Monthly Archives: January 2013

Forthcoming attractions: a Ninja party and a Valentine’s dinner!

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It really seems that 2013 is going to be a year marked with many things to celebrate. The Lord has filled my life with wonderful people and this year it seems I finally have the time to bless them in the way I enjoy most: throwing parties and hosting special dinners! February in particular promises to include at least two highly anticipated events…

First up we have a ninja-themed birthday party for my amazing husband. I consider it a little short of a miracle that he even wants to acknowledge his birthday, let alone throw an actual party 😛 So of course I’ve leapt at the opportunity to make it a creative and memorable event. And I plan to blog about the ideas and results right here on the Sunshine Scrapbook (celebrating, in this case, all things ninjatastic) 😀

Later in Feb we have another near-miracle: Ninja has agreed to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year; yes, that ‘over-commercialised, most insipid of days’. We’re planning to have our best friends over for a special romantic dinner. I can hardly wait!

FF VII Cloud Strife’s Fenrir (Cloudy Wolf) earrings – all mine!

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The great thing about being married to a ninja is that life is full of surprises! My darling husband recently treated me to a really cool gift, which arrived today all the way from Singapore: my very own Cloud Strife Fenrir/Cloudy Wolf earrings, made famous in Final Fantasy VII. Check it out:

The funny thing is, I’m not really a FF fan, although I enjoyed parts of the movie. Ninja is the real fan, and even played the game back in the day. So why get me these earrings?

It’s not just because they’re so epic. It’s because wolves are my number one favourite animal, and I’ve never seen wolf jewellery that comes close to being as striking as Cloud’s silver Fenrir. Have you?

I did a bit of reading online to understand the back story to this symbol, and it seems that Final Fantasy uses the wolf to symbolise several things for Cloud, including his loss of good friends and his isolation. For me personally, the wolf symbol has connotations of freedom, fearlessness and an intuitive relating to the world. Plus, it’s just an exquisite beast 🙂

Amarula yoghurt panna cotta with champagne strawberries

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Warning: This recipe may well be the beginning of the end for every other panna cotta recipe you know. And don’t bother kilojoule counting with this one: it’s alllll bad! 😀

Panna cotta 1

I chose this creamy treat as the main dessert for the fancy dinner I made for my friend’s birthday. And here’s the recipe for you to try, courtesy of Sharon Glass‘s beautiful cookbook Sweet Endings.

 

You’ll need:

1 T gelatine

2 T cold water

500 ml thick cream

1/2 C castor sugar

1/4 C honey

2 t vanilla essence

500 ml vanilla yoghurt

Also:

250 g strawberries

3 T castor sugar

1/4 C champagne

 

Method:

1. Prepare 6 one-cup ramekins or pudding bowls by rubbing them with some sunflower oil. Set aside.

2. Place gelatine and water together in a small bowl and soak.

3. Heat cream, sugar, honey and vanilla in a pot.

4. Add gelatine and whisk to dissolve.

5. Remove from stove. Cool slightly, then stir in the yoghurt and the Amarula.

6. Pour into prepared ramekins and set in the fridge for a few hours.

For the strawberries:

7. Slice the strawberries. Toss them with the castor sugar and champagne.

8. Leave to marinate for about half an hour. Serve on the side with the panna cotta.

Amarula yoghurt panna cotta with champagne strawberries

Notes

  • You guessed it: this is a very rich dessert, despite its subtle flavours. You could easily halve the portions in each bowl and thus serve more than 6 guests, especially if you’re serving this as part of a larger meal.
  • I spooned a little more Amarula over the top of the dessert, and decorated each serving with some pearl dragees.

Crispy, sweet galettes

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If you’re in search of a simple biscuit that won’t overpower the flavours of whatever you’re serving it with, look no further than Sharon Glass‘s great almond galette recipe from her cookbook Sweet Endings. I made them as part of the dessert for my friend’s birthday dinner, and they were a hit (even with he of the plain tastebuds, my Ninja). We even had some the next morning with our tea. Scrumptious!

Galettes

You’ll need:

125 g unsalted butter

1/2 C castor sugar

3 T cold water

1 C flour

50 g fine semolina

pinch of salt

1 egg yolk

100 g flaked almonds

Method:

1. Grease or line a large baking tray.

2. Beat softened butter with the castor sugar and water.

3. Whisk in the flour, semolina and salt.

4. Roll into a ball and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 180 °C.

6. Roll dough into 12 thin rounds.

7. Brush with the egg yolk.

8. Scatter with the flaked almonds and bake for 15 minutes or until golden, watching the oven to prevent burning.

Notes

  • I wanted fewer and smaller biscuits, so I divided the dough into more than 12 bits.
  • I didn’t have unsalted butter, so I just skipped the salt used later in the recipe.
  • The dough can be a bit sticky, so you may need a dusting of flour on your rolling pin.
  • These would be just as good without the almonds, for those who suffer from nut allergies.

Coconut sorbet = perfect piña coladas

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Why oh why have I lived this long without making my own coconut ice cream?! Thankfully, Sharon Glass‘s gorgeous recipe book Sweet Endings introduced me to a recipe I’ll probably be making for years to come 🙂 As mentioned previously, I’m able to share it with you too. And the bonus is that you don’t need a fancy ice-cream machine to make this either.

 

You’ll need:

1 C sugar

1 C water

610 g tinned coconut milk

1/3 C desiccated coconut

 

Method:

1. Heat sugar and water to dissolve, simmering for 3 minutes.

2. Cool completely, then mix together with the coconut milk and coconut.

3. Place in a shallow freezer tray for 2 hours until solid.

4. Break up with a fork and then pulse in a food processor until creamy. Return to the freezer until needed.

 

There! I mean, could it get any easier than that? I combined this sorbet with some Mainstay Piña Colada cocktail mix to create fabulous, creamy drinks. (PS: if you’re planning to use this for drinks, you may want to leave out the desiccated coconut if you don’t like the texture.)

Piña coladas

Move aside, Nigella!

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This weekend I made three dessert recipes that were so decadent and delish that I just had to share them with you. They’re all creations of South Africa’s very own celebrity chef, Sharon Glass – who’s just as famous in the US of A, by the way. But let me back up here for a minute…

First of all, you may wonder why I’d make three desserts in one weekend (especially considering the belt-tightening fifth goal on my 101 list)! It was all for a good cause: spoiling a dear friend of mine with a special dinner for her birthday. And strictly speaking, only two of the recipes formed part of the actual dessert. The third was used in creating our drinks: the yummiest piña coladas ever! 😉

Here’s a pic to whet your appetite:

Decadent dessert

And here are my links to the recipes, reproduced with permission:

1. Coconut sorbet

2. Galettes

3. Amarula yoghurt panna cotta

Enjoy!

Journey vs destination

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All goals are not created equal. Some of them must be achieved in stages. “Life’s a journey, not a destination” etc etc blah blah 🙂 So allow me to take note of a few that I’m slowly making progress with…

Goals 1 through 6 are all underway to some or other extent, as are goals 11, 34, 37, 46, 75, 77, 90 and 99. I’ll just highlight a few here. For example, in meeting Goal #34 I have already read the following 5 books:

#1: “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini

#2: “Fallen Skies” by Philippa Gregory

#3: “The Other Side of the Bridge” by Mary Lawson

#4: “Where the Heart is” by Billie Letts

#5: “Double Wedding Ring” by Patricia Wendorf

 

Yesterday I also nibbled on Goal #46 when I cooked a veggie I’d never cooked before: Swiss chard. As you can see here, I served it on rice noodles with shredded tuna, white cheddar and toasted sunflower seeds.

#46_a

Goal #75 was begun a while ago (I have about 50 different photos of birds now). And Goal #90, of watching 26 movies starting with each letter of the alphabet, is underway as follows:

H = The Hobbit (I surely don’t need to include the ‘The’ in the alphabetising?)

L = Life of Pi (FANTASTIC movie, by the way, especially in 3D!)

 

I hope this inspires you to keep going with your goals, even if you can only tick them off step by step. Enjoy the journey as well as the destination!

Goals #68 and 93: Done!

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As you may have seen from the green highlighting on my updated list, I’ve also accomplished goals #68 (List all
family and friends’ birthdays and anniversaries) and #93 (Go on a picnic). I can’t really take a pic of goals like #68 (even though I’m trying to photograph as many as I can, in order to meet goal #1), but I’ve listed all these important dates in my diary, and plan to make a special dates calendar as well.

Goal #93 was accomplished earlier in Dec 2012, when Ninja and I went for a pre-Christmas picnic with our closest friends. We had a lovely day together at the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens. The pic below shows the iconic waterfall in that park:

#93

Goals #59 and 91 – and an unexpected blessing

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Two of my goals were related to New Year’s Day, so I could check them off as 2013 began. Unfortunately I didn’t get great photos of #59 (Stay up for new year countdown with friends) or of #91 (Kiss someone at midnight on New Year’s), so hopefully I can try photograph those moments again next 31 Dec 🙂

I achieved the first goal by attending a chilled braai (BBQ) with Ninja and a handful of friends. And I achieved the second with the help of my husband, of course!

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Speaking of New Year’s, when we were driving home, just before 2 a.m., I had an amazing experience helping some baby birds. Two crowned lapwings (plovers) were trying to protect their tiny chicks at the side of the road. The adorable little fluffballs were frozen in shock at the traffic, so Ninja stopped our car and I jumped out to move them to safety.

Never in my life have I held such tiny, lightweight creatures! I could barely feel I was holding those little chicks. I scooped them up gently as their poor harried parents bowed low with spread wings and anxiously cried kreee! kreee! kreee! Eventually I was able to get the little ones further away from the road. Back in the car, I managed to take a pic of them… it’s very dark and blurry, but I hope you can still make out the fluffy balls under their protective parent:

Birdie blessing

They were heartmeltingly cute! Such a blessing from the Lord, and a wonderful start to the new year 🙂

Goal #49

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Christmas provided an easy way to meet goal #49: Decorate for a holiday. Here are a few pics for proof 🙂

Goal #49

My hand-drawn wreath

Goal #49

Table decor for our family lunch

Goal #49

A token nod to the emptiness of consumeristic Christmases… A friend gave me this tiny tree over a decade ago, and it’s enough tree for me!