Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Product Review - Black Swan Dips

Black Swan Seasons Dips


I am well-known amongst my friends as a lover of chips, crackers, dips, crudites and all kinds of party snack foods in general. One of my friends even refers to a dinner made of odds and ends as an "Ella Dinner".

I love to prepare dips from scratch, in particular a white bean hommus that my mother taught me how to make. It's generally cheaper and healthier to make them yourself. But then, there are some dips that are just too delicious to resist. One brand that I love is Black Swan, they are an Australian brand (and yes, they were around before the movie) and they have a great variety of products.

Recently, they added a new product line called "Seasons". They are what I suppose you could call a gourmet range of dips. They have some for summer and some for winter.

Two of my favourites from this range are the Summertime Avocado Lemon Zest, Garlic and Coriander and the Summertime Tomato and Bacon (Yum!).

Neither is loaded with cream cheese or vegetable oil (the usual suspects in packaged dips) so they actually taste like the name on the package. They are delicious and satisfying. I recommend eating the avocado dip with Vitaweat Multigrain crackers, the tomato and bacon is great with crustini.

Black Swan Seasons Dips

Enjoy!
Ella xx

* This is a genuine review. I did not receive any payment in money or product in kind for this post.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Another summer salad

Healthy and Filling Salad

Every time I make a salad for a main meal I try to make a little bit different to keep it interesting. Tonight I made an italian-ish salad for a light dinner as I had indulged a little too much during the day.

Healthy and Filling SaladItalian-ish Salad
Serves 2

10 grape tomatoes
2 truss tomatoes
1 cucumber
1 red onion
1 small bunch parsley
1 baby cos lettuce
2 Tbs raspberry balsamic vinegar
4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 avocado
4 pieces baby bocconcini cheese



 Method
1. Wash all fresh ingredients.
2. Slice cos lettuce into 2cm strips and place in serving bowl.
3. Slice grape tomatoes in half, halve cucumber and then slice on the bias, thinly slice red onion, roughly chop parsley.
4. Combine tomatoes, cucumber, onion and parsley in a large bowl.
5. In a small jar mix together vinegar, oil salt and pepper. Shake to combine.
6. Drizzle a little dressing over the tomato mixture and set aside for 15 minutes.
7. After waiting 15 minutes, top lettuce with tomato mixture, then 1/2 an avocado per person, then tear 2 pieces of baby bocconcini over each serve. Drizzle with dressing to taste.


Healthy and Filling Salad

Enjoy!
Ella xx

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

One Pot Lamb and Spinach

One Pot Lamb and Spinach
Some weeknights call for a one pot meal that requires a minimum and chopping and slicing and generally allows you to be lazy but get great results.

One of my fallbacks is a dish that I learnt from Mr Canbella's mother that was originally called Shepard's Spinach. It's easy, delicious and pretty wholesome. It's not a light dish, speaking in terms of fat and calories, so it pays to keep portion size small to moderate.

I've made a few ingredient swaps to suit our tastes and what we keep in the pantry, but it's basically the same dish. I like to serve it with a homemade white bean and garlic dip to add a different temperature and texture to the dish.

One Pot Lamb and Spinach
Serves 4


20g Olive Oil Nuttelex
20ml Olive Oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 brown onion, diced
1 red onion, diced
2 Tbs Morroccan seasoning mix
1 Tbs low sugar ketchup
1/2 cup tomato juice from canned cherry tomatoes
250g lamb mince
120g short grain rice
250ml water or beef stock
Zest of one lemon
1 packet baby spinach
Lemon wedges to serve
4 Tbs parsley, to serve

White bean and garlic dip ingredients
1 can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly

2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup lemon juice
2 tsp morroccan seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

Method
1. In a large pot (I used our french oven), heat olive oil and saute onions and garlic on a low heat.
One Pot Lamb and Spinach
2. When soft and translucent, add seasoning mix, ketchup and tomato juice. Stir to combine.
One Pot Lamb and Spinach
3. Turn up heat and add lamb mince. Use a wooden spoon to stir and break up the mince, ensuring no lumps form.
One Pot Lamb and Spinach
4. When lamb mince is browned, add rice and cook for 1 - 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
5. Add water or stock and cover, gently simmering for 20 - 30 minutes until rice is cooked and mixture thickens.
6. Meanwhile, put all ingredients for white bean dip into a food processor and pulse until texture is smooth. Spoon into a serving bowl.
One Pot Lamb and Spinach

7. Once meat and rice have thickened, add lemon zest and spinach and stir through mixture.

One Pot Lamb and Spinach

8. Remove from heat and serve with chopped parsley, lemon wedge and a dollop of white bean and garlic dip.


One Pot Lamb and Spinach

Enjoy!
Ella xx


Monday, November 26, 2012

Keeping it light and colourful


Salmon with Tri-Colour Salad and Soba Noodles

I've been enjoying including more seafood and vegetables in my evening meals. I try to include oily fish in my diet regularly due to the health benefits of Omega3 oils, which I was reminded of this week when I heard a story on Radio National You can listen to the story here, about how Omega3 has been linked to muscle regeneration in older people. Of course, I'm not yet a senior citizen, but the news seems to be all good for Omega 3.

We had some excess cucumber and red cabbage in the fridge this week so I grabbed some salmon and came up with this healthy salad.


Salmon with Tri-Colour Salad and Soba Noodles, IngredientsSalmon with Tri-Colour Salad and Soba Noodles
Serves 2

Ingredients
Dressing
2 Tbs sesame seeds
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 Tbs sesame oil
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs sushi vinegar
1 Tbs light olive oil
1 Tbs lemon juice

1 fillet of Salmon, skin on
1 cucumber
1 carrot
1/8 red cabbage
2 Tbs chopped coriander (cilantro)
1/3 packet soba noodles



Method
1. Crush garlic into a small glass joug or bowl. Toast sesame seeds in a small pan. Add toasted sesame seeds to garlic, and then add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Set aside.
2. Slice salmon fillet in half lengthwise, place in a bowl and cover with 1 Tbs of dressing. Set aside to marinate for 10 minutes.
Peel cucumber and carrot.
Use a peeler to make long strips of cucumber.
Use a julienne peeler to make strips of carrot.
Thinly slice cabbage.
Finely chop coriander (cilantro).
Cook soba noodles according to directions, rinse briefly under cold water. Place in a bowl and coat with 2 Tbs dressing.
Grill salmon on a barbecue skin side down until cooked to your liking. I use a Weber Baby-Q and cooked my salmon on a medium heat for about 15 minutes with the hood down.
Remove the salmon from the barbecue by sliding a spatula between the skin and the fish fillet and removing the fillet.
Serve by layering noodles, salad vegetables and fish and then drizzling with dressing and sprinkling with coriander.
Salmon with Tri-Colour Salad and Soba Noodles

We made enough noodles and vegetables for 4 people and packed the leftovers for lunches for the next day. it was a delicious cold salad lunch that I would prepare on it's own for lunches in the future, and it looked great packed in the lunch boxes!

Salmon with Tri-Colour Salad and Soba Noodles, Lunchbox

Enjoy!
Ella xx

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chocolate Coconut Brownies with Fluffy Maple Topping

Chocolate Coconut Brownies with Fluffy Maple Topping

This week's adventure in baking is Chocolate Coconut Brownies with Fluffy Maple Topping.

As I've mentioned in previous baking posts, I enjoy experimenting with different ingredients, especially those that enhance the healthiness of my baked goods.

This week I decided to make brownies and include one of my favourite ingredients, coconut oil. Coconut oil is apparently full of health benefits, I definitely find that it fills me up and gives an energy boost that is felt pretty soon after consuming. I usually include coconut oil in my breakfast smoothies during summer.

Chocolate Coconut Brownies with Fluffy Maple Topping

Chocolate Coconut Brownies with Fluffy Maple Topping

Brownie Ingredients
1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil
1/4 cup Nuttelex olive oil spread
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 Natvia for Baking
4 eggs
1 small tub SPC apple puree
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup almonds

Topping Ingredients
1/2 cup marshmallow fluff
1/4 cup Nuttelex Olive Oil spread
3/4 cup icing sugar
2 Tbs maple syrup

Method
1. Preheat oven to 170 celcius (fan forced)
2. In a large glass bowl melt coconut oil and Nuttelex in the microwave.
3. Add cocoa, sugar and Natvia and use a whisk to combine.
4. Add eggs, apple puree and vanilla and whisk to combine.
5. Sift in flour and whisk to combine.
6. Add chocolate chips and almonds and stir to combine.
7. Pour into a greased square brownie tin (about 20cm square).
8. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cooked to your liking (I  like my brownies a little gooey in the middle)
9. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes in tin before turning onto a wooden board.
10. Cut into 25 even squares.



Chocolate Coconut Brownies with Fluffy Maple Topping

11. To make topping, use electric beaters to beat together all four ingredients until light and fluffy.
12. Serve brownies with a dollop of topping.

Chocolate Coconut Brownies with Fluffy Maple Topping

Enjoy!
Ella xx




Date Night Outfit

Mineral water and menu, Ox Restaurant
This year has been very hectic. With a move to a new city and a new job with many responsibilities I have been on the go all the time. I believe that it is important to make sure that you make time to enjoy special occasions with your loved ones, especially when you are really busy.

This weekend I drove up to Sydney to see the amazing graduation show for Ev+Bow on Friday night. I got to reconnect with my dancing buddies and see the amazing talents of some of my ex-students. It was uplifting and inspiring. But it meant a night away from home.

Date Night Outfit, Hair and Makeup

So, I decided to make Saturday night special by booking dinner at a nice restaurant and planning a "date night". I really enjoy the conversation and laughs I always have with Mr Canbella when we take time out to have a special meal together.

Date Night OutfitDate Night Outfit























Date nights also mean a great reason to make an effort with your appearance and outfit. I did so, wearing a brand spanking new dress and actually blow-drying my hair for the occasion. I've been loving a smokey bronzy/browny eye for make-up lately so I went with this for the night out.

Date Night Outfit, Bellini Cocktail


To start, we ordered cocktails and I had one of my favourites, a bellini. As you can see, I was very pleased with it. We had so much to talk about and it was great to spend a night out feeling glamourous together. To anyone living or visiting the nation's capital, I highly recommend Ox Eatery for a very pleasant night out!

Ox Eatery, Bellini Cocktail

After dinner we headed home and watched another Bond movie on TV, in preparation for the release of Skyfall next week. It was a nice low-key end to the evening, especially after I had stuffed myself full of delicious goodies at dinner.

Date Night, On the couch

Hope you are enjoying your weekend!
Ella xx

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cupcake of the Week

Vanilla Apple Cupcakes with Musk Frosting


Most weeks I make cupcakes or brownies as a Monday treat for my colleagues. I usually try a brand new recipe which utilises various baking treats and ingredient swaps to reduce the saturated fat and sugar. I can't remember exactly what possessed me the first time I was crazy enough to think Sunday night experimental baking was a bright idea, but now it has become a tradition and I must oblige the hungry masses.

Or else.

Seriously, a few weeks ago I didn't make cupcakes for the Monday, and by Friday, my desk looked like this:

iMac covered in PostIts

So, this week my chosen experimental cupcake recipe goes like this. (I didn't try to make the frosting healthy this week, it's actually pretty toxic, so avoid it if trying to be angelic.)

Vanilla Apple Cupcakes with Musk Frosting
Makes 16 cupcakes

Cakes
1/4 cup Nuttelex Olive Oil Spread
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Natvia for Baking
2 large eggs
3/4 cup fat free plain Chobani yoghurt
1 tub SPC apple puree
2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp bi-carb soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbs vanilla essence
1/4 cup water

Frosting
1/2 tub Betty crocker Vanilla frosting
1/2 tsp rose pink food colouring
1 Tbs rose water essence
3/4 cup soft icing mixture

Musk stick lollies (candy) to decorate

Cakes
1. Pre-heat oven to 180C
2. Place 16 cupcake patty pans (the cardboard kind) on a baking tray.
3. In a large glass bowl use a mixmaster or electric beaters to beat Nuttelex, brown sugar and natvia together.
4. Add eggs, Chobani and apple puree and beat to combine.
5. Sift flour, bi-carb soda and baking powder together into the bowl. Use the beaters to mix together a little while they are turned off, then turn on and beat together until smooth.
6. Add vanilla essence and water and beat again. NOTE: You need to judge how much water to add yourself. I only added a 1/4 cup and I had a thickish mixture for cake. It should hold together well so you can scoop it out easily to add to the patty pans.
7. Use two dessert spoons to spoon mixture until cupcake patty pans until they are 3/4 full.
8. Bake in the oven for around 15 minutes, until the cakes spring bake when touched and a skewer comes out clean or with a few crumby bits.
9. Cool on tray for 5 minutes. Transfer to an oven rack and allow to cool completely.

Vanilla Apple Cupcakes
Frosting
1. In a mixing bowl or mixmaster combine frosting, colouring, essence and icing mixture. Use electric beaters to beat together to a smooth, thick consistency.
Musk Frosting into Piping Bag
2. Place a piping bag with a large tip in a glass or mug and stretch bag out over the edge of the glass. Fill bag with frosting. Refrigerate until needed.
Musk Frosting into Piping Bag

To Decorate
1. Remove frosting bag from fridge for about 10-15minutes.
2. Slice musk sticks into small pieces.
3. Optional: Use a small serrated knife ( a tomato knife) to cut the domed tops off the cakes to make an even surface for piping the frosting.

Vanilla Apple Cupcakes, trimming tops
4. Pipe swirls of frosting onto cake from the centre outwards in a circular motion.

Decorating Vanilla Apple Cupcakes with Musk Frosting
5. Add pieces of musk sticks to finish.

Vanilla Apple Cupcakes with Musk Frosting

Enjoy!
Ella xx




Monday, November 19, 2012

Panzanella for Canbella!


Easy and Healthy Panzanella Salad Recipe


The weather is starting to warm up and the sun is shining for longer each day. With the change in weather comes a change in appetite. We have been craving light and fresh flavours for our nightly meals. Today we decided to make a panzanella salad, which left us sated and happy.

Panzanella Salad 
Adapted from Jamie Oliver's Italy
(Serves 4)

Ingredients
Easy and Healthy Panzanella Salad Recipe1 kilo of tomatoes - (I used 1 small punnet grape tomatoes, 1 small punnet grape kumato tomatoes and 4 roma tomatoes, heritage tomatoes would be amazing in this dish)
1 red onion
150 grams buffalo mozzarella or bocconcini cheese
1/2 cup roughly chopped basil
1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley
1/2 cup roughly chopped mint
1 yellow capsicum
1 red capsicum
3 cloves of garlic
2 Tbs baby capers
2 Tbs Red Wine vinegar
10 Tbs Olive oil
3 ciabatta bread rolls

Method
1. Chop the tomatoes into 2cm cubes, if using grape tomatoes, halve them.
2. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper, drain in a sieve over a bowl. Reserve the liquid for your dressing.
3. Place drained tomatoes to a large mixing bowl.
4. Thinly slice the onion and add to the drained tomatoes.
5. Tear the cheese into 2cm pieces and add to the tomatoes.
6. Add chopped herbs to the tomato mixture, leaving some aside for garnishing.

Chopped fresh herbs
7. Char grill the capsicums on a barbeque or grill.
8. Cool the capsicums, then peel the skin off and slices into ribbons. Add to the tomato mixture.
Easy and Healthy Panzanella Salad Recipe

9. Quickly roast the garllic cloves on the barbeque or grill. Use a garlic crusher to extract the roasted garlic from the cloves. Place in a jar.
10. Add baby capers, vinegar, olive oil and reserved juices from drained tomatoes to the jar. Add salt and pepper to taste, secure lid and shake to combine.

Easy and Healthy Panzanella Salad Recipe Dressing in a Jar
11. Tear bread rolls into 3cm pieces and arrange in a single layer on a baking tray. Dry in a low oven for 5 - 10 minutes. Don' t allow the bread to toast, it should just be slightly dried out.

Easy and Healthy Panzanella Salad Recipe Ciabatta Bread
12. Place bread on serving plates. Drizzle with dressing and leave for 5 minutes.
13. Top with tomato, capsicum and cheese mixture. Add additional dressing and garnish with herbs.

Easy and Healthy Panzanella Salad Recipe

Wine Notes
We enjoyed some Chateau Tanunda Eden Valley Riesling with our salad and it's light flavour complemented the salad beautifully.

Chateau Tanunda Eden Valley Riesling


Enjoy!
Ella xx




Sunday, November 18, 2012

Haul and Review - Wholesale-dress.net

wholesale-dress.net haul packaging
Confession: I love online shopping. I love being able to dispassionately look at all my options from the comfort of my wardrobe and then leave the cart for a couple of days before purchasing only those items that I must have. I love ASOS, Shopbop, Topshop, CottonOn and the one that got me started, Forever21.

So now that you know my dirty little secret I can share my latest adventure in online shopping. I read about online wholesalers on a few blogs and was intrigued. I then went and watched some youtube haul videos to see what people had to say.

There are a great variety of asian wholesale clothing sites to choose from. Some are much more reputable and offer really great quality items. Others... not so much.

For my first foray into asian wholesale shopping I went with one of the more "risky" stores: wholesale-dress.net. I don't like to do things by halves, so I ordered heaps of stuff, risking it all being crap. Insert nervous laugh here.

So my order went through ok. A couple of the things I ordered were out of stock (more on this later) so the amount that I payed for the items and shipping for them was credited to my store account.

My order arrived about 3 or 4 days after the site said it was shipped, which was fine by me. It was shipped and delivered by Fedex.

This is what the box looked like when it arrived.

wholesale-dress.net haul packaging

All of the items were packed into separate sealed bags inside the box. 

wholesale-dress.net haul packaging

The first packet that I opened contained these gorgeous peep toe heels. They look exactly like the photo from the site. I normally wear a size 38, but I ordered up a size to a 39 and these fit perfectly. They are also really comfortable. Win!
wholesale-dress.net haul peep toe aqua sandals

The next item was this cool skull decorated bag. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed at first because the straps weren't attached and they were super hard and frustrating to attach AND one of the little skull beads fell off straight away. But I've since worn the bag out a few times and received compliments, so = win!
wholesale-dress.net haul  black skull handbag

This military coat was the item that really pushed me over the line in ordering, I've been looking for one with leather sleeves for awhile. The PU used for the "leather" sleeves of this jacket is quite thick and comfortable. I ordered a large (I'm an 8 - 10 or small in Australian clothing) and it fits ok, but I probably could've gone with a medium. Overall I'm very happy with this item.
wholesale-dress.net haul military jacket with leather sleeves

This spotted dress is really cute and not too short. I order a large, but as with the jacket I probably should have gone with a medium.
wholesale-dress.net haul navy and white polka dot dress

This t-shirt was really cheap ($6 maybe?) and I'm rather happy with it. It has a nice retro feel and the fabric is thick and durable.
wholesale-dress.net haul retro white t-shirt

I also ordered two pairs of tracksuit pants, a skull print t-shirt, a black top with crochet trim and a grey marle jacket. The pants are both size large and fit great. The tops were free size and are great as well.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, some of the items I ordered were out of stock. The site has really quick turnover of items and anything that's been up for more than a few days or a week might be "out of stock" but you won't know until after you order. My advice is: Don't order anything that has a stock amount of less than 30 or so. Ideally, only order items that are in the first few pages of the new arrivals and say that they have stocks of 100 or more.

So, my final verdict is that wholesale-dress.net is a great site to order from if you need some inexpensive items to bulk out your wardrobe, but don't expect quality above that of a really basic high street store like H&M, Valleygirl or SES. The quality is not as high as Zara, Topshop or Sportsgirl, but neither are the prices! You get what you pay for.

Good Luck and Happy Shopping!
Ella xx