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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...


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...


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....


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...


Should I drink bottled water?Should I drink bottled water? Why would you pay for water when you can drink it straight from the tap? Why indeed? Recently I joined a throng of thirsty wine drinkers at the annual 'NZ in a Glass' wine tasting evening in Sydney. ...


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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





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



‘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!

‘Mahana’ movie review – ‘Once Were Warriors’ meets ‘Whale Rider’

Posted on : 11-03-2016 | By : Cindy | In : Uncategorized




Recently I returned to New Zealand for the premiere of the brilliant movie Mahana. It is based on the book, Bulibasha, written by Witi Ihimaera (who also wrote The Whale Rider, 1987) and directed by Lee Tamahore.

Tamahore, producer Robin Scholes and actor Temuera Morrison worked together on the ‘no holds barred’ blockbuster movie, Once Were Warriors and the trio have worked their magic again. Mahana is just as gritty but smoothed with humour, beauty and evocative scenes that tug not only at the heart but also the spirit. I was carried away by the beautiful scenery of rural New Zealand and drawn back to childhood memories of 1960’s cars, shearing and life on the farm.

At the powhiri (welcoming ceremony), kaumatua Haare Williams, who wrote some of the songs and was Cultural Adviser for the movie, said that Mahana honoured the tough, hard-working Maori on whose sweat New Zealand’s economy was built. Although its story of family rivalry, deception, domination and love resonates with every culture, Mahana is proudly Maori and a must see for every New Zealander.

Yes, the premiere had the red carpet, champagne and media but it also had song, dance and prayer. It celebrated and honoured a simple yet sophisticated movie where every scene is like its own gem, from the excitement of the car race to the injustice of the courtroom to the ethereal beauty of the bee scene. I came out smiling and uplifted. I am sure you will too.

Check out the Mahana facebook page for movie clips and interviews.

What makes avocados green?

Posted on : 27-11-2015 | By : Cindy | In : Uncategorized


slWhat makes avocados green? It’s one of those tricky questions a child might ask – like ‘Why is grass green?’ or ‘Why does the moon shine during the day?’ If you know a little about nutrition you may already know the answer.

The natural carotenoid pigments in avocado give it its distinctive green colour, just as they do to spinach, rocket and kale. Avocados contain at least five natural carotenoids: beta carotene (the most well known orange pigment), beta cryptoxanthin (orange pigment), lutein and zeaxanthin (yellow pigment), and chlorophyll (green pigment). Our body converts them to vitamin A and they are essential for immune function, reproduction and vision.

What I didn’t know until I read the latest nutrition report from Avocado Australia was that they also greatly increase the amount of carotenoids absorbed from other vegetables. Simply eating half an avocado with carrots increases beta carotene absorption six fold. Plus it increases the efficiency of converting beta carotene to Vitamin A an incredible 12 fold!

So no longer will I eat my favourite carrot salad (previous nutrition post) on its own; I will be slicing avocado on the side. When I next make salsa with finely chopped tomatoes, cucumber and basil or coriander I will be sure to add in avocado, not only to draw more goodness from the vegetables but because it tastes great.

The key message: Eat avocados with other vegetables for maximum Vitamin A.

And here’s another tick for avocados. The macula, which is the yellow spot in the centre of our retina, is packed full of lutein and zeaxanthin – the same carotenoids found in avocado. These antioxidants protect the eye from damage and age related degeneration.

And how do they get to the eye? They are carried by ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. Studies have found that when people eat avocados as part of a cholesterol lowering diet, the total cholesterol and LDL drops while the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol is maintained. So avocados not only provide antioxidants for eye health, they also ensure the transport system to get them there – amazing!