Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Weekend Getaway in Melbourne!

Last weekend I was lucky enough to have an exciting, whirlwind weekend in Melbourne! I was joined by Mr Duckie and my sister-in-law Anita. Our main reason for going was to attend an event as part of the Melbourne Fashion Festival, but of course, food also featured heavily during our stay!

We flew in on Friday night, so by the time we got to where we were staying it was nearly 10pm – unfortunately there wasn’t anywhere near us that was open, so we ended up getting pizza delivery from Dominos for dinner!

The next day fared much better on the food front. For breakfast, we headed down to Loading Dock Bar. Inside there was a light and breezy cafe feel, with arty prints and paintings hanging on the walls. There were already quite a lot of people there having breakfast, along with their dogs and babies!

Feeling a little bit greasy from the previous night’s pizza overload, I opted to have the muesli for breakfast, which was served with natural yoghurt and some very prettily sliced fresh fruit. The muesli was very tasty and actually very filling – there was lots of oats, puffed crunchy grains and seeds, macadamias and dried fruit.

G-Lux Muesli, $11.90
Mr Duckie, ever the sweet tooth, ordered the French toast with caramalised bananas. The French toast was perfect - crisp on the outside and eggy and soft on the inside. The highlight though was definitely the caramalised bananas, which were so fragrant, sweet, and melted in the mouth.

French toast with maple syrup, $9.00, and caramelised banana, $2.00
Anita went for the ricotta pancakes, which came as a humungous serve! The pancakes were lfluffy and soft, and best of all were drenched in delicious maple syrup (maple syrup makes everything tasty)!

Ricotta pancakes with maple syrup, $11.90
I also ordered an Earl Grey tea, because breakfast of course is never complete without tea!. I thought I would post a picture of how it was served up as it looked so cute – I love how the tea bag came in its own separate plate for me to add in and brew to my taste! And a cup of tea was definitely needed, as we were all so full after our huge breakfast!

Earl Grey tea
After breakfast, Anita and I went to the L’Oreal Paris Beauty Workshop, held at the Central Pier, Docklands, which we had signed up for as part of the Fashion Festival. When we got to the pier, we saw a queue leading into a room in which there appeared to be many make-up artists and guests. We were a bit confused on where to go, so we thought that joining the queue would be the best thing to do. As it turns out, we were in the wrong place!. The queue was for the L’Oreal Paris Boutique, and the make-up artists were doing colour consultations and some lipstick trials! Luckily we got in the queue early, so we managed to be seen by the make-up artists, before we hurried along around the corner to where the workshop was actually being held!

Outside the Boutique, where we mistakenly lined up!
The workshop itself was very useful and interesting. I am not really make-up proficient, so I learnt a lot of practical tips on different makeup techniques, such as flawless foundation, winged eye liner (which is apparently very trendy right now), colourful eyes, and matte lip colour.

The stage set up for the Beauty Workshop
I was quite inspired to try some of these techniques, so I bought some new products after the show at the Boutique (everything was 25% off!). I got a "Butterfly Wings" mascara, a very cool eyeliner that looks kind of like a felt-tip marker, so hopefully should be easy to use, and a nifty eyebrow pencil that has the actual pencil on one end, an eyebrow wax on the other end, and a small comb on the cap to help keep your eyebrows well groomed!

New make-up!
Best of all, we received some very generous gift bags, filled with loads of hair and skin products!

So many goodies!

Now onto lunch! Mr Duckie had been quite busy and was feeling quite tired by the time afternoon came around, so Anita and I went out in search of takeaway to bring back to eat. Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of our lunch, but believe me it was very tasty and again incredibly filling! We ended up going to Hooks At The Yarra, and got a huge serve of fish and chips, served with salad, tartare sauce and aioli, as well as a seafood risotto, and an olive and rosemary focaccia. Although we only got two mains between the three of us, we were so full that we couldn't even finish all the food! I have to especially mention the chips, which we thick cut and chunky, and perfect for dipping in the sauces. This may sound a bit lame but I always have lots of fun bringing food back in to eat – sort of like having a restaurant in your own home!

Dinner was delayed somewhat that night after our huge day of eating. We went to a nearby Japanese restaurant, Zen Izakaya (previously called Kinya). The restaurant had beautiful d├ęcor and an intimate atmosphere, with very friendly and attentive service.

Despite still being full from lunch, we managed to order (and eat) heaps! We started off with takoyaki topped with bonito flakes. Mr Duckie had never seen the effect of heat on bonito flakes before, which makes them wave about in the air, and he stared mesmerised at his takoyaki before finally eating it!

I also ordered a miso soup as I felt rather in need of something warm and wholesome (it had been a very cold and rainy day!). This was indeed a very rich and flavoursome miso soup, with silky chunks of tofu bobbing throughout. Mr Duckie, who had never had miso soup before, decided to try some, and liked it so much he ended up drinking half the bowl!

A rather funny incident happened with the drinks. I had ordered a green tea, and Mr Duckie had ordered a raspberry lemonade. But for some reason when the waiter brought out the drinks, he assumed I had the very pink raspberry lemonade, and gave Mr Duckie the green tea!

Miso soup and green tea
Anita ordered the tempura udon. The udon was beautifully presented in a blue stone bowl, and was topped very generously with a wide selection of tempura prawn and vegetables and some shiitake mushrooms. The broth was also very warming and was the perfect antidote to the cold weather.

Tempura udon
Mr Duckie and I shared a teriyaki salmon. The salmon also came on a very pretty blue green plate. The fish was cooked just right so that it was firm but still very moist, and was covered with a rich, sticky and flavoursome teriyaki sauce. Mr Duckie is a huge salmon lover (like a grizzly bear!) so he finished most of this in no time!

Teriyaki salmon
More food was still to come! Mr Duckie gets a bit excited with ordering, especially when there are interesting items on the menu like these king crab gyoza. Luckily, I have the appetite to match, and these gyoza were so tasty that it was not at all a problem to eat them! The gyoza were generously filled with sweet crab meat, held together with a creamy and very savoury sauce, flecked with orange tobiko. On the side was a very tangy and citrusy ponzu sauce which nicely complemented the gyoza.
King crab gyoza
We also ordered the dragon roll (without avocado, as Mr Duckie and I don't like avocado - yes, that does sound strange!). Our roll had tempura prawn in the filling, and was topped with grilled eel and tobiko. Unfortunately by the time I got round to eating this the eel had gone cold. But it was still a very tasty sushi!

Dragon roll
And yes, we did find space for dessert, which was a scoop each of green tea, black sesame and red bean ice cream. These ice cream flavours are always solid favourites! Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of these - I think we were all rather too interested in eating our dessert!

The next morning we woke up rather late, so we only had a short amount of time for breakfast before heading out to the airport. We went to the Mad Duck Cafe for breakfast - of course I immediately loved the name! The staff were very helpful - we informed them that we had to be out in half an hour, and they managed to get all our food out to us so quickly that we did manage to finish within that time!

I again started off with muesli, this time served with natural yoghurt and a deliciously sweet fruit compote. There was an extra thoughtful touch with a small jug of skim milk served on the side. The muesli had a good mix of oats, pepitas, sunflower seeds, bran, as well as almonds and macadamia nuts, and currants and dried cranberries.

Muesli, $6.90, with yoghurt and fruit compote

Mr Duckie ordered the Eggs Florentine, which was two poached eggs served on lightly sauteed spinach and toasted English muffins. The eggs were perfectly poached, with the yolks oozing out when cut into. The Hollandaise sauce was also very tasty - I normally find Hollandaise too rich but this one was quite light, and had a slight tanginess that helped to cut through the richness.

Eggs Florentine, $14.90
Anita had the pancakes with strawberries and ice cream. Again the pancakes were huge! They were soft and sweet, with lots of maple syrup drizzled on top (yay!), and the tangy strawberries and creamy vanilla ice cream made the pancakes extra special.

Pancakes with strawberries and ice cream, $13.90
And again, I had an Earl Grey tea with breakfast. The tea was served with a very thoughtful touch - an extra little jug of hot water on the side, to top up the teapot in case extra tea is needed! Unfortunately we were running out of time, so I didn't get a chance to use the extra water!

Earl Grey tea
Then it was off to the airport to catch our flight home! Overall it was a very fun (and food) filled weekend, and it was certainly nice to have a mini-getaway and explore a new city. Thanks to Mr Duckie and Anita for a fantastic weekend!

Loading Dock Bar
70 Lorimer Street, Docklands
(03) 9681 8289

Hooks At The Yarra
50 River Esplanade, Docklands
(03) 9043 4221

Zen Izakaya
70 Lorimer St, Docklands
(03) 9646 2400

Mad Duck Cafe
92 River Esplanade, Docklands
(03) 9681 8882

Monday, 17 March 2014

Thai red curry prawns

 This week, as part of my Nutritional Assessment subject at uni, I had to complete a Food Record Diary. This is a detailed record of everything I ate and drank (including water) for four days, including the weight (in grams), meal type, and time of consumption. As you can imagine, this was quite a difficult and tedious task, as I had to weigh and record everything promptly and accurately before I could eat! Here’s a picture of my diary to give you an idea of what I had to do (please excuse the messy writing, also sorry as for some reason the picture has come up on its side).

The idea of these food diaries is to give an idea of your average food intake. Apparently, these diaries are also often used in weight loss programs, and have been found to be effective in helping weight loss – maybe it helps to make people more aware of their eating patterns, or perhaps like me, the effort of having to record each food rather puts people off eating!

I also found myself using some shortcuts and tricks to make the diary easier, which may reduce the representativeness of my diary. For example, I sometimes served myself a slightly bigger portion so that I wouldn’t have to measure any second servings, and I tried to finish all my meal so that I wouldn’t also have to measure the leftover weights. All in all though it was a useful exercise, as I gained an idea of what my future patients may have to go through, and I became more aware of portion sizes and of what I generally eat in a day.

Lots of vegies!
I included this Thai red curry recipe as one of the entries in my food diary, hence some of the rather precise and specific weights I have given (also I apologise for the low quality photos, as I only had my phone on me at the time I was cooking). Mr Duckie loves Thai red curry, and has been feeling the pinch of not being able to eat meat, so I decided to make the curry with prawns. I initially adjusted the recipe so that it would be for two people, but somehow I ended up with enough for dinner and then lunch the next day – maybe my measurements were off!

Plenty left over for the next day!
This was a very quick and easy recipe to make – you can use any vegetables you like (I used what I had in the fridge) and if you prefer, you can easily replace the prawns with firm tofu. The curry was rich, creamy and fragrantly spicy, with a slight tanginess as well from the addition of lime juice. Mr Duckie described this dish as hearty and a good substitute for meat. I added some peanut butter as well to the curry, which added an extra richness and savouriness, but feel free to leave this out if you have a nut allergy.

This is a tasty and versatile meal for any night of the week! What quick dinner recipes do you rely on? And have you ever done a food record diary?

Wishing you all a very lovely week!

Thai red curry prawns

Recipe adapted from Heart Foundation and
*Please excuse if some of the spoon measures are a bit off – I took down the gram weights but not all the spoon measures!


About 2 tbsp Canola oil (17 g)
1 brown onion (179 g)
2 cloves garlic (6 g)
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled (15 g)
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste (56 g – I used Ayam brand paste)
270 ml can light coconut milk (269 g – I used Ayam brand)
200ml water
1 -2 tbsp soy sauce (I used 12 g but you can adjust to your taste)
1 heaped tbsp crunchy peanut butter (35 g)
Juice of half a lime (19 g)
1 tbsp raw sugar (8 g)
600g your choice of vegetables, cut into bite sized cubes (I used Kent pumpkin, fresh shitake mushrooms, fresh baby corn and broccoli)
200 g green prawn meat
Black pepper, pinch

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and ginger and fry until soft (about 4-5 min). Add curry paste, stir until combined with onion mixture and cook until fragrant.
2. Add coconut milk, water, soy sauce, peanut butter, lime juice and raw sugar, stir until combined and bring to boil.
3. Add vegetables and simmer until vegetables are cooked (10 -15 minutes depending on your vegetables).

4. Sprinkle prawns with black pepper, add to curry and simmer until cooked through (about 5 minutes). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

Monday, 10 March 2014

New Beginnings: Healthy banana oat bars

Last week I started back at uni again! After three long years studying undergraduate science, I have now finally made it to the Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics. I have been looking forward to this for so long - the whole of my bachelors degree was geared towards meeting the requirements for this Masters, and during those years, when people found out I was studying to be a dietitian, I would inevitably be asked for some nutrition advice. Unfortunately I didn't have enough nutrition knowledge to say much useful, but hopefully now I will be able to give some better advice!

The first week was certainly busy. It was quite intense with learning new material and with getting used to longer class hours (unlike the relatively more laid-back undergraduate lifestyle!), but it was also very interesting, especially as there is quite a practically-oriented approach to much of the coursework, including learning professional skills such as group education and counselling. We are also very lucky as we are some of the first students to use a newly built building in our university - it was only completed in December last year and it is very modern and comfortable!

Last week also marked the start of Lent, a period of penance and prayer in preparation for Easter. I always think that Lent is a beautiful time of year, as it guides us to reflect on our lives, identify areas for change and growth, and to be thankful for all our blessings. Lent is also a time of fasting or "giving up" certain luxuries. Every year, Mr Duckie and I give up meat and chocolate - Mr Duckie loves meat and I love chocolate, so we give up both in support of each other - so expect to see more vegetarian recipes coming up soon.

These bars are a perfect choice for taking to school (or work, or wherever you need to go) and are a great chocolate alternative when an energy boost is needed. They are very easy, and I dare say fun, to make, and the sweet fragrance of banana that fills the air during baking is sure to lift your mood. Best of all, the ingredients are held together by mashed banana, so there is no need for butter or sugar.

The bars are chewy and naturally sweet from the banana and dried fruits, and the nuts and seeds provide a satisfying warm crunch. This recipe works with whatever nuts, seeds and dried fruits you like - in particular, if you have a nut allergy, feel free to replace these with some more seeds or fruits. These bars can also can be frozen, so you can keep a handy store for any last minute snack emergency (I have also reheated these bars in the microwave and eaten them warm for breakfast)!

I hope that all has been well in your busy lives too and that you all have a great week! I am looking forward to trying out some more vegetarian recipes and hope to post these up soon too!

Healthy banana oat bars

Adapted from recipes from Eat Your Greens and 

1/4 cup finely chopped apricots
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup nuts, roughly chopped
4 medium bananas, mashed (about 2 cups mashed)
1 cup porridge oats
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

1. Grease and line a 22cm square tin. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
2. Mix together the dried fruits, seeds, nuts and oats in a bowl. Mix in the mashed banana, cinnamon and salt. Pour into prepared tin and flatten surface with the back of a spoon.
3. Bake for 30 minutes or until top is firm and edges are golden brown. Cool in tin for 5 minutes then turn onto a rack to fully cool. Slice into bars in the size that you prefer (I made 18 smallish bars).