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Chinese Walnut Cookies 核桃酥(Paleo, Gluten Free)

IMG_3058 (640x427)I thought I have posted these before but I actually have not! Even before we were married, hubby absolutely loves Chinese walnut cookies or 核桃酥. They are buttery, short and melt in your mouth. They are the must have if you visit a bakery in hong kong. IMG_3055 (640x427)

I have attempted a few “traditional” recipes in the past, but none was even close to what we remember travelling through hong kong and even back home in Malaysia and Singapore. Then randomly, I experimented with walnuts and coconut sugar- BLAM! This was close. I love that these has a melt in your mouth texture, and with a strong walnut taste. They are not as short as the traditional ones, but as I have removed refined ingredients such as icing sugar and butter, I think I can compromise on that. Top it with a few walnuts, and I think it is a good enough cookie to serve for next year Chinese New Year celebration!IMG_3054 (640x427)

 

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Travelling with a Toddler + Chinese Almond Cookies (Paleo, Gluten Free)

Chinese Almond CookiesDuring my travels, what I missed most was having the familiarity of my kitchen and ingredients that I know can sit well with our values, principles and food philosophy. I do believe in diversity and regardless of where we are at, our body needs a break from the usual routine. Food included.IMG_1165

I was really impressed with how Asher was with food. He ate pretty much anything and embraced the local food delights. From a typical breakfast of Indian Thosai, to different kuehs -he tried it all. He was a little hit and miss with durian. He didn’t love it but neither did he dislike it. I would just have to keep introducing it to him. IMG_0660

Another thing that we were most proud about was how well he behaved on the plane. We did not need to use gadgets-though we brought it and prepared it in advanced. We put together a goody bag of new puzzles, books and drawing materials. We had small little toys still wrapped up for him to open up on the plane. The funny thing was, it was the safety card at our seat that generated the most interest. He was literally studying it on each flight. Otherwise, snacks, conversation about the plane, reading, toys and nap time kept us sane. IMG_0871

We had quite a lot of misses on the toileting side of things on the plane- to be expected. We brought heaps of clothing but on the way back, we conceded defeat and put him in training pants to reduce the pressure on him and us. Lo behold, he went to the loo on the plane when we stopped asking, and kept his pants dry mostly. He asked for the toilet when we landed and that was sufficient till we got home.I don’t blame him. I’m not a fan of air plane loos myself!IMG_0682

Among the few things that Asher pick up during the trip were

  1. Eating ice cream
  2. He tried some juice
  3. Local fruits like Jambu Air, Jackfruit and Dragon fruit
  4. Smother in love from his grandparents
  5. Sharing food! 
  6. Some cookies and chocolate IMG_0572

Thankfully, I have always kept an open mind that Asher will experience the above some time in his life time. Besides, what’s life without chocolate, cookies and ice cream? Now back at home, Asher continued to eat his usual foods without much complains but was excited about some custard and instant blue berry ice cream (Cue: frozen bananas and blueberries). IMG_3044 (640x427)

I created these cookies as an adaptation of the Chinese Almond Cookies that my family loved for many years. The original recipe was almond meal and icing sugar. This version uses honey. The glaze is what made the yellow of the cookie stands out. My grandmother loved this and would have asked me to make it over and over again. If I could turn that time, I would gladly make them daily…just for her..
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Fig and Mango Agar Agar Jelly (Paleo, Gluten free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar free)

IMG_1611 (427x640)Since I started working, I felt that my world has gotten smaller. I’m getting good at saying no, and scheduling less on weekends. I’m better at receiving help and having a blind eye when household chores doesn’t get done as quickly as what I would like. Meals have become simpler. Most weeks, I would have at least 1 meal that I cook a double batch which would be the next day’s dinner as well. 

I’m not as good in replying messages or being on top of catching up with friends. Most of our friends are in a similar situation, where time is so precious that rest/activities/children get prioritised above meet ups. Sometimes I feel bad, but then realised that when it comes to friendships, it’s a joint responsibility between us. The other thing I realised is that not meeting/connecting over messages/coffees/meals isn’t necessary a bad thing. When friends meet, we fall back into the same pattern. The same keenness to catch up. The genuineness in wanting to know how things are going with work, relationships, health and life. It may have been 3 months since we spoke but that gap does not seem to matter as much anymore. Fig and Mango Coconut Jelly

Friendships and parenthood. It’s a strange combination. I’m of an opinion that just because I’m a parent does not mean I do not need friends. Also, I don’t just need parent friends. I need grown up friends who will talk to me about other things than looking kids too. Having said that, I appreciate every parent friend I have. They always puts things into perspective for me. IMG_1610 (640x427)

I made these pretty little jellies twice. Once was for a meet up with some friends over roast meats and chats. The other, was for family. Both times, I enjoyed making them. I love the pretty colours. The purple from the fig, and yellow from the orange. Because I used coconut cream, I felt that I need not add much sweetness since the fruit gave it a little touch of sweetness too. Bite size cuteness. I hope you like this as much as I do!

 

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Pear and White Fungus Soup (Paleo, Gluten Free)

IMG_1418 (640x427)I consider myself as a modern girl. I like holidays with a decent hot water shower and clean bedding. My kitchen has some pretty modern appliances such as a food processor and a kitchen aid mixer. My clothes are fuss free, girly and basic. 

It may come to you as a surprise that I like to make traditional soups and desserts from time to time too. A few months ago, Asher developed a nasty cough. The kind of cough that keeps him (and us) awake through the night. I was looking for natural and healthy alternatives to help soothe his throat. Manuka or Jarrah Honey helps but I wanted more options.

What would grandma do?IMG_1420 (640x427)

She would brew soups and making sweet soups to nourish our lungs and throats. With that in mind, I went back to my Cantonese Chinese roots and decided to make a traditional drink for us. 

Pear is nourishing and refreshing, bitter and sweet almonds helps to strengthen the lungs and is said to help with coughs. Red dates replenishing blood. White fungus is meant to be the “poor man’s birds nest” with its nourishing properties. 

I love it cold on a hot summer day. Asher? He takes it in whatever state. 

I’m now a modern girl embracing traditional roots. IMG_1417 (427x640)

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Tang Yuen (Sweet Dumplings) – Almost Paleo

IMG_1354 (640x427)When my parents came over in December, my mother reminded me that it is “Dong Zhi”  or Winter Solace which is where we eat little balls of glutinous dumplings in a sweet soup. Eating it with family signify togetherness. IMG_1357 (640x427)

As an experiment, I decided to attempt making a gut friendly version by using sweet potato and rice flour instead. I surprised myself with this one because it actually came out good. It was bouncy and has a lovely bite to it. I did a few with stuffed coconut and peanut but I think the dough is better by itself. IMG_1352 (640x427)

Tradition says that we usually pair Tang yuen with tea. Well, I decided to make a sweet soup using rooboos tea leaves “Red Jasmine” from T2. I boil it up with a few slices of ginger and sweeten it with a touch of coconut sugar. My parents loved it and I hope you will as well. 

As  I write this, I miss my family. This year is the first year we are celebrating Chinese New Year without my grandmother. As per Chinese tradition, we will not be taking part in much celebrations at all, choosing to honour and remember her. 

 

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 Happy Chinese New Year! May this year bring you more happiness and good health!

Tamago Boro Cookies (Almost Paleo, Gluten Free, Nut free)

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Asher turned 18 months towards the end of January. They say that time goes faster when you have a child. With more to fit in, it just seems that the days merge into weeks and weeks into months. 

I had a great day with Asher and really wanted to document it. Although we have many good days, and our share of average days,  I wanted to remind myself that with the storm comes the rainbow and sunshine. I wanted to remember the little glorious details because I know how quickly Asher will probably be a teenager and not wanting to spend this time with me.

Our great day began with a sleep in of additional 20 minutes. Asher slept of course, while I stare at this gorgeous human being, snoozing so peacefully. He woke with a smile and gave me a cuddle. He pointed and named “nose”, “mouth”, “ears” and pryed my mouth open so he could say “teeth”. I pretended to sleep, and he gave my nostril a jap. Yup. Indeed he is awake. 

He laughed as I brushed my teeth. He rushed to grab my toothpaste so he could play with the cap (he enjoys twisting and opening items). I got dressed and applied my make up. He played with his little container of toys beside me and begin giggling as he caught sight of himself in the mirror. 

As I prepared him breakfast- a smoothie bowl of smashed avocado, yogurt, pear, milk and probiotics. He walked around me. Oops! I forgot to close the pantry door and he went into it, opening and closing containers. Then it was breakfast time. He ate happily. He also decided that it is good fun to clap his hands, and do roly poly with his arms. 

After a quick clean up, it was play time. We ran around the house- mostly in circles. What amazes me was how fast he grasp concepts. Today, I wanted to focus on stop and go. We ran and we stop. As simple as that. That little game went on for a near 20-25 minutes. That together with some swings, hangs, turn arounds and bouncing. He even attempted to jump- but can’t quite grasp that his feet needs to leave the ground. We threw, rolled and kicked balls. We sang songs- I’m not sure how many times I sang “Head, shoulders, Knees and Toes” that morning but he loved it. Pointing to his toes every time I sang. He learned a new word today- shoulders! Then we proceeded on to another song which was “Wheels on the bus”. He laughed as we go through each action. His favourite at the moment? When I sing “baby on the bus goes wa wa wa”- he would pretend to rub his eyes. 

We had morning tea which was some banana bread and a big glass of milk. Asher called out “Milk milk” and nodded his head when I asked him repeatedly if that was what he wanted. Another clean up, and it was back to playing. Music time now I said. We played with the xylophone, bells and little tambourine. We tapped on different surfaces and he was more than excited to try new ones. Soon after, he became distracted and started to run around the house again, enticing me to chase him. Tickles and laughs got him going and I decided that it was probably time to start winding him down so that he could have his nap. 

Sitting in his tent, he gave cuddles to Scout and his soft toys. Then, almost intuitively, he came and gave me a cuddle. It was almost like telling me “I didn’t forget you mummy! You need my love too”. In a split second, he pointed to his book and we started reading. He pointed “stars”, “cars”, “train”. Suddenly, he looked up. TRAIN! He pointed to his floor mat where there was a picture of a train. Then even more excitedly, he pointed to his toy train. It was like it clicked for him. The book train, picture of the train and the toy train are all trains! 

As he started to yawn, I took him to bed. It took me an hour before he would wind down and lay beside me. In between that hour, he would want me to read- saying “book book”. Or play with my hair, ears, eyes- poking my nostrils and even trying to poke my belly button. In that hour, I could choose to be impatient but today, I chose to run with it. Eventually, he cuddled up to me and he slept. 

Nap time means I get to cook dinner, clean up the house a little, and perhaps even surf the net if I have a chance. Today I promised myself I will not touch work which I did not. 

A long nap means Asher felt refreshed and ready to face the afternoon. After lunch which was Pumpkin and Kale Fritters, and a big bowl of melon cubes, it was time to play again. This time, I decided to step back and give him free play time. Out came the blocks and the mess. I inhale and breathe because I know mess is good for him. I soon laughed though because he started putting the blocks back in the box. Then he tipped everything out and said “uh oh”- peeking at me. Then he started the process all over again. I made a mental note to be careful of my body language and speech when he makes a mess- that’s what kids do and I never want him to think it is wrong to to make a mess. 

Hubby came home not long after, just as Asher requested for more milk! I warmed some for him and offered him a banana. He was stoked! 

And then, I got changed and went to the gym. Asher waved and said “bye bye”- that’s a win! He did not cling on to me as I leave. A killer workout awaits me. I smashed it and returned home. Asher called out “mumma” greeting me with a grin as hubby fed him his dinner. Soon after, it was reading time with hubby and me and bath time. 

I kissed my little man on his forehead as he doze off. Good night my sweet darling. Another day of adventure awaits you tomorrow. 

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I made this little “Tamago Boro” cookies with the memory of me being a little child and being fed with these cookies by my grandmother. Tamago means egg in Japanese and basically they are little egg biscuits. There are many versions online, but I decided to do mine with very little sugar- hence they do not have the same melt in your mouth texture as the store bought ones. They do hold a slight crunch and Asher loves them.

It is a little tedious to roll them into little balls- One batch can make up to 250 little cookies. I like to roll them into little logs and cut them into small balls. As we do not have milk formulae, I bought brown rice “milk” powder instead and that appeared to work. I used rice malt to sweeten these balls. 

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Sesame Snaps (Paleo, Clean Eating)

IMG_1000 (427x640)I stumbled to to this recipe while browsing at Merry Maker Sisters website. What a delicious find. We love sesame. As a kid, one of my favourite dessert to share with my grandmother was a bowl of black sesame paste. She goes for the almond paste of course- I try to have a bowl of it (sugar and all), everything I visit Singapore. It reminds me of her.

Back to the sesame snaps though. I bet these will make great Chinese New Year “cookies”. Definitely saving this one for next year. Every year for Christmas though, I shortlist some holiday bakes to share with friends as gifts. This is in my shortlist!

 

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The crunch and snap of it makes a great textural feel in the mouth. Hubby loves munching through them for his snacks. Making one batch lasts us for some time. I gave some away just because I didn’t want hubby to over eat them! Seriously that good. I made these a few times now, and each time I had great feedback.

As suggested, I halved the amount of honey and changed the other half to rice malt. I also played around with the quality of honey/rice malt- trying to reduce it without compromising the taste. I realised we do need the stickiness to make this recipe works. It’s a lot sweeter than what I am used to make at home, but certainly a very very addictive treat!

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Sesame Snaps- easily makes two containers of it!

2 cups of white sesame seeds untoasted

1 cup of almond meal

1/4 cup of honey

1/2 cup of rice malt syrup

2 tablespoons of cacao nibs/chopped by pistachios

1/4 cup of coconut oil.

 

Preheat oven to 160C. Prepare 2 cookie trays. Mix everything together. Split into half for each tray- rolling the mixture between two pieces of baking paper. About 1/2 cm thick. Transfer to cookie tray and remove the top baking paper. Repeat for 2nd batch. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Watch the oven. I like mine a little more brown so it stays crispy.

 

Pork Jerky/Bak Kwa

My only preparation for CNY this year. I like to think that I have grand plans every year. This year, I confess that it creeped up on me and I found myself short of time to do much.

This has always been one of my favourite snack on CNY- I love the sweet and savoury aspect of it, the meaty texture, the crisp of the slightly charred bits. At every home visit, people would sometimes exchanged stories about how long they queue up to purchase the best bak kwa (My hubby calls it Long Yok). I think Bak Kwa is in hokkien dialect and Long Yok is cantonese.

I bookmarked a few recipes to reference to. My favourite is still Sonia’s. I reduced the sugar to 50 grams and think the sweetness is just right. However, I think the meat wasn’t pressed thinly enough. While it did have a crisp texture, I felt that it was too thick. Nevertheless, we loved it!

Not without a mini incident…

I was chatting with my grandma on the phone while it was it the oven. I set it to high on grill (which is around 250C), took it out to turn it around and my baking paper caught fire. Lucky for me, hubby was there to save the day, but my grandma found it amusing. I could literally feel her glare on me- just like the first time I cooked in her kitchen. So another lesson learned… concentrate when doing something new!

Using my chopsticks, marinating the meat was easy. Turning it round and round, making sure the meat was all gluey. Thanks to Sonia’s pictures, I knew what to look out for. That’s the reason why I love blogging. It allowed me to learn more about my own culture, food that I grew up loving- I never wish to forget my roots.

And hopefully, this compensate for my lack of preparation (which is what a good Chinese wife should do) for CNY.

Pork Jerky/Bak Kwa
480 grams of pork mince
50 grams of sugar
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1/2 tsp of fish sauce
1/2 tsp of chinese wine
1 tablespoon of dark caramel sauce
1/4 tsp of 5 spice powder
1/4 tsp of salt
2 tablespoon of honey

Marinate meat with all ingredients with a pair of chopsticks. Turning it till it turns gluey. Place in fridge for a few hours (mine was around 4 hours).

Pre heat oven to 160C. Prepare baking tray- Sonia didn’t use any baking paper. I did. Press meat into tray as thinly as possible. Bake for 15-20 mins. Remove from oven.

Change oven function to grill high or 240C. Snip meat by using a scissors, knife or pizza cutter into pieces. Place it back under the grill. I find that it is charred within 3-4 mins. Turn pieces and place in oven again.

Cool and eat (if you can wait that long).

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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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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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