Monday, March 31, 2008

What a Month!

Phew! What a month it was this March. Finally we are into better weather despite the once a week snow teasing which makes me just dread the white flakes from the sky.
I guess blogging has surreptitiously taken part of life now. Looking back, I had done a triathlon and my mind is telling me to hit the brakes before I eat, sleep and talk Blog! As with all my other interests, I never let one takes precedence over the other so as not to lose interest and abandon one in favor of another. My language books have been left in the same corner of my study table since mid February.... yup the same time I started this BLOG! Very addictive!!!



There are alot of activities going on for the Spring months and hopefully I will get them done! For Missy E, it means kite days, tricycle outside and swings and slides all afternoon. For Prince D, as long as he is part of all the fun, he won't complain. To me, spring is always a wake up call to go back on the threadmill and daily 45 mins walk to pump up the heart and brain cells! Curry is doing a good job in maintaining his 32 inches waist and I will not lose out in looking good too!



Can't wait to see all the daffodils and trees blossoming. And the fruits fields.. cherry, strawberry,blueberry and peach. Ah... thinking of them already make my mood better, not mentioning the many ideas that I have swimming in my head of what to make of them in my cooking and baking! Spring is just awesome and bye bye winter....really I mean it BYE BYE winter!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Puff Pastries: Pistachio Strawberry Mousse and Blueberry Custard

Of all the pastries, I find the puff paste is the most amazing. Of course, butter rules in this one and also one must have cold hands to make it. Seeing the layering of the dough puffing up in the oven makes my spirit soar! Something as simple as butter and flour can be so intriguing on how they create chemistry together with the oven and ending up in flaky and crisp form and a divine taste that just melts in the mouth! Perhaps I am just nuts as I decided to try my hands on making the puff pastry. The first time and last time that I made it before today was at my short but fun baking class 5 years ago. The Italian instructor opened up my eyes to the pleasure of making everything from scratch. I never mind measuring the flour and sugar and making use of every tools in the kitchen drawer and cabinet, as long as the kids get their own spaces and my kitchen is allocated for baking sessions only without Curry fumbling around the stove cooking his 'Must Have Sunday Instant Noodle Brunch'!

Started the process last night to let the dough sit and rest before shaping and baking them this morning. Making puff pastry is really a test of all patience and should never be attempted by a 1st timer without any knowledge of how the texture of the dough is. It was a mess when the butter met the flour and iced water. But it got better during the rolling and folding part. From the making part to the resting part, the whole thing just spells "SINFUL"....... butter blob with the utmost aroma and fat all over. And when time to shape them again, they look so plain till they met the oven and became "SUPER SINFUL". While some houses might be filled with the goodness of brewed coffee and bacons with eggs, my whole house was just smothered with the invisible buttery smell the whole morning!

Strawberries and Blueberries are my favorite fruits for pastries. I am amazed on the sizes of the strawberries and was made to look at every pint at the grocery to find the smallest among them or else my pastries have to be super big to accomodate the giant fruit! The big ones went into the pot for mousse making and the blueberries are safe. Instant made custard pudding was used to comfort my mind of the extra cholesterols that I have to endure if I made from fresh eggs!

As expected, the piping process is still very new to me. Mousse and custard were all over the bags and I was half way licking away. Hmm.... fat! I got the ideas from mille feuille and stacked up the pastries, sprinkled with crushed pistachio. Hmm.... fat Fat! Finally, the layers are all done and I have no more words to describe but Hmm.... I am FAT FAT FAT!!! My motto is.... eat first, die later!


Friday, March 28, 2008

Recipe of the Day: Braised Pork Hocks

As Asian stores are very rare in where I live, I tend to go overboard when I shop in one. At times I buy something that I have no idea what to use it for. For example, the bottle of sweet soy sauce labelled as 'Kecap Manis' which has been sitting in my pantry since last year's September. Perhaps I was hoping to make Singapore Chicken Rice then as they use a very thick sweet black sauce as condiment or the Malaysian Rojak where they have this same black sauce poured all over the pineapple and cucumber and sprinkled with crushed peanut. But when I bought it, I have no idea on whether it was the same thick black sauce that I was longing to taste! Moreover, the contents of its bottle was more than the salty soy sauce that I normally purchase and to use it as dipping sauce only might take me another September to finish the whole bottle! But I definitely cannot let it go to waste and so I thought of other black dishes that I ever had in my life.

Same story with the pork hocks. It just looked so fresh at the Asian grocery's meat counter and my hand automatically reached out for a pack containing 4 nicely cut pieces. Pork knuckles in vinegar was my confinement nourishment and that was the only time I ever bought a different part of the pig's anatomy besides the usual pork sirloin. So getting these hocks were something new. And yet, it stayed in my freezer frozen and hidden among the more popular chicken and minced pork for 2 weeks until today!

This was an easy recipe, as with all my others listed here as Easy Quickie. With 2 seasoning sauces, 1 spice, the usual minced shallot, garlic and ginger, I concocted the easiest braised dish!The Kecap Manis together with the dark soy sauce combined to make a rich sauce which has the right consistency of sweet and salty. And it certainly give a more glistening black and brownish color to the cooked hock which appears more appetizing.


Ingredients:
4 pork hocks, boiled in water for 7 mins to get rid of smell
1/3 of a medium size radish, cut into thick round slices
1 red shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 thumbsizes knob of ginger, minced
5 tbsp of dark soy sauce
3 tbsp of sweet soy sauce/Kecap Manis
pepper
1/2 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 3 tbsp water


Method:
1)Heat pot with oil and fry the garlic,shallot and ginger.
2)Add in the pork hocks and fry turning evenly and cover to cook for 10 mins.
3)Add in dark soy sauce, Kecap Manis and pepper. Coat evenly and add 2 cups of water.
4)Cover pot and simmer on medium heat for 25 mins.
5)Add in radish and continue to simmer for 20 mins or till meat is tender and starting to detach from the hock bones. Add in the cornstarch mix and let simmer for 3 more mins.
6)Dish up and garnish with cilantro.

Serves: 3 to 4 adults

Thursday, March 27, 2008

21st Century Leisure Ladies

I have very high admiration for ladies who work outside of the house and have kids to look out for. Frankly speaking, I have no idea on how to juggle dual responsibilities at 2 or more different places simultaneously and after a hard day in the dog eat dog world outside, coming back to screaming kids and having to go through what they did during the whole day will surely reduce my lifespan.

But sometimes I find it unfair to refer us, the stay home moms as the Leisure Ladies. Perhaps it is appropriate for pampered wives with grown up kids and who volunteered themselves in every charity organization in the name of "Occupation". For moms like me who have to run the management of the house from 7am to 12am and on weekends too, I simply cannot relate myself to having a Leisure time. Maybe sneaking in for short naps while the kids are having theirs is considered leisure hours but still, knowing that they will be more active and hyper after their naps just makes my brain more restless. And yet, Missy E never naps and Prince D thinks he will lose out on all the fun if he naps for too long!

I long to sit quietly in the library to read a book or shop every household goods store to search for the best bed linens to match my teak wood bed, getting into the latest kitchen gadgets and of course taking a coffee break with an oversized muffin at Starbucks. In my book, those are considered non-existence but just imaginery. Now, how leisurely can that be?

I am not complaining about my life as I believe that we all exist for a reason and that is what I am going to do. But some conflicting minds do overload themselves with thinkings that we are all yawning away and manicuring our nails all day long. Perhaps our succesful husbands are objects of envies and we the wives are the 'punching bag' for some envious souls. Or is it ourselves who projected the idea that we can freely spend our spouses' money by roaming in shopping places when the fact is that we fear another day cooped at home again with the kids and we are window shopping only, or maybe we never complain enough to others besides our own spouses of our exhausting lives?

I strongly believe I am no Lady of Leisure but Multi-Purpose Mom is a title that I prefer. And to all my mommy girlfriends, I salute you!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Recipe of the Day: Cream of Mushroom Spaghetti

Frozen boxed prepared meals never appeal to me. Call me a snob but I do taste the smell of paperbox lingering with the food regardless on how high the watts of my microwave can zap on it. I am amazed with the freezer section of my grocery store which stocks everything from boxed pancakes to fried chicken and I wonder how big is the refrigerator of the households that strive and live on boxed meals!

Ironically, I like canned goods. They are handy when I can't find the fresh version of the particular ingredient such as pineapple, straw mushrooms and red bean paste. Canned and bottled sauces and soups are also helpful when spice scooping, mixing and marinating is not in my to do list of the day!

Cream of mushroom is a favorite in my pantry. With spaghetti on hand and getting a bit bland with the rice day in and day out, throw in some broccoli, chicken meat and mushroom and you have a good one pot dish.

Ingredients:
2/3 box of spaghetti
1 can of Cream of mushroom
15 mushroom, sliced
broccoli cut into small florets
chicken chunks/chicken breast meat
3 cloves of garlic, minced

Method:
1)Boil water and cook spaghetti.
2)Heat oil in pot and fry minced garlic. Add chicken meat and continue to stir fry for 7 mins.
3)Add mushroom and broccoli. Simmer for 5 minutes.
4)Add cream of mushroom and simmer further.
5)Drain spaghetti and add into sauce pot and mix. Simmer for 7 to 10 mins.
6)Serve.

Serves: 3 persons

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

March Bento Days (3)

Today's Bento is a very simple one. Nothing fancy and only took me 15 minutes to prep, cook and arrange. As we had too much to eat on Easter day and the leftover Bunny chocolates are still on the countertop waiting to be nibbled on regardless of the hour of the day, I am cooking light.

Japanese have so many gadgets that I sometimes wonder what else can they not make nor do anymore. How did they get so creative? Is it because of the overload of raw fish and wasabi or the Kobe beef that channel all sorts of idea to their brains? From Robot dogs to computerised rice cooker, automatic doors on taxis to backside washing toilets, life in Japan must be very technophilic! Leaving the technology aside, I can find things like the onigiri rice ball shaper to be equally fascinating. With 3 compartments which open to 2 parts and indented openings on the top part to allow the fingers to push out the formed rice balls instead of digging is really a brilliant idea and making the rice balls coated with black sesame seeds was so easy and I won't mind having an onigiri party.

Recently, the Kyaraben method which incorporates the making of character sushi and lunchbox contents is the latest trend in Bento making. The characters is from a wide range of children's favorite from Hello Kitty to Elmo with numerous colors and features of the faces clearly present and can be more fanciful than any kids pencil boxes! Special gadgets which are more fanciful than my plain Onigiri maker are thus invented such as the special molds and shape punch which makes the face features. I see myself splurging on these things in future when Missy E and Prince D start their full day school schedule. Infact, their Bento boxes are sitting in the basement cupboard, waiting to be filled with mommy's homemade and healthy goodies. I just hope that they don't demand a 3-D Princess or Dinosaur rice ball for their lunchboxes or else I will never enjoy making another Bento in my life again!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tea Leaves and A Cup

Although small with 10 narrow and long cubicles, my kitchen pantry is never empty. But then, even if I have the whole cupboard, it will also be filled up. From shiitake to rice bin, all purpose flour to cumin powder, cans of soups and bottles of sauces and coffee to hot cocoa, sometimes I have no idea on what is in there and before I waste my dollars on duplicates and expired goods rot, I ransacked the entire shelves today.

I am not sure how my relatives and friends got the impression that I am a tea enthusiast as I get all these vacumn packed black and green tea from everyone and there are almost 10 unopened bags. It must have been the gulping of pots and pots of hot tea when I am having dim sum at average restaurants to wash down the MSG flavor that led my Hong Kong relatives to think that I drink and eat tea! Even my mom brought over the tea she bought from her China trip and probably she heard that it was slimming and thought I need it !!!

Indeed, I drink tea alot! But not lately as I tend to feed on instant coffee and cannot wait for the tea leaves to bloom and brew. Some people drink tea and complain it gives them insomnia but me, I sleep like a log after a cup or even a pot. If coffee has 'Starbucks', then my tea leaves supplies can accomodate my imaginery 'MoonBrew' tea shop! Curry doesn't drink it as he prefers milk (how weird for a grown man!!!!) and certainly not the kids and Missy E might think I am feeding her grass juice with all the leaves floating!

The aroma of black tea such as Pu Erh gives a warm feeling and I like it during cold days. Infact the tea itself gives rise to many arts....choosing the best teapot and cups to techniques of brewing and serving are part of the life of tea. I like brewed Chinese tea better than English teabags as I find a soaking paper pouch in the cup impedes my enjoyment of the sipping and savouring of hot tea. I don't find floating tea leaves to be of such obstruction though and I sometimes chew some to absorb more anti-oxidants. As spring approaches, green tea is more of my taste as it has a grassy smell with cooling effect. The lightness of its color and subtleness of its taste makes the senses and tastebuds refreshed. The other tea that I like is the English Earl Grey... with cream it feels like drinking silk perfumed with citrus! How coquettish!

With Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks coffee being the obvious choices here, I am influenced by the need to consume coffee too but during my evenings when I am down and all curled up in my pajamas and big sofa, I will reach out for my tea corner MoonBrew for a calm and relaxing cup to end the day.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter's Grace

Happy Easter to everyone. I am not a devout Christian but Easter Sunday does bring the meaning of hope and grace to my mind. In theological sense, the resurrection of Jesus gave hope to his followers and bestowed on their beliefs of the grace of God. In commercial sense, the numerous marketing of toys epitomizing new birth of chicks, lamb and bunny rabbit together with the overflowing of candy bags meant an early X'mas and Halloween celebrations combined and an excuse to gather and binge!

Although exhausting, I am always happy to attend a potluck with family and friends. The cooking always starts early and the morning cup of coffee is so good in giving a burst of energy to the senses. Extra attention is required when the eyes sensory are not fully charged and cooking while still in the overnight pajamas and messy hair is a funny sight but all these meant the chef is serious!

I am lucky to have known a few friends to celebrate this Easter. Although I am far from my own family whom I really wish to cook for, being around friends also brings out the warmth and joy of sharing traditions and stories. Although Missy E and Prince D have no nearby cousins to hunt their Easter eggs and share their chocolate bunnies with, seeing them enjoying themselves among our friends and their kids makes me think this world is full of goodness and kindness and I am thankful. To all my family and cousins back in Malaysia and my friends everywhere else, I am thinking of you all and hopefully you all will be able to join my potluck dinners one day.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Recipe of the Day: Minced Beef Omelette

Eggs is one of my Must Have in the fridge. Its versatility from a simple fried sunny side up to its many uses as side ingredient for meat and vegetable dishes makes it the ubiquitous helper in every cuisine. Perhaps the cholesterol of the yolk is a concern for older folks, including myself who is getting to the "Watch What you Eat" age, but an egg a day will surely not kill me!!

Infact, I used 3 eggs for this recipe. Everyone can make an omelette but sometimes this dish is too simple to make that it simply doesn't come to mind at all and ignored when we are clueless as to what to prepare for dinner. I love the color that the yolk yields, so rich and vibrant. Appetizing as it is, eggs are indeed very nutritious and aptly named the Incredible Egg. If I was to choose my last meal, I would want a fried egg over easy, sandwiched between a slice of cheese and 2 slices of wholemeal bread and I am already half way to Heaven (if God says so!).


Ingredients:
3 eggs
250g minced beef
2 stalks of chopped green onion
salt & pepper

Method:
1) Beat eggs and heat oil in pan on medium.
2)Stir Fry the minced beef for 5 minutes.
3)Add eggs & green onion and let set before turning over. I prefer mine a bit
scrambled (and also because my non-stick pan is no longer in its original
form due to the abusive spatula and overworked!)
4) Add pepper & salt.

Serves : 3 as side dish

Friday, March 21, 2008

Diary of a Domestic Goddess

We are having a guest stay over this weekend. My Aunt M is coming to visit and after being deprived of all the warm of family gatherings that my other cousins, grandma and aunties freely enjoy back in Malaysia, I am looking forward to this all week long.

When I was young, I longed for the day when my aunts will stop asking me about my boyfriends and school and let me have all the food on the potluck table in peace. But nowadays, their voices on the phone are always comforting, even though their busy body selves still pestering me with probabilities of Baby No.3!!! Easier said than done, I just hand over the phone to Missy E and let her chat away till the Aunties are tired. Any photos from home however blur nor small makes me envy with longing and hope to go back more often.

Back to Aunt M. The house is not immaculately clean but I will never let a guest down. Only now I realised how much the kids have taken over the entire house. There were at least 20 toys under the sofa, soft toys on every corner of the sofa upstairs and downstairs, books on every shelves and floor and the mess goes on forever! Some people can survive with just a vacumn cleaner but me, I have a broom & dust pan, vacumn cleaner and mop! My arms haven't been so overworked for a long time and I had to reach for the anti perspirant! Now I know why I have been piling up on the pineapple and matcha cheese nibbles for..... to labor over these! But I ought to... afterall, today is Good Friday, a day of reflection of sins and suffering to repent.... my sin is gluttony and I shall pay!!

Don't forget the bathroom.... my most dreaded chore of the week. But it is also a good way to check out if my hair has been dropping alot and I am happy that the bathtub drain is not clogged with too much! For the gross part, I shall save the details from this blog!

Being a domestic goddess and a good host is not easy but the results of a clean area with dust sucked up and toys hidden in the closet makes the peace flows in this house. Of course it will be better if Missy E and Prince D can be quiet too. Too bad, at this very moment, they are already rolling and patting the Play-Doh. All in a day's work.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Recipe of the Day: Meat Ball in Sweet Potato Crust

I don't know what prompted me to buy 1 sweet potato at the grocery last week. They named it Yam but I have always known it as Sweet potato. Perhaps the usual puds looked too boring and overflowing in their cubicles and the prepacked 5lbs bag which sells for $2.99 scared me of being a potato maniac and making my family curse me for cooking potatoes all week long.

But the sweet potatoes look nice, with their reddish long elongated shape ending with a tip and their bright orange flesh reminds me of the sweetness of Japanese squash, Kabocha. The only time that I ever eat sweet potato is in a dessert type sweetened soup cooked with Chinese rock sugar and yam (which is called batatas here). And I have no idea on any other recipes.

And so it sat in the vegetable basket till today, looking miserable and lonely among the clusters of garlic and onions. I took pity on it and pondered on. Since it is sweet in taste, making it into a dish for dinner was really tricky. I had a packet of cooked beef balls in the freezer, of which I initially bought for steamboat. Since the weather has got warmer, there is no fun sitting in front of a hot pot and sweating away.


The Easter Eggs reminded me of Scotch Eggs, which is hard boiled egg wrapped in a minced meat coating and dipped in bread crumbs, deep fried to golden brown. I used the same method, boiled and mashed up the sweet potato, coat it all over the meatball and dip them into Panko and deep fried. The deep frying part was a bit tricky with medium heat and constant turning as the meatball were golf balls sized and thank goodness they were already cooked beforehand as the panko browned really quickly outside. Maybe my choice of olive oil had too high of a smoking point and was not compatible with the panko and now I understand why Rachael Ray had to cook everything under 30 minutes with her famous EVOO while I fumbled all over the humongous meat balls to get an even browning.

The taste of the end product was quite unique. One bite and you get all 3 textures... crusty panko, mushy sweet potato and chewy meatball. I personally like it as I love the sweetness blending in with the meatiness of the inner part. Curry was a bit skeptical as he never liked pumpkin nor squash, but he finished up dutifully, so that is still a good sign.



Ingredients:
1 medium sized sweet potato
5 large cooked beef meatballs
scallions
1 egg, beaten
Panko (about 1 cup)
Oil for deep frying
salt & pepper


Method:
1)Boil water and cook sweet potato till soft, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from water and mash and let cool. Season with pepper and salt. Add in scallions.
2)Take a handful and coat all over the meatball. Smooth and shape into a perfect round. Let the meatballs stand for 15 minutes.
3)Heat oil for deep frying on medium.
4)Deep coated meatballs into beaten egg and then panko. Deep fry 2 or 3 at one time. Keep turning the balls to get an even browning (about 7 minutes). Lift up and let cool. Cut into half and serve.


Serves: 3 (Can be served with salad and dressing)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Moody days and mommies blues

A Lie. It is all a lie! The snow is back today. Mother nature loves playing jokes with the real mommies on earth!!

It is indeed gloomy and wet outside while I am moody and dry with ideas inside on what to do with Missy E and Prince D. Sometimes, I am all energetic, ready to cut and craft with Missy E and sing along with Prince D. I even roll around with them and get stuck in their crawling tunnel once in a while. But today is the day that I am not in the 'mood'. Has my "Hostile Monday" finally met its match called "Moody Wednesday"? Or have I exerted too much energy on a sunny Spring day yesterday and nothing left for today?

At times like this, I wonder what other mommies like myself normally do when they are stuck at home with their own offsprings! Do they whine like me too or there are just super ones out there that have ideas to supply and utilise everything in a craft store and always a candidate for all bake sales and volunteer work at their PTAs? I personally don't like craft work except for knitting and using my fingers to cut and paste cliparts from the internet for my digital scrapbooking. Really admire those mommies that can visualize anything and make something out of the toilet paper roll to egg box.... I will only think of them as a secondary support of something more important like the toilet paper and eggs! Once the primary source is used up, to the recycling bin they go.

Sometimes I wish I can just sit on the sofa all day long and watch TV. Let the brain remain blank and no rush feeling to cook, clean or entertain the kids. Eating a whole box of Godiva chocolates with a big pot of tea to go with them.... how wonderful and yet wishful! This Cabin Fever thing is really sending degrees of laziness and boredom to my head and until the Spring Breeze and Sunny Skies come back, there will be no cure. Scissors need to criss-cross and papers need to be cut, Missy E needs to be given input of colors and ideas and Prince D must have his ways to make a Moody Wednesday ends its hours faster.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Images of Spring





US dollar anyone?

Bear Stearns was one of the top investment banks since the property market boom and to see it collapsed and selling off its worth for pennies on the dollar really makes one think about the financial state of banks, investment companies, securities and stocks of every company that our 401K might have a hold on and finally the federal treasury of this country. Can there always be a bail out for each and everyone or do we the public have finally realize that the American Dream is not all that attainable anymore?


When I first set foot here 7 years ago, I have the perception that everyone is living their American Dream. With their flashy SUVs and colonial style houses with green lawn more vast than the houses itself and equipped with its own sprinklers, makes me wonder if the US dollar really can buy all these luxuries. To someone like us who just arrived from Japan where rents for apartments is set with reference to how many Tatami spread are in the rooms and usually not exceeding an area of 800 sq. ft , paying 2/3 of the price in Japan for a 1,200 sq. ft with 2 bathrooms in America seems to be reasonable then. And thanks to Wal-mart, I learned the term of globalisation and how we came to depend on "Made in China" goods to accomodate our everyday needs from clothings to closets, DVD players to household electronics and simply everything that we use in our American home. The convenience of the plastic card just amazes me and soon enough I was caught up with its convenience of 'Spend and Enjoy First, Pay Later' philosophy.

7 years later, there seems to be a reversal of fortune. The globalisation effect seems to favor the other side of the trade alliance when China's economy is booming and developing in full swing from property to industries. And India is no longer famous only for its Bollywood films and answering Customer Call Centers for American companies when it is producing more millionaires and ventures in high tech technology development. While here in America, all we hear is economy is slump, companies are retrenching, costs of goods are up due to rising gas prices and foreclosures and bankruptcies are affecting millions of homeowners. Even Curry's company has changed hands twice and sometimes I can't even recall the name of his new company! In terms of the currency market, the US dollar is weak in comparison to the Euros and British Sterlings and recently, Japanese Yen even seemed more stable. The ever so obliging Canadians must be smiling their way down the border to shop as their dollar is at par with their American counterpart these days.

Well, maybe the term American Dream was aptly meant to be a 'dream' only. I was naive to believe that those people with big houses and cars were rich when infact they stretch their monthly payments of mortgages and loans over a longer period of repayment with more hefty interest rates than mine. I don't mean to be a sour grape but infact I find that some people do bite more than they can chew. Although I live in a small house with no private lawn of my own but only a small front yard and sharing the backview with my neighbors, I still live realistically, being comfortable and complacent with what I have and able to stash away some of my dollars for rainy days. Although I would love to drive a red Mercedes, my soccer mom Mini van still serves my need and I can wait till the day Prince D buys me one when he gets through college with all the money we save up for him!!! I might be tempted to be chic, shopping at Banana Republic and Nordstrom only but I really don't have the need for high heels nor flattering clothings anymore. I am just proud when Missy E said she couldn't use her piggy bank money because she has put them away!

Overall, America is still a good place to live as long as we don't overspend and over indulge. Economy will go up and down as it is a cycle of how resources are used to make supply and wealth is distributed to meet demand. Aiming for an equilibrium can only be a theory when there is always one party who has to give for another to receive. Perhaps the US dollar is not at the helm now but the green money is still the most recognized and widely accepted currency around the globe. In my view, as long as one knows how to stretch his dollar and keep the change, he will get through the economic roller coaster whenever it decides to roll.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cheese Nibbles

Finger foods are very appetizing to me. Literally, they are foods small enough to pick up with the fingers and pop it in the mouth and gone within seconds. This category of food enjoys a certain spotlight as they are always prepared with utmost attention to presentation with the minimum number of ingredients combination. As morsel sizes are the norm, the time consumed preparing them can be lengthy which requires extreme patience. Perhaps it is their mini sizes that trick my mind into thinking I am only chewing small bites and being a dainty eater but a binge will always come in the same course!

I was so delighted that pineapple in can also came in the crushed form besides the usual ring cut. Cutting and cleaning a fresh one is not an option as I can never cut uniformly and I waste more flesh than the eye spots and after a few attempts, the whole pineapple always ended up 2/3 smaller than its original form and I resolved to the can opener which does a better job than me cutting diagonally.


The pastry of these nibbles are made of cream cheese and butter. I never use margarine nor shortening in baking as I think butter produces better results and makes the end product melts in your mouth and baking is laborious enough and should be rewarded with rich taste and good aroma. The cream cheese simply adds more texture to the whole. I divided the dough to 2 kinds, the original form and the other mixed with matcha. The original one was filled with pineapple, earlier cooked in sugar to a softer texture. And the Matcha dough was filled with a mixture of crushed walnut and brown sugar. The outcome was a shorter and richer pastry, which envelopes the fillings nicely and to pop one in the mouth gives the palate a good and happy taste. The pineapple filling was chewy with its slight sweet smell lingering while the walnut and brown sugar gave a bit of crunchiness to the subtle bitter taste of the Matcha pastry. Gulp them down with a glass of cold milk and you will have your daily calcium intake of the day! The calories are always an afterthought and so be it.



Sunday, March 16, 2008

Blossoms

As expected, the sneaky snow returned this morning. Although nothing dramatic and barely hitting the 2 inch mark, it was enough to dampen any plans for outdoors and to remind me that I cannot put away the scraper and shovel just yet.

I was a bit surprised to see plum blossoms branches, not outside but inside my grocery store. At a price that I will never fork out for daffodils nor roses, I paid $8.99 for 7 branches of budding blossoms with one bloom as proof that it is not fake! And of course I made sure I get what I paid for with the most green buds and nicest stems and solid branches while I examined and chose from the bucket for at least 10 minutes. Strangely, no one is getting any and my holding of my branches bouquet may have made other shoppers think I am nuts to give up the petals for the branches! Perhaps no one appreciates it but I adore both plum and cherry blossoms, which are absolutely beautiful when their buds all blossom in abundance on 1 stalk and the pinkish or white colors of the flowers gives a calm feeling to the eyes, while emerging buds gives hope and expectation of more beautiful things to come.

The Cherry blossoms ("Sakura") must be emerging everywhere now in Japan. Its peak season runs from the end of March till mid April and strolling in the Botanical Gardens or parks while enjoying a picnic with red bean mochi and a flask of hot o-cha makes life on earth worthwhile. The beauty of nature displayed by these trees is overwhelming and to feel the flowers billowing down onto my face when the spring breeze blows, gives me a sense of pleasant and romantic feeling to be in such a perfect atmosphere.

Well, these days the chances of seeing a peach or plum blossom tree is as slim as seeing my store bought branches bears the fruit of these trees and until Prince D can sit and watch 6 to 8 hours of DVDs on the car trip to Washington DC, I will just have to settle with my vase and store bought plum blossom branches.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

New Look on the Blog

After a warm and wet week, the buds are starting to pop out from the ground and tree branches while the squirrels and chipmunks are scurrying around the backyard. Despite the winter cold still persist, the sun gives out warmer air at mid-day and the pitter and patter of the spring shower rain is better than the quiet but dreadful snow. Car wash is free on rainy days and the yard is visible with all the residue of snow and ice melted away. Brighter days are ahead!!!

Stashing away the winter apparels is a happy thing that I do since I will look 20lbs lighter and no more straddling around like a penguin and having to adjust my car seat to accomodate my extra bulk. However, without my puffy jacket, I am set to face the truth.... do I look and weigh more since the binging started from Thanksgiving Day to X'mas Day and New Year parties and also the Chinese New Year plus the 1st family cake of the year from Curry's birthday last month of which I ate continuously for 7 days with cream attached? No more blaming on the jacket if I did!

I chose a new template for the blog today to celebrate the coming of spring and I hope the writing will improve and the reading will inspire and inform whoever reads it.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Good Read

The last book I read was Memoirs of a Geisha, which was 4 years ago. Although I gave up on the paperbacks and novels and not very interested in audio books due to the fact that my ears are already full with Missy E's daily "Whys?" and Prince D's whining and screaming, I do pick up all sorts of magazines to maintain my literacy level. From current affairs to home designs, cooking to Oprah, parenting to lifestyles, English or Japanese, I am a sucker for any publications that have the most appealing front cover and the contents are to be considered and evaluated later. Luckily the local library is stocked with sufficient and various publications and the buying at the Border's magazine rack is limited to 2 copies per month and unlimited for on site browsing at those big comfy chairs that they have.

I recently found a new Magazine, aptly named 'Good'. The articles are easy to read, concise and yet enough to get me thinking about issues. Overall, it discusses issues that we ought to think about from recycle to green house gas, cool gadgets to organic products and with comical and artsy illustrations and good photography, the pages are never boring. The publisher noted that the yearly subscription $20 will be wholly donated to a non-profit organization of the subscriber's choice from the list stipulated in the magazine. If this not a gimmick, then this is really good. If it is a gimmick, it is still worth my money as it works up my brain thinking and make me want to do more good to Mother Earth.
My best purchase at $4.95 this month.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Recipe of the Day : Miso Tofu Enoki

Once in a while, I venture away from the staples in the grocery store and look for something that is interesting to the eyes and probably good in the mouth too. I ditched the white mushrooms and opted for the clustered bunch enoki with its multiple caps and dangling long stems. Japanese cooking utilizes enokitake in soup and simmered dishes and I have never cook with them before. As the weather gets warmer, my appetite longs for something lighter and healthier choices with less meat and grease.

Ingredients:
200g minced pork, seasoned with sesame oil, salt and pepper
2 cubes of soft tofu, cut into 4 parts each
1/2 packet of enoki
chopped garlic, white part of scallion and chopped ginger

Gravy mix:
1 tbsp red miso
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
salt & pepper
1/3 cup of water

Method:
1) Heat pan and fry garlic, white part of scallion and chopped ginger.
2) Add minced pork and stir fry meat for 5 mins.
3)Start steaming the tofu on another pot.
4)Add enoki to stir fry meat and cook for another 3 minutes.
Add the gravy mixture and let simmer for 5 minutes.
5)Pour the whole contents of the pan onto the tofu and continue to steam for 10 to 12 minutes.
Garnish with scallion and serve.

Serves: 3 as side dish

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Desperate Men and Pitiful Wives

I guess I am happily married. Curry doesn't appear to be having an affair and after 2 kids with not much of a model physique to flaunt let alone time to patch up on my sagging face due to too much grumbling and frowning over every teeny weeny matter concerning the kids, watching Korean and American soapy dramas and drooling over the hunks is my only extra marital affairs. There are times when our minds don't meet and our hearts ache for stupid reasons. And yet we always patch up and decide to live with each other for better or worse, knowing that it is better to have each other than to have no one!

The recent prostitution saga involving the Governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer is a very good example that prominent individuals do cheat on their spouses like any other disrespectful philanderer and the fact that they hold public offices which are supposedly to project ethical and exemplary behaviors and choices in life makes their illicit activities more despicable than an ordinary person. Although Ex-President Bill Clinton was successful during his 2 terms as President, he will always be known as the man who smudged Monica Lewinsky's blue dress. The US Senator from Idaho, Larry Craig must be thinking that it was all a joke when he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges stemming from his infamous actions in an airport bathroom, of which he is now trying to detract by bringing the matter before the wise men of the Court of Appeal. Certainly he cannot be thinking that he can be both law maker and law breaker simultaneously and the fact that he was alleged to solicit sex from men makes Bill Clinton's liasons modest by all accounts!

While I will never understand why these men can be so capricious in subduing their lusts, I find their wives who stand behind them in their press conferences and trying to put up a stoic face with holding hands amidst all the sneerings of normal thinking women and numerous speculative media equally obnoxious as their philandering husbands. If they choose to believe their husbands and use their own words in their own respective interviews or press conferences, at least the obligatory wives will not look so dumb on camera. Isn't it humiliating enough already to learn that your husband is cheating and the media informing you first hand before he decides to confess that you have to stand at the podium to be further insulted with his denials or admissions and listening him telling about the acts publicly when your mind is perplexed as to the truth and your heart aches like it is going to stop working. For the pride of women, please reserve some dignity.

Monday, March 10, 2008

March Bento Days (2)

Hmmm... the time change yesterday might have not really set in with my body clock as I had to drag my feet to the ground this morning to fulfill my vows of making the Monday bentos. The sun was bright and yet I had the blinds down as it was really poking into my reluctant eyes and knowing that it robbed me of an extra hour of sleep, it ironically made me felt gloomy. Still, the day has to start regardless of my mood.

Never in my life have I imagine that I will be cooking 3 meals a day let alone making pack lunches. In Curry's view, my cooking is pretty good and the kids seem to agree as they haven't rejected anything that I labored myself to fry and broil. My cooking repertoire only started after marriage and with the eager beaver spirit, I took it up with gusto, grinding every spice from scratch, learning the art of the knife to understand what is "julienne"& "chunks" and being the No. 1 fan of the Food Network channel from day to night. My cookbooks were like my Bibles guiding my karma in cooking and I followed every instructions word by word. And the cooking magazines were the only section I was interested in my local Barnes and Nobles. Sometimes great dishes were on the table and at times, I just fed it all down the kitchen sink disposer hoping it will not leave a trace of my failed attempt in order to keep my good name of "the Good wife.

These days, I cook by my own instincts and adopted Rachael Ray's line of "I eyeball everything, no measuring. And a great meal is never more than 30 minutes away." And I found a good partner too... the ever ready sauces and gravy that comes in their enticing packagings. Personally, I love the ones from Malaysia and Singapore as they remind me of so many good food, easily available in those places and yet so scarce and precious over here.

For today's Bento, I made Hot & Spicy Fish (Assam Ikan) using a ready made spice paste. Just had to add something to make it 'homemade' and I opted for shallots and garlics. The magic words printed on the packet was "Ready in 15 minutes". Now, that beats Rachael Ray. As soon as I drop the paste into the hot pot, the aroma was simply evoking to my senses with the pungent red chillis sizzling away with the garlic and shallots to make the best marriage of ingredients. The color was beautiful with red and yellowish swirls and thank goodness for kimchi in revolutionizing my tastebuds, I can see myself slurping a big bowl of the sauce while it simultaneously burns and excites my mouth! The choice of fish were salmon and mackerel as they don't disperse into pieces like cod or halibut when cooked simmered. And the taste was authentic, at least to my level of spiciness with a tinge of sourness which makes the dish so good with plain rice.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Matcha Cinnamon Rolls

Maybe it is my yearning for spring season or too much St. Patrick's atmosphere around where I live, I found myself liking green these days. Even the weed grass that is starting to grow in my small front yard can perk up my mood. The winter must have really blanketed my brain and sight with too much snow as any color I see now including blue skies, evergreen trees, indoor lucky bamboo and ivy are so dazzling in my eyes.

Today was pretty good except for the strong wind. At least no rain and no snow makes an OK day. Tax day was looming near and Curry opted to do his return while the kids do whatever they do everyday, that is make a mess and let mummy pick up later. Having them all to myself during the weekdays has trained me to bear with my stamina and with another one called Curry on the weekends, I am crawling a marathon.



My Matcha supply was plenty and before I turn into something similar to the Green Hulk for drinking too much green anti-oxidant, baking with it was handy. I haven't eaten a cinnamon roll for a long time and while I am still reeling from the success of the Matcha Eclair last week, my oven was put to the test once again.





I located a recipe in the Boston Globe which was pretty simple. No yeast means no waiting; no eggs means no fat; no soaking syrup means no extra fat!! In line with the green theme, I was generously adding 3 tsp of matcha into the flour and the whole dough was a blob of spinach green. Not much kneading was needed and the texture came out fine, not crumbly but crusty on the outside and the right chewiness inside, quite similar to Italian loaf bread. Again I am thankful to whoever invented this method, saving the prospect of me all drenched in flour from having to do multiple kneads and avoiding further mess of my kitchen corner.



As the dough itself and the filling was loaded with sugar, I skipped the sugar icing on the top. There is nothing delicate about these rolls and I just love its rough appearance without all the daintiness of a decorated cake. Tearing it up into parts and dunking some into my coffee makes this windy day a breeze.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Weird Appetites

From the Western point of view, Asians choices of food can be outrageous. The chicken feet soup that I blogged about must have made some who flicked through my page click the exit button as fast as a chicken (still with feets intact) can dash. From the giblets to the wing tips, nothing goes to waste and if there was a Chinese cookbook all about chicken, I am sure the feet is only a minor edible part that can be elaborated about!

I wouldn't say I am with Andrew Zimmern in his bizarre food palete but he is one brave Western soul. But I beat him on one thing that he absolutely found horrendous to swallow while I will happily eat.... the Durian. And I still don't understand how he can easily swallow a frog's beating heart in Japan or live worms in Philippines and lived to elaborate and described their tastes while his encounter with the Durian was so aghast that he was all wrinkled up in expression and swears that he had found his nemesis in life. Compared to the former 2, the Durian is only a creamy fruit with no slimy feeling lingering down the throat nor grimy substances that fill the gum and gaps between teeth and the pungent smell is infact more perfumery scented rather than obnoxiously stinky. Infact I find the smell of celery and cilantro more intoxicating.

We were at an Asian market today and I took some time to really look into things. Near the entrance were trays of eggs, chicken and duck ones and thank goodness no others! These eggs contained embryos of the respective fowl and is widely known as Balut in the Phillipines and I braved myself to take a peek into a cracked one. Although not wholly formed, a black dot eye with developing feathered wings were scary enough for me to take a run with the shopping cart to the fish section at the end of the shop.

At least fish is ok as I suck their eyeballs and love the cheek part. Next was the meat section, where the whole anatomy of a cow and pig that can be managed by the butcher were on display. From huge tongue to honey combed patterned stomach, the sight of raw meat has never been so bloody and before my next bowl of Vietnamese Pho with beef in future, I shall hypnotize myself to forget about today. They don't look so disgusting in their cooked color of brown.

I cannot say I am a brave eater of every kind but there are something that I love. Fish Sashimi appeals to me as epicurean and having a bite of at least 15 assorted pieces with a cup of cold Sake evokes the idea of paradise in my head. Blocks of coagulated pig's blood and black thousand year old egg complement my plain congee. In Japan, I gobbled up raw cow's liver with sesame oil and picked a live small fish in the aquarium at my neighborhood restaurant of which the owner skillfully sliced and presented on my table in 5 minutes and my mom had to turn away for fear of retribution from the fish while I relish the freshness of its flesh.

And to qualify as bizarre in Andrew Zimmern's vocabulary, I surely have a weird taste too since I can eat the Durian and he couldn't. And the thing called Balut that he can chow down easily but not me, will surely top my list of the weirdest and most Bizarre food a human can devour!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Sunny Days and Mummy Naps.

Spring weather was beaming everywhere today. From my morning cup of coffee to the last drop of my afternoon tea, the day couldn't be much more perfect. My mood sprang to life with excitement and anticipation of a day out, making sure that we reap every ray of the sun before the bitter cold and white yucky snow decide to come back!!

Moderation is the best and that goes for good things too. Perhaps I overloaded myself with too much natural Vitamin D, my eyes were droopy come mid-day. Missy E and Prince D, donned in their winter boots and mittens were having fun scooping and building ice castle, which was not very picture ideal and befitting with the sun out. Still, they can get all messy with dirt as long as my hours go by fast and the shower is working.

In times like this, I am thankful I have 2 kids. Seeing them enjoying each other's company while I can sneak away to do something else is absolutely needed. Amidst the wrestling on the floor and the free massage they gave me by stepping and piling all over me, I managed a power nap in their room! It is really an unexplainable phenomenon on how I managed to tick off my mind and body clock for that 20 minutes. I was blissful then, floating in a short dream of which I cannot really recall until I feel twitching. Ya.... it was my wake up call, Prince D was picking my nose! I must have been smelling the roses and pricked by the thorn in my dream!

It has been sometime since I last had a nap. Similar to all stay home mums, my body clock is pretty messed up. Every minute counts and yet I can never recall what I did the past hour or yesterday. Life is always on a fast pace and the kids are always green lights with no navigation and direction. A shower is already a luxury and a good night sleep or nap is a God sent gift.

And to be able to nap, regardless how short on this sunny day just makes my day.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

One Woman Standing

Hillary Clinton's undying enthusiasm and determination in her presidential bid is a boost to every woman's ego. After a downward spiral of losses in some states for the past 3 weeks, I was already thinking that she is fighting a losing battle to the Obamanites and their rhetorical campaigns. Chelsea's constant appearances with her mum at campaign stages and debates venues instead of the Ex-President Bill Clinton must have been the best strategy in Hillary's comeback in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island last night.

My opinion is that Bill Clinton has done more harm than give much assistance in the whole campaigning process. To a lay person like myself, his bickering against Obama went a little bit over the top and it looked more like he himself is the candidate. He is a media magnet and as long as he is in the spotlight, Hillary will only be a shadow and the public cannot see her as an individual running in her own shoes with her own mind and substance. Chelsea, on the other hand campaigned with her own subtle style, approaching voters in her age group and projected Hillary's other side of family warm, which was very important in the nasty world of politics.

Women voters in this election really hold the key to whether Hillary or Obama will win the Democratic party nomination. Despite being known as the ever flickered minded gender, they can be the determining force too when important decisions need to be made, as seen in the demographic of voters in the last 3 states. Hillary's change of her old belligerent tone to a more focused and composed self on the debate stage with Obama these days may have helped to propel her image to the public of a serious leader who rather talk and work it out than whine on stage when confronted with a behemoth of words and good looks.

The pendulum of need to change strategy has swung to Obama now. Nothing is definite in this race, one day one candidate can bring the house down with the ruckus and cheering of its supporters, the next day, the rival ones get to win the debate. It is all a spectator's sport and with 7 more months to go before a new President takes the oath, it will certainly be a good watch!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

My Favorite Things (3)



I love bowls and my passion for them is like Carrie Bradshaw's passion for Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik shoes in Sex and the City. It might be a far fetched comparison but everyone has their own love for something tangible and mine are definitely bowls!!

Be it a small rice bowl or a big soup bowl, their round shape from their top rims curving downwards to their supporting base exudes a sensuous yet simple and sturdy structure to hold whatever is filled into them. Although they may be small in diameter sense compared to a dinner or dessert plate, their versatility is obvious, from holding heart warming homemade soup, rice and noodles to ice cream freshly scooped from the freezer topped with the best fudge sauce or fruits. I like the sense of privacy, encompassing my food all in one spot and out of sight from others while I happily scoop and eat away.

I love my Asian inspired bowls as their varieties in colors and sizes are more appealing compared to the white and unicolored ones I see here in the States. With darker hues used for the patterns and set against the background of an earthy pallette of beige, peach, light yellow or grass green, the bowls that I owned are good enough for both dinnerware use and display in every part of the house. Accentuated with a mahogany place stand, a simple bowl can be as classy and unique as a crystal in a glass lit cabinet. My "Super Bowl" in my collection will be the 2 antique bowls, once owned and inscripted with my grandfather's name, passed down to me from my mom. To be able to own these sentimental bowls is a great honor to me and to have them displayed amongst my other favorite things, I feel so content. Good things do come in small sizes and my bowls are priceless.

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