• These days, life has slowed down a little and I don't have to suck down my caffeine as I powerwalk from meeting to meeting. So even though I was visiting the Di Bella Coffee drive through on Abbortsford Road in Bowen Hills, I decided to park the car and stop on in.

    Stopping in on the Di Bella Drive Through

    These days, life has slowed down a little and I don’t have to suck down my caffeine as I powerwalk from meeting to meeting. So even though I was visiting the Di Bella Coffee drive through on Abbortsford Road in Bowen Hills, I decided to park the car and stop on in.

  • Degraves Street rarely disappoints when one is in need of early morning nourishment and La Citta happened to be one of its earliest operators - a boon when you have a baby who wakes you up at 6am.

    La Citta on Degraves Street, Melbourne

    Degraves Street rarely disappoints when one is in need of early morning nourishment and La Citta happened to be one of its earliest operators – a boon when you have a baby who wakes you up at 6am.

  • King Arthur Cafe deserved at least three visits. Tucked off down Arthur Street (just off the much busier James Street), King Arthur Cafe is the latest offering from the same team behind the South Brisbane cafe Merriweather, so it's no surprise they have a similar ethos - local and sustainable.

    King Arthur Cafe

    King Arthur Cafe deserved at least three visits. Tucked off down Arthur Street (just off the much busier James Street), King Arthur Cafe is the latest offering from the same team behind the South Brisbane cafe Merriweather, so it’s no surprise they have a similar ethos – local and sustainable.

  • "Auntie Kim's is better." My dad sighed. Who on earth is Auntie Kim?! What my parents were referring to was Auntie Kim's Korean Restaurant in Singapore.

    Singapore: Auntie Kim’s Korean Restaurant

    “Auntie Kim’s is better.” My dad sighed. Who on earth is Auntie Kim?! What my parents were referring to was Auntie Kim’s Korean Restaurant in Singapore.

  • The Oslo harborside is one of the most picturesque parts of the city and taking advantage of the summer days, we had a seafood lunch at the Louise Restaurant & Bar to linger just a little bit longer and soak up the gorgeousness surrounding the water side.

    Oslo: Louise Restaurant & Bar

    The Oslo harborside is one of the most picturesque parts of the city and taking advantage of the summer days, we had a seafood lunch at the Louise Restaurant & Bar to linger just a little bit longer and soak up the gorgeousness surrounding the water side.

  • Despite how pricey I found Oslo compared to Australia, the SO insisted we have a nice dinner at a lovely restaurant, but seeing as Bubby could potentially become fussy, I was adamant we did not travel too far from the hotel. The SO had had drinks at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel's 34 Restaurant and Bar the night before and convinced me they would be perfect.

    Oslo: 34 Restaurant and Bar

    Despite how pricey I found Oslo compared to Australia, the SO insisted we have a nice dinner at a lovely restaurant, but seeing as Bubby could potentially become fussy, I was adamant we did not travel too far from the hotel. The SO had had drinks at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel’s 34 Restaurant and Bar the night before and convinced me they would be perfect.

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Foraging for nasturtiums

It’s taken a couple of goes, but I finally have several healthy thriving nasturtiums in the balcony garden. These allegedly grow easily and are often a popular first plant for kids, as their seeds are large enough for little fingers to handle, they have gorgeous blooms that range from fiery red to sunshine bright yellow, and everything about them is edible.

That’s right: they are edible.

Unfortunately my nasturtiums are only little (well, my balcony garden is quite little too), so I’ve just been adding their flowers to our salads and not doing much else with them.

However I recently bought a copy of The Weed Forager’s Handbook from Scrumptious Reads (a fantastic little bookstore in Brisbane if you love culinary books), and have been taking more notice of the plants as I admire larger gardens on our daily walks around the neighbourhood.

Foraging for nasturtium

Nasturtiums are quite popular in other gardens in our area, particularly as a sidewalk trim. After a particularly wet week, many grew to very lush proportions and I decided to do a little foraging from each cluster, all the while mindful not to ruin them by over picking or trespassing into properties. I took this photo of one growing against a house fence by the sidewalk after I had foraged – you cannot even tell where I picked from!

Following the basic principles of pesto making, I washed and blended the large mixing bowl of nasturtium leaves with garlic, toasted pine nuts and generous amounts of olive oil. But if you need a recipe, You Grow Girl has one that uses pepitas, but you could use just about any nut you like with pesto.

Foraging for nasturtium

Foraging for nasturtium: nasturtium pesto

Foraging for nasturtium: nasturtium pesto

But remember I said everything about nasturtiums are edible? Even their seed pods can be eaten, albeit with a little preparation.

The previously warm weather prompted a lot of blooming, and thus the production of seed pods. Most of these in my hand are from the balcony garden and I was careful to pick only the green soft ones to pickle.

Foraging for nasturtium: nasturtium pods

Nasturtium pods

I followed these directions to make the nasturtium capers and Garden Betty explains why you should soak the pods in brine first in her own version for nasturtium capers.

Foraging for nasturtium: nasturtium pods in brine

Nasturtium pods in brine

Foraging for nasturtium

Foraging for nasturtium: nasturtium pesto and capers

Foraging for nasturtium

Wholemeal penne with nasturtium pesto, wilted spinach and homemade labneh

Of course the best part is reaping the rewards of your labours and tucking into it. Here I made a simple pasta with the nasturtium pesto using wholemeal penne, fresh spinach and my homemade labneh. It is healthy, fresh and went down a treat.

Now to await the next flowering bout and think about making nasturtium flower butter!

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Stopping in on the Di Bella Drive Through

Disclaimer: I was invited to Di Bella Coffee and had my visit subsidised by Search Factory

 

I am a bit of a slut when it comes to coffee – I’ll drink just about any brand, as long as it’s available and close at hand. When I was working at a university, my coffee was from Merlo. When I worked in the city, it might have been Campos, Toby’s Estate and Di Bella Coffee. It was always ‘one regular skinny latte takeaway for Melissa, thanks’ and off I go.

These days, life has slowed down a little and I don’t have to suck down my caffeine as I powerwalk from meeting to meeting. So even though I was visiting the Di Bella Coffee drive through on Abbortsford Road in Bowen Hills, I decided to park the car and stop on in.

Di Bella Coffee Drive Through

Di Bella Coffee Drive Through

Stopping in on the Di Bella Coffee Drive Through turned out to be a good idea. They were doing a brisk morning trade – apparently there were plenty of customers needing quick takeaway coffees enroute to wherever their mornings were taking them. Walking through the door meant there was plenty of parking, there wasn’t a line and they have quite a pleasant covered outdoor seating area.

Di Bella Coffee Drive Through

Di Bella Coffee Drive Through

Di Bella Coffee Drive Through

Breakfast sesame bagel with bacon, spinach, egg and Hollandaise

The breakfast menu at the drive through was a little limited – there was a small selection of sweets and wraps in the fridge. However since they recently added breakfast bagels, I had to try one and it was lovely.

The bacon was crisp and salty (limp bacon is a tragedy), while the rich silky Hollandaise oozed over the egg. The only downside was the staffer had taken it straight out of the fridge cabinet and toasted it without microwaving it, resulting in the centre still being cold.

That said, my skinny latte was good and reasonably priced at $3.50 for a regular size.

Di Bella Coffee Drive Through

The real fun for me was perusing the Di Bella Coffee coffee beans one can purchase by weight. There were four on offer: Espresso, Felici, Modena and Premium. Smelling each of them was almost as addictive as drinking the stuff! Each could be purchased in smaller 250gm, 500gm bags or up to 1kg or 3kg. That’s a lot of coffee!

Di Bella Coffee Drive Through

Eco-conscious coffee drinkers might be interested to know that Di Bella Coffee‘s Crop to Cup Program makes them the only coffee company in Australia to source 100% of its beans directly from the farmer. It must be a lot of hard work liaising with farmers directly around the world, but it makes for a more consistent product.

Di Bella Coffee Drive Through

I picked up a 250gm bag of Di Bella Coffee‘s Felici blend, which is said to offer “a smooth and rounded profile that features cacao and rich dark chocolate aromas complemented by luscious chocolate flavours and a subtle acidity that is sure to leave you smiling”.

Di Bella Coffee Drive Through

And if you have a sweet tooth, they also have chocolate covered coffee beans in both milk and dark chocolate – my favorite!

 

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Disclaimer: I was invited to Di Bella Coffee and had my visit subsidised by Search Factory

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Making my own labneh

“Omelette du fromage!” – Dexter’s Laboratory

I have a thing for all things cheese. Cow, goat, sheep… it doesn’t matter – fromage is my kryptonite. Yes, even the fast-food version of powdery parmesan out of a Kraft shaker tin.

And to prove my case, allow me to present the following evidence:

  • I would choose a cheese platter over a sweet dessert any day.
  • Cheese alley is my favourite section at the annual Good Food and Wine Show (I was heartbroken when I went while pregnant and had to forgo all the soft cheeses).
  • When we couchsurfed in Paris, I asked my host to take me to a fromagerie (he did and I thought I had died and gone to heaven).

I even made feta with a Mad Millie kit some years ago. While it was fun, making feta at home was a little more nerve wrecking and tedious than I am willing to do on a regular basis.

But while browsing Pinterest, I discovered a recipe for labneh, the soft fresh cheese that is a regular feature in Middle Eastern cuisine. The recipe also called for nothing more complicated than yoghurt, salt, a piece of mueslin/cheese cloth, a sieve, bowl, olive oil and whatever aromatics you have on hand – all items already familiar residents in our kitchen. And of course, time.

Two days later, I am making my own labneh. My hands were covered in a mild white creamy coating as I rolled the soft cheese into balls to marinate in a recycled jar with olive oil, green peppercorns and fresh rosemary from the balcony garden. What I’ve already licked off my fingers tastes amazing and I cannot wait to savour the fruit of my very meagre labour in another few days.

Did I mention I love cheese?

Making labneh

Making labneh

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La Citta on Degraves Street, Melbourne

“What do you think about going to Melbourne for the weekend?”

“What? What weekend?”, I couldn’t even look up at the SO as I struggled with the tangle of baby limbs.

Turned out the SO had managed to secure tickets to a conference in Melbourne and he wasn’t about to leave me alone with the baby for the weekend.

Fast forward into August and we find ourselves in chilly Melbourne on a Saturday morning, hunting for breakfast. Degraves Street rarely disappoints when one is in need of early morning nourishment and La Citta happened to be one of its earliest operators – a boon when you have a baby who wakes you up at 6am.

La Citta

La Citta

La Citta

We quickly ducked into its warmth and ordered breakfast. Would it be their porridge with apple cinnamon and almond flakes, or maybe the sweet corn and avocado salsa with poached eggs and Istra bacon on sourdough? I was even tempted by their ricotta hotcakes with banana and maple syrup.

Instead the scrambled eggs won out. I love that La Citta weren’t afraid to add a little bit of heat to what most establishments might normally leave quite bland. It made for a perfect comforting start to our weekend stay in Melbourne.

La Citta

Spanish style scrambled eggs with parsley, tomato, chorizo and chilli on sourdough. AUD$17.5

La Citta

Scrambled eggs with chilli, rocket, parmesan & Jamon on sourdough. AUD$18.50

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Sweet Potato Brownies – a healthy sweet treat

My mother often proudly claims that she never raised her children to be candy munchers or soda guzzlers. However the flipside is my belief that there’s no such thing as a healthy sweet treat. ‘Healthy’ and ‘sweet treat’ are not usually bed fellows.

Therefore when I was pregnant with gestational diabetes, I simply abstained from every treat imaginable. It wasn’t a great experience, staring and drooling while other people waved scones dripping in jam, thick caramel slices and wedges of fluffy cream cakes under my nose.

If only I had learnt how to make sweet potato brownies then!

Sweet potato browniesSweet potatoes are considered a superfood for diabetics, and have been shown to stabilise blood-sugar levels by lowering insulin resistance. They also contain a high amount of fibre, which helps to reduce levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol in the body. Doesn’t that sound super healthy?

And you might frown on chocolate in a diabetic’s diet, but as with everything, chocolate can be consumed in moderation. In fact, a study indicates dark chocolate improves insulin sensitivity. Choose high quality dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa, as they contain less sugar than milk chocolate.

Sweet potato also make an incredibly moist brownie and this recipe is also vegan friendly, dairy and gluten free.

Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Brownies

Sweet Potato Brownies

Ingredients

  • 600g sweet potato
  • 14 Medjool dates, pits removed
  • 100g flaxseed meal
  • 100g rice flour
  • 6 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 1 cup dark chocolate
  • 3 tbsp worth sugar of your chosen sweetener (I used stevia)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 31x20cm baking pan with baking paper.
  2. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into small chunks. Place into a microwave safe bowl with a splash of water and cover with clingwrap. Microwave on high for 10 minutes. Drain and mash the sweet potato.
  3. Place the dates to a food processor and pulse until it is as smooth as possible. Mix into the sweet potato mash.
  4. In a small bowl melt the chocolate in the hot water before adding the sweetener and vanilla extract. Mix well.
  5. Add the chocolate with the sweet potato/dates puree. Stir well.
  6. Add the rice flour, flaxseed meal, cocoa powder and salt. Mix well.
  7. Spread the batter in the baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes away with just a few moist crumbs. Allow it cool completely before cutting into 16 pieces.
http://www.melissaloh.com/2015/08/06/sweet-potato-brownies-a-healthy-sweet-treat/

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