Happy New Year!

The best thing about the new year is that we get to review our goals and blessings and set new one for the new year.

I have been quiet for the past week, taking the time to enjoy our families and just being with each other (and working!). It allowed my mind to be still for just a while, to think back and to set new goals for the next year.

Last year, I wrote about the life highlights and cooking/baking enjoyments. I spoke about some of my goals for the year of 2011. It struck me that this is a good space to re look at these goals and reflect the growth that occurs in many ways. Time seem to just fly by so quickly, more so when I started working and life responsibilities set in.  Life should not just slip by and every year should be treasured.  What else is a better way than to set life growth goals and grow in them!

and counting every single blessings that God has provided. In the midst of challenges in the year, He knows what we cannot handle and can. This account is a true reflection that even through the midst of dark times, there are still so much joy.

Highlights of 2011

  • We started building our home sweet home! 
  • We attended one of my best buddies’ wedding. 

  • We went to busselton and was at the Micheal Buble’s concert. 
  • We headed to Melbourne with a few friends. 
  • I took up boxing, zumba, body balance and pump classes, which resulted in a stronger, healthier, better coordination (those who know me know that I trip when I walk!) and a happier daphne. I found muscles! 
  • I am learning and still trying to relax obsession of the weighing scale and just learn to love who I am more. 
  • I achieved another milestone in the area that I am working in. Developing and leading a team has made me more humble as a clinician than ever before.
  • I have a fringe! 🙂 
Cooking and Baking Highlights? 
  • I made curries!!!! 

It has been a blast of a year.

Goals for 2012 

  • Attempt to make creme brûlée again. First, I have to locate some butane for my torch! 
  • Definitely more ice-cream making. I have my eyes on making vanilla bean ice cream and rum and raisin! 
  • Embrace my roots and make more home styled asian dishes. 
  • Be kinder to myself, to praise the Lord for creating us and loving my body. 
  • Continue with my gym workouts (haha, I know you are thinking I have broken the last goal already but it is to be healthier!). Being stronger and tone within. 
  • Working hard in being even another step closer to our dreams.
  • On top of respecting my husband, but also to speak kinder and be more generous with my words.
  • Enjoy the process of moving into our new home. 
  • To pray more.
Wishing you a HAPPY NEW YEAR. Whatever your goals were, or challenges you went through, it’s time to take a deep breathe and move forward! May this year will take you greater heights or grow as a person within greater than before. 

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Christmas Cinnamon Cranberries and Walnut Muffins

How time has flown by and we are onto Christmas already!! Are you ready for it yet? I don’t feel that I am!

I find these muffins a real easy treat to make. It’s good to bring to last minute gatherings that you have been invited for this festive season. I love experimenting with olive oil and this recipe uses just that. It gave my kitchen a very festive feel when it is out from the oven.

The best thing about these? I really like the sprinkle of brown sugar and walnuts as a topping. It makes them just a tad more special.

Oh my, I still have so many treats that I want to make! Looks like these posts would have to be for after Christmas (or maybe a New Year treat?).

Nevertheless, I’m hoping that you are having a fantastic Christmas this year.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Christmas Cinnamon Cranberries and Walnut Muffins (Makes 12)
200 grams cranberries
300 grams self raising flour
100 grams brown sugar
80 grams walnuts or half a cup
2 tsp ground ginger
1 giant tablespoon of ground cinnamon
185 ml butter milk
80 ml of olive oil
1 egg

1 tablespoon of brown sugar
2-3 handful of crushed walnuts

Preheat oven to 180C. Place wrappers on tray or muffin tin.

Combine flour, cranberries, all spices and walnuts in a bowl. Whisk oil, egg and buttermilk together. Pour into well of dry ingredients. Fold through. Spoon into wrappers/muffin tray.

Combine remaining brown sugar and walnuts. Sprinkle some on each muffin. bake for 20 minutes.

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Gingerbread Cookies

I can assure you that usually I am very organised. I love things being in order and I love to plan ahead. In fact, all our meals are planned way in advanced for the week.

When it comes to baking however, I seem to rely on the “I feel like baking” mode. That has it advantages of course, but it means I usually do not have every single ingredient or tools I need in my kitchen. Take these gingerbread cookies for instance. You may have known them as Gingerbread MEN. However, somehow, in my cookie cutter collection I do not have a gingerbread man cutter!!

I recall that d from Daily Affairs gave me a set of Christmas cutters before. I look through them..Nope.. No men. Oh well, but they are gorgeous. With bells, christmas tree, stars, snowflake..etc. I thought oh well, I shall turn them into gingerbread cookies instead. Did I mention that I have nothing to decorate the cookies with except for icing sugar?

My decorating skills isn’t the best but I have to say that a drizzle of icing does make a difference. One thing I like about this recipe is that it is not overly sweet. They are slightly crunchy with a chewiness to them.

I’m not usually a fan of ginger-things related but even I am getting into the mood thanks to hubby. Oh and I think I’m finally back to the baking Christmas mode.

Hopefully, with more prepared ingredients!

Gingerbread Cookies
125 grams butter
90 grams brown sugar
120 ml golden syrup
325 grams plain flour
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon of ground ginger
1 tsp of ground cinnamon

Icing
1 egg white
1/2 cup of pure icing sugar

Preaheat Oven to 180C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Beat butter, sugar and golden syrup. Fold in egg yolk then flour, ground ginger and cinnamon. Fold it through well. Then using hands, knead it till it becomes smooth.

On a floured surface and rolling pin, roll dough out. Using christmas cutters-or if you are better organised than myself, use a gingerbread man cutter. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Ice them and eat!

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Kueh Talam

 I am not afraid to embrace my Chinese heritage. I left home when I was 16 years old but still have fond memories of where I grew up in. Many of my memories are with my granny who adores bringing me out to try different chinese food. Almond milk dessert and different kuehs are just a few of the many that we would have on our Chinatown trips.

Looking back when I was in my late teens/early twenties, I probably did not embrace my culture as much as I should have. I went through a phrase where I wanted steaks and pork chops, instead of chicken rice and herbal soups. Fries please but not my stir fry veges.

Slowly but surely, I realised what I have missed. Living away from my parents and grandmother make me appreciate them even more. And where I am from and the rich different cultures that we are exposed to.

I had fun making this Kueh. While it is not Cantonese-more like Nonya, it is one of my favourite one to have as a child. I love the coconut cream and the pandan flavour in this. It is probably one of my most successful kueh other than Ondeh Ondeh. The only regret is that my green layer seems thicker than my white one! Alas, I only used Pandan extract but hey…whatever it takes.



Kueh Talam

Green Layer
60 grams rice flour
20 grams tapicoa flour
20 mung bean flour
150 grams sugar
125 ml of water + few tsp of pandan extract (or 125 pandan water)
250 water
1/2 tsp alkaline water (I mixed water with bicarb soda)

White Layer
30 grams rice flour
30 grams mung bean flour
250 ml coconut cream
1/4 tsp salt

Green Layer- Combine rice flour, tapioca flour and mung bean flour in a double boil pot (glass bowl on top of saucepan). Mix sugar with it.

In a jug, mix all wet ingredients together. Slowly mix it with dry ingredients till smooth. Cook it for around 15 minutes till the mixture thickens.

Pour into a 6 by 6 square tin and steam it for 20 minutes.

White layer- combine rice and mung bean flour. Add salt. Pour coconut cream and cook in double boiler for 5-10 minutes till thickens. When the green layer is down, pour on top of tray. Steam for another 20 minutes.

Cool and cut in pieces.

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Smoked Salmon and Chorizo Basil Frittata

Weak nights are usually a mad rush for the both of us. Usually I would arrive home first, slapping on something on the stove or oven before rushing to the gym or to other appointments. On average, we have dinner 3-4 nights a week after 9pm.

Friends usually ask why would I still want to cook or prepare a meal if we are always in such tight rush for time. The main reason is because I love the control of what gets cooked and eaten. That way, I can add little dairy, little oil or other fat whenever I want. Recently, I have been trying to get both of us eating less processed food and carbs, which means preparing meals at home is a necessity.

It’s not that difficult when one planned out weekly meals. I try to predict what my schedule is like for the next week so I can adjust and plan meals accordingly. For instance, most Thursday nights are wrap or egg nights. Pretty much no cooking and food can be eaten in a flash after a shower when I come home from gym. During winter, we had soup nearly every Monday night. Simply because I can pop it into my thermal cooker or even a slow cooker to simmer away before I come home at 10pm for a quick feed (but not too filling) before resting.

As the weather warms up, I find myself eating more easy to prepare salads. It’s usually a 10 min prepare job with little fuss. I paired some greens with a easy to bake frittata and think it’s such a fulfilling meal. think eggs baked with ingredients! Think of the lack of washing up to do later on!!

Smoked Salmon and Chorizo Basil Frittata (Serves 4)
8 eggs
100 grams smoked salmon
1 chorzo sliced thinnly
1/2 cup of soy milk
1 cup of basil leaves

Sizzle chorizo on cold to hot over proof pan. Meanwhile, whisk eggs with milk. Pour egg mixture into pan. Top with smoked salmon and basil leaves. Bake for 20 minutes in 180 C till eggs become set. Serve with green salad.

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Pan Fried Tempeh with Chili Anchovies

I have always wanted to try tempeh-a soy product but never had the guts to do so. Finally, I decided to give it a go after spotting some in our of our local oriental stores.

To be very honest, I do not think I am a fan of the taste of it- though I do like the texture. Maybe it’s the way I cooked it. I paired it with some lovely chilli anchovies which made it nicer but I am not sure if I will give it another go.

It has a slight nutty but strong after taste. I think the chill and peanuts does mask the flavour well.

Have you tried tempeh before? How did you cook it?

Pan Fried Tempeh with Chilli Peanut Anchovies (serves 4)
100 grams Tempeh sliced and pan fried
1 cup of fried anchovies
2 chilli chopped
1/2 cup of peanuts
some chopped chives

Roast peanuts in pan. Add chill and some oil. Toss anchovies and chives through it. Top it on tempeh. Serve with rice.

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Cream Cheese Butter Bean Bake

It’s nearly here!! Christmas that is. It seems that for the past few years, we have not been home (Perth) for Christmas. It was Europe in 2009, and hubby’s home country (KL) in 2010. For 2011, we will be having a quiet one with our extended family and friends in Perth. It will probably be the least prepared Christmas for us given both of us will be working through it.

I stumble across this idea by looking food apps. I took the butter bean bake idea and themed it with some chives and onion cream cheese topped with bread crumbs. I think it is a good idea to theme it with a roast dish, or even some pan fried chicken. I am always on the lookout for good side recipes and I do think this will help.

Cream Cheese Butter Bean Bake (serves 4)
1 can of butter beans slightly mashed with fork
50 grams cream cheese
1 sprig of rosemary chopped leaves
1 cup of bread crumbs fresh if you have any
few tablespoon of milk
seasoning

Mash butter beans with milk if needed. Mix cream cheese through the butter beans. Season. Place in an oven proof dish. Sprinkle breadcrumbs and rosemary over it and spray it with oil. Bake for 20 minutes.

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Pork Chops with Baked Apples

Sometimes, the simplest combination of ingredients is what works. Nothing too fussy, but just pork, apples and a roasting tray. I mentioned before that I have an unjustified fear of combining fruits and savoury dishes together. In my head, it just doesn’t make sense. I like savoury savoury and sweet sweet. Looking back, it could be what I was used to as a child- where our food is really simple. Plain rice with two dishes, sometimes three. I never knew savoury rice even existed.

Pork chops in my household were those that resembled what was cooked at the local food court. The greasy delicious fried pork chops with heaps of grilled onions. In fact, that was how I knew western food- usually greasy and appealing to my young tastebuds.

One thing I love about this dish is that it is really dead easy AND little mess. Everything in a roasting tray. How good is that? I did serve mine with some lightly fried asparagus on salad leaves. The only comment is that the apples are still crunchy which is fine by us, but if you want it softer, you may want to cook it first before adding the pork. It’s a good lazy Sunday night dinner.

Pork Chops with Baked Apples (serves 4) adapted from Taste.
4 lean pork chops trimmed
3 apples peeled, cored and sliced.
1 stalk of rosemary -leaves chopped
seasoning salt and pepper

Pan fried pork till cooked on the outside. Probably around 2 minutes on each side. Preheat Oven 180 C. Toss apple with some oil and rosemary. Lined on roasting tray. Place pork on top of apples. Cook it in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Season.

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Coconut Quinoa Basil Chicken Salad

Quinoa must be the new wonder food. It’s appearing world wide, in various restaurants and food blogs. I tasted it first at the Greenhouse in Perth City. It was sooo awesome. Seriously filling and I love its nutty taste. Packed fill with protein, I knew this would be fantastic to have in my meals.

Personally, I love the red quinoa better- it just seem to have more of a nutty flavour. I cooked it with some coconut milk and water. Tossed it with salad leaves, basil and mint. Topped with grilled chicken and tadah, a perfect spring salad for dinner.

I did toss some fish sauce through it, but really, with the coconut milk infused quinoa, there isn’t a need. It taste even better the next day for lunch.

Coconut Quinoa Basil Chicken Salad
1 cup of red quinoa
1 cup of water
1 cup of coconut milk

2 chicken breast- cut in half, season with olive oil and salt.
3 cups of salad leaves
1 bunch of mint
1 bunch of basil
1 red capsicum diced

2 tablespoon of fish sauce, 1/2 tsp of sugar and 1/4 cup of lemon juice
few red chilli chopped

Cook quinoa with water and coconut.

Grill chicken breast. Set aside. Toss everything with veges, chills and sauce. Serve!

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Pandan, Rose and Vanilla Steam Rice Cake

I have been trying to experiment and make kuehs (Nonya Desserts) lately. It has been on my mind to master some of them at least. Previously, I have tried making Ondehs Ondehs, and of course the Bubur Pulut Hitam. It just seems like such a challenge, but I do miss having them. It’s like a piece of home at home.

Making them also made me appreciate the simplicity of just heading out to the shops to grab a few of the kuehs for afternoon tea back in SG or KL. The challenge in making these kuehs is the lack of availability of fresh pandan leaves- often, I could only purchase it frozen and tasteless. I use pandan paste as a substitute but it really isn’t the same.

One of the kuehs that most children like is the 9 layer cake. I love to peel each layer and eat it slowly. Recently, I came across a similar recipe but uses rose water instead. In fact, it has 3 distinct flavours, using vanilla and pandan as well.

The final result was “ok”. I’m not sure why it feels a little thick or not as “smooth”. maybe I have added in too much flour. I would also add more rose water (adjusted recipe below)

Back to the kitchen for more testing!

Pandan Rose, and Vanilla 9 Layer Steam Rice Cake from “Little Nonya” 
600 grams rice flour
5 tbsp of tapioca flour
450 grams sugar
750 ml coconut milk
1800 ml water

1/4 tablespoon of rose water + few drops of red colouring
1 tsp of pandan paste
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine flours, sugar and water. Add coconut milk and water till batter is form. Separate into 3 bowls.

Add vanilla extract to one. Pandan paste to another, and rose water  + red colouring in the 3rd.

Pour pink layer first in 9 inch by  9 inch tray. Steam for 5 minutes. Followed by white layer then green. Repeat each layer, steaming each for 5 minutes. Leave to cool before cutting it up.

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