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! 

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Bak Kwa (Chinese Pork Jerky) + Electro Seconds Giveaway!

Chinese New Year is my favourite family celebration growing up Malaysia. My hometown Batu Pahat is literally painted red with festive decorations adorning the town centre as the town livens up with city dwellers returning to their family or ancestral homes on the days leading up to the festive period. It is the one time of the year where the Chinese make considerable effort to gather with family and take the opportunity of the public holidays to catch up with extended family and friends whom we hardly see during the year. Shops are filled with customers frantically stocking up on festive food and drinks - crates of mandarins, boxes of carbonated drinks and beer, and tins of assorted candy, preserves, cookies and snacks are just some of the Chinese New Year goodies commonly found at home. Having lived abroad for many years, I've missed out on many of the festivities; feeling somewhat nostalgic this year, I decided to make myself some bak kwa (Hokkien meaning 'dried meat'), a popular snack eaten during the Chinese New Year in Malaysia and Singapore.

Bak Kwa (Chinese Pork Jerky)

Originating from the Fujian province in China, this Chinese salty-sweet jerky is made with pork mince (also available in beef or chicken) mixed with salt, sugar, soy and spices then air-dried and grilled over charcoal to give it that smoky barbecue flavour. The snack is so popular during the festive period that some folks are willing to line up for hours just to purchase them and it doesn't come cheap - some stores selling premium brands may charge up to $30 for half a kilo of bak kwa. Trawling the internet, I've found several different recipes (from, Nasi Lemak LoverNot Quite Nigella, Mrs. Bear Cooks) which uses more or less the same ingredients and slight variations on ratios and cooking methods; I've picked snippets here and there plus some trial and error to make up my adapted recipe below: 

Bak Kwa (Chinese Pork Jerky)

Prep time: 5 mins + marinade overnight
Cook time: 1 hour 15 mins

Makes 1 standard size baking tray

500g pork mince (choose the fattier version i.e. not lean)
100g white sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
½ tablespoon Chinese cooking wine
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon sesame oil
¼ teaspoon dark soy sa
¼ teaspoon five spice powder

For the glaze:
2 tablespoons honey mixed with 1 tablespoon water 

Ingredients for making bak kwa - pork mince, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, Chinese cooking wine, sesame oil, salt, sugar, white pepper, five spice powder and honey

1. Mix all the ingredients with the pork mince in a mixing bowl with chopsticks or a fork and stir till combined. Cover the bowl and leave the mince to marinade in fridge overnight.

Mix the pork mince with the condiments until combined

2. Preheat oven to 180°C or (160°C fan forced). Let the marinated mince thaw slightly to room temperature and give it a good mix.
3. Line a baking tray and spread the mince evenly making sure there are no holes or gaps. (Tip: Cover over the mince with cling wrap and use a rolling pin to flatten it out on the baking tray.)

Spread the marinated pork mince onto a lined baking tray

4. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove tray from oven and dab or drain the juices off the meat. Cut up the meat into smaller pieces as desired. 
5. Remove baking paper and line tray with a new baking sheet. Turn the cut meat over to the other side and bake for 20-25 minutes.
6. Change the oven setting to grill; alternatively, heat up the grill on the barbecue. Brush the glaze mixture and grill for 4-5 minutes on each side repeating until meat is caramelised. Keep a watchful eye on the meat as the caramelisation could result in the meat burning easily.

Gleaming bak kwa fresh out of the grill

Bak kwa is usually consumed on its own though goes very well washed down with an ice cold beer. I've found that the bak kwa taste better the next day, and better still if warmed (you can zap it in the microwave on high for 10 seconds). Ah-Kong, my paternal granddad used to make us grandkids bak kwa sandwiches when we were little - two slices of white toast lightly buttered with a generous piece of bak kwa reheated on the grill wedge in between. Hmm, just talking about this makes my mouth water - I might just go make up a bak kwa sandwich right now... 

Wishing you all a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!

Gong Xi Fa Cai from Xavier and the Woolley family!

Electro Seconds Giveaway!

The colour red in Chinese culture is a symbol of good fortune and joy so what better way to celebrate the Year of the Fire Monkey with a new shiny red toaster for the home! Thanks to the folks at Electro Seconds, one lucky reader will have a chance to win this Morphy Richards Accents Red Polished 4 Slice Toaster (RRP $119):
Source: Appliances Online

Electro Seconds is a clearance outlet store that offers a wide range of top brand kitchen appliances, computers and sound systems at the lowest prices. Delivery is free to the metro areas in Australia (small fee to other areas within the country) - you can order online through their website or pop into their Sydney showroom in Auburn or Erina that is open 7 days a week.

To enter, simply follow The Moreish Life on FacebookGoogle+Instagram or Twitter to gain an entry (if you follow all four, that's 4 chances to win!). Competition is open to Australian residents only and ends Sunday 6th March 11.59pm AEDT. Good luck!

Congratulations M. Jordon of Rockdale, NSW for winning the Electro Seconds giveaway!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Banana Walnut Muffin

Whilst skimming through my collection of recipes to plan out the family meals for the week, I stumbled upon some old muffin recipes from my university days. Back then, I was always rushing from one lecture to the next, burning the midnight oil studying or working on assignments, and juggling a part-time job at the local supermarket; I didn't have much time to spare and muffins became a staple breakfast or afternoon tea snack on the go. One of my favourite was the banana walnut muffin - a moist banana muffin likened to banana bread with a delicious nutty flavour

I made a batch of the muffins for my little one's playdate earlier in the week and it went down a treat with the mummies! Sadly I have no clue who or where I sourced the original recipe from which I've adapted over the years - if your recipe is similar to the one below, let me know so I can credit you as source.

Banana Walnut Muffin

Banana Walnut Muffin (recipe adapted from unknown source)
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 25 mins

Makes 12 muffins

125 grams butter
250 grams caster sugar
2 large eggs
200 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
100 ml sour cream
¾ cup chopped walnuts
250 grams mashed bananas


1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Line a 12-cup muffin tray with baking cases.
2. Using an electric mixer, cream butter with sugar in a mixing bowl till light and fluffy. Add in eggs and sour cream alternately, folding into creamed butter with a spatula.
3. Add in mashed bananas and mix well. Add in the flour and baking soda, mix till combined. Fold in chopped walnuts.
4. Fill the lined muffin tray with the mixture and bake for 20-25 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. Transfer muffins to a rack to cool.

The muffins taste best served warm with a spread of butter or margarine. You can replace the chopped walnuts with pecans; both taste equally moreish. The nuttiness of these golden beauties makes them so addictive and yummy it's hard to stop at just one!

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Izakaya Samurai, Neutral Bay

Back in December last year, Jono, Xavier and I had the pleasure of being invited by Yuri of SD Marketing Global to a tasting at Izakaya Samurai located on the main food and shopping strip Military Road in Neutral Bay. A sister shop to the popular Izakaya Yebisu in Regent Place on George Street in Sydney CBD, this Japanese tapas-style restaurant offers an authentic izakaya menu typically found in Japanese drinking establishments with a wide selection of beer, sake, wine and cocktails to choose from. Izakaya is a compound word made up of i (to stay) and sakaya (sake shop) traditionally meaning a place for customers to sit and drink on the premises; such establishments are marked by the akachochin (paper red lanterns) hanging at the entrance.

Izakaya Samurai on Military Road, Neutral Bay

We arrived at the restaurant around noon and were the first diners of the day. We were met by the lovely Yuri and warmly welcomed by Chef Shinya, the owner of Izakaya Samurai, who proceeded to show us around the restaurant. There was a choice of indoor or outdoor seating and given the lovely summer weather, we decided to go with al fresco dining for the fresh air and natural breeze (heaters available outdoors for the colder months). The indoor setting with its dimmed lights give the venue a more romantic and cosy ambience - you can even get a sneak peek of all the action behind the bar from between the row of sake bottles on display as well as watch the chef skilfully prepare the sashimi from the counter located next to the bar.

Indoor dining area

With a menu of over 200 food and drink items which you can select at a simple touch of the iPad located at each table, ordering is a breeze - you can take your time and order as you go, fully enjoying your izakaya experience. We went with Chef Shinya's recommendation and ordered their popular Sushi & Sashimi Lunch Set and Yebisu Lunch Box from the lunch menu (served between the hours of 12-2.30pm). The service here is speedy; it did not take long for our first meal to arrive at the table.

Order at ease from your table using the touch screen ordering system

The Sushi & Sashimi Lunch Set comes beautifully presented in a captivating ensemble of quality sashimi and assorted sushi, served with sides of miso soup, fresh salad dressed in a tangy sesame sauce, edamame and agedashi tofu. I LOVE the sashimi - thickly sliced fresh quality pieces of salmon, tuna and kingfish respectively, so good they were devoured almost immediately! The warm miso soup makes a great starter to get our bellies ready for the meal ahead and with the sides make this complete lunch set a very generous serving for one.

Sushi & Sashimi Lunch Set ($23.80)

Warm miso soup

Salad, edamame and agedashi tofu

Thickly sliced salmon sashimi

As a Washoku Lovers member, I had the additional benefit of ordering either the Suntory Malt’s Tap Beer or a small glass of Japanese Sake Ippin for $5 (normal price $8.80 and $9.50 respectively) or 1 free soft drink. We opted to go with the sake to share which worked out well for the warm weather. The Ippin Junmai sake was served in a chilled bottle accompanied with two small matching Ippin sake cups - clean and smooth to the taste, a great compliment to our raw seafood meal.

Ippin Junmai (small) ($9.50)

The Yebisu Lunch Box arrived in three parts - an entree of sashimi and salad, followed by a massive main and dessert of ice cream. The main dish was 
made up of a fantastic selection of Japanese dishes to tantalise your tastebuds: peppery beef seared medium rare served on a bed of cooked beansprouts, crunchy mixed tempura with dipping sauce, crispy teriyaki salmon, and a kaisendon - a bowl of diced sashimi, fish roe, thinly sliced tamago served on a bed of sushi rice with wasabi and ginger on the side. The Yebisu Lunch Box, much like the Sushi & Sashimi Lunch Set was very generous in serving size; there was no way we could finish this having already consumed the prior lunch set. Fortunately we were able to have the leftovers packed up to take home - the friendly staff were more than happy to assist. To finish, we had green tea ice cream (you get a choice of green tea or vanilla flavour) which was not overly sweet and wonderfully refreshing.

Entree of sashimi and salad

Main course of the Yebisu Lunch Box ($29.80)

Green tea ice cream

Since becoming a parent, I've found myself mentally taking note of restaurants and cafes that cater for children and I'm pleased to report that Izakaya Samurai fits the bill! Kids can choose from one of the four meal sets from the menu; there's also a secured kids' play area indoors with plenty of toys to keep the little ones entertained as well as a nappy change table in the ladies' washroom for your convenience. The restaurant is very family-friendly with many of the diners seen during the lunchtime service being families with young children. And though Xavier was too young to enjoy the food and play area this time, he had a ball on his first visit to the restaurant, squealing with delight as he joined us at the table whilst we enjoyed our meal :)

Secured kids' play area indoors

Xavier having a fun time on his first visit to Izakaya Samurai

With excellent, fresh quality food and great service, it is no surprise this neighbourhood gem is gaining much popularity since it reopen its doors post-refurbishment in late 2013. The generous serving size of meals makes it affordable and you are really spoilt for choice when it comes to their extensive selection of food and drinks on offer!

Jono and I dined as guests at Izakaya Samurai with thanks to Yuri from SD Marketing Global and Washoku Lovers.

Izakaya Samurai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato