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

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

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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

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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!

The Pounamu Prophecy – birth of a book

Posted on : 06-09-2015 | By : Cindy | In : Event buzz, New Zealand

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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 countries several times, childbirth, motherhood, nutrition work and the plain fact that I am a very slow writer!

Writing a first novel is like setting yourself an assignment with no deadline, that likely no-one else is interested in. There is no weekly pay cheque, no emotional massage of ego, and no-one who is interested in listening to your struggles over character, perspective or plot. It wasn’t until I joined a writer’s group that the gestation of The Pounamu Prophecy started to pick up pace. A good writer’s group is a ‘god-send’ and I would never have finished this book without the encouragement and brutal honesty of my writer’s group. They do not let me get away with anything!

Everything about this book has been slow. The title, as I mentioned in a previous post, changed four times. The cover also took months of back and forth design options and a couple of mad dashes up to the point above Mission Bay in Auckland to get the perfect photo. Early one morning, after dropping my husband at the airport for a 6am flight, I had driven up to the point and taken some shots with my iPhone in the hope that they might work as a cover design. The publisher liked them and asked for a high res photo but I had already left Auckland. I desperately called my brother, asking him to take the picture at the same time and in the same place that I had stood. In between ward rounds, an exam and a four hour drive, he managed to do it and I am eternally grateful. In the end, the publisher miracuously found the same shot on Getty Images and that is what is on the cover.

The Pounamu Prophecy owes its existence to many people: the writing group, my brother, Rhiza Press for editing out all the cringe-worthy stuff, the other publishers who sent the most encouraging comments along with their answer of ‘No’, the elders at Ngati Whatua who graciously answered all my questions, my father-in-law who guided me in all things Maori, my husband and sister-in-law for the beautiful face on the cover, and my other sister-in-law for the title-inspiring gin and tonics on a balcony in Bangkok!

The Pounamu Prophecy comes out in October with an author talk/launch at Balmain Library, Sydney on 12 November. I hope and pray that those who read it will be encouraged, inspired and entertained.

Kia hora te marino, kia whakapapa pounamu te moana, kia tere te karohirohi. May the calm be widespread, may the surface of the ocean glisten like greenstone and may the shimmer of summer dance across your path forever.

Gluten free Italian almond biscuits

Posted on : 15-07-2015 | By : Cindy | In : My idiot-proof recipes

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Amaretti are my favourite biscuit, not only because they taste delicious but also because they are so easy to make and pretty healthy – as far as biscuits go.

It’s not the gluten free bit that makes them healthy, although it does come in handy with the current popularity of eating ‘gluten free’. No, what makes them healthy is the fibre and unsaturated fats from the almonds – essential for beautiful skin, hair and nails, girls!

In this recipe I have reduced the sugar by almost half. Most amaretti recipes use equal proportions of ground almonds and sugar but they taste just as good with less.

With this recipe your hands are your utensils – no mixing spoons. It’s a little like re-living that wonderful childhood pastime of squishing mud between your fingers. Just make sure you don’t have to answer your phone! Pop them into the oven for five minutes and you have the perfect treat for the lunchbox or with a strong Italian coffee.

400g pack ground almonds

2 small cups of sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

Dash almond essence

4 egg whites (I make custard with the leftover egg yolks)

Icing sugar

Mix almonds and sugar in a large bowl with your hands. Add essences, then egg whites. Mix with hands. (It feels all squidgy like a kid playing in mud!)

Sprinkle icing sugar on bench. Roll a portion of almond mix into a sausage shape. Coat in icing sugar. Cut into 2cm pieces.

Place baking paper on flat trays. Stand each biscuit upright on tray and press down with fingers to make a nice, uneven shape.

Bake at 170-180 5-6 minutes until just beginning to crack

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