sunday guests can choose to enjoy either a two ($40) or three ($48) course lunch whilst enjoying some cool jazz tunes. 

Toasted Focaccia $9
To start we shared some toasted focaccia which came served with buttery green olives and some fresh ricotta.

For my first course, I chose the vegetarian option of goats curd wrapped in zucchini, served with crisp zucchini flowers, pesto and a tomato confit. When I see goats curd on a menu I must try it, I simply love the stuff! The flavours of this dish matched the lovely presentation and I really enjoyed the different textures of the zucchini. 

Next, I chose the swordfish which was served with a sweet corn puree, calamari and green beans. This dish was indeed a highlight. The fish was cooked to my liking and the balance of sweetness offered by the crispy garlic and sweet corn puree worked really well with the perfectly seasoned fish and the crisp green beans.

Chat Potatoes $9
Hello sides! These potatoes would have to be the best crispy baked potatoes I have tried in a long long time. 

Well, if you are wondering how I managed to fit another thing in, don't worry - I was good. I actually shared my dessert with someone ( even though I could easily have eaten it all myself) This white chocolate & honeycomb parfait was served with a shard of crisp sesame brittle and a dollop of dulce leche and it was divine!

Lichtenstein fans will also be impressed by the inspired tile-wall art on the way to the facilities. 

I was thoroughly impressed by this little hidden gem and intend on visiting again soon. It's the perfect place for a chilled out Sunday afternoon. 

Check out Concrete Blonde on Twitter, Facebook or via their website here for their latest specials and news.

The Food Mentalist dined as a guest of Concrete Blonde.
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