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Italian Sausage, white bean and spinach soup

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serves 2
Preparation Time 10 minutes
Cooking time 15 minutes

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ brown onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Sprig of rosemary or a good pinch of dried
250g beef sausages coarsely chopped ( choose lean sausages)
2 cups of chicken stock
400g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 x 400g tin of diced tomatoes with herbs
150g baby spinach leaves

Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan and sweat off the onion, rosemary and garlic until softened. Add in the chopped sausages and cook for a further 4 minutes until the sausages start to brown. Pour in the chicken stock, cannellini beans and the diced tomatoes and stir. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add in the baby spinach just before serving.

 

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The Scoop A Taste of Tuscany – My City Life

Melissa Loh is one of The City’s top foodie bloggers extraordinaire. My City Life was invited to sample the delights of this event, and Melissa was definitely the perfect person for this Tuscan task.

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Healthy Travelling Tips

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This season it doesn’t matter if you are going abroad or just cruising around our beautiful country, there is no excuse to let your health slide. Here are some useful travelling tips to stay in top condition and return home feeling revived and full of vitality.

1) Be well prepared so you can go with the flow.
If you are flying, always drink lots of water, take a small atomiser filled with water to refresh your face during flights. Snack on nuts, almonds, seeds and some small amounts of dried fruits. Eating fresh fruit will fill you up and have you less likely reaching for the chips, breads and salty snacks on the plane tray.
If you are travelling in a car or van cut up fresh fruit and drizzle with lemon juice to ensure no browning occurs. Take some whole meal crackers, cut up carrots, celery and or cucumber and a container of hummus or dip. Baked corn chips and healthier snacks like boiled eggs, snow peas or even your own frozen yoghurt will all stay fresh and chilled stored in an esky. Make yourself a container of fantastic salad, bring along shredded roast chicken or make some wraps. If you start strong – then the temptation to snack at the road side service stations is eliminated and you will save money meaning more to spend at your vacation destinations.

2) Don’t be a Spoil Sport….being healthy is not about missing out!
Make sure you take along some of those exciting treats that you love to eat at Christmas to have along the way. Try my gorgeous Chocolate Balls that have no sugar in them – they don’t need refrigeration and with their delicious chocolaty flavour you won’t believe they are good for you.

3) Make sure you have a healthy breakfast or brunch that will sustain you for hours.
If you are travelling by plane, after a meal get up and walk around to help with digestion and get the blood flowing. Remember we generally only eat 4-6 small meals a day so don’t fall into the trap of eating every time the trolly comes around. Ask for fruit and extra bottles of water, and if you feel like a drink, have one but follow it with water. My favourite plane drink is a Virgin Mary – spicy tomato juice, pepper, lots of ice and lemon, I have this when I think I may be hungry as it makes for a reasonably healthy in between snack.

If you are doing an adventure for the day, grab a tub of yogurt, a healthy muesli bar or a pre-made healthy muffin to get you going until lunch, we all know that the fresh sea air makes us hungry.

4) Be restaurant and menu savvy.
If you have to eat out, don’t dive straight into the fast food trap. Try to always choose a healthier option – burgers are fine as long as they are loaded with salad, and ask for what you want, say no butter, whole meal bread for a sandwich, grilled fish, dressing on the side – you’ll feel better for it and your body will thank you too. Did you know that you can eat up to 18 x fresh oysters or grilled prawns instead of just 3 x fried calarmari – and you won’t be denying yourself and again feeling proud of yourself for making the better choices.

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Piazza Armerina – Villa Romana di Casale – Caltagirone

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The beautiful medieval town of Piazza Armerina located south on a hill not far from the town of Enna in the heart of Sicily. Piazza Armerina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site was conquered by the Arabs in 861. With its dark cobbled streets and Baroque monuments displayed amidst grand Norman and Gothic architecture and 17th century palazzos, it was made world famous as a destination since the discovery of the Villa Romana del Casale one of the finest examples of Roman mosaics made by African craftsmen. The villa is one of the most luxurious of its kind. It is especially noteworthy for the richness and quality of the mosaics which decorate almost every room; they are the finest mosaics anywhere in the Roman world. We lunch at one of the local restaurants in the Piazza sampling this areas specialties such as almond wine, cheese and meats then continue our bus tour to Caltagirone one of the most lively Baroque towns in central Sicily.

Caltagirone, known in Italy as “The city of Sicilian ceramics” due to its thousand-year-old tradition. The name itself – Caltagirone – derives from an Arabic word meaning the Castle or Fortress of the vases.

Here you are free to wander through the many artisan workshops, do a spot of shopping, visit the Regional Museum of Ceramics and to work off lunch you may like to tackle the 142-step monumental Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte, built from 1608 in the old part of the town. The peculiarity is that each step is decorated with different hand-decorated ceramics, using styles and figures derived from the millennial tradition of pottery making.

One of the highlights of Sicily for the lovers of art and sculpture are the stunning ceramics. Ceramics are available all over Sicily although two of the most famous places that you will visit on Pure Food Wine and Cooing Tours of Sicily are Caltagirone in Eastern Sicily and Sant Stefano di Camastra in western Sicily. Local production of functional pottery in Sicily started as early as the 2nd century BC, thanks to the abundance of clay in the area. There are many different styles and techniques that you will find throughout Sicily thanks to the influences of the Romans, then the Greeks, the Arabs, the Spanish and the Normans, each providing new elements of creativity to the local ceramic production, making it one of the most distinctive in Italy. Sant Stefano de Camastra is a town that pays homage to ceramics with coloured painted panels in the squares, tiles on the floors of the stores, house street numbers, street signs and even in furniture. The features and difference between the two towns ceramic styles are evident in the colours, shapes, forms and patterns.

Caltagirone is definitely worth visiting as it is full of beautiful buildings, baroque churches and protected by the UNESCO World heritage program. This little town part of the Eastern Sicily tour is one of the most lively Baroque towns in central Sicily and is as “The city of Sicilian ceramics” due to its thousand-year-old tradition. The name itself derives from an Arabic word meaning the Castle or Fortress of the vases.

Caltagirone ceramics have been used for centuries to decorate parks and churches, streets and squares and this you can see throughout the small picturesque town. A sight that you must experience and challenge yourself to walk to the top is the 142 step monumental Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte. Each step is decorated with different hand-decorated ceramics, using styles and figures derived from the millennial tradition of pottery making.

The highlight of these ceramics is the Maiolica, typically a head with Moorish features painted in different colours and displaying symbols and stories from history also inclusing fruits, flowers and vines.

A story says that around 1100 AD, when Sicily was ruled by the Moors, a beautiful girl was living in seclusion and spent her days cultivating flowers on her balcony. One day a young Moor passing by saw her, decided he had to have her and entered the house so to declare his love. The young girl, surprised by such a gesture, reciprocated him, but just when she got to know him he had to return to where he came from, to his wife and children, she waited for the night to come and as he fell asleep she cut off his head and used it as a vase for her flowers and put it on her balcony displaying it to everyone. This way his love was forever hers. Since then, flowers grew lush in the vase and the neighbours, envious, built vases shaped like a Moor’s head.