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bootylicious

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Have you ever noticed just how much a plum resembles a butt?

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.

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.

remake of a classic

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Remember that delicious, fragrant orange yoghurt cake?

Yes, that one. Think of this as a sequel. But a good one. This isn’t High School Musical 2, here. This cake is totally like that one. But grapefruit. Like it’s supposed to be.

 zester-love

Speaking of things that are supposed to be, I think this zester and I are supposed to be. Sorry, Gabriel.

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And it turns out that bald grapefruits are just as funny looking as bald oranges.

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And just check out that pile of zest from one grapefruit. I’m loving grapefruits already.

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Lick. Me.

Go on. I dare you.

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Every baker knows that the number of eggs is directly proportional to the yumminess of a cake.

Now that’s math for you.

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Which makes the deliciousness of this cake batter 8.16 x 10^3.

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Express this as a chart? Percentage of cake that looks like Pac man…all of it.

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Super easy and delicious. Enjoy it with a cup of coffee. And if you aren’t a fan of coffee? Then, enjoy it with a cup of coffee anyway.

 

Seriously. Coffee is amazing.

But in all seriousness, this cake is just fragrant and delicious as the other one, but more zesty, I would think. So it’s more bitter and face-scrunchy than if you used oranges.

So, go on. If you’re a sissy, make the other cake. Otherwise, here’s the recipe for this one.

 

Gâteau au yaourt et au pamplemousse

(Grapefruit Yoghurt Cake)

Adapted from Foodbeam

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 250g plain yoghurt (yaourt nature)
  • 1 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3/8 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • zest & juice from 1 large grapefruit
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and flour an 8-inch springform pan.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in plain yoghurt.
  3. Pour in oil & eggs, beaten. Add in zest of grapefruit. Mix until combined and lump-free.
  4. Put mixture into prepared pan and bake 30-35 min or until a skewer comes out clean.
  5. Cool, then squeeze juice of remaining grapefruit over the cake.

Serves 8

the cuteness of fruits

I have never quite realised how cute papayas are, or how yummy they are too! Have you?

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Happy Birthday

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Tuesday was Aditi’s birthday.

Happy 17th Aditi!!! 🙂

I hope you had a great birthday!

Each day you become a day older, but today you get to count an entire year. Today you get to eat a fancy dinner with your friends and family. You receive a treasure trove of presents, most of which will be chocolate, due to a slew of unoriginal present givers! You celebrate one more year of being alive…something I don’t quite understand because you’re only a day older than yesterday…but that doesn’t matter because it’s your birthday!

Having a birthday during school must kind of suck. You have to go to lessons and you have to do homework. You have to get up early in the morning and sleep early at night. You have to endure eight renditions of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song sung in varying degrees of out-of-tuneness (I’m sorry!).

But most of all, you get cake.

That night, as Aditi was busy having fun with her friends, Jenny and I were on a top secret mission. What secret mission? The world may never know. It is a secret after all…

…Okay, I’ve cracked. I’ll tell you. For the last week, we had been planning a (dismal) birthday surprise. It involved a little star shaped cake and a big birthday banner and nothing else. Even though we started planning last week, I unfortunately have to say that Jenny and I are the worst party planners ever. From that night, I can successfully say that I will never become an event/party planner, a caterer or most of all, a wedding planner.

If I planned a wedding, the decorations would be made out of tacky-looking foil, the tablecloths wouldn’t match the curtains and the cutlery would all be missing. The only thing that would arrive intact would be the wedding cake. Which costs on average about $550 USD (!), did you know?

Luckily, I’m not a wedding planner and for the better of couples everywhere, I never will be.

So yes, that night Jenny and I (mostly me) trudged out into the cold, dark and rainy weather to surprise Aditi. You see, our problem was that we didn’t actually know where Aditi lived. Yes, she was on our bus, but we didn’t actually know which building or floor. A friend notified me of her building, but inside each building were about 4 other buildings. I made two very awkward phone calls to two friends involving them picking up to hear “This is not Jean. Do not say my name. This phone call is not taking place. Now, is Aditi there?” , but as they were with Aditi, they couldn’t/didn’t know where she lived. Lovely. So we threw a surprise party in the lobby. Haha, we are the best party planners ever. There’s no venue quite like the lobby!

Originally, we had planned to meet at Jenny’s tower at 6:10, presuming Aditi would leave school at 6, giving us 20 minutes before she arrived home. This plan was made while I was in the shower, getting increasingly pissed off at my phone which kept ringing when Jenny texted every 60 seconds, making me step out dripping wet into the cold bathroom. Humph. It was all going good (this was at about 5:50) when I had just blown dry my hair and I received a text from our secret accomplice.

Aditi left 10 minutes early.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Snap! Our plans!!! Okay, so several rushed phone calls later Jenny and I we were standing in Aditi’s lobby, very much wet, cold and panicking that she was already home. Jenny made a huge, amazing poster that we held for 20 minutes across the lobby and I made…well, you’ll see.

 

1

Introducing the cast and crew of this mysterious production…!

Flour, caster sugar, vegetable oil, oranges, eggs, baking powder and the star: natural yoghurt.

As you can tell from the picture (or maybe not if you’re inattentive), I used two different kinds of oranges. They’re both navel oranges so but the darker coloured one was a local Chinese orange and the lighter coloured one in the front was a Sunkist orange imported from the USA.

This is one of the easiest cakes I’ve  ever made. Really. I love it 😀

So first, you take your oranges and zest them! This is the most labour intensive part of this recipe i.e. extremely relaxing. Make sure you wash your oranges first!! You never know what has been on those skins…

 

2 

Please be more careful than me. I accidentally zested my hand. Twice. I’m not surprised and I guess you’re not either.

Yeah, I have a crappy zester. I really want one of those Microplane zesters that everyone raves about but a 250RMB zester is kind of insane to me.

By the way, when you zest, you only want the orange part of the skin. The whiteish part under the zest is the pith and it has a kind of bitter taste so you don’t really want that mixed in with your lovely fragrant zest.

 

3

 

Okay guys, fess up. I can’t be the only one who finds bald oranges hilarious. I mean, come on. They’re bald oranges!!! 😀 And they look so furry! Resist the temptation to eat the bald, furry oranges of doom. You’re going to need them later!

I couldn’t really tell a difference between the Chinese and American oranges taste-wise, but the Sunkist orange gave a nicer and drier zest that wasn’t as mushy as the Chinese one.

4

It’s alllll easy from here on. Just sift in your flour, baking powder and sugar. Stir in a pinch of salt.

 5

Let me introduce to you the main character of this production: natural yoghurt. This stuff is from Carrefour as you can tell by the packaging so it’s imported from France. This stuff is really au natural and is really thick and well, yoghurty. Don’t use the local Chinese yoghurt. It’s too watery and has sugar added to it which kind of offsets the sugar balance in this cake.

Teehee, I almost never eat such thick yoghurt in China. I couldn’t resist drawing in it (with a butter knife of course!).

 6

Once you’ve got  Mt. Sifton done and sorted, empty two 125g cartons of your yaourt nature into the dome and SMASH the mountain of flour. It’ll look a bit like the crater on the left. Congratulations, you are now a natural disaster to the inhabitants of Mount Sifton. Give the mixture a bit of a stir until it’s kind of even. It’ll be really really dry, but don’t worry about that just yet.

 

7

Use your pretty little whisk to beat 3 eggs and 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil until it’s nice and smooth. I used to always beat eggs with chopsticks. I never got why people use forks to beat eggs. It’s so difficult!! But then I started using a whisk and the chopsticks have been forgone. Seriously guys, whisks are the way to go. I have three of them. No kidding. (But one is broken so it doesn’t count!)

Once the oil has been nicely incorporated into the eggs, pour the eggs into the yoghurt-flour mixture.  Okay, this is where I started freaking out. I intended to just stir it with my spatula all nice and easy like muffin batter but there were so many LUMPS! ARGHGH!

I got totally freaked out by the huge lump that wouldn’t budge. But it’s okay! It worked out just fine. Just use that aforementioned wonder whisk and manically whisk your batter into shape.

 

8

Aaand we’re already at the last step! Pour in your orange zest and gently stir with the magic whisk until just combined.

This part is optional: You can either slice open one of your oranges and eat it, or you can squeeze the juice into the batter. Either way, finish by pouring your batter into your greased and floured pan.

 

 9

Aww, isn’t it so cute??? Yup, I made Aditi the mini birthday cake up top. I personally found the shape just too adorable. It’s a star shaped cake!! 😀 What’s not to love??

The colour of this cake was just right for it too 🙂

10

Slide your pan of awesome into the oven and while they’re baking, clean up the mess you’ve made which hopefully shouldn’t be very much at all. While you’re waiting, slice open the other orange and sit down in your dining room.

Soon, the kitchen will smell mouthwateringly like the citrusy scent of fresh oranges. Tangy, but plump and juicy. Mmm… Try not to open the oven just to smell them. Or in my case, try not to open the oven for too long while trying to excavate the little star tin from the oven with a bit oven mitt on.

 11

My star puffed right up in the oven so your cake might too, but don’t worry. It’ll deflate a bit once you take it out. I’m pretty amazed at how flat this cake is. There’s pretty much no levelling needed if you wanted to make a layer cake.

Take your prizes out of the oven and cool on a cooling rack. Take your sliced orange and squeeze all the juice over your cake. It’s amazing. I’m totally serious.  Let the cake stand for a while so all of that juicy goodness can soak into your cake to make it ultra-moist. Hooray for orange juice!

 

12

 

…And cut into this delicious cake with your favourite knife…It looks a lot like cheesecake, doesn’t it? I really love the browned sides. It makes the cake look like it’s so full of flavour 😀

 

13

The texture of the juice soaked part is kind of like a light Japanese cheesecake – super moist and soft. The cake isn’t overly sweet. I think it’s pretty damn cool that the cake is mostly only flavoured with zest.

 

Time to get down to business, so for those of you who are going to try this everyone, here’s the recipe:

 

Gâteau au yaourt et au orange

(Orange Yoghurt Cake)

Adapted from Foodbeam

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 250g plain yoghurt (yaourt nature)
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3/8 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • zest & juice from 2 navel oranges

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and flour an 8-inch springform pan.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in plain yoghurt.
  3. Pour in oil & eggs, beaten. Mix until combined and lump-free. (Optional: squeeze in the juice of one orange).
  4. Put mixture into prepared pan and bake 30-35 min or until a skewer comes out clean.
  5. Cool, then squeeze juice of remaining orange over the cake.

Serves 8