July 31, 2012

Feeling out of sorts? Maybe you have a food intolerance

Do you suffer from bloating, toilet problems, headaches, tiredness, muscle aches or mild depression? Food intolerances could be to blame.

Deborah Manners, founder of Foodintol - a food intolerance information website - explains, "Chronic symptoms (of food intolerances) affect day-to-day life. You can't go out and enjoy yourself if you feel bloated or have to rush to the bathroom all the time."

According to a recent survey Manners conducted of her website guests, the most common food intolerances are dairy (59 per cent of people), gluten (58 per cent), wheat (48 per cent), additives (27 per cent), fructose (21 per cent) and yeast (19 per cent).
The first step to seeing whether you have a food intolerance or allergy is to see your GP. A gastroscopy or a blood or skin test, where a suspected allergen is placed on the skin and the reaction is monitored, can confirm whether you have an allergy and can indicate a possible intolerance.

There is no test that can definitively diagnose a food intolerance. The best thing sufferers can do is to keep a food diary to help isolate intolerances.

"For a few days, note what you eat and what symptoms occur," Manners says. 
"Then avoid a food you think you are intolerant to for 10 days and note how you feel. Bring that food back into your diet and notice if any symptoms arise."

It is advisable to conduct an elimination diet, where you remove suspect foods from your diet, in consultation with a dietitian.

With an intolerance you may need to avoid certain foods, but decreasing your intake may be enough to improve symptoms. You don't always have to cut the food out of your diet. 
The Foodintol survey found that while physical symptoms often eased once a food intolerance was identified, there were also emotional and psychological benefits. Seventy per cent of people reported they had more energy, 50 per cent said they had a "brighter mood", 40 per cent had better concentration and 37 per cent felt less stressed.

"Once you correctly identify a food intolerance and manage it, you can find relief," Manners says. "People have a more positive outlook, more energy and the symptoms that spoil your lifestyle reduce or just disappear."

Skinny Olympic Torch Cupcakes

Celebrate the London Olympics by making these gorgeous Olympic Torch Cupcakes, inspired by Stasy.com. These cupcakes have been modified to be healthier versions of the original recipe but still as pretty. If you have been watching Masterchef lately, you may feel a little more confident than usual to tackle the sugar shards. Confident or not, give this trick a go because the impressive sugar shards make all the difference to create the 'fire' effect and all your friends will deem you uber-talented. Let your creativity run wild!

July 29, 2012

The Skinny Baker's Kitchen

With a few simple tricks and ingredient replacements, anyone can transform traditional desserts into healthy alternatives. Cutting calories and fat can be tricky in some recipes as you need to get the balance right to make moist cakes, creamy sauces, puffed meringues and flaky pastry. Once you learn the skinny baking techniques, you will be able to create and make your own healthy treats that taste as good as their traditional counterparts. Here is my list of basic principles that can help achieve success in a skinny kitchen:

1. Use good quality ingredients.
The better quality ingredients you use in your baking and dessert making, the more tasty the finished product will be; it can make all the difference in modifying a traditional recipe. This can mean the ingredients will be more expensive at times but baked goods are often for special occasions and I think feeding your family nourishing food is not something to be compromised. I like to buy my ingredients from organic markets and speciality stores.

2. Your basic alternatives.
There are some foods that make the perfect alternatives to traditional high-fat, high-calorie ingredients like butter and sugar. I like to use Greek yoghurt and low-fat cream cheese to replace butter as they have the same moistening properties, without the fat content. I also use Natvia, a sweetener made from Stevia, which has significantly fewer calories than sugar. In many recipes, you can simply cut down the amount of butter and sugar used to lower calories and fat; I find recipes for cakes often work out with similar results when you use half the recommended butter and sugar. Low-fat milks can be used to add liquid when butter is reduced.

3. Get creative with your ingredients.
I love to add different ingredients to my baking to make a recipe more special - for example, make a cookie recipe with dried blueberries and cherries, add some cinnamon and nutmeg to a fruit loaf, grate orange zest in your custard recipe or top your carrot cake with toasted pinenuts.

Your most important ingredients in the skinny pantry

These ingredients are essential for a skinny chef as they help create the perfect skinny sweet treats.

  • Reduced-fat cream cheese and Greek yoghurt are great replacements for butter and perfect for making guilt-free cheesecakes.
  • Milks - including almond milk, soy milk and dairy skinny milk. These add moistness to recipes without increasing the fat content. 
  • Sugar replacement such as Natvia, which is my personal favourite as it is made from Stevia, a natural sweet plant. It doesn't contain chemicals like many other products.
  • Spices and essences are great ways of boosting flavours in desserts without any effects on fat and calories. Vanilla beans and fresh spices are also nice for special occasions.
  • Sugar-free dark chocolate is a great addition to chocolate recipes.
  • Nut butters are a great base for making cookie recipes. I buy peanut, almond and cashew nut butters.
  • Egg whites are low in calories and fat and don't just create meringues, they help add lightness to cake recipes. 

July 26, 2012

My trip to Korea

At Gyeongbokgung Palace
I embarked on an impromptu trip to Seoul a few weeks ago to explore Korean culture and enjoy the stunning Grand Hyatt Hotel. Staying on one of the club executive floors, I was treated to canapes each evening and enjoyed the fantastic lobby lounge entertainment each night.

To combat my indulgent eating, I worked out diligently in the gym heaven of 'Club Olympus' each morning and treated myself to a manicure or massage for recovery. All in all, I was in heaven! Not to mention the exciting and different sights of Korea, leading me to explore ancient palaces and ruins, to wandering through markets to collect cute trinkets. 

Trivial to some but worthy to others, I stocked up on make up everywhere I went, finding fake eyelashes and lip glosses for next to nothing.

I also love flying business class - it is such a treat! Sometimes almost as exciting as the holiday itself... (I did actually hear an Olympian comment that the best part about winning her Gold Medal was getting to fly home business class!). 

Enjoying the club lounge

Seoul - in the middle of rainy season

Margaritas at Club JJ's

Eclairs in the club lounge
The decadent spread at the club lounge afternoon tea - the pink macarons were the best!

July 25, 2012

Happy Birthday Clueless

The defining moment in my young teenage life was watching Clueless on video for the first time. Suddenly my future was clear, I needed to be exactly like Cher. An obsessive desire for a mobile phone, knee high socks and Jeep Wrangler ensued. I wrote with fluffy pens, used 'whatever!' and 'as if!' in my daily vernacular and played "I wanna be a supermodel" on rotation. I can now say with some confidence I am past my Clueless obsession, but I still have the movie poster framed in my apartment. There is just some things you can't let go... To celebrate the movie's birthday, let's look at some of the best lines from the cult film.

Cher: Miss Stoeger, I would just like to say that physical education in this school is a disgrace. I mean, standing in line for forty minutes is hardly aerobically effective. I doubt I've worked off the calories in a stick of Carefree gum. 

Mel: Do you know what time it is?
Cher: A watch doesn't really go with this outfit, daddy. 

Cher: I feel like such a heifer. I had two bowls of Special K, 3 pieces of turkey bacon, a handful of popcorn, 5 peanut butter M&M's and like 3 pieces of licorice. 

Amber: Ms. Stoeger, my plastic surgeon doesn't want me doing any activity where balls fly at my nose.
Dionne: Well, there goes your social life. 

Cher: Would you call me selfish?
Dionne: No, not to your face. 

Josh: Hey, James Bond, in America we drive on the right side of the road.
Cher: I am. You try driving in platforms. 

Sugar-free Skinny Blondies

Bored of the regular chocolate brownie mix? No, you say? Well I don't blame you... but in the interest of mixing things up, I suggest you try the cutely entitled 'blondies'. They do say blondes have more fun and I do think the vanilla version of rich chocolate brownies has much to offer as a sweet treat; you can't fall victim to a chocolate overload - they are a little less to handle than their dark counterparts!

The blondie recipe I devised is studded with rich dark chocolate, bright red goji berries and fragrant desiccated coconut. To add to the richness of the cake, I used a small amount of coconut flour, which is a really divine gluten-free flour option. Coconut flour is made from pounding dried coconut meat and is an excellent substitute from wheat flour because while it is gluten free, it is high in fibre and low in carbohydrate. It is ideal to use as a maximum of 25% of the recipe's flour content.

I made this recipe to be low-in-fat, dairy-free, gluten-free and sugar-free! Don't get nervous, I promise they taste really good! If you don't believe me, try them for yourself....

Sugar-free Skinny Blondies


  • 8 tablespoons of organic vanilla coconut milk yoghurt or sheep's milk yoghurt
  • 1/4 cup of Natvia
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
  • small pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup of coconut flour
  • 1 1/2 cups of gluten-free self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 cup of rice milk
  • 1/4 cup of goji berries
  • 150 grams of sugar-free dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup of desiccated coconut
  1. Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites until fluffy. Add the Natvia until mixed through and add the vanilla extract until combined. Fold in the yoghurt, not taking the air out from the egg whites.
  2. Sift in the flours, cinnamon and baking powder, and pour in the rice milk. Patiently fold into the egg mixture. Add the goji berries, chocolate and coconut and mix to combine.
  3. Pour mixture into a greased brownie tin or foil tray and bake for 30 minutes in a moderate oven.
  4. The cake will be cooked when browned on top. It remains nice and moist in the centre.
  5. Cut into 18 slices to serve.

Skinny Chocolate Party Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes for my Dad's birthday and they were the perfect party cupcake; an ode to your youth with the lolly decorations and fairy floss icing. Dad commented they complemented his second birthday gift superbly - a bottle of grandfather port. The carnival-like icing on these cakes is probably one of the best icings I have ever made, it is dangerously irresistible. 


  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1-1/2 cups sifted self-raising gluten-free flour 
  • 1/2 cup of Natvia sweetener 
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 80 grams of organic butter, at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup of low-fat soy milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Chocolate-flavoured fairy floss (I buy the Persian brand)
  • 125 grams of organic butter, at room temperature
  • Your choice of lollies - I used star-shaped freckles, jelly beans and sprinkles
In a small measuring cup, combine cocoa and boiling water. Whisk and blend until smooth, and set aside.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and Natvia together. Pour in the flour, baking soda and salt. combine flour, Splenda, baking soda and salt. Mix together until the mixture is crumbly. 
In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk, cocoa mixture and vanilla. Add 1/3 of this wet mixture to the mixer bowl. Beat on low speed until every thing is combined, then increase to medium speed and beat for an additional 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl, and add another 1/3 of the wet mixture to the mixer bowl. Repeat, until all of the wet mixture has been added and the batter is smooth.
Using a large spoon, scoop the batter into the cupcake tin, which you may like to line with your choice of patty cake wrappers. 
Bake for 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the pan onto a wire rack, and let them cool completely.
While waiting for your cupcake to cool, make the icing by electric mixing together the butter and half a packet of the fairy floss. You may like to add more fairy floss if you want to enhance the flavour - but it is very very sweet!! Ice your cakes once they are cool and top with lollies to decorate. 

July 22, 2012

Six weeks to getting OMG skinny - do we want to be skinnier than our friends?

Restrictive diets and controversy have long been linked and yet another questionable diet philosophy has got everyone talking. 

The author of 'Six weeks to OMG skinny', Venice A. Fulton, has defended his diet book saying "before this book hit the mainstream, it came under lots of fire. With OMG and Skinny in the title, I suppose it was to be expected. What I didn’t expect, was criticism from those who hadn’t actually read it. That’s like criticizing your blind date before they show up!"

He has a point. In this society, we are so politically minded, we jump at anyone who brags about being thin or who points out our lack of dietary restraint. What I think Venice gets right in his diet mantra is to get rid of the hype and nonsense surrounding a healthy diet and look at the facts, which is something I truly believe in myself. Eat healthy foods, exercise each day and stay mindful. Venice reminds us to see ourselves accurately; to not convince ourselves we are healthy if we are overweight or underweight. A change can only happen when you truly see yourself.

When it comes to being 'skinnier' than your friends, I do not think this is a goal anyone should try to achieve (if that wasn't already blindingly obvious to you!). Friends will constantly judge you, despite being your friends, because that is human nature. You need to create a lifestyle for yourself where you are in control of your diet and health and feel confident with you are. Whether your friends are intimidated by this self-assuredness or not will not make a difference to your end goal of being a happy person. A word of warning though, in such a superficial society, weight can make even the best of friends change their relationship.

This book may just be another attempt to change our mindset on how we eat and feel about our bodies, but I really liked how Venice emphasised focussing on ourselves - and not to worry about what others think.

"If there’s one thing I’d love you to take away from reading this book, it’s a new found respect for you. Hold on for a second, don’t just skip past that sentence because your brain has heard it before.
Respect yourself. I mean it. I’m not heading down the cliché known as, “if you don’t respect yourself, who will? ”. That’s not relevant! You need to respect yourself, fully and always make the smartest decisions."