Foodie Friday: Lemony Meringue Cupcakes


115g low-fat spread suitable for baking, softened
8 tbsp sweetener
170g self-raising flour
4 medium eggs, plus 2 large egg whites
Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
A few drops of lemon extract
60g caster sugar
1 level tsp icing sugar, to decorate

1. Preheat your oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Line a 12-cup bun tin with paper cupcake cases.
2. Put the spread, sweetener, flour, whole eggs, lemon zest and extract in a bowl and beat with an electric hand whisk until smooth. Divide the mixture between the cases and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until risen. Place on a wire rack to cool.
3. Put the egg whites in a clean glass bowl and beat with an electric hand whisk on a medium speed until they form stiff peaks. Turn the speed up to high and add the caster sugar a spoonful at a time, beating for a few seconds between each addition. When all the sugar has been added, whisk until stiff and glossy.
4. Spoon or pipe the meringue over the cooled cupcakes. Using a cook’s blowtorch, carefully heat the meringue until golden brown. Alternatively, transfer the cupcakes to a baking tray and place under a hot grill for a few seconds until lightly golden. Dust over the icing sugar and serve.

Glass’s Opera Revolution

Take an old black and white film, strip its sound and replace it with an opera. With Beauty and the Beast this is exactly what Philip Glass has done. Now America’s most successful living composer talks to Neil Evans about creating the most innovative music theatre since Wagner.

Imagine watching a film and listening to an opera at the same time. Philip Glass has turned this vision into a reality with Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film La Belle et la Bête, out on CD this month. ‘I am just amazed it wasn’t done 40 years ago,’ says the 58-year-old American composer. ‘All you need is a stopwatch and a lot of patience and the complete music drama that Wagner was aiming for is now happening.’

It involves completely wiping out the original sound – music and spoken word – writing a new operatic score and synchronising it precisely with the film. He started last year with Orpheus, a straight opera made from the script of another Cocteau film. Now, with Beauty and the Beast, he has taken it a stage further and used the image itself for performance. ‘I don’t want to sound pretentious, but I can help bring film back from the commercial world to the world of art. By doing this, I can also revitalise opera. So here you have two characters, the live performance one and the film one, and you begin to see it as one character played by two persons. The singers have a formal staging, portraying emotionally the parts they are singing so that they are a kind of visual counterpart to the characters on screen.’

Continue reading ‘Glass’s Opera Revolution’

Wordless Wednesday: Springtime with Roo



Music Monday: Avicii

This chap from Sweden has been my major distraction from my general Lenten playlists. He’s one of the very few DJs that I consider worthy of their superstar status. His entire album True is up on YouTube, for anyone who wants to have the whole picture; below are my own favourites from it. I won’t say there’s not a duff track on it; in fact, since each song is built around the guest vocalist (a half-dozen of them), there are several musical styles represented, not all of which will be to everyone’s liking. And that’s okay.

(But I still dare anyone to say they don’t like ‘Lay Me Down’. With Nile Rodgers in fine fettle and Adam Lambert tuned in just right, this is going to be the summer 2014 floorfiller.)

Cleansing the Heart of Your Existence

springcleaningOur homes serve as sanctuaries in which we are protected from what is potentially harmful. If we are not careful, however, we can inadvertently surround ourselves with substances that can be toxic to our bodies. It is precisely because we rely on our private spaces to serve as refuges from the world that we must exercise great care when choosing how we build, furnish, cleanse, and decorate our homes. Here are some suggestions for creating a healthier home:

1. Be a conscious consumer. If you buy products that contain wholesome, organic, and inert components, you will avoid most common household toxins. Read labels.

2. Your spaces will be as healthy as they are clean when you use natural cleansers and detergents. Almost everything in the home can be cleaned and disinfected using varying combinations of baking soda, vinegar, salt, tea tree oil, herbs, and gentle castile soap. Organic cotton slipcovers can be washed regularly to keep dust mites at bay and to keep us from close contact with furniture that may be off-gassing toxins.

3. Plants clean and add oxygen to the air you breathe when you place them in your personal spaces. Two plants in each room of your dwelling will rid the air of toxins and pollutants while balancing indoor humidity levels. Air purifiers are an easy way to have clean air and are especially useful in a bedroom. Try and clean your air ducts and furnace and change filters regularly.

4. Natural décor that incorporates pesticide-free wood and fibers, organically grown materials, and nontoxic paints and varnishes adds beauty to your house or apartment while lowering your exposure to unsafe chemicals.

5. Scents can help you maintain a hazard-free home. As you enter your home after an absence, pay close attention to the dominant fragrance you perceive. You may discover toxins that might otherwise have gone unrecognized.

6. Be aware of the water you drink and bathe in and consider adding a whole-house filter system.

7. Getting a good night’s rest is easier when your bedding is comprised of natural materials. Organic cotton sheets, down comforters, and wool fiber mattresses offer a wonderful alternative to standard bedclothes.

8. Negative ions are invisible molecules that promote whole-self wellness found in the clean air atop mountains and near rushing water. Equipping your home with a negative-ion generator or salt lamp will ensure that you feel alert and refreshed whenever you are at home.

9. If building a new home, consider carefully the materials you choose and research how much they off-gas toxins. You may not be aware of many glues and hidden substances. Choosing sustainable wood floors over wall-to-wall carpeting can be very beneficial to those with allergies and sensitivities.

Making a few easy changes in your home can provide years of healthy living for you, your family, and pets. A healthy home is a good foundation for living. And whether you use these suggestions or others, the best thing you can do is be aware.


Month at a Glance

April 2014
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