Friday, November 14, 2014

Barilla lunch at A Tavola, plus WIN a Barilla pasta pack!

Recently Two Silly Sisters had the pleasure of attending an exclusive bespoke Barilla lunch, hosted at A Tavola, in Darlinghurst. A Tavola Owner and Head Chef Eugenio Miaile created the menu using the new gluten free range of Barilla pasta. Established in 2007, A Tavola is well known for its authentic Italian pasta, so to be able to enjoy the delicious flavours of chef Eugenio Miaile was a treat! 

Barilla gluten free pasta is made from a combination of natural gluten free flours – white corn, yellow corn and rice, and is made in a dedicated gluten free facility. 

Today the menu comprised of three courses of pasta, to test out the three different pasta shapes – Elbows, Spaghetti and Penne. 

The first gluten free pasta dish was Elbows con Vongole e Cannellini – a lovely dish of Barilla gluten free Elbows, served with vongole and cannellini beans. The Barilla Elbows are a small range of pasta (shaped like little elbows) perfect for entrees, soups or pasta salads. 

Our second dish was Spaghetti dell’Ortolano – a vegetarian dish of Barilla gluten free Spaghetti with organic vegetables. This pasta dish was delicious and fresh. The gluten free spaghetti tasted fantastic and held together well without breaking when served. 

The third and final gluten free pasta dish of the day was Penne con Salsiccia e Carciofi – Barilla gluten free Penne with pork sausages, artichokes and parmesan. The ingredients in this dish were simple but flavour intensive. Again, the gluten free penne held together extremely well and did not break apart when eating. 

The recipes created for this lunch reminded us a lot of our mothers traditional Italian cooking – simple and fresh ingredients. Growing up in an Italian family food was very important to us, especially our pasta, and it still is. So finding a gluten free variety that we can trust for taste and texture means a lot. 

But no lunch can be complete without dessert, and today was no exception. This dessert was absolutely amazing – I am still salivating just thinking about it. We were served A Tavola’s most popular dessert, the Creminello. Served in an espresso cup, this dessert is made up of layers and layers of pure indulgence – Chocolate and hazelnut, amaretti, salted caramel gelato, and Italian meringue! 

So what did we think of the new Barilla gluten free pasta range? Overall we thought it was fantastic. The taste is great and it holds together when cooked. We have tried it out at home since and the whole family, even those without gluten intolerances enjoy it! 

Thank you to A Tavola and Barilla for a yummy gluten free lunch! We left with happy pasta loaded bellies, and even goodie bags to take home with us! Gluten free pasta is available at A Tavola as part of their standard menu, plus many more gluten free options. 

The Barilla gluten free pasta range is now available in Woolworths nationally and in independent grocers. 

Do you want to try out the new Barilla Gluten Free pasta range for yourself? Well today we have a Barilla pasta pack to give away to one lucky winner! 

The Barilla pasta pack is valued at RRP $60 and includes: 
2 x Gluten Free Spaghetti 
2 x Gluten Free Elbows 
2 x Gluten Free Penne 
4 x Sauces: Napoletana, Basilico, Ricotta and Arrabbiata 
2 x Pesti: Pesto Genovese and Sundried Tomato Pesto 
Pasta server 
Barilla Apron 
Pasta Tin 
Gluten Free Recipe Book 

For your chance to WIN this fabulous Barilla pasta pack simply LIKE us on Facebook & email and tell us your family’s favourite pasta dish. 

Terms and conditions
The draw will result in 1 prize winner (prize value: RRP $60). Competition is open to Australian residents only. Competition closes Sunday 7th December 2014 at midnight. This is a game of skill. Winner will be drawn on Monday 8th December 2014 by 8pm and will be notified by email. By entering this competition you are subscribing to Two Silly Sisters Newsletter. Upon receiving emails from Two Silly Sisters you may opt out at any time. 

A Tavola
348 Victoria Street Darlinghurst NSW 2010 

All images © TWO SILLY SISTERS 2014

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Sunday, November 09, 2014

Escape Haven Chocolate Bliss Balls

I bite into a Chocolate Bliss Ball that I have just made and am instantly transported back to Bali. I am now at Escape Haven sipping on freshly brewed ginger tea and nibbling on Bliss Balls relaxing on the comfy lounges at Villa Jupun. I am happy and completely Zen. It’s funny how your senses can transport you back to a place in time – the taste of these Bliss Balls, the smell of ginger tea, the tunes of a song – they all take me back to my recent trip to Bali (read previous post here).

Today I want to share with you the recipe to Escape Havens specialty, Chocolate Bliss Balls. They are delicious and easy to make, and best of all they are gluten free, dairy free and sugar free. They are a healthy treat and a great nourishing pick-me-up. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. Stay Zen.

{Gluten Free Recipe} Escape Haven Chocolate Bliss Balls
2 cups walnuts
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup coconut, shredded
8 fresh dates, pitted
2/3 cup cacao powder
1⁄4 cup of water
Pinch of salt

1. Combine the walnuts, sunflower seeds, coconut and dates in a food processor. Pulse until the ingredients are combined.

2. Add the cacao powder, salt and water to the mixing bowl and process until the mixture forms a dough (the mixture may look too crumbly but trust me, it will work!)

3. Take tablespoons of the mixture and squeeze and roll it between your palms into medium sized balls.

4. Place the finished Bliss Balls on a tray lined with waxed paper and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.

Makes approximately 27 Bliss Balls, depending on size.

All images © TWO SILLY SISTERS 2014

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Escape Haven Retreat, Bali

I climb into the cool air-conditioned mini van as my driver places my suitcase into the boot. “Would you like a cold bottle of water Miss?” Yes please! It is a sweltering 30 degrees outside. “How about a gluten free Bliss Ball? They are our specialty.” How can I say no! I already love this place and I haven’t even arrived!

I am in sunny Bali, on a spontaneous solo trip, where I am about to spend the next 6 nights at Escape Haven – a woman’s health and wellness retreat. We arrive at our destination. “Welcome to Villa Jupun.” I walk through the entrance, not knowing what to expect, after all I only booked this days ago and am still in a daze. A garland of frangipanis is placed around my neck. I am speechless as I look around – this place is even more amazing than I could have ever imagined, and I get to spend the whole week here!!

Rachel, the Escape Haven manager, greets me and talks me through my program. One of the staff brings over a refreshing traditional Balinese drink of snakefruit infusion with cinnamon and ginger, and a plate of fruit kebabs and Vietnamese lettuce wraps. Rachel and I discuss my week and what is involved. I have chosen the Refresh program, which consists of daily yoga classes, lots of relaxing by the pool and hours on end of spa treatments (8 hours to be exact!).

I am shown around my new home, and given time to settle in before my 30-minute welcome massage. Ah yes, did I already say I love this place?! My room is spacious and beautifully decorated. I find a gorgeous gift on the bed with my name on it decorated with frangipanis – a canvas tote bag containing a purple sarong and a few other lovely surprises. There are frangipanis everywhere in Villa Jupun, with a huge frangipani tree over hanging the pool located directly at the front of my room. And much to my surprise, there is even a frangipani floating in the toilet bowl!!

That evening we attend our first yoga class with Adele – a slow and easy class to centre and ground us in Bali. Yoga takes place in the beautiful air-conditioned yoga studio, decorated with 6 framed mirrors on either side of the walls and a gorgeous statue of Shiva Nataraja doing the ecstatic dance of bliss at the front of the room, which Adele decorates with candles and fresh frangipanis every night. Our yoga mats are set up with towels, blocks and bolsters to assist us throughout our practice.

Following our yoga class we head directly to the outside lawn for a traditional Balinese ceremony to cleanse the body and mind. We are each given an offering and asked to wash the smoke over us to cleanse, prayers are said with our flowers, coconut water is drunk and rice is placed on our forehead for abundance and fertility.

Later that night we sit around the couches sipping on fresh coconut juices introducing ourselves. We are a small group of 7 women, all with different reasons for being here. But we all have one thing in common… we have come to escape the world for a week. 

Our first dinner consists of a delicious banquet of Balinese food. We sit around the communal table, which has been beautifully decorated, as the staff bring out plate after plate – Red snapper fillets poached in coconut milk with herbs & spices; Lentil, pumpkin & coconut curry; Gado Gado with peanut sauce; Brown rice nasi goring; and Vegetarian stir fry vegetables. The food is delicious, wholesome and all gluten free! Conversation flows around the table as we get to know each other. And then just when I think the day cannot get any better – we are served dessert and it is a Coconut sorbet… Words cannot describe how delicious this is! For those that know me, I am an extreme coconut lover. Put simply, I am in pure gluten free coconut heaven. As I slowly eat my sorbet I can’t help but smile. I am in Bali and I am going to enjoy Escape Haven very much!

My first full day at Escape Haven, I listen to my body and allow myself to simply relax and unwind. Breakfast is served at 8am daily and consists of freshly squeezed juice of the day, and a changing menu of fruit, yoghurt, gluten free toast and a selection of spreads. Eggs of any kind are available on request. And I am even lucky enough to get gluten free Ricotta and Apple Hotcakes, and Black Sticky Coconut Rice throughout the week.



While most of the girls are out surfing, my day is spent lazing in the gorgeous sunshine and swimming in the pool, while frangipanis drop overhead from the beautiful tree. Lunch is a banquet of delicious healthy Balinese food; Tofu cakes, Grilled Mahi Mahi Kebabs, Gado Gado with peanut sauce, and Avocado Salsa. Followed by an afternoon stone massage and our daily evening yoga.

Tonight dinner is delicious Balinese style tapas – called Nasi Campur. Each dish is served in a little banana leaf basket with a hidden mound of brown rice in the centre. The dishes include Chicken Sate on lemongrass skewers, Indonesian Salad, Eggplant Curry, Spiced Quail Eggs, Crispy Fried Tempe, and Fragrant Tofu. For dessert a delicious Indonesian coconut & banana palm sugar pancake, made gluten free of course! We close tonight with a yoga nidra session, or as we like to call it ‘bed time yoga’ – a meditation to help us sleep easier.

The days roll into one another as I start to feel refreshed and clear minded. Daily yoga provides a sense of calm. I learn how to breathe again with Rachel. Another healing session releases negative energy. A home yoga practice with Adele. Tarot reading. A visit to the beautiful Finns Beach Club. A Balinese cooking class. And a ride on a scooter with Era through the crazy Indonesian traffic! Throw into the mix a pedicure by the pool while sipping on a fresh coconut, a facial under the outdoor canopy, and many more massages. I am feeling very happy and Zen. Life is good.

Daily snacks consist of Roast Beetroot Hummus with vegetable sticks, Edamame Hummus with corn chips, fruit platters, and my all time favourite - Chocolate bliss balls!  

Lunches are always different, healthy and delicious. We enjoy Pumpkin Soup with Lemongrass & Coconut, Green papaya & pomello salad, Quinoa San choy bow, fresh gluten free sandwiches and a variety of salads.

Before I know it the last night of Escape Haven is here! We gather on the outside lawn to attend a gratitude ceremony where we attempt to make our own offering baskets. Some people are naturals – others (including myself) are not so crafty! We make the basket with banana leaves and then fill it with flowers and our own gratitude, which we have written on a piece of paper.

We take our offerings with us to our evening yoga class. Adele warms us up as per usual and then turns up the heat – the music is fun and energetic and the class turns into a mish-mash of many yoga poses. This is the class to experiment and just have a go, she says. While half the class attempts handstands the other class gets into backbends. We all attempt the ‘crow’ pose (which I am determined to get one day!) but even with Adele trying to hold me up I still cannot master it! ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams plays in the background, and there is more laughing and falling than holding any yoga poses.

With the buzz of our yoga class we quickly get ready for our closing ceremony and BBQ. Again we find ourselves sitting around the couches sipping on fresh coconut juice. However now we are different people. We are a close group of friends who have grown throughout the week, all in different ways to each other. I feel a deep connection with serenity and my mind is now at ease.

Our last dinner is a delicious Balinese BBQ of Wild prawns on lemongrass skewers, Basmati jeweled rice, Leafy green salad, Vegetable kebabs, BBQ pineapple, Papaya salsa, and Grilled chicken. And for dessert we top it off with a delicious gluten free and dairy free Chocolate mousse! Tonight we skip our nightly ginger tea ritual, and instead go straight to the cocktail menu… A Pina Colada it will be for me!

The following day after a morning yoga session and some more relaxing by the pool, I join the girls for our last meal together. We gather around the communal table for a Balinese High-Tea. There is a spread of Vietnamese rice paper rolls, Beetroot hummus with vegetable sticks, Tofu pate with corn chips, Fruit kebabs, and specially made gluten free for me a Vegetable samosa, and Strawberries and cream cup. There is a selection of ginger tea and spiced Chai and they are served in the cutest elephant teapots I have ever seen (I think I may have actually squealed when I saw them!).

The afternoon is full of farewells as the group start to leave one by one, and we wish each other safe travels. A 2hr massage and scrub prepares me for my late night flight. The staff have allowed me to stay at Villa Jupun until it is time to head to the airport, where my driver will take me. I order some quick dinner from a local Seminyak wholefood restaurant, Earth CafĂ©, of Buckwheat noodles with vegetables and a coconut pannacota for dessert.  

Although the retreat has officially finished the staff kindly help me order my takeaway food. When the food arrives, I expect to eat out of the container – but instead my food comes out prepared in plates. My place is set with a placemat and cutlery and a fresh glass of water. The kindness in their hearts is beautiful. I could not ask for more.

Bali is such a peaceful and happy place. Such calm and serenity, and I find it to have such healing powers. The Balinese people are forever smiling and willing to lend a hand. Even throughout poverty they still smile. There is no stress here. No road rage, although the traffic is crazy. I honestly think we could take a leaf out of this book. And I know I have found my healing land. 

Escape Haven, as I first thought when I stepped through those doors only 7 days ago, was perfect and absolute bliss. The staff were so friendly and willing to help out and most importantly they made me feel completely safe traveling alone. Accommodation was beyond 5 star. The food was even more delicious than I thought! Gluten free was not an issue and all the meals were so nourishing and fresh! The attention to detail and little surprises throughout the week made me feel very special. I could not fault Escape Haven even if I tried.

Stay tuned for more Bali inspired posts to come including some delicious recipes! Namaste :)

Escape Haven Retreat

All images © TWO SILLY SISTERS 2014

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