It’s hard to believe that it is the Year 2011 and we have almost reached the end of January! As I glance at my new cupcake-themed wall calendar, I remind myself of my top New Year’s Resolution...to treasure each moment.
My New Year began with a bang – fireworks, family, friends and food! We attended a New Year's Eve Party at a friend's place in Drummoyne, where we had an amazing view of the Sydney Harbour Fireworks. This photo doesn’t do it justice, but it gives you an idea of where we were situated in relation to the Harbour.....
An unexpected beach holiday followed, filled with days of fun, laughter and lots of eating. Fish & chips on the beach....
Numerous visits to our favourite ice cream destination, Cold Rock.....
Nature appreciation and stopping to smell the roses (literally).....
Strolling along sandy shores, swimming (rain, hail or shine) and even more nature appreciation...
And did I mention food?? There was quite a lot of casual dining, out and about around Terrigal Beach....
We had a wonderful time. But it was certainly great to be back home cooking healthy meals and baking again.
A recent home cooking highlight was learning to make some of my favourite Lebanese dishes. This involved working with pastry, which motivated me to invest in my very own pasta machine afterwards. I hope to experiment with the machine over the coming months, with pasta as well as fondant icing! A tip from the Planet Cake book by Paris Cutler is that you can use a pasta machine to roll icing to a uniform thickness. Can’t wait to try it!
The three Lebanese dishes were Mujadara (lentils, rice & onions), Shish Barak (small meat dumplings) in goat yoghurt and Samboosik (meat pastries). Very appetising, in addition to being good for you.....
My very first sweet baking project for the year was my own creation, “Apple Raspberry Semolina Cake”, which I’m rather proud of. I wanted to use semolina that I’d had in my pantry for a few months, as well as some other odds and ends in the fridge. Although the mixture didn’t look too promising at first, as it was a pretty weird looking consistency, it ended up being delicious, if I must say so myself. I thought I’d not only share the photos with you in this blog, but the recipe as well, so if anyone tries it I’d love to get some feedback:
Apple Raspberry Semolina Cake
2 ½ cups semolina
¾ cup Xylitol (natural sweetener) or castor sugar
3 tspns baking powder
200g butter melted
3 x 175g tubs Yoplait Berry Bliss Yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups stewed apples (cubed & cooled)
½ cup frozen raspberries
1. Combine semolina, sugar and baking powder in large bowl. Mix in combined butter, yoghurt and vanilla.
2. Fold apples and raspberries lightly through mixture. Spoon into greased bunt tin.
3. Bake in 180◦C oven for 45 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.
4. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before turning onto wire rack to cool.
5. Dust with icing sugar to serve.
I promised a new-found friend in New York, Jessica at http://www.foodmayhem.com (a blog you must check out!), that I would also include my famous (in my own family anyway) banana bread recipe. I originally got this recipe from a niece of mine, who got it from her brother, who got it from his sister, who got it from a friend who is a pastry chef...did you get all that? Anyway, I have tweeked the recipe to make it my own, and after making it every week for almost a year, I think I’ve become an expert at it. My husband and kids love it, so I always have a loaf sliced and individually cling-wrapped in the freezer, for a quick snack at home or to add to school lunch boxes.
300g tub lite sour cream
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
125g unsalted butter, melted
1 cup Xylitol (natural sweetener) or castor sugar
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup white organic self-raising flour
1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 ripe medium bananas, mashed
1. Preheat oven to 140◦C.
2. Grease and line a large loaf tin. In a large bowl, mix the sour cream and bicarb soda and stand for 5 minutes.
3. Add flours, baking powder and cinnamon.
4. Stir in melted butter, sugar and eggs. Stir gently. Don’t overmix.
5. Add bananas and mix.
6. Pour into loaf tin.
7. Bake in oven for 1 ½ hours. Let bread cool in tin for 10 minutes before inverting onto cooling rack.
8. Allow to cool for 1 hour before cutting.
There are always new cupcake recipes to be found.
Just as there are constantly new recipes to be found in magazines, cookbooks and on the internet, so too are new resolutions made at the beginning of every year. The new year brings with it new plans, new ideas, new dreams....all good intentions, but often before we know it, March has arrived and life has intruded on our grand resolutions. They become way too hard and we just give up on them.Thinking on the tragedy that unfolded with the Queensland floods, I feel so grateful that my family are safe and well. A Queenslander who lost everything gave us all some great advice: “Don’t cry at the loss of anything that can’t cry for you”. In other words, let’s get our priorities right and treasure what is important in life - people are more important than things. That’s why my first resolution for the year, as mentioned, is to treasure each moment.
Which brings me to my second resolution for the year – don’t give up unless absolutely necessary! In order to achieve a goal, it needs to be realistic obviously. For example, instead of setting out to fit into a size 8 in time for my niece’s wedding in April (for which I am Matron of Honour!!), my goal is to improve my wellbeing and the way I feel about myself through a healthy diet and exercise. Since I have an ankle injury, it’s physically impossible for me to run a marathon every day, so my plan is to walk a few times a week. I have a beautiful walking track around the lake near my home, so I have no excuses!
When it comes to the healthy diet part of the goal, since I profess to love good food, great cookbooks and cooking, I have no option but to achieve this as well! And I must remember there’s always Plan B – if I fall off the healthy food wagon for one day or don’t feel up to walking on a particular morning, I can always start again tomorrow!
So the explanation of my second resolution has revealed my third resolution, which is to improve my health and wellbeing! I’m so excited about embracing this new year and everything it has to offer, but to make the most of it all, I’m going to need lots of energy. This is where my fourth resolution comes in - to practise self-care as a necessity rather than a luxury. There is a whole lot of stuff on my 2011 “to-do list”, but to keep the momentum going for the year, I’ve given myself permission to have regular “me” time, so that I’m a better “me” for myself as well as for everyone around me! Here is a list of some of my “me dates” that you may like to try for yourself....
• spend time alone in prayer and meditation
• lay down and read a book
• put my feet up and rest with a cuppa for a while
• give myself a manicure
• write my blog with no interruptions
• light some candles and take an aromatherapy bath
• take a break from technology (so I need to get my husband to hide my laptop and iPhone sometimes!!)
• go for a massage or facial
• lay on the lounge all day and enjoy an Audrey Hepburn movie marathon (or substitute whatever your favourite actor/series might be)
• sing at the top of my lungs while I decorate some cupcakes!
• meet positive, inspiring people and learn from them.
The last point on my list is one that I have always loved doing, but this year as I meet new and interesting people, I would like to try to share their stories with you in my blog, so you kind of get to meet them too! Stay tuned for my next post, in which I will introduce the very first inspiring person I met in 2011.
In the last book of the Bible, I love that I am reminded by God Himself of His positive affirmation for my life....“Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). I am so grateful that I have a God who makes all things new, who is the God of second chances, the God of miracles and endless possibilities!
I may have now neared the end of a post, but it’s only the beginning of a brand new year..... so rather than write an end to this post, I offer you a prologue to my future posts. It is my positive affirmation for 2011.....
I am grateful to be alive and well this day in 2011 and rather than worrying about material possessions or petty concerns, I concern myself with things of the heart. I love my life daily, I love the precious people around me and I take hold of all the potential and possibilities that this new year brings.