Monday, June 30, 2008

My Day

If the Americans feed on BBQ all summer long, my family and I feed on cakes! In this small household of mine, we have 2 summer babies and 1 summer adult, each birthday running in the consecutive months of June, July and August. Mine, rightfully being the oldest one of all three, falls on today. I am learning to believe that age is just a number, although the mind and body reluctant to go along with it, hence I will keep the number to myself. All I can say is that I have reached half of my life span and hopefully the next half will be even more meaningful and fun.

After last weekend's party and Missy E's early birthday celebration, I am not keen on sinking my teeth into another cake and definitely not making one for myself. However, Curry dutifully got me one and perhaps I haven't stressed enough to him how I prefer everything else to a chocolate cake, he went and got me one and I believe it has always been his favorite rather than mine. Infact the cake looks almost the same like the one I got for him in February! Ignorance or convenience, I leave it to him to reflect and one of my wishes for this birthday is that Curry will not fade away as a boring and unimaginative spouse and he better learn fast from today or else, I will grow old and cranky and end up a whinning nag bag for the remaining of mine and his lives!!!


For this day, I set out to make the chinese longevity buns, filled with sweet lotus nut paste and my birthday tradition of red egg for my own celebration. These little buns, shaped into bite sized peach shapes and served at the end of birthday celebrations at restaurants (and normally for the Birthday person who are over 50!) is a delight to make. The spraying of the red coloring with a clean bristle brush was the fun part and the buns tastes best when eaten hot from the steamer. The kids were eating one each with Prince D munching away and Missy E, in practising her new found love of criticizing everything, said she only wanted the bun without the filling! I saw that coming as she is pretty funny when eating certain food.... she would dig out all the custard filling from an egg tart and eat the pastry crust only. Like I always say, I am lucky to have 2 kids, both of different characters and preferences and Prince D is always there to pick up the mushed up egg custard and this time, I saved him of sugar overload and made Curry take Missy E's left over lotus paste. Well, he can't make me do the same though in terms of the chocolate cake! And I forsee that 8 inch cake will sit in my fridge for a whole week till I am in a sugar craving mood again.


I look forward to a better year with some goals set out and hopefully I achieve some if not all. So far, I can say that my life has its share of ups and downs just like everyone else and maybe luckier than some but not wholly complete yet. I see the life cycle as a test of one's soul, mind and body and to achieve a new number today and this far is a blessing and I am thankful for what I have been, am now and will be in the future. Happy Birthday to myself. And thank you to all my friends and families who have been sending their wishes.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Princess Wishes

Missy E is definitely growing up fast. Last year she wanted a Balloon theme cake and this year, she was singing to the Cinderella's Godmother "Salla Kah Dulla Michika Bulla" magical spell chant! Needless to say, Cinderella was her wanna be Princess select and she can't get enough of the character and wanted her birthday cake this year to be the Princesses theme.

Except for the paper plates, cups and napkins, everything else were not of the Princess theme for the birthday party menu. I don't really like the idea of throwing a big party for anything and there is no exception in my kids' party. And inviting only a few close friends is my idea of a nice and meaningful birthday rather than going all out to celebrate the occasion with casual acquaintances and parents who dread to be amongst strangers just for the sake to accompany and chaperone their kids who are the real invitees. And also, I admit that I cannot handle too many kids at the same time and making small conversations with everyone else is not my kind of thing.

Missy E was smiling all the way to the bakery to collect her cake and grinning all the way out of it carrying half of the box with Curry. I don't spoil my kids often and her happiness today was genuinely original and she learns to appreciate the moment rather than take things for granted. Yes.... I sound like a stern mother but I would like them to learn from young of life's values rather than letting them expect presents and favors all the time.

Birthday parties are about the parents too and so I set out to have some fun in the kitchen and invited the parents of our special little guests. While the girls and my little Prince D tagging along, have their own little time dressing up and doing whatever suits their tastes of the day, the adults were treated to a long lunch and a short game of tennis. Yup, Wimbledon fever is in except that champagne is not favored and strawberries were not picked this week!

It was really a test of my stamina and time management skills in working out today's dishes. I always love finger food and hors d'oeuvres and today was the perfect day to make them, easy small bites for the little ones and many choices for the adults to nibble the time away. Today's taste were totally Western and I sure hope everyone enjoyed the varieties. Mini sizes as they may be, but they made the best party food for my Missy E's special day. I wish her a very Happy Sweet 4th Birthday and may she grow up healthy and happy with all her dreams coming true.











Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Heinous and Unpunishable

Today's results from the US Supreme Court decision on whether the punishment by death of convicted child rapists should be implemented left me disappointed and sad. Although I am a liberal person and would see things from both side, I don't see why these type of people deserves any type of mercy from the lethal shot of death. With due respect, the judges should have unanimously allowed the death penalty as the crime itself is the epitome of devil's work at its worst and the perpetrators do not deserve another day on earth nor allowed to rot in the prison cells that we, the law abiding taxpayers pay for!
Rape of any kind is heinous and rape of a child is equivalent of murdering a helpless individual. Any sorts of wrongdoing against a child from pornography, abduction, abuse to prostitution is unforgivable. Rape should be the one that justifies the most severe law penalty. How is a child will ever be normal anymore after such incidents and no matter what therapy they receive from good intention organizations and personnels, the gruesome details of the crime will never be erased in their whole life. As in all of us, we can sometimes forget good times but we never forget those who has crossed us and made our lives miserable. I cannot imagine what these children go through everyday, fear of every adult, the dark, nightmares and not having any confidence in anything they do. Regardless of all the love and support from their families or good hearted people whom themselves are not the ones who were victimised, these children are the only one who have to understand their own situation and learn to trust and grow up with a difficult mental state and anguish personality.
When a child is born, a new life begins. Growing up safely is their right and we parents struggle our best to give them the most in life and to see such bad things happening to your own child generates a mixture of anger and sadness beyond any words describable. Sometimes, these children are the victims within their own families, as in this particular case that was referred to the US Supreme Court in the first place and if the highest court cannot see the importance of setting a good law to deter the numbers of such incidents happening again, will the victims ever feel justice and peace within themselves? It is not a good course to exhort the saying "An Eye for an eye, A tooth for a tooth" but some crimes are just so darn wrong that requires no further consideration for appeal nor forgiveness at all and the perpetrators should be made to pay with the utmost price, their undeserving lives! To be eliminated from the face of the earth and giving the victims the assurance that these people will never ever surface again to haunt their thoughts and lives is the best justice they can get.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Recipe of the Day: Beef Stew with Carrot & Potato

The analogy of comfort food can vary among all tastebuds. Some people like it sweet like rich bread pudding, others prefer spicy like curry and kimchi soup with noodle and sometimes a plain steamed chicken with its natural broth blending in with the fragrant ginger tastes heavenly and comforting in every sense. Perhaps the similarities lies in the fact that all comfort food are mostly the types of dishes that one grew up with, whether lovingly made in one's family kitchen or originated from one's own culture's taste and usage of ingredients.

To me, comfort food means something that I feel so warm and satisfied when I take the first mouthful and leaves my appetite yearning for more till I finish the whole plate and still relish it after it is all gone. The wholesome factor that makes the mouth watering and gulping when seeing it and simultaneously the aroma reminding me of how good it was the last time I had it and now I want to eat it so badly....yup . That sums up the idea of comfort food in my food vocabulary!
Although beef is not my favorite meat, beef stew with its simmered thick gravy filled with potato and carrot is something I fancy. The meat being first pan seared to seal in the juices and then submerged into a big pot covered with spices and condiment sauces and simmered for more than one hour is a very easy cooking method that I don't have to monitor throughout and yet makes the waiting so worth it. As this dish contains potato which is the starch and carb element, the staple rice can be omitted during serving time. I used red potatoes as it cooks faster and gives a nicer color to the dish, together with the bright orange carrot. The meat is tender, completely immersed with the gravy and requiring little chewing before the next piece is savored. The gravy will reduce in amount and thicken throughout the cooking.

Ingredients:

2 to 2.5 lbs of chuck roast meat, cut to chunks
6 medium size carrot
3 large red potatoes
4 small shallots , sliced
6 cloves of garlic, sliced
3 cups of dark soy sauce
1/2 cup of light soy sauce
1 tsp black pepper
5 cups of water


Marinate:
4 tbsp dark soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt & pepper each
3 tbsp Chinese cooking wine

3 tbsp dried oregano


Method:
1)Marinate the meat with the marinate ingredients for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.
2)Heat a stock pot with cooking oil and pan fry the meat for 5 minutes on each side. Remove.
3)Add 2 tbsp of cooking oil to the same pot and fry the garlic and shallots till fragrant.
4)Add in the meat, black pepper and both the dark and light soy sauce. Cover with lid and on medium fire, let simmer for 10 minutes.
5)Add in the water and let simmer further for 1 hour or till meat becomes tender, falling apart.
6)Add in the potato and carrot and continue to simmer for 10 to 12 mins.
7)Serve in bowl with gravy.


Serves: 4 persons


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mango & Strawberry Pudding Tart

Nothing says summer better than a fruit tart. And no fruit tart is perfect without the ubiquitous summer fruit, strawberry. The sweet smell that exudes from this fruit is very tantalizing to the nerves and when picked fresh from the farm, one can never get enough of its squirting and dripping sweet red juice that smudge the fingers, lips and sometimes everywhere on the shirt. To describe the fruit, I think everything about the strawberry is sexy. Well, for a foodie, I tend to relate every food to every word description that I can find in a dictionary! And to say strawberries is sensuous is not a taboo!

The other fruit that is equally tempting is the mango. Having its origins in the tropical corners of the world, the mango that I get from the local grocery here is limited to the Tommy Atkins breed, which I would say is not the best in taste and color. Compared to the ones that are cultivated in South East Asia, this one tends to be lacking in its juice content and the sweetness is subtle with a more fibrous flesh and doesn't produce the succulent bite with a buttery like texture as in the Champagne Ataulfo type.



For this tart, I attempted the filling with a pudding like texture, as I think anything mango should be served cold to give that sweet cooling kick to the palate, which is appropriate on a hot summer day. I pureed some strawberries and mango pieces and added them to the custard powder, which is similar to the one that the Chinese dim sum restaurants use in their mango pudding. I might have possibly added too much of the custard powder, as the texture was a bit lumpy than creamy but it gave me an advantage for easier piping it into the sweet dough tart cases. The tart texture was very good, with buttery aroma lingering in every bite and it stayed crisp inside out. Nevermind the fillings, tarts are all about the shells, as long as it holds well and not soggy, it is the best teatime treat, eaten with or without fork.
We have been going mad picking strawberries over the week and besides these fruit tarts, they were used to make smoothies too. I love my smoothie thick, coating and leaving a moustache with every gulp. The kids were more amazed with the blender and seeing the strawberries turn from red round solid to pink mushy cream. All I can say is summer is sweeter with strawberries and more luscious with mango to go with it!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father Figure

Father's Day is celebrated today. For those who are celebrating with their families, it is a happy occasion and a happy feeling to a man that he is loved, respected and admired by his children. And for those who have passed, the surviving family members can only reminisce the good times shared and given to them by their departed fathers.

My father has passed on for almost 9 years now but I never forget whatever we had together as father and daughter. He was a strong figure and never failed to educate and pamper me at the same time. His sudden demise was a blow to my mind and soul and every year on the anniversary of his death, my mind will linger back to that day when I saw him for the last time. His words and actions are still fresh in my memory and sometimes I do feel that he hasn't left me at all and now with my own kids, I see the resemblance of my own hopes and dreams as a parent with his pattern of upbringing me and my brothers. As with all Chinese fathers, he never uttered the lovey dovey words but his hardwork in the office and his own time given up shuffling us here and there at the ring of the school bell and his determination to put us all through tertiary education levels are proofs of his fatherly love.

Sometimes I think it is harder to be a father than a mother. Women are natural nag bags and they can simply tell all about their joys and sorrows but fathers have to maintain a more stoic face and be the decision maker in most of the family issues. They are expected to settle mishaps and problems, minor or major.... everyone seems to call Dad to save the day. Although I am a tough mother myself , sometimes I do break down mentally when I have been with the kids for too long or when my moody days strikes, I will just beg Curry to save my day before it becomes more unbearable and let me take a break. Perhaps a little reluctant but yet he never said no.

To all fathers, you are treasured as much as the mothers. Love your kids and understand them as they will always look up to their dads as their heroes in everything. Happy Father's Day.

Friday, June 13, 2008

June Bento Days (5)

Haven't been making Bentos for Curry for a month now and with the summer days and good weather, I think he would prefer to lunch at those quick places with bars when he can enjoy a bottle of beer rather than being cooped up in the office. And I am getting pretty lethargic these days with the allergies attacking mostly in the morning when my nose is totally out of form from the sneezing and sniffles.

However, when one gives me a break, another one always has something going on. Missy E was at summer camp for 5 days this week and she had to bring her lunch box and seriously, I think I am a very hard working mom! Anyhows, it was her first time in using her cute pink Bento box, complete with matching fork, spoon and chopsticks and so the food that it contains must be good and presentable too.

Packing lunch boxes for kids can be challenging too as it is smaller and yet there must be varieties to entice their little palates. Moreover it is summer and any type of food that is packed will need to withstand a certain time before lunch time. Lucky me, I found the smallest ice pack and compact lunch tote for her Bento box at one of those junk stores where they sell all sorts of things that you thought you can never find and yet they stock it up the shelves! I guess the title 'stay home mom' should be omitted in my case and changed to 'multi tasking mum' as having kids really make one work so much harder from taking care of the house to shopping for them.

Missy E surely enjoys her food and doesn't need any supervision during meal time and if only Prince D can be half as good as she is, I can have my own nice lunchbox too with all the colors and flavors! Everyday she came back with an empty box and I am glad she enjoyed all the food that I packed so far, although I will admit that another week of summer camp will surely drive me nuts as I have totally run out of ideas. I really admire the BentoBoxes blogger mums who can do this everyday and sometimes their creativities are just mind boggling.

I guess this week was a good practice for me as I will have to do it everyday when Missy E and Prince D enter full day school next time. All I can say is... for the love of my kids, I will do it. The idea of downing processed food and high sugary and fat snacks at some of the school lunches really makes me more determined to do this and what is more important is the health of my kids and not the extra sleep that I can get from the morning stretch.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cocoa Charlotte with Strawberry Mousse

It is the middle of the week and I must be crazy to attempt baking with the kids screaming and running around. Throughout the whole process, I was working fast with both hands doing whisking and stirring at opposite sides of the countertop. With the new mixer I got from Mother's Day, I figured that I can do more than I can handle.

Father's day will be this Sunday and we are celebrating early as Curry will be out of town. Well, just another excuse so that we can all eat something fattening and creamy. As he is the main breadwinner, anything we buy from the store will be his own buying anyway, so making him something from our kitchen will be the most original idea!
Although I dislike doing craft work, this cake appealed to me. Aligning and arranging those sponge fingers together was like building a jigsaw puzzle. As my piping skills was equally lousy, I got irregular shapes and lengths when piping those sponge batter and within the chaos, I actually knocked down one baking sheet full of the piped batter on the floor! Luckily, it wasn't face down or else I swear I will not bake again and declare my Bake Galore closed!
The multiple recipes I saw on Charlotte uses the Bavarian Cream as filling. I was tempted to cook up a strawberry version but the richness of the egg content kind of put me off the idea when the sponge fingers itself was made up mainly of eggs too. I used the strawberry mousse version which comprised of heavy cream and strawberry puree. The gelatin was the main ingredient and without it, the sponge cake would have fallen apart with pink mousse spilling all over. The ribbon wouldn't even save the day then!
Overall, the baking part was easy and perhaps the piping part was supposed to be easy too as I didn't even use any of the piping tips but straight from the piping bag itself. The addition of cocoa was because Curry always like chocolate cake but I will avoid baking with it if possible as I can only handle chocolate on a bar, while baking and cooking with it means messiness and extra fat from the licking of the left over in the mixing bowl. Strawberry is in season and pink is always nice on a cake. I would think peach will be a nice color and flavor too with this cake. As the sponge fingers were uneven in lengths, I trimmed them and Missy E and Prince D were happily picking up the trims and gobbling away their afternoon snack of the day. The springform pans were a saver as you can easily release the side latch and slowly take out the molded cake after a 2 hour setting in the fridge. As usual, I made 2 smaller sizes of this cake and probably it is much easier to assemble and molded this way rather than do a big one.
The cakes have been left untouched till this hour as I would like the mousse to set firmer and since the kids are already in bed, we will enjoy it tomorrow. Afterall, I already know what it tastes like as I dipped the remaining sponge into the remaining mousse.... what can I say except that I might have to lock the fridge tonight to avoid the cakes becoming my midnight snack!
Happy Father's Day Curry! Be a better father than you are already now and our kids are the luckiest ones! I will save my compliments till there is a Happy Husband's Day.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Recipe of the Day: Pineapple Tomato Chicken

Summer sure comes early this year. The appetites crave for all things light and easy and I wish I can feed my clan with salad all day long and not turn on the stove at all. However, that is definitely impossible unless all Curry, Missy E and Prince D can stop asking me the same question everyday... 'what is for dinner?' Their expectations are high and I cannot be lazy at all!

Pineapple is a very refreshing fruit and lucky for us, we can get them at the grocery. I am very lousy at carving out a fresh pineapple and by the time I finished carving out the 'eyes', the original size could have been shrunk to a remaining 1/3 only. So, only on good days and when I am feeling all crafty with the knife will I get the sweet smelling ones or else the canned ones are as good as I can get.

I am amazed on the different types and sizes of tomatoes available in the market today. Small ones like grapes and cherry are favorites in my Bento boxes while the huge ones go into the stew and soup pot. For this dish, I used the small ones with firmer texture.

The taste of this dish is sweet with a watery sauce that simply can be eaten on its own. The pineapple releases juice during the cooking and the tomatoes were added later to retain their shapes and color. I used the Japanese citrus Ponzu sauce to marinate the chicken to give it a tinge of tartness. Having this dish on a hot day kind of cool down the tastebuds and you don't feel stuffed with any heavy gravy. The pineapple and tomatoes are good combinations for any summer dish.



Ingredients:

15 small tomatoes, all halved
10 canned ring pineapples, quartered
1 lb chicken thigh meat, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tbsp Ponzu citrus sauce
salt & pepper
3 leaves of scallions, white part retained

Method:

1)Marinate the chicken meat with the Ponzu sauce, salt and pepper.
2)On high heat, heat oil in wok and fry the garlic, shallot and white part of scallion for 1 minute.
3)Add in the chicken and continue to stir fry and toss for 3 minutes.
4)Add in the pineapple and mix thoroughly. Turn down the heat and cover wok with lid for 7 to 10 minutes till the chicken is opaque.
5)Add in the tomatoes and cover and let simmer for another 7 minutes till the tomatoes begin to soften but not mushy.
6)Add salt to taste. Serve and garnish with scallion.

Serves: 3 persons

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