Top Ten Desserts for 2011

You may have noticed we got around a bit last year.  My tastebuds had an absolute flogging at the hands of many seriously good offerings, some of which I am going to share with you now, in the form of  my Top Ten Desserts for 2011.

Now I know I should give up sugar, or at least cut down (which I have made a concerted effort to do this year) however I freely admit to letting the calorific hair down for these treats and it’s only right you should know about them. They.Were.That.Good.  Please enjoy the following food p*rn, in no particular order. It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it. And being that one of my New Year’s resolutions is to eat even more locally grown and sourced food, I’ve got a whole lot more foodlove to share from our fair city so stay tuned!

1. Ilona Staller’s  Bombe Alaska

2. Rockpool‘s Devil Food cupcake

3. Bistro Guillaume’s  giant salted caramel macaron

4. St Katherine’s Mister Whippy

5. Cafe Vue’s Chocolate mousse cake

6. Miami Fontainebleau’s  Key Lime Pie

7. Seven Seeds’  Meringue cup cake

8. Sarong Bali’s Duck egg and ginger custard with cashew nut icecream

9.   Disney World Resort’s Boardwalk Bakery Red Velvet Cupcake – note the icing to cake ratio here

10. Grossi Florentino’s canoli

And 2 extremely refreshing and delightful beverages we enjoyed regularly (but responsibly of course) were:

Dal Zotto Puccino Prosecco

Rekorderlig Pear Cider

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The Sustainable Living Festival, Melbourne

Birrarung Marr on theYarraRiver in Melbourne was transformed over the weekend into a festival of awesomeness – 2 long rows of marquees displaying unimaginable goodies, winding along the river, and tantalising with the aromas of local, healthy food.

The happens every year in February, and is jam-packed full of fantastic events, speakers, information-sharing and workshops, all well as stalls stocked with new and innovative products and services and people just bursting to share the love.

During the course of 3 hours we saw Perma Pete giving a talk on how to make your own cider, learned that we can plant complimentary herbs around our citrus trees from the folk at http://www.VeryEdibleGardens.com, saw the gorgeous Joyce from http://cyclestyle.com.au/ with her glamorous array of bike accessories, and fell in love with the most stunning Bachhara www.bachhara.com silk kaftans made in Bangladesh from the ladies at http://sevencanaries.com.au/marketplace/sevencanaries/ .

I tried locally-made, cruelty free mineral make up from http://www.adornmineralcosmetics.com.au/ (it was excellent), found sweat-shop-free organic fair-trade undies from Etiko http://www.etiko.com (they were funky!) and got some fantastic solar energy information for our home, as well as beautiful raingarden inspiration from Melbourne Water http://raingardens.melbournewater.com.au/, and picked up my much coveted copy of the Field Guide to Victorian Produce from the Locavore Edition http://www.locavored.com/field-guides/. Make sure you check out their beautiful website!

I also grabbed a rad bumper sticker from the rock chicks Victorian Farmers Market Association at the which is now proudly proclaiming from the rear of my car that ‘I don’t buy food from strangers’. Classic. (photo credit for this particular image goes to VFMA) . We topped this off with a chat to the lovely ladies at making sensational curry mixes right here in Melbourne at No Worries Curries which are going straight into my slow cooker!

And to keep our strength up we visited http://www.misterniceguy.com.au for a spectacular coconut and lime creation, and the lovely folk at AllPress made us a cranking piccolo late, no mean feat considering they were making it in a tent.

We came home energised and excited about all the cool stuff we saw and sampled and inspired by the passion and creativity of all the exhibitors and participants. Mission accomplished!

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Akasha Retreat

2012 has well and truly begun, and one New Year’s Resolution we won’t be breaking is to continue to keep as fit and healthy as we possibly can.

With Christmas and New Year telling the classic story of annual overindulgence, I kickstarted the new year by eliminating all processed food from my diet for the month of January just to prove to myself that it could be done, and lo and behold it was actually LESS work and easier to maintain.

I ate no bread, no biscuits, no cakes, no pasta, nothing canned, or pre-prepared. If it wasn’t fresh, I didn’t eat it. And I learned how to replace sucrose with other healthier options like agave nectar, and glucose, and started making my own healthy sweet treats with nuts, seeds, and dried fruits, coconut butter, and cocoa nibs.

Even better, the husband and 7 year old were LOVING everything I put in front of them. So now of course we can’t go back to our old ways and are making much more from scratch, and continue to source organic and local produce wherever possible.

We are still having our green smoothies every day, which we have been doing now since about September 2011, as it’s just become part of everyday life. The man of the house has taken over smoothie production and now makes enough to take a bottle each to work as well, instead of just starting the day at home with a big glass of green goodness. And you’d be surprised how many raw leafy greens you can get a kid to eat every single day, if you add some pineapple and dates along with your flaxseed, LSA, chia seeds and coconut oil!

Early in January I also decided it would be helpful to take a few days out to to unwind and de-stress, without distractions.  To focus on relaxation, pure and simple, the kind where you meditate, read a book, switch off your phone and just BE.  (If you’re anything like me, when you’re at home you feel compelled to finish the housework or gardening rather than curling up with a good book!)

So I booked us into the Akasha Retreat Centre  in Upper Beaconsfield, which as it turns out, overlooks almost the whole of Melbourne, perched high up on a hill, nestled in amongst huge gum trees.

We arrived on Friday morning and were welcomed by our host Theresa, whose skin and eyes simply glow in testament to the healthy lifestyle she promotes.

We were just in time for meditation, stretching and yoga, which was then followed by a delicious lunch on the terrace in the gorgeous summer sunshine, prepared with eggs straight from the Akasha hens, and loads of fresh homegrown organic veggies.

The afternoon was whiled away reading, chilling out,  a session in the ‘detox box’ sauna, then enjoying a fantastic massage from Theresa.

Before we knew it , it was time for dinner, and another wholesome meal, this time stir-fried vegies and tofu in a homemade satay sauce, with brown rice, and fresh fruit to follow.

The second day pretty much followed the same pattern as the first, but this time starting off with a fresh veggie juice, and then a delicious breakfast of brown rice muesli, bircher muesli, nut cream, yoghurt and fruit salad.

I then opted for a Reiki treatment, which had the nett effect of putting me into such a deep meditative state I may have accidentally snored (it was very ladylike, apparently).

Lunch included homemade zucchini soup, homemade bread (which drove us crazy with the gorgeous baking aroma all morning), hommus and salad, and dinner this time was an amazing gluten-free nut loaf, served with yogurt and mint, roasted vegies, as well as a side of homegrown corn and green beans. Each night Theresa would make us a ‘sleepytime’ tea to help unwind before bed.

All our meals were enjoyed outside on the terrace with magnificent views to Westernport Bay, French Island and Phillip Island on our left, and Portsea, Mornington and Port Phillip Bay to the right.  The sunsets were nothing short of spectacular, displaying colours and shades in an everchanging show as the sun sank further down, the vast sky full of fiery reds and soft pinks, dotted with silvery streaky clouds.

The resident four-legged friends also made us welcome, a gorgeous golden Retriever named Mishka, who joined us for meditation and yoga each morning, and Puss, the black fluffy man of the house who let everyone know he was the boss, but was so handsome you didn’t really mind. The Akasha goats provided light entertainment, especially when one wandered right up to the house and stuck his head through a hole in the hedge to eyeball us as we wrestled with a challenging jigsaw puzzle (another type of meditation which really worked for me!)

The weekend was a wonderful balm for the soul,  free of interruptions and schedules, no rushing from here to there, just taking time out to smell the roses. Or eucalyptus leaves in this case.

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Summer in Somers

For the Australia Day weekend this year, we settled on Somers as our destination. We said goodbye to the kitties, packed up the blender for our green smoothies, and zipped down the freeway to arrive at Pankina at Somers, our rented holiday house, in just over an hour.

Without the madness and traffic jams of the Mornington Peninsula and infinitely easier to get to, Somers is a tiny spot perched on Westernport Bay, serviced by the truly delightful Somers General Store.

Having decided in advance due to the magnificent kitchen at Pankina (not to mention the full set of matching gorgeous crockery, cutlery, glassware and serving platters) that a lamb roast was indeed appropriate for Australia Day celebrations, I set about prepping dinner, including the now famous (in many homes throughout Melbourne, and beyond) roast spuds with semolina and truffle salt from the divine Mish Lilley’s blog MishDelish.

Paolo Vino was on hand of course to ensure we had just enough (several) bottles of fine Victorian Shiraz and Cab Sav to accompany the meal, and another important factor was the gorgeous girlfriends who kept helpfully topping up my glass of bubbles to aid my creative cooking juices.

For dessert we enjoyed fresh blueberries and strawberries, plain yoghurt flavoured with rosewater and vanilla and slightly sweetened with agave nectar, topped with Persian fairyfloss and pistachios.

After a morning run on the beach the next day to pound away the well-deserved (and highly patriotic) hangover, followed by breakfast at the Somers General Store, we thought it would be silly not to take advantage of being a stone’s throw from all the treats of Red Hill, and concluded that a trip to the spa was most definitely in order. A lamb shank pastie at the famous Red Hill Baker for lunch, and we left children with menfolk and entered the sanctum of the Red Hill Endota Spa, where I had quite possibly the best massage of my career, with the lovely Leith. We left having overspent on irresistably gorgeous moisturisers and scrubs, feeling chilled and truly on holiday!

The next day we visited the Coolart historic homestead for a bit of art which even kids loved, thanks to all the vibrant colours and amazing photography, and then crossed the hill to Dromana to while away the late afternoon on the beach, when the crowds had thinned, playing beach cricket, swimming and lazing about, ending up with fish and chips at sunset.

Somers is quiet, unspoilt, perfect for families, and is host to an amazing array of wildlife – in 3 short days we saw blue- tongue lizards, a tawny frogmouth which alighted on our balcony railing, 2 koalas, and dolpins.

It’s magically relaxing but close to gorgeous Chef-hatted restaurants like Montalto and the Long Table in Red Hill, as well as the fantastic Cellar and Pantry for gourmet cheese, wine, bread, and anything else you can think of, and Balnarring is 5 minutes away for supermarkets and other basics.

We can’t wait to come back and we’ve only just left! And special thanks to the lovely Gabi, the owner of Pankina, who left us the most wonderful welcome pack, full of preserves, biscuits, wine, milk, bread, coffee etc and left us wanting for nothing.

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