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Whole Food, Bowl Food + Carrot Cake Spiced Buckwheat Porridge

Written by lee on . Posted in Books, Food & Drinks, Reviews

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If you’ve ever tuned into My Kitchen Rules (like yours truly!) you would've seen Anna Lisle and her mum, Cathy, cooking their way to our television screens back in 2014. Their keen determination, passion and talent made their instant restaurant episode reach over 2 million views!

Since then, Anna has become an established lifestyle journalist, foodie, instagrammer, author and passionate cook. In fact, Anna has just released her latest book, Whole Food, Bowl Food which is a modern cook’s dream. It contains over 100 inspiring recipes to get you in the kitchen and loving every second of it. So now, you can have your (gluten-free and sugar-free) cake and eat it too!

Anna Lisle_Profile Shot_New Holland Publishers

Anna moved to London in 2016 and I was lucky enough to catch up with her there during my book tour for Fast Your Way to Wellness. Anna is as wholesome and warm as her recipes. She believes in homely fuss-free food and that’s exactly what she delivers.

Whole Food, Bowl Food uses gluten-free ingredients in their most natural state to let whole foods shine. In our modern world, we can sometimes forget how delicious food can be when it’s made simply. This is what Anna teaches us.

Whole Food, Bowl Food has no hard-to-pronounce ingredients or wacky sauces, just easy ingredients that we all know and love, made differently.

One of the reasons I love this book is because like Anna, I love bowls! I know that sounds a little crazy (which isn’t too unusual around here), but there’s just something so comforting and enjoyable about eating food out of a bowl. It’s a relaxed way of both cooking and eating that makes the experience so enjoyable. This also means that you can enjoy Anna’s delicious recipes while sitting at the dining room table, perched on your favourite park bench or while immersed in the sand at the beach. How cool is that?

Whole Food, Bowl Food  has food for the whole family to enjoy. At the top of each page, Anna indicates the different dietary guidelines it can fit – listing everything from paleo to vegan! Now that is sure to make our lives a little easier! Each recipe is simple enough to make after a long day at work or when in a rush in the morning, but special enough to impress your friends with.

One of my favourite recipes in the book is her Carrot Cake Spiced Buckwheat Porridge and Anna has kindly shared it with us.

Whole Food, Bowl Food includes deliciously tasty recipes that will leave you wanting more!

Congratulations on the new book Anna - it's a great one!

Check Anna out on instagram and go to her website for more!

carrot cake porridge

Carrot Cake Spiced Buckwheat Porridge

Serves: 3-4 

Ingredients:

  • 100 g (31⁄2 oz) raw buckwheat, washed and drained
  • 500 ml (16 oz) Fresh Cashew Milk or milk of choice
  • 1 Pink Lady apple (or other variety), coarsely grated
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated
  • 40 g (11⁄2 oz) shredded coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon mixed spice
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 3–4 tablespoons sultanas, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped
  • pure maple syrup (if vegan) or honey, to drizzle

Method

Place buckwheat, cashew milk, apple, carrot, coconut, vanilla, cinnamon, mixed spice, salt and sultanas together in a medium saucepan. Over a gentle heat, stir regularly until buckwheat is cooked and the mixture has thickened, about 30 minutes.

Divide porridge between 4 bowls. Serve with persimmon slices, scatter with extra grated carrot, coconut, nuts and drizzle with honey or maple syrup, if desired.

A Whole New Way to Eat + Greek Lemon Chicken with Farro Recipe

Written by lee on . Posted in Books, Reviews

A Whole New Way To Eat_CVR

Are you ready to look at food through a whole new lens?

Vladia Cobrdova, former juice bar girl, turned Chief Operating Officer of aboutlife, businesswoman, nutritionist and wellness ambassabor has just debuted her new beautiful book, A Whole New Way to Eat.

In her book, Vladia focuses on real food and healthy eating, rather than following the latest dieting craze. A Whole New Way to Eat contains over 135 classical recipes, like butter chicken, with a healthy twist, making them simple enough to prepare and delicious enough to enjoy. The book celebrates Vladia’s work at aboutlife, including her scrumptious recipes that have been made famous in their marketplaces and cafes all over Australia.

I recently had the chance to spend time at the aboutlife store Double Bay, launching my latest book Fast Your Way to Wellness and afterwards snuck in a chat with Vladia over an English breakfast tea.  

She says "I love inspiring people to get back to natural foods and a real way of eating like our great grandparents use to". Vladia's first food influencers were her grandmother and mother, who raised her on wholesome and real food.

Growing up in the former Czechoslovakia under a strict communist regime, meant ducking out to the nearest takeaway or fast food outlet was simply impossible. She says she was lucky in that sense, her food foundations were always real honest food, small portion sizes and an appreciation of home cooking.

Dreaming about food

A quick selfie at aboutlife


       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Whether you’re following a paleo-based diet, you’re an inspired vegan or you just want to create something equally delicious as it is healthy, A Whole New Way to Eat has got you covered! The book focuses on eating and cooking real food that every part of you will love - from your taste-buds to your gut. Vladia emphases the importance of using food in its most natural state, like eating seasonal foods that are free of unwanted pesticides and chemicals.

Whether it’s her Veganola for breakfast, Salted Almond Butter Smoothie for a pick-me-up or her Purple Cabbage Dumplings recipe for dinner, Vladia has perfectly balanced spices, tastes and nutrients to ensure that each recipe is made to perfection.

Cooking with A Whole New Way to Eat is a wonderful way to ensure that everyone around the table is loving what they’re eating and that their bodies are loving them right back afterwards!

One of my favourite recipes from the book is the Greek Lemon Chicken with Farro and Wild Rocket and Vladia has kindly shared it with us.  

Congratulations on your new book Vladia!

You can follow Vladia on instagram here.

GreekLemonChicken

GREEK LEMON CHICKEN WITH FARRO & WILD ROCKET

Prep time:

20 minutes, plus overnight soaking

cooking time: 1 hour

Serves 4

Ingredients: 

  • 200 g (7 oz/1 cup) farro (spelt)
  • 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) olive oil
  • 4 chicken Marylands (leg quarters), about 1.5 kg (3 lb 5 oz) total 
  • 1/3 cup garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) Bone Broth
  • 80 ml (2½ fl oz/1/3 cup) lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ tablespoons finely chopped sage leaves
  • ¼ cup thyme leaves, plus a little extra to serve
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 large handfuls rocket (arugula)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Method

Place the farro in a bowl, cover with cold water and soak overnight.

The following day, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof frying pan over high heat. Cook the chicken until golden all over. Remove and set aside. Add the garlic to the same pan and stir for 1–2 minutes until golden. Drain the farro and add to the pan with the chicken, broth and 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of water. Bring to the boil, then add the lemon juice, salt, pepper and herbs and stir to combine. Cover the pan with a lid or foil and bake for 40–50 minutes until the farro is tender.

Remove the pan from the oven and gently stir the egg through the farro. Bake, uncovered, for another 10 minutes or until the egg is creamy but not scrambled. Remove from the oven and fold the rocket and lemon zest through. Sprinkle with the extra thyme and a drizzle of olive oil and serve immediately.

Images and recipes from A Whole New Way to Eat by Vladia Cobrodova (Murdoch Books, RRP $39.99).

Hippie Lane the Cookbook + Recipe Share

Written by lee on . Posted in Books, Food & Drinks, Reviews

Hippie Lane CVRAre you constantly on the look-out for deliciously healthy raw treat recipes, smoothie bowls to lust over, vegan Buddha bowls to chow down on and date-night dinner inspiration with edge to seriously impress?

Look no further!

The founder of the wonderful Hippie Lane, the beautiful Taline Gabriel, has debuted her first book Hippie Lane the Cookbook and it’s one not to be missed.  Taline uses whole, unprocessed and real ingredients that are super aesthetically pleasing, free of refined sugars, gluten-free and plant-based to create recipes that are nothing short of drool-worthy and instagram friendly.

Taline has included nourishing recipes for every occasion under the sun, including breakfasts bursting with flavour, delicious dinners, Sunday brunches, sweet fixes and easy lunches!

Taline Gabrielian_SmlGrowing up as a Nutella-obsessed junk foodie, Taline’s speciality is taking treats we used to love and making them with simple ingredients that are vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free.  They're so nutritious and you won’t need to worry about compromising on the taste side of things either.

You may have tried one of Taline’s delicious raw treats, like her Snickerz Bar (spoiler alert: they taste better than the real thing!) around different cafes in Sydney, but her savoury recipes prove to be just as mouth-watering. I’m still dreaming about her Green Goddess Bowl which is a green lover's paradise.

Hippie Lane the Cookbook, is so much more than a compilation of delicious recipes and a few healthy tips, Taline focuses on the power of food and the beauty of gathering loved ones together to celebrate a passion of wholesome cooking that can nourish the body, mind and soul.

The Green Goddess Bowl 

Hippie Lane Cookbook

Images and recipes from Hippie Lane: The Cookbook by Taline Gabrielian (Murdoch Books, RRP $39.99).

Ingredients

serves 2    

VGN  DF  GF  RSF

Almost too yummy to be healthy, and the ultimate brunch, here is the perfect green bowl, fit for a goddess.

  • 15 g (½ oz/½ cup) shredded kale
  • 6 broccolini stems
  • 10 green beans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra
    to serve
  • 1 heaped tablespoon Pesto (see below)
  • 300 g (10½ oz/1½ cups) cooked quinoa
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 45 g (1½ oz/1 cup) baby rocket (arugula) leaves
  • 1 zucchini (courgette), shredded or spiralised
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoon pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped spring onion (scallion)
  • a few basil leaves
  • pinch of Himalayan salt
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lemon wedges

Method

Fill a saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Have a bowl of iced water at the ready.

Add the kale to the boiling water and blanch for 30 seconds, then remove with tongs and refresh in the iced water, to stop it cooking further.

Add the broccolini to the boiling water. Leave to boil for 1 minute, or until just tender, then remove and add to the iced water.

Blanch the beans in the boiling water for 30 seconds, then remove and add to the iced water.

Drain the blanched vegetables, then chop the kale and beans and set aside.

Warm most of the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the pesto, spreading it over the pan. Stir in the kale. Add the remaining olive oil, then add the broccolini and beans, stirring briefly. Stir the quinoa and lemon juice through, then remove from the heat.

Divide the rocket and zucchini among two serving bowls. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil, then top with the pesto-tossed greens.

Top with the avocado, sunflower seeds, pepitas, spring onion and basil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper, add a lemon wedge to each bowl and enjoy.

Pesto

  • 115 g (4 oz/¾ cup) pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ¾ cup basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 25 g (1 oz/1 cup) rocket (arugula) leaves
  • ½ teaspoon Himalayan salt, or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) mild-tasting olive oil

Place the pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until large crumbs form.

Add the garlic, basil, rocket, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Pulse until just combined. Add the olive oil and process until smooth. The pesto is best made just beforeserving, but will keep in the fridge for a day or two in an airtight container, covered with a layer of olive oil to stop the basil discolouring.

For more information about Taline, check out the Hippie Lane website and Taline's instagram.

What are Fake Naturals?

Written by lee on . Posted in Natural Products, News, Reviews

Plump and renew

In my life, I like to embrace nature in everything whenever and wherever possible. I enjoy my food clean and from the earth and I like the people I surround myself with to be real and honest. There’s no reason why I would want the beauty products I use be to be any different.

Unfortunately, many products that label themselves as natural are not as ‘natural’, ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘organic’ as they want you to believe.

As there is no governing standard in Australia that brands have to meet to call themselves natural, brands can do two things without breaching Consumer Laws. Firstly, companies can use words such as ‘naturally inspired’ to lead consumers into thinking that their products are natural when that is not the case.

They can also use words, like ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘botanical’ so that the consumer believes they are natural, when in fact they’re not. They can also include ingredients in products that aren’t truly natural – in a ‘fake natural’ product, it’s often you might see a natural oil listed next to a mineral oil.

This lack of governing standard means there’s lots of confusion amongst those seeking out truly natural products, and an even greater need to be vigilant to know what phrases and ingredients to look out for and which ones to avoid.

It’s unclear if this level of regulation is likely to change in the future, however if people continue to voice their concerns about misleading labels then hopefully we can see some change.

Often, companies will mask unnatural products by throwing them next to a natural one in the label so it can get really confusing when searching for truly natural skincare. It’s my mission to encourage and provide you with information about how to read a label and understand what is best to avoid so that you can be on your way to becoming a naturally glowing version of yourself.

Natural, to me, means both the product’s activities and its formulations are plant-derived ingredients. I define fake naturals as products that call themselves natural but aren’t truly natural. Products that contain fake naturals can cause serious skin issues such as allergic reactions, dermatitis, skin sensitivities and blocked pores.

While these may not seem so serious to the average person, what we put into our skin is absorbed into the blood and then the rest of our body! There’s never been a more important time to take care of your skin and be aware of what you’re applying onto it.

Billabong Retreat Sydney

Written by lee on . Posted in Reviews, Travel & Lifestyle

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Ever feel the need to have a break from your crazy schedule, sit back, enjoy blissful early morning restorative yoga and indulge in organic meals prepared especially for you?  Beautiful Billabong Retreat will do just that.

Billabong is located only a smooth forty-five minute drive away from Sydney in a rural location called Maraylya.  The stunning wellness retreat offers amazing cuisine in a natural setting surrounded by scribbly gums, gulping frogs and chirpy birds; who needs an alarm clock anyway?

I was fortunate enough to spend a few days at the retreat in a homely lodge, overhearing the calming chorus of kookaburras nestled in the treetops by the lily-covered waterhole.

Set amongst the natural surroundings of the native Australian bush, the central point of the retreat is a beautiful billabong which is not only breathtaking but also brings wildlife straight to your door.  I guarantee after just a few hours of arriving, you’ll feel completely at home in the natural surroundings. Imagine a whole new world with no e-mails, no meetings, no distractions. Just you, a hug from mother-nature and a comforting cup of Chamomile.

During my stay I attended a three-day mindfulness retreat designed to take you out of your internal dialogue and chatter, bringing you back into the moment with practical tools to be at one with your thoughts. It’s the kind of retreat, run by Billabong’s founder Paul von Bergen that helps you to replace your “ugh’s” with “oms”  and understand that mindfulness is a practise which can be really beneficial when implemented into your daily life.  It’s a great retreat if you’re looking to improve your relationships, not only with yourself but with the people around you.

Billabong is a breath of fresh air, but just be warned, you’ll want to NamaSTAY there all year long.

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Morning meditations with this guy and the best view – is there a nicer way to start the day?

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Poolside.  Once you go magnesium, you can never go back. With every stroke you take, you can feel the difference as the magnesium pool helps you get rid of impurities and brings you back to your organic core.

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This super clean, super green and super tasty plate of goodness. Picking up those little squares of lemon rind in olive oil with each delicious mouthful. YUM!

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Breakfast in the Aussie bush. Chocolate chia pudding, cinnamon yoghurt and poached  pears sprinkled with coconut, walnuts and seeds. Delicious.

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Scribbly gums and a chorus of kookaburras by the waterhole.

To learn more about Billabong Retreat visit: www.billabongretreat.com.au

Keep your Teeth Naturally Clean and Sparkling + Tooth Care Product Reviews

Written by lee on . Posted in Natural Products, Reviews

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Dental care is something that is sometimes overlooked but should't be!  Your mouth is the main gateway between the environment and your body. Taking good care of your pearly whites takes much more than bi-annual dental visits. To avoid bad breath, gum disease and to maintain overall good oral hygiene, you need to be taking care of your teeth daily and the best way to do it is naturally.  

So, how do you go about keeping your teeth looking like a scene out of Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts does a hair flick to reveal a flash of her mega-watt smile; revealing a super white and sparkling grin?

Here are some suggestions for natural dental products that’ll help to get your smile camera-ready and perfect for dazzling friends, family and total strangers…

drTung’s Toothbrush will completely transform the way you think about oral hygiene. While regular toothbrushes clean off some plaque, they often leave a build-up of bacteria in certain areas which can lead to gum disease, cavities and yellow teeth! DrTung’s Ionic toothbrush, brushes away plaque molecules, leaving your teeth clean, your breath fresh and smile sparkling.

drTung’s Floss is a gentle floss that’s clinically proven to remove up to 55% more plaque for a superior clean. It is extremely easy to use, soft on your fingers (so no more finger lines!) and has a delicious natural cardamom flavour, one of my favourite perfumed spices. The floss is made of natural plant and bees wax coating, the container is made with EcoPure and the product isn’t tested on animals, so you can keep both your teeth and the planet super clean!

drTung’s Tongue Cleaner. Why not scrub your mouth clean with this easy yet effective tongue cleaner? It glides on your tongue and removes harmful bacteria, even getting all those hard to reach places! drTung’s Tongue Cleaner is the top choice of dentists and health experts and I certainly can see why. In fact, it’s 5x more effective than tongue cleaning with a normal toothbrush! Tongue cleaning has been talked about in Ayurvedic practices and is said to remove ama (or toxins/bacteria) that accumulate. From an Ayurvedic perspective the removal of ama enables you to enjoy and taste your food even more. Cheers to that!

drTung’s Oil Pulling Solution. In ancient Ayurvedic texts, oil pulling is recommended as part of a daily routine to strengthen teeth and naturally draw toxins out of the body, improving both oral and overall health! I use it daily and love it. It’s a recycled, cruelty-free product made of over twenty-four botanical ingredients, including sesame oil, to detoxify your body, prevent stained teeth and maintain overall balance. Read more about drTungs here.

My Magic Mud Whitening Tooth Powder is a revolutionary product that whitens teeth and improves oral hygiene, leaving teeth clean and polished. This powder is completely natural, made of only activated charcoal and clay, so it’s flavourless and perfect to clean the teeth of all ages. It does get a bit messy to handle so I would recommend using it in the shower. You can find out more about it here.

OneWorld Ayurvedic and Yoga Retreat, Bali

Written by lee on . Posted in Reviews, Travel & Lifestyle

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If you’re looking for an experience beyond a handful of cheap sarongs and Bintang tanks, Oneworld Retreats in Bali may be just the ticket. Veering off the beaten track in Ubud the Ayurvedic Detox and Yoga retreat is located at Kumara, a centre which has been transformed by it’s vibrant and larger than life owner Claude Chouinard into a haven of relaxation surrounded by positive energy.

As soon as you arrive, the smell of frangipani fills the air and you’re offered a thirst-quenching welcome drink that tastes like it has only just fallen from the large coconut tree positioned beside the reception area. The pool is glistening and you are ready to jump in.

Pool

Once checked in, you’re guided down a set of stairs to reveal a gorgeous private room which instantly makes you feel comfortable and at home.

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The accommodation is lush and traditionally minimalistic, each room having a large balcony overlooking Ubud’s green fields for an instant eye-popping nature-fix.

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There are no televisions in the room but instead you’ll find water colours, paper and brushes, you don’t need to be an artist to get creative, it’s all about amusing yourself as a way of focusing on being in the NOW. There are also tools for mandala creation, incense sticks and pretty local flowers for mandala making.

A table and comfortable sink-into arm chair on the deck offers a cozy place to kick-back and relax, a tempting hang out area, particularly as the sun goes down, as you listen to the low hums, buzzes and chirps of the native wildlife.

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In the morning, the aroma of Bali offerings and incense still lingers in the air, and a piping hot teapot with aromatic herbal blends arrives on your deck at rooster o’clock. It’s a welcome pick me up as you stumble out of bed, before ambling down the steps to the magnificent locally built yoga shala, complete with jungle backdrop, to salute the sun at a morning yoga session.

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Wayan brings a unique teaching style to the yoga classes and has a gentle approach and nature which is soothing and nurturing.

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The retreat is run by Dr Aparna and Dr Joshi who are experienced Ayurvedic practitioners from India. They are excellent facilitators and do a wonderful job in bringing Ayurveda to guests in an accessible way.

Dr

During the retreat you will partake in workshops which cover living the Ayurvedic way, principles and dietetics, daily rituals and also an introduction to the Panchakarma detox or PK as it is affectionately known. Each day is dedicated to an element, which allows you to appreciate, honour and become more aware of the earth, water, fire, air and space around you.

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Do Go Chasing Waterfalls

Just beyond Ubud, Balinese worshippers have been gravitating towards Pura Tirta Empul which translates to Temple of the Holy Water, a place where the sacred springs are said to hold healing properties.  For centuries and still today, Balinese have been bathing and praying in the holy water. Oneworld Retreats offer you the chance to immerse yourself in this ancient ritual and leave with a lighter spirit and sense of peace.

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After the bathing ritual we’re given a front row seat to a further purification situation, where a holy man presses rice on your forehead and secures pretty little flowers into your hair. You’re offered a cotton bracelet and instructed to wear it until it falls off.

What I loved about the retreat is that it feels like the real Bali, one that is steeped in rituals and where you are constantly engaging in the glorious rich culture.

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Take a walk on the wild side

Pack your trainers for an approachable adventure into village life. We joined our guide Tokok, a Balinese local for a pied-piper inspired single-file walk through narrow rice paddy fields stopping as women rode side-saddle on motorbikes and a passing parade of smiling drivers carefully navigated the slim pathways.

Not so squeezy!

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Weathered farmers in straw hats waded knee deep through water-logged rice plots anticipating their next harvest.

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The sound of frogs and smell of rice and frangipani invaded your senses. I loved the look into village life that the nature walk provided.

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During the Ayurvedic retreat you are given daily tonics, an Ayurvedic consultation with the doctors and two detoxing treatments which leads on to a fully supervised Ayurvedic detox day.

The day is a good opportunity to have a stay at home day as it involves taking Ayurvedic preparations and then staying close by a loo! The doctors monitor you every hour to make sure everything is running smoothly!

During the special detox day a digital detox is also recommended which serves as the perfect time to channel your inner Van Gogh utilizing the art supplies and flowers for creative play.

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Throughout the retreat you’re tempted by beautifully crated Indian and Indonesian inspired dishes. This is paddy to plate eating at its best.

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The retreat showcases local ingredients with generous amounts of flavour and freshness.

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An instagrammer’s dream come true...

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A trip to Oneworld Retreats Ayurvedic retreat will have you travelling home richly rewarded and rejuvenated.

Cleansing Ceremony

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The retreat runs for seven days and six nights and includes healthy balanced meals, daily Ayurvedic tonics and herbals teas, an Ayurvedic consultation, two detoxing treatments, four Ayurvedic workshops, a cooking demonstration, a fire cleansing ceremony, nine yoga sessions, a nature walk, one fully supervised Ayurvedic detox day, an offering class and a guided nature walk.

You can find out more about Oneworld Retreats here.

Aro Ha Wellness Retreat

Written by lee on . Posted in Reviews, Travel & Lifestyle

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Arriving at Aro Ha wellness retreat in Glenorchy on the South Island of picturesque New Zealand and you may mistakenly think you’ve stepped into the pages of “Into the Wild”, the bestselling book about an adventurous seeker and hiker who’s escapades lead him into the remote Alaskan wilderness.

If the hustle and bustle of life has you craving a break and yearning for that blank spot on the map to truly immerse yourself into an unfiltered life experience, then Aro Ha may be just what the doctor ordered.

Imagine a wellness retreat that combines delicious organic food, soul-shifting mountain hikes with natural highs, relaxing daily massages and a environment where you can let go of decision making and fall into the art of complete surrender. Sound good?

From the moment you arrive, you're encouraged to renounce all pre-conceived ideas and expectations and hand over to the beauty and magnificence of the world around you. The comfortable drive to the popular wellness retreat is about a forty-five minute ride, which negotiates through spectacular hobbit and middle earth style rolling hills, surrounded by jaw-dropping backdrops featuring snow covered alps and glacial lakes. It envelopes you with all it’s chocolate box charm and magnetism.

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I was lucky enough to visit Aro Ha last month and spent five days in this spirit-lifting place. Quite soon after arriving at the retreat, we are whisked off to sit in the gorgeous communal chill out lounge, the perfect location for mingling with other guests against the backdrop of panoramic views across Lake Wakatipu.

We plonked ourselves down on the oversized floppy couch and were introduced to the ethos and run down of the retreat whilst enjoying a raw food platter with freshly made crackers, delights from the organic onsite gardens and a warming herbal tea.

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After a weigh in and checks and measuring session, we're guided through the stone pathways to our rooms and left to settle in and prepare for our first hike!  A little later, we meet in the designated hike area just outside the purpose built eco-designed accommodations where we gather up our allocated hiking gear and poles if required.

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I’ve always had a love of nature and an adventurous spirit, but I am no mountaineer by any stretch of the imagination and as we ventured up the steep and craggy mountains on the first day, I wondered whether my jelly legs would see me through.  

I was half expecting to stumble upon Alexander Supertramp’s Magic Bus so I could sneak in for a rest and to get my breath back. But there were plenty of opportunities to stop and rest and breathe in the cooling clean air if need be, and I felt absolutely no pressure to be a speedy Gonzales on my way up, with guides at the front, middle and back of the group to encourage and help you along.

When I finally reached my very first summit, the view from the top was impressive and it was then that I noticed a renewed sense of achievement and purpose, filling my senses. 

Once back on ground level, we headed into the shared eating area to indulge in a picture perfect highly nutritious dinner.

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This was a good time to chit-chat with fellow guests, and share experiences in a refined and natural setting, unencumbered by the usual belongings and trappings that sometimes accompany group gatherings.  We marvelled at the presentation of the fresh produce and delicious offerings.

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After dinner it was time for a relatively early night and armed with a warming herbal tea I jumped into the crisp and luxurious white linen sheets ready for a sound sleep.

I knew as soon as my head hit the pillow I would be asleep snuggling into the warm woven blankets and wondering what tomorrow would bring.

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As I nestled into the pillow, the mindfulness tip of the day on the bed was calling out to me, encouraging me to align my body and mind.  “This is going to be an interesting five days” I thought.

The paired-back décor of the cabin is restful and minimal with touches of nature weaved in from outside. I loved the natural flora and fauna that adorned the walls.

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The whole retreat runs on hydro and solar power and is a welcome sustainable living approach, very much in-tune with its surroundings. The building materials are made from larch wood and local stone and blend in effortlessly with the outdoor terrain.

The yoga studio is minimal and inviting with a gorgeous opportunity to breathe in your surrounds.

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The main community building houses the reception area and this is connected to a relaxing, lounge, dining room and open kitchen. The out buildings within the retreat comprise of a stunning spa area which is where the Zen-inducing treatments are carried out.

This flows through to an old school and infrared sauna, which then leads into an outdoor heated spa overlooking the sub-alpine mountains. I haven’t mentioned the icy plunge pool yet, but it's right there if you dare!

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After a restful night I'm awakened by a retreat leader outside my doorway, as the chimes of a Tibetan bowl gently rouse me from sleep.  Stumbling up the stone pathway, I'm met by a magnificent wooden yoga hut, centered around a windowscape which captures the stunning beauty and tranquility of the misty lake.

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Our yoga teacher Mike was there to greet us with a big warm knowing smile. He’s a beautiful soul and former adrenaline junkie, who brings the yin to many of the guest’s and retreat leader’s yangs as he gently takes us through a hatha-esque guided practice, to dust off the cobwebs and align the body and senses. This is where we are again encouraged to relinquish control and trust the process of the power of healing in nature.

By the time the class was over, breakfast was well and truly calling and this insta-worthy smoothie bowl had my name written all over it!  The nutritious bunch of ingredients blended and ready to set us up for the next hike of the day, three hours across country into the wilderness as far as the eye can see.

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It was then that I knew it was truly time to wallow in the raw and wild surroundings and experience the pulse of life that only hiking can provide. Whilst at Aro Ha, each day a hike is undertaken, all with their own challenging elevations and distances and generally covering between 12 and 17 kms of dramatically changing Southern-Alp landscape.

Walking can do interesting things to your mind. What it evoked for me was the ability to be more open to new experiences and adventures and also to have the breathing space to be able to think more creatively and with a new perspective that the daily busyness of life sometimes overshadows.

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By lunchtime, we are back at the retreat for more spectacular and empowering food, plated up with flowers from the garden and resembling the pot of gold that was at the end of the rainbow which had formed in the sky after a short rain shower, dazzling us as we ate and chatted, exchanging hiking stories from blisters to potential hamstring strains.


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Afternoons at Aro Ha are packed with various classes such as cooking and horticulture, pilates and functional training and you can choose to do as much or little as you wish.

The horticulture class was fun and informative and we were invited into the world of permaculture and shown how to grow our own micro-herbs, followed by a tour of the magnificent indoor kitchen-greenhouse which captures just the right amount of light and warmth all year round for the herb, vegetable and fruit dwellers inside to flourish.

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Restorative yoga kicks off at 6pm, connecting the group once again and lulling you into a soothing and nurturing space and time for reflection, much like the great lake view from the windows.

We run through a series of calming and soothing poses, the perfect antidote to an activity filled day. The class is closed with a mindfulness meditation as you melt your body even further into a deeper state of relaxation.

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As you're gently encouraged to bring your thoughts back into reality, dinner is ready and it's a beautifully presented garden to plate nourishing meal.


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Next it's time to head over to the sauna and spa area for chill out time, where you can gaze up at the stars and feel like you're in heaven.

Speaking of heaven, how gorgeous is this cacao breakfast pudding! 

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I spent five days at Aro Ha and came away with a renewed level of health and fitness and a brand new outlook on life.

My biggest realisation was:

It’s the things that challenge us the most, that become the very challenges that enable us to grow as a person and evolve.

Aro Ha gave me the impetus to reignite my love of adventure and hiking and plan loads more hikes in the future. I’ve since implemented a morning walk around Centennial Park in Sydney and am keeping my steps up along the way.

Thank you Aro Ha for a uniquely life-changing experience.

For more information about Aro Ha Wellness Retreat visit: http://aro-ha.com

Small Victories Book Review Plus Buttermilk Pancake Recipe

Written by lee on . Posted in Books, Food & Drinks, Reviews

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Food always tastes better when made with love. Whether it's from the passion the cook has for it or from the love for the people it’s being created for. Each mouthful becomes even more pleasurable when love is involved.

Julia Turshen’s new cookbook Small Victories is full of wholesome yet exciting meals made from such moments. Revealing and laughing at her own cooking mistakes, turning them into useful tips, Turshen encourages you to overcome the daunting and stressful task of making a meal. To find enjoyment in the ‘small victories’ like not dropping any celery on the floor when first learning to sauté, or turning ice cream that wouldn’t freeze into a dinner party milkshake hit.

Small Victories has a humble quality, from Turshen’s expert but easy-going guidance, to its focus on utilising good, fresh produce that is accessible to most home cooks. With a few ingredients and flavours included to help broaden your pantry and excite your tastebuds, Turshen takes away the angst of having to find and buy these ingredients if you don’t have them, by providing effective alternatives.

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Out of milk? You can still have pancakes for breakfast (or dinner)!  Try out the ‘Sour Cream Pancakes with Roasted Blueberries’ recipe from the book, which I SuperCharged by using a Turshen alternative of buttermilk rather than sour cream. By the way if you’re dairy free coconut milk would be just as nice!

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This book is Turshen’s outstretched welcome into her home kitchen, with beautiful nostalgic photography and personal stories, and every turn of the page is filled with the essence of her love for food and cooking.

The other wonderful thing about Small Victories is that you don't need to be an expert to enjoy it; if you're more of a "one recipe kind of a cook" the book features creative ways to reuse recipes, turning your single mastered meal into a multitude of delicious moments.  

Small Victories is a great introduction to food for new cooks because it gently takes away the seriousness of getting it right and finds laughter and pleasure in your ‘small victories’.

My first stop was the Sour Cream pancakes and I made a couple of supercharged switches using buttermilk in the recipe which I'm sharing with you here.

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Buttermilk Pancakes with Roasted Blueberries

  • 1 ¼ cups (160g) blueberries, rinsed and drained
  • 3 Tbsp coconut sugar
  • ½ cup (60g) oat flour
  • ¼ cup (30g) sorghum flour
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup (240ml) Buttermilk or coconut milk
  • Coconut oil for cooking and serving

Preheat oven to 200°C

In a baking dish, combine the blueberries with 2 Tbsp of the coconut sugar and stir to mix.

Place in the oven and roast, pulling the baking dish out a few times to stir the blueberries, until their skins burst and they have released lots of juices, this takes about 20 minutes.

Using a fork or a potato masher, crush the berries a bit so that they become jammy. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, and salt and whisk to combine.

Crack the eggs into a medium bowl, add the buttermilk and remaining 1 Tbsp coconut sugar, and whisk until the mixture is uniform. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture and use a wooden spoon to mix everything together. It’s okay if the batter isn’t perfectly smooth – it’s better to under mix than over mix.

Set a large cast-iron pan, or your largest frying pan over medium heat and add 1 Tbsp coconut oil. Once the oil melts, swirl the pan or brush the pan to evenly coat the surface.

Pour the batter into the pan using a ¼ cup (60ml) increments to form pancakes that are roughly 10cm in diameter, cook only as many pancakes at a time as can fit comfortably.

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The minute that pancakes become too precise is the minute they become no fun, so don’t stress over this – it’s okay if they’re not the same size. Cook the pancakes until small bubbles appear on the surface and the undersides are nicely browned, 1 to 2 minutes.

Flip the pancakes over and cook until the second sides are nicely browned, another minute or so.

Transfer to warm plates and continue making pancakes, adding more coconut oil as you go, until you’ve used up all the batter.

Serve pancakes immediately, with more coconut oil on top and the warm roasted blueberries.

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SPIN-OFFS  You can use coconut milk, buttermilk, sour cream or even yoghurt.

SHAKE UP THE TOPPING ROUTINE by roasting just about any fruit in place of the blueberries (berries are the most jammy, but all fruit benefits from the concentrated caramelisation that happens in the oven). Roasted blackberries, sliced bananas, sliced peaches, and thinly sliced apples or pears are all really delicious. Or rhubarb! Just keep an eye on the fruit while it’s roasting, as some types (e.g., apples) take a little longer than others and some (e.g., sliced bananas) take not much time at all.

THE ROASTED FRUIT TOPPING IS VERY VERSITILE; serve it with coconut cream for dessert, on toast spread with goat's cheese for breakfast, or on waffles for any time. Stir it into yogurt. Or serve alongside or grilled rich meat like pork shoulder or pork chops. Or lamb! Lamb loves fruit.

JULIA TURSHEN has co-authored such cookbooks as Spain…A Culinary Road Trip with Mario Batali, It’s All Good with Gwyneth Paltrow, Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen with Dana Cowin, and The Kimchi Chronicles, Hot Bread Kitchen: The Cookbook, The Fat Radish Kitchen Diaries, and Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food

She hosted the first two seasons of Radio Cherry Bombe and has written for Vogue, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Saveur, and The Wall Street Journal.  She lives in upstate New York with her wife, dogs, and cat.

 Follow her on Instagram + Twitter!

Fivelements

Written by lee on . Posted in Reviews, Travel & Lifestyle

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Imagine a location that feels like another world away, but is in reality just a hop, skip and a jump from anywhere in Australia. A place where you can fly and flop all within the space of a few hours and feel like you’ve been transported to a parallel universe.

Located in Bali, nestled alongside the sacred Ayung River near Ubud, and beyond the hustle and bustle of Kuta and Seminyak lies Fivelements, an award winning eco-conscious wellness destination which is inspired by the natural and holistic Balinese way of life.

Fivelements encourages guests to nurture harmony of their spirit, the environment and with one another and tune-in to their physical, emotional and spiritual needs, allowing an organic healing process to naturally unfold.

Medicine cabinet love. My all time favourite ingredients ginger and turmeric.

Upon arrival I was greeted by warm Balinese smiles and given a refreshing coconut welcome drink before being led through pretty gardens and stone pathways to my private modern thatched hut. It literally felt like I had stepped into the colour and magic of a traditional Balinese painting.

My gorgeous hut away from home

Flinging open the wooden doors will reveal a surprising level of plushness and comfort. The beautiful rooms are peaceful and serene with jaw-dropping natural décor and attention to detail. With an emphasis on nature, the elements of timber, bamboo, stone, water and natural tones all meld comfortably within the space and open balmy air.

Sleeping tight under the net

Walking through into the bathroom my heart skipped a beat when I saw the liberal use of stone and wood, housed with bamboo to bring as much of the outside in, and create an ambience of being totally at one with nature.

Stone and Wood

And then there was THAT shower.

Forecast: Sunday morning showers

One of the other water highlights of Fivelements is the open-air bathtub which sits inside a private bamboo enclosure, enabling you to enjoy your surroundings during a relaxing salt water soak. It was perfect for soothing my weary yoga muscles after a big day of yoga the day before.

In the early evening, the girls from the spa popped around to offer me a revitalizing bath ritual composed of five powerful healing ingredients: lemongrass to activate blood circulation, aromatic Balinese orange and lime, and pandan leaves and ginger to awaken your senses and clear my mind.

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Bath ingredients!  Orange, pandan, sea salt, ginger and lime.

Move over Vivid Sydney! The supernatural volcanic stone bath featured customised therapy lighting which showcased the seven colours of the chakras, and as you lay there it encouraged the unison of the mind, body and spirit and the connection with nature.

Each of the five residences at Fivelements features a private, hewn-boulder bath overlooking the Ayung River.

Each of the five residences at Fivelements features a private, hewn-boulder bath overlooking the Ayung River.

Post bath time bliss, I sat on the private deck, a wonderful place to unwind from any stresses in laid back style, and perused the menu which was prefaced as offering raw vegan living foods cuisine in celebration of our “aliveness.”


Long lunch with mountains of greens

When it comes to food at Fivelements their goal is simple; to allow mother-nature’s cuisine to shine with all her exciting tastes, textures, vibrant colors and pure flavours. It was evident to me that the food they serves was prepared with love, passion and attention to detail and each dish just oozed the feeling of being so healthy and full of energy-giving nutrients.

Living Foods

The menu is based around the concept of a fine-dining healing cuisine of ‘Living Foods' comprising of raw vegan fare, and other lightly-prepared plant-based dishes. As I like to have a mixture of cooked and raw foods this suited me perfectly.

You can choose to enjoy the refueling food either in your room or at Sakti dining room, which is a bamboo architectural masterpiece, topped off with a sweeping thatched roof in the shape of a banana leaf, a Balinese symbol of food. The restaurant overlooks a pretty lotus pond on one side and the mesmerizing Ayung River on the other.

Virtuous breakfast offerings

During my three day stay, I happily ate my way through their fantastic menu, at breakfast I enjoyed Coconut Chia Porridge with local Tulsi Seeds, Oats, Activated Seeds, Goji Berries and served with Coconut Milk, on day two I had a Superfood Dragon Bowl with Purple Dragonfruit, Banana, Coconut, Chia Seeds, Strawberries, Sprouted Nut Granola, Lime Yoghurt and Cinnamon and on my final day I enjoyed the Spiced Granola with Activated Nuts, Oats, Coconut Milk and Banana, which was my favourite!

Main meals always begun with a serve of Curried Kale Chips with Balinese Spices, and Coconut and one of the highlight meals was the South Indian Dahl with Coconut Yoghurt, Coriander and Chili, served with crunchy flaxseed crackers.

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I made this raw zucchini pasta with marinara sauce during the cooking class

On the menu, there were mountains of zesty green salads to choose from featuring edible flowers, leaves and raw dressings, Balinese Green Urab-Urab with Organic Greens, Vegetables, Herbs, Coconut Bacon and Aromatic Balinese Dressing and one of the popular meals is a Shitake Mushroom Burger with Rice Bun, Caramelized Onions, Kimchi Mayonaise, Umami Ketchup, Pickles, Jicama Slaw, and yummy Sweet Potato Chips which I polished off for dinner.

Dessert was also a feast for the eyes not to mention the tummy, there’s nothing quite like experiencing the Milk Chocolate Mousse Cake with White Chocolate Ice Cream, Raw Cacao Syrup and Chocolate Tuile with a side of Homemade Cashew coconut Ice Cream.

This really is clean eating at it’s finest.

Once you’ve had your fill of fruits and organic vegetables it’s time to relax by the pool on the comfy terry toweling lined day beds and indulge in an afternoon drink.

Lazy days by the pool

There are plenty of beverages to choose from; smoothies, juices and healing and comforting hot elixirs and tonics were all offered. I enjoyed the Bali Spiced raw hot Chocolate and Chai Latte made with locally sourced Tea and Spices, Coconut Milk, Coconut Sugar.

One of the major attractions of Fivelements is the spa which is central to the area and a place where you can not only be slathered in locally made ingredients and transported to a world of bliss but also experience energy healing, rejuvenating massages, deep bodywork, ultra-nourishing body care, local super food facials and unique water healing experiences.

Room with a view

Featuring nine private healing rooms for Balinese therapies, each has their own ensuite bathroom and bathhouse with a river stone healing bathtub.

All of the treatments at Fivelements embrace holistic Balinese-inspired therapies and are administered by traditional Balinese healers using ancient wisdoms passed down from direct lineage.

Following the Balinese principle of Sekala-Niskala, which holds that we all live equally in two worlds; the seen or conscious world Sekala, and the unseen or psychic world Niska- la, the Balinese healers engage the help of the higher divine source during each healing session.

Gorgeous foot soak bath with Balinese sea salt, petals and lime.

 

Whilst I was at Fivelements, I joined Chef Made Tantra for culinary training which was a fantastic experience, he certainly took me on an inspiring gastronomical journey! We created some absolutely delicious basics and dishes such as coconut milk, green juice, cashew dressing, and granola.

A man on a mission

Chef Tantra is a man on a mission with a passionate interest in local and native ingredients having worked in hotels across Bali and overseas.   During the class he showcased exciting and absolutely delicious vegan and vegetarian fare made with flare using aromatic herbs, vegetables, spices and a healthy dose of flavours.

Cooking class ingredients

During the class I had an introduction to living foods and the importance of using local and in season food sources and also picked up some great tips about quick and easy meal preparation, I shared with him some of my own cooking tips too as we had a mutual interest in simple and healthy recipes. He was most interested in nutritional yeast flakes and wheat free tamari!

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I learnt how to make a delicious garden blend soup with fields of greens, crushed garlic and orange, and also a marinara sauce that we had with the zucchini pasta that day for lunch.

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Garden green soup with swirls

The soup was delicious and so energy boosting and I felt like a million dollars afterwards 🙂

I really enjoyed my time at Fivelements and came home refreshed and revitalized with a sense of peace and harmony.

To find out more about what they offer you can visit their website: http://www.fivelements.org

Panasonic French Door Fridge

Written by lee on . Posted in Cookware & Appliances, Reviews

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I love it when I get to learn new things, particularly when it involves two of my favourite pastimes: food and eating!

Last week I was fortunate enough to be part of an incredible sushi making master class at Toko Restaurant in Sydney. We spent the morning learning from top chefs how to carve and create sashimi and I also had a hand at rolling out some sushi too… then eating it of course.

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This class was one of the added bonuses at the launch of Panasonic’s new range of eco-friendly fridges. The hero product on the day was the new French Door fridge, showcasing an impressive range of functional, intelligent and elegant technologies.

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Within the French Door fridge is a centralised vegetable case which offers an airtight design, keeping humidity levels high, halting the natural drying out process of foods over time. They’ve also introduced Vitaminsafe technology which operates within the vegetable crisper. This activates the natural defenses of fruits and vegetables to help keep them fresher for a longer period of time, saving you money and frequent trips to the supermarket.

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Panasonic also showed off a new premium range of bottom-mount fridges which comes with Prime Fresh technology in a special dedicated compartment. This new feature helps to maintain the flavor, texture and nutrients of produce that lives in the fridge by lightly freezing fresh meat and seafood to around minus three degrees Celsius. As food is only slightly frozen, it extends the life of your perishables while still maintaining nutrients, flavour and texture. A handy time saver that removes the need for long defrosting time.

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All of Panasonic’s fridges keep bacteria and nasties at bay. This is particularly useful if you tend to put things in the fridge and leave them for ages, and then are surprised to discover a soggy Christmas pudding from 2012, or last month’s Thai takeaway. Within the fridge is an Ag Clean silver coated filter which cleans the circulating air to kill 99% of mould and bacteria inside the refrigerator. That’s good news for you, but not such good news for your long-standing fridge dwellers.

Another great environmental aspect of the new range of fridges is that the cooling systems evenly distribute chilled air from the rear panel throughout the refrigerator for gentle cooling, maintaining a constant temperature.

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Energy consumption is reduced due to the four Econavi intelligent sensors that actively monitor usage patterns, lighting and temperature. Once these have been established by this very clever technology, your fridge energy output can be adapted to your unique usage patterns, enabling you to have the most efficient operation of your fridge and also save money on energy bills. And we all want a bit more of that!

The sleek, modern and functional designs with touch controls and recessed curved handles are seamless and good looking enough to complement any kitchen. If you’re in the market for a new fridge, I’d recommend this gorgeous range.  Find out more here.

Synergy Natural, 100% organic Super Greens

Written by lee on . Posted in Food & Drinks, Ingredients, Reviews

Greens PowderLooking for a completely natural Super Greens powder?  If you’re seeking a superpower green mix to complete your morning juice or smoothie then Super Greens is the way to go.

Mineral-rich Synergy Super Greens is a raw greens powder that combines some of nature’s most nutrient-dense foods: Spirulina, Chlorella, Barley Grass and Wheat Grass, with a touch of Stevia to sweeten.

The spirulina within Super Greens is a potent nutritious microscopic plant food with over a hundred nutrients. It is extremely high in protein, anti-oxidants, iron and vitamin B12, without any added cholesterol.

Chlorella is another pure green superfood that supports detoxification, alkalisation and boosts your immune system. It’s packed full of essential amino acids, protein, and essential fatty acids, making you one sip away from improving your health!

Another key component of the Synergy Super Greens is Barley Grass, a natural multi-vitamin, which alkalises the body and rebalances pH levels. Barley Grass contains 500% more Vitamin C than oranges and 200% the calcium of milk.

Wheat Grass provides all the vitamins, minerals and other special nutrients that are essential in our diet. Along with the other ingredients in this product, the wheat grass used is grown outdoors without pesticides and artificial fertilizers making it environmentally friendly as well as preservative-free! Wheat Grass is high in calcium, iron, protein, minerals, fibre and antioxidants so an all round beneficial ingredient to include in your diet to help support your energy.

The best part? It’s as nutritionally beneficial for your insides as it is delicious on your tastebuds and you get the best bioavailability in whole food form.

Synergy Super Greens is an easy way to stabilise your appetite, improve wellbeing and get in some of those daily servings of greens!

Why not try in in my mint choc chip smoothie?  You’ll find the recipe here. http://www.superchargedfood.com/blog/autumn/two-minty-chocolate-drink-recipes/

Find out more about Synergy Super Greens here. https://www.synergynatural.com/products/

 

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