Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Slow Cooker Peruvian Chicken Quinoa Soup

During my travels in Cusco in 2012, I had the joy of sampling the wonderful local cuisine, many of which featured traditional Peruvian staples such as corn, potatoes and quinoa. One dish in particular that I throughly enjoyed was the Chicken Quinoa Soup - a delicious nourishing broth packed full of nutrients made with chicken, quinoa and vegetables. The highland climate in Cusco makes this soup popular among locals and tourists alike, warming you from inside out; it was also my go-to dish to help curb my nausea and lack of appetite as a result of altitude sickness.

Since returning from Peru, I've often reminisced about the soup and a quick Google search took me to Four Fingers Chopsticks who had an easy recipe that I've adapted and made many times over the years. I've recently modified the recipe so it works with my new best friend - the slow cooker. Being a working mum, I've little time on my hands and cooking a meal is the last thing I want to do after a long day at work. With the slow cooker, I can prepare the ingredients the night before, set it on before I head out the door and come home to a warm delicious meal. Less time cooking, more cuddle time with my little one!

  
Slow Cooker Peruvian Chicken Quinoa Soup


Slow Cooker Peruvian Chicken Quinoa Soup (recipe adapted from Four Fingers Chopsticks)

Prep time: 15-20 mins
Cook time: 7-8 hours

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

1½ tablespoons oil
8 chicken drumsticks, skin and fat removed
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 medium potatoes, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 small zucchini, chopped
2½ teaspoons Cajun seasoning
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
8 cups water
Juice of ½ a lemon

For garnish (optional): ½ cup fresh coriander, chopped


Method:
1. Pre-warm slow cooker on low while preparing the ingredients.
2. Put the prepared ingredients into the slow cooker and cover with lid. Cook on low for 7-8 hours. 
3. Carefully remove chicken drumsticks from slow cooker, cover and set aside until cool. Pull the meat off the bone and discard bone. Shred meat and return to slow cooker. Stir in to heat through.
4. Serve soup hot in deep bowls. Garnish with fresh coriander if desired.



Traditionally, the Chicken Quinoa Soup is spiced with ground aji amarillo, a moderate heat Peruvian yellow chilli though it may not be easily sourced outside of Peru. I've not had any luck finding it in shops so replaced the spice with Cajun seasoning; you can substitute with Cayenne pepper or tabasco sauce if you prefer more kick to your soup. Finding the soup consistency a bit too thick? Gradually stir in some hot water till desired consistency is reached.

With the cold weather looming, now is a good time to break out that slow cooker you've tucked away in your kitchen cabinet. Set it and forget it and be rewarded with a wonderful comfort meal with minimal effort! 



Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Sky Zone Miranda, Miranda + 10 x Free Pass Giveaway!

Looking for something fun and exciting to do this weekend? Then head over to Sky Zone Miranda, the largest trampoline park in the southern hemisphere to experience a day of thrill and the freedom of flight! Located in Westfield Miranda on the ground floor opposite JB Hi-Fi, the two-storey purpose-built venue is home to a full range of trampolining activities with over 100 interconnected trampolines that lets you literally bounce off the walls. 

There are two key activity types at Sky Zone Miranda: Sky Jump, which offers several different zones for jumpers to explore and test out their anti-gravity techniques, and Sky Climb, a recent concept introduced at Sky Zone featuring over 10 climbing walls of varying themes and unique handgrips to challenge beginner to advanced climbers. Both Jump and Climb sessions go by the hour and cost $18 per person respectively ($16 for the Jump if you already own a pair of Sky Zone grip socks - no socks, no jump). Choose to go for either the Jump or Climb, or combine both ($4 saving) for two solid hours of adrenaline-filled fun.


Sky Jump. Source: AC Verve

Sky Climb. Source: AC Verve

The boys and I recently went to check out Sky Zone Miranda on a weekday morning; given it was the school holidays, the place was filled with excited kids of all ages (adults included) squealing with delight as they discover the various activities on site. On arrival, we headed straight for the general check-in area to the online booking counter to obtain wrists bands and paid for the grip socks needed for our jump session. Walk-ins are welcomed however if you want to avoid disappointment and potentially long wait times, you can secure your session on the Sky Zone online booking site. Booking confirmation is immediate though if you need to amend your booking, you will not be able to do it online - call Sky Zone and speak with one of their friendly staff who will be able to assist you. 


General check-in area

Sky Zone grip socks

Jump sessions start on the hour and I highly recommend that you arrive 10-15 minutes before the start of your session; we had taken the wrong entrance into Westfield and spent a good half an hour finding our way to Sky Zone Miranda - there were no clear directions to the venue within the shopping complex and when we finally located it, the lift was out of order and we had to carry Xavier's pram down the flight of stairs to the check-in area and within the facility. If you're late, your jump time will be cut short as we duly discovered.

Jono and I started off at Stratosphere, the general jump area with interconnected trampolines that lets you run, jump, fly and bounce off the walls - this is the jump zone to start learning the basic skills of jumping and warm up that inner child in you before progressing on to the other zones. The pumped up music and energising vibe that fills the air is sure to get you fired up and moving. We both took turns at jumping, bouncing from one trampoline to the next. It was good fun but boy was it hard work! In just mere minutes, I could feel my abdominal and legs muscles burn, needing to stop every now and then to catch my breath. You definitely get a workout jumping without even realising it! Sky Guards patrol the zones managing the flow of eager jumpers to ensure safety rules are adhered to whilst everyone is having fun. 


Run, jump, fly and bounce off the walls at Stratosphere

Jump the mega trampoline of interconnected trampolines

Jono striking a pose mid-air

To practice your flips and tricks, head over to the Big Bag, a giant inflatable crash pad where you can put your newfound skills to the test. Alternatively, the Foam Pits with its pool of huge foam squares makes for a safe place to fall into though you might find getting out much more difficult than falling in. Monkey-climb on the ropes, bounce and balance on the 'toadstools' or challenge a mate to a game of knockout - plenty of fun for everyone.


Practice your flips and tricks at the Big Bag and Foam Pits

Fun-filled activities for everyone in the Foam Pits

For the more sporty folk, there's 3D Dodgeball which combines the exciting ball game with anti-gravity bringing a whole new level of challenge into the mix, and Sky Slam Basketball for you add new heights to your slam dunk.


3D Dodgeball

Sky Slam Basketball

Kids enjoying the school holidays at Sky Zone Miranda

The Wall is for the more advanced jumpers where acrobatic and parkour skills can be tested on Olympic-grade trampolines. Show off your mid-air poses and push your limits in this performance area specifically zoned off for the advanced bouncer. 


Show off your acrobatic skills at The Wall

Prior to commencement of your Climb session, there is a compulsory safety briefing all climbers must attend. Closed-in shoes are required otherwise you will be refused climb. Clip on your safety harness and start scaling the different themed walls to the top. You can even time your climb or race a friend up the wall.


Scale the many vertical themed walls of Sky Climb

Unique handgrips challenge beginner to advanced climbers

Almost...at...the...top...

Time your climb or race a friend up the wall

For both Jump and Climb, comfortable clothing is recommended. Frankly, I would don on form-fitting and breathable sportswear - after all, this is a fitness activity and almost guaranteed you will break a sweat. Make sure you empty out your pockets and remove any jewellery before your activity to prevent loss and injuring yourself or others (on site lockers available for hire).

Little people like Xavier aren't excluded from all the fun. The Tots Zone play area created for 0-5 year olds have inflatable bouncy castles and slides as well as blocks of foam for the little folk to explore. There is also a jump area specifically for toddlers only - if they can walk, they can jump with toddler grip socks. We will have to return once Xavier is older so he can join in the jumping too!


Tots Zone for 0-5 year olds

Xavier exploring the bouncy castle under daddy's supervision

Ready? 1, 2, 3...go!

There are plenty of break out areas to rest and relax as well as an in-house canteen serving food and drinks for you to refuel. Have a browse of the merchandise store and pick up a souvenir to bring home or have your picture taken in the photobooth for keepsake. Parents who do not wish to join in the activities can chill and watch the kids go wild from one of the viewing platforms. There's even a baby changing facility in the disabled bathroom which comes in handy when you have a little one. 


Plenty of break out areas to relax and refuel

Photobooth

In addition to jumping and climbing, Sky Zone Miranda is also bringing in similar programs offered at the other Sky Zone locations including Sky Fit - fitness classes on trampolines that combines advanced calisthenics with a 3D cardio and strength training programme - and trampoline courses catered for beginners, intermediate and advanced skill levels with Sky School. I'm definitely keen to try out Sky Fit - you get to burn up to 1000 calories in an hour while having fun jumping and getting a full body workout! Fitness enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies would be pleased to learn that the Enduro Ninja Warrior course is in the works of completion. The course combines parkour, rock climbing and ropes to create the ultimate obstacle course and is not for the faint-hearted. Access to the Enduro comes at no extra charge as it is included in your Jump time. 

Say goodbye to boring and free yourself at Sky Zone Miranda!


Jono and I were guests at Sky Zone Miranda with thanks to Mattia from AC Verve.




Sky Zone Miranda 10 x Free Pass Giveaway!


Thanks to the folks at Sky Zone Miranda, one lucky reader will have a chance to win 10 free passes for the ultimate trampolining experience. Bring along the family or a bunch of your mates to share in the experience, or keep all 10 passes for yourself and master the art of jump - either way, it's guaranteed you'll banish boredom and be rewarded with pure fun and exhilaration! 

To enter, simply follow The Moreish Life on Facebook, Google+, Instagram or Twitter to be in the draw (existing followers will automatically be entered). Competition is open to Australian residents only and ends Sunday 15th May 11.59pm AEST. Good luck!

Congratulations D. Tran of Enfield, NSW for winning the Sky Zone Miranda giveaway!


Thursday, 14 April 2016

Cafe Rumah, Surry Hills

Since its opening earlier this year, Cafe Rumah has created a buzz in the Sydney food scene, attracting food enthusiasts and bloggers alike to its location on Campbell Street in Surry Hills. Though the name Rumah (meaning ‘home’ in Malay) suggests traditional Malaysian fare, Cafe Rumah is actually a Western-style cafe serving food with an Asian twist. The boys and I recently went to check out this new lunch spot on a Saturday afternoon arriving just a little past 1pm and sure enough, the cafe proved popular with groups of keen customers lingering at the entrance waiting to get in. 


Cafe Rumah on Campbell Street, Surry Hills

We spent the 15-minute wait time standing on the footpath digesting the menu while seeking shelter from the sweltering sun and was shortly seated at one end of the communal table with a group of Malaysians/Singaporeans. The venue is small with a mix of table and window seating and just enough room for us to cosily fit in Xavier’s pram. The decor of white walls and pale tiles on timber give the cafe a light and minimalistic feel with little bottles of baby’s breath adding a soft, fresh touch. Up the flight of stairs to the second floor lies 15sheets, a premium men’s boutique store that stocks an array of American and British labels including Descendent of Thieves and Weekend Offender. This retail store has been brought in from its flagship store in Malaysia by the folks at Cafe Rumah in keeping up with the growing retail-cum-dining trend to enhance the customer buying experience - you can browse the store and pick up a couple of items, ponder your purchases over a cup of coffee and cake downstairs and head back up to shop some more.


Front of house

The menu at Cafe Rumah has been kept to a manageable size with a handful of breakfast items and a selection of sandwiches and salads for lunch. Service was friendly and fairly fast from order to serve which was much welcomed as my tummy was beginning to groan in hunger. 


Cafe Rumah menu

The Asian Cuban was a definite crowd pleaser - the ham and roast pork which you would normally find in a Cuban sandwich have been cleverly replaced with its Asian equivalent of luncheon meat and five-spice roast pork wedged in bread coated with mustard spread, sliced pickles and Swiss cheese. Beautifully toasted till the bread surface is crispy golden and cheese melted, this sandwich is packed full of porky flavour with each bite. Greasy, yes, but that was what I expected of a Cuban sandwich. Cut through the grease and wash it down with a refreshing cold pressed juice or soda - we sampled the Energy Blast (orange, carrot, lemon and ginger) and 15sheets Special (yuzu and mint soda) which were both delicious and thirst-quenching. Loving the tangy yuzu flavour in the soda!


Asian Cuban ($14)

Mummy, can I have some?
Energy Blast ($8) and 15sheets Special ($6)

The Kopitiam Brekkie is my clear favourite, bringing back many fond memories of this breakfast meal my paternal grandparents would serve at home when I was little. You have the option to go for the basic house made kaya and butter toast, or have it true Malaysian-style with two free-range onsen eggs for an extra $4. Add a dash of soy sauce and ground white pepper, mix it up and slurp. Ah, bliss :)


The Kopitiam Brekkie ($7) + 2 Onsen Eggs ($4) 

Add a dash of soy sauce and ground white pepper, give it a quick mix and it's ready to eat!

Traditionally, the kaya toast and egg combo is served with a strong cup of local coffee or tea that is sweetened with condensed milk though you won't find such beverages on the menu; instead, order a barista-style coffee made with beans from Cabrito Coffee Traders or a pot of T Totaler teas. The quality of the coffee was variable depending on which staff made it - the first flat white we ordered at the start of lunch was good however the second cup was over-extracted, tasting horribly bitter.


Flat White ($4)

For those who prefer a lighter lunch, opt for the salad - there are four to choose from each uniquely different with its own Asian influences, and you can mix and match your salad depending on the number of scoops chosen (1/2/3 scoop at $6/$11/$15 respectively). Our 2-scoop salad was made up of the Spiced Pumpkin (cooked pumpkin with sultanas and pepitas mixed with sage, garam masala and curry leaf drenched in honey vinaigrette) and Chinese Chicken (shredded cabbage and chicken tossed with sliced apple, onion and shallot topped with plum dressing and coriander garnish). Both salads were fresh and light tasting.


Salad 2 Scoops ($11) - Spiced Pumpkin and Chinese Chicken

Cafe Rumah also offers several ‘kuih’ (Malaysian sweet and savoury cakes and pastries) that varies day to day. Quantities are limited so get in early if you're keen to sample some. The Pandan Chiffon Cake with its light and fluffy texture was most popular with almost every table in sight ordering a slice. The Steamed Tapioca Kuih comes in three pieces - these little yellow delights are rolled in grated coconut and chewy to the bite with just the right level of sweetness.


Pandan Chiffon Cake ($5) 
Steamed Tapioca Kuih ($5)

Cost $68 all up for our food and drinks which was reasonable for Sydney’s cafe standard. Overall, the service at Cafe Rumah is good and food decent though whether it can maintain its current popularity and survive the competition from the plethora of cafes already established in the area remains to be seen. I’m keen to come back and try out their take of the Malaysian snack Roti John (omelette sandwich with mince meat and onion) and those delicious sounding baked-to-order Madeleines filled with kaya!


Cafe Rumah Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Sunday, 13 March 2016

How to successfully lodge your baby's Australian passport application

When Xavier was about 10 weeks old, we applied for his child Australian passport with the intention of travelling to New Zealand to be with family while my husband was away working in the States. Little did we expect the application process would be so convoluted that it took us four submission attempts before it was successfully lodged. Having gone through the entire ordeal and witnessing many other parents experiencing the same issues when lodging their application at our local post office Rockdale Post Shop, here are some tips on how to avoid the common issues and get your baby's passport application lodged successfully the first time:


Child Australian passport

#1: Lodge an Application for Evidence of Australian Citizenship (Form 119) to proof your baby's Australian citizenship
If you are an Australian permanent resident and your baby was born in Australia, your bub automatically acquires Australian citizenship at birth however the birth certificate is not sufficient proof as it does not specify the parents’ citizenship nor permanent resident status; your permanent resident visa grant letter is not acceptable proof either. The only form of proof accepted by our local post office was a visa label in my passport. Problem is I do not have one and this is true for most permanent residents as Australia no longer issues visa labels and instead records them electronically. I explained and argued at length with the post office staff regarding this matter who subsequently rejected Xavier’s passport application and turned me away, insisting that I had to get the visa label and to bring up my grievance with the Australian Passport Office as they were just going by the book. Unable to find any means of obtaining the label, I rang up the passport office and the lady answering the helpline sheepishly told me that she gets calls about the visa label problem all the time and that I needed to lodge an Application for Evidence of Australian Citizenship (Form 119) to get around this issue. Why doesn’t the passport application form clearly state so??!

Form 119 come with its own set of quirks - it requires that your baby's identity declaration and photograph to be endorsed by an Australian who is not related to bub by birth, has known bub for at least a year, contactable by phone during office hours AND hold one of the thirty-eight listed professions referenced in the form. For expats like us who hardly know many Australians let alone one that meets all the criteria, we had no one to turn to but the local Justice of the Peace who very kindly agreed to endorse the documents having only met Xavier for a mere ten minutes. “I declare I have known the child for 0 years and vouch for his identity...” Ironically, my visa grant letter is acceptable proof of my visa status for this form! This application set us back $60 and took three weeks for the Australian citizenship certificate to arrive in the mail.



#2: Have your baby's passport photo taken by an experienced photographer

Your baby's passport photo has to meet a set of standards - photograph dimensions, baby's face is centred and looking at the camera with eyes open and a neutral expression (no smiling), white or light grey background, not held in the arms just to name some - and most post shops and pharmacies who provide passport photography services are unwilling to take on the job as they take polaroid photos (if they do, expect to pay a hefty cost as they will charge you for every image taken regardless if it meets the standards). You can attempt to do this with your own digital camera referring to the photo guidelines, or get it done at a camera shop. I opted for the latter and took Xavier to Rainbow Camera on Princess Highway to have his passport photo taken. It was effortless (in part sheer luck that Xavier didn't know how to smile yet at 7 weeks old) and took less than ten minutes as the photographer knew what she was doing - she had Xavier laid on his back on a white sheet then climbed up the stepladder to take his photo using a digital SLR while her assistant jangled a set of keys to get Xavier's attention. The photographer took multiple shots until she got one she deemed satisfactory. It costs us $20 for four prints and the digital file is stored on site so we can always have more printed if required. I can't believe the child passport is valid for five years - Xavier doesn't even look anything like his passport photo today!


Passport photo that meets the set of standards

#3: If printing the application form, increase your toner density to print darker
On my third attempt to submit the passport application, it was rejected on the basis that the border of the boxes in the 'Interviewing Office Use Only' section was not visible. "You've got to be kidding me, right?" Well, I kid you not. We were informed that we didn't have the printer tone set correctly; FYI, all other boxes in the form had clear borders with exception to this section due to the greyscale of the online form itself. To save the hassle of having your printed form rejected, increase your toner density prior to printing. Alternatively, just pick up the passport application form from the post office and skip printing altogether.


Reason for application rejection: Borders of boxes not visible

On the subject of printing, make sure your form is printed single sided; double sided printing guarantees application rejection as we duly discovered :/


#4: Bring all original evidence/support documents as well as photocopies
The post office staff will want to sight all original documents used as evidence or support in the application and will request for photocopies (to be submitted with the application). If you do not have copies, you can pay the post office for the copy service at 50 cents per page. The photocopies do not need to be certified as the post office staff can certify them as being true copies of the originals.


#5: Book the passport interview
The passport interview is essentially a time slot for the post office staff to review the application form; your baby doesn't need to attend the interview. Though some post shops are happy to process the application without appointment, it is highly recommended that you book in the passport interview to avoid disappointment as the post office staff can turn you away if you do not have a booking, especially when they are busy.


If at first lodgement you do not succeed, make sure you get the post office staff to review the entire application and note down any other issues present to save having a repeat incident - most parents would storm off in frustration in their first attempt (I did so myself) only to find their application getting rejected for another reason in the next visit. Once the passport application is successfully lodged, all you have to do is wait for it to be processed which takes around three weeks.

Making that first maiden trip overseas with your baby is a very special milestone that marks the beginning of many family travels to come - make sure you get your baby's passport done ahead of time so you don't get caught out!


Monday, 29 February 2016

Kangatraining with Soraya Amor (Camina Dance), Kogarah

Since becoming a new mum, finding the time to fit in exercise into my week has been rather challenging - my days are filled with nappy changes, feeding, running around after the little one and endless laundry and chores; finding someone to mind my baby while I work out is pretty low priority on my already unsurmountable task list. That said, I've always enjoyed my active lifestyle working out several times a week (even when I was expecting) and was keen to get back in shape shortly after birth. Scouring the internet in search of exercise classes that included the baby or provided child minding services whilst I work out, I stumbled upon Kangatraining (the name 'Kanga' is derived from the mother kangaroo character in Winnie-the-Pooh), a baby-wearing, full body workout class that incorporates cardiovascular fitness and strength training in form of choreographed dance routines. And because your baby is part of the training, there is no need to find a babysitter during your workout session!

Once you get the 'all clear' from your health professional to resume exercise, you can begin Kangatraining. Using the 'Find Trainer' search function on the Kangatraining website, I found a couple of Kanga instructors teaching near my suburb and after several emails decided to check out the class taught by Soraya Amor of Camina Dance at A Touch of Salsa dance studio in KogarahPrior to commencing the class, your qualified Kangatraining instructor will take an assessment of your postnatal health via a questionnaire to tailor the exercises to suit the class - if you are deemed unsuitable to carry out certain exercises, the instructor will modify the exercises for you. In my first class, Soraya checked my abdominal separation (as part of the postnatal health assessment) and made sure Xavier was strapped on correctly in our Ergobaby 360 carrier. Only carriers with an 'M' position with baby's knees splayed out inwards to your body are suitable for use in class as they better support the natural development of the baby's hips and spine. If you do not have a suitable carrier, you can hire a Manduca carrier for $3 or make arrangements to purchase one with the instructor. The class size is fairly small (which means plenty of space to move around); when I started Kangatraining last year, there were only four mums and bubs but since then the numbers have grown and some days we have up to ten in the class! The class is not limited to mums only; dads are most welcome to join in. 


Kanga babies chilling out before class

The structure of the class taught by Soraya with her lovely daughter Ariadne generally starts with a warm up song where mums dance while holding onto their bubs (not in the carrier) - partway through the song, the bubs are held on their front with chest on mums' forearms and 'aeroplaned' to greet the other babies which always brings out the giggles. This is followed by a series of floor work on a mat (mats are available at the dance studio though in limited numbers - consider bringing your own) focusing on core strength and using baby as weights as appropriate. Xavier loves the seated twist, smiling and kicking his cute chubby legs in the air as I lift him from side to side :)


Are you ready, Mummy? Let's go!

Mats aside, we then move on to the main cardiovascular (and fun!) part of the class - the babies are strapped in the front of the carrier as mums shimmy and shake their way through the choreographed moves to a selection of songs, a mix of today's biggest pop hits and Latin tunes. With Soraya's Latin dance background, I got to enjoy dancing salsa, reggaeton, cha-cha and many Latin dance moves that were embedded in the choreographed routines. You definitely get quite a workout with baby as added weight - I can feel my leg and arm muscles burn and often drenched in sweat during the session. Soraya is always very encouraging with her positive words and big smiles, getting the mums to push themselves and hang in there just a little longer. 

Kangatraining in session at A Touch of Salsa dance studio. Photo source: A Touch of Salsa. 

All strapped in and ready to get groovin'

Despite the loud music, lots of movement and sweat, the little ones don't seem to mind - in fact, they all fall asleep soon after we strap them on! To finish, we cool down with some stretches and pelvic floor exercises. And to top it all off, Soraya comes around with a lucky dip bag where each mum pulls out a little note with positive affirmation printed on, a great way to end the class on a high note. 


Happy mums and bubs post workout. Photo source: Kangatraining with Soraya. 

Group selfie! Photo source: Kangatraining with Soraya.

Classes are an hour long and cost $20 casual or $110 for an 8-week block; if you sign up by 5pm on 4th March, receive $15 off the block cost - pre-payment details can be found at the A Touch of Salsa website here. Term 2 commences week of 7th March so get booking now to secure a spot.

Besides getting a workout, Kangatraining lets you to get to know other mums in the area, many who grow to become good friends and the little ones play together outside of class. It is great way to bond with your baby and get a fun workout in a friendly and relaxed environment - I highly recommend giving it a go!