Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Strawberry Ice Cream

Last Sunday I was craving for something sweet and after opening and closing the fridge for a dozen times, the sight of a packet of strawberries sitting in the corner of the freezer caught my eyes - and the first thing that came to my mind - ICE CREAM! I didn't have any recipes for ice cream and decided to just 'experiment' with it. So, with 500 gm of strawberries, sugar and fresh milk, and an overnight of freezing, this is the end result - YUMMY!

Monday, February 23, 2009


Last Saturday I got excited thinking that I am going to make popiah skin - such is the euphoria I experience when it comes to cooking/baking something new - I'd be thrilled to indulge in new culinary experience - compared to the thought of PhD, gosh! So, I got myself busy with the business of making popiah skin ;)

There are few variations in recipes that I googled from the net - decided to try the following recipe for popiah skin and it turns out pretty good - elastic and springy.

Recipe for Popiah Skin:
- 2 cups wheat flour
- 1/2 cup of corn starch
- 3 cups of water
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1/2 tsp of oil
- 1/2 tsp of sugar

1. Add all the ingredients and mix well in a bowl (dissolve all the lumps of flour until you have a smooth mixture) - the mixture will be runny and smooth.
2. Take a COLD flat pan (I used non-stick) and rub a little oil on the pan so that the batter doesn't stick on it.
3. Add just enough mixture to cover the pan surface (rotate the pan around so that the mixture coats evenly on the pan surface - until you have a smooth coating on the pan).
4. Use low to medium heat and allow the batter to fry until it cooks - you will see a thin layer of coating bubbling up in the pan - forming a skin over the pan.
5. Do not overcook the skin else you will end up with a flat cruncy biscuit.
6. Carefully turn the skin over to a plate and dry the other side. You have to allow the skin to cool completely before stacking them up on each other. So, what I did was I placed 3 plates and placed the skins separately until they cool completely - that prevents them from sticking to each other when you stack them up later.
7. Allow the pan to cool down before frying the next skin - this is important so that the batter don't end up sticking way too early when you want to rotate the pan to form the skin layer. So, I had to use separate stoves to do this to save time - when I turn the skin over to the plate from one pan, I allow the pan to cool in a cold surface (not on the stove) and while waiting, I coat the batter in another pan and fry it - and the process continues until you finish all the batter.

For the filling:
- I used white carrot since I couldn't find turnip
- red carrots
- scrambled eggs
- beansprouts
- fried onions
- garlic paste
- chilli paste
- oyster sauce
- dark soy sauce
- light soy sauce

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Food oh Glorious Food

What to have for dinner tonight? Same question everyday... Great that I can choose to vary my dining experience every day - whip up different answers everyday to the same question. Last night's dinner menu was toasted sardine sandwich with tomatoes, green peas + corn soup with croutons and yogurt, and apple + deseeded grapes - blissful dinner :)

Friday, February 20, 2009

February Read

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Life Lessons for Women - 7 Essential Ingredients for a Balanced Life by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Stephanie Marston

My best friend, Chin Lay gave me this book a few years ago when she went to London and only recently I managed to finish reading it. It's my bedtime book. Truly inspiring words to read before dozing off. It's enlightening to read the stories shared by strong-willed women and the healing power of prayers and hope and the miracles of everyday life - and also the courage to follow our dreams. Some of the stories strengthens my belief and faith on all the wonderful things to come and keeps me going through tough times. I think this kind of books should be read more often to get us back on track whenever we feel lost and to be more aligned to the purpose of life - enjoying every minute of it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

30 Things about Me

1. I decided to write a note on 30 things to reflect on things and about myself and the things I do and did.
2. I love animals like crazy - dogs top the list - I regret for not majoring in animal behaviour - well, maybe one fine day I might decide to pursue that ambition.
3. Dreams of working with animals and owning a restaurant and a farm with lots of animals in it one day.
4. I enjoy my flexible working hours so so very much.
5. Has an adventure streak in myself - but yet to act on it. I love going for a drive through mountains and nature with Alfred (him driving of course). I love nature and it's amazing to watch all the little things that God has created for us.
6. Would love to leave everything and go somewhere with Alfred and start our life somewhere new.
7. Plans to stand tall on Mount Kinabalu soon.
8. Wish that I am more spontaneous as I wanted to be - I am becoming more and more structured with schedules and stuff. Just wish I can be more relaxed and laid-back at times and take it easy.
9. Turning into a freak - wanting everything to be organized and turning out as I wanted it to be. I value punctuality so much so that I'd be stressed out if someone delays the plan or time.
10. Always caring what other people think or has to say - sometimes it works as a disadvantage for me - I tend to be sooooo conscious - it's tiring. Wish I couldn't care less :) Always wanting to take care other people's feelings - even at the expense of mine. And not speaking out.
11. Can't imagine living without potatoes - love 'em :) and I eat like a slow bird - a nickname my uncle gave me.
12. I love cooking and baking - am more inclined to cook my own meal than eating outside...I love eating out in good restaurants occasionally.
13. Am starting to get anxious of the amount of things in the 'to do' list for this year.
14. I believe more than strongly now that health is the most important thing ---- after Alfred was diagnosed, we started paying lots of importance to taking care of our health.
15. I am so conscious with what goes into my body - becoming more and more aware of all the junks and preservatives that I've put in my body over the years and trying to be more controlled in my food intake. Advocates natural food free from preservatives and additives. Loves foooooood - and the best part is eating healthy good food. It's just easy to make - I started realising it's the choices that I make to better eating habits.
16. Family and friends form an important part of my life.
17. Am trying to stick to an exercise regime that I can stick to for good - currently climbing the Bukit Beruang hill.
18. More inclined towards spirituality - I love reading on meditation and the power of the mind.
19. My daily schedule - includes meditating for 10 mins twice a day. I am becoming more and more introverted and prefer to sit in silence.
20. One regret - not being able to attend a good friend's mom's funeral - regret it till now :(
21. Sometimes, I get pretty bad mood swings and I'd be so down for the day - lying on the bed till late morning makes things worse.
22. My alarm clock in the morning - Casper my fur-kid - my dogs keep me happy all the time :)
23. I try to read more now - just starting to realise the new perspectives books can give us. Nowadays, I watch T.V. way too less - but I love going to the cinema for movies.
24. I love to rise early in the morning - just starting my day early gives me more things to do for the day.
25. I love having parties and and cooking and inviting people over to dine with. The more the merrier. And I absolutely love potluck parties!
26. I love sitting at the garden during sunset.
27. Love the chirping of birds.
28. I totally love Japanese food - sushi and sashimi, especially.
29. I dream of having a complete set of kitchen and baking appliances.
30. I wish that people just eat slower during functions so that I don't look like a guinea pig with a mouth full of food struggling to eat quicker.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pau (Chinese Bun) Recipe

Yesterday I made pau again - trying to improve the recipe from the last time I made it. This time the texture of the pau skin was softer and smoother - what I did differently this time is that I let the dough to prove until it doubles in volume and kneading it for a while - thereby the dough is easier to work with. And I rolled the dough as thinly as I could so that the skin is not too thick. Herewith is the recipe for the filling and the pau skin:

Ingredients for the filling:
- garlic and ginger
- big onions (sliced into cubes)
- soaked shitaake mushroom (sliced thinly)
- finely chopped brinjals
- green peas
- stems of Chinese mustard leaves (chopped finely)
- vegetarian oyster sauce
- dark soy sauce
- light soy sauce
- green peas flour (as thickening agent) (Mix the green peas flour with a little water until it forms a paste)
- a dash of white pepper

Steps: Saute garlic, ginger and big onions in a pan with little oil. Add in all the other vegetables (mushroom, brinjals, green peas, and stems of mustard leaves). Add some oyster sauce, and dark and light soy sauce. and add the green peas flour paste. Season with white pepper.

Ingredients for pau skin:
Starter dough:
- 175 gm cake flour
- 1/2 tsp yeast
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 75 ml warm water

Steps: Dissolve yeast and sugar in water in a separate bowl, then add to the cake flour. Mix everything together and prove until doubled (takes about 2 hours or so). Note: Cover it with plastic foil to avoid the mixture getting dried. This mixture is still slightly sticky.

Main dough:
- Starter dough
- 50 gm sugar
- 2 tsp double acting baking powder
- 3 tsp warm water
- 100 gm all-purpose flour
- 20 gm vegetable shortening

Steps: Mix sugar with warm water until sugar dissolves. Let it to cool. In a separate bowl, add baking powder and shortening and mix it with the sugar mixture until smooth. Then, add flour to the mixture and mix everything together. Add this mixture to the starter dough and knead for a few minutes until you get a smooth dough. (Note: At this point, the dough will still be sticky and sticks to your hand when you try kneading it. You have to add some flour until it doesn't stick to your fingers - if you add too much of flour the pau skin tends to be firmer and harder - so, add flour to the point where you can knead it a little - the dough texture should be neither too sticky nor too hard). Leave this dough to rise for 20-30 minutes. After 20-30 minutes, portion the dough to small balls. Roll out the dough as thinly as possible and then wrap filling and pleat the top into a pau. Steam immediately after wrapping. Steam pau with high heat for 10 - 15 minutes or until the pau is cooked. Serve hot.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A sweet sweet Valentines

Our wonderful Valentine's Day: Watched 'The curious case of Benjamin Button', wept a little at the end of the movie; had a pleasant pre-valentine's day dinner at Tony Romas. On Valentine's Day, we went to Taman Tasik Shah Alam and enjoyed the quiet and serene moment - watched a couple of squirrels gather food and giggled at the way they ate - munch munch munch. Alfred 'followed' a monitor lizard and trailed it to its home; sat and admired a couple of robins sitting on a tree and sang along to the bird's song. Spotted a hummingbird sipping nectar on a hibiscus - simply magical. That night, we went for a Japanese buffet - and discovered that I could eat that much ;) Most of all, we enjoyed each other's company the most. An intimate and peaceful weekend - just the two of us.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Vegetarian Chinese Pau (bun)

Two days back, I was itching to experiment a new recipe - and the first thing that came to my mind was PAU. I love eating pau - especially the vegetarian pau. Unfortunately, there's not much alternatives for that category of paus. The common ones that you can find from restaurants are the char siew (pork) and chicken curry paus. So, normally we'd buy the frozen version of vegetarian pau from Tesco. It's tasty - but one thing that comes to my mind when eating frozen stuffs is the PRESERVATIVES.

And that gives me the joy of making my own pau skin and its stuffing - healthy, delicious and satisfying. I still need to perfect my skills for the pau skin - although my mom said it was nice. The pau skin that I made did not turn out super white after steaming it like the ones that we normally buy from the shop - instead it looks yellowish. I read from somewhere that yellowish pau flour is much preferred than the very white Hongkong flour used for making pau. The type where it is super white contains a lot of bleaching agent in the flour.

I am looking forward to experiment with different recipes for the pau skin - and it's also fun to learn the skill of making pretty pleatings for the pau (like the ones that you buy outside). Although it's too much of a chore, I enjoy making it.

For the stuffing, I used the leftover food that my mom cooked for lunch on that day - scrambled tofu with shitaake mushroom and some green peas with potatoes - it was yummy! It's truly rewarding to cook your own meal. I am planning to do more of that in times to come ;)

Thaipusam 2009

Yesterday I drove to Batu Caves with my family - it's the time of the year for me to fulfill vows - to carry pal kudam (milk pot) up to the temple. As usual, we'll go there a week after Thaipusam and we'll go early in the morning when there's not much crowd. This year, it was a pleasant walk up the stairs - it's nice to have your own space while fulfilling religious duty - a peaceful and a beautiful morning.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Current Happenings

I haven't had the time to update my blog - lots of happenings - Alfred's post-surgery recuperation and the ensuing treatments - and my mum's surgery. Have been running around trying to settle work and research as well. And I had to be straight-forward with my Dean in our meeting for the staff assessment - I told him I have my plate full for this year and to pardon me from administrative duties and etc. Thank God he has been understanding so far.

Meanwhile, I am trying to manage my time more efficiently – to fit in my family, work, study, research, and hobbies.

January Read - The Economic Naturalist

I've decided to switch from fiction to non-fiction readings recently - I must say that I enjoy reading non-fictions the most since it depicts reality from which I can gather knowledge and gain some wisdom. A few days back, I ordered 2 more books - one is a Vegan Cookbook and the other one is on the power of prayers. There are just so many new books awaiting in my bookshelf to be picked up and read. Firstly, I tend to take my own time to finish reading a book; and secondly, time!

I've just finished reading "The Economic Naturalist" by Robert Frank a few weeks ago - and I find it an easy and interesting read for anyone who is interested to understand economics in a practical form. I've been teaching Microeconomics course for a few years now and I find the examples given in this book interesting from a standpoint of a student attempting to understand economic theories in a laymen term. At times, it gets daunting trying to explain certain economic theories which most students find difficulty to relate to.

In this book, numerous economic theories are simplistically explained using many real-world examples which all of us come across at some point or the other. Some of the questions posed in this book boil down to basic common sense - but then, how many of us examine everything around us from a standpoint of an economist - it's pretty interesting, actually.

Eggless Orange Cake

A few weeks back, I made this cake for a prayer ceremony - thus, the eggless cake. Despite the incomplete recipe (which my mom wrote down from I-don't-know-which-source), we managed to 'save' the cake with some modifications. And it turned out well - soft, buttery, and smooth.
Herewith is the recipe:

- 150 ml Marigold orange juice
- Grated rind of 1 orange
- 2 tsp orange essence
- 300 gm self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 300 gm condensed milk
- 1 tbsp castor sugar
- 200 gm butter
- 1/2 tsp salt

1) Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celcius.
2) Juice mixture - combine the orange juice, orange rind, and orange essence in a bowl.
3) Combine the condensed milk, castor sugar, melted butter and salt in a bowl.
4) Add the two liquid mixture (in steps 1 and 2) and mix together.
5) Sift together the flour, baking powder, and bicarbonate of soda.
6) Slowly add the sifted dry ingredients (in step 5) into the liquid mixture (in step 4) and stir as you add them.
7) Bake in a preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until done when tested with a wooden skewer.

Chinese New Year 2009

This year's Chinese New Year was the usual routine for us - visit to Ai Lin's and Chin Lay's houses. Almost every year when we go over to Ai Lin's place, it'd be crowded and she'd be busy running around entertaining all the guests. But this time around, we managed to have some private time with her and catch-up on old stories and share our moments - the girl-talk. Met up with our old schoolmate, Hwee Ching there as well - it was a great gathering.

After going to Chin Lay's house, we had lunch at the famous Bak Kut Teh place opposite Stamford, Melaka - the best I've tasted - but the after-taste feeling the soup leaves in your mouth is quite funny - must be the excessive seasoning used for the soup. There, we chanced upon three of our schoolmates whom we last met 13 years ago when we left school - gosh, time flies! It was great catching up with them :)