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 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!

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