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New Season, New Look

You may have noticed that we went through a bit of a face lift here at PlanetBakeLife.
It was all thanks to my boyfriend Michael Lines.
I had a lot to do with the design process and making the site what it is now. It’s much better than the old one where I had tried my best to gather together some coding knowledge and make something half decent. Now it’s girly but not too girly, pretty but functional and best of all, I’m now self hosted. It does mean I’ve shed my Blogger skin and moved to WordPress but it’s apparently not a bad thing.

It’s going to take me a week or so to get some more posts up because this weekend is Father’s Day and that means I’ll be putting on my sweat pants and eating to my heart’s content with my family.
But I have some fantastic photos from our week away in Wellington and my birthday so those will go up soon. 

I’m so excited to start blogging on this new design because it feels so much cleaner and so new and shiny. It’s kind of like the smell of a new car or the feel of a new top. It’s something special.
I hope you’ll stop back next week when I have a few more things to show you!


In My Kitchen // Playlist

I spend a lot of time in my kitchen. Whether it’s creating something for the blog or just cooking dinner and sometimes it gets a little quiet. Our kitchen and lounge are open plan and super close but I prefer to have a playlist on rather than the TV.
This means that I consume a lot of audio media including podcasts, music and audio books.
It’s something I thought you’d be interested in taking a peek at.
Please be warned though, my playlist is by no means filled to the brim with super smart and intellectual things that will make me a genius before dessert. But it will entertain and delight you.

PODCASTS

1. Fletch, Vaughan and Meagan
These lovely 3 people crack me up. Even when Vaughan gets his Matthew McConaughy trivia wrong and Fletch says something awful to Producer Caitlin. If you’re not in New Zealand, this podcast is from the radio show that plays weekday mornings on ZM but the podcasts have bonus content. I only get to spend 5 minutes in my car for my commute (I am eternally grateful for this) so I download the podcast to listen to at work.

2. Joy the Baker
I love Joy and Tracey and find their friendship to be something really beautiful. I always marvel at how they keep the talking relevant to others and don’t just have in jokes. They discuss everything from food to families to natural disaster survival kits. Although the podcasts aren’t as frequent or consistent as I’d like, they’re fantastic when they do happen and that’s alright by me!

3. Gilmore Guys
I am a huge Gilmore Girls fan. HUGE. So I love this podcast because it talks about the different episodes of the series from a guys’ point of view. It’s fantastic to relive the series and get a different spin on my favourite TV show ever.

MUSIC

1. Ed Sheeran – X
I love me some Ed Sheeran and I was gutted I didn’t get tickets to see him live in NZ. But I have his albums and I love them. I think I prefer X to + but to be honest they’re both amazing.

2. American Authors – Oh, What a Life
Apart from their radio stuff, I’d never really listened to American Authors until about a month ago. I’ve had their album since it came out but never got around to listening to it. Boy was that a mistake. They’re amazing and their music is really uplifting. It’s something breezy to pop on in the background while you work.

3. Cute Is What We Aim For – The Same Old Blood Rush with a New Touch
Ok this is definitely a throwback to my college years. The emo in me is screaming loudly people! This brings a bit of nostalgia into my kitchen and I often bake heavy, dark flavours into my goods when listening to this one.

AUDIO BOOKS

1. Yes Please – Amy Poehler 
I love me some Amy Poehler and this audio book is amazing for the kitchen. Girl has some serious wit going on and she’s amazingly insightful too. The way she handles everyday situations inspired me. I read the book and listened to the audio book. The book has lots of visual complements that unfortunately the audio book misses out but it’s such a good book that it’s worth a read AND a listen.

2. Paper Towns – John Green
This bastard knows how to bring you the feels. I honestly got the creeps listening to some parts of this book. It made me pleased I had a knife in my hand at some points.

3. In Real Life – Joey Graceffa
So I’ve never been Joey’s biggest fan on YouTube. I find the theatrics quite tiring but his audio book looks really good. I haven’t downloaded it yet, it’s on the list! But I’m looking forward to a stripped down version of Joey. Less yelling and more soul searching. I hope he doesn’t disappoint.

If you have any suggestions for me then please pop them in the comments below! Music, audio books or podcasts. I love new suggestions and often listen to these choices at the gym as well.


Nairn’s Oatcakes Review

I was very kindly sent three boxes of these Nairn’s Oatcakes.
I’ve had these before in the UK but they were always out of my student budget price range. Now I’m really excited because they’ve come to New Zealand.
There are four flavours including the traditional oatcake, stem ginger, chocolate chip and mixed berry. While I’m not a berry fan, I take my stem ginger oatcakes to work every morning and enjoyed them with a steaming hot mug of tea. And I slapped some chocolate spread between two chocolate chip oatcakes and ate it as a snack during a movie.

Nairn’s Oatcakes are great for all sorts of occasions. The traditional flavour is great with some chutney and cheese on a platter for friends or in your handbag as a snack while you travel.
Each box has small packets of 4 biscuits in plastic wrapping so they stay fresher for longer and they travel so well that way too.

The price tag in New Zealand is reasonable. Nairn’s is available in most supermarkets around the country and make a great change from salt crackers and crisp bread.

 

I was provided these products for review. All opinions are my own and true and belong to me exclusively. 


Chunky Rosemary Kumara Chips (Sweet Potato Fries)

The Auckland Food Show 2015 is on next weekend and it will be the stage for the biggest vegetable battle in New Zealand. Will you be #teamkumara or #teambeetroot for the nation’s official veggie?

If you’re #teamkumara then you might like this recipe that I made on a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon while Don Draper did his creative thing on the TV.
I love that show. Seriously, that glassware is stunning and if it wasn’t around $300 for 6 tumblers, I’d be ordering at least 4 sets.
 
 
 
These kumara chips (or sweet potato fries if you’re living outside of New Zealand) are sweet and chunky and perfect next to a chicken burger. Or in a bowl with plenty of salt as a snack.
We ate these with garlic aioli and tomato sauce.
They were delicious and by far my favourite way of eating kumara. I’m a little on the fence about kumara in general but I think it’s because people tend to over cook it. It’s supposed to be light and fluffy and soft. These chips are all of that but with a crispy outside that gives you that satisfying crunch.
 
 
 
I used the Gold Kumara that was kindly sent to me by Anthony Blundell over at Kaipara Kumara. He’s obviously #teamkumara and he wants everyone else to jump on board. He kindly sent me a few of the different types of kumara but I think the gold kumara is best for these fries as they aren’t as sweet as the other varieties and their skin is best left off.
Of course, all kumara will make tasty chips with or without their skins but the Gold Kumara were particularly tasty.
 
 
 
850g Bag Kaipara Kumara Gold Kumara
1 TBsp Olive Oil
2tsp Rubbed Rosemary
2tsp Rubbed Parsley
 
1// Peel your kumara and wash it.
2// Chop the kumara into strips. I made mine like chunky chips but not so thick that they’d be classed as a wedge. You can make them thicker or thinner and adjust cooking time accordingly.
3// In a bowl, drizzle your olive oil over the kumara, add the rosemary and the parsley and use your hands to toss the chips so they are all coated.
4// In an oven pre-heated to 220 degrees C, pop the kumara chips onto a baking tray covered in baking paper and cook for 25 minutes. Then shake the tray and cook for a further 15 minutes.
5// Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve hot with an array of dips like aioli, tomato sauce and salsa.
 
 

I’ll be heading along to the Food Show for the first time this year and I’m quite excited. I’m hoping to see the result of the debate and see some amazing demonstrations. If you’re going to be going along, let me know in the comments or on Twitter and hopefully I’ll see you there!

 
The kumara featured in this post was sent to me courtesy of Kaipara Kumara and Salt&Pepper PR. This does not influence my decision to use the products in my recipe and does not influence my opinion of the product in any way. All opinions are my own and are open and honest.

Winter Warming Citrus Spiced Black Tea

Winter here in New Zealand has really started to set in. The days are cold and clear and the nights are early and dark. So I’ve started a routine of sorts to get my through the chilly evenings and I thought I’d share a bit of it today with you.
I like to brew or mix teas to create something tasty and warming, especially in the colder months. My favourite teas are rooibos, Early Grey and a simple black tea. I don’t buy anything fancy, it’s just standard tea bags from the supermarket but what’s lovely about this recipe is it can take something simple and make it amazing.

Michael doesn’t drink tea or anything warm so I have become an expert at making tea for one. I normally make these on the stove top but you could also use an infuser to get the same effect. I’m just not fancy enough to have an infuser but I do own pots!
This tea is a spiced citrus tea that uses grapefruits from my friend’s garden. You could use any kind of citrus, just make sure you’re using the zest and not the white bit of the peel or it’ll get bitter really quickly. I also add the citrus only at the end for a minute before pulling it out or it can become over powering.

2 Black Tea Bags
200ml Milk (or less depending on mug size and servings wanted)
1 Anise Star
1 Cinnamon Quill
Zest of Half a Citrus Fruit

1// Pop your milk, tea bags, anise star and cinnamon quill in a pot on the stove on low to medium heat.
2// Allow the milk to colour with the tea bags. You may need to stir and prod the tea bags to get the full flavour.
3// When the milk is heated through, add the zest of your citrus fruit to the mixture and allow to stew away for another minute before removing the zest quickly.
4// Remove your spices and tea bags (you can use the cinnamon quill again, just dry it out beforehand) and serve your tea warm in large mugs. Biscuits on the side are optional but really encouraged.

 

Because I normally drink this citrus spiced black tea by myself, I normally don’t add any sweetener to it at all but if you’re used to sugary teas then you can add half a teaspoon of honey to the milk when it’s on the stove. This is make sure it dissolves and sweetens the drink evenly.

 

I hope you enjoy this during the winter chill or alternatively around a camp fire in the warmer months. It’s an easy one to take camping with you as you can bag all the ingredients up into individual portions and just pop it into a pot on the fire in the evenings.

Now I’m off to make myself a cup too.
Do you get fancy with your teas or are you more into the traditional cups?


In My Kitchen // Props for Blog Posts

My favourite blogs always have fantastic props. They use them to make a simple recipe look amazing. A lot of the blogs I read talk about thrift shops (op shops) being gold mines for these types of pieces but I never have much luck in second hand shops. I don’t have the patience and I always have somewhere else to be.
But I do like finding interesting pieces in stores like Kmart or dollar stores. They tend to have some good things and if you’re looking for props that are popular in your niche then you won’t mind a department store supplying them.
I’ve listed a few of my favourite pieces that I’ve found in Kmart over the last couple of years blogging. You’ll also notice that I use chopping boards as a background. I find this fitting as a foodblogger and I try to pick up interesting boards with different types of wood and patterns. I’ve also got my eye on a few paddle boards to style cheeses and platters too.

1// Milk Bottles
I love these milk bottles. I like to put cocktails in them at dinner parties and smoothies in them for picnics. They look beautiful, they’re not a huge serving and they’re glass rather than plastic so they hold some weight to them. They’re beautiful in photos and can be styled well.
The Kmart bundles comes with some pretty paper straws in different colours but I find that when you want to pick up more, a dollar store is the best place. Dollar stores sell packs of the paper straws (in a huge number of colours) for $3.

2// Chip Baskets and Curry Bowls
I haven’t seen them often but the baskets and the bowls were only $2 each so that’s probably why. The baskets are great for styling anything fried and the bowls are fantastic for curries and also salads. The bowls have a copper bottom to keep the dish warm and they’re actually very functional as well as being stylish.

3// Soup Mugs
These are also functional and pretty. They hold a lot of soup but look so good when you serve them with crusty bread and a dollop of cream on top. I love these mugs and I’ve got a few different interesting spoons that make them really pop in photos.

4// Malvin the Zebra
This print was originally bought to make my very cold room feel a bit brighter and warmer. Now it hangs on the wall on the way into our bedroom. I’ve named the zebra Malvin and love the bright colour and the simple design. My boyfriends hates it because it’s mass produced but I don’t mind it and I like having a bright background for summer recipes.

BONUS
5// Fresh Herbs
I love buying herbs to decorate my house with. I love having some greenery inside the house but also having it functional. I use basil and oregano in my recipes and like to have it fresh to hand, especially to pop some basil in a cocktail or a soup to make it really sing.

Do you have somewhere you go for prop shopping regularly? What are your favourite pieces?


Roasted Sweet Butternut Squash Soup

Moving country can be stressful. You don’t know if the new country has your old favourites. When we moved from South Africa to the UK, I spent the last month living off Spur burgers and creamy Woolworths Butternut Squash Soup. And good thing I did because the UK has neither of those.
The butternut squash soup in the UK are normally spicy, heated through with chilli flakes but I love creamy and sweet butternut squash soup. So now I make them in my own kitchen even though I know New Zealand has the sweet creamy ones in the store. Soups are always just so much better home made.

I used to be afraid of making soups. I thought it was complicated and time consuming. Boy was I wrong.
This soup takes around 45 minutes from start to finish and tastes like absolute magic in your mouth. I normally make this as a whole meal in itself and serve it with crusty bread. Any leftovers are thrown in the fridge or deep freeze for quick workday lunches. This is a hearty soup that will warm you from the inside and seems so much naughtier than it actually is.

 

 

Ingredients
1 Butternut Squash, peeled and diced
1 Onion, peeled and cut in half
3 Cloves Garlic, peeled
Olive Oil
Ground Cinnamon
1TBsp Brown Sugar
500ml Vegetable Stock, more depending
200ml Whole Milk

1// You can buy pre-peeled and diced butternut squash or do it yourself. I prefer to do it myself but I know some people don’t like all the fuss. Either way is cool. I think I had about 2kg when I was done peeling.
2// Peel your onion and cut it in half. Peel our garlic and throw it into a roasting pan with your onion and butternut. Drizzle over the olive oil, sprinkle with the ground cinnamon and the brown sugar. You can use honey if you’d prefer a healthier version.
3// Pop your roasting pan into the oven at 200°C for 20-30 minutes depending on your oven. Make sure you can easily put a fork through the butternut pieces before removing it from the oven.
4// Either make up your own stock from stock cubes according to the packet or use the ready made liquid stuff out of a carton.
5// Put your butternut, garlic and onion into a blender, add 2 cups of stock and blend on medium speed. If the mixture is too thick to blend properly, add a bit more stock. Depending on how you like your soup, you can add more or less liquid at this stage.
6// Lastly, add your milk and do a final blend.
7// Serve hot with crusty bread.



I love this recipe because it doesn’t require much effort at all but everyone is impressed when you produce homemade soup. The roasted butternut squash will be sweet and beautiful and the onion and garlic add a really lovely wholesome taste too. The cinnamon and sugar can be swapped out for chilli flakes and spices if you’d like to make a spicy version.
This is a great base soup that you can add things to like roasted carrots or some roasted fennel. If you have a few veggies that are past their best then add them alone side. Just made sure you get your flavour combinations right, for instance a piece of broccoli probably wouldn’t be welcomed in this pot.



Hopefully your winter isn’t too cold and that you get nice and warm inside with this soup!
What’s your favourite flavour of soup and do you make it at home?


Eating Out // Ironqiue, Mt Eden

We live literally just up the road from Ironique in Mt Eden, Auckland and it was the first place that Laura and I had brunch together. It’s a small shop front in the village. If you blink you’ll miss it, but the cafe stretches out to a beautiful courtyard at the back and has plenty of space.
So Michael and I decided to stop in for brunch one Sunday afternoon to test out my new camera.

We went around 11am and found Ironique to be quite quiet for a Sunday but the weather may have been to blame for that. We opted to sit outside in the courtyard as it’s partly covered and they have heaters available for chilly winter days.
After fighting our way through the birds that settle in for an easy feed, we found a table easily and ordered a Peach Iced Tea and a Berry Mixed Smoothie. Both drinks were served in mason jars with straws which makes my heart very happy. I don’t like drinking straight from a glass so if a cafe or restaurant offers me a straw, I will instantly pledge my loyalty to them.
Unfortunately you have to order at the bar as there’s no table service. This can sometimes cause a bit of a traffic jam inside and the queue is normally really long. If Ironique introduced table service, it would make me a very happy woman.

I’m a sucker for a good eggs bene and I know that Ironique do a very good bacon or salmon version. I opted for bacon and Michael had their big Kiwi breakfast. He doesn’t eat mushrooms or tomatoes so he opted out of the grilled tomato and ordered the mushrooms on the side for me.
The wait for food is never too long which is good and there are plenty of sweet and savoury cabinet options for you to choose from if you really can’t wait.
Ironique has some of the best decor I’ve seen. They’ve used rustic pieces of iron and scrap metal to create their door handles and the bathroom sink is a metal bucket set in a beautiful wooden unit with bare light bulbs. It’s one of the best parts of going to Ironique, the unique setting is great.

Our food arrived and it was very well presented.
My eggs were cooked beautifully and there was a good ration of bacon, toast, egg and spinach to make every mouthful delicious. Michael’s breakfast looked amazing. It disappeared very quickly. I tried some of his scrambled eggs and they were creamy and cheesy and just right.
Our waitress was also really nice and friendly. I’ve never seen any of the staff sour faced at Ironique so they must be doing something right.

I’ll be going back as often as possible.
We’ve also had lunch at Ironique and thoroughly enjoyed it. We like to visit for brunch so that friends and family that accompany us can choose between something breakfast like or lunch option if they’re looking for something to keep them fuller for longer.
I would recommend Ironique to all walks of people and suggest you give it a go.

Have you been to Ironique?
Would you go back? Or do you have a favourite Auckland brunch spot?


Fit June // Elle from Green+Aquamarine on Yoga

If you don’t know Elle from Green+Aquamarine then you should definitely head over to her blog for a read. She’s kindly written a guest post for me for Fit June on her yoga practices as this is something that I’m incredibly interested in and something we’ve talked about quite a bit. Despite Elle being in the UK and myself being in New Zealand, yoga is a topic we have in common and isn’t it awesome when you find something like that?
Don’t forget to check out her social media pages and to like her new Facebook page for yoga updates and fantastic healthy tips and tricks.

Yoga is a big part of my life. I love exploring all kinds of fitness, activity and healthy living, and I find that yoga is always more core driver and inspiration, both physically and mentally. From a gymnastics background, I came to yoga two years or so ago, although it feels much longer! I joined my mum in going to a local Sun Power yoga class and have been hooked since. I started building up a home practice when I had a few months where I couldn’t attend classes before tentatively starting a few photo-a-day Instagram challenges. Now logging on to an online class, or practicing from my head is a commonplace thing for me, as is snapping a few photos of myself in a pose!


At the moment, I rarely have a set routine, so my practice reflects that. At university, I will likely practice yoga in the afternoon or evening, after lectures and perhaps a morning workout. When at home, it can be even more varied! Morning yoga is really energising, but I like to practice invigorating flows at any time of the day, or relaxing flows in the evening. Yoga is flexible like that! I have been working right on the coast this month and have taken the opportunity to practice on the beach on the mornings, which is one of my favourite things to do these days.


I know that I am not ultra bendy as some yogi’s out there, or able to lift into all the tricky inversions. But the best thing is, that doesn’t matter. I love seeing myself progress, and the whole point of yoga is that you feel the benefit from a pose, regardless of how deep into it you can go.


Getting into yoga as a beginner, like any sport or activity, can be daunting, but if you are curious I urge you to give it a go! Many classes are aimed at mixed ages and abilities, so there is no need to feel embarrassed.  Your yoga teacher honestly won’t care if you aren’t in head-to-toe Lululemons and doing the splits. If you are lucky enough to have a choice of teachers, give a couple of classes a few goes each to see if there is a style of yoga or teacher that you connect with. Alternatively, start a home practice and go online. This is a cheaper and a potentially less daunting option, but do be aware that a computer screen can’t check and adjust your posture like a real life teacher can! There are some great teachers on You Tube –give my fellow blogger Jayne at JayneBecca Yoga, a follow for some great Vinyasa sequences. I also love Grokker, which is a website stuffed to the gills with yoga, cooking and fitness vidoes. The free subscription entitles you to watch a couple of vidoes per week, and both Grokker and another website, Yoga Collective, offer premium subscriptions that give you complete access to even more online classes. I find the best thing to do would be learn a few basic sequences that you can do anywhere, and find some 20-30 minute online classes that you like to practice.

Yoga surprises many people by making its way into their lives unexpectedly. I’d really recommend giving it a go and seeing where it takes you.

If you have any questions regarding Elle’s practice, please pop them in the comments below and I’ll make sure Elle is notified of them.

Fit June // Deliciously Ella Review

Well done to everyone who is nearly done with Junk Free June!
Unfortunately we all know that it is the last hurdle that really counts and while you may be on the home stretch, it feels like a long way to go. But never fear! Ella Woodward from Deliciously Ella is here to save you with her new cookbook.
Inside you’ll find recipes for healthy sweet potato brownies and delicious smoothies bursting with goodness that tastes like dessert.

If you’ve never heard of Ella then here’s a little run down.
Ella is currently training in London as a nutritionist and runs her blog to help people ditch the bad processed foods and sugar and indulge in a healthier lifestyle. Ella had a lot of health problems before she started cutting these foods out and now she has managed to keep her conditions mainly under control. You’ll definitely hear Ella singing the praises of natural and whole food as these were the tools she used to get better.
As well as delicious recipes, Ella is good at educating her audience about the food they put in their bodies. She wants you to know that being healthy does not mean being hungry and denying yourself what you crave. You can get it in other ways.

I’ve long followed Ella’s blog and I follow her on Instagram too.
She’s a really inspiring person with a lot of good ideals. She’s also very open and honest about her life style and how she feels. Recently she posted on Instagram about feeling a bit depressed and anxious about life despite being incredibly lucky with everything she has. That kind of raw honesty is incredibly important in this day and age and I salute her for taking the step and telling people about the hard times as well as the good.

You can pick this delicious book up at all good bookstores at around $29.99.
While this will most definitely help you through the rest of Junk Free June, Ella’s book will become a staple on your shelf for years to come with everything from breakfast options to side dishes and desserts.
You’ll find beautiful photos and delicious looking meals but you’ll also find a lot of nutritional information inside these pages. Ella talks about her journey (getting very personal at times) and why she uses different ingredients. She also kindly supplies you with a must-have kitchen equipment list which is super handy and means you won’t be caught out without a gadget to do the job.
My favourite part of this cookbook is that by sharing her philosophy on food and giving you information regarding why she does things in the kitchen, Ella is giving you the power to make smarter choices in every day life. You can go forth and apply the logic behind these dishes to any situation.
Alternatively you can download Ella’s app too.

Do you read Ella’s blog and love her recipes?

I was provided this book by Hatchette New Zealand for review. I was not compensated for my opinion and any views expressed are honest and truthful and all my own.