December 30, 2008

Sticky Birthday, Gingerbread Houses, and Rainbow Cake


I thought it would be nice to have lunch out at the orchard to celebrate Ben's 6th birthday on 29th of December, but again, weather permitted. And yet, we're tucked in inside while rain was pouring gently outside.

We started with grilled capsicum stuffed with basil pesto (handfuls of basil, toasted pinenuts, garlic, olive oil, feta cheese, and freshly cracked black pepper), accompanied by cheese and crackers. Then, we moved on to the main dishes, just a usual home-kill mutton roast with spices (make a paste of coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cloves of garlic, turmeric, kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), salt and pepper, sauteed with a little olive oil, brown the mutton leg to seal the goodness inside, and pop into the oven bag, roast slowly--took me from dawn to the serving time to roast this mutton. Mind you, I use the oven to bake some macarons in between the use). I think everyone love the flavour in the meat and the tenderness of it with crusty skin (I unwrapped the oven bag just 1 hour before the serving and popped it into the oven at 160C together with the par-boiled vegies to roast together). John also home-smoked our home-kill chicken as well, so that was double delish, I suppose.

Ben said to me the other day "Thank you for making my boat cake, Mum. It is nice." And now it is the time for him to blow the candles out. The fave task he always is looking forward since two-three months of reminders.

Rainbow Cake Slice copyright Arfi Binsted 2008

Along with his boat cake, the adults enjoyed Rainbow Cake, which is adapted from Donna Hay's magazine. She used 8 eggs for three layers cakes, but I used 9 in total. I am not really good at making layered cakes in one batter for different colours when they are supposed to be divided into triple tins. It's okay to make them all together when they are all plain, but when they are added with colouring or even added with cocoa powder, I am not so sure if I can do it. So, okay. I made a little bit of adjustments, with mixing 3 eggs for each layer and converted it with the other ingredients. I also use raspberry paste I made myself the other day to be added to the pink one, and reduce about 2 tablespoons of the measure flour for cocoa powder. I'll give you Donna's recipe in the end of the post.

duo ice cream2 duo ice cream

I also made homemade ice creams for desserts. Duo ice cream I call it. I made raspberry ice cream, freshly picked from our garden, and the other one is the old-fashioned vanilla ice cream. The children fancied the ice creams, so that was their desserts alongside the berries.

Snowy Village

The biggest hit of the get together was the time when the aunties joint a helping hand to stick their fingers building the gingerbread houses. I baked 2 medium houses and the other 2 smaller ones to construct. I also made the rabbits and butterflies with Sarah just a day before the celebration day. Keeping them in the tin makes them stay fresh.

sticky time Final Touch

Gingerbread Houses

I think there's sort of creative minds and imaginations involved to make it come true. Not a dream, really but just creations. And, communication. I believe you can see one's characteristic from such task. Everyone will come up with a different idea, styles, and creativity. Mind you, there's always a child within you, isn't there?

Believe me, making gingerbread house is fun to involve yourself with the whole family or with friends. Have a look at the larger version of our gingerbread house last year we constructed with my American friend Ellen Granger and her little children. You may find the recipe for the gingerbread house as well if you follow the link. I like using that recipe for it is easier (just like when you make playdough) and makes strong biscuits for the houses.

Rainbow Cake copyright Arfi Binsted 2008

Donna's Rainbow Cake

Source: Donna Hay Magazine. Issue 41. October/November 2008.

8 eggs
220g caster sugar
200g self-rising flour, sifted
100g butter, melted
2 Tbs cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 tsp pink food colouring
strawberries, to serve

Cream Cheese frosting
100g butter, softened
500g cream cheese
320g icing sugar mixture (I just use icing sugar, and I add lemon juice)

My adjustments

Vanilla layer
3 eggs
about less than 1/4 cup caster sugar (not fancy too sugary cakes)
about 60g self-rising flour
about 30g-32g melted butter
vanilla essence

Raspberry layer
3 eggs
about less than 1/4 cup caster sugar (not fancy too sugary cakes)
about 60g self-rising flour
about 30g-32g melted butter
homemade raspberry paste (about 2 tsp) (made from pureed raspberry cooked with cornflour until thick)

Chocolate layer
3 eggs
about less than 1/4 cup caster sugar (not fancy too sugary cakes)
about 60g self-rising flour (replace 2 Tbs of flour with cocoa powder)
about 30g-32g melted butter
vanilla essence


Preheat the oven to 180C. Prepare the triplet cake tins, lined with baking paper. Beat the eggs and sugar until pale, thick and tripled in volume. Fold in the flour and butter (and the essence, or paste) gently. Pour into the tins, level. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until springy to the touch.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. Beat the cream cheese and butter together until pale and creamy, about 6-8 minutes (mine is about 5 minutes). Beat in the icing sugar until light and fluffy, about 6-8 minutes more. (At this stage, I squeezed in fresh lemon juice, just to taste).

When the cake is cooled, put the chocolate layer on the serving plate. Spread with 1/4 of the frosting, topped with the raspberry layer, spread again with the same amount of frosting, topped with the vanilla layer. Spread with the remaining frosting and cover all the sides of the cake with it. I arranged the homegrown strawberries and raspberries on top. The slightly tartness of raspberries make a good combination of the richness of cream cheese frosting. Serves 10 (actually, it is depending on the thickness of the slices, really. This cake is quite rich, so thin slices with sliced berries will be just right for us).

December 17, 2008

Happy, Your Gifts are Here!

When I was a student of a Catholic school in South Sumatra, December would usually mean lending a hand for my teacher decorating her Christmas tree. She did not have any children, did not have any family, and she was a nun. Her room was fairly small and her Christmas tree was just tiny, placed on the table in the corner. She did not have flashy lights or other ornaments to make her tree decorative, but she had cotton balls. I was puzzled when I saw them. I remember when I asked her what they were for, she looked at me and hummed 'I dream of White Christmas'... Then, I knew what she meant. We arranged the cotton balls on the tree to resemble snow. Then, she put a big star on top which she made from cut cardboard lined with tin foil.

And yes, I was a Muslim girl and I am still a Muslim woman. I just never think that diversity and religions will stop me helping others, and I never understand why people would be fighting under the religious flags. Aren't we all praying for the same direction: peace? Peace for your soul and peace for the earth and universe?

Today, I remember my teacher and I am sending these parcels for our friendship in peaceful diversity through Happy's Christmas Gifts event. Happy Christmas to all of you!

Lemon Fudge

lemon fudge

Source: (Lemon Fudge) and adopted from The Well-Seasoned Cook by Susan. You can see the recipe by following the links.

And, here's another one:

Caramel Fleur de Sel Macarons-2

Fleur de Sel Macarons. Look at the recipe at Desserts Magazine Issue 5, here's the direct recipe link, written by Gemmi Rizzi of Bake with Heart.

Caramel Fleur de sel Macarons

My first time to taste fleur de sel, pretty salty from the most caramel I've ever eaten.

Updated from our orchard:


Cherries. Not yet deep red, most of them are enjoyed by birds. To prevent birds get these dainty fruits, we hang plastic fan and old CDs. Sometimes works, other time we often find the fruits are pecked and left hanging with a little flesh still intact with the pip. Naughty birds!

The round up for this event can be seen here.

December 11, 2008

Magical Biscuits in A Festive Summer

Reading Susan's review of Magic in the Middles makes me go nuts. How can I not? Chocolate and peanut butter, how can you resist? How can I resist? I love peanut butter and I love chocolate. What a great combination for an indulgence!

There's nothing tricky about making this magic biscuit, but rolling it with peanut butter balls inside is another work! I kept asking myself, did Susan just do the same I am doing? Viewing her different types of outcomes of this biscuits, I was quite confident. I just reduce the amount of sugar in the biscuits because these biscuits are going to be topped or rolled in caster sugar. I don't really like biscuits which are too sweet, like gingernuts which are available in the groceries stores. To me, biscuits should be entertaining, sexy, and luscious. Yes, you can say a luscious biscuit too, you know.

magic in the middles

When to choose the thick or thin, sturdy or soft, in this type of biscuit case, I prefer thick and soft, thanks. Hey, try this out, you'll know what I mean!

I was going to send these biscuits for the other Susan, of Food Blogga, who's currently collecting jars of biscuits from all over the world, for her Second Session of Eat Christmas Cookies Event, but then I realize Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook has already brought hers the same produce, so I am sending you this almond dark chocolate biscuits instead.

There's probably a similar surprise when eating this dark biscuit, especially when you eat it slightly warm. You have to be ready for oozy dark chocolate melt smeared your fingers or mouth. The goodness of 70% or more cocoa solid helps this biscuit arrive to another level of more than just being a biscuit. There's the sensational tingle after wards, especially when you're in the state of being melancholic. Trust me.

yummy bikkies

My entry for Eat Christmas Cookies 2 is a part of the indulgence I've had last month. I made the freshest version of course, without ground almond. My kids love them! Just look at their faces.

almond dark chocolate biscuits

Almond Dark Chocolate Biscuits

150g 70% or more dark chocolate, chopped melted with 150g unsalted butter in a double boiler or in a saucepan fitted in another saucepan with simmering water in it. Leave it until they all melted. Remove from the oven and stir to combine.

When it's slightly cooled, throw in 1 large egg, mix with a wooden spoon until well-combined and the mixture is thicken. You can add sugar if you like, about 2 Tbs-1/4 cup, according to your preferences, although I stick with the dark chocolate's sugar content itself.

Now, if you do not use ground almond, just add in 1 1/2 cup self-rising flour which is sifted beforehand, stir well. If you use ground almond, just replace 1/2 cup of flour with ground almond. Then, to make it more chocolaty, I throw in 100g chopped 70% or more dark chocolate. Mix well and when the mixture is a bit 'wet' I will leave it in the fridge for a good 15-30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 170C, roll or just scoop out the mixture with a spoon, arrange on two lined baking trays. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or 15 minutes when you want them crispier.

An update from the orchard:

Summer Delight in Store by arfi binsted copyright 2008

This is Dans Early, a variety of plums. We usually enjoy them during Christmas time. They are small, red skinned and flesh, juicy and sweet! Good entree for the whole Summer feasts! A healthy nibble while waiting for more DMBLGIT entries from you all to be in.

December 08, 2008

DMBLGIT December 2008 Announcement

I am so excited to receive this month's baton from Suganya of Tasty Palette to host food photography blog event famously known as Does My Blog Look Good In It (DMBLGIT). I am also so thrilled and honoured to receive the good news that my pink brest made it to the top for November 2008 edition (and this photo also was covered by tabloid Wanita Indonesia (Indonesian Women tabloid) back home (Indonesia)). Thank you and congratulations to all the other winners.

I am also thanking Andrew of the Spittoon and Spittoon Extra, the very Father of DMBLGIT, to allow me be exposing this photo event on the hosting side on my blog.

my pink brests for Pink October

Before we come up to the rules, I want to introduce you the judges on the judging panel first. I am sure, you are familiar with these foodie bloggers, as they are widely recognized by their talents and professionalism in food photography. I love their high-quality works as well as admire their passion on food and food photography. Guess what? They come from 5 different countries!

Here they are:

Alessandro Guerani from Bologna, Italy has been known as a professional photographer. Both of his portfolio website and food blog are stunning and inspiring with excellent quality of food photos that you might find yourself in awe. You may also find him and his works on his Flickr account.

Bron Marshall: my talented fellow Kiwi blogger from Christchurch, New Zealand who has won a lot of awards, such as Overall Winner category of DMBLGIT July 2006, and on DMBLGIT August 2006 for the Best Lighting is the food blogger whose food photos I have admired since my early years in blogging. Enjoy her photos on her blog, Bron Marshall: The Classic and Creative Cuisine or on her Flickr account.

Melody Chong MY from Singapore is a food blogger who happens to be a school of fashion student, vice verso. Her food photos are always inspiring as you can view on her blog, Small Talk. View her photostream on her Flickr account to find more of her recent works.

Peter G from Sydney, Australia, is a food blogger whose passion on food you can always feel and review from his posts. His food styling is wonderful and his lighting is perfect. You may view his reviews on his blog, Slouvaki for the Soul, and his photostream on his Flickr account.

Sabra Krock is from New York, United States. If you happen to view her portfolio and her food blog Cookbook Catchall, you will agree that Sabra is very professional. She has received many awards on food photography for her excellent works. If you are her regular visitor on her Flickr account, you will know that she loves exploring her ideas on either food photography as well as still life elements.


The rules

Each food blogger can submit one food or drink photography that was posted during November 2008, which will be viewed and scored by the selected judges.

The judges are looking for best of the best food and drink photos which will be scored under three categories:

  • Aesthetics: composition, food styling, lighting, focus, etc.
  • Edibility: "does the photo makes us want to dive in and eat the food?"
  • Originality: does the photo catch our attention with the 'wow' factor, displaying something that we have not seen before?
From these categories, we will come up with:

Overall Winner: top overall scores in all three categories combined.

There are three overall winners for photographs with the highest point totals in all three categories combined, and one winner in each of the three individual categories. And I am sure as a host, I will be able to pick my faves. YAY!


Here's how to participate:

Only one entry per person (a single photograph, no diptychs).
The photograph must have been taken by you and it is your original work.
The photograph must have appeared on your blog during the month of November 2008.
Entries must be received by December 20, 2008 at any time (from wherever you are).


Sending the entries

By sending your entries, you agree that your photos are going to be re-displayed and altered to the convinience size on the host's blog and on DMBLGIT page.

Send your entry to arfi.binstedATgmailDOTcom with DMBLGIT as the subject with the following necessary details, please:

your name
your location
your blog’s name and URL
your photograph’s title
the URL of the post containing the photograph
type of camera used, lens if you wish
attachment of your photo with the JPEG or JPG format, of no more than 500pxls width (height does not matter)


The gallery can be viewed here (or look for the DMBLGIT gallery logo on my sidebar for your convenient). I will update the photo entries as soon as I receive them. So, what are you waiting for?


Additional News

If you are interested in hosting DMBLGIT event and ready to be a host (or a judge at the same time), you can as well view the instructions on DMBLGIT page Andrew has made for all of us to read. The hosting job is currently open for 2009.


Have a great fun!


December 05, 2008

Dear Barbara, We Love You!

Dear Barb,

In our learning room, I, Ben and Sarah are getting around the table, trying to make words out of the feelings we have been keeping for you. Ben keeps frowning, just a way how he's engaged in a deep thought, with his lower lip tucked in, and playing with a pen in between his little fingers. Sarah keeps chirping out some words while trying to make the best thought she ever feels, while she must be unaware that she's too noisy for her big brother.

We then decided to go outside, to the roses beds, to the paddock and orchard, to track back what we usually did when you, Bryan and The Binsteds gathered together for luncheon date here. We stopped at the greengage tree.

homegrown greengages

Ben said, 'Pity the plums are not ripen yet, Mum. Otherwise, Barbara would be enjoying them. I know Barbara likes greengages.' And Sarah nodded approvingly. So, we just took a snapshot of the green plums when they are still... green, just for you to remember the time you were enjoying them (the peach which you said you had to eat it over your kitchen sink because the juice is running down your chin is apparently not ripen as well, not just yet, but we'll keep you posted) when you visited us way back then.

homegrown strawberries

homegrown strawberries homegrown strawberries-2 by arfi binsted copyright 2008

And then, we came to the strawberry patch. Sarah jumped up and cried 'Mum! Mum! Strawberries are all ripen! We should make strawberry smoothies for Barbara! I am sure she'll like it!'. As we all have known that you love pink, we then agreed to make pink smoothies, we picked the strawberries and managed to bring home three handfuls red, juicy, and fragrant ones out of those we should have scoffed. Mind you, these little children love enjoying freshly picked fruits or vegetables and will eat them straight away (not to mention their mother).

pink for Barb

There they were, being busy bees in the kitchen themselves, washing, whizzing the strawberries, mixing them with honey, a banana, plain yogurt and a little drizzle of cranberry juice. They also decided what to use on the photo shoot. Sarah included her dance skirt on the backdrop. I just had a few moment to capture the smoothies when they allowed me, before the smoothies had really gone. Here's what they have scribbled:

we love you, barb!

Ben is going to be 6 years old the end of this year and he has developed his own scribble, although his handwriting is still large and disorganized. I'll be busy preparing his birthday party after Christmas for sure, which is reminded all the time. He is curious what presents he's going to receive for his birthday. On that card, he also wrote to you on behalf of his ginger cat, Bow Bow.

Sarah is now 4.5 years old and definitely is catching up with her brother. She is writing the words in the pink heart. I think she meant to write 'I love you', but she wrote 'I hope you' instead. Well, I guess she means something good.

John's sending you his smile and hope. We'd love to visit you some time when we're traveling to Australia. Hopefully, we will as well be able to go visit Indonesia again next year. Finger crossed, what will happen will happen. Good timing is all we need to work on today.

That's all the updates from the Binsteds household and farm since it's been a long time we haven't had luncheon date anymore. We are all thinking of you and will always send our best love your way. Stay strong, Barb. We love you!

Love from us all,
The Binsteds at the farm

P.S: You may be expecting to receive this similar big hug from other fellow bloggers who are involved in Secret Blog Event, a special blogging for our special friends, secretly hosted by Bron and Ilva.

December 03, 2008

In Between...

Just want to share with you what I discovered when we were last time at the Rotorua lake.

dunkin' session

I think you can guess what she's doing. It looks un-ladylike, but that's how she gets the food she needs.

I also want to say thank you for the judges to decide my Pink Brests to be the first overall winner of DMBLGIT November 2008 hosted by Suganya. I feel honoured! And thank you for fellow bloggers who congratulate me via emails and Gtalk. I appreciate you all! Thanks once again.