Dippy, but not hippy.

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Spinach Yoghurt Dip 1Spinach Dip Side On

I’ve often thought the key to maintaining a healthy weight is to find snacks that won’t pile on the pounds. Things like humus, olives, dark chocolate, cheese and crusty bread all taste great but are way too calorie intensive. So, after trying Karen Martini’s low-fat beetroot dip last week, I couldn’t wait to get into her silverbeet, spinach, yoghurt and pinenut one. Again, it was really easy to create a low fat version and a guilt free way of getting a few more greens.

I also really like her formula of combining equal quantities of 1% fat prebiotic yoghurt with your favourite combination of pureed vegetables, herbs and spices. It’s opened up a whole new world on the type of dips I can create. Next time I might try rocket, spinach, basil, mint and parsley together with a bit of lemon juice and garlic. Or, if I’m feeling a bit more adventurous, roasted carrot with onion, garlic, cumin, coriander and a squeeze of lemon. Here’s Karen’s recipe if you’d like to try.

Ingredients
80ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra
(I just used a spray of olive oil in the pan. If it gets too dry add a little water.)
5 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 leek, finely sliced
1 bunch silverbeet, trimmed of ¾ of the stalk and finely chopped
3 handfuls baby spinach
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
250g thick plain yoghurt (I used 1% fat probiotic Greek.)
80g pinenuts, toasted briefly in a dry frypan
(I omitted these from the dip and just scattered a few on top.)
1 lemon

Method
In a wide-based pot, add 80ml of oil and cook the garlic until fragrant. Add the leek and cook for five minutes. Add the silverbeet and cook for another 10 minutes over low heat with the lid on, stirring through every now and then.
Add the spinach, cumin and paprika and, if the pot is too dry, a splash of water. Cook for another five minutes, season and set aside to cool.
If the greens are quite wet, drain off a little liquid, then puree with the yoghurt and half the pinenuts until you have a smooth paste. Spread on to your serving plate, squeeze over some lemon, scatter over the remaining pinenuts, dress with a little oil and serve with flatbread.

Today’s Workout

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Wednesday Workout

I really loved Maree’s workout today. Nice and interesting with all the TRX stuff.

Here are some demos for you.
Squat Thrusters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7ljnk8OS3M
TRX Squat Row http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QEfDANtMDA
Plyometric Lunges http://www.youtube.com
TRX Backward / Reverse Lunges http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tn68JwtRWzQ
Step Ups (Make sure you do this on both legs equally.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wg_-TYQhnWs
TRX Chest Press http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vPgHzuRI7I
Lateral Lunge http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kg0cMxAbKV8
Dead Lift http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Q_GnXm7LbI
Iron Cross http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiVbKEkWbI8/watch?v=WJR3JTtmPTw
TRX Row http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8d2pFLDkEs
Butt Kicks http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IwoJfpg4Dk
TRX Squat Row http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0UkjEG9tX0
Squat Jumps http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVaEhXotL7M

Silverbeet, Zucchini and Herb Omelette with Manuka Smoked Eggs

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FrittataEggsClose Up

It was perfect weather for the Taste of Auckland festival over the weekend. My friends and I had a great day deciding which restaurant’s food we were going to try next. So much so we needed a lie down by the end of it.

On one of our walks around the various stalls we came across some manuka smoked eggs. I had tried these a couple of years ago but have found them really hard to get hold of since. Naturally, I bought 2 boxes and started using them immediately.

As they’re cold smoked you can use them as you would a normal egg to add a subtle manuka flavour to your egg repertoire. And for me, they’re like a little part of the festival I can enjoy even after it’s over.

The following recipe is adapted from a Neil Perry Frittata I saw in the Herald a few years ago.

Ingredients
2 manuka smoked eggs, lightly beaten (or regular if you can’t find them)
1 tbsp chopped parsley leaves
1 tbsp chopped chives
salt and pepper
1 zucchini, thinly sliced lengthways
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
1 tbsp thyme, finely chopped
3-4 silverbeet leaves, sliced into ribbons
pecorino or parmesan or a bit of both

Method
Whisk the eggs, then add the parsley, chives, salt and pepper. I like to let the eggs come to room temperature before I cook them. While that’s happening, cook the zucchini slices in a pan with a spray of canola oil to prevent sticking. Remove when they’re lightly golden and set aside.

Then, spray the pan with canola oil again and add the garlic, rosemary and thyme. Stir until fragrant then add the silverbeet. Keep stirring until it has wilted to your liking.

Spray an omelette pan with canola oil and add the egg mix. Gently pull the edges of the egg away from the sides as it cooks and redistribute the raw egg around the pan until it begins to set.

Quickly place a few of the zucchini slices and some of the silverbeet over the eggs and wait for the mixture to set. This won’t take long at all. Grate a little pecorino or parmesan (or both) over the top and a little black pepper if you like too.

You will have left over zucchini and silverbeet but that’s the way I like it. It’s great to have some in the fridge so you can easily whip up another when you get home from the gym.

Workout of the Day

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Workout of the Day

This was a nice mix of cardio and strength training today.

Here are some demos if you need them.
Squat Thrusters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7ljnk8OS3M
Four Point Push-Up http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXEHGJMc_Zg
Plyometric Lunges http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJR3JTtmPTw
Burpees http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burpee_%28exercise%29
Reverse Crunch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVVlXA0dqGg
Pike Crunches https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzapqRDI6cg
Leg Lifts http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oICXW-Xs1LE
Hover http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRXKg21pE-4
Bicycle Crunches http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FGilxCbdz8

A Yummy and Healthy Snack. It’s Possible.

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Beetroot Dip HeroPommegranate MintBeetroot Dip Support

I’m always looking for healthy snacks as the immediate options are so lacklustre. Carrot stick anyone? So, I was really thrilled when I found Karen Martini’s recipe for roasted beetroot, cinnamon and pomegranate dip. It was really easy to create a low-fat version and whether you eat it on the recommended flat bread or a rice cracker it tastes fab. A word of warning though, don’t wear a white t-shirt when you make it.

Ingredients
900g medium beetroot, washed well, trimmed and cut in sixths
Extra-virgin olive oil (I just used a spray.)
Salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra
1 tsp ground allspice
½ tsp chilli powder (or to taste)
300g thick plain yoghurt (I used 1%fat greek, tasted great.)
100ml pomegranate molasses
100g feta
2 handfuls pomegranate seeds
1 handful mint leaves

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced or 200C conventional.
2. Place the beetroot pieces into a roasting dish, drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper, add the cinnamon and allspice and toss through to evenly coat. Add a splash of water to the dish, cover with baking paper and foil and roast for one hour.
3. After an hour, remove the paper and foil and bake for about another 15 minutes. The beetroot should be tender and starting to caramelise. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
4. Once cooled, puree the beetroot with the chilli powder until smooth. Add the yoghurt and pomegranate molasses and process until combined. Adjust the seasoning, then spread on to a serving plate, crumble over some feta, sprinkle a little cinnamon, scatter over the pomegranate seeds and mint and serve with flat bread.

Makes a large batch, I made half this quantity.

Create a Healing Garden in Seven Steps.

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The third garden on my walking tour featured plantings that held productive and medicinal qualities. This beautiful parterre garden became even more appealing when I discovered plants like coriander, mint, thyme, rosemary, lavender and artichokes arranged with the love and care usually reserved for roses and other purely ornamental plants.

People have long planted medicinal gardens full of herbs and other health giving plants but there is some research to indicate the medicinal benefits of a garden don’t just stop there.

A 1984 study by environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich was able to show that gazing at a garden can sometimes speed healing from surgery, infections and other conditions. His team, who monitored patients recovering from surgery, noticed that those with bedside windows looking out on to leafy trees healed on average a day faster and needed less medication than those who did not.

Clare Cooper Marcus, Professor Emerita, Departments of Architecture and Landscape Architecture also says there’s good evidence a well-designed garden can reduce your levels of pain and stress. By doing that, it can help boost your immune system in ways that allow your body and other treatments to heal you. She recommends a ratio of at least 7:3 of greenery to hard surfaces to be the most effective.

According to Cooper Marcus, aside from the many herbs and vegetables available for planting, the healing powers of a garden can be intensified by keeping the following things in mind.

1. Keep it green. Lush, layered landscapes with trees, flowers and shrubs of varying heights should take up to about 70% of the space with walkways and other static areas about 30%.
2. Keep it real. Abstract sculptures do not soothe people who are sick or worried.
(I’m not sure if I completely agree with this one. The artwork and sculpture I saw seemed to enhance a garden’s relaxing qualities.)
3. Keep it interesting. Mature trees that draw birds and chairs that can be moved to facilitate private conversation promote greater interaction.
4. Engage multiple senses. Gardens that can be seen, touched, smelled and listened to soothe best. Though strongly fragrant plants should be avoided.
5. Mind the walkways. Wide, meandering paths that are tinted to reduce glare allow people with low eyesight to enjoy the experience more. Also, watch paving to avoid anything that might trip someone.
6. Water with care. While the sound of water can be relaxing, fountains that bear more resemblance to a dripping tap or urinal are not. Nor is the strong smell of algae.
7. Make entry easy. Gardens should not be too far away or behind heavy doors. While the sense of discovery can be a nice one you don’t want to have to work too hard to enjoy your garden.

For my part, anything that can help reduce stress has to be a good thing. I finished my walk feeling both energized and relaxed. Unusual to feel both at the same time.

For further reading on the studies mentioned please see scientificamerican.com.

Urban Oasis

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The second open garden on my self-directed walking tour of the Auckland Garden Design Festival. The owner explained that this garden is still a work in progress but they’re thrilled with the direction it’s taking. Much time had been spent moving excess soil from the site while still retaining the mature trees and palms already in place.

The circular theme that runs through their home is brought to the garden by a curved wooden deck and a large circular planter. While the idea that an outdoor room can be an extension of the home is echoed by a large artwork of blue flowers by Desna Whaanga-Schollumprovides.

I can’t wait to see how the garden progresses when they hold the festival again next year.

Click the link if you’d like more information on this garden. http://www.gardendesignfest.co.nz/garden22.html

Nature can Nurture

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On my Saturday morning walk, I took the opportunity to view some open gardens as part of the Auckland Garden Design Festival. The beautiful spaces inspired a feeling of peace and calm that grew with each one I saw. It made me wonder if there was any research about the de-stressing effect of gardens and other possible health benefits. Turns out there is.

An article from scientificamerican.com states, “Just three to five minutes spent looking at views dominated by trees, flowers or water can begin to reduce anger, anxiety and pain and to induce relaxation, according to various studies of healthy people that measured physiological changes in blood pressure, muscle tension, or heart and brain electrical activity…. Throughout human history, trees and water have signalled an oasis, and flowering plants have been a sign of possible food. Open views deter surprises by predators, and shaded alcoves offer a safe retreat….. Indeed, the benefits of seeing and being in nature are so powerful that even pictures of landscapes can soothe. “

Sounds more like common sense to me but, I’m glad scientists agree that looking at living things helps us feel more alive.

Click the link if you’d like to see more pics and details on this lovely garden. http://www.gardendesignfest.co.nz/garden23.html

Friday’s Workout

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Friday's Workout

This was nice to get in before the weekend.

Med Ball Slams http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huBClepn-jY
Med Ball Throw to a Friend http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6aC2o7204s
Frogger Kick with Med Ball Throw (Much easier to throw the ball to a friend than at the wall like this guy is doing.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZJEUSiGXy8
Push Up on Knees with Med Ball Throw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4jpgaiR-QY
Crunch with Med Ball Throw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGmpENLFXck
Med Ball Lateral LUnges http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6KRKSsTPIY
Grapevine (No Med Ball in this video but you get the idea.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sClnamZy5sQ
Forward Squat Jumps http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8llmPKafYyg
Crunches http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ev2HwPWwd-I
Flutter Kicks http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcXBNRua2eo
Iron Cross http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiVbKEkWbI8
Back Extensions https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrS8vOLpVfc