Blog Archives

Summertime

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With recent temperatures peaking at below 30 degrees, the blustery winds can only mean that autumn is heading our way. A mere few weeks ago, I was complaining incessantly about the heat and humidity of Shanghai summers, but now that it’s coming to an end, I find myself rather sorry to see it go. Soon, the summery days where we sat outside in short shorts and skirts, enjoying the rays of the sun and licking candy coloured popsicles and chocolate Cornettos will be gone. Instead, they’ll be replaced with cardigans and light autumn scarves, and a hope that perhaps this year, autumn will last longer than a week.

Whilst going to Australia for university does give me a relaxing extra six months of holiday, the pitfalls include having to watch my friends leave one by one. Some I may see again next year, while others, perhaps never. It’s impossible not to be affected by this, and already, I miss my friends so much that I feel like my heart might explode. Regardless, there is nothing left to do but hold onto the vestiges of summer and happy memories of the past five years.

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One blistering summer week (in the perpetually summery Thailand) was spent on the party island of Koh Samui. Where…well, we didn’t quite party. Nevertheless, it was fantastic fun, patched together by consecutive sleepless nights of Italian Bridge and countless shots (after enough of them, you really do forget how to count). Many mornings, afternoons and evenings were spent in the cool presence of the infinity pool, where we were successfully lulled into a false security – that is, until we were tossed into the pool by nameless individuals (Luke and Francis). The highlight of which was when Francis finally got revenge on Luke by Sparta-kicking him into the pool. Ahh, sweet vengeance.

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Then there was the joint birthday brunch between Gabriel and I. Between the hours of 12 and 6, we partied, feasted, drank and watched Winnie the Pooh. Stuffed full from the tableful of pancakes, sausages, scrambled eggs, bacon, salad, cold platter and freshly home baked bread, we then continued to gorge ourselves upon the dessert end of the table. Laden with fifty odd chocolate banana and vanilla cupcakes, accompanied by whipped chocolate frosting and whipped cream and caramel banana bread, I don’t think my stomach has ever been so close to Winnie the Pooh’s. Luckily for him, the look is adorable on the bear. On me? Not so much. Lastly, we brought out a four layered tiramisu cake that we could barely eat after stuffing ourselves with so many goodies. But we did it anyway. What can I say? There’s always room for dessert.

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On that day, I received not only a ridiculously comfortable, humongous leopard print beanbag (placed next to my laptop for size comparison), but also the best card I have ever seen and received.

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The sangria that we served at this birthday brunch captures the very essence of summer – it’s the kind of drink that unmistakeably builds the vision of tropical fruits ripening on luscious green vines, and is downright delicious. Being a brunch party, it would hardly have been appropriate to serve alcoholic sangria when it had barely hit noon. Instead, I added more fruit juices to make up for the wine, which did make the sangria much sweeter than it would have been, but saved me the effort of boiling simple syrup.

The wonderful things about tiggers  sangria are that it is deceivingly easy to make, and will taste wonderful no matter what combination of juices you use. While I started with the recipe below, it was all gone in neck breaking speed, so I had to whip up an extra two batches with whatever juices I had left (read: poured in random juices and grenadine syrup that I had lying around).

To keep the sangria cool, half fill a bundt pan with water and freeze. If you, like me, don’t have the freezer room for an entire bundt pan because your fridge is too full of frozen cakes and goodies, then don’t fret! Just fill up a lock&lock box with water, or even more juice and freeze. This will keep the sangria consistently cool without diluting it much.

As for the club soda or soda water, while Pellegrino and San Benedetto are more economical since you can buy them in 1.5L bottles, Schweppes’ club soda has twice the carbonated goodness. I used a mixture of both, since that’s what I had on hand.

When serving the sangria, pour it into a humongous, but pretty bowl (regretfully, I only had my metal mixing bowl. Sad, I know), and furnish with a stack of glasses and a ladle, so that you can sit back and let everyone serve themselves. Not everyone can hire cater waiters like Dan Humphrey. If you do serve some sangria, be sure to ladle a few slices of lemon or lime, or any other fruit into the glasses. It makes a simple drink look effortlessly tropical and classy.

Lastly, I would just like to raise a glass to my friends for being so utterly amazing.

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Virgin Sangria

Adapted from A Sweet Pea Chef

  • 750ml grape juice
  • 250ml apple juice
  • 250ml orange juice
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced
  • 1 large orange, thinly sliced
  • 1 plum, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • 500-750ml sparkling water or club soda (to taste)
  1. The night before, put sliced fruits and fruit juices into a jug and let them marinate overnight. Half fill a bundt pan or a lock&lock box with water and freeze.
  2. Just before serving, transfer sangria into a large punch bowl. Add ice and club soda to taste. Stir.
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Going Bananas

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The smothering heat of the summer has me going absolutely nuts, so to cool myself down, I’ve been mixin’ up a blender-ful of thick, banana smoothie almost daily.

As you all well know, bananas are kind of my thing. I buy them in bulk and eat them when they’re perfectly ripe, then freeze the spotty, brown ones for later.

After throwing an entire, unpeeled banana into the freezer, I learned a very important rule in banana freezing: never throw an unpeeled banana into the fridge. The skin turns black, and when frozen, is logically  horrendous to peel. I had to shave the skin off. Shave! Learning from my stupid, but delicious mistake, I now peel and slice the bananas into 16 pieces (so that I can easily measure bananas by counting) on a plate. Then I just slip all the bananas into an oversized Ziploc bag (less banana-sessed people can use a smaller one) and freeze!

Unlike smoothies with only bananas, milk and yoghurt, but I’ve found that adding a couple more ingredients adds not only a greater depth in flavour, but also tons of health benefits.

 

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I’m the kind of girl who loves a thick, almost frozen smoothie. Unfortunately, most commercial smoothies attain this texture by adding scoop-upon-scoop of ice cream. Instead, I’ve found that oatmeal is a reasonable substitute. It makes the smoothie thick, prevents the smoothie from being overly sweet, and adds a lovely natural base that complements the banana taste. Health wise, oatmeal is uber rich in fibre, keeping you full for longer, and cleaning our your digestive tract (hint: and saving you calories).

However, you would be right to think that plain, dry oatmeal would negatively affect the texture of your smoothie. Instead of using the cardboardy stuff, I soak equal amounts of quick cook oatmeal and water, letting it absorb for at least an hour, but preferably overnight. This oatmeal is then pulverised with some skim milk, so that you don’t get any gritty textures.

Cinnamon is probably my favourite spice to use on sweets. Akin to blueberries, it’s high in antioxidants and aids digestion. Something cool? It also fights type 2 diabetes!

 

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In short, this is probably one of the easiest and yummiest recipes I can ever give you. Just make sure that you have a strong, willing blender; for mine is minuscule and poots acrid smells of burning acrylic when I try to blend ice.

Oh, and of course. What kind of person would I be if I forgot to tell you the following: to make a healthy chocolate banana smoothie, add 2 tbsp of cocoa powder.

All in all, this delightfully slurpable smoothie clocks in at just under 200 calories, while delivering a large dosage of your daily fibre and very little cholesterol. But a smoothie is nowhere near as good without someone to share it with!

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Banana Oatmeal Smoothie

Makes 600ml, or two servings

  • 1 large banana, frozen
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal, soaked
  • 150ml skim milk
  • 100g plain or vanilla yoghurt
  • A dash of cinnamon

For strong blenders:

  1. Pulverise oatmeal and half of the skim milk, until oatmeal is shredded into tiny pieces. If adding cocoa powder, add here.
  2. Add everything else, and blend until smooth.

For weak blenders:

  1. Pulverise oatmeal and half of the skim milk, until oatmeal is shredded into tiny pieces. If adding cocoa powder, add here.
  2. Add frozen banana and remaining skim milk. Blend until smooth.
  3. Add dash of cinnamon and yoghurt. Blend until smooth.