January 14, 2015

52 Books

Back in 2013, I set myself the challenge of reading 100 books in a year.  When I picked the number 100, I failed to do the maths early on to realise that would mean getting through roughly two books a week and so I didn’t get anywhere close to hitting my target on that one.  What I did enjoy was seeing a list of all of the books that I had read by the end of the year.  Seeing the list jogged my memory about some books that I had already forgotten about reading and even today, as I write this post, I looked back over that list of 2013 reads and was reminded of some of the great books I’d read that year.

This year, I’m keeping things simple and aiming to read 52 books.  Then I’m going to write a one or two line review/comment/note about each one.

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This is what I had read so far:

  1. Lost and Found by Brooke Davis (Sweet story. Reminds me of I have a bed made of Buttermilk Pancakes by Jaclyn Moriarty.)
  2. Nourish by Lorna Jane Clarkson (Love her philosophy, but not enough recipes.  Too many smoothies/juices/elixirs.)
  3. Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy (A collection of short stories, published posthumously. To me many of them felt unfinished.)
  4. Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta (I was given a beautiful hardcover copy of this book which I read once before when I was a teenager when the movie first came out.)
  5. I’ll Take New York by Miranda Dickinson (I love Miranda’s books. She has the touch when it comes to combining lovely things – flowers, books, food – with a modern, female protagonist to create some great chick lit.)
  6. The Year of Taking Chances by Lucy Diamond.  (I love Lucy’s other books, so downloading this one onto my Kindle was a no brainer.  A relaxing, holiday read.  Her other books are great too.)
  7. The Four Hour Body by Tim Ferris.  (Technically this is a re-read, but there is some good stuff in there and I’ve decided that I might actually give it a go.  I’ve been really inspired by Fran and Audrey on this one.)

So those are my first seven books of the year.  Have you got any recommendations for me?

January 12, 2015

Amazingly Easy Banana Ice Cream

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Melbourne has a reputation for its unpredictable weather.  One moment it can be scorching hot, the next moment it can be a storm. It can feel like a mild spring day and change to a gusty autumn afternoon within an hour.  Over the past week, I think we have seen almost everything the Melbourne skies have to offer.

A few days ago it was stinking hot.  High 30s, low 40s all day.  Early on I closed all of our blinds and windows, turned on the air conditioning when it finally got too hot inside to cope and camped out indoors for the day.  Later in the afternoon, when it had cooled down a little, I headed across the road to the beach for a cool down swim in the sea.

Mid afternoon, when temperatures were at their hottest, I was desperate for something to cool me down.  That was when I remembered that I had frozen a few bananas to try and make some banana ice cream.  What better day to try it!

This is the easiest banana ice cream in the world.

Here are the ingredients:
– Frozen banana

That’s it.  And it makes the creamiest, yummiest ice cream!  All I did was peel my banana and cut it into inch long pieces.  Once it was frozen, I put the pieces into the blender and whizzed them for around 1-2 minutes until it was smooth and creamy.

You could eat it just like that. It scoops like ice cream and everything.  I added a half teaspoon of cacao powder to mine to make it choc-banana flavour and sprinkled a few cacao nibs on top, but that’s totally optional. It is absolutely yum just as it is and the best way to keep cool on a hot Melbourne day!

January 9, 2015

Iced Vovo Pavlova

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I was doing our weekly shop the other day when a magazine cover caught my eye. It was Taste magazine, which I had never bought before but I really liked the look of the cake on the cover.  It was an ‘Iced Vovo Pavlova’, a variation on a popular Australian meringue dish usually served with cream and fresh fruit on top.

I haven’t had an iced vovo biscuit in at least 10 years (because they aren’t gluten free), but I love pavlova and marshmallow, so I thought I’d give this recipe a whirl when we had friends over for dinner this week.

The cake has:
– Four layers of meringue
– Two layers of jam
– Three layers of cream
– One layer of pink marshmallow
– One layer of piped marshmallow swirls on top

I had such a fun time making it!  I made the pavlova layers the night before our guests were coming to give them sufficient time to cool in the oven after cooking.  I left them there overnight to ensure a nice crispy outer shell.  Spreading the jam, sprinkling it with coconut and whipping the cream all also went quite smoothly.

One element of this dessert that gave me a little bit of grief was the marshmallow.  I’d never made it before and had to make two batches to get it right.  When I whipped the first batch, it was thicker but not really fluffy.  I kept it aside while I made the second batch in case that didn’t work either, but I left the second batch to cool for longer before whipping it and that made all the difference.  Batch two was much thicker and fluffier than Batch one as a result of just a few minutes more to cool.  Lesson learned on that one.

The other element that I found tricky was piping the beautiful pink peaks for the top.  I think I must had been using the wrong kind of piping bag or maybe whipped my meringue slightly too long, because mine turned out nothing like the picture, despite me trying a range of techniques to try and achieve smooth, stiff peaks.  At least the ones that made the top of the cake were consistent in size and texture, even if they weren’t strictly ‘right’.

Anyway, we enjoyed eating the finished product with our friends later in the evening.  A word of warning: It was a super sweet dessert, with every layer being sugar heavy, so we really only needed a small slice, and the best part was that I loved the challenge of trying a new recipe for the first time!

 

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