Saturday, November 26, 2016

Asparagus.. and Baked Asparagus

Hello, blog readers! How are you all doing? I've finally completed a video AND a short blog, all about... asparagus.<3

It’s Asparagus season!  In New Zealand this spiky, green vege is available from approximately late September through to the new year, causing a frenzy of asparagus-lover staples such as asparagus rolls and asparagus quiche.

Here are a few nutritional facts about asparagus:

- Green Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) has quite a high metabolic rate and doesn’t store as well as other vegetables. It is best to consume asparagus within 48 hours of purchasing or harvesting it, but you can slow down the inevitable wrinkliness by wrapping the spears in a damp teatowel.

- Asparagus is famous for making your urine smell sulphurous. This problem has been perplexing humans since at least the days of Proust, although he seems to have enjoyed the effect, reporting poetically that asaparagus consumption “transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume”.  Ok, then..

- Science is not sure why some people experience the ‘smelly pee’ phenomenon and some do not. It is most likely genetic variation in ability to enzymatically produce the odourous metabolite, combined with individually differing levels in ability to perceive smells..

- Like all veges, green asparagus contains compounds such as polyphenols, amino acids, organic acids and peptides which have known health- promoting effects. Bioactive substances in asparagus have been studied for their cholesterol-lowering, liver and kidney protective, blood-pressure lowering, anti-diabetic and anti-cancer effects.. It is anti-inflammatory and has antioxidant activity.

- Asparagus contains the fructan inulin, which is a prebiotic fibre that contributes to a healthy digestive system and feeds the ‘good bacteria’ in our gut.

- One cup of asparagus spears provides 100% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin K and 70% of the RDI for folate. It also contains an array of B vitamins (B1, B2, B3 and B6) and is quite decent for  protein at about 4 grams per cup.

But most importantly, asparagus is delicious. A really simple and impressive dish is baked asparagus. The short video at the top of this post shows my version. I've been asked for this recipe soooo many times, so here it is, forever on Youtube. :) Let me know if you give it a try.


  1. Pelchat, M. L., Bykowski, C., Duke, F. F., & Reed, D. R. (2011). Excretion and perception of a characteristic odor in urine after asparagus ingestion: A psychophysical and genetic study. Chemical Senses, 36(1), 9–17. doi:10.1093/chemse/bjq081
  2. Jiménez-Sánchez, C., Lozano-Sánchez, J., Rodríguez-Pérez, C., Segura-Carretero, A., & Fernández-Gutiérrez, A. (2016). Comprehensive, untargeted, and qualitative RP-HPLC-ESI-QTOF/MS2 metabolite profiling of green asparagus (Asparagus officinalis). Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 46, 78–87. doi:10.1016/j.jfca.2015.11.004

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Vietnam #4 Hoi An

Well, these are taking a while to get through, and I would honestly not blame you if you've died of boredom and abandoned me.

I have some foodie videos in the works though, so please stick around and we'll be back to regular programming soon.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Vietnam #3


Well, I've been back in NZ for a couple of weeks now, but have been suffering a little with a cold/flu type thing!  Not only was this really annoying, but I couldn't record any video narration.

Here is day 3 of our Vietnam trip. There are some food pics!  I hope you are enjoying these. I'm really doing them for myself, as a way to learn video editing, and put together a video record that will be fun to look back on later.  I'm thinking of investing in Adobe Premiere Pro for these videos and nutrition-related projects I have coming up.  Do any of you use it?  Is it worth the $$?

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Vietnam Day 2: Reunification Palace

Vietnam #1

Hello blog readers and Sana customers!

As you may know, we are currently in Vietnam on a short break. I'm slowly putting together some videos of our adventures. Here's the first one. :)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Berry Whip Chia Puddings

Hello Readers! How are things? All good around here, my research is underway, work is keeping me on my toes and sometimes, don't you just need something yummy to look forward to after dinner?

Also good as a snack.. or for breakfast.. do it your way.

Photogeek details: taken in complete darkness with one constant side light (handheld)

Berry Whip Chia Puddings
Makes 3

  • 1 Banana
  • 1 Cup of berries (fresh or thawed frozen)
  • 1 Can of coconut milk (I used Ayam 270ml. IMO this is the very best, just the right consistency)
  • 1 Cup of chia seeds (like these awesome ones)
  • 2 Tbsp liquid sweetener. I used rice malt syrup, as it is not toooo sweet
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • Pinch of salt


Whip the banana and berries in the Food Processor, until smooth.

Add the coconut cream, sweetener, spice and salt, and combine it all. The cardamom gives it that 'something extra/unusual' that makes a dessert ultra special.

Add the chia seeds and stir them through. You can use the processor but I prefer my chia seeds mostly intact and my processor is a seed munching beast.

Divide into three jars, and put them in the fridge to set. This takes about an hour.

These will last a few days in the fridge and get firmer with time.

I've also got a really nice banana/vanilla version that I'll blog for you next time I make it.  Do you have any good combo's of your own?  Let me know.


Sunday, July 03, 2016

Are you sick of mushrooms yet?

Today I have re-filmed the 'ingredients' part of last week's vid, made a thumbnail and Youtubed it for the world to see.

I've also got a few facts for you about wonderful 'shrooms (the nutritional ones, not the other sort).
  • Mushrooms are not a vege, they are a fungus
  • They are one of the few plant foods to contain as much protein as carbohydrate (about 3% of each)
  • Mushrooms can be an excellent source of Vitamin D2 (not D3, as is sometimes claimed), depending on how much sunlight they have received
  • They are high in vitamins B2, B3 and B5, are a decent source of copper and may be high in selenium (again, depending on soil conditions)
  • Mushrooms, particularly the exotic ones such as reishi, shitake and maitake have been received quite a bit of attention for their potential immune modulating effects. This 2014 review is a good summary of the bioactive components found in 'shrooms.
  • Mushrooms are high in polyols. They can be one of the worst foods for people sensitive to FODMAPs.

I hope you're having a wonderful weekend, either soaking up the D3 in the Northern Hemisphere or keeping cosy and warm over here in the chilly South.  Here is my revised Marinated Mushroom video and I think next week, it's time for a change of subject!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Marinated Mushrooms + Important Tip for Making Videos

Hello! I've had quite a few requests via instagram for my marinated mushroom recipe.
I'm always posting pics of my favourite marinated mushroom pizza.. I don't know.. it's the only sort of pizza I like.
So, I thought I'd film a little video for the blog and Youtube. And, I did film it, got most of the way through editing it and then, while viewing a playback, realised that my goddam fingernails look dirty!  


They're not even really dirty, it's just a stain from working with grapeseed extract. It doesn't look good though, and nor do the sticking plasters on my fingers. Definitely not ready for the public, but I know you readers aren't judgemental, so here you go.
I'll refilm the first part on the weekend and upload the public version. This is a Fit to Blog exclusive.
Lesson learned. If you're going to put your hands in a video, make sure they are photo worthy!
The music is by Retrovision. Their Facebook page is here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Popular Post Update / Clothes Purge

The world of blogging is very strange. I can spend weeks researching and writing a post that I think is incredible, only to have it flop in terms of views, or I can make a short and quirky post that people seem to love.

This post (click for link) is one of the latter. It's from the end of 2011 and features my niece, Miss J delivering a happy new year message and singing in German. It also discusses how to embed audio into a blogger post.

That post has had over 11,000 views! I'm not sure how many are from bots but it's still a Fit to Blog success story. This week I even got a message from a reader telling me that the audio files no longer work.

So, I headed over there and fixed that up, learning a few things in the process. The HTML code has changed and the old one doesn't work any more. So, if you've used the previous instructions on your own blog, then you currently have a broken post.  You'd better head over there and learn the new way.

Simplifying and Organising Update

This last weekend I made some major inroads in my simplifying mission.  I finally faced up to my clothes issue.

Seriously, I'm a clothes hoarder. I just love buying clothes and like to have a variety of styles and colours. I'll never be a clothes minimalist. I'm also not averse to keeping something for sentimental reasons.  I have some handmade velveteen (yes..) crimson bellbottom pants with a shoelace fly that I bought in my early twenties and wore to many fun parties and concerts. I would only wear them now for some kind of dress-up party, but I feel like they've earned their place in my wardrobe, as have the cargo pants that stuck with me through numerous international adventures.

However, those items are few and most of my clothes stash was just junking up my life. 

The method I used this time is:

Dump everything on the bed
Quickly sort things into five piles:

- Definitely keep
- Give away (charity / give to friends pile)
- Sell (designer items only - I can't be bothered selling things for $1 on TradeMe)
- Really undecided
- Mend

The undecided pile takes up a mere half a drawer at the moment and most of them are not seasonal anyway. I'll revisit those when the weather warms up.

Here's a pictorial:

Step 1: Remove cat from the bed

Step 2: Dump all the clothes on the bed and sort them.

Step 3: Marvel at the volume of clothes in the 'donate / giveaway' pile.

Step 4: Wonder if you need to buy more clothes to give these a purpose in life ;)

Just kidding. :)

I also turned my exposed clothing rail into my new 'capsule wardrobe'. We do have some hidden clothing storage in a small cupboard but there is also a clothes rack adorning one wall of the bedroom.  This is where I'll hang my most used work and leisure clothes so that they are easy to find and easy to put away at the end of the day. I even bought some sexy wooden coathangers from Briscoes so that it looks ultra swish.

I was so proud of that effort that it had to be instagrammed.

saralake_ if you want to follow me.
I always follow blog readers back.
Ok, that's it for this week! I hope that wherever you are your week is lovely, your audio files are working and your closet organisation brings happiness to your life. ;)

Monday, June 06, 2016

My Research: Gastric Bypass

Over the last few weeks I've been super busy organising things for my masters research project.  Therefore, it seems the right time to finally blog about it,  It's quite nerve-wracking putting it out there after nearly a year of working away in private! Here we go..

The title of my research project is:

Before and After Roux-en-Y: A Grounded Theory Study of Non-Surgical Factors which may Affect Dietary Quality and Acceptance of Dietary Change after Gastric Bypass Surgery in Women.  

I sweated over it but couldn't come up with a cute-but-relevant study acronym. In the end, we went with a nickname: the RYGB study.  I wanted to call it the BABeS (Before and After Bariatric Surgery) study, but it was already taken. :( 

For those of you unfamiliar with research methodology, a Grounded Theory study is one that starts with no hypothesis but develops one or more of them as the study progresses.   I am not looking for anything but  instead paying close attention to the data from depth interviews and food records and seeing which themes emerge. These should become meaningful hypotheses about which areas need focus if we are to improve the experience and outcomes for gastric bypass patients. Or perhaps I'll find that in my group everything is groovy and  things couldn't be better.  You just never know.

The sampling method is iterative,  which means that I continue interviewing people until we reach the point of 'saturation', where no new themes emerge.  There is no set-in-stone number where this magically happens but Grounded Theory studies generally hit saturation at between 10 to 30 participants.

I'm still looking for participants,  so if you know anybody in New Zealand that is preparing for gastric bypass surgery or you are preparing for it yourself,  please have a read of the details below, or click through to the university site here.  

I hope you have a great week and god bless the Queen, and her inherited official birthday, for an extra day off work. :) 

What are the goals of this research?

The purpose of the RYGB study is to ‘get inside’ the personal experience of undergoing a Roux-en Y gastric bypass. In particular the study aims to understand the factors which affect dietary quality and acceptance of the lifestyle changes which are necessary for success. The information gathered will be used to inform best-practice guidelines and improve outcomes for patients.

Who are we looking for?

We are looking for women over the age of 18 who are in the process of preparing for a Roux-en Y gastric bypass.

What will be involved in participating?

Study participation involves the following:

-        * Two semi-structured interviews: one before your surgery and one six-months out
-        *  One 3-day food record for analysis. This will be taken at the point you are eating normal food post-surgery

-       *  Optional involvement in a Facebook chat group for study participants

Interviews may be conducted either by Skype or in-person, depending on your location. The researcher is located in Christchurch.

What are the advantages of taking part in the study?

You will receive:

-         * A $50 travel voucher at study completion
-         * A summary of study results, should this interest you

Participants may also find the process of reflecting on their journey to be personally helpful.
This study is led by Masters of Science degree student Sara Lake. Sara’s supervisors are professor Jane Coad and senior lecturer Janet Weber.

To register your interest and receive a detailed information sheet, please contact:
Sara Lake

Professor Jane Coad                                                     Dr. Janet Weber
School of Food and Nutrition                                       School of Food and Nutrition
Tel: 06 951 6321                                                           Tel: 06 356 9099

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Tips for Resolving Caffeine Addiction

It's only taken 20 years-ish, but I'm finally in a happy place with caffeine.

Long-term readers will know that over the nine years that I've been blogging, I have endured cold-turkey caffeine withdrawal four times, and managed various caffeine-free periods. The longest of these was nearly a year.

During this long experimental phase, I've determined three things:

1) I, personally, have a really hard time with cold-turkey caffeine withdrawal. I suffer weeks of lethargy, at least five days of sciatica, headaches and don't feel like myself for about a month. The first week requires time off work.

2) Once I'm off caffeine I feel.. better than I did when fully addicted. Not 'amazing all the time' like some would have you believe, but pretty good. I no longer have a severe afternoon slump (I still have a slump, but not the level that requires a snooze), I sleep better, I don't get 'tired eyes' at random times of the day and my mood is generally more friendly and positive. The difference is not huge, but it's an improvement.

3) To be perfectly honest, 'moderate consumption without addiction' gives me all the benefits of complete abstinence, and it's easier to deal with. I have a fantastic coffee machine and putting teechino through it just resulted in a $300 malfunction. I'd rather use it properly.

It took me ages to admit the last point to myself because I imagined that if I just abstained for long enough, I'd hit some pure nirvana of endless energy and motivation. It never happened. In addition, there is no science showing that abstinence has any real health benefits. Coffee just isn't that bad for you, and may even be good for you in relatively small doses. In my mind, the difference is: do you need it for energy, or are you just enjoying your coffee? If you are using it to try and resolve a situation of fatigue, then you either have an underlying health issue, or you are caffeine-dependent. That's not fine. If you feel generally great and just want to enjoy the aroma and taste of a natural brew, then that's more than OK. Nobody ever lived to 100 by being a puritan.

Last year I did 12 weeks completely caffeine free and was feeling pretty good. Then in October, I attended a conference and succumbed to the espresso machine. In true 'all or nothing' fashion, I punished myself with another espresso and went from  0 to 3 overnight. Then I continued the trend and was quickly up to my usual five a day and suffering the subtle, but annoying, effects of caffeine addiction.

A few months ago I decided that zombie afternoons and restless nights were not working for me  and had a think about 'what to do'.

I decided to cut back slowly to a level where I could a) feel fine without caffeine for a few days and b) wasn't affected negatively by my level of consumption.  I thought about going cold-turkey again but could not get motivated. For a start, I'm super busy right now and just can't have sub-par days, and secondly, it's just not worth it. The benefit of abstinence is not enough to make me care.

So, over a short period, I cut myself back to four coffees a week. I have three caffeine-free days a week and once a month I do a full five days decaf (Thurs to Monday) just to be sure I'm not addicted.

It was easy. I suffered very few withdrawals and on my first decaf day, didn't feel any different. I'm sleeping very well, my energy is pretty good, and I don't feel any pressure to be identify as a decaffeinated.

Here are my tips for taking control of your caffeine intake:

* Pick a starting point. Usually you'll be able to cut back your consumption quite  bit before hitting withdrawal. I was drinking the equivalent of five espressos a day (~500mg caffeine), but could comfortably handle two espressos (~200mg), so made that my starting point. If you're chugging the energy drinks you might need to start a bit higher. Pick a point where you can function.

* Decide on your goal. Mine was 4-6 espresso a week (or equivalent, say, in green tea), 3 caffeine free days (Sunday, Monday and Thursday), and I wanted to be able to go five days without caffeine once a month.

* Set a weaning schedule that is about 10-14 days. You don't want to make it too long because you lose motivation. The goal needs to be in sight.

* Cut your caffeine by 50-100mg every 2-4 days.

If you're a nerd like me, you might like to make a sophisticated app for this:

The reason I work in 'half a coffee' increments is because my espresso machine (see pic above) does double shots. It's easy enough to put the demitasse cup under just one stream, and thus get a one shot espresso (0.5).

As you can see, on day 8, I had an extra one, but then got right back on track. With any health habit, messing up does not put you back to square one.

* If you find it hard to cut back, do your reductions on a Friday. The second day on a new level is usually the hardest. You could cut back 50mg on Tuesday and 100mg on Friday, for example.

* Keep your painkillers close. I am NOT a fan of self-medicating with panadol. However, when cutting back I was not in a space to tolerate any downtime. At the first sign of a headache or body ache, I downed a couple of panadol, on day four and five I needed to do this twice, but otherwise I took one dose on a couple of days. Nothing major.

* Exercise. This helps so much with those subtle withdrawal symptoms. A yoga session late afternoon and I was good to go.

* Plan to be a little less productive than usual. You won't be as brain-dead as when going cold-turkey, but you might not be sharp in the afternoons. Just go easy on yourself, if possible. The worst is over quickly.

* Find a substitute beverage. My favourite is peppermint tea. It just feels refreshing. I've given up on the fake coffees. For a start, I'd rather have the real thing, less often. Secondly, as mentioned above, the main attraction was that I could still use my machine, however, the residue blocked the steam filters and damaged the coffee burr (steam+coffee makes a lovely thick sludge that gums up the grinders). Expensive lesson there.

* Believe in yourself. If I can do this, with my apparent proliferation of caffeine receptors, anyone can.

I found that by weaning off like this, I was in a better state at day 12 than when I'd gone cold turkey in the past. I think it was easier on my body and brain and my system ultimately adjusted more easily and more quickly to the new normal of caffeine-independence once I got there.

Ok, let's hear your caffeine stories (again, haha). How is it going for you. Are you a willing caffeind, or a reluctant bean-slave. Or, like me, have you finally got it together? ;)  What do you think? cold-turkey or caffeine wean?