March 31, 2012

Is stevia a safe sugar substitute?

Stevia is a natural herb sweetener that has zero calories. I use the sugar replacement in many baked goods and desserts, and I find it an excellent sugar replacement with a pleasant taste. Some consumers have reported a bitter aftertaste, which I have not picked up from Stevia (I use the Natvia brand) but I have tasted this bitterness with Splenda, another sugar replacement.

Since I use Stevia at least once a week in my baking, I wanted to find out more on its safety record. I was pleased to find that Stevia has a solid track record in safety for consumption, unlike many other sugar replacements which have been linked to cancer and digestive disorders. Stevia has no reports of any adverse reactions.

As for sugar itself, while it is a natural product too, after reading "Sweet Poison" I felt even more compelled to cut sugar from my diet. The author of Sweet Poison explains that sugar is not detected by the body and deposits straight to fat.

Sometimes it can be difficult to judge the safety of these sugar replacements, especially with conflicting reports, some which seem to be biased (sugar companies obviously won't want these products to be successful).  After doing research, I will keep using Stevia happily and I would encourage others to use it, especially in baking.

Read the information below and make your own mind up.

In The Stevia Cookbook, by Ray Sahelian, MD, we read:

"Stevia has been used as a sweetening ingredient in foods and drinks by South American natives for many centuries, and there is no report of any plant toxicity to the consumers (Suttajit, 1993). Stevia has been added to a number of food products in Japan since the mid 1970s. No indications of any significant side effects have yet been reported after more than 20 years of use. Similarly, no reports of any adverse reactions to stevia have been reported in the United States."

In the same book you can read about one of the latest studies of the possible carcinogenic (cancer-causing) effect of stevia in rats. In a 1997 study conducted at the National Institute of Health Sciences in Tokyo, Japan, it was concluded that stevia had no adverse effects on the experimental rats.

Following extensive research, Dr. Daniel Mowrey MD, Herbalist and renowned scientist, reported:

"More elaborate safety tests were performed by the Japanese during their evaluation of Stevia as a possible sweetening agent. Few substances have ever yielded such consistently negative results in toxicity trials as have Stevia. Almost every toxicity test imaginable has been performed on Stevia extract [concentrate] or stevioside at one time or another. The results are always negative. No abnormalities in weight change, food intake, cell or membrane characteristics, enzyme and substrate utilization, or chromosome characteristics. No cancer, no birth defects, no acute and no chronic untoward effects. Nothing."

In the United States, Rob McCaleb, President of the Herb Research Foundation sees the irony in the ongoing FDA stevia (which he calls 'this embattled herb')saga. In a report on the Foundation's website he tells us that stevia has been under FDA import alert since 1991, but "actually, according to the HRF, numerous scientists, and tens of millions of consumers throughout the world, especially in Japan, the herb is safe." 

March 29, 2012

I've been wondering, are nuts really 'fattening'?

Research shows nuts are a rich source of nutrients and cardiovascular health protection, and thaeating nuts at least twice a week can put you at a lower risk for weight gain. Scientists from Purdue University did a thorough review of all the studies on nut intake and weight loss. Some of the studies found an inverse relationship between nut intake and body mass index (BMI), others found that increasing nut intake did not cause weight gain.
With the combination of fat and fibre, nuts are an effective appetite suppressant. Nuts can also have poor bioaccessibility, meaning that not all of their calories are absorbed. In a 2010 article published in the "Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition," the authors note that your body excretes 10 to 15 percent of the calories in nuts and likely burns an additional 10 percent of the calories through the increased metabolism created by eating nuts. 
While nuts do have a high calorie content, research points to nuts assisting with weight maintenance and loss rather than weight gain. Once people consume nuts, they are likely to consume less of other foods, resulting in a balanced intake of energy. In some cases, eating nuts creates an energy deficit, as dieters who eat nuts tend to lose greater amounts of weight than those who do not, the researchers note.
If you add nuts to your diet without cutting calories elsewhere, weight gain is likely to result, imply the findings of a 2005 study published in the "British Journal of Nutrition." Study subjects were given walnuts to consume in addition to the rest of their diet, with modest weight gain as the end result. However, the weight gain was not nearly as much as expected when the increase in energy intake was considered, suggesting that nuts cause less weight gain per calorie than some other foods.
You can eat nuts without weight gain if you substitute them for other foods in your diet. Substitute them for carbohydrates, as this will promote satiety and weight loss, according to a study published in the February 2003 issue of "The Journal of Nutrition." Measure serving sizes to make sure you aren't consuming more calories than you think. Bear in mind that a 1-oz. serving of cashews is 16 to 18 nuts, a serving of almonds is 20 to 24 nuts and a serving of macadamias is 10 to 12 nuts, according to the University of Michigan Health System.

March 27, 2012

Skinny gluten-free chocolate mud cakes

Low in calories, yet satisfyingly chocolatey and gooey, these cakes are a great treat for gluten-free followers.

March 21, 2012

Kit-Kat flavours: 'Cause you're big in Japan!

Now I know I am a skinny cook, but confectionery is of such interest to me. The packaging, creative flavours and pure diversity is just so darn enticing! Damn those clever marketers! I am still coming to grips with the fact that while chocolate and candy should comprise a tiny part of our diet, it takes up half our grocery stores. While I resist the urge to buy chocolate most of the time, one chocolate bar that has sparked my interest is the humble Kit-Kat. While it may not have an illustrious career in Australia, the Kit-Kat is Japan's most beloved snack. And conquering the competitive snack food market in Japan is no small feat. Visiting a convenience store in Japan is a breath-taking experience, with glittering packaging, inventive and umimaginable foods, and endless choices. For someone like me, who would admittedly buy anything in pink or glitter, I would find an excuse to pop in just to gawk.

Now while I think chocolate dominates our grocery stores enough, in Japan, Nestle's faithful chocolate bar the Kit-Kat has its own dedicated aisle. Visitors to this aisle will find Kit-Kats in a stunning array of flavours, from soy sauce or sweet corn, to salty caramel or blood-orange. Kit-Kat has something for everyone.... I'm sure there is someone out there who just has to have that soy sauce Kit-Kat!

Over a decade, Nestle has produced more than 200 Kit-Kat flavours to suprise and delight. So famed, one advertisement depicted a student taking a rhinestone emblazed Kit-Kat to an exam as a good luck omen and now one quarter of Japanese students do the same! Some flavours are traditionally inspired, such as pickled plum, mashed edmame or red azuki bean. Others capitalise on particular seasons in Japan, such as the cherry blossom Kit-Kat, only sold in Spring. Some Kit-Kats are sold in specific regions, the potato Kit-Kat is sold in Hokkaido, which is famous for producing spuds.

While it is impossible to list all the Kit-Kat flavours, let your tastebuds imagine these: pineapple, green tea, chestnut, caramel macchiato, apple, espresso, pumpkin, muscat grape, watermelon, vegetables galore, sweet vinegar and beef! Beef?! Have you tried any of these? I think I need to do further investigation... think of the cupcake possibilities!

Skinny spelt flower power cupcakes

The texture of these cakes is brilliant, just really lovely and crumbly. This rich texture is complemented beautifully with a vanilla glaze adorned with gorgeous little marshmallow flowers. While not officially gluten-free, spelt flour is easier to digest than regular flour and can be a great alternative to those who can be sensitive to gluten but are not celiac or have Crohn's disease. Made with light olive oil, rice milk and Natvia, these cupcakes do not have any saturated fat, dairy and are reduced in sugar. The sweet flowers made with sliced marshmallows and Smarties were first made by my mother for my 4th birthday party cake, courtesy from The Women's Weekly Birthday Cake Book. These a super fun to make and will be popular with all. Perfect for Mother's Day, a girly bridal shower or a homemade high tea - minus the food guilt!

Skinny spelt flower power cupcakes


  • 1 1/4 cups of organic spelt flour
  • 4 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons of rice milk
  • 1 tablespoon of good-quality vanilla extract + 1 teaspoon
  • 1 teaspoon of coconut essence + 1/2 teaspoon
  • 4 tablespoons of light olive oil
  • 2 whole eggs and 1 egg white
  • 3 tablespoons of Natvia 
  • 3/4 cup of pure icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of hot water
  • pink and white marshmallows
  • sprinkles
  • Smarties
  1. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl.
  2. In a seperate small bowl, mix together oil, vanilla, coconut essence and rice milk.
  3. With an electric mixer, beat the eggs together until fluffy (3 minutes should suffice).
  4. Add the sugar to the eggs and continue to mix for 5 minutes until frothy.
  5. Pour half the flour mix into the egg mixtures and lightly fold flour in.
  6. Add the rice and oil mixture and fold this in carefully.
  7. Add the remainder of the flour and lightly mix in until ingredients are combined.
  8. Divide the mixture between lined muffin tins (I made small cupcakes, which equated to 16 cupcakes).
  9. Bake in a moderate oven for 12 - 15 minutes until golden brown and slightly risen.
  10. Transfer to a wire rack.
To make flowers:
  • Using a sharp knife, cut each marshmallow into four pieces lengthways.
  • Dip each piece carefully in sprinkles and arrange into petals. Add a Smartie into the centre of the flower. 
  • Repeat until you have made enough for each cake.
  • When putting these flowers on the cupcakes (after icing is on), carefully transfer onto the cake and lightly press Smartie into the cake to secure flower.
To make icing:
  • Sift icing sugar into a small bowl, add water, vanilla and coconut essence.
  • Mix together with a spoon until all is combined.
  • It should be of a consistency that is thin enough to drizzle on the cakes but thick enough to stay on the cakes. Play around with this consistency to what suits you. If too thick, add a drop of water at a time until you have reached desired consistency. If too thin, sift in a tablespoon at a time of icing sugar until you have created the right icing mix. 

March 20, 2012

Gluten-free banana muesli muffins

A success! These muffins are gluten, dairy and sugar-free, and packed with protein and healthy omega-3 fats. Made with seeds, nuts and olive oil, these muffins are a perfect breakfast treat or afternoon snack. What's better is they took mere minutes to make and can be popped straight in the freezer (wrapped snugly in clingfilm) to be defrosted when needed. This recipe is very versatile and can be adjusted to your own preferences or pantry supplies. Since they are made with gluten-free ingredients, they haven't risen voluminously but did have a nice and soft crumbly texture.

March 19, 2012

Tips from Tracy Anderson: Weight loss soups

Replacing your usual dinner with a low-calorie soup is a quick way to cut down your weekly calorie intake and lose weight (provided that you don't snack on sweets and carbs to compensate!). The liquid content of soup will leave you feeling full and satisfied, rehydrated and nourished, and despite the low calorie count, you won't feel deprived. If you need to lose a little weight before the weekend or for an upcoming event, replace your dinner with a soup of your choice (nothing with cream, bacon or topped with copious amounts of cheese mind you) and you will definitely notice the results.

A basic vegetable soup can be made from organic low-sodium stock (chicken or vegetable) and a selection of vegetables (like mushroom, carrot, celery, onion and broccoli), cut into small cubes. To incorporate protein into your dish, add some diced tofu, lean chicken breast or chickpeas. For more soup ideas, I have included some Tracy Anderson soup recipes in this article. Tracy Anderson is a renowned fitness and weight loss expert, with celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow crediting their bodies to Tracy's advice and guidance.

Carrot Ginger Soup

  • 2 cups of low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 1/2 cups of peeled and chopped carrots
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of chopped Spanish onion
  • 1/4 cup of peeled and chopped sweet potato
  • 1/8 cup of chopped celery
  • 4 sprigs of parsley
  • cracked pepper
Pour two cups of the stock in a heavy saucepan, then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat, simmering until the vegetables are soft. Then puree the cooked mixture in a food processor or blender. Add a little water or stock if you want to thin the soup's consistency. Top with cracked pepper to serve.

Tomato Minestrone Soup
  • 2 cup of low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup of peeled and chopped white onion
  • 1/8 cup of chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup of peeled and diced sweet potato
  • 1 cup of drained and chopped tinned tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh chives
  • 1 cup of steamed spinach (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 cup of chopped and steamed kale
  • cracked pepper
  • cayenne pepper
In a saucepan, combine 1/4 cup of the stock with onion, celery, sweet potato and sweat vegetables for 10 minutes on medium heat. The stock will reduce and vegetables will start to brown; then add tomatoes and the rest of the stock. Add herbs, spinach and kale and simmer for another 5 minutes. Season with pepper and cayenne pepper. Serve. 

March 18, 2012

How to not eat lots of chocolate at night

This extract is taken from Backwards in High Heels by Tania Kindersley and Sarah Vine. 

For some reason, it has taken us almost forty years to master this one, and even now we're not sure we've quite managed it. You know how it is: you've been good all day, you've eaten your five fruits and colourful vegetables, you've drunk water, you've avoided caffeine and crisps. You've eaten your nutritionally complete supper and now you're just settling down to watch a nice bit of television, or read a book, or wander about on the internet and something, somewhere, in the darkest recesses of the most primitive corner of your brain, starts up the mantra: cho-co-late; cho-co-late. It's like some ancient drum-beat, an irresistible siren call. Before you know it, you're surrounded by empty wrappers, and you can't even remember how. Or why. All you know is how much, and it's a lot, enough to awaken the serpent of self-loathing, who more often than not takes one look at the carnage and says, in a hissy voice: Oh what the hell, you may as well scoff the whole lot! 

Rule number one: count to ten before you reach for the box, bar or tin. It's a very simple rule but it works. Then select no more than three chocolate and put them on a small plate. Now put away the remaining chocolates. Do not take them with you. Eat your chosen chocolates slowly and consciously. Savour it. It helps also if the chocolate is of highest grade. Embrace the smug feeling of being in control. 

Slimming tea recipes

I love tea; it is a fantastic alternative to higher calorie hot drinks like coffee or hot chocolate, and many teas have great health benefits for the body. Making your own iced tea is also a great option as opposed to store-bought iced teas or other sugary beverages. Nicole Scherzinger is a tea fan, as is Guiliana Rancic who uses teas to ward off sugar cravings. I drink green tea all day long, have chamomile tea before bed, and also use peppermint or ginger tea for stomach ailments. In this article are some inventive tea recipes taken from a gorgeous book called 'Tea' written by herb expert Margaret Roberts. She has collected her favourite tea recipes, based on different herbs and their healing properties.

March 15, 2012

Fit fitness in and make the change

Being fit doesn't have to mean you have your nutritionist on speed dial, you see your personal trainer more than you see your mum and you pay more on your gym membership than you do on your rent. The road to fitness can be much more simple (and less expensive). You can and should be moving your body everyday; think walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift, parking further away from the grocery store and carrying your shopping with a slightly bent elbow (to work your biceps), or just jumping off the bus one stop before you normally would and walking the extra distance.

Be mindful of your core muscles and squeeze your abs when you are doing household chores, like wiping the bench, vacuuming or scrubbing the shower (yes, scrubbing the shower but let's face it, everyone has to do it!). Core muscles are often weak in those who sit down for long periods each day, which is most of us if you have an office job, and these muscles are crucial in ensuring your back doesn't do all the work in powering your movements. Weak core muscles can also be problematic when you become pregnant and terrible back ache can ensue.

A great approach to each day is to wake up in the morning and do some star jumps, simple squats and push-ups. Or just switch of the radio and do a rendition of Cameron Diaz in Charlie's Angels in the scene when she wakes up in the morning, that looked like a pretty solid morning workout to me...

Whatever you do, avoid anything that makes you feel negative; do things that make you feel good and you will associate that positive feeling with exercise. You'll realise there is always time to exercise.

March 14, 2012

Carrie Underwood's body secrets and vegan lifestyle in Self Magazine

The beautiful and newly married Carrie Underwood talked to Self Magazine about her lifestyle and body confidence, including explaining her diet change to become vegan. After being a vegetarian for more than seven years, Carrie decided to take her approach one step further and convert to a vegan lifestyle.

While Carrie is adamant she will never eat meat again, she is drawn to the thought of having her own farm and consuming her own produce saying "...if I could raise my own cows and chickens and produce my own eggs and cheese, it would be awesome! Carrie explains her motivations for becoming vegan by saying, "my veganism is based on a concern about where my food is coming from." 

To achieve her body and fitness goals, Carrie religiously keeps a food journal, which can be a helpful tool in managing your food intake and exercise regime. She also avoids stodgy foods explaning to Self, "I lay off starches. I'm not a fan of the nocarb thing; you're going to get yourself in trouble that way. So I have lots of veggies and fruit but no other starches or bread." 

To keep her body in check, Carrie works out with a trainer and is dedicated to incorporating exercise into her daily life. "In the beginning, my biggest fear was being criticized. Now I'm a lot better with saying, I feel good about myself and that's enough." 

Skinny gluten-free patty cakes for St. Patricks's Day

These cute little 'patty' cakes are sugar, gluten and dairy-free! I am saying this in a voice like "I can't believe it's not butter!" Honestly these cakes taste just as great as normal cupcakes but are made over to be skinny classified. In saying that, since I have had a difficult week (think engaged last week, not engaged this week) I had to ice these with butter-cream icing, tinted green for the Irish holiday. Old fashioned butter-cream icing is a go-to comfort food for me (childhood birthday cake memories) but I make sure to ice the cakes with some restraint. To spice up the flavour, I added some SkinnyGirl Margarita mix because I had some lingering in my fridge and again will put this down to my sombre mood not the relevance of tequila to St. Patrick's Day. I'll let you know if I come up with any way to incorporate Guinness into a cupcake for future Irish occasions. Of course, the margarita flavour is optional and omit this if you like.

I thought these tasted best when very fresh, otherwise 10 seconds or so in the microwave revive the moistness of the cakes. I don't frost all of mine and freeze half the cakes immediately if I don't have enough of a crowd to please. The icing can go in a small zip lock bag and also into the freezer. To defrost the icing, just spoon out how much you think you will need for one cupcake (or however many you want to ice) and leave in a bowl for a 10 minutes to reach room temperature. Then you can spread away!

On a decoration note, I did think little green apple candies would look sweet on top of each cake. This was my plan but I ended up finding too much solace in my kitchen to leave! Let me know if you have any other cute ideas for decoration inspirations.

Healthy comfort food: Nigella's butternut squash and sweet potato soup

Everyone knows I love Nigella and as she is the queen of comfort food, I thought I would turn to her in my current time of need. Of course Nigella has the answers to my food prayers and I found it in her lovely rich golden soup. Super easy to make, healthy, filling and COMFORTING! 

Soup is a soothing comfort food and unlike a tub of ice cream or a block of chocolate, soup doesn't come with the repercussions of cellulite and food guilt! It's also packed with vitamins and will keep you 'calmly' satisfied. Plus I always find the process of making soup very cathartic; something about it's old-fashioned family feel. Time to start cooking!

Nigella's butternut squash and sweet potato soup


  • 350g peeled and diced butternut squash and sweet potato 
  • 750ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace good grinding of pepper
  • 4 teaspoons buttermilk (for garnish - optional)
  • parmesan cheese (for garnish - optional)

Serves 2 (or as Nigella says, 1 in great need - Oh how I love her commentary!)

  1. Put the diced butternut and sweet potato in a saucepan with the hot chicken or vegetable stock and both spices.
  2. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Add some pepper to taste.
  3. Puree the soup in a blender - you will find that by removing the centre nozzle on the lid and placing a hand or tea towel over the top, you will not get a build-up of pressure and the ensuing explosion of soup on your walls.
  4. Pour the blended soup into two bowls, garnishing each bowl with swirls made with 2 teaspoons of buttermilk and some grated parmesan. 

March 13, 2012

Jennifer Love Hewitt tells Maxim she pole dances to achieve her sexy curves

The always beautiful Jennifer Love Hewitt flaunts her gorgeous curves in Maxim magazine, weeks before her  racy new show 'The Client List' hits screens. As 'The Client List' centres on Jennifer's character engaging in some risqué behaviour to earn extra money when her family hits tough times, it isn't surprising Jennifer is talking about her new found love for pole dancing. She explains pole dancing is a way for her to stay in touch with her sexual side and get the benefits of a work-out at the same time. I was dragged into doing a pole dancing class once and it was extremely difficult! Climbing that pole is no small feat, let me just say that. Apart from her unconventional exercise routine, Jennifer also talked of how she loves to bake - my kind of girl! - revealing her domestic side. Sounds to me like pole dancing and cake baking would certainly be the way to a man's heart but at 33, Jennifer remains single, although she has acquired a busy dating history. As for being dateless right now, Jennifer reasons that despite what some may think, men never approach her. It might sound so stupid, but guys do not hit on me. I'm not really sure why.” Intimidation comes to mind! Regardless, I think she looks amazing and has clearly not lost her appeal just yet. 

How to do rainbow hair the temporary way

Want to try this cute tie-died hair trend but don't want to wake up tomorrow and be over it? Try these easy and temporary ways to colour your locks.

Clip-in extensions: pick up coloured extensions from fancy dress shops, Ebay or buy blonde extensions and dye them (with your colour of choice). Coloured extensions are also stocked at some hairdressers or wig shops. This is a good approach to take if you have hair that is in poor condition (you don't want to stress it out with more colour, even if temporary) or if it will be a hot and sticky environment and you don't want 'your colour to run!'. 

Spray In Colour: I'm talking about those little spray cans of colour you may have excitedly purchased in your school days to experiment with colour in the only way you could without your parents having a heart attack. These are the kind of colours that wash out straight away. Try Stargazers Colour Spray in pink (which you can buy via Amazon) or search in your local dress-up shop for coloured sprays. To do this properly, first pop on some rubber gloves, and make sure you're not near walls - just in case that wasn't obvious... Cover the floor around you in some old towels or newspaper. Use another towel and place around your shoulders and have it styled by this stage (it will be a disaster if you try to curl your hair after doing this activity). Start by sectioning the hair in half and bring it around to the front and leave the strands flat against your shoulders, then spray colour onto the ends. Voilà!

Super fit Jodhi Meares - obsessive or healthy?

Rumours have spread that former swimsuit model and fashion label owner Jodhi Meares has whittled her frame down to 47kg. At 39, Jodhi is adamant her lean form is due to her new devotion to yoga.
"She is a yoga nut. She works out for three hours a day and has become a fitness fanatic," said a friend.
Having sold her successful Tigerlily label to Billabong, Meares is living comfortably on the proceeds and her retainer as a consultant.
"I exercise for about three hours a day during the week, more on the weekend. What else are you going to do? Go to lunch? That's just sitting around."
To me, it sounds like she needs to find a passion beyond fitness. What do you think? 

March 12, 2012

Marshmallow gratin

Gratins are good in general. What is a gratin you question? Well in my world, a potato gratin is better known as a cheesy and creamy potato bake. Ah you say, very good. Then you will agree why the concept of a sweet gratin is a pretty genius one. In fact this gratin is made with marshmallows. I adapted this recipe from 'BBQ food for friends' written by Jane Lawson and Vanessa Broadfoot, which actually won an award for it's fabulous recipe collection. A good buy for those who love to BBQ their way through summer. My eyes lit up when I found this recipe - 'a marshmallow gratin!' I exclaimed. So then I went out and bought a bulk-sized amount of marshmallows in preparation for this momentous location. It wasn't until months later I ended up trialling the recipe but it worked out perfectly. It's a great dessert to serve at a BBQ with vanilla ice-cream and people will think you are very inventive. Yes, this dish is low in fat and loaded with antioxidant berries, but I can't delude myself, it's made with marshmallows! Alas, good for a treat.

March 11, 2012

Skinny strawberry chocolate muffins

Freshly baked strawberry chocolate muffins 
Cake batter in progress

I trialled a new cake mix I found in the health-food section at the supermarket. I spend a lot of time in supermarkets; they are oddly calming places. Once prejudice against cake mixes, I found saviour in these handy mixes when I converted to gluten-free. Not knowing where to start in the world of gluten-free baking, I found these a great help in paving the way into this new avenue of the baking world. Cake mixes are also great for busy families, for your children to practice baking with, when you are short on time or when you just can't face the thought of starting from scratch. This gluten-free mix is reduced sugar (most low-fat cake mixes are loaded with sugar) but this one is made with the all natural sweetener Natvia.

My cakes turned out to have a lovely texture and rich taste, and I actually think they are much nicer than a 'low-fat' regular cake mix, which I think can taste very artificial and cake-mix detectable. I enhanced my batter with some added flavours (see my recipe below), but the mix is very versatile so add whatever you like. I would suggest banana chunks, dark chocolate chips or chopped nuts.

March 10, 2012

Skinny hazelnut ripple cake

This cake boasts one of my favourite flavours, Nutella! And I cannot resist anything baked in a gorgeous bundt tin, I consider bundt tins one of the great wonders of baking, it just makes cakes look more impressive. This moist and rich buttery cake is swirled with the sweet hazlenut spread to create the most delicious afternoon tea treat.

I have adapted this recipe from to cut down on the fat and sugar.

March 08, 2012

Refocus your body image and learn to love yourself

For the last 30 years, my family and I have vacationed at the same resort over the winter holidays. As I lay by the pool last month, I reflected on the wide spectrum of body types I have occupied over time in those chaise lounges. I also tried to recollect how I felt about my body at those times in my life.

As a cuddly 4-year-old, my biggest concern related to my fingertips wrinkling when I played in the water all afternoon. Moving into adolescence, I recalled feeling uncomfortable as my body started to soften and develop new curvatures. At age 16, I remembered hiding under my bathing suit cover-up, feeling shameful of the 40 extra pounds I carried as a high-school sophomore. I also thought about the self-consciousness I experienced as an emaciated 25-year-old doctoral student as I was recovering from a life-threatening illness.

This year, I had fully expected to feel completely at ease in my bikini. I am in arguably the best shape of my life, having recently developed a passion for weight lifting and yoga. I am part of a community where “strong is the new skinny,” and I usually take pride in my “guns.” However, as I looked around the pool at some of the willowy figures around me, I suddenly felt like a linebacker. The old voices of self-doubt started whispering, “You’re so bulky. Those women look much better than you.”

Fortunately, a wise part of me could step back, observe my thoughts, and be curious about them – rather than immediately accept my thoughts as facts. After all, our body image is a subjective experience, reflective more of our current emotional state than of the reality of our physical shape and size. If you are one of the many individuals who struggle with poor body image from time to time, try the following: 
  • Focus on Function: Remind yourself of all of the wonderful things your body allows you to do. Your arms hug your loved ones and your legs allow you to explore the world. Regardless of its aesthetic qualities, your body has value and importance. 
  • Nevermind the Numbers: The bathroom scale can give you faulty information and contribute to inaccurate and negative feelings about your body. Because muscle takes up less space in the body than fat, your “look” at a particular weight can vary greatly. I weigh 10 pounds more than I did last year, but my clothes are looser, I can sprint faster, and I can flip a 500lb tractor tire. Thus, if you are only using a number to make assessments about your body, you may be overlooking important positive changes.
  • Cut the Comparisons: There will always be someone in your environment with longer legs, a flatter stomach, or less jiggle under her arms. (Further, it’s very likely that someone is looking at you and feeling envious of your best feature.) Thus, using someone else’s body to measure your satisfaction with your own physique is a set-up for disappointment.
  • Accentuate Your Assets: When you look in the mirror, focus on what you like best. Maybe you have striking eyes, broad shoulders, or a long and graceful neck. Play up that feature as you make decisions about how you style yourself. This will build your overall confidence in your appearance.
You only get one body in this life. Care for it. Respect it. Learn to love it … just as it is right now.

Natalie Portman and the new Miss Dior

Miss Dior encaptulates the timelessness of Dior scents, like the original Miss Dior, Poison and Dior Essence.

Miss Dior now has three types of fragrances, including a fresh new floral scent.

Visit your nearest Dior counter for a free sample.

March 06, 2012

Kelly Osbourne's weight loss story

Courtesy of Shape Magazine
Kelly has said goodbye to her days of eating chips and cookies, and drinking soda all day long. She now follows a high-protein, low-carb diet of fish and vegetables and regularly exercises to keep her body fit and healthy.

Dancing with the Starts kick-started Kelly's new lifestyle. "I started losing weight and I realised this whole diet and exercise thing works! I was always looking for a quick fix, diet pills or even gastric bypass."

Winning her body battle has been a challenge but Kelly recognises it was a worthwhile change for both her health and her happiness. Making a commitment for life to keep her healthy lifestyle, Kelly doesn't see herself repeating her mistakes.

"Getting in shape was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I really do love my body now."

 One of her favourite recipes on her reformed diet is turkey burgers, see below.

March 04, 2012

Gym inspiration: Katy Perry for Adidas

'I like to wear things that have a sense of humour and are adorable' Katy Perry

'I can't run, from where I come from, no one can!' Katy Perry

'I'm such a collector of all things cute' Katy Perry

My Sydney trip

View from the Park Hyatt
I spent the last weekend in Sydney and despite the atrocious weather, I had a fabulous time. The highlight of the brief trip was going to the Park Hyatt on Friday evening for dinner, sitting harbourside with a view of The Opera House. The food was heavenly and gorgeously presented. We indulged in a sumptuous dessert tasting plate and my favourite was a melt-in-your-mouth summer pudding. I've never had a summer pudding like this one; it was rich and decadent but still had the refreshing coolness of berries.

Staying at the Four Seasons, we felt absolutely pampered and enjoyed divine spa treatments, buffet breakfasts and room service. I could almost say my favourite part of the whole hotel experience was the luxurious king size bed and steam shower! Yes I have fantasies of living in a hotel.

Enjoying dinner at Park Hyatt

My cauliflower and fontina croquettes

Fabulous Billie-Cart Salmon Rose
Halfway through our delicious dessert plate

Loving the beautiful giraffes at the zoo

Braving the rain to see the Sydney Harbour Bridge

My Four Seasons Spa manicure

One of my shopping purchases - love anything leopard!