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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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Sunday night fun at the bakery!

Posted on : 21-09-2010 | By : Cindy | In : Bread, Cooking special

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Razor blades, scissors and fermented raisins – in what type of place would you find all these? Answer: my favourite French bakery. On a chilly Sunday evening a few weeks ago a group of us girls got together for an evening of baking bread under the expert tutelage of Thierry – the fantastic baker at Paris-Berlin bakery (formerly known as Boulangerie L’Epi) in Michaels Ave, Ellerslie, Auckland. We kneaded dough, tossed dough for pizzas, and neatly wrapped up a huge chunk of butter in dough and sugar to make a traditional sweet bread from Brittany – delicious and deadly for the thighs.

If you want to learn how to bake bread, or if you just want a fun evening out with pizza and red wine to finish book in at the bakery for a Sunday night class. Thierry only takes six people at a time so you get individual attention, and best of all you get to take home all the bread you make – about four loaves, a pizza and the deadly delicious one.

And where do the razor blades, scissors and fermented raisins come in? Thierry uses fermented raisins to start his sour dough which is the base for all his delicious organic breads. And we used the scissors and razor blades to make pretty shapes on our bread just before we baked it. Check out our baking creations here.

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Quinoa – how to cook it, and how not to!

Posted on : 01-09-2009 | By : Cindy | In : Colourful taste, Cooking special, On my plate, Snacks, Super-healthy...er...stuff

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“Why don’t you write about quinoa,” one of my friends suggested. Great idea, I thought, but I have no idea how to cook the stuff. So about a month ago I bought a pack of white quinoa (there’s red, white and brown to choose from) and it languished in my pantry until two days ago. This is the story of how not to cook it…

Follow the instructions on the pack – that’s a good start, I thought. So I mixed a cup of quinoa with 2 cups of water, according to the instructions, and simmered it until the water was absorbed – similar to cooking rice. I ended up with a gluggy beige mess! Then I tossed it, rather heavily, with roast pumpkin, roast beetroot, feta cheese, cucumber and tomato and served it to my family.  It was certainly not a good food combination but they gallantly tried it. Needless to say they didn’t ask for seconds – and we all had Weetbix for dessert!

The next day I went out to lunch at Richmond Road Cafe – a fantastic cafe in Grey Lynn, Auckland. On the menu was Chicken Quinoa Salad. I later found out that it’s one of the most popular dishes on the menu. Here was my chance to experience quinoa as it should be – and it was great! Red and white quinoa mixed with just a few almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and cranberries, and served with slices of delicately cooked chicken. It was subtle, delicious and not a hint of glugginess!

I just had to ask the head chef how she did it. The lunch rush was over and Sharna Pito, head chef at the cafe, kindly chatted to me about how to cook quinoa. “Cook it like pasta,” she explained. “Lots of boiling water, lightly salted. A cup should take about 4-5 minutes. Drain it well and it’s ready to use.” So that explains why mine hadn’t worked. And what about flavours to put with it? “I think nuts, seeds and dried fruit work really well with quinoa,” Sharna told me. “And a light vinaigrette dressing using citrus juice or white wine vinegar. Balsamic is far too strong for it.”

Fantastic! A five-minute chat with an obliging expert has saved me hours of quinoa cooking disasters. I can’t wait to try it out in some summer salads… or perhaps I’ll just pop back to Richmond Road Cafe for Sharna’s latest quinoa creation, and a glass of their ginger, lemon and elderflower tea – heaven!

Related:

Quinoa: A Healthful Alternative to Rice – Ingredient swap – Revolution Health

Breakfast quinoa with clementines, sour cherries and pecans

Black quinoa salad — Salade de quinoa noir

Quinoa Bananna Bread recipe

An italian lesson in cooking pasta!

Posted on : 05-08-2009 | By : Cindy | In : Cooking special

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pasta“If I rinse the pasta, I lose my job!” Luca Ciano, Australasian chef for Barilla Pasta, quipped in his truly Italian accent as he drained an enormous bowl of perfectly cooked pasta. “Now the pasta is hot and thirsty so we need to give it some beautiful flavours to soak up” He tipped in a bowl of thinly sliced celery, spring onion, cherry tomatoes, basil and rocket. Then generously doused it with extra virgin olive oil, a jar of ricotta sauce and some grated, salted ricotta. With a few deft tosses of the bowl the pasta was ready for the 40 or so of us food writers and media to try – bellisimo!

What a great way to spend a Tuesday morning – learning about pasta and getting the Italian perspective on all those pasta cooking queries.

Should I add salt to the cooking water?

Yes – to add flavour. No other reason – just flavour as the pasta absorbs the water and swells.

Should I add oil to the cooking water?

Never! Oil just coats the pasta and causes the sauce to slide off rather than bind.

Why does my pasta stick to the side of the pot?

Either you need to give it a good stir when you add it, or you are using a poor quality pasta which releases lots of sticky starch as it cooks. Ah ha! Finally I have found out why my budget pasta goes sticky and soggy – even when it’s not over-cooked! I’m off to buy a pasta that uses a high quality wheat. It really does make a difference.

How can you tell if a pasta is good quality?

If the water doesn’t froth intensely when boiled and remains clear after cooking, you’re onto a winner. Hmm – when I drain my cheap pasta the water is anything but clear! All that starch that’s meant to stay in the pasta goes down the sink and makes the sieve hard to clean.

The better the pasta, the less sauce

A general rule is to use as much sauce as pasta. “Kiwis and Aussies use far too much sauce,” Luca chided us. “We’re having pasta, not sauce with pasta!” Oh dear – yet another pasta blooper I’ve often made.

I often use pasta as a base to get fussy kids to eat meat and vegetables (disguised as pasta sauce). I even serve thick soup over pasta for kids who don’t like soup. But I would never have admitted that yesterday surrounded as I was by brilliant cooks. I have been inspired to move up a notch from ‘mother-cook-anyway-you-can-to-get-the-healthy-food-in’ to cooking real pasta the real way. Let’s see if the family notice any difference!

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