Brunch Club #2: Al’s Deli

So I sadly missed last month’s Blogger’s Brunch Club but this month was back in motion with a visit to the trendy new Al’s Deli near the top of Queen Street in Central Auckland.

DSC_4821 We chose this place due to its central location and delicious sounding menu! Maddy and Laura were there as well as Sandi who it was a pleasure to meet! We started off with drinks and luckily the coffee here is strong and full of flavour.

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On to the good stuff, what we ate! Al’s Deli is famous already for its delicious homemade bagels (they even do gluten free ones!) as well as their selection of amazing sweet treats. Naturally most of the lovely ladies opted for the Bagels, testing out “The Plateau” (crispy chicken, aioli, roquette and tomato) as well as “The Saint” (featuring their home cured maple smoked salmon with the classic combo of cream cheese, capers and red onion). Being a newly fledged vegetarian I couldn’t wait to get my hands (or rather fork, I have some rare manners) on their Roast carrot, beetroot and haloumi salad. My salad was nothing short of wonderful with a generous amount of roast vegies, thick slices of tasty haloumi, crispy bagel chips and lemon vinaigrette. The bagels looked delicious and seemed to go down a treat however the twice fried chips didn’t quite live up to our hefty expectations.

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We couldn’t leave without tasting a few sweet treats (despite being rather full) so shared a Maple Butter Moose Ear (a unique Canadian pastry, something between a pancake and bread), a cronut (if you haven’t tried these yet you are seriously missing out!) and the apple fries with caramel sauce. I love a good cronut but the highlight for me were the apple fries which were too delicious for my brain to handle, especially when smothered in home made caramel sauce (ie the best thing ever). What a wonderful way to end a meal with lovely people and a nice location! You can read more about another time I tried some of their sweeter menu items over at nzgirl!

Look at all the delicious things to enjoy! And the funky decor :D

Look at all the delicious things to enjoy! And the funky decor 😀

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The amazing apple fries with homemade caramel sauce. Could life get any sweeter?

Can’t wait to find out where we are going next month!
If you would like to take part in Blogger’s Brunch Club just let us know on twitter (@liz_lock).

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One more photo of a cronut….just because. Drool.

Lizzy xx

p.s. Go show my facebook page some love!

Photo Diary: The Coromandel

Hi Guys!

So I may have taken a rather long break from blogging. It was well worth it for a week long holiday away from the big smoke and staying at our favourite bach in the Coromandel at Hot Water Beach (near Hahei). I thought the most appropriate thing to do upon my return would be to share some snaps from our week away, showing off a few of our favourite places to go. Edd and I go with my family to Hot Water Beach every year and I can never get enough.

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Our first couple of days were pretty dramatically terrible in terms of weather but this made for a good excuse to go visit Coromandel township on the other side of the peninsula and eat plenty of good food.

 

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We stopped in to the Driving Creek Railway which is full of amazing art and also hosts a wonderful train ride into the native bush. Well worth a stop, especially with kids.

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There was also a lot of wonderful bird life in the native bush.

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These little guys are so fluffy.

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A very small taste of the incredible sculpture at the railway. The pottery in particular is stunning.

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There is no such thing as too much beach

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Just ask Mr 6

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Evening walks along Hot Water Beach and candy floss skies

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These two had an awesome time once the sun came out.

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Lucky for us it stayed out for the rest of the trip. Most of our time was spent on the beach, usually with a book nearby.

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Occasionally we ventured away from the beach to visit some of our favourite spots. This place is amazing and does a huge range of delicious liqueurs.

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And Eggcentric cafe is another place we always ensure we stop at. The food here is amazing and again, the art in the gardens is wonderful to be around.

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There is always the little ferry ride across to Whitianga if you are in need of some serious shopping or a bit of night life (by that I mean the sports bar…)

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This guy was sitting right outside the bach, just waiting for his photo to be taken.

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On the way home we stopped at a wonderful hidden river spot, just by the state highway.

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My 12 year old brother is much braver than I am.

All in all it was so wonderful to get away from work and general life in the city and take some time to be with family. I’m already excited for next year.

Lizzy x

Not Your Average Brownie (Gluten-Free)

Hey Guys!

So just a quick post today featuring one of my favourite gluten-free recipes ever. I am a big fan of brownies and my ultra-rich recipe is one I turn to a lot but when I was doing my gluten free trial I tested out this recipe and found it to be equally as delicious and just as easy to make. Compared to the my usual brownies these aren’t quite so rich but still chocolatey with less cocoa, more chocolate and the addition of cranberries and caramel drops (which add a little bit of a black-forest spin to a simple brownie recipe). This recipe makes about 18 little muffins (which I think are kind of adorable) or you can make about 18 slices using a tin.

The recipe is taken mostly from a Julian Lelerc recipe for GF brownies (which I cannot find online and which I have a cut out article of which gets increasingly dirty and damaged each time I make these)  and really is incredibly easy whilst being wonderfully tasty and full of chocolate goodness.

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Ingredients:

  • 200g Butter cubed
  • 200g Dark cooking chocolate, chopped roughly
  • 1 1/2 Cups Brown Sugar
  • 4 Eggs, lightly beaten
  • I C Gluten-free flour (available at Supermarkets)
  • 2Tbsp Cocoa powder
  • Roughly 1/2 Cup of craisins and 1/2 Cup of Nestle Caramel Drops (but you could add/substitute with mini marshmallows, almonds, chocolate drops, or anything else that takes your fancy

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180.C and either line your muffin tin or baking tin with muffin cases/baking paper.
  2. Place butter and chocolate into a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Or if you are lazy like me just pop it directly in the saucepan over a very low heat/microwave with 30 second bursts with heaps of stirring in between. Melt until everything is smooth and combined (i.e. the chocolate is melted..)
  3. Sift in the flour and cocoa and stir into the chocolate mixture,
  4. Add in the extra ingredients and stir to combine.
  5. Pour into your chosen baking receptacle and bake for around 10-15 mins in the muffin tin (test after ten mins quite often with a skewer, or in my case a piece of spaghetti past (uncooked!) to test. These will be best if the skewer/pasta comes out almost clean, moist but not completely dry). If using a rectangle brownie tin bake for approx 45-50mins. Remove to cool then enjoy! Or if you can resist long enough sprinkle with icing sugar cause it looks pretty

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These are delicious and moist, rich but also complex with the taste of tart craisins/cranberries and delicious morsels of caramel. These also last really well if you store them in a airtight container. I am sure you could substiture the GF flour for normal flour but I have no idea if it turns out the same. I think the dense nature of GF baking really works for this recipe and creates the perfect little lunchbox treat for work, firm on the outside but deliciously chocolatey on the inside. Definitely give it a try, they are basically fool proof. The only real warning I have is to make sure you  don’t overcook them. These are 100x nicer when they are still a little under on the inside. This is harder to acheive in muffin form but with a little careful testing can still be done.

Give them a try and let me know what you think! Also if you have any other great ideas for additions please share below. I will making this many more times in the near future…

Lizzy Xx

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My Big Little City: Waiheke Island

Hey Guys!

Is it just me or does this week feel like it is taking forever? I swear I woke up today and thought it was the end of the week then realized I had many more days to go. It was a devastating moment I think we can all agree.A while ago Edd and I took a day trip to the rather wonderful Waiheke Island that lies off the coast off Auckland. It was Edd’s first time going over and he took some great photos so I thought I would share them and tell you about my favourite NZ island (although I may be biased due to the wonderful people who live there).

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So yeah the weather wasn’t looking so good when we left. And then it started raining. The city totally looks like it could be some sort of Gotham city with a kiwi Batman running amok though right?

How to get there:

There are two main ferry companies (Fullers and Sealink) and both run pretty regular ferry services from either Half Moon Bay or Auckland CBD. The ferry takes about 40-50 minutes and will cost you around $36 return for an adult or $20 for a child. You can also pay to take a car or motorbike. The ferry ride over is beautiful with amazing views of Auckland harbor and so definitely try to grab a seat outside so you can enjoy it properly.

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Pirate ship? Maybe not.

For us the trip over was nearly a nightmare in that it was pouring with rain 90% of the time and I was pretty sure the day was going to be a disaster. Luckily there were atmospheric photos to be taken and then much to our surprise the weather changed its mind once we arrived (ah, even on Waiheke one cannot escape the crazy psychopath that is Auckland weather). There is no doubt Waiheke and it’s ferry rides are nicer in the sunshine but there was something quite peaceful about sitting out and experiencing the ride in the rain.

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What to do there:

Our first stop was to get something to eat. Luckily the weather was clearing and the bus takes you straight from the ferry to the main shops at Oneroa Village where there is a plethora of cafe’s and shops to wander through. We ate at a Turkish cafe called Delight which has the best views possible over Oneroa beach. A gorgeous setting to eat brunch and the food was delicious too. Edd had their lamb pita and I had a Turkish lunch plate. It was all very tasty and delicious although their breakfast options looked even better.

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Tasty…although not as tasty as their Turkish tea which I think I could live on.

After brunch there are a bunch of really lovely gift shops to explore (which was handy seeing as this visit fell just before Christmas).

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In my opinion the best part about Waiheke is the beautiful beaches. As we were limited transport wise we just visited Oneroa Beach  however my favorite would have to be the more wild Palm Beach (although be warned, there is a nude beach just a few rocks away so don’t go exploring too far without this in mind).

 

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See what a stunning day it turned into? I think we were a little lucky.

Arguably competing for first place with the best thing on Waiheke are the huge number of incredible vineyards with tastings and incredible views all around.

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On our trip we visited two, the first being the ultra modern, classy Cable Bay vineyard. The wine tasting was $10 per person for 5 wines (the price was deducted from our purchases at the end) and took place in a modern looking cellar (which I found a bit strange as the views from the outside garden area and restaurant were seriously breath taking and would make for a much nicer tasting experience in my opinion).

 

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The second vineyard we visited was the extremely popular Mudbrick which although is just down the road from CableBay is a complete polar opposite. The buildings look like they were plucked from Tuscany and dropped on a beautiful Island, hence why it is a favourite spot for wealthy Aucklanders to get hitched. Unfortunately for us Mudbrick was just closing for a marriage ceremony when we arrived (a common problem so get in there early). Despite not actually doing the tasting I would go back in a heartbeat (hopefully next time to drink some wine) due the amazing setting. No doubt it is one of the prettiest places in Auckland to visit.

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Seriously. Mudbrick is one stunning location.

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So if you are looking for a day trip or a weekend away Waiheke is a perfect spot to get away from the smoke of city and enjoy some good food and wine. Check out this website for a lot more information (most more useful than mine) on things to do and places to stay. Next time I go I think we will take a full weekend and maybe try out the archery… You can just call me Katniss from now on.

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Thanks as per usual to Edd for his gorgeous photos of a gorgeous island

 

 

 

A Mindful 2014

2014 new yearsHey Guys!

So I haven’t really posted in a while due to the crazy, psychotic time that was Christmas and New Years! I spent some of it working, some of it drinking with friends and a lot of it with lovely family. Still, we are 6 days into the New Year so time to start thinking to the future and what 2014 may hold. 2013 was a great year in some ways and awful in others but there is no way but forward and this year will be something different again.

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The best goals involve cheese

So goal setting doesn’t seem to be that effective for me. I am only being honest when I admit that I did not look at my 2013 goals once, the entire year. Which is extremely sad but also kind of demonstrated that this year would need to be different. So instead of a list of specific goals I have one theme for 2014 and that is going to be Mindfulness.  Confused? Don’t be. Mindfulness for me relates to being present in each moment, attentive to each event whether it be a beautiful sunrise or an unexpected emotion. According to Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn mindfulness relates to “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.” and so in my mind this translates to being more aware and contemplative of what happens in our present moment. Being receptive and contemplative in life I guess. Ok so maybe I am a little rusty on the concept but hopefully you grasp the idea.

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So for me this year is about being more aware and accepting, of my external environment but also my internal one (thoughts and feelings in all their weird, complicated wonderfulness).

Basically this year I want to be more mindful in general of different aspects of my life. I think a theme is easier for me to refer back to as it is simple and easy to remember without referring to a list of goals that really don’t change from year to year.

So having a theme doesn’t mean there aren’t specific areas that I think this will be most applicable to. The first one is my health e.g. how I look after it in terms of exercise and eating. One life change (in relation to what we eat) Edd and I have chosen  to make and started on the 1/1/2014 was to become vegetarian which terrified me before hand but now that I am doing it seems like the most natural thing in the world. Other areas I think will benefit from some mindfulness include how I treat myself mentally and how I let others treat me. Lastly I don’t think a blogger could blog about New Years resolutions without referring to their blog so of course I am hopeful that by being more mindful of what I enjoy about blogging and what I find stressful I can optimize my little hobby and get the most out of it possible.

Other things that this year will bring include the start of my first ever book (and wine) club and I am VERY excited. Although not quite as excited as I am for the two month Europe trip that Edd and I are planning for May/June (tickets to be booked asap!).

All in all 2014 will be an exciting year with lots of new things and challenges and hopefully with a bit of mindfulness I can make the most of it!

What are your goals this year?

Xx

If you want to read a little about Mindfulness Google brings up a host of easy explanations such as here and here. I should warn you that my idea of mindfulness may not be 100% the same as the technical definitions but it is a theme I would still like to incorporate more of into my life.