Category Archives: Food

Goal #49: Our housewarming party

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Ah, now I know we are well and truly HOME! 🙂

Ninja and I finally managed to arrange our housewarming party, two months after we’d moved into our new place. It took the format of a tea party in the garden, because there was no way to squeeze 20-odd visitors inside our little cottage! In answer to prayer it was a gorgeous day out – clear blue Joburg winter skies; windstill and sunny – and so wonderful to have our dear friends gathering at our new address.

Continue reading…

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Happy World Baking Day!

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Yay! Today was World Baking Day. It’s a fairly popular day, but I hope it’s also obscure enough to count towards Goal #36 on my list!

Biscotti 1

The premise behind World Baking Day is that those who love baking will pledge to bake something for someone in their lives, and give a reason. I would’ve liked to have baked for Ninja, as a token of my appreciation for how hard he’s been working as my provider, but… well… to bake something he’d truly enjoy, I’d have to bake little more than a plain vanilla cake! And of course I wanted to be a bit more adventurous than that 😉

So I’ve decided to bake for my parents and my colleagues: my parents coz they’ve helped us have a new home, and my work team just coz they’re such a great bunch of people 🙂

To celebrate this occasion I chose to try out a new recipe from a trusted source: Sharon Glass’s delicious book Sweet Endings. I picked her White Chocolate Coffee Biscotti, and for a good (though strange) reason. During my battle with eczema over the last few months, I’ve begun discovering a few dietary triggers that seem to cause my skin to flare up noticeably.

For the recipe and more, keep reading…

Questions to ask before buying

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Happy Friday all!

I hope you’ve had a lovely week and that you have great plans for the weekend 🙂

Healthy choice

As you know, I’ve been doing some research lately on how to change over to a greener lifestyle. This research has got me thinking about why I buy what I buy, and I’ve come up with 10 questions to start asking myself in future. Some of these relate best to choosing healthy foods, while others could apply to virtually any purchase.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Questions for smart shoppers

  1. Is the item processed or artificial?
  2. Could I make a better version myself?
  3. Will it do more harm than good?
  4. Does it help me to meet my goals?
  5. Does it honour God and care for creation?
  6. Is it habit forming or just a rare treat?
  7. Can I share it with others or use it to bless others?
  8. Why do I want or need it?
  9. Is it in line with my budget?
  10. Am I making an informed, well-researched choice?

There are probably a few more questions we could add, but the longer the list the fewer items will make it into your shopping cart! Even if I don’t remember to ask myself every question every time, I do find it a useful guideline for making better choices.

Let me know what you think! 🙂

OK, I’m revolting!

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It’s true.

"Hmmm... you are revolting, Mommy!"

“Hmmm… you are revolting, Mommy!”

I’m revolting against the beauty products I’ve been using up to now.

Thanks to recent chats with a good friend and hours of research about the junk that I’ve been slathering on my skin all these years, I’m making some drastic changes to my skincare and haircare products.

I’m tired of paying good money to buy lotions and potions containing dozens of ingredients that can actually harm my body. Often these products have also harmed a few lab animals before they got to me, and will harm the environment again after I’m done with them.

Some of these ingredients I can’t even pronounce! And it’s not just my cosmetics – it goes for food too. But for now I’m starting on a healthier path by making changes to my beauty products first.

I can’t believe I left it so long before I began questioning what goes into the things I buy. But thanks to a tip-off from my savvy friend, I discovered a wonderful solution: Faithful to Nature. Here’s a South African online store that sells a phenomenal range of natural, organic, eco-friendly and cruelty-free products. From healthy foodstuffs to natural skincare and everything in between, Faithful to Nature has made it a breeze for me to begin changing over to a greener lifestyle.

I placed my first order with them last week, and it arrived in record time. In each package the FtN team includes a few samples of other natural products you might like to try… and I just love that. Unwrapping all the goodies felt like my birthday! I was super impressed with FtN’s friendly and efficient service – so much so that I spent the next few days browsing their site again, and placed my next order shortly after!

One of the best products I tried in my first order was the Credé coconut oil. Mmmm… never did I imagine that I could walk around smelling like my favourite cocktail! Coconut oil (CO) is often in the green news these days, with health gurus lauding its use in cooking and as a natural beauty product.

Now my poor Ninja was so put off by the coconut everything that we ate when I was doing the 21-day sugar detox, that I haven’t risked adding this oil to our meals (as yet)! But as a moisturiser and a conditioner it has no equal. I used it as a hair mask overnight (be sure to cover your pillow with an old towel if you try it) and it helped revive my poor overworked hair.

I’ve also been using it daily as a marvellous moisturiser for my skin. (My ratties are quite delighted that I taste so good these days; in the pic above Voddy and Teddy are licking off all my CO handcream!) Next I plan to test the theory that coconut oil is even great for shaving. I’m so stoked about this product. It’s easily and quickly replaced my previous chemical body lotions.

Anyway, so that’s a little snippet of what I’ve been up to of late. I’m excited about changing over to healthier choices, and glad that the Faithful to Nature team has worked so hard to make affordable and varied options available. I still have a long way to go with this journey, but you can be sure I’ll be sending you postcards of my progress 🙂

Goal #22: Bake 5 different cakes – done!

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Greetings from a very wet and surprisingly cold Johannesburg!

This sure is baking weather we’ve been having, so recently I decided to bake my fifth and final cake to tick off my 22nd goal. You see, even though some goals will be changing soon, I’m still working on a few that are staying on my list 🙂

The cake I chose was a buttermilk and pecan cake, from this recipe.

Buttermilk cake (plain and with pecans)

Unfortunately, I can’t say I was amazingly impressed with the results. Which is no reflection on the original recipe – it’s just that after going from this cake and that one then on to this one and that one, the buttermilk cake with pecans didn’t exactly make my tastebuds samba, if you know what I’m sayin’!

The recipe worked well but the flavours were a bit mild (the plain version was for Ninja, of course, and the nutty one for me). Plus, although the cake was tasty straight out of the oven, it didn’t keep very well and became a bit mushy. So it wasn’t the flashiest way to end off my five forays into cake baking…

Buttermilk pecan cake 2

Nevertheless, my Goal #22 is now complete. Of all the recipes I tried, my favourite by far was Kate Bracks’s lime, coconut and sour cream cake. That was gobbled up so quickly I didn’t get a chance to test how well it would keep! Second to that was the lovely fresh raspberry cake, and in third place I’d rate the versatile eggless custard cake.

This was a great goal to have on my list, especially because previously I used to only bake cupcakes and be worried that actual cakes would be flops. Now I know that if you pick a good recipe, and if you’re brave enough to experiment sometimes, there’s no need to fear the art of caking 😀

A harvest of health

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Just think of all the beautiful sunshine that was poured into these natural delights!

My resolution to eat a salad as a main meal every day for 30 consecutive days has been going splendidly. I feel so blessed by the bountiful ‘harvest’ I’m able to buy!

Of course, I’m in a city in the twenty-second century, so unfortunately my fresh produce doesn’t come to me with bits of soil still clinging to it… One day I hope to have a little patch of land where I can experiment with growing a few of my own fresh goodies, but for now I buy the freshest and the best selections I can for my money and convenience, and it’s a blessing.

This is one way I measure wealth: when my fridge is full not just of food, but of good food that hasn’t been fiddled with too much between God’s hand and my plate 🙂

There are so many diets and eating plans out there, some of which totally take over people’s lives. That’s not for me. I’m just content to make small changes for the better wherever I can.

If the label says ‘organic’ and I can afford it, I’ll buy it. And on the other end of the spectrum, if the best-before date is in a year’s time, I don’t really want to be putting that stuff in my body!

I know most of my readers will be heading for their northern-hemisphere winter now, so salads may not seem very appealing. But may I encourage you to balance out your cold-weather comfort foods with fresh produce whenever you get a chance.

You’ll reap a harvest of health 🙂

30 x 30 (x 30) challenge

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So! Who’s up for a challenge? :mrgreen:

30 x 30 x 30 challenge

Earlier this week I decided it’s time to tackle Goal #72 on my 101 things in 1001 days list, namely the 30 x 30 challenge of doing 30 minutes of physical activity for 30 consecutive days.

I planned it strategically right at the start of a blazing South African summer, of course.

And that wasn’t enough, so I decided to add another ‘x 30’ on the end of that challenge too. Along with the daily physical exercise regimen, I’ve committed to a personalised detox.

It’s nothing hectic – nothing like my 21-day sugar detox – but I’m cutting out as many fatty foods, processed carbs and sugars as possible for the next 30 days, and I plan to eat a salad for at least one of my three main meals each day. I’ve reduced all my portions too, and I’m stocking my pantry I don’t have a pantry fridge and cupboards with the healthiest foods I can afford.

Or at least I will be, once payday rolls around 😀

But like I said, it’s a personalised detox. I know myself well enough to accept that 30 days without any sugary treats at all is going to be counterproductive – I’ll just give up that way. So each morning with my cup of unsweetened rooibos tea I indulge in a single, small vanilla biscuit. Treat? Check 🙂

Over time I’ve come to accept that some diet fads and detox ideas will never work for me. For one thing, I don’t do low-fat dairy. Period. It’s yucky and a waste of money and full of unhealthy additives. I’d rather enjoy a smaller portion of a full-cream product than mess around with low-fat and fat-free options.

Also, I’ll never stick to a diet plan that involves foods I’ve never even heard of, let alone eaten. If I can’t find it in the shops I usually buy from, it’s just going to be a stumbling block in my detox. Ditto if it tastes gross. You can keep your kombucha and your tempeh, thanks very much!

And finally, I’ll probably never stick to a diet plan that cuts out one or more food groups altogether. Yes, I do intend to give a month of vegetarianism a go e.v.e.n.t.u.a.l.l.y (despite my repeated failures in that area), but I still don’t expect it’ll become something permanent. I like my food, and I love variety in everything, so that’s what my current diet plan is based on 🙂

I started the challenge on the 13th of November, so that it ends the day before my dating anniversary with Ninja… at which point I believe we can celebrate with a well-deserved, detox-destroying romantic dinner.

The salads have been easy to fit in and perfect for the hot weather, but the exercise is obviously the harder part. I often get to walk for more than 30 minutes during lunchtime at work, and there are stairs to climb and weights to lift at home. No excuses!

Being the pedant that I am, I laid out all of this in a handy checklist. And here it is, free for you to download should you wish to attempt something like this for yourself 🙂

My 30 x 30 x 30 challenge

Here’s to good health and achieving our goals!

Zest

Crispy savoury homemade crackers

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We call them biscuits here in South Africa, actually. But I think what Americans call biscuits are more like puffy scones to us, so I thought I’d go for ‘crackers’ instead.

Anyway, the point is: here’s a recipe for the easiest, crunchiest, thinnest, spiciest savoury crackers you’ll ever make at home… courtesy of my dear mom’s collection of recipes from years of kitcheneering 😉

Four main ingredients

Four main ingredients

Crispy savoury crackers

Ingredients

1 C cake/all-purpose flour

2.5 ml salt

1 ml pepper (1 ml? Seriously? Why not just say a pinch?)

1 ml cayenne pepper (or more if you like it hot)

15 ml butter

1/2 C cheddar cheese, finely grated (I like mature cheddar for this)

Cold water

Method

1. Sift together dry ingredients in a bowl.

2. Rub in the butter.

3. Add the cheese and just enough water to make a stiff dough. (Add it bit by bit and ‘cut’ it gently into the flour with a knife.)

NB: Avoid any unnecessary kneading and pressing. This is the only tricky part of the recipe. Your dough should be dry-ish to the touch but sticky enough to form a messy clump:

Don’t overmix or add too much water!

4. Roll out very thinly. What I mean by thin is this:

Roll out thinly

Roll out thinly

If it’s three millimetres thick, that’s about the max 🙂

Thin now = crunchy later

5. Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter of your choice and place crackers on a greased baking tray.

6. Prick the crackers with a fork several times each.

Pricked and primed for the oven

7. Bake for approx. 20 minutes at 190 °C. Afterwards, leave them to cool on the tray and they should just pop off easily.

NB #2: They burn very suddenly! Please keep an eye on them after the first 10 minutes and take them out when they start to look golden. They’re irredeemable when burnt but they’re fantastic when caught just a few minutes before that :mrgreen:

Golden harvest!

Golden harvest!

The idea is that you then use them as a base for any savoury topping you like… if you can stop yourself from eating them all before you prepare the first topping!

Perfect with savoury toppings or eaten plain

Perfect with savoury toppings or eaten plain

I’m sure you could change the spices in this recipe as you like, even adding dried herbs or changing the whole recipe into a sweet cracker instead (mmm… with cinnamon and cardamom perhaps… served still warm cracked over cold ice cream…). Ah, I was born to bake 🙂

Five years of marriage

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Hello all, sorry I’ve been so quiet lately… there’s been a stack of stuff going on, much of which I’ve been longing to blog about, but there just never seems to be enough time. ANYway, I’m sure life’s exactly the same for you too 🙂

Anni 1

The other day Ninja and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. As clichĂ©d as it may seem, I can hardly believe how quickly the time has passed since my wedding day 😯

We celebrated the occasion with a fancy romantic dinner at an Italian restaurant recommended to us by a friend. (Another goal worked on: Goal #70, visit 5 new restaurants. This was the third so far.) What a gorgeous dining experience! The restaurant is CafĂ© del Sol in Olivedale, Johannesburg, and here’s what we enjoyed for our three courses of the meal…

Anni 2

My starter

To start the evening I ordered the Italian Primavera Rolls – rice pastry rolls filled with real imported Parma Ham, rocket and smoked mozzarella, then deep fried & served with a creamy white wine sauce. They were oh! just incredible! :mrgreen:

Ninja's starter

Ninja’s starter

Ninja chose the tasty Avocado al-Ritz, which involved pan-fried queen prawns dressed in homemade basil pesto mayonnaise, served with avocado, rosa tomatoes and a zesty Parmesan and rocket salad. (I must apologise that some of the pics aren’t that clear; it’s a bit tight trying to focus with a 50mm prime lens on a crop-sensor camera when I’m stuck at the table and can’t ‘zoom with my feet’! And I didn’t spend too much time taking pics because we were so eager to start eating.)

My main dish

My main dish

I was tempted by just about everything on the menu, but since our friend had specifically suggested we try the risottos, I obeyed. I ordered the Porcini Mushroom Risotto, which is a warm creamy mix of earthy Porcini mushrooms, green peas and a drizzle of truffle oil. I was not disappointed at all, but I’d forgotten how filling a risotto can be! Next time I would definitely ask for a half portion.

My man's main meal

My man’s main meal

Now, I ain’t no steak-chompin’ cowgirl, but whoah! Ninja’s main course was fantastic! He didn’t take long to choose the Lamb Rack (which CafĂ© del Sol rightfully claims is one of their bestsellers) – 400g of French trimmed lamb rack served on Porcini mushroom and pea risotto with a deep & delicious red wine jus. That meat just melted in our mouths (Ninja was benevolent enough to let me taste a bite).

And then came the best part…

My dreamy dessert

My dreamy dessert

…the sweet treats! To round off the delicious evening, I picked the Amaretto Semi Freddo: creamy and cool, this homemade delight is drowned in the Italian liqueur Amaretto & garnished with crunchy Amaretti Biscotti. Say it with me: ‘Ahhhhh…!’ It was so good that when I took my first bite I had to hold up a hand to stop Ninja in the middle of his sentence, just so I could close my eyes and enjoy the exotic flavours. Yeah, I literally did that. Poor man 😉

Ninja's 'dessert'

Ninja’s ‘dessert’

You’d be right if you thought that looked like a starter. It’s the Haloumi Stack that my funny hubby ordered for ‘dessert’. (You see? I wasn’t exaggerating when I said that Ninja doesn’t do dessert. He wouldn’t know a sweet tooth if it bit him in broad daylight!) Still, what mattered was that he was just as happy with his meal’s ending as I was with mine…

Ninja & Zest ~ 5 years

Ninja + Zest ~ married 5 years!

…and that we’re both even happier together now than we were when we started this journey five years ago 🙂

Strawberry and marshmallow dessert

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For our Spring Day feast I made us a really quick, easy, inexpensive and tasty dessert. It only uses three ingredients and satisfied every palate, rounding off our feast with a treat that’s both fruity and sweet. I don’t really have a proper name for it though, so let’s just call it a strawberry and marshmallow dessert.

Strawberry and marshmallow dessert

Strawberry and marshmallow dessert

You could start making this dessert the day before your dinner party. I did, by preparing some jelly (I think you guys call it Jell-O overseas?) in four dessert glasses. I only had the raspberry flavour in my cupboard at the time, but you could always experiment with different options. And I’m sure this would work with other fruit too, such as bananas or peaches.

Jelly base for dessert

Jelly base for dessert

This jelly base set overnight in the fridge, so all I had to do today was to slice up some fresh strawberries and prepare the marshmallow sauce.

Fresh strawberries form the next layer of the dessert

Fresh strawberries form the next layer of the dessert

The hot marshmallow sauce was a random idea I’d had. I wasn’t sure it would even work, but luckily it did 🙂

In a double boiler (a metal bowl over a pot of boiling water) I melted together about two cups of mini pink and white marshmallows. I guessed they’d become quite sticky, so I first greased the bowl with vegetable oil. As they started melting I stirred in a little milk, which thinned and smoothed the sauce beautifully.

Melting marshmallows

Melting marshmallows

The last step was then simply to spoon the warm, sweet, sticky sauce over the strawberries, and serve them up.

I was concerned the marshmallow sauce would be too sweet (you know how sickly sweet they get when you cook them over a fire?), but when the sauce mixed with the tart, unsweetened strawberries, the balance was perfect.

Quick, easy, cheap, creamy, sweet and almost healthy – it’s everything you want in a dessert! 😉