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The Pounamu Prophecy - birth of a book Two women, two cultures and an ancient Maori prophecy that will change their lives. That's the tag line for The Pounamu Prophecy - my first novel. It has been a slow process, interrupted by moving...

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Can I eat mussels if I have high cholesterol?Can I eat mussels if I have high cholesterol? The short answer is yes - you can eat mussels if you have high cholesterol. Mussels are low in kilojoules, cholesterol and fat. The little fat they do have is mostly healthy unsaturated fat with plenty...

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Bran MuffinsBran Muffins These bran muffins (adapted from a recipe by Alison Holst) are super filling - a great snack when you are trying to control your weight. Enjoy these muffins with a cup of tea but don't expect to absorb...

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Beat the flu with Chicken Noodle Soup It’s Queen’s Birthday holiday today in New Zealand and thank goodness, the sun is shining. I’m sitting in a sunny room writing this post, sheltered from the icy wind blasting up from Antarctica....

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My nanna's recipe for homemade Rewena (Maori) bread Rewena Bread Step 1 1 c flour 1 tsp sugar 1 potato Peel and cut potato into small pieces. Place in pot with 1 cup water, lid on, and simmer to mashing consistency. Mash, cool and when luke...

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Spanakopita

Posted on : 28-11-2016 | By : Cindy | In : Uncategorized

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‘Oh no, not the same salad again!’ complained my teenager the other day. ‘Can’t we have something different?’ Obviously he’s been far too spoilt with interesting meals during his childhood and so the past six months of the same old thing every week has taken its toll!!

For these past months my mind has been immersed in first century Samaria as I finished the first draft of my novel. Like running a race, the end is the hardest and I had no creativity left in my brain to expend on something as trivial as interesting dinners. Every week it’s been pretty much the same: Sunday – leftovers and salad, Monday – frozen fish and salad, Tuesday – chicken curry, Wednesday – steak and salad, Thursday – lentil vegetable soup, Friday – Thai takeaway, and then finally to Saturday where at last we had something interesting – Spanakopita.

 

spanakopita-2Every Saturday morning I head off early to the local market to stock up on homemade hummus, labneh, olives, and fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables. Even there I have a set route, racing around to gather what I need before my spin class. Then it’s home for a relaxed coffee and a bagel on the balcony before I finally enter the kitchen for the one meal a week that I actually enjoy spending a bit of time on.

I love pulling out the lush bunches of spinach, dill and mint – all that green makes a dietitian’s heart sing! And knowing that this is a guaranteed way to get my husband to eat spinach only adds to the enjoyment of making this dish. It is very easy: simply pan fry onion and garlic, add the chopped spinach and once wilted, add chopped herbs, eggs and feta. Then pile it into the filo pastry laced with extra virgin olive oil and bake. I serve it with that ‘same’ boring salad of the sweetest grape tomatoes, baby cucumber, avocado and capsicum dressed with plenty of balsamic vinegar. Delicious.

 

 

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1 large onion, finely chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 bunches spinach, chopped

1 bunch mint, chopped

1 bunch dill, chopped

2 eggs, beaten

200g feta cheese, crumbled or chopped (I use Dodoni feta)

8 sheets filo pastry

Extra virgin olive oil

 

Gently fry onion and garlic in olive oil until clear. Add spinach and cook on medium heat until wilted. (Don’t over cook or you will lose that lovely green colour.)

Remove from heat and add eggs, mint, dill and feta.

Smear a large baking dish with olive oil. Lay over two sheets of filo. Smear with a little olive oil. Lay over two more sheets.

Pile spinach mixture into dish and top with two more sheets of filo, olive oil and a final two sheets. Smear top with a little olive oil.

Bake at 180C for 40 minutes.

 

Living long, living well in the Blue Zones

Posted on : 13-10-2016 | By : Cindy | In : Aging, Conferences, Event buzz, Insightful perception, Legumes, Uncategorized

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‘You don’t have to believe in God to live a long life but it’s a common feature of the Blue Zones,’ said Associate Professor Tim Crowe. I had never heard of Blue Zones so was really looking forward to the private briefing for nutrition communicators and dietitians at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney this week.

Yes, there was product to promote and yes, we were given a wonderful goodie bag of Be Natural’s new range of whole grain granola cereals and snack bars which my teenager will devour with delight! But the organisers did a great job of informing us through Tim Crowe’s fascinating talk and entertaining us with amazing food displays and even exercise bikes to power blenders to make our own smoothies!

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Blue Zones are pockets of the world where people live especially long and healthy lives. The phrase was coined over ten years ago when Dan Buettner, National Geographic and a group of longevity researchers highlighted these pockets on a map of the world with – you guessed it – blue circles.

What I love about the Blue Zone concept is that they all eat different foods. Some eat lots of tropical fruit, others sourdough bread, red wine and olive oil, and others tofu, turmeric and a bit of fish. There is no one super food or super diet. But there are a few features common to all.

They all eat lots of plant foods – stacks of vegetables as well as protein rich foods such as beans (fava, borlotti, cannellini etc ), chickpeas, lentils, tofu and nuts. In fact around 80% of their food is plant based.

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They do a lot of integrated activity which is a fancy way to say their daily routine involves plenty of movement – walking to get food or see friends, chasing goats up the hillside, gardening. None of the blue zone people do triathlons or go to the gym!

If you ask people in the Blue Zones, ‘Why do you get up in the morning?’ they will have an answer. And it’s not just ‘Because I have to go to work.’ They have a sense of purpose, of being necessary and needed. Imagine if we could give this gift to each of our teenagers and young adults.

Community plays a large role in each of the Blue Zone pockets. Connection and caring for others obviously helps keep you young. According to the Blue Zone philosophy ‘Happy Hour’ is not swilling back as much beer or wine as you can rather it is drinking, usually red wine, with friends or family. It is the social aspect that is so important.

And finally faith. People in each of the Blue Zone pockets have faith and a belief in the spiritual, mostly a belief in God. Research shows that when a person prays, there are positive changes in his or her brain’s activity and the chemicals or neurotransmitters produced. Perhaps this is partly why the Bible says repeatedly to ‘Pray at all times.’ Prayer, and faith it seems, is good for our health.

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So how ‘Blue Zone’ have you been today? Have you eaten some hummus, beans or nuts? Have you filled your bowl or piled your plate with veges? Have you walked to work, the school or the cafe? Or done some gardening? Have you talked to or at least smiled at someone today? Do you have a great reason to jump out of bed tomorrow? Have you stopped and inhaled the fragrance of a flower, gazed at the view or enjoyed the warmth of the sun? Have you said thank you or laughed so hard your belly ached?

If you want to learn more about this latest buzz word, listen to Tim Crowe here on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/thinkingnutrition/videos/1183135265108172/

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Shakshuka – the perfect weekend lunch

Posted on : 01-08-2016 | By : Cindy | In : Colourful taste, History of Food, My idiot-proof recipes, Spices, Uncategorized

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Each time I sit down to write a few thousand words of my next novel I am transported to the Middle East and a world of exotic flavours – pyramids of fiery saffron and cumin, bunches of fragrant herbs, dusky green figs, succulent grapes and golden olive oil. Admittedly shakshuka would not have been around in first century Samaria – tomatoes did not find their way there until centuries later – but it is certainly a popular dish of the region nowadays.

It’s easy to make and is a gourmet alternative to eggs on toast. The thick, harissa laced tomato sauce adds a healthy boost of antioxidants and flavour. I love the fun of cracking eggs straight into their little nests in the sauce and the amazing colours once you sprinkle a little feta and parsley on at the end. Truly delicious!

 

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 red capsicum, finely chopped

1-2 stalks celery, finely chopped

2 x 440g can tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon sugar (enhances the tomato flavour but you can leave it out)

2 teaspoons ras al hanout (from Herbie’s Spices)

1/2 teaspoon harissa paste (or more if you like more heat)

1 teaspoon paprika (for the colour)

5 – 6 eggs

Feta cheese

Parsley, chopped

Heat olive oil in large pan on moderate heat. Add onion, garlic, capsicum and celery. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring, until onion is clear. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and spices. Cook gently for 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. make slight dents in sauce and break an egg into each one. Cover pan with lid and cook for a few minutes until eggs are done to your liking. Remove from heat. Sprinkle over feta cheese and parsley.

NZ – an example to the world (& not just of how to play rugby!)

Posted on : 21-06-2016 | By : Cindy | In : Uncategorized

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‘So tell me about this controversial book you have written,’ the announcer asked me during a recent radio interview. I would have stuttered in shock if I had not spent the morning at a cafe discussing this very issue!

I don’t do controversy. I am exhausted by my son’s love of ‘debating’ which I see as arguing; I wither in the face of disputes about politics and religion; I almost always stay silent in the face of dogmatic opinions about nutrition that, as a dietitian, I know are misinformed.

The first hint that The Pounamu Prophecy might be controversial was when a member of my mother’s book group commented that I was ‘brave’ to write such a book. What was brave about telling a story about a piece of New Zealand’s history that few people knew, I wondered. It wasn’t until I recently traveled to New Zealand to do a few author talks that I saw the discomfort of some people as I spoke of the injustices that the Ngati Whatua tribe suffered over the past 100 years.

‘Don’t talk too much about that stuff, Cindy,’ advised my mother. ‘The book says it well. Let it speak, not you.’ It was wise advice.

History is subjective, seen through the eyes and felt through the heart of whoever was there. For this story I had the privilege of interviewing an elder of the Ngati Whatua tribe. He was eight years old when the government burnt down his village to ‘tidy it up’ for Queen Elizabeth’s visit the following year. There were tears in his eyes as he recounted what had happened. It was a perspective few people, including myself, had heard. It was a story worth telling.

‘If one of our people had written this, many would dismiss it as just another sob story, ‘ he said. ‘But when a Pakeha (non-Maori) writes it, it has credibility.’

Perhaps this was part of the plan: for me, a Pakeha girl married into a Maori family, to write this book. A purely Pakeha perspective might defend itself with stories of less than honorable actions of some Maori. A purely Maori perspective might stir up resentment and anger, slashing open old wounds with no remedy or hope of reconciliation.

After the ‘controversial’ radio interview I spent hours in my room, praying for wisdom and adjusting my talk. That evening I encouraged the audience that New Zealand, despite its past failings, is an example to the world of how two cultures can live well together and celebrate the best of both. Afterwards I spoke to a woman who had recently immigrated from the USA.

‘When you said that New Zealand is an example to the world I wanted to jump up and yell, Yes!’ she said. ‘It is one of the main reasons we moved to this country.’

Thanks to the Treaty of Waitangi and honorable men and women who, over the past 150 years, have sought and pursued justice with peace, New Zealand is a nation we can be proud of – and not just because of the All Blacks!

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