What it feels like implementing change you don’t believe in

By Ken Quek

What does it feel like trying to implement a change you might not fully understand or believe?
Ronald Laing, psychiatrist gives his thoughts from 40 years ago.
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Knots by R.D. Laing, 1970
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There is something I don’t know
that I am supposed to know.
I don’t know what it is I don’t know,
and yet am supposed to know,
And I feel I look stupid
if I seem both not to know it
and not to know what it is I don’t know.
Therefore, I pretend I know it.
This is nerve-wracking since I don’t
know what I must pretend to know.
Therefore, I pretend I know everything.

Nooooooo!

It’s 38 days more to Marathon and I’m falling sick. I have not been running for a week already and this is freaking me out. I can’t fall sick at this time. NOOOOOOoooo!

Gone to be slaughtered…

…and I came out alive. Phew!

Today was the fourth and last lesson of the course that the hubs signed me up for. It was really dramatic and traumatic for me. I’m glad it’s over but at the same time thankful that I went through the course.

During the first lesson, we were taught some moves and I took it gladly as a form of exercise, just like kickboxing! As the lesson progressed, we were told that there would be simulation and I was filled with fear. However, I thought it would be good to go through it and to apply all that we have learnt and well, it is one of those classes that you are given the licence to HIT THOSE BALLS! Oh yeah!

It was terrifying, no doubt. There were 3 sets of simulation that we needed to go through. The first one was all right, just using one of the strategies. But for the second and third set, I was petrified. I mean, I am only a petite Asian girl facing 3 burly men who were taller than me by slightly more than a head and their sizes? Double of mine! Psychologically, it didn’t really help. When I got out of the room during the second set, I was gasping for air. I was light-headed and was not sure if I could pass out. Thankfully, there were trained nurses around who tended to me and I was all set for the last one. I really wouldn’t want to give it a miss!

All the girls  made it. We were shown how we reacted through the video (we were taped throughout the process) and I thought I used my kicks well! I don’t think it was hard but they were repetitive (Ken said cos I run with high cadence and thus it was reflected in this class too. Hahah). Oh! During one of the sets, the man just lifted me up in the air without much effort! Damn!

I’m glad it was over but I was thankful that I attended. It has, at the very least, raised awareness on how we could react if we were attacked. In the afternoon, while on the T, there was this huge man who was sitting opposite and he was (I think) trying to get my attention by making a lot of remarks (which I couldn’t understand at all!). Then, he came over and sit in front of me with his side facing me! I was terrified! But at the same time, I was already practising in my mind the moves that I would make and was also ready to shout “GET BACK” should he attack. The lessons have indeed given me enough confidence to face such an adversary.

So, ladies, if you have the opportunity, go for the course. BTW, it is the RAD course I’m referring to.

ME time

I consider Wednesdays ME time for me. After the women’s BS in the morning, I would normally roam around the area for some personal time. As usual, it would be Marshalls and the library that I visit.

And I found something new about myself: I could spend 1 hour at Marshalls pondering if I should buy two running tops for the price of US$25. My goodness! I know it was a good deal as the materials were suitable for cold weather but there I was, walking around and thinking hard the whole time if I should depart from that amount of money!

I suspect part of the reason is because I am no longer earning bucks for the family and thus have to watch how and what I spend on. Not that it is a bad thing to be watchful of my expenditure. In fact, I used to be poor in handling finances and I was glad, in a way, that I managed to practise self-control. But definitely, I don’t want to go to the other extreme of becoming like a scrooge. In any case, I was happy that I managed to keep to the budget allocated for our meals. Hooray!

And of course, I was happier in the library with all the cookbooks surrounding me. Happy because I have saved quite a lot by not purchasing the books but chose to borrow them. So here goes, the list of books loaned:
– The Food & cooking of Cambodia
– Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook
– Momofuku
– Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily adventures in a Parisian Kitchen
– Baking: 350 recipes and techniques, 1500 photographs, one baking education
– The world in bite size

I borrowed Momofuku because I so enjoyed the reading of the experiences of a blogger who attempted every recipe in this cookbook and for Chocolate & Zucchini? Because I first got to know about the author through her blog and hopefully I could learn some French cuisine through her book!

So, when I asked the hubs what cuisine he’s craving according to the books that I have borrowed, he stated Cambodian though I prefer Ramen. In any case, my friends, I would be attempting Cambodian cuisine (& Ramen) real soon!

Old South Church

 

Fall sights but summer weather

Baking: Cookies, bars and brownies

I have a few people who, upon knowing I bake, asked if I used the pre-made mixes or if I baked from scratch.

It puzzled me that they would ask me that and then it dawned on me that there were those packages sold in the supermarket which all you need to do is to mix the contents together, add some stuff and put into the oven.

I did that when I was a teenager when brownies were  mysterious products to me and that you attempt at your own risk.

But you know, baking can be easy. The simplest is the cookies. It’s just like those mixes. Once you have prepared the ingredients, just combine everything together in a few steps and drop the dough onto the baking paper, into the oven and there you have it, delicious cookies!

After baking cookies, bars and brownies for the past one month, I am ready to move on to the next level (found in my baking book) which is Quick Breads. Some of the quick breads which I would be baking include strawberry shortcakes, banana-nut bread, cinnamon streusel coffee cake, apple oven pancake, currant cream scones.

Let’s learn together!

Our first guests

Ken: R & A asked to meet up for dinner.
Me: Oh great! Hmm…do you think we should invite them to our place? I can make dinner.
Ken: Sounds good! I’ll reply them then.
Me: Ok. (Ponders) But where are they going to sit?
Ken: (Looks around) Oh yah!

So there, we wanted to invite guests over without realising that there were no extra chairs at the dining table nor extra cups for them. I was tasked to buy the cups and do the grocery and today we went shopping at Bed, Bath and Beyond for the chairs! Yay! I love the store because there were things that I like to shop. And in the end, I bought a set of knives and 2 chairs. Hooray! The knives are good, much to my surprise!

The dinner with the couple went excellent, accompanied by Hainanese chicken rice, asparagus with lobster chunks in mayo and chocolate mousse cake from them. I love inviting guests over!

I am weak but thou art strong

I was reminded how weak I am and I am where I am today because of Christ’s strength in me. Thank you, dear Lord for saving me out of my wretched state.

I was MOVED by this speech. Indeed, He is the reason for my living. May I never forget that.

Baking galore

After the entry by Ken, I was almost embarrassed to post. My entry seemed so unimportant, so trivial compared to his. But, housewives have their place in the society too and definitely what they bake or cook!

Breakfast for today. What do you have for breakfast?

On Life and Work

By Ken Quek
Apropos of nothing, I want to share some of the thoughts that I went through while in HQ.  I know that sometimes (often?) there is a feeling of disillusionment when we think that we are only working for someone else’s pleasure and not necessarily for what is ‘best for our children, best for Singapore.’

I want to say that as I matured in a HQ environment, I’ve learnt to pull my own ego back whenever these thoughts come around. Almost always, the genesis of such feelings is because WE THINK WE ARE RIGHT.

I hope I do not sound harsh. If you feel such disillusionment, I would first like to pat you on the back. It tells me that you are passionate about education. Passionate about doing the right things, instead of only doing things right.

But hear me out.
We do not always know what’s right. Nor are we going to be right all the time.
Everyone uses his/her own personal judgement to make their decisions.

Before we even come to that, I’d like to ask you. What sort of boss do you THINK you would like?
(a) A boss who follows the instructions of his/her superiors all the time.
(b) A boss who does what he/she thinks is right all the time.

I believe many would choose (b).
I would as well. But I remember a time not too long ago when I was working on a project and I did not entirely agree with my boss (Boss I). When the project went up to the bigger boss (Boss II), I was happy to hear comments that, to me, sounded like many things would be changed.

As I recall, when we went back to the office after that meeting in which I thought ‘many things would be changed’, the response from Boss I was “That went well. We just need to make a few tweaks to our plan and we should be good to go!”

I was floored!  And so were a few others with me.  In private, we questioned just what the hell Boss I was doing.  It seems that we all heard something vastly different from what he had heard!
We were upset, angry, frustrated that we didn’t have the same ideas. Most of all, we were worried that what we were doing would be thrown into the trash by Boss II and we’d have to start from scratch all over again.

I’m sure that back then we were wishing that we had a boss that could follow instructions.
We wanted a type (a) boss.

Do you know what Boss I was doing?
He was exercising his own professional judgement.
He heard the same things we did. But decided to see how best those comments could mesh with his own vision of what the project was to be about.  He was a type (b) boss.

It took me a long time to realise this.  I’m glad that I was never ostracised despite me always wearing my heart on my sleeve on how I sometimes disagreed with Boss I’s decisions.

I’ve realised that leadership is a lonely role.  That you have to balance both expectations from above and below and mesh them with your own vision of how things should be.  And in a field like ours, you almost never know if you were right.

It takes courage and a strong will to go your own way in the face of opposition from your superiors and subordinates.  It takes skill and wisdom to know HOW to go your own way without being condemned by both superiors and subordinates.

It is a balancing act.
Recognising this has made me kinder to bosses. They are people too. And their job isn’t easy at all.

I also recognise that the source of my frustrations, besides my passion for education, stems from an implicit assumption that I KNOW WHAT’S BEST.

That, is an amazingly egotistical thought.  In the face of so many others who have been in the industry for so many years and faced so many different situations and challenges in education, I thought I was better than them, smarter than them, more moral than them.

That is why, when they did something I disagreed with, I immediately responded with a “What?! That’s ridiculous!”, instead of a “What does he see that I don’t?”

From here on, read my previous post dated 9th Sept on cynicism.

I’m not saying that we should douse the fire that burns so strongly in us on the importance of education and the work that we are doing. God forbid that that happens.

But the words ‘be positive’ ring very true if we are to continue in education.
First of all though, I think I have to be humble.

God bless.

Honeymooners’ class – Lesson 1

We had our first proper lesson yesterday and I was looking forward to it! Basically this class is meant for those who are married within the first two years and through the discussion and sharing from fellow couples, it is hoped that they bring back some lessons and thoughts for reflection.

Ken and I got married after a seven-month courtship. We were not any young kids who acted rashly ( at least I hope!) and the good thing was we found that we shared the same values which was important to us. We had not have any big argument during our courtship and this blissful times extended to the first year of our marriage. We were living with our parents then (weekdays, my place and weekends, his place) and thus things were a lot easy for us. We got to observe how we were brought up when we lived with the respective in-laws and thus this helped us a little in our perception of each other.

But of course, all is not bliss and will NEVER be when you are living with a person who is different from you. I don’t want people to think that we have no troubles. The fact is, we DO face more conflicts along the way especially when we have to do everything ourselves now. I intend to be plain in sharing my thoughts through the lessons learnt from this class, with the permission of dear hubs, of course. I don’t know if it is a taboo to talk about relationship woes but it feels strange to only hear of the good stuff and nothing of the bad ones. We live in a fallen world, mind you, and surely things will not go smooth all the time. Hopefully, these entries will serve to give you a glimpse into a couple’s world and the struggles some of you will face (if you are not married yet) in the near future. But then again, let me qualify. These are just some of our experiences as a very young couple and there is definitely a lot more struggles as we progress in our journey especially when major decisions have to be made (e.g. purchase of house, renovation and design, children, work vs family, etc).

So here goes!

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Merging the pieces

It has been quite a chore to manage different blogs.

I started blogging in 2002, mainly to inform friends where I was when I was on the road (travelling). Then it expanded to building my own website (remember Angelfire?) through the prescribed templates and then on to designing one using Frontpage and Dreamweaver and finallyback to blogs again.

So in these 8 years, I have had multiple blogs and closed some which was really quite unfortunate. I wanted to erase some awful memories but in doing so, have also trashed those sweet ones away.

With so many blogs floating in the Internet, I decided that once and for all, I would consolidate the recent three years of thoughts into one main blog. Ken has suggested this to me before but I didn’t heed his advice then (I should have!) and now I think it is high time to do so.

Over the years, I have and we have grown and matured into another phase of our lives. As I looked back, it is interesting to note how I have evolved in my interests and the amount of time I have allocated to them. My perspective on life (or marriage, family, etc) has changed over the years too and all these thoughts (happy, sad, angry, etc) were recorded in this electronic diary.

So, to make my life simpler (I realised I need to do that as I age), I decided to merge all the blogs that I have (I have lost those initial years of my young adult life by pressing the DELETE button). So there you go, my life continues here. =p

Newport Trip

This was a day trip organised by the International Fellowship in PS and we thought it would be a good opportunity for some R & R. We set off at 10am for Newport and the itinerary included a tour of 2 Mansions, a cliff walk and dinner at the First Presbyterian Church of Newport. 

More under the cut.

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Not in but not out!

About a month ago, I signed up for the Project Food Blog contest and today was the announcement of the result. Me? I didn’t advance to the next stage BUT it’s not the end of the world!

Through this contest, I realised there were MANY out there who were interested in food, be it cooking or baking them, eating (but of course!) and taking photographs and writing about them and there is really a BIG community out there! It was indeed an eye-opener and I was inspired by them in many ways.

So, I’m not in but I’m still cooking/baking all the same! Having received the gift, I decided to use it just to make sure it functions well. It’s blueberry muffins, following MS’ recipe. Easy bake and I’m all set for a day trip tomorrow! To my friends who have been working real hard for the Olive run and fellow contestants who have advanced, here’s s treat for you! Enjoy the next stage! I’ll be following closely! =)

I’m the proud owner of…

…a KitchenAid standmixer! Woohoo! It finally came!

Some of you may know that I have been looking forward to owning a KitchenAid standmixer for months. A few entries ago, I wrote about the possibility of purchasing one here since the price is much cheaper in the US. Of course, the dilemma was to make a choice between sending it back home and risk damaging it (different voltage) or to sell it off online. I have not made a decision yet.

So, I was brooding over it when the hubs decided to buy anyway. I decided to choose a refurbished Artisan Series 5-Quart Mixer since according to most review, they work really fine. In fact, these factory-reconditioned ones may not be spoilt in the first place. According to one reviewer, the main reason why they are returned to the factory is a result of people receiving the 5-Quart Mixer as a gift (Wedding Shower, Wedding, Anniversary, New Home, etc.) and deciding that they already have one or that they don’t have the need for a new mixer. Thus, the product is returned, often never opened, to the retail store and then shipped back to the factory. Of course, there will be some that are out of order or facing some damage and have to be refurbished. Since they go through strict QC, I reckon it won’t hurt to buy a re-conditioned one as it MAY only be in my hands for a year only. =(

In any case, I’m happy that the hubs supported me by buying for me. It is a dream come true really!

The dream unfolds here.

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Vocabulary

In my reading of the cookbooks, I came across terms/methods which LOOKED familiar but didn’t really make sense to me. So, I resolved to look them up! These are taken from CIA’s Culinary Boot Camp.

Basket method
A method for deep frying in which the food is placed in fryer baskets, which are then immersed in the fat. The preferred deep-frying method for breaded items and many small items such as french fries.

Blanch
To cook an item briefly in boiling water or hot fat before finishing or storing it. Blanched food is usually cooled, or “shocked”, immediately after cooking in an ice-water bath.

Braise
A cooking method in which the main item, usually meat, is seared in fat, then simmered in stock or another liquid in a covered vessel. The cooking liquid is then reduced and used as the basis of a sauce.

Broil
To cook by means of a radiant heat source placed above the food.

Caramelize
To cook an item until the sugars in it brown. The temperature range in which sugar caramelises is 320 F to 360F.

Parboil
To rapidly boil a food (usually a vegetable) to minimise cooking time and retain colour and texture. An item is never parboiled longer than 7 minutes. Parboiled vegetables are usually shocked in ice water and held to be finished before service.

Poach
To cook gently in simmering liquid that is 160F to 185F. Shallow poaching is gentle cooking in a shallow pan of simmering liquid. The liquid is often reduced and used for the sauce. Deep poaching is gentle cooking in which food is completely submerged.

Saute
To cook quickly in a small amount of fat in a pan on top of the stove.

Sear
To brown the surface of food in fat over high heat before finishing by another method (e.g. braising or roasting) in order to add flavour.

Grandmother’s fried rice

It’s not mine but Ken’s. In our conversation the other day, Ken was reminiscing about the fried rice that his grandma cooked with those lap cheong (chinese sausages) and egg and dark soy sauce. It didn’t sound too different from the one that my mom cooked for me too and I decided to attempt it, just to satisfy his cravings.

Lap Cheong, the Chinese sausage, gives off a strong flavour when you cook it and is definitely a comfort food. However, it has high fat content and that’s the main reason why I would choose to avoid it if I could. Perhaps mom knew about it  and only cooked them once in a blue moon by adding to the fried rice or just steam them. You could also place them with the rice in the rice cooker and definitely add them when you are making claypot chicken rice. Yum! And thankfully, I could find them here!

So, here goes. What you would need are rice (obviously), lap cheong, eggs, garlic and spring onion (for garnish). Firstly, I pan-fried the lap cheong (cut into cubes). No oil is needed since they would give off their own oil. Using the oil, I fried the garlic (minced) till they gave off an aroma and then pour in the rice. The rice was cooked last night and chilled in the refrigerator over night. You would have to cook them in room temperature though.

After the rice is mixed with the garlic, add in the lap cheong. Then, make a well in the middle and add two eggs. Fry the eggs till they are almost cooked and then stir-fry together with the rice. Add soy sauce, dark soy sauce  and some pepper for tasting. Lastly add some sesame oil and top it with spring onion for the

garnish before serving.

One thing to note is that when frying the eggs in the well, try as much as possible not to mix with the rice in the initial stage as they will make the rice turn soggy. I like it when I could see the grains of the rice when the fried rice is done and that the texture is not too oily. At least, that’s the style that I like for fried rice and well, the hubs loved it. Mission accomplished!

 

Raspberry Jam Sandwich Hearts

I would have baked these for our wedding anniversary if not for the fact that I couldn’t find the cookie cutter (yes, I left all my cutters back home). A few days ago, I found the one that I wanted and today, it has arrived! Imagine the great joy!

So, the hands immediately went to work. I’ve all the ingredients ready, just waiting for the cutter. The ingredients needed were simple and mixing easy. I found the difficult part was the moulding of the shapes since one had to be careful to peel the dough and bring to the baking tray. Since it was not thick, it could go out of shape easily and my patience was tested. However, when you were able to assemble all the ‘parts’ together, the product was beautiful!

Let’s go through the steps together!

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
6 tsp seedless raspberry jam

1. Sift the flour and salt together. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine the butter and icing sugar and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the  vanilla and almond extracts and beat on low speed until well blended. Add the dry ingredients and beat until the dough comes together in large clumps (midway through, I gave up and used hands instead as the dough stuck to my mixer).
3. Press the dough together into a ball and divide it into half. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 40 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
5. Remove 1 dough from the refrigerator. Lightly dust a work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Roll out the dough about 6mm thick. Slide a thin metal spatula under the dough to loosen it from the rolling surface. Using a 6cm heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Using a 2.5cm heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out the centre of half of the cookies. Place the larger hearts 4cm apart on the prepared parchment paper. I return the smaller hearts back to the dough to work on the remaning hearts. Repeat the procedure.

 

 

6. Bake the cookies until the edges are light brown about 15-20 min (depending on your oven). Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to the wire rcks to cool completely.
7. Leaving a 6mm border uncovered, spread about 1 tsp of the raspberry jam over each cookie with a cutout. Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust the cutout cookies with icing sugar. Place the cutout cookies on top of the jam-covered cookies. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Adapted from Essentials of baking.

Mid-week!

I’ve got an email from a friend: How is life on the other side of the globe? What keeps you occupied?
Life has been busy for both of us. Ken, without a doubt, has gone full gear with his studies with assignments due each week. For me, apart from planning and preparing for meals, I have been busying myself with going to school.
School? Yup. I have gone to visit an elementary school on Tuesday to offer my service to them. It would not be too much of a commitment, just a few hours and in an area that I’m comfortable with. I was there to chat with the the officer from Boston Connect and to know how I could offer my help. The school was a busy place, as with all schools and I nearly felt a little bad to take up their time. I was apprehensive, of course since I am in a totally different culture and knowing that this is a neighbourhood school, the challenges would be more. But, I believe all these would provide more insights about education in the Boston Public Schools and I’m sure I would learn heaps from the teachers.
Besides that, I attended a self-defence class signed up for me by Ken in his college. I cannot explain in detail here as it is highly confidential =p But it taught some tactics that we could use when faced with danger. I realised too about the weaknesses of my body and though I can last the distance (as in endurance sports), I really am not up for tactical games. My body is just not conditioned for attacks or contacts and I believe that is why I always avoid contact sports. =p There will be a simulation next week and I am so terrified! The facilitators (BC police officers) are so HUGE! How on earth would I be able to escape from their clutches? *sweat*

OK, I have to go back to cooking and baking. My baking stuff came just 5 minutes ago! Yay!

French Toast

The other day, we bought one whole packet of frankfurters for the Boston Rolls and it seemed that it is taking forever for us to finish them. And then last night, I was swept by homesickness and thought what mom used bread for. When we were younger, back when we still had the shophouse, we would have half-boiled eggs with pepper and soy sauce and occasionally, mom would make French Toast. Breakfast at Killiney

Every weekend too back home, Ken and I would have our long run along the tracks at East Coast Park. Thereafter, we would sometimes head for Killiney Kopitiam where we would have our Kaya Toast or Mee Siam, all these not without the dear coffee.

So today, I decided to make French Toast with a little twist. Besides adding the eggs, I would top them up, each with a different ingredient – roasted peanuts, sesame seeds, lap cheong, egg and fine sugar. Of course, all these without the good old coffee.

Good morning! What are you having for breakfast?

[Notes] On baking

Chopping chocolate

Place chocolate bar or block on a cutting board and press down on it in several places with a large, sharp knife to break it up. For more finely chopped chocolate, hold the tip of the knife in place with your free hand and move the knife in an arc, making small chops as you go.

Creaming butter

Creaming the butter for cakes and cookies is crucial. Beating the butter – often with sugar – before other ingredients are added creates air bubbles that make your baked goods high, light, and tender. Have butter at room temperature before creaming.

Whipping egg whites

Begin with eg whites at room temperature and a bowl that is absolutely clean and free of any fats or oils. Beat egg whites at moderate speed with a wire whisk or an electric mixer. When foamy, increase the speed. Beat until whites form stiff, stable peaks but are still moist and glossy.

Whipping cream

Chill a metal bowl and the beaters for your electric mixer in the freezer at least 15 minutes before you begin. Pour cold whipping cream into the chilled bowl and beat on medium-high speed until medium-firm peaks form. Don’t overbeat or you’ll wind up with butter.

Source: Food Network Kitchens Cookbook

Beef on Rice (Gyudon)

This is a really fast and fuss-free dish and it can be made within minutes. I mean, of course, you have to cook your rice before that. I told the hubs to cook the gohan (rice) before I came back from a class. And before you know it, it’s ready for lunch!

I adapted it from Harumi’s recipe.

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Beef and vegetable rolls (Gyuniku no Yasai Maki)

I first ate this dish in a Japanese restaurant in Singapore. For this dish, the beef is used as a wrap and basically we can use green beans, asparagus, carrots or Enochi mushrooms. I thought this is a good way to have the hubs eat his greens!

I had fun with this dish, wrapping the vegetables and cooking them. The aroma from the marinate was so encouraging as you cooked the dish. Yum! Yum! The hubs was happy with the dish and ate his greens. =)

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From the bookshelf: French Women for All Seasons

Listen to me: I LOVE this book! It makes me fall in love with the French way of life, their perspectives, the cuisine and makes me appreciate the four seasons more – all these through the thoughts of Mireille Guiliano.

I first went to Paris for a few days after a work assignment in London. The lonely me roamed the streets of Paris in the cold winter and naturally, everything was gloomy, especially if you do not have a friend to talk to. I didn’t give much of a thought to this beautiful city until the following year when I went back again, that time, with my life partner in the cool Autumn.

I'm so stuffed!

Then I finally got a taste of the French cuisine, merely by just one dish. I remember as I sat that after the first mouthful, my eyes widened and my headed nodded in agreement with the hubs that it was AWESOME!

Through her thoughts, I came to understand more about the perspectives French women on food, the seasonal produce and the deep encounter with life one could have through…FOOD! The deep respect that the French have for food and its preparation earn my respect. I particularly love how the writer grew up with food and it makes me wonder how much our kids know about food these days besides fast food, buffets and food prepared using microwave oven. I read from one food magazine that some kids nowadays don’t even know how an apple looks like, apart from lending some knowledge from the wrapper of an apple pie in Macs. Scary, isn’t it? After reading this book, I told myself that when I have children of my own, they have to be involved in the kitchen, from the buying of grocery to cooking and finally to the cleaning of the kitchen. There is SO MUCH to learn from it and the discipline and knowledge involved in the culinary arts is just so beneficial to anyone!

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Tofu and ground pork patties/ kebabs

Initially they were to be Tofu and Ground Pork Kebabs (Tofu no Tsukune) from Harumi’s book but as I prepared the marinade, I found the taste rather bland and not to my liking and so in the end, I tweaked the ingredients. And initially I thought it would be troublesome to prepare this dish until halfway through, I realised it was easy.

I like this dish because the mixture of tofu and ground pork, with lots of vegetables make it a healthy dish. I pan-fry them without much oil and when eaten together with rice, it is so tasty. One thing to note though, you should spare some time straining the tofu so that it is really dry before you mix with the ground pork mixture. However, even if you do not have the time to do that, it won’t taste bad. Just that, it would not have the ‘look brown’ effect when it is cooked. Mine gave out he juices when they were being pan-fried. =(

(Updates from evening attempt) It works! This dish should look like this! It pays to persevere! Nah…Actually, that’s because the tofu has dried making pan-frying easier, giving the brown effect.

On a side note, one thing I am still trying to grasp is food photography. I find it difficult. You need certain lighting and to have an eye for positioning the dish in a right angle. And I find that you need patience to capture those images which I don’t necessary have since I want to wolf them while they are still piping hot!

This is Harumi’s recipe (adpated) if you want to try:

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Lemon and Sesame Chicken

Let’s try another dish again. Since I have lemon, chicken and sesame seeds, the obvious is the above dish. It would be best if the chicken strips are marinated the night before so that they can soak up the flavour. Let’s just see how the lemon adds to the taste.

What goes into the marinate is the same stuff: soy sauce, chinese rice wine, crushed garlic, finely grated fresh ginger. Before frying, coat the marinated chicken strips with egg and cornflour and remember to remove excess liquid before they go into the hot oil.

For the sauce, it would be garlic (minced), cornflour, chicken stock, finely grated lemon rind, lemon juice, sugar, salt and sesame oil.

The turnout? It was a tad too sour! I guess I didn’t put in adequate sugar and of course forgot to TASTE! What an error!Oh well, I will try again. Anyway, I also did a my-style potato frittata except that the eggs are not enough but it was still a little ooh-la-la for me. =)

Sunday thots

We had a change in schedule for our Sunday. Instead of the 4pm service, we are now going for the 11am service. Why? Because we have signed up for the honeymooners class at 9.45am and International Fellowship after service at12.45pm. That basically would make our Sundays for fall.

9.30am.
We were early for the class (as usual) because we really couldn’t predict how fast or slow the T takes; I find it inconsistent at times. While we roamed around the building and finally hibernated in the Conference room, I was lured by the sounds of children, their singing. As I took a further look, it was a Sunday class and they were learning to sing a certain tune.

I wanted to be back in the classroom again, to be with the children. I find my heart longing for that. I’m not sure if that was an indication from Him (a prayer request) but I would be writing in to a school staff soon to volunteer my time there.

It also occured to me that I should spend my time enriching myself in language arts and in particular, literacy development. I have always been interested in this topic since undergraduate days and Ken has suggested that I try to ask the lecturer if I could audit/sit in the classes. So I went in to her website and look at her syllabus for the course and lo and behold, they were somewhat the same as what I did for my grad years! Even the readings were not too alien to me. So I have to decide if I want to sit in and this would have impact on how I spend allocate my time to the other areas as well. Decisions…decisions…

9.45am.
The participants for the Honeymooners class started streaming in (service had just ended) and there was another Asian couple and we were just thinking if they could be Singaporeans (and indeed they are!). The class started with our very jovial facilitators and we were asked to share about ourselves and one funny thing that happened to our wedding day/honeymoon. Ken and I were stuck. We had none! All others had stories to share (something has gone wrong) and well, we practically just had to share how we brought forward our wedding so that we could turn our travel plans into our honeymoon. Hahaha…. (laugh leh). It was nice to see couples who were so lovey-dovey to each other; it’s indeed a great sigh to behold!

11am.
Service started. Walter Kim again!

12.45am.
Went for the International Fellowship. When I stepped into the compound, the immediate thought that came to me was that it was just like how we did it when we were in Youth Fellowship!!! And because this Church attracted a lot of international students and scholars, it basically was like a campus ministry to me. They were very intentional in what they were doing and most were zealous for the Lord. Oh, it reminded me of my days with Campus Crusade and I was like being transported back in history! We had makan session, all prepared by a small groups (the fellowship is made up of various small groups) and followed by worship and Bible Study. We joined one group that was made up of Chinese Canadians, ABC, Hong Konger and Chinese. It was a good meeting and discussion!

The programme director has been very warm towards us and remembered both of us. Said he wanted to introduced a Singaporean couple to us but in the end, I think he has forgotten. I suspect there was indeed a sizeable group of Alamaks in our midst. We just have to wait and see.

2.45pm
The church activities ended and it’s back to the two of us again. Well, this could well be how we spend our Sundays. I am looking forward!

Brown Butter Blondies

Sabbath Sunday is a rest day for Christians and I, too rest from cooking =p, well almost. We spent the whole morning in Church and were treated to a good lunch, all prepared by the worshippers themselves!

Back home, after dinner and checking out the fridge, I realised, to my horror again, that the cookies were running low. In fact, it was left with the pathetic one piece and I sprang into action. More baking! So it was Brown Butter Blondies today! And after cutting the blondies into smaller pieces, I really think I ough to purchase a serrated knife. =p

This is a relatively easy stuff to bake except for the clarified butter that is needed and which has to be heated again until it turns a deep, rich brown.

So a little about making clarified butter. Clarified butter is whole butter, cooked long enought to separate the milk solids and water from the pure butterfat.

 
– Slowly melt at least 1 cup (250g) unsalted butter (cut into pieces) in a small frying pan over low heat until it is foamy on the surface.
– Pour the melted butter into a small glass bowl or measuring pitcher and let stand for a minute or two. There are three distinct layers: milk solids (proteins) on the bottom; clear, yellow liquid (butterfat) in the middle; and foam on top.

 
– Use a spoon and carefully remove the foam from the surface. Pour the clear liquid into a clean container, being careful to leave the milk solids behind in the bowl or pitcher. Discard the milk solids.

To make brown butter, heat the clarified butter in a frying pan over low heat until light brown and fragrant. Immediately remove from the heat.
Cooking butter until it is a deep, rich brown, before it darkens and burns, produces a nutty-flavoured butter that enhances the traditional blondie. French chefs call this brown butter beurre noisette (hazelnut butter) because of its nut-brown colour and taste.

Info and recipe are from Essentials of baking and Culinary Boot Camp (CIA).
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MS Kitchen Design Ideas

Oh! I love the segment on Kitchen featured on Martha Stewart’s website. If you were to ask me which part of the house I love to be in most, it would undoubtedly be the kitchen!

Alas, I do not have a place to call my own YET. Ken and I decided against buying an apartment since we were going to move to Boston for a while. Purchasing an apartment and having it while we were away would just add more problems to us and worries too. So, we decided to wait.

But I’m telling you, I can’t wait to get my new apartment. I told the man that he could decide on anything but the most important criteria that he should look into is the size of the kitchen. I want a relatively big kitchen so that I could work in it. The one that I have been staying in is good, slightly more than double the size of the kitchen that I’m having now in Boston. However, I’m also acutely aware that the kitchens in new flats are small. And surprisingly, I’m comfortable with the small kitchen I’m in now! =)

So, I’m browsing with great delight the kitchens featured on the website and they gave me ideas of what I want in my own kitchen! Coincidentally, we received the IKEA catalogue today and it’s always a joy to have it on hand!

 

I like these two, simple and uncluttered (both pics are taken from MS website). Go and take a look at more designs and learn some tips too!


 Green beans mixed with ground meat (Ingenno Hikiniku Itame) & fried chicken wing

Lobster tastes like Crab Meat & Potatoes taste like Chips

We’ve been wanting to try some lobster in Boston for some time now because everyone has been telling us about how ridiculously cheap it was.

It wasn’t really a craving or anything. Neither of us is crazy about lobster in particular or even seafood in general. We just thought we should give it a try since everyone has been recommending it so much.

However, we were reluctant to spend the 30+ USD or so just to try some lobster and decided to go down to Shaw’s to see if we could just buy some from the Supermart and cook it ourselves!

We went to Shaw’s yesterday and found live lobster!! And had no idea how to cook live lobster!!
So we saved that adventure for another day, ended up buying lobster chunks and headed home to prepare lobster rolls!

And that was what we had today for lunch. Lobster rolls and chips!
Even the chips are self made since we decided to buy some potatoes with the lobster rolls and fry them ourselves.

Hence the conclusion. Lobster tastes like crab meat and potatoes taste like chips.

Tonight we find out what chicken tastes like!


Lynn’s account is here.