Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Healthy Banana Bread

Yes you read it correctly: healthy! The usual banana bread is normally packed with processed sugar and gluten, not good for Mr. Gaffa! So he found this recipe on the Lululemon blog and asked me to make it for him before he left for Cerberus.

The only annoying thing about making banana bread is having to wait until you have over ripe bananas; you have to plan ahead. Or unless you buy too many bananas and at the end of the week you think, 'oops I have too many bananas,  hmm what should I do with them...?'.... anyway me being the organised freak planned ahead and bought 3 extra bananas so by Friday they were perfect for mashing.

This banana bread is not overly sweet but enough to satisfy the tastebuds. It's the first time that I've ever put cinnamon in a banana bread recipe but was a great addition to the moist banana taste. (Yes I hate the word moist but I had to use it because this banana bread is truly that!) I used rice malt syrup instead of honey or maple syrup.

Here's the recipe

The banana bread is gluten free and processed sugar free! Sorry nut and egg allergy peeps. Delicious and healthy,  yum yum. Perfect for mid morning/afternoon snack. Enjoy!

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Grounds of Alexandria

You may have heard of Kevin Bacon. I'm not talking about the actor, but instead the imfamous pig that went missing a few years ago from a Sydney cafe and was found in Melbourne. Well, The Grounds is the cafe where Kevin Bacon resides amongst other farm animals, an array of beautiful outdoor undercover seating areas, a bustling cafe and bakery, markets, a coffee research facility and it's own valet parking service.

The Banker, Coco and I first visited on a sunny Friday a couple of weeks ago. We were initially wanting to take their cousin there who was visiting from HK, but she had other plans so we went ourselves instead.

We got there at 'brunch' time and it was already quite busy. Parking was hard to find; we had to park up the road and around the corner, but we only waited about 10 minutes for a table.

Coco had been there before and recommended the breakfast board. I also liked the sound of the croquettes. So we ordered a breakfast board each and a plate of croquettes each. Cold drinks came in mason jars with a handle, and the food was pretty quick to arrive too.

The breakfast board comprised of smoked ham, poached eggs, avocado, pesto, fetta cheese,  tomatoes and sourdough bread. Very filling.  But the banker and I managed to finish off our croquettes too,  but Coco... tsk tsk... didn't :p

We wanted to grab some pastries to take home but our bellies couldn't handle it. We opted for a take away coffee and sat outside and enjoyed the garden space and the afternoon sun.

The second time I visited The Grounds was last weekend with the hubby, Gaffa. I noticed there were bike racks there the first time I went so I suggested to Gaffa that we ride there, have lunch and ride home. Great way to exercise and we don't have to look for parking.

On our way to The Grounds we rode to HMAS Kuttabul in Potts Point as Gaffa was working there for the week and he wanted to ride into work. So off we went. I recently started riding into work in the city so I wad used to the 10km journey. We got to the base and checked out the showers and locker facilities and the location of the wardroom. The wardroom was down the hill and because I don't like hills we pushed our bikes back up the hill and then continued onto Alexandria.

We finally got to The Grounds at about 11.30am. After locking up our bikes and putting our name down on the waiting list we wandered around the outdoor area. They advised us of a 1.5hr wait for a table as it was a weekend and prime brunch time. But after we bought some fresh lemonade and sat down for a rest, our buzzer beeped about 15-20mins later, so the wait wasn't long at all.

Breakfast stops at 11.30am and lunch starts at 12pm. (I've always wondered what happens between 11.30 and 12.00, because you can't order either... I noticed this at another cafe I recently went to as well). Anyway since it was after 12 when we sat down we could order lunch. Gaffa and I always share so he let me pick 2 meals. I chose the lamb dish and the duck salad, and a side of chips. For drinks I had a mocha and Gaffa was recommended a piccolo. He's not a big milk in coffee drinker so he wasn't too fussed about the piccolo.

The food was delicious, both very different.  The lamb was full of flavour whereas the salad was quite light, which was great for us as we wanted to fit in dessert; and the chips were very morish with the aioli.

There were a range of desserts, with a wide selection of them being gluten free. We went for the passionfruit cheesecake and chocolate mousse cake. Very, very yummy! Cute presentation too, as it comes out on a chopping/cheese board - easy for sharing!

While we were eating lunch the weather turned 180 and went from blistering sunshine to heavy down pour. I was crapping myself as our helmets were outside and we were not equipped for riding in the rain. Lucky the rain eased as we finished dessert and I had a plastic bag to store all our valuables from getting wet. Surprisingly it wasn't too cold riding home in the rain, but I was peddling that little bit quicker just to get home to a hot shower!!

The food at The Grounds is reasonably priced and serving sizes are decent. I would definitely go back to try some of the other breakfast and lunch dishes. The outdoor areas are so pretty and would be a great place for a party or function. They've got areas for children to play in and I think they're building another area for adults only. So it'll be great to see what they come up with.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Foneymoon in Byron Bay

Yep, that's not a typo. Foneymoon, as in a honeymoon with your family. It could of been funnymoon as in haha funny, but there was nothing to laugh about spending your first week as husband and wife with your in laws as well. Others were maybe laughing, but we were just happy to spend the relaxing time with them since they had travelled so far to see us.

The morning after the wedding Gaffa and I enjoyed our buffet breakfast at the Sofitel. Even after a yummy 4 course reception lunch at Limani's followed by an 8+ course chinese banquet for dinner, we were still able to fit in breakfast. Who can resist real honey, french toast, gluten free options, fresh fruit and juice.... mmm...

Anyway, The Spot was kind enough to drop us off at the airport and we arrived in Ballina to collect our rental car for the week.

We hired a holiday house from stayz.com.au just outside of the main Byron Bay town, at a cute little village called Suffolk Park. The beach was a short walk across the road and through the trees, and the house had a pool, bbq area and even better: Gaffa and I got the master bedroom complete with ensuite and rain shower :)

The week was spent lazing around at the local beaches, exploring the main town, getting massages, enjoying the local organic and gluten free foods, bbq dinners, a kayak trip to find dolphins, a trip to Crystal Castle, and watching the sun rise at the lighthouse.

The best places that I recommend in Byron Bay are:

Top Shop. This place has delicious burgers and coffee. Yep, I drank their coffee and enjoyed it! (It was a mocha though). Their breakfast burgers and lunch burgers are great. They have quinoa and gluten free buns as well.

Bay Leaf. Nice place for brunch and coffee too. Gaffa preferred the coffee here to Top Shop.

Naked Treaties. Across the road from Bay Leaf,  this organic, gluten free, sugar free, vegan cafe sells raw treats that are just so moreish. Yum yum. We went there almost every day. Fresh coconuts and a slice of cake to end the day: bliss!

Massage: there are a lot of massage therapists in Byron and we drove around to find a nice one that was available, but some were closed, relocating or busy. We found one upstairs from Surf Dive & Ski. (Sorry can't remember the name). It was quite good and they did a special deal for 2 people,  so we went back again the next day.  Normally I don't like massages because they tickle or hurt. But the lady went gentle on me and it was quite relaxing,  so much I fell sleep both times.

Crystal Castle.  Only a 40 minute drive from Byron Bay,  it's well worth the visit. Filled with beautiful gardens, peaceful surroundings to meditate and reflect and pretty crystals to chanel your inner self.

Lighthouse. Byron Bay is the most easterly point of Australia,  so you can be the first person to see the sun rise over uninterrupted views of the vast ocean. Get there early because the car park does fill up and it is a bit of a walk. We brought some breakfast with us and watched the sun rise from the park bench. It was beautiful!

Any of the beaches in Byron are good. A beach is a beach to me. As long as it's not overcrowded and has nice sand to sunbake on. Obviously during summer the main beach car parks were packed and hard to find parking. But there's a whole coastline of white sand to explore, some great for surfers and others with calmer waters.

Gaffa, his cousin and I decided to spend one morning kayaking and dolphin watching. It was great to get out onto the water and do something different. Unfortunately we didn't see any dolphins but it was still good. We stopped off at small beach mid way and Gaffa and I capsized the kayak riding it in. Oopsies. But we had tim tams to make us feel better. They do let you go out again if you don't see dolphins the first time. Gaffa's cousin went again and was third time lucky at seeing them. 

I would definitely go to Byron Bay again. There are loads of running/walking tracks around the coast that we wanted to explore but didn't have time to and markets as well. It's a really chilled out place, great to get a way from it all, relax, learn to surf, enjoy some organic food. The flights to Ballina are relatively inexpensive. I think we only paid $79 per person one way. We were thinking of driving up but we didnt have enough time. But there will definitely be a next time :)

Until then,, peace out bro!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

WinGaz Wedding Day

Whenever I think of this day or look back at photos from our wedding day, I have a huge smile on my face. It was such a beautiful day and every single person that was there made it such a special occasion for us to cherish for the rest of our lives. Plus getting married on 11/12/13 was just too cool for us nerdy people.

Words cannot describe it better than this slideshow by our amazing photographer,  Stephen Govel. Him and his wife Maddie are the ultimate dream team, capturing long lasting memories of our wedding day in creative and exciting ways. We let them use their own imagination and creativity on the day and we weren't disappointed in the slightest. From the day we first met them, we clicked and knew they were the perfect people to capture all the special moments on the day.

Instead of giving you a step by step encounter of our day I think it's best to tell you all about the people that made our day possible. Without these people we wouldn't of had the best day and things wouldn't have gone to plan. We are forever grateful for our close family and friends, and all the wedding vendors we used, we love you guys!!

To Amy Chan Hair and Make Up Artistry. Amy made me look and feel beautiful without packing on the makeup, and created a more natural and timeless look to suit my face shape. It lasted all day in the sun and into the evening without any touchups. With all the different skin types and hair types in our wedding party she was able to make us all look so pretty :)

To our celebrant, Mattrimony. Matt was fun and easy to get along with. He listened to our ideas and gave his professional input where needed. On the day the ceremony went by so smoothly.

To the Wedding Knights who set up our ceremony chairs, altar, flowers and sign in table. They set the scene so beautifully against the backdrop of the beach. And then afterwards they packed it all up quietly without interfering in our photos or post ceremony celebrations. They should be called the wedding ninjas hehe.

To London Cabs. Stuart was a great driver, even providing us with champagne after our photos. Lily, the cab was very authentic complete with a union jack pillow. He took us where ever we wanted to go and waited around for us during the ceremony and while we were having photos taken.

To Lovely Bridal Blooms. Jessie's courier pulled out on the morning of our wedding so she delivered the flowers herself. We wanted them delivered earlier than her normal time which she did with no fuss. The flowers were beautiful and stayed fresh all throughout the day.

To Limani Restaurant. Jim ans his crew were very professional and accommodating to our needs of a small intimate reception. Each guest was able to choose their own 3 course lunch. And it was BYO so we were able to have the wines we wanted. The food was delicious and very filling, which is rare for the usual wedding caterers who normally have alternate drop. They were able to give us full use of the inside of the restaurant and we didn't even notice the other people outside during our lunch. We did get a few head turns though when the navy boys all walked in in uniform. :p

To our best man and maitron of honour. Words can not describe how thankful we are for your friendship and support. Not only you two but your significant others and your little kidlets. We are so proud to be godparents :) Thank you again for running around deliverying the cake, flowers and making sure everything was in place. Kat, thank you for making the best wedding cake ever, it was perfect and delicious. I wish we had lots left over to freeze and eat later... nom nom nom...

Our parents. For traveling the long distance, suporting us through everything we do and for welcoming us into each other's extended family.

The Navy boys. Thanks for the honour guard. Why so serious?! It was really cool to see the swords out and you all dressed in uniform. Gaffa was well chuffed to have you all there beside him.

Our extended family and close friends. Thanks for taking a weekday off to attend our wedding. For travelling so far and for making our day worthwhile. To Keish, for leaving your babies and staying in Australia a bit longer just to attend our wedding.

Sorry for the long post.... we're just so happy and very grateful for all these people in our lives. Too much love going around hehe.

Oh, the whole point of this blog post: the slideshow link!! Which by the way, we got this one week after oue wedding. Awesome turn around times. Watch it on a computer/laptop. Unfortunately not available on smart phones. Turn up the volume too! :) Enjoy

Click here to witness the best wedding EVER!

Monday, February 17, 2014

NEOC49 Graduation


Hello there ETD readers!! Happy New Year!! Another long stint of no blog posts, but this time for a good reason. Gaffa and I got married!!! (I'll be sure to post about our special day later). But just to catch up on what's been happening in the life of WinGaz, let's start where we left off from our last post.

Back in November 2013, Gaffa finished off his officer training for the Royal Australian Navy and had his Passing Out Parade. There were actually 3 separate events on over 2 days, so I had to find 3 different outfits to wear. Me being indecisive, packed more than what I needed, just in case I changed my mind at the last minute, or had any wardrobe malfunctions...haha.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sweet Potato Brownies

Hello there ETD readers. Sorry it's been a while since my last post. I went on holidays with the folks to China, Hong Kong and Macau for 3 weeks and since I've been back I've been trying to organise the rest of our wedding. Which is in less than 3 weeks!! Eeek, can't believe it's so soon!! :D Excited much?!

Anywho, lately I've really been really getting into this clean eating diet. Since I got back from overseas and leading up to the wedding, as all brides do - I've been trying to stay healthy and loose weight/not put on any extra weight. Before I went overseas I did loose a bit of weight and had to get my dress taken in. Then during my trip all we ever seemed to do was eat, shop and eat some more. So as soon as I got back I was detemined to get back to where I was and keep improving. I'd also gotten into my running before I left and am now happy to say that I can run 5km (almost comfortably) without stopping! Go me! Really big achievement since before I started I couldn't run 500m without stopping and absolutely hated running!!

On Facebook I've been following some interesting pages that deal with either paleo or clean eating. With each recipe I come across I check out the ingredients and see if I have them already or if they're relatively cheap and easy to get. Yes, typical Asian. I've seen a lot of these dessert type recipes that put pumkin or sweet potato in it, as a substitute to flour and butter and to create the gooey, soft, moist texture that you would normally get. I finally came across one recipe that I had all the ingredients for! And I was expecting Gaffa home for a quick visit, so thought it'd be nice to make them for him since he'd just come back from his final exercise (which he passed) and is now able to graduate next week. Yay fo Gaffa!!

This recipe was on a Facebook page called Just Eat Real Food, posted via Grass Fed Kitchen.

Ingredients:
1 cup mashed sweet potato
3 eggs
1 cup almond flour
1/3 cup cocao powder
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp honey (I used rice malt syrup)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp baking soda

Method:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.
Poke a few holes in the sweet potato using a fork. Place on oven rack and bake for 40-45 minutes or until soft. Remove from oven and lower temperature to 175 degrees C.
Peel the skin off the sweet potato. Using a food processor, process until smooth like mash.
In a bowl, combine eggs, cocao powder, flour, baking soda, coconut oil, honey/rice malt syrup, vanilla extract. Mix on low speed until well combined.
Add sweet potato and mix on slightly faster speed.
Pour batter into lined 8x8 brownie pan or similar. Bake for 35 mins or until toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool completely before slicing.

Thee brownies tasted like normal brownies.  You could not taste the sweet potato flavour at all. They were very soft and moist, and best of all - healthy too! They say you can add choc chips to this recipe to get the gooey chocolate bits. Just add them at the end before pouring the mixture into the pan and omit the extra 2 tbsp of honey.

Gaffa thoroughly enjoyed them and took the rest back with him to share with his Navy friends on the drive back down. No complaints! :) Success!!!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

24 Hours in Jervis Bay

As most of you know, Gaffa is down in Jervis Bay completing his Officer training with the Royal Australian Navy. He spent a week down at HMAS Cerberus (where he'll be spending about 5 months next year doing his Engineering training course), but this time he was doing small arms training down there.

On Saturday morning Flinders Division hopped onto a bus and drove all the way back from Crib Point back to Jervis Bay - a 10.5 hour journey with stops every 2 hours. I booked a last minute motel room at the Huskinsson Beach Motel ($160 for the night, with a queen and single bed in the room), which is very close to the main strip of shops in Huskie.

I left Sydney at about 2pm and ended up arriving at the motel at about 5.30pm - a longer drive than normal due to the Sydney traffic in the Sutherland area. The sun was still up so I decided to go for a short walk to explore the area. It was a bit windy out and I'd only brought a light cardigan, so I didn't stay out for long.

Back in the motel room, I amused myself by painting my nails purple - for the prelim finals of the NRL, Storm vs Knights game that night, and watched the pre-match entertainment and the first half hour of the game on TV.

Gaffa finally arrived, in his chinos, collared long sleeve shirt and smart brown shoes, while I was wearing my jeans, Storm jersey, cardigan and purple Tigers. Gaffa decided to take me to the fanciest restaurant in Huskinsson - Wild Ginger, a South-East Asian restaurant and wine bar. Man did I feel under-dressed!

We ordered two mains to share and some rice. There are only 4 mains on the a la carte menu so it was not a tough choice. Gaffa previously dined at Wild Ginger with a few of his Navy friends, and larger groups are required to have the banquet - which I've been told are really good too. We decided on the light yellow curry of snapper with thai pea eggplant, oyster mushrooms, coconut cream and sweet basil. Our second dish was the 3 hour braised beef cheeks with a southern style green curry + holy basil and snake beans. The mains came out quite quickly, considering the restaurant was pretty full.

The beef cheeks green curry was my favourite, not overly spicy but had a nice curry taste. The yellow curry came with a very large piece of snapper, well worth the higher than average price that you'd pay for a Thai main. The rice was needed as both curries had a lot of sauce. We decided to skip on dessert as we had raw treats waiting for us back at the motel. We made it back to the room just in time for the end of the game. Unfortunately the Knights won :(

The next morning we woke up early, finished off the raw cheesecake and checked out of the motel. We decided to go for a walk along Huskinsson beach first before heading to Kiosk for brunch. At Kiosk we managed to get a table out front in the sun, and it was a glorious day for brunch! Gaffa ordered a coffee and I had a juice, and we both ordered the Coyote breakfast with corn fritters, bacon, black beans, avocado and a poached egg. Yuuuum!

After brunch we went for a walk around the shops on the main street. It's your typical small beach town; with a book shop, small clothing stores, milk bars, take away shops, and whale and dolphin cruise outlets. Gaffa showed me the gluten-free ice cream store that he was waiting for me to try it with him. Strong self control there H2B, considering ice cream is his kryptonite!

Next we decided to drive from Huskie to Hyam's Beach, which Jervis Bay is best known for. The long stretch of white sand with crystal clear blue water, sheltered by the bay so it has small waves. A perfect place to relax and chill out. Instead,  Gaffa and I walked from the main entrance to Hyam's Beach to the edge of the Navy base. Civilians aren't allowed onto the base via the beach access, and this is one of the many jobs that the officers in training have - to patrol the beach for unwanted backpackers :P

We spent the best part of the afternoon walking along the sand, dipping our feet in the water and chatting about everything. We even managed to get a full length photo of the two of us, plus the usual selfies.

By the time we got back to the car we were feeling peckish - it was time for ice cream. We drove back to Huskie and got a scoop of gluten free ice cream,  Gaffa went for a cone, which I'm not sure was gluten free... we walked along the water's edge while enjoying our "healthy" snack. Caramelised fig btw - YUM!

Gaffa wanted to show me around Creswell next, so we hoped back into the car and headed to Gaffa's home away from home. Getting me a visitors pass was quite easy and soon enough we were driving along on base watching the kangaroos basking in the afternoon sun.

We parked the car and Gaffa "pegged in" so that people knew he was on base, in case of any emergencies. We walked around and Gaffa showed me where he eats, sleeps,  marches, takes classes,  does EMA (early morning activity) and where he relaxes and plays darts. It was pretty cool to see all this as it really made all the stories Gaffa tells me seem more exciting and real.

It was almost time to head home. But before we went our separate ways we had an early dinner at the Huskie Pub. A gluten free pizza and clam chowder to share.

Driving back was only a 2.5hr journey. Not the easiest drive at night along the winding roads around Nowra and Berry and oncoming head lights; but I made it back in good time, safe and sound.

Jervis Bay is a beautiful place, one of Australia's hidden gems on the south east coast. Definitely a place I'd recommend taking a short trip to in summer.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Raw Desserts


Over the weekend I went a bit crazy at the health food section in Dee Why Discount Vitamins store, buying nuts, dates and cacao. I've been following a clean eating blog called Wholefood Simply, where Bianca has a lot of easy clean raw recipes for desserts and treats. So I thought I'd try some of them out.

Gaffa and I went to a cafe in Bondi called Earth to Table where all the food and drink are clean, raw, vegan, gluten free and dairy free. They have delicious cakes there that are just divine. So I was hoping to recreate something similar.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Paleo Spaghetti Bolognese


How does a Paleo diet consume spaghetti you ask? By making zucchini pasta! I've been following a lot of Paleo and clean eating blogs, Facebook pages and Instagramers lately and found a few recipes to try. A lot of them ask for ingredients that you'd normally not have in your cupboard (well I didn't anyway) so you do have to visit a health food store or the health food aisle of your local supermarket to stock up your shelves with the latest organic or gluten free, dairy free, sugar free alternatives. I tend not to be so strict on being 100% Paleo as some things you can't find or are just too damn expensive for my liking. (Yes I'm a cheap Asian).

Anyway, I thought I'd give Eat Drink Paleo's recipe a try and found it to be quite easy to make. I didn't include the red wine or port/sherry because I didn't have any and didn't want to buy a whole bottle to use just a few hundred mL. I aslo used 50/50 beef/pork mince because Coles sells 500g mince packets. I added an extra can of tomatoes to make up for the lack of wine and port. Also I used 2 celery sticks and 2 carrots, similar to all the Jamie Oliver recipes. I simmered it for about 2 hours.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chilli Con Carne


Since Gaffa has been away at officer training for the Australian Navy, I've been surviving off the frozen meals he made before he left and my parent's cooking. I made a promise to Gaffa that I'd learn to cook and finally got off my ass and did some cooking on the weekend.

I decided to make one of the meals that Gaffa always makes. It's really tasty and versatile, and actually easier to make than one of Jamie's 15 minute meals that I made the same day. 
Jamie's good old chilli con carne is in his Ministry of Food cookbook, and is probably the most used cookbook in our collection.  Gaffa has added a few of his own ingredients to make this more filling and give it a bit more of a kick.

As you can see from the list, it's got the basic staple ingredients that Gaffa has written about previously in his versatile cooking blogs, so this is definitely a hearty and healthy meal that can be frozen for later.
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