Monday, October 31, 2011

Weekend with Dinosaurs & a Boy

stacks of bamboo steamers

The weekend just went past like a big whirlwind. We celebrated my nephew's birthday on Sunday.  And all I remember of the weekend was shopping for his presents and wrapping them!  (photos coming up on that!)

We started out Saturday morning in a great bang, with our favourite fried carrot cake at Lavender food centre.  We haven't been there for a loooong time.. So yes.. I hate to admit this.. we cleaned out our plates in under 15 minutes!  I know... I'm very un-ladylike!!!

The shopping terror began after breakfast.  Getting a four-year old's birthday present is no easy feat..  considering he wanted huge dinosaur(s).  So being the nice auntie that I am (ahem!), I was lugging 2 dinosaurs around the shopping mall on a Saturday morning.

Surprisingly, the dinos were fun to play with.  They have sensors built in them so the dinos can 'talk' to each other.  Pretty intelligent..

So, the big day for the boy who has a new found love for dinosaurs. The boy is 4.  And yes, we are kind of glad that he has ditched Mr Nice-but-Boring Mickey Mouse.

The good news is that the boy is extremely ecstatic with the dinosaurs..  so much so that he told the dinosaur that he loved it before he went to bed..  I don't know whether that's a good or a bad sign..

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tea @ Fika

Fika, situated at the corner of Arab Street, is a little cafe that I have been wanting to try for a long time.  Everytime I drive past it,  I'm drawn to its decor. 

This Tuesday, my friend and I had an opportunity to meet up.  We decided to go to Fika to avoid the city crowd. (finally!) Sure enough, the cafe was quaint, with a fresh and comfortable ambience. 

The food, sadly, is a tad bit pricey.  My friend, who decided to be adventurous, ordered a blueberry soup (recommended by the cafe staff). It was a strange concoction.  We've never even seen anything like it before and will probably never order it again.  I had cheesy wedges, they were nice, but not out of this world. The carrot cake however was pretty good. 

Verdict.  Lovely ambience, a great place to have a good catch up with friends.  But order dessert only.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Taking Stock

Just thought of taking stock of my life today...
books that I am reading and the little things that have found their way into our little apartment.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Brownie Tarts

This is sort of like a follow-up to the Donna Hay classic brownies.  Too much chocolate in my diet?!  A woman has to get her daily dose of cocoa isn't it?

I shall not deny that I expected them to look much nicer.  But.. I can't grumble too much since I used ramekins instead of a springform cake tin as stated in the recipe.  And I learnt that I shouldn't have pressed my raspberries too deep into the chocolate as the brownies rise while baking.


Do I like these brownie tarts more than the classic brownies.. Nah. I think not.  The raspberries add a tinge of sourness to the brownies..  Somehow, I like my brownies pure and 'unadulterated'.  Oh well, but these were worth a try anyway, they looked so pretty in the magazine!  

Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Brownie Tarts (adapted from Donna Hay)
serves 4

200g dark chocolate (70%), chopped
60g butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup single cream
3 eggs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
250g raspberries (I used much lesser than recipe stated)

chocolate ganache (I skipped making this as it was just too much chocolate)
300g dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup single cream

- Preheat oven to 150*C. Place chocolate, butter, sugar and cream in a medium saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and smooth
- Place the eggs and flour in a bowl and whisk well until combined
- Whisk in the chocolate mixture until combined
- Pour into 4 x 10cm round lightly greased springform cake tins lined with non-stick baking paper and top with the raspberries
- Bake for 35-40 mins or until cooked with tested with a skewer
- To make chocolate ganache, place the chocolate and cream in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and smooth. 
- Serve the tarts with the chocolate ganache.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Waffles with Raspberries & Maple Syrup

Confession.  We didn't buy a box of raspberries because we wanted to have them with waffles.  We bought them yesterday because we wanted to make custard fruit tarts.  But sadly, the tart didn't work out too well.  In fact, the whole of yesterday didn't go too well for me.  So, probably, the outcome of the tart was just echoing my situation yesterday.  

My pastor always says, when life throws lemons at you, make lemonade!  So, today, I decided to make something fool-proof and just as delicious to go with the raspberries. (ok, you can tell, I'm trying really hard to console myself here.)



I've never really looked up a waffle recipe before.  Everytime I make waffles, I usually just adapt the pancake recipe.  And so far, it has always worked!  No disappointments here... Just a good yummy breakfast dish for tea break.  Give me a good dose of maple syrup, and I'm a happy girl. 

Am I going to try making fruit tarts again?  You bet!  But I'll probably need a bit more time to mop up the tears first.  Then I'm going to pick the lemons up and give them a hard squeeze!

Waffles (adapted from vahchef's pancake recipe)
serves 2

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
2 tsp caster sugar
1 cup milk
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg, separated

- Preheat waffle iron, and coat the grid with a little vegetable oil.
- Sift flour, baking powder, salt into a big bowl
- Whisk milk, vegetable oil, sugar and egg yolk together
- Mix wet ingredients with the dry ingredients till combined.  If the batter is lumpy, add in a little milk.
- Whisk egg whites till stiff peaks are formed.  Fold the egg white into the batter.
- Ladle batter over the grid, close the grid and cook until waffle is golden brown, about 4 minutes.
- Serve the waffles with maple syrup and raspberries

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dried Cranberries & Walnut Muffins

The craving for something sweet hits again.  Instead of going for a chocolate indulgence, I have decided to go for something healthier.  Dried cranberries and walnut muffins! 


When I bake, I usually halve the recipe as there's only the husband and myself at home.  And who's the one who eats all these sweet food? I usually yield 4 muffins from halving recipes.  (My muffin pan is bigger than the common muffin pans stated in recipes, but smaller than a texas muffin pan.. It's like an in-between size.)  My sister once asked why do I go through all the trouble just to bake such a small number.  Well.. I guess because baking is not a chore for me.  Somehow the more you bake, you get increasingly deft in measuring ingredients, sifting flour and melting butter in microwaves.  I'm not kidding you.  I used to feel like a monkey in the kitchen.  Now, I'm feeling more and more like an octopus. ;)


I've also gotten used to the washing up required.  That's the part I dislike the most..  Here lies the difference between my husband and myself, which I discovered in our recent baking session.  I belong to the group that likes to measure and lay all my ingredients out on the table before the baking action takes place. Sort of like the cooks you see on television, who go through all the ingredients one-by-one; all nicely placed in individual bowls and plates (many many bowls and plates!).  I like to minimise all forms of stress and frustration when baking.  Having everything ready keeps me calm. 

My husband on the other hand like to measure ingredients while baking on-the-go so that he doesn't have to use up too many bowls and plates in the whole baking process. For him, all he requires are the measuring spoons, a spatula, one or 2 bowls, and a big mixing bowl.  So you can imagine what happens when we bake together.  Yes, war zone in the kitchen.  However, strangely enough, if I had to choose, I'll much rather bake with him than do it alone.  Two octopuses are better than one, rite??   

Dried Cranberry & Walnut Muffins
makes 12 muffins  

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted

- Preheat oven to 200*C. Grease a muffin pan or line with paper muffin cups.
- Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon powder and salt into a large bowl.
- Mix buttermilk, brown sugar, eggs and butter together
- Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients.  Add the cranberries and walnuts and mix to combine.  Do not overmix the batter.  It should remain lumpy.
- Spoon the batter into muffin cups, filling to 2/3 full.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool muffins on wire rack.  

Monday, October 10, 2011

Donna Hay's Classic Brownies

We haven't baked brownies for the longest time and when we saw Donna Hay's classic brownies in her latest 10th Anniversary magazine, we knew we couldn't, and shouldn't give it a miss!

I forgot how much chocolate and butter go into brownies. So as we were heaping, literally heaping, all the chocs and butter in.. the health-freakish side of me nearly froze on the inside.  Seriously.. it was a lot of chocolate and a lot of butter..  Oh well.. I couldn't chicken out right?  Had to go all the way.  

But boy were we rewarded with a great classic brownie!  The brownies turned out moist, super chocolatey, not too sweet... Bea..u..ti..ful!  Our love for chocolate and eating overtook the concern for our waistlines. 

As we didn't have a big enough tin, we decided to cut the quantity of the ingredients to 2/3 of her stated recipe.  (Also because we were too astounded by the amount of chocolate).  So in the recipe below, I would include her original recipe amount and the quantity I reduced to in brackets & italics.

Donna Hay Classic Brownies
Makes 8 -16 pieces (depending on size you cut)

400g dark chocolate, chopped  (we reduced to 270g)
280g butter (we reduced to 185g)
350g brown sugar (we reduced to 233g)
6 eggs (we used 4 eggs)
150g plain flour (we reduced to 100g)
* We added a teaspoon of vanilla essence and 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt

- Preheat oven to 180*C
- Place half the chocolate and butter into a small saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and smooth.  Allow to cool slightly.  (We cooled it for 10 mins)
- Place the sugar, eggs and flour (vanilla & salt, if using) in a bowl with the chocolate mixture and mix to combine.
- Stir through the remaining chocolate pieces and pour the mixture into a lightly greased 20cm x 30cm tin (we used a 20cm x 20 cm tin) lined with non-stick baking paper.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer**.  Cool in tin and cut into squares.  Brownies will keep in an air-tight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.

* We recommend that you use an all silver aluminium tin.  As non-stick tins are dark in colour, it absorbs heat very quickly and causes the brownies to cook faster at the sides. The brownies will end up dry at the sides, and soft in the centre.
** When using a skewer to test, the skewer will come out clean when inserted at the sides of the brownies and slightly moist with crumbs when inserted in the centre.  Remove the brownies from the oven to cool, the residual heat will continue to cook the brownies and firm the centre.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Apple Pie for Stevie - A Little Tribute

It's rather strange writing a tribute to you, Mr Jobs.  You don't know me, and in a way, I don't know you.  I only know you from what I read, what I see on television and on the internet.  But like millions of others in the world who do not know you personally, you have made an impact in the world, and touched my life.  Not with your nifty gadgets, but how you lived your life. 

I was never a fan of yours because of the gadgets.  I do love Apple gadgets.  I can't leave the house without my iPhone, I sleep with it next to me, I catch up on news using the iPad every morning.  I've always marveled at how well-designed and pretty Apple products are.  However, I never thought so much of the man behind the brand until the day I was shown a video clip of your speech at Stanford University in 2005... What you said made me rethink my whole life. 

You taught us about connecting the dots.  You said that we have to trust that the dots will somehow connect even if they take us off the beaten track, because believing that the dots will connect will give us the confidence to follow our heart.

You taught us to find what we love... The only way that we can be truly satisfied is to do great work.  The only way to do great work is to love what we do.  And that if we haven't found it yet, to keep looking.  Don't settle.

You taught us to live each day as if it was our last, because almost everything, all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure, fall away in the face of death; leaving behind what's most important.

You taught us to stay hungry, to stay foolish.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for what you shared.  It has given me the courage to step out to search and pursue what I love.

The whole world was behind you when we knew that you were very sick.  It's not just because you were the visionary, the brilliant mind, behind a multi-billion business, but because we saw you fighting.  Fighting to stay alive.  Fighting to make a difference even while the sickness was consuming you.  It shocked everyone to see how much weight you had lost when you presented the very 1st iPad to the world, and pained us when we saw that you were slowly wasting away.  We were stunned when you relinquished your post as CEO to Tim Cook recently.  Everyone suspected that your health took a sharp turn for the worse, but we didn't know it was going to be so soon.  You must have held on and fought all the way to the finish line.

Mr Jobs, you have left behind a legacy.

I baked apple pies as a simple tribute to you.   My condolences go out to Laurene and your family.  I pray that the Lord will give your family strength, courage and peace as they move forward in the days ahead.  Shalom.

For those of you who have not caught his speech at Stanford, you should... Click here for the video on youtube.

Apple Pie
makes 12 muffin sized pies

Shortcrust Pastry:
1- 2/3 cups (250g) plain flour
125g unsalted butter, chilled & diced
80g icing sugar, sifted
2 egg yolks, chilled

Apple Filling:
450g apples, cored, peeled and diced
25g butter
50g caster sugar
grated rind of 1 lemon

3/4 cup (95 grams) all purpose flour
3/4 cup (155 grams) light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (70 grams) rolled oats
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, chilled & diced
icing sugar for sprinkling

- Preheat oven to 180*C. Lightly grease 12-section muffin tin
- Put apples in a medium saucepan with butter, sugar and lemon rind.  Cook uncovered over a gentle heat, stirring from time to time until the apples have softened but still hold their shape (takes around 8-10 mins).  Leave mixture to cool.
- Roll out *pastry on a lightly floured surface, using a plain cookie cutter, stamp out 12 circles each 10cm in diameter. Press them gently into prepared tin.
- Spoon in the apple filling
- Spoon the **topping on top of the apple filling
- Bake in preheated oven for approximately 25-35 mins, or until golden. Leave to cool in the tins for 10 mins, then loosen with a round-bladed knife and transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Sprinkle icing sugar to serve.

* Shortcrust pastry:
- Process flour, butter and a pinch of salt in a food processor until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Whisk egg yolks and 1 tbs chilled water in a bowl until combined, then with food processor motor running, add to flour mixture. Process until mixture begins to form large clumps, stopping machine before mixture forms a ball.
- Turn pastry out on to a work surface and knead gently to bring together. Form into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.

** Topping:
- Place all the topping ingredients in a food processor and process just until the mixture has clumps the size of peas.

Monday, October 3, 2011

How I Celebrated

Coincidentally, it happened to be my grandma's Chinese birthday.  She's 83! 

I visited grandma and had lunch with her.  Brought a cake along too.  Alright, I admit, I'm a little cheap.. I bought my grandma a pandan chiffon cake.. Well, there are reasons for that.. Firstly, who doesn't love chiffon cake?  Secondly, i thought it is probably the easiest cake for her to eat because of its light and airy texture.

Despite my cheap cake, I think my grandma was happy that I went down to celebrate her birthday with her.  She had a rather busy week 'entertaining' as my uncle and aunties took turns to visit during her birthday week.  I didn't tell her that it was my birthday too.  Strangely enough, she asked me how old I am.  I told her that I was thirty, and she started reminiscing about the past, and how we bought this current flat that she is staying in around 32-33 years ago.  This is the very flat that I lived in ever since I was born.  My grandma remembered that they shifted in when my elder sister was learning how to crawl.  (My family shifted out of the flat when I was 10 years old, but my granddad (before he passed away) and grandma continued living there.)

Yep.. lots and lots of history and memories in that flat. 

iPhone snapshots of granny slicing and having cake.  I sang her a birthday song too.
Homeward bound after grandma's.  The husband took half a day off to bake a chocolate cake for me.  So when I arrived home, he was half-way through it.  It was the first time that he baked a cake with frosting.. It was quite a challenge especially with the frosting, which was a little liquid-y.. but the cake turned out pretty good!  A homemade cake... I couldn't ask for more..

I wanted to do justice to this lovely cake baked by my husband.  So no tweaking of colours to this photo..
Look at the gleaming chocolate!! This was taken before the frosting set.

Yes, this is me at 30, next to my yummy cake.  Frosting has set!
(I think this is the first time I'm making an appearance in my own blog!)

It was a very quiet birthday affair, but that's how I like it to be.  I'm grateful for all the friends and family who sent me your well-wishes.  I feel very blessed to have all of you.  Shalom to all... :)