Missing

home…

Sunday in pics

What’s that you’re carrying?
Oh…it’s the Queks’ turn to prepare refreshment for the marriage class.

CNY celebration at PSIF

Friends of ‘Gingerbread’ & Annie gave us some Cantonese Nian-Gao!

I’ve learnt not to be so competitive in games…since I was sabotaged in the end =p

Week 6 Menu

Monday
BF: Whatever is available
Lunch: Chicken Chow Mien
Dinner: Cabbage in Ikan bilis soup with fish fillet
Prepare/Make/Bake Marinara sauce & Boule & Strawberry/Nutella/White chocolate Sandwich biscuits

Tuesday
BF:
Nutella Sandwich
Lunch: – Teach ESL
Dinner: Chicken Cordon Bleu & roasted potato chips
Prepare/Make/Bake Classic Puff Pastry

Wednesday
BF:
Italian Egg Sandwich
Lunch:
Women’s BS
Dinner: Spaghetti with Marinara sauce & ham
Bake: Strawberry/Raspberry Napoleons

Thursday
BF:
Whatever is available
Lunch: @ Elementary Sch
Dinner: Hot & Sour Noodle pot

Friday
BF& Lunch:
Basque potato tortilla
Dinner: @ Sarah’s

Saturday
BF:
Nutella & Banana/apple sauce crepes

Flour’s Famous Banana Bread

This banana bread is the second item that I baked for the marriage class. When it came out of the oven, I was ecstatic because the bread sat snuggly in the loaf pan with its crown peeping a little out of it. What a beauty! And the taste? Awesome.

On the marriage panel

Ken and I were honoured to be asked by one of our church leaders to be on a marriage panel for an event yesterday. I mean, after all, we are newly weds and we’re not sure what insights we could offer to the singles but we’ll see.

It turned out awesome. Firstly, when we reached the big house, we found familiar faces, those of whom we met during last year’s retreat to NH. We had wonderful conversation with new friends and met our fellowmen! It’s more wonderful to know that the food was prepared by S’poreans and what’s on the menu were Hainanese Chicken Rice, Vegetarian curry, Kailan in oyster sauce and agar-agar, to name a few. AWESOME! It’s so home-sweet-home!

Being an event about marriage and since V-Day is coming, the guests were invited to make cards for their loved ones. Nice idea!

And so, we were on the panel sharing our love journey. I thought Ken spoke very well, eloquent and succinct (as usual). It was fun sharing our stories and addressing some of the questions posed by the floor. Thankfully, the guests kind of found it useful when they came up to us and gave us positive feedback. We certainly hope it has been useful to them!

It was fun being on the panel albeit the nervousness. To be honest, I was shaking while waiting for my turn to speak. It’s rather terrifying!

At home, I was just relating my moment with the hubs and he replied, “I was shaking too. You didn’t realise?”

So, I was not alone!

I like it hard

Tartine’s Deluxe Double-Chocolate Cookies


Baking this cookies for the marriage class this Sunday and they have a soft-firm consistency.

I still prefer cookies which are hard and crispy like those chocolate chip cookies I’ve baked.

FFWD: Chicken B’stilla

B’stilla is one of the dishes of Morocco and something that the French have adapted to make their own. This sweetly spiced dish is traditionally made with pigeon but Dorie uses chicken for her version.

It takes time to make this. I spent the whole morning fussing over this dish and the sheets of filo made me pant and work doubly fast. It’s my first time dealing with filo which is a kind of pastry (which I started yesterday) and I certainly hope that I won’t make a mess out of it. I had the hubs turn on Les Miserables so that I could move with the beat. Do you hear the people sing…singing the song of angry men…

Thankfully, all went well and it is indeed a delightful dish! The pics didn’t turn out well though. =(


Join us for French Fridays with Dorie!

Pastries – Apple Turnovers

How do you stay entertained when snowed in? I think the answer is obvious. I bake.

Before coming here, the answer to the above would be sitting in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate in hand and cuddling to a loved one. However, we do not have a fireplace in our studio apartment but a heater that faithfully gives out a loud grinding and hissing sound at 6.30am. It’s hardly romantic.

Today, at last, I laid my hands on Apple Turnover (using Quick Puff Pastry), something I have put aside for weeks. I wanted it to be easy but after reading up on pastries, decided that I should really understand the techniques before trying. So as not to bore you, this is what I’ve made. Read on if you want to know more about Pastries.

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Doctor visit

The afternoon after the nor’easter dumped up to 16 inches of snow in Boston, the streets were quiet with a few vehicles. Many have been advised to use public transport as the snow emergency will end only around 6pm. Till now, Boston has received 60 inches of snow in 31 days and has encountered one of the worst winters since 2005.

You will be safe and warm if you stay indoors but once you are outside, you have to be patient since public transport will be problematic (trains break down, delays and what have you) and be willing to brave the chill, not forgetting the nightmares of walking in inches-high snow and dipping into dirty puddles of water (sometimes you have no choice).

The Queks went out today. Yes, we like going out after a storm (nah…)but we wanted more to fix an appointment with a doctor or even better, to consult one if he/she was available.

We managed to fit into a slot at Dr Gorbovitsky’s  but the checking with the insurance company took really long. It’s definitely not something that I’m happy with but that’s how it works here. The affable Dr G. spent some time chatting with me over my family medical history and analysed my back. I was told I don’t have a strong back and that I don’t have a lumbar curve. Instead it is straight.

Shortly after, I was sent a few levels up to get an X-ray which was sent to her minutes after it was taken. Guess what we saw from the X-ray? There’s something strange – I have two tail bones?!!! Dr G. said she has never seen something like this before and went off to check with her colleagues. Whoah! Am I special or what? Anyway, she came back saying this is normal and went on to look for any fractures that I might have.

And I do. But it was a slight one just above the tail bone area. However, I really should watch out because any fall that I have from now on would result in a displacement and that would be serious. =(

So, no more running for a few weeks (phew!) and more stretching please. For the weak back, I think I need to go back to Pilates!

Credits: Boston Globe

@ 7.25am

This is the perpetual view from an angle of my kitchen window.

At times, I notice some movement from the corner of my eyes and when I look up, I would see the squirrel, no, squirrels gathering during Autumn.

But now is Winter and occasionally, I would see the squirrel, perched on the fence. Our eyes meet and our gaze linger, and wonder what each of us is engaged in.

It doesn’t take long though that we figure we could never understand each other completely and we soon move on, back to our own individual world.

Island

Picture from http://www.thekitchn.com

I think such an island is good for relatively small kitchen, with a marble top on it for cutting of food and kneading of dough.

Idea.

Crisp Rosemary Flatbread

I need fuss-free dinner! A week ago, we received a parcel and in it were pre-mixes of favourite local dishes, sent with love by our CG leader! Hooray! So, I used one to make beef rendang and to accompany that dish was crisp rosemary flatbread which is absolutely awesome. I love it!

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I don’t wanna go to school!

It started snowing in the mid-afternoon. Rumors have it that there would be another snow emergency stemming from it.

K: Arghh…the school didn’t declare it as emergency. It’s snowing now! Come on!

L: It’s just flurries now. But pls snow more heavily later…oh…when the husband comes back from school, ok?

K: You also don’t want to go to school!

L: But I’m not studying! You are the one studying!

K: You’re worse! You’re teaching!

L: Nope! I’m helping only!

K: Oh come one! This website has already declared snow emergency! (*Refresh School Emergency Closure website).

L: The Boston.com still shows no emergency news. Arghhh! You want to snow heavier or not?

In the end, the hubs gave up and went for his lesson.

Breaking news @ 7.23pm: Boston Public Schools canceled tomorrow.

HOORAY! cough! cough! I mean…Poor kids. Gotta miss school again. =p

Beef Hor Fun

One of the hubs’ favourite, I tried to make this again. This time round, I managed to get hold of hor fun and adapted the recipe from Rose’s Kitchenette. However, the result is slightly far from my own expectation. It’s my mistake though. I didn’t take out the Hor Fun from the refrigerator in time. So, I spent more time frying it and in the end, it became sticky.

Beef Hor Fun makes me think of the eatery at the back of the STB office and the memorable moments we had with our dear colleagues. The hubs and I would take turns ordering this particular dish because we really adore it.

Next time. I will try my best to achieve the kind of taste that I want, once I have figured it out. Till then, dear colleagues, hang in there.

Double-chocolate crepes

Crepes Au Chocolat, Deux Fois (adapted from David Lebovitz’s The sweet life in Paris).

Crepes are the quintessential French snack and they’re sold at stands all over Paris, often filled with a smear of Nutella or big chunks of melting chocolate. They are easy to make, but only when you get the hang of it.

My attempt at my first crepe was crappy. I couldn’t flip well and it became a

lump of chocolaty mess which the hubs gladly ate it. But the subsequent attempts went well. Before long, I was having fun.

This is good on the breakfast table and I certainly hope to experiment with different flavour in the crepes. This is the crepe (filled with mushrooms!) I had in a cafe at the Tuileries Garden near the Louvre. The batter could be made in advance and refrigerated overnight. Just let the batter come to room temperature before you cook the crepes and it only takes a few minutes to do that.

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The Oneness

I made my way to the ESL class with the hubs who insisted that he accompanies me so that I won’t fall again (Italics my thought). So, this guardian angel spent his morning waiting for me while I taught the class.

It was not a great lesson, I know. After all, I didn’t really know the students and need to assess their English level through this class. But I left the class with a few thoughts about my teaching.

1) I need to speak slower.
2) I need to give short instructions, ONE at a time.
3) I need to cater to the varying levels of my students and thus design different tasks for them according to their goals in coming to the class.

I was greeted with a smiling husband at the waiting hall before we had our lunch and an unsuccessful attempt at getting an appointment with a doctor. It’s not as easy as back home.

I was reminded though of the marriage class we had on Sunday and decided to pen down a few thoughts and notes here. The topic discussed was ‘How shall we live together?’ since we are now united as one. But what do we mean by One?

“One” may mean: “We are exactly alike.” Is this even possible? I’m not quite sure. Perhaps, couples could achieve that when they strain to duplicate each other, and then suffer the persistent differences or else repress them.

“One” could also mean this: one of the partners has taken control of the marriage, and that one will dominate the other. The second will have become silent or submissive or extinct. But this isn’t oneness; this is one alone.

“One” may mean: “We have a 50-50 marriage, half and half”. But mutuality is accomplished by two whole persons; and if each partner truly intends to be but the fraction of a relationship, he/she will soon discover that these halves do not fit perfectly together.

The fourth definition is what both Ken and I want to subscribe to – that there are three complete beings in a marriage – Ken and I and the relationship between us, which both of us serve, which benefits each of us but which is not exactly like either one of us. This relationship is itself very much like a living being – like a baby born from us both and that it has its own character. It enters into existence infantile, when you speak vows to each other. It comes cuddly and lovely, but very weak and in need of care and nourishment. As time goes on, as this baby-relationship grows up, it becomes stronger and stronger until it serves and protects you in return.

Nourish this oneness then and this is real work of mutuality. This brings your various lifestyles into harmony (without cancelling either one, without a forced similitude): that you have realised a common purpose together; that you are both committed to the nurturing, not of oneself and not of one’s partner, but of this third being, the Relationship; and that together you seek the wisest ways to do so – and you do them.

Reference: As for me and my house by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

Rosemary Parmesan Popovers

I’m supposed to prepare the quick pastry puff for the apple turnover but every force I exert cause me pain. I think I shall shelve that plan and do something simple. Just then, Foodbuzz sent an email on some food ideas and I thought I should attempt the featured Rosemary Parmesan Popover.

Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out as well as the ones from the original blogger. The popovers fell just like I fell today. Maybe I should have given them more time in the oven. It was a good try anyway.

Review: The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry

I almost reached a similar fate with the author of the book but in the end, I could not decide if I would want to trade my chalk for an apron/knife and thus abandon the thought of getting a culinary arts education in Le Cordon Bleu (Boston). It’s a huge investment and depletion of your energy, if you have no clue at all. And you need an insane amount of passion to work in the kitchen professionally.

It’s not the first time such an experience is recorded and published. Michael Ruhlman shared his journey in the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the Harvard of cooking schools in The Making of a Chef. Katherine Darling gave us a glimpse of her life in New York City’s famed French Culinary Institute in her memoir – Under the Table and Dalia Jurgensen showed us the real kitchen scene through her writing in Spiced: A Pastry Chef’s True Stories of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits and What Really Goes on in the Kitchen. Of these, I love Kathleen Flinn’s The Sharper your Knives, the Less you Cry the most.

Ruhlman’s book was great and detailed and his account made me feel like I was a participant in CIA. However, perhaps I’m a woman and could identify more with what Kathleen has gone through. Hers was not just about her journey in the famed Le Cordon Bleu (Paris) but of her struggles when she was laid off, the choices that she had to make and of her relationship with her then boyfriend-turned-fiance-turned-husband. Her tales were personal, yet compelling and I could hardly bear to put down the book. A bonus – I love her literary style.

Her fantasy of going to LCB was fulfilled and I had mine a little fulfilled when I went for a class shortly after my arrival in Boston. I might not be going to LCB after all but I’m definitely learning in my own kitchen and am an added statistics to the numerous homecooks around the world.

I’m giving this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Some quotes I love:

Love is a fragile thing, It can be as precarious as those steps on the Sacre Coeur or as unpredictable as the eggs in a cheese souffle. And in love, there are no handrails or any safe recipes to keep your heart from failing (pg. 89).

All of us have made the decision to enter into this experience with abandon, unsure of where we’ll come out on the other side. Sometimes, the places that life takes us can be so unexpected.

The test? When it’s firm.

I was thinking as I stepped out of the apartment to do my daily grocery that it would be a good week. At the very least, I need to be optimistic. I had the week’s meals all planned. The troublesome part was done and what’s left was the execution.

It was terribly cold. The realfeel temperature was -14F (-26C) and I wouldn’t have gone out at all if not for the fact that we couldn’t survive without food. As I walked in the direction of the supermarket, there at the traffic light was a pile of snow. I should have known. The snow had turned into ice but the silly me went ahead. It was a little translucent and as I stepped on it, I fell…hard. If there was a thud (which I suspected there was), it was drowned by the traffic. It was painful and as I tried to get up, I felt great difficulty. The area around my tailbone was hurt.

I could still walk, thank God, but with pain. Muttering a cry now and then, I certainly hoped to reach home safely upon purchasing the ingredients. But I realised the extent of the injury when I tried to get on the steps of the train. Arghh, it WAS painful! Oh dear! The pain persisted when I took a seat.

Fear gripped me. I didn’t want to hurt the tailbone which is such an important part of the body. I wouldn’t be able to do many things if it was really badly injured.

The litmus test was when I could not reach down to even remove my boots. Such a pathetic state I was in. This time round, I did not mutter just a sound. I cried. The hubs was comforting me and offering his help. The consolation is if I could still move, I might not be injured badly.

Carrying on my business in the kitchen was more challenging than usual. I could not bend down to reach for the ingredients stored in the chill compartment of the fridge and the hubs had to help out. Nonetheless, I could still produce a decent lunch. No salmon because it was expensive but sea bass fillet would do just as well.

I have not had fish in my diet for the longest time and I’m thankful for this fillet. Simple sauteeing will do the job. But I guess the real skill is in determining if it is cooked just right. You could use a thermometer (I’m hopeless with it) and if the internal temperature has reached 130F, it is done. Otherwise it should feel firm to the touch.

Just like those snow-laden pavement, if any part looks icy and feel firm when you step on it, it means it is all ready…ready to deceive you into stepping on it, accompanied by your slipping and falling with a loud thud and causing you to limp for the rest of the week. Good luck!

Sauteed fish fillet with roasted potatoes and carrots ( Serves 2)

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Week 5 Menu

Oh no. Another new week is coming soon! Panic! Time to crack the brain on what to cook!

I’ve decided to put up the menu online after reading  what Jane of This week for dinner does every week for her dinner menu. It’s a wonderful way to share ideas too with fellow bloggers (a pity I don’t have a lot of friends who blog). By listing the week, I’m also counting down to returning back to the sunny island! Yipee! Anyway, here goes:

Monday
BF: Chocolate mousse cake/ chocolate chip cookies (baked)
Lunch: Salmon Teriyaki + roasted potatoes & carrots topped with rosemary
Dinner: Claypot chicken rice (without claypot)
Prepare quick puff pastry + double chocolate crepes’ batter

Tuesday
BF:
Double-chocolate crepes
Lunch: – Teach ESL
Dinner: Beef Hor Fun
Bake: Apple pie

Wednesday
BF:
Apple pie
Lunch:
Women’s BS & BPL visit
Dinner: Chicken bee hoon soup
Bake: Flour’s Banana Bread

Thursday
BF:
Banana Bread
Lunch: @ Elementary Sch
Dinner: Beef rendang

Friday
BF:
Whatever is available
Lunch: Chicken b’stilla
Dinner: Leftovers
Bake: Triple chocolate chip cookies

Saturday
Bake:
Orange-poppy seed mini muffins, strawberry Jam Sandwich Hearts
Lunch: Spinach in Ikan bilis soup with fried rice

Let’s just see how much I can adhere to the plan.

Local fare – Kueh Bangkit & Mee Jian Kueh

Busy…busy…busy. What is usually a relaxing day has turned out to be the busiest day of the week.

I went for professional development after four months in Boston. Yes, I would be teaching English as a Second Language coming this week and while I hold the qualification of teaching English in school, it would be a different game teaching ESL, primarily because my target group is different. They are mostly (I was informed) spouses of those who are sent here to studying in Boston. Well into adulthood, they are not like my usual students and would be greatly hindered by their mother tongue. I hope I can value-add to these group of students since English is technically my second language while Mandarin or Cantonese is my native language.  We’ll see how it goes.

I’m baking another set of CNY goodies – Kueh Bangkit. These are cookies made up of largely of coconut milk (so don’t use low-fat!) and tapioca flour. The dough is very tricky and it is really testing my patience. It breaks up rather easily! To solve that, I add more coconut milk. The recipe is  taken from Little Corner of Mine.

Ingredients
-2 1/2 cups tapioca flour/tapioca starch
-1 Tbp. butter, melted
-1 egg yolk (from large egg)
-1 cup icing sugar
-120ml thick coconut milk

Fry the flour in the wok for about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir often and make sure it’s not burnt!

Sift tapioca flour and icing sugar in a big bowl. Add melted butter, yolk & coconut milk. Knead until the dough is pliable. (If the dough is wet or soft, add more tapioca flour, 1 Tbp. at a time and knead until it becomes a harder dough. Likewise, if it’s too dry, add more coconut milk).

Roll out the dough on lightly floured surface to about 3mm thickness. Cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. Arrange on lined baking tray and bake at 350’F for 15 to 20 minutes. It will puff when baked.

Before I knew it, dinner time was around the corner. I could not make the quick puff pastry in time for the Apple Turnover (bummer!) and had to think of alternatives. Before that, the hubs had kindly helped me grind the peanuts as I wanted to bake peanut cookies (another CNY goodies) but it was rather unsuccessful. Sarah’s recent attempt at Mee Jian Kueh (which is a form of pancake) gave me the idea to make this for dinner. And so dinner headache was resolved!

This can be commonly found in the hawker centre (food centre) and at times, mom would buy this for breakfast. Other possible filling (besides peanuts) are red bean paste, coconut shavings and perhaps kaya ( I think). Again, this is taken from another website – Piggy’s Cooking Journal.

I thought the taste differs slightly from the ones I had. Perhaps the next time, I would do without vanilla essence and reduce the amount for peanut (think healthy lifestyle!) and grease the pan with butter. But the pancake was great! This portion is sufficient for the two of us.

Ingredients:
1 egg
30g caster sugar
30ml canola
125ml water
125g plain flour
3g baking powder
1g baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

Filling (combine them together):
80g toasted peanuts, grind coarsely
70g caster sugar
20g salted butter, cut into small pieces

Method:
1) Combine egg and sugar in a medium bowl, beat the mixture with a whisk until sugar dissolves.
2) Add oil to the mixture, stir until combine. Then stir in half of the amount of water.
3) Sift plain flour, baking powder and baking soda onto the batter, then mix thoroughly.
4) Then stir in remaining water and vanilla essence into the batter.
5) Lightly grease a 30cm flat frying pan and put it on medium heat.
6) Pour the batter into the pan and when the pancake is almost cooked (air is escaping through some holes), sprinkle peanuts, sugar and pieces of butter on it.
7) When the pancake is fully cooked, flip one side over and fold in half. Dish out the pancake and then cut into 4 wedges. Serve.

I’m tired. I need a rest.

FFWD: Michel Roastang’s Double Chocolate Mousse Cake

I missed last Friday’s FFWD and resolved to stay at home to bake this today. Dorie Greenspan learned this recipe from the Michelin-starred chef Michel Rostang and it should be good!

This cake was rather easy to make but the tricky part is the whipping of the egg whites. If it’s not done well, it can cause the batter to leak out of the springform pan (and it happened to me). Many of us encountered problem with this part and Dorie came in and explained in the forum, “Excessive leaking might have to do with how the eggs are beaten and folded into the mousse.

Beating the egg whites properly is a very important step in the process …and the egg whites should hold peaks, but they must still be glossy. Once you lose the gloss on beaten egg whites, you lose their puff power too. When your egg whites break into clouds, it’s a sign that you’ve overbeaten them.

As for folding the whites into the mousse, it’s better to leave a few white streaks if necessary than to overwork the batter and knock the air out of the whites.”

My first layer of the cake did puff as indicated in the recipe and then dip. But it puffed more in a certain area rather than a cake as a whole. When the second layer was baked, it cracked, beautifully.

I decided to serve the cake baked and chilled, the way Dorie prefers which means putting in the fridge for at least 4 hours before serving.

After the long wait, the first mouthful was heavenly! This is darn GOOD! Goodness! A pity, though, that the removal of the cake from the springform pan caused it to break into pieces but well, the cake is super delicious and sometimes, that’s just good enough!

Some information on Baking with Chocolate

A baker’s dozen tips from CIA chef/instructor Stephen Durfee (Source: Popular Plates: Holiday Baking)

This information appears on the magazine and I found the facts enlightening. Unfortunately, it’s not right to post it in whole since it’s not my work. The little info here might help.

1. Do not store chocolate in the refrigerator. A lot of people make that mistake right off the bat. If you put chocolate in the fridge, when you take it out, it will get condensation on the surface.
It happens with all foods. If you take an apple out of the refrigerator, it will get conden- sation on it. It’s not a problem with apples. But this will cause sugar to come out of the choco- late, and it will leave that sugar condensed on the surface. The best way to store chocolate would be either in wax paper or in foil (better than plastic wrap). And obviously there’s a lot of fat in chocolate, so don’t store it next to the garlic or the onions or the blue cheese, because the fat will absorb those other flavors. Keep chocolate out of the sun, too. It should be stored in a cool place, and ideally in a dark place, just not next to the spice rack.
Also, don’t refrigerate cookies and brownies. Even candy with a chocolate cream center does not want to go in the fridge.
2. Make sure you’re baking with real chocolate.
3. If you’re making chocolate chunk cookies, make sure your chunks are consistent in size.
4. Don’t switch a recipe from dark chocolate to milk choclate.
5. Take care not to burn your chocolate. Most people melt chocolate over a double boiler. If your water’s too hot, it will scorch and ruin the chocolate. The chocolate wanted to be about 110F when it’s melted.
6. Don’t splash water into your chocolate.
7. Have a chocolate tasting and experience the difference terroir makes.
8. Chop chocolate with serrated knife.
9. Look for white chocolate recipes, rather than substituting white chocolate for dark chocolate.
10. Use the best-quality chocolate where you’ll really be able to appreciate it.
11. Get a good cleanup tool. Cleanup is done with hot water and a scraper.
12. Don’t throw out chocolate just because it has turned gray. The mold on the surface is caused by blooming and it’s what happens when chocolate gets warm. The fat just sort of separates and migrates to the surface, and it makes the chocolate look gray and funny and unattractive. It’s ok to bake with chocolate with blooming.

Sukiyaki

It snowed again.

And the best option is to stay at home. Public schools are closed and the public is advised to use public transport. Delays are expected in the early rush hours as the fast-moving storm is expected to dump as much as 8 inches of snow on the region before fading out this afternoon.

And so, a lazy day is before us. S and I are planning to have a bake-out session but is hampered by the snow. The spirits shoudn’t be dampened though! It’s Friday after all! It calls for celebration since the weekend is here!

A lazy day should be complemented by a lazy dish – Sukiyaki because it is easy to prepare. You just dump everything inside and wait for the rice to be cooked and viola! You’ve got a meal!

This is my third time attempting (my first attempt here) and I reckon that the proportion of light soy sauce: sugar: water is 1:1:3 (or even 4) but taste, taste, taste to see if it suits your palate. I’m cooking a slightly bigger portion so that we could have it for dinner too (a pity S couldn’t make it)

All you need for Sukiyaki (and I find less ingredients is more) are carrots, sweet onion, shittake mushrooms, cabbage and chicken tenderloin. This time round, however, I marinate the chicken beforehand with the usual suspects – hua diao cooking wine, light soy sauce, salt and pepper. The hubs love it and he eats the vegetables from this meal. Best!

Meanwhile, I will concentrate on my double mousse cake and Kueh Bangkit.

Double Mousse Cake I did make but not Kueh Bangkit. We missed a parcel from UPS and we thought we should just go claim it (not the first time already!).

It was a bad move.

The few inches of fresh snow was difficult to walk in and some of the pathways have not been cleared. It definitely is better than icy pavement and seemingly-safe muddy water but still, it’s rather challenging. The wind was strong and we felt our faces freeze up as we waited for the bus. And of all things, some snow got into my boots and my toes were screaming for help!

One should just stay at home when it is snowing. However, if you have no choice and have to go out, a positive and sunny attitude does help! =) Just have fun!

Char Siew (BBQ Roast Pork)

It’s back to school at last after the Christmas break. As I stepped out of the apartment, I was filled with mixed feelings. On one hand, I would love to be in the classroom and be with the children but on the other hand, I’m not so sure if today would go well and that I would end up frustrated (not sure even if they still remember me!).

It turned out to be wonderful! Hyper-active Oma, for example, paid attention when he was on the rug and could listen to Ms H. for the first time! Pej could attempt most of the Math sums with guidance but still threw tantrums and expect me to be at her beck and call. Nah. Tough luck, kiddo. You just have to learn. Amir was fantastic. I was asked to guide him in his reading and I was most satisfied with this child today. He really wanted to be better and he was most gentlemanly with me (normally he isn’t). And oh, Christian O, he was charming as usual and always wanted to catch my attention by doing some funny acts.

Teaching young kids is difficult in the initial phase. You have to set all kinds of rules and routines and more importantly, to enforce them. When they are accustomed to them, life gets easier and you will soon reap the benefits. Definitely, there are still ups and downs but I find it most rewarding when they respond favourably to you. Satisfying!

In the kitchen, I attempted Char Siew again. I experimented with it in November and was rather pleased with the result. This time round, I adopted another recipe which I rather like, simply because the ingredients are more common. However, I could not really pinpoint the amount of time it has to be in the oven. I admit I am a bit paranoid when it comes to roasting something in the oven. I really did not want to land myself in a panicky state again – activating the smoke detector. So, I switched off the oven when the kitchen got a little smoky. The best test, to me, is to cut the meat after 30 minutes into roasting and taste for myself if it is ready.

As usual, the practice is to use the marinade to coat the egg noodles to create a satisfying meal.

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Roasted Chicken with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Sometimes, I find it a chore to plan for meals, especially when I’ve run out of ideas. In times like this, you really wish the family member(s) can just state their dream dishes so that you could fulfil them.

I don’t wish to repeat dishes often since by cooking new dishes daily, I would be introduced to different cuisine and makes cooking more interesting. Of course, there is a need to improve on dishes but well, that is not often called for ( reads: the recipes work).

After poring over a few cookbooks, I decided on Italian – Giada’s Everyday Italian. Nothing fanciful, just roasted chicken with balsamic vinaigrette. As usual, I scale down the portion so that it is made for two. To complement the chicken, I add plain rice and carrots. The ingredients are not stuff that I normally cook with but for a change, they are okay.

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The Sweet Life in Paris

If you are going to visit Paris for the first time, maybe it would be beneficial for you to read this book. It would not enable you to understand fully the Parisian way of life but just the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes, that’s just enough.

David Lebovitz’s The Sweet Life in Paris accompanied me during the recent trip to the west coast, especially on the long train rides and early evening in the hotel rooms. He entertained and tickled the hell out of me. Try not to sit opposite a stranger when you are reading this book. You might land yourself in a laughing state with a tomato-red face and it’s quite a silly sight, really.

I love David Lebovitz’s hilarious yet informative writing which extends to his blog (thank goodness!). He recounts with a cheeky tone, poking fun at the Parisians and of himself and who can give his recipes a miss? After all, he has worked at Chez Panisse and is the author of five other cookbooks.

As I put this book down, I could understand why the person behind me was queuing so freakingly close to me when we were buying the tickets at the Louvre. Don’t they know what personal space is?! So I’ve learnt that ‘Parisians are always in a big hurry, but are especially frantic if they’re behind you. They’re desperate to be where they rightfully feel they belong: in front of you. It’s a whole other story when you’re behind them, especially when it’s their turn: suddenly they seem to have all the time in the world.’

Thankfully in my trips to Paris, I did not encounter any strikes since they are well-known in Paris and as David puts it, they are ‘so part of the cultural fabric, they even have a season.’ Whoah! I didn’t know that but you should certainly read on to find out more about the tantrums of this small minority of very well compensated workers.

I like his collection of ‘What they say versus what they mean’. Just to cite a few:

When they say, “We do not take returns,” they mean, “Convince me.”

When they say, “The restaurant is completely full,”, they mean, “We already have enough Americans in here.”

When they say, “It does not exist,” they mean, “It does exist – just not for you.”

When they walk right into you on the street and say nothing, they mean, “I’m Parisian, and you are not.”

When they say, “We don’t have any more,”, they mean, “We have lots more, but they’re in the back and I don’t feel like getting them.”

Go grab this book. I’ll give a 4.5 out of 5.

Bakers I love

Some of the bakers I love are Joanne Chang of Flour and Chad Robertson of Tartine bakery. The reason? Mostly because they strive to produce the best goods for their customers and they start by using the best ingredients.

Today’s bake = Joanne Chang’s Chocolate Chip cookies

Read more about how temperature plays a role in baking here.

And not forgetting Beautiful photos on Tartine.

Chad Robertson and Elizabeth Prueitt at Tartine Bakery San Francisco