10 surprising things you may not have known about Champagne!

Happy Friday!

Not that most of us needed an excuse to drink champagne, but today is October 23, otherwise known as World Champagne Day.

In its sixth year, the celebration was apparently started by a blogger in the US, as a chance for champagne enthusiasts worldwide to unite in celebration of this fine wine.

Expect that for the next 24-hours, social media will be full of pictures, videos and pledges of allegiance to the sparkling goodness that is Champagne.


Now, The Happy List originally started out as a collection of all the things that bring happiness into my life. Now, since it’s World Champagne Day, which is DEFINITELY one of my favourite things, it seemed only natural that it would make the cut.

To mark this fine day I thought I would find ten interesting facts about Champagne (preferably to be read whilst drinking a glass of Bolly), so here you go:

Fact 1:

The bubbles in champers make the alcohol enter your bloodstream very quickly—so much so that that it can can even result in a headache. So take it slow!

Fact 2:

“Champagne” is only allowed to be called so if it’s from the French region. Countries like Italy, New Zealand and Australia all give France a decent run for its money in terms of the quality of Champagne produced, but because they are unable to use the famous name, you will often get more bang for your buck.

Fact 3:

Pol Roger, the renowned Champagne house, made a special one pint bottle of champagne for Winston Churchill to be served to him every day at 11 a.m.

Fact 4:

The classic Champagne coupe was adapted from a wax mould made from the breast of Marie Antoinette.

Fact 5:

The world’s most expensive champagne is $275,000 per bottle! It is called Shipwrecked 1907 Heidsieck. I would love to sample this, but then again I think I should buy a house first…

Fact 6:

More people are killed each year by flying champagne corks than bites from poisonous spiders.

Fact 7:

A biography of Marilyn Monroe says that she once took a bath in champagne. About 350 bottles of champagne were used to fill the tub!

Fact 8:

The pressure in a Champagne bottle is around 90 pounds per square inch. That’s equivalent to that of a London double-decker bus tire.

Fact 9:

On the Titanic, the champagne that was served, Heidsieck & Co Monopole Blue Top Champagne Brut was rumoured to wash ashore several years later. It is said that it tasted great even after all that time!

Fact 10:

Four ounces of champagne is roughly 90 calories, while the same amount of red wine and sweet wine is 100 calories—making it a healthier choice for those watching their waistlines. Serving sizes for champagne are generally smaller than other alcoholic beverages too, keeping the calorie count even lower.

Cheers to that!

Do you have any fun champagne facts I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments.

Coco xo


Rome wasn’t built in a day…but I (sort-of) became a Roman chef in a day!

Ben and I recently arrived back in Sydney from a three week whirlwind trip to Europe.

I was a bridesmaid for my best friend Melissa as she married her now-husband Bradley in Cornwall, UK which was the main reason we went. But we wanted to make the most of that ever-so-long flight.

Me with the beautiful bride, Melissa.

Me with the beautiful bride, Melissa.

So, we were lucky enough to fit in a few short trips before we travelled over to the UK, to the city of love, Paris and then on to Rome!

We had a wonderful first day seeing the sights – the Colosseum, Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II and the Trevi Fountain. We sampled delicious pasta, ice cream and pizza – and the sun was shining gloriously.

Me at the Colosseum

Me at the Colosseum

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for our final day so we didn’t get to see the Vatican, but day two was truly the highlight of our European adventure.

Ben turned 30 at the end of March, and his sister Claire very generously booked for the two of us to attend Cooking Classes in Rome.

Cooking Classes in Rome is Run by Italian Chef, Andrea Consoli. Visitors to the city can sign up for a five hour class beginning at 10am, where chef Andrea educates, entertains and carefully explains how to prepare four courses of traditional Roman dishes.

Chef Andrea with Ben and I

Chef Andrea with Ben and I

Classes are held for up to twelve people at a time and when all food has been prepared, Andrea turns into your waiter and serves the food in his dining room, with accompanying wines if you choose (and of course we did!).

This is a very popular thing to do in Rome, for good reason, see the TripAdvisor reviews here where it is rated #1 of classes and workshops in Rome, so expect the class to be full.

When we arrived at the location, we were sat at what would later be our dining table, where we got to know the other students and were served some delicious coffee and snacks. We were then taught about the dishes we would prepare, given aprons and directed into the kitchen. At first glance it’s a fairly small space, but this works out well as you’re forced to “get to know” your fellow students quickly and you truly feel like part of a “real” kitchen.

In the middle of the room all of the fresh ingredients were laid out. Andrea explained the importance of using fresh seasonal produce for the best flavour.

Fresh Ingredients laid out

Fresh Ingredients laid out

We were told many interesting facts about Italian food – the origins of different dishes e.g. Spaghetti alla puttanesca AKA “in the style of the whore.” – Chef Andrea explained that this dish was a favourite of these women to prepare as it was cheap and quick. They would leave steaming bowls of it by the window to draw in hungry patrons!

Chef Andrea explains...

Chef Andrea explains…

We were then divided up into pairs and helped with preparing and then cooking the dishes. Chef Andrea was never too far away and happy to answer any questions. He would stop us from time to time and show us how to do parts which were a bit trickier. He also called us out on our often patchy understanding of Italian food…

He was particularly unimpressed by my assumption that there is alcohol in tiramisu! Well, I now know that alcohol is only added to the tiramisu if it has not been eaten quickly – due to the raw egg content – as a preservative!

Starter – Carciofi alla Romana – Roman Style Artichokes


Preparing artichokes…

We were taught how to prepare and carve the artichokes – which was definitely not my strong point – there wasn’t much artichoke left after I’d finished! Then we stuffed each artichoke with mint, salt and pepper after which they were steamed in olive oil and water.


Artichokes in oil

First main course – Homemade Cavatelli shaped pasta with fresh tomato sauce and basil leaves

Chef Ben!

Chef Ben!

This was probably the most interesting part for me – making fresh pasta from scratch. The pasta was made with semolina or durum wheat flour – no egg (which may surprise you) and water. The flour and water was kneaded into a dough, then using the below device and a special technique we learnt, it was rolled into the cavatelli pasta shape! It was then boiled until the pieces floated to the top. The end result was “al dente”, still firm.

Making the dough

Making the dough

Making pasta

Making pasta



When we returned to the UK we actually made this dish again for my mum, dad and sister – I forgot to take a picture but I can vouch that it turned out exactly like it did in the cooking school. We will certainly be preparing this dish again, nothing beats fresh pasta, it is divine!

Second main Course – beef “carpaccio” with cherry tomatoes, arugola and shaves of Parmesan Cheese

This dish contained thin strips of beef, which were fried lightly with garlic then mixed with arugula (rocket) and fresh diced tomatoes. I’ve never fried rocket before, but the end result was really tasty.

Lightly cooking the beef

Lightly cooking the beef

Side dish – Broccoli Romaneschi (Roman Style Broccoli)

The Roman broccoli is quite strange looking and took a long while to prepare. Ben and I were tasked with the titillating job of removing each tiny broccoli floret, and then pulling off the even smaller parts, before it was fried with garlic and chilli.

Roman broccoli

Roman broccoli

I have to say this may have (surprisingly) been my favourite dish of the day! It was aromatic and delicious.

Dessert -Traditional Tiramisù

Some of the group were surprised to find out that real tiramisu contains no cream, it’s egg whites, yolks and mascarpone cheese that provide the dessert’s creamy element.

Egg whites

Egg whites



We dipped ladyfinger biscuits into freshly brewed espresso, then whisked the egg whites with sugar. The yolks were then whisked with sugar and mixed with the mascarpone cheese. It sounds a lot easier than it was, but the finished dish was by far the best tiramisu I have ever tasted.

Time to eat!

At the end of the cooking class, we were sat at the table to devour our creations and a few glasses of wine – matched perfectly with each dish.

Beef with rocket and tomato

Beef with rocket and tomato

Cavatelli pasta

Cavatelli pasta



Roman Broccoli

Roman Broccoli

Tiramisu with a personal touch!

Tiramisu with a personal touch!

Cooking students dining together

Cooking students dining together

I can’t recommend Cooking Classes in Rome highly enough, it was interesting and so much fun.

It is a refreshing break from the crowded tourist traps and a productive way to spend your time in Rome if you only have a few days.

I’m certain if we go to Rome again, we will return! You can check out their Facebook page here.

Coco xo

Happy healthy Halloween!

Happy Halloween folks!

I’m feeling festive this week, so I decided to write about the scariest and arguably the sweetest holiday of the year, Halloween.

Celebrated annually on October 31 – tomorrow – Halloween is a favourite fun holiday for many children (and adults) around the world.

If dressing up, pumpkin carving and sugary treats are your thing, then this celebration is for you!

Photo credit: @Kiuko on Flickr

Photo credit: @Kiuko on Flickr

Origins of Halloween

Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival, Samhain. This was a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture where the ancient Pagans would take stock of their supplies in preparation for Winter.

They believed that on October 31, the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc for the living world.

Trick-or-treating as it is known today, is similar to the late medieval practice of “souling,” that originated in Ireland and Britain when the poor would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1st), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2nd).

Interesting fact: Shakespeare mentions “souling” in The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593), when Speed accuses his master of “puling [whimpering, whining], like a beggar at Hallowmas.”

Read more about the origins of Halloween.

Halloween and I

So it comes as no surprise that Halloween is a solid favourite for kids around the globe, they get to dress up as ghosts and witches (or anything if you’re stateside) and eat lots of sweets. What’s not to like?

I used to love Halloween as a child in England, peering out of the window and watching at all of the groups of adults and children dressed up roaming the streets trick-or-treating. It’s also the time of year to watch one of my favourite movies, Hocus Pocus!

I remember having Halloween parties at my house with games like bobbing for apples, and trick-or-treating with my sister Sarah, coming home with a huge bag of goodies that would be distributed carefully by my parents to ensure that we didn’t throw up.

My sister Sarah and I, dressed up many moons ago for Halloween.

My sister Sarah and I, dressed up many moons ago for Halloween.

My parents were fairly strict when it came to sweets and chocolate as a child, but they did let us celebrate Halloween when we were young, and the sweets that came with it.

Here's a picture of me with my carved pumpkin

Here’s a picture of me with my carved pumpkin

I have noticed that people – particularly parents – are becoming increasingly aware of their sugar intake and the real health risks we are exposed to – and rightly so, as research has shown our consumption has skyrocketed over the years. And it has disastrous impacts on our health including increasing our risk of Diabetes and putting a lot of stress on our liver. Not to mention rotting our teeth. Sugar also has no nutritional content.

It’s unrealistic to stop eating sugar altogether (and I love sweets, but I try and keep my intake in check), but we are now equipped to research what we’re putting in our body and make better choices.

I have found an impressive array of healthy alternative Halloween treats online, so I thought I would pick my favourites and share them with you on the Happy List today – in case you’re thinking of dishing out something a little kinder on the teeth, and the waistline!

Chocolate chip pumpkin protein bars

These Chocolate chip pumpkin protein bars look amazing, and with an added protein kick even the most health conscious can find an excuse to try!  Find the recipe here on Popsugar.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Protein Bars

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Protein Bars

Pumpkin caramels

I have a really sweet tooth, so these Pumpkin caramels look like just the thing to hit the spot! You could devour these in-house or prepare these for trick-or-treaters. Find the recipe here on the Food Network.

Pumpkin Caramels

Pumpkin Caramels

Grape and raisin spiders

I LOVE these grape and raisin spiders which I think would be great for the kids, and are less processed than your typical Halloween sweets. They also look really creepy! Find instructions on Eating Richly here.

Grape and Raisin spiders

Grape and Raisin spiders

Three ingredient Halloween apple bites

How amazing and scary looking are these three-ingredient halloween apple bites? Bound to go down well with the kids, plus all you need is a bunch of apples, nut butter or jam and some slivered almonds! Easy peasy and really effective. Instructions are here on Oh She Glows.

3 ingredient Halloween apple bites

3 ingredient Halloween apple bites

Spooky Halloween chocolate mousse

I’m a big fan of the healthier chocolate mousse recipes – like my avo-choc mousse here. You really can’t taste the difference. I think kids and adults will both love this vegan mousse recipe, and with some decoration like below, they would make a fantastic Halloween snack. Recipe is here on I Quit Sugar

Spooky Halloween Chocolate Mousse

Spooky Halloween Chocolate Mousse’


Banana Ghosts and Tangerine Pumpkins

You can’t help but fall in love with these cute tangerine pumpkins and banana ghosts, and the kids will love them too! Instructions can be found here on Weelcious.

Banana Ghosts and Tangerine Pumpkins

Banana Ghosts and Tangerine Pumpkins

So there you have it! Got any favourite healthy Halloween alternatives? Let me know in the comments! And have a fun Halloween!

Coco xo

We need to talk… (and my super easy paella recipe!)

…about Turmeric!

Because this stuff is sensational.

Photo credit: Jackson3 on Flickr

Photo credit: Jackson3 on Flickr

Have you heard of it? I didn’t really know what it was until recently, except for recognising the distinct yellow colour and that it had something to do with curries. Interesting fact – it is also the magic ingredient that gives american mustard its bright yellow colour!

Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, that grows in the forests of South and Southeast Asia. It has a tough brown skin and a deep orange flesh.


A natural anti-inflammatory and powerful antioxidant that has been found to help detox the liver in particular, research shows us what many asian countries have known for thousands of years – that turmeric is not just delicious, it could potentially protect us from dementia and even prevent the dreaded C.


Turmeric has an active ingredient called curcumin. In lab tests, curcumin was found to block the growth of certain types of tumours! One study even showed that turmeric extract containing curcumin stabilized colorectal cancer without any other treatment! I must add further research needs to be done, but the initial results are promising – and what do we have to lose?

How to eat it

You can buy oral capsules, or it can be added to curries and other dishes in its powder form. I made a simple paella this week when we had a friend over for dinner that I thought I’d share (and the reason why I had turmeric on my mind!).

Super easy Paella recipe

The finished result.

The finished result.


  • 500g chicken
  • 1 chorizo sausage
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 200g cooked prawns (I didn’t use these this time – so they are optional)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • Bunch of coriander finely chopped
  • 2.5 cups chicken stock
  • Capsicum (or red pepper as i should call it, silly Aussies…)
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 1 onion
  • 1 small chilli – seeds removed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 200g green beans
  • Lemon wedges to serve


  1. Pan fry the chicken breast until cooked and set aside.
  2. Add a splash of olive oil to the pan, then cook the chorizo, garlic and onion for a few minutes, until the chorizo begins to crisp.
  3. Add the turmeric, chilli, capsicum and the rice – cook for two minutes.
  4. Add the stock and chopped tomatoes, mix and then simmer for around 15-20 minutes until the rice is cooked.
  5. Add the chicken, cannellini beans, green beans and prawns if you’re using them, cook for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add the chopped coriander, stir.
  7. Serve immediately with lemon wedges. Enjoy!

How do you use Turmeric in your cooking? Let me know in the comments!

Coco xo

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10 quick-fix tips to help you bounce back after overindulging

I had a minor health scare recently.

Despite keeping up my running and exercise, my drinking and eating habits were slipping a bit. I went from being “good” 80% of the time to 50/50. Although it was nothing too serious I’ve decided to get back on the straight and narrow and by making some small changes over the past few days, I am happy to report that I am feeling much more energised.

Photo credit: 55Laney69 on flickr

Photo credit: 55Laney69 on flickr

I don’t really believe in detoxes as such because it’s tempting to feel you deserve an extra few drinks or a McDonalds because you’ve been well behaved, so it’s more of a lifestyle overhaul and rethink of my choices.

Each and every good decision has value and sets you on the right path, so there’s no point getting down about what you did last weekend, but focus on what you’re eating and doing today!

With this in mind, I thought I’d share a few easy quick tricks that I’ve been following, to help you get back on track after an indulgent period.

  1. Don’t go shopping hungry

    A recent study by a team at Cornell University found that it’s actually more calories rather than food that we buy when we browse the aisles before dinner. I also recommend making a list and sticking to it – so you don’t get sucked into buy one get one free cookies etc.

  2. Have snacks on hand

    As above, when you’re hungry you make bad choices. I try and have protein bars, cereal bars and fruit on my desk to nip hunger in the bud. Here are some other ideas you could try from Women’s Health.

  3. Let people know what you’re doing and why

    I think it’s important to tell your loved ones and colleagues that you’re trying to be healthier/lose weight/stop smoking/cut out the booze etc, so you keep yourself accountable and also ask for their support.

  4. In restaurants avoid creamy cheesy sauces – go for plain balsamic or tomato

    It’s a really high level rule, but generally you will come off slightly better if you’re dining out.

  5. Cut out the sugar and reduce the milk in your teas and coffees

    I used to have a full fat-flat white coffee with one (About 200 calories) and now have long black-dash and none (about 50)…Feeling extra angelic? A plain long black coffee has just 3 calories. So you can even have a Tim Tam and you’ll be under 150! Fabulous.

  6. Fill up with veggies

    Vegetables are full of fibre and water and should take up most of your plate – a study actually found when participants were allowed to eat as much as they want of vegetables – high volume yet low in density (calories) – they ate less at meal times and throughout the day.

  7. Pack your own lunch

    I find that when I’m trying to save dollars and be healthy, soups are a really great lunch choice. I just chuck whatever veggies I have in a pot with vegetable stock and some spices/herbs, boil, blend and voila. Last night I made broccoli with parmesan, garlic and potato and it was excellent – better than any canned soup. You can also check out my magic spinach soup recipe here if you’re looking for a pick me up. It’s not just a cost saving exercise though, as it stops me being tempted by [insert unhealthy takeout food here] if I’m on a lunchtime stroll around the city.

  8. Ban the booze

    The negative health effects of boozing too much are well known, but it’s not just the impact on your liver and general health that you should worry about – it’s the effect on your waistline. Firstly, one wine or beer generally has around 100 calories…consumed every day for a year and that’s a 10lb/4.5kg weight gain! And how do you feel the morning after a few too many? I know that being healthy is definitely not at the top of my list. It’s been proven that alcohol actually increases your hunger with men eating a whopping 400 calories extra on days they consume a moderate amount of alcohol.

  9. Avoid the sweets aisles altogether when you’re doing a food shop

    If you don’t put temptations in front of you, you can’t be tempted. If you’re trying to be healthy just skip the sweet aisle altogether and focus on low sugar snacks instead. Extra Tip: I’m addicted to Kale chips. They sound gross but seriously, if you get the right crispiness they taste amazing – great recipe here. Who needs potato chips?!

  10. Hit the gym

    After a holiday I always “punish” myself with a hard work out even if I REALLY don’t feel like it. It is often uncomfortable but usually only takes two sessions at the gym or running outside to feel normal again after a few days off.

Do you have any go-to tips when you’re trying to bounce back? Let me know in the comments!

Coco xo

The quantified self & how I lost 13kg/28lbs in 2013

We live in an age of the quantified self.

That is – tracking devices and pedometers, fitness apps. We’re in a constant state of yearning to improve ourselves and to know as much as we can about what’s going on in our bodies.

My experience with the all-popular Fitbit is not a very lengthy one. I have had four fitbits. I have lost three Fitbits (and one broke).


Once in a club, once on a run and once again in a club. Anyway, I took it as a sign that the Fitbit and I were never meant to be. The Fitbit is a wearable device (clip on or wristband – see above) that essentially tracks all of your activity throughout the day, calories burnt and some devices will also track your sleep. In theory it’s a great idea but for not for someone like me. It may work for you though – I’ve also heard that the Jawbone Up is a good alternative although I haven’t used this one myself.

But this leads me to what I actually want to talk about and that is MyFitnessPal, “the world’s leading health and fitness platform” – a smartphone app that I used to sync with the Fitbit to include my exact steps and activity throughout the day.

MyFitnessPal is a simple concept – you log all the food you eat (you can even scan barcodes) and log your exercise.

Adding food to MFP

Logging food is a scientifically proven way to successfully lose weight as a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found “the more participants recorded what they ate, the more weight they lost in the end. Participants who did not keep a food diary lost about 9 pounds over the course of the study, while those who recorded their food intake six or more days per week lost 18 pounds—twice as much as those who didn’t track any food!”

The MFP food database includes almost everything – I think I have only ever had to manually enter food once or twice. You can even scan barcodes and the app will automatically recognise the nutritional information.

When you begin, the app prompts you set your weight goals and activity levels and it will tailor a calorie plan for you to stick to on a daily basis. I successfully lost 13KG/28lbs using the app last year, and have kept it off so far.

Here's my home screen today.

Here’s my home screen today.


I formed a really good gym/exercise relationship as I was using the app – I was really enjoying exercise because entering the calories I had burnt into MFP meant I still had some left for a dessert, or a snack. I still ate chocolate almost every day but we got into the habit of an evening walk that would blitz the extra calories on top of a morning workout 5-6 days per week. We’re planning to continue the evening walks now as it’s starting to get a bit warmer in Sydney 🙂

Chocolate Cake copy

Losing weight is basic mathematics. You need an overall deficit of around 3500 calories for 1lb or .5KG and if you move more, you can eat more. My diet consisted of 1200 calories + exercise for 8 weeks to reach my goal. I think the essential ingredient is willpower (and a dash of patience!).

It also helped me to form some good habits, and I researched the food I eat and the nutrition content which allows me to make better choices now. I think it also helped me to get to know my body better and what works for me.

I still use MFP now, but more as a guide to see how much I’m eating and how much I’m moving each day – I never go without but if I eat badly one day I try and eat less and move more the following day.

MFP also has a message board for users to keep each other motivated and discuss everything food and exercise related. I also highly recommend following their fantastic blog called Hello Healthy full of healthy recipes and exercise related articles and insights – you can read that here.

There is no magic pill help you lose weight unfortunately, but with a bit of exercise and willpower you will get there!

MyFitnessPal is certainly a helping hand to get you started 🙂

You can download MyFitnessPal online for free here.

Coco xo

Recipe: Magic Soup

Now, you might think I sound crazy but this soup is magic. I always eat it at the first signs of a cold, and it seems to stop it in its tracks!

I’m a huge spinach fan.

In the colder Sydney months this soup is perfect with some sourdough bread.

Magic Spinach Soup

Magic Spinach Soup


..Plus it’s a great way to get your five a day!

Health Benefits of Spinach

So, you probably know that spinach has a plethora of health benefits, but can you name them?

  • One lesser known fact about spinach is that heating it actually gives you MORE nutritional value than eating it raw! This is because the body is able to break it down a lot easier in its cooked form.
  • Freezing spinach reduces nutritional value – so one top tip is to always buy it fresh 🙂
  • One cup of spinach contains over 337% of your RDA of vitamin A – this not only protects and strengthens “entry points” into the human body, such as mucous membranes, respiratory, urinary and intestinal tracts, but is also a key component of lymphocytes (or white blood cells) that fight infection, so it’s the perfect immunity booster.
  • One cup of spinach has almost 20% of your RDA of dietary fibre. On a diet? Spinach is an excellent food choice as it maintains low blood sugar, helping you to keep your munching down. It’s also supportive of a healthy digestive track and helps prevent constipation.

So, hopefully I’ve now convinced you to make the soup! It’s also super easy, here’s the recipe…


  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 500ml vegetable/chicken stock
  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1 medium potato
  • a large handful of spinach
  • any other veggies you want to chuck in.
  • Salt/pepper to taste


  1. Cut the potato and sweet potato
  2. Fry the garlic and the onion with a tablespoon of olive oil for 2 mins
  3. Add the cumin
  4. After 1 minute add the stock and bring to the boil
  5. Add the potatoes (and any other veg – carrots, broccoli…whatever you have at home!) and boil for 20-25 minutes (or until cooked)
  6. Add the spinach and cook for 5 mins
  7. After 2 minutes when the spinach has wilted turn off the heat, and blend using hand blender
  8. Add water if necessary to thin the soup

OPTIONAL: A few drops of echinacea to power up your immune system AND sour cream 🙂 (not to power up your immune system…just to make it creamy!)


Coco xx