Thursday, September 29, 2011

Celebrating My Thirtieth

It's scary how time flies and suddenly you realise that you're thirty.  I know it sounds so cliched, but that's exactly how I feel now.  It's not like how it's usually portrayed in movies, that suddenly you wake up one morning and you see an 'older you' staring back in the mirror.  It's much more subtle.. 

When I was in my teens, I thought that somehow when I grow older, I would have more control over my life.  I will know where I'm heading, I will know how to plan ahead.  I thought I would have it altogether.  Today, 29 September 2011, I've just turned 30.  I realised that I am still the bumbling mess that I was 15 years ago, only older.  It feels like a big part of me has remained the same even though the outward circumstances have changed substantially - graduating from university, getting the first job, switching jobs, getting married and moving out from my parents'.  I kind of just carried all the little insecurities, the notions, the habits, the facial expressions, the reactions, essentially what I was and what I am; all they way through from my pre-teens, teens, twenties till now - thirties. 

Having said that, I think I do like myself better now than I ever did before.  Maybe with the age and maturity, I'm becoming to accept myself better and not constantly be in want to change to suit others.  I've learnt that it's ok to not always have an opinion on something.  It's ok to not know what to say at times, or be at a loss for words.  It's ok to like a sappy movie that everyone else seems to hate.  It's ok to still enjoy watching Pretty Woman when it gets screened on tv for the 101th time! It's ok to pretend not to see an acquaintance along the street just because you don't feel like talking to anyone that day.  It's really ok as long as I am just me!


This year has probably been, how journalists would pen it, the most controversial year of my life.  I quit my job at the end of the 1st quarter of the year simply because I didn't like what I was doing.  I couldn't imagine myself working in this same line for the rest of my life.  The hardest part of this present arrangement is having to deal with myself.  I dislike not earning my own income and find myself apologising to my husband occasionally for having to support me. 

The good part is that I have a dream and a goal that I am working towards.  Though at times I find it so hard to put the pieces together.  It's sort of like having a do-it-yourself bookshelf that you have to build, but with no manual or diagram to follow.  To make matters worse, the parts of the bookshelf are mixed with spare parts of other furniture. So there's a lot of searching, knocking and banging.. The pieces might be of the wrong fit, there might be some dismantling required, more knocking and banging... With enough perseverance, the bookshelf will come together. 

Well, I'm still stuck in the knocking and banging stage now.  Surely the knocks will get lighter, and the banging, softer in time to come.  

A few weeks ago, I was going through the apologetic ritual just before bed time.  My husband turned towards me, gave me a light hug, and assured me by saying "It's just not your time yet".  I don't think he knows it, but that meant the world to me..  

Today, at 30, I'm thankful for a wonderful and supportive husband.  I'm thankful for Jesus who keeps watch over me day and night.  I'm thankful for my lovely and healthy family.  I'm thankful for friends who make me laugh.  Life is meant to be a celebration.  So, here I am, holding a little mini marshmallow birthday party, with dark chocolate and  chopped pistachios.  To those of you who are going through your own little patches in life, I hope to share them with you.  Life can only get sweeter... :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bacon & Cheese Muffins

I don't know why it didn't occur to me to bake savoury muffins earlier!  It just never crossed my mind till I was flipping through a magazine.  I had the magazine for the longest time, but I guess it just never sunk in.  There was a lot of bacon leftover from my attempt at pasta carbonara during the weekend (will post that later in the week, it was quite a success!) and I was cracking my head on how I could make use of the remaining rashes.  And voila, saw the page on pizza muffins, suddenly it seemed like a veil was lifted from my eyes, and yes.. bacon and cheese muffins it is!

I find muffins rather therapeutic as they are so easy to make and relatively fuss-free.  Just 30 minutes of work, and you'll get a satisfying, piping-hot treat.   For this batch, I overbaked the muffins by a little.  You can tell from the relatively dry crust.  So, follow the timing as stated in the recipe below.  I made the mistake of leaving them in the oven for 5 minutes longer!  Somehow, I don't have the natural talent of figuring whether my baked goods are cooked!  But I've learnt that the key to good muffins is to not over-mix the batter.  Therefore, though the top was slightly dry, the centre still had a soft texture due to the large air pockets in the muffins!


Bacon & Cheese Muffins
makes 12

4-6 bacon rashes, chopped
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese (you can add more if you like cheese)

Basic Muffin Mix:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
80g butter, melted

- Preheat oven to 200*C. Grease 12-hole muffin pan
- Cook bacon in heated medium frying pan until browned slightly.  Drain on kitchen towel, set aside and cool.
- Make basic muffin mix : Sift flour, baking powder, salt into a bowl.  Combine sugar, melted butter, egg and buttermilk.  Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and stir gently
- Add the bacon and cheese into the muffin mix. Mix gently to combine. Do not over-mix, the batter should be lumpy.
-Divide mixture among the holes.  (I usually fill the mixture all the way to the brim)
- Bake in oven for 20 minutes.  Stick a skewer in the centre of the muffin, if it comes out clean, muffin is ready. Stand muffins 5 minutes before turning top-side up onto wire rack.  Serve muffins warm.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mini Chocolate Meringue Cupcakes

Ever since I watched the episode of Giada making her mini chocolate meringue cupcakes, I knew i had to try them out.  Her cupcakes turned out so cute.  I looked up her recipe on the food network website and decided to have a go at it. 

There were many comments from other people on how their cupcakes collapsed after taking them out from the oven, but I was undeterred.  Somehow rather naively, being the new baker as I am, I believed that cupcakes would turn out otherwise.  As I did not have mini cupcake holders then, I made normal sized cupcakes.  Everything went about rather smoothly, the mixing, the folding, etc.  but lo and behold, after I took the cupcakes out, the tops collapsed after a few minutes!  I experienced the same fate as the rest of the people. 

The next day, I went out to buy mini cupcake baking trays and holders. I think the size of the cupcakes must have been crucial in the baking process.  But I didn't try baking a new batch immediately.  In fact, the trays were left sitting in the cupboard for weeks, until I watched an episode of Nigella on youtube on Sunday.  She mentioned that her mantra was "feel the fear and cook it anyway".  I have to listen to the domestic goddess isn't it?

I had plans to meet up a friend today, and decided that I should try my hand at baking these little cupcakes again.  This time, I did a few things different.  I left the cupcakes to cool in the oven for a while as I thought the sudden change in temperature could be the cause of the crackling tops.  In the end, the cupcakes turned out pretty good.  They didn't collapse! And they tasted great!  Flakey tops with gooey chocolate centres.  However, I learnt another lesson.  These cupcakes are not easily transported.. They crumble and fall apart rather easily, therefore any slight knock would leave them 'bruising'.  Should you want to try your hand at these cupcakes,  it's best to invite your friends over, or make sure you have a proper carrier should you want to bring them out!

Mini Chocolate Meringue Cupcakes (adapted from Giada, Foodnetwork)
Website link here

2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup sugar (I reduced the sugar to 1/2 cup & it was sweet enough)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I left out the cinammon)
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
1/4 cup cake flour
3 large egg whites, at room temperature

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
(I read from the reviews that many people had problems with the icing setting, therefore I used melted chocolate, without the oil)

Special equipment:
A (24-count) mini-muffin pan, 18 to 20 (1.25-inch diameter) paper mini-muffin cup liners

- For the cupcakes: arrange an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 24-count mini-muffin pan with 1.25-inch diameter paper liners and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat the egg yolks, vegetable oil, 1/3 cup of the sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and salt, at high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Mix in the melted chocolate chips and stir until smooth (mixture will be thick).
- In a separate bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat the egg whites at high speed until they hold soft peaks, about 3 minutes. With the machine running, gradually add the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks, about 2 minutes. Stir 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula, fold the remaining egg white mixture. In batches, sift the flour over the batter and fold it in using a spatula. Fill each paper liner to the top with batter and bake for 12 minutes until puffed. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
- For the topping: In a small bowl, combine the melted chocolate chips and oil. Stir until smooth.
Using a fork, drizzle the chocolate mixture over the cupcakes. Allow the topping to harden for at least 1 1/2 hours at room temperature before serving. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

(I baked my cupcakes at 170*C for 9 mins, then reduced the temperature to 160*C for the next 3 mins.  I also left the cupcakes in the oven to cool with the door slightly ajar for around 10 mins)

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Saturday.  Salad for lunch.  Tea time.  Mouths itching for more food.

I think one of the best chill-out foods has to be churros!  It's crispy, sweet.. and just so easy to eat.  We can't find churros easily in Singapore, so how else to get them but to make them on our own!  They are sort of like doughnuts, but only crispier because of the star-shaped ridges.   *crunch crunch crunch*

So here we are on a Saturday afternoon, feeding ourselves with bites of golden crispy goodness!  Almost instant happy food!

125g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp olive oil
250ml boiling water
a pinch of salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
vegetable oil for deep frying

- Mix flour, baking powder, salt and olive oil in one big bowl.  Pour the boiling water into the bowl and mix well till a thick paste/dough is formed
- Place the dough into a piping bag fixed with a star shaped nozzle
- Pour the vegetable oil into a large sturdy frying pan and place over high heat.  Use a small piece of bread as a guide, when dropped into the oil, if it rises to the top and turns crisp and golden, the oil is hot enough for frying
- Gently pipe the dough into the hot oil, use a scissors to snip off the end of each dough/churro as it comes out from the nozzle
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and fry for 5-8 mins each side until golden and puffed up
- Remove with slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper
- Combine sugar and cinnamon powder on a plate, roll the churros in the sugar and cinnamon powder to coat

Friday, September 16, 2011

Oven Baked Potato Chips

Being the all-day snacker that I am, the two greatest sinful pleasures for me have to be chocolate and potato chips.  These are the two food items that I crave for almost everyday.  One of my simplest rules in life is that you always have to balance the savoury and sweet.  So usually after hitting the chips, I'll head for the chocolate. 

Well, to relieve myself from some guilt of calorie pile up, I decided that I should search for an alternative to the packed potato chips that I always buy.  (For some unexplainable reason, I always find myself drawn to the snacks aisle in the supermarket.)  Anyway,  the alternative to commercial packed potato chips -- homemade oven baked potato chips!  I'm just so astounded by how easy it is to make and I truly love that I get to season it any flavour I like.. Some days I'll like it spicy, some days garlic-ky, some days with a herb-ed freshness.  Here's the recipe for a basic potato chip.  Take joy in creating any flavours you like!

Oven Baked Potato Chips
2 Russet Potatos
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Salt

- Preheat oven to 180*C.
- Slice the potatoes into thin slices using a food processor or a mandoline
- Toss the potatoes in a large bowl with the oil, salt and pepper until well coated
- Arrange the potato slices in one layer on cookie sheets greased with vegetable oil (use non-stick cookie sheets or you have a hard time scraping the chips off!)
- Bake for 10 mins until it's slightly golden one side.  Remove from oven.  Flip the chips on the other side and bake for another 10 mins or until chips are crisp. 
- Remove from oven, season with more salt & pepper (according to your taste) and cool

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bernard & Miho (13 Sep 11)

Bernard & Miho

A beautiful couple who flew all the way from Down Under for their solemnisation. 
I love capturing Miho's smile and her sweet, shy expressions.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chee Howe & Li Dan (12 Sep 11)

Congrats to Chee Howe & Li Dan! 
It was a wonderful wedding with friends and family flying in from different countries.  And I'm very grateful for the opportunity to be part of it.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Basic Chocolate Chip Cookies

We have always been told to treasure the friendships we have in life.  But it's hard to explain why certain friends move in and out of your circle, and others remain over the years.  Maybe it is part and parcel of growing up. 

I had best friends while I was in primary school; friends whom I thought I would grow up with throughout the years.  However, we drifted apart after we went to separate secondary schools, and by no means was it the fault of any of us.  I am compelled to think that geography played a large factor to it.  I met one of them during my university days.  In a certain way, we tried fanning the flame of friendship up again.  Tried as we might, the flame didn't start, and we continued to move along in our own social circles.  To the friendships I have had that fizzled out, I hold on to all the moments that we spent together.  And I still treasure these friends dearly.

Then, there is another group of friends whom you just grow up with, and the friendship seems so effortless despite the many different stages of life that we go through.  I met up with one of these friends just yesterday.   And for our meet up yesterday, I baked chocolate chip cookies.  Somehow, I like the idea of giving food baked from scratch to friends. 

It was a stressless meet up and we had a good catch up over tea and waffles.  He didn't try the chocolate chip cookies there and then, which I was rather relieved by.  I don't think I can handle criticism at face-value. haaa... But he posted on facebook this morning that the cookies were great!  So.. phew! 

Basic Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes 24

115g of butter, softened
115g of soft brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
250g of self-raising flour
pinch of salt
125g of semi-sweet chocolate chips

- Preheat oven to 190*C. Line baking trays with baking paper.
- Put butter and sugar into a bowl and mix well, then beat in the egg and vanilla essence.  Sift the flour and salt into the mixture. Add the semi-sweet chocolate chips and stir until thoroughly combined.
- Make 24 balls of mixture, put them onto the prepared baking trays, spaced well apart, and flatten slightly.
- Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes.  Leave to cool on the baking trays for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Banana Muffins

Recently there has been a baking fever that hit the people in my circle (my partner and I included of course!).  My social network mediums have been popping up with numerous photos of my friends' proud bakes - from nearly flourless cakes, to chiffon cakes, lemon meringue tarts, muffins.. wow wee.. I must admit that I am very envious of some of my friends' achievements!

I have tried my hand at meringue cupcakes and a chiffon cake in the past week, but they didn't turn out as well as I have wished.  While I continue working on them (will definitely post once the desired results are achieved), here's a simple yet satisfying bake that my husband and I made yesterday.  It was inspired by my sister's-in-law banana muffins which were so flavourful that we just had to bake a batch on our own too.  Love the taste, and the aroma that filled our little kitchen while the muffins were in the oven.... Glorious..

Banana Muffins (adapted from
- makes 6 large muffins (depending on size of muffin tin)

1-1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
3 very ripe large bananas, mashed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
4-1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
brown sugar for sprinkling (optional)

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Coat muffin pans with non-stick spray, or use paper liners.
- Dry ingredients : Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon powder and salt; set aside.
- Wet ingredients : Combine bananas, sugar, egg, vanilla essence and vegetable oil in a large bowl.
- Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Fold in gently and quickly. The mixture should still be lumpy. Do not overmix, as that will cause the muffins to lose it's texture.  Fill muffin pans/cup linings to the brim with the mixture. 
- Optional : Sprinkle a little brown sugar at the top of each muffin.  This is for the muffin to brown nicely at the top. 
- Bake in preheated oven. Bake mini muffins for 10 to 15 minutes, and large muffins for 25 to 30 minutes. Muffins will spring back when lightly tapped.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Herb Egg Mayonnaise Bread Cups

Half past three in the afternoon and I find myself scouring the kitchen looking for something to eat.  That's me... I belong to the population which constantly searches for little bites and munchies at weird hours of the day.  And yes, many a times I wish that that bag of chips on the kitchen counter wasn't so easy within reach!

Recently, Donna Hay's magazine had a special edition for children.  I bought that, even though I do not have any kids of my own.  But it's Donna Hay!  How could I not buy her magazine?!  Anyway, there is a recipe in an advertising feature which caught my eye - Baked Bean and Egg Bread Cups.  I find the bread cups so adorable that i had to make them for my tea-time snack!  I am not a big fan of baked beans, so, I swapped the filling to my favourite egg mayonnaise topped with some mixed dried herbs!  I loved how the bread cups turn out in a shape of a star.  It makes eating fun and well... there's a child in everyone of us, isn't it?! 

Herb Egg Mayonnaise Bread Cups (adapted from Donna Hay)
serves 1 (simply double up the recipe if you are making for 2)

Bread Cups (makes 2 cups)
4 slices of bread, crusts removed
*My picture above shows 6 slices of bread which made 3 bread cups.  After making them, I think 4 slices is more than enough for 1 serving
softened butter, for spreading

Egg Mayonnaise Filling 
1 egg, room temperature
1 tbsp mayonnaise (you can adjust according to your preference)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp of truffle oil (optional)
mixed dried herbs for garnishing (optional)

Bread Cups :
- Preheat oven to 200*C.  Flatten the bread using a rolling pin and spread with butter.
- Overlap 2 slices of bread to create a star.  Line the bread in 8x1 cup capacity (250ml) muffin tins.
- Bake for 10 minutes until light golden. (Note: I had to bake for 15 minutes. It really depends on your oven)

Egg Mayonnaise Filling :
- Slip the egg into a pot of hot simmering water for 10-12 minutes. Remove from hot water, cool, peel and chop them into small pieces.
- In a bowl, combine egg, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and truffle oil and mix well.
- Divide the egg mayonnaise into the 2 bread cups.  Garnish with mixed dried herbs if desired.