Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Blueberry Yogurt Cupcake

I haven't baked since X'mas and there is not much going on this month to entice me doing it. Perhaps I baked too many cookies last month, I totally have no desire to make the Chinese New Year cookies this time. A big thank you to Crazymommy for her pineapple cookies and Kuih Bangkit, a Malaysian/Singaporean rice flour cookie or else I will just let this New Year celebration pass by without tasting the auspicious & perhaps superstitious pineapple cookies that is supposed to mean prosperity coming, literally translated from the ever so colorful Chinese language!

Believe it or not, before today, I had never made a cupcake in my life. Despite it being the craze and fad of the baking world with its endless possibilities of flavoring and decorations, I never kind of follow that trend. Perhaps when there are just too many of them in cookbooks, cafes and also blogs, I got overwhelmed and rather do different things. But there is always a first time and I had a yearning for cakes when I see them in the grocery stores, I made some today. Afterall, I had to shovel the snow to get the car in and out of the parking lot and I must eat something sweet to get by the day!

My grandmother used to tell me that not all cakes are baked even and they may look ugly but taste good and the icing always covers up all those cracks and uneven browning. True enough with these cupcakes, they were moist but didn't come out perfectly in shapes. But I find them pretty with the lilac color from the blueberry yogurt I added and the natural brown and cracks made them looked rustic and homemade. I had no idea why I bought a tub of whipped cream last week, possibly the urge to eat something creamy and fattening which is a very common appetite in winter time and I put it to use with these cupcakes. I sliced off the top part of the cakes, spooned some of the whipped cream and popped in some fresh blueberries as garnish before replacing the top part. This method can also be used to spruce up any store bought cupcakes if baking from scratch is not an option and little touches makes everything more special.

I used cake flour for these cupcakes as I find it yields a more softer and more moist texture compared to all purpose flour. Possibly I added too much yogurt, the cakes were a bit heavy, tender and moist. I had to move them from the oven to the cooling rack with care but once they were completely cooled, they became firmer.

Ingredients :

1-1/3 cup cake flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup softened butter
2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
3/4 cup blueberry flavored yogurt or plain yogurt

For garnish/filling
3/4 cup whipped cream
1/3 cup fresh blueberries


Makes: 4 big sized cupcakes or 6 small ones







Method:

1. Preheat oven to 375'F. Cream the butter with a mixer. Add in sugar and continue to mix till creamy and light.

2. Beat in the egg and mix evenly.

3. Sift the cake flour with the baking powder. Add 1/3 portion into the butter mixture with a spatula by folding in.

4. Add in 1/3 part of the yogurt and mix evenly.

5. Continue adding the flour and yogurt in the previous orders. The mixture will be thick.

6. Add in the blueberries and gently fold in to spread them out evenly in the cake batter.

7. Bake for 25 mins or till toothpick test comes out clean. Cool completely on rack.

8. Slice top parts of cakes and using a plastic baggie to contain the whipped cream, pipe cream onto the bottom parts of the cakes, garnish with some blueberries and replace the top part of the cake. For a better presentation, dust with confectioner sugar.


January Bento Days (4)

Missy E has been missing alot of school days due to this month's snow. To end the month, she is out again today and the remaining Friday of this month. For a while I thought if I had a crystal ball and predicted this, possibly we would have gone back to Malaysia to enjoy the Chinese New Year instead. I know, winter gets to my nerves as if I am never thinking straight when I see the snow coming down!

These Bentos were a last minute idea, hence not too fancy but equally colorful. There are infact alot of ingredients that I have never used before in my Bentos, for example, lima & red beans, beet root, melon balls and radish. Sometimes, it takes experimentation of one thing to understand the fun of doing it and exploring further from there and be more open to new tastes and textures. As long as my kids are up for it, I don't mind feeding them new things and I am lucky that they are as adventurous as me in terms of food.

Making sushi rice rolls is still a challenge and my weakness which I have never improve so far! There is this art of making sushi rice rolls with cute characters and patterns created by arrays of colors of rice and I seriously would love to do it for future Bentos but until I get the most basic ones done, I will have the ideas of patterned sushi rolls kept aside.
I pan fried an omelette and rolled it with slices of ham in the rice and nori. As the contents were not compact, I inserted peas after the cutting and the sushi rice looked much better with a touch of green. I skewered bluberries on a decorative cocktail pick and cut up the baby tomatoes into wedges. Baby carrots are fun to dip and eat and the floral cheese cut out completed the boxes. There was once an email circulating around about these baby carrots that it may be harmful but with so many food contamination news and not one concerning baby carrots, I continue to use them once in a while for snacks. I love frozen peas and corn and I buy them dutifully every week like I get the loaf of bread when I am at the grocery store.

The blueberries were a big hit with Prince D but the carrots were still a bit too hard for his teeth. Funnily, he loved to use the cocktail pick to poke all the peas together and eat them all in one go. Missy E loves dipping in ranch cream and the mini silicon cups hold the right amount.




Friday, January 23, 2009

Chinese New Year Sticky Cake

Kung Hee Fatt Choy/ Kong Hei Fatt Choi/Gong Xi Fa Chai..... Happy Chinese New Year.

The biggest celebration for the Chinese people and I wish all those who celebrate, whether they are of the Hakka origin like myself, Cantonese origin like Curry, all the other Chinese ethnicities who speaks Chinese Mandarin or other dialects and also my American Chinese kids who only speaks English most of the time a very prosperous, healthy and Happy new year!!! May your hard work throughout the new Year of the Ox reaps lots of profits and returns.

I have missed out celebrating this Chinese New Year festival back in Malaysia for 9 years now but I am sure the fun and atmosphere is forever fun over there during this time of the year. No matter how small or big the families are, they all come together to celebrate the New Year for 15 days and each day is auspicious with its own theme. Snacking away on snacks, clementines and tangerines is like a must thing to do and I love the idea that we all sit down for complete Chinese breakfast on the 1st and 2nd day... eating rice and all sorts of dishes with good and lucky names and meanings to boost the spirits and luck of everyone. The kids are donned in pretty colors of Chinese costumes and ever so eager to see an adult to get the lucky money red packets (Ang Pows) and numerous open houses to attend by the adults. Talking of noise and spirit of celebrations, the Chinese people is certainly looking forward to this festival.


My favorite of all the goodies served during this celebration is the Chinese New Year sticky cake, made of brown sugar and glutinous rice flour. I remember when I was studying in England , I always called home and asked my mum to freeze one whole of this cake in the freezer so that when I am home for the summer holidays, I can eat it. Those were the days when I was ignorant of the world of cooking and haven't heard the 'my calling' as they said, in the joy of cooking. And for this year's celebration, I wanted to make this cake and thank goodness for my Kitchen Aid mixer, it saved me alot of time handling the sticky and gooey mixture. This cake is normally eaten sliced and deep coated with beaten egg and pan fried. I was too excited and just had to try it freshly steamed and straight out of the steamer. It tasted so good, the gooey sticky and chewiness with the subtle sweetness of the brown sugar just makes it a delight to eat and I actually finished one whole small bowl. The recipe here yields 4 bowls, measuring 4 inches in width and almost 3 inches in height.


Ingredients:

450 gm glutinous rice flour
400 gm Chinese blocks brown sugar
1 -3/4 cup water
2 tsp vegetable oil
4 jujubes/red dates


Method:

1. Bring the water and brown sugar to boiling point and reduce the heat and simmer for 10 mins till the sugar dissolves completely. Remove from heat and when warm to the touch, add the vegetable oil. Scoop out 1/4 cup of the syrup and let cool separately.

2. Put all the flour into the mixer bowl. Grease the hook attachment with some vegetable oil and attach to the mixer.

3.When the sugar syrup is still warm, pour into the flour and lightly mix with a spatula. Attach to mixer and turn on slow speed and let mix for 3 mins. Increase the speed to medium and let mixer run for another 10 to 15 mins, with intervals stop to scrap off the flour on the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing. The mixture will become heavy and sticky.

4. Prepare the steamer with boiling water.

5. Get ready the steaming bowls. Line each with banana leaves, cut to small squares and line crisscross to cover all sides of the bowls. Alternatively, just wipe vegetable oil all over the bowls if the banana leaves are not available.

6.Grease a spatula or spoon with vegetable oil. Scoop the flour & sugar mixture into the bowls, filling up and leave 1/2 inches on the top of the bowls. Knock the bowls on the countertop to get rid of air bubbles and smooth out the top part.

7. Divide the remaining 1/4 cup syrup among the bowls and pour on top and spread out.

8. Steam for 1 hour & 30 mins. 10 mins beforehand, add the jujube for garnish. The color will be caramel brown and the texture will be wet but firm and sticky.

9. Remove from heat and can be eaten fresh or store in the fridge and sliced to coat with beaten egg and pan fried the next day. It can be reheated by steaming for 10 mins. Always cut the cake first straight out of the fridge before deep frying or steaming.
Serves : 6 persons

Thursday, January 22, 2009

January Bento Days (3)

'What? Another Bento?'..... I heard my friends and whoever is shouting out there. Yes.... my interest in Bento just keeps going and as long as I have a family to feed, I will come up with these boxed home made lunch till they ask me to stop.

A friend once asked me on which category I am best at in this cooking life of mine. Frankly speaking, I don't know and cannot pinpoint to any category but I would say making these Character Bentos consume most of my time and attention and if my kids want them everyday, I will not be able to do it. I always feel bad that I cannot do any craft work with my kids as I believe making crafts can increase a young child's imagination and motor skills tenfolds and the reason I sent Missy E to playschool at 3 years old was to let her experience that part of fun through her teacher and class activities. I simply have no patience cutting, coloring and glueing anything and doing anything with kids means extra time of cleaning up and extra mess than normal!

But doing these Bentos.... I have a different mind. While the kids can cut and paste things, but their crafts and arts always get tossed off into the bin in the end. And I figure at least everything I make for the Bentos goes into their tummies and serves a more fulfilling purpose. Afterall, they have to eat lunch and why not make it an exceptional lunch for their enjoyment and also to keep the mum crafty.

I haven't managed to find the smiling expression face punches yet and I had to improvise. Once in a while I will take the kids to the craft stores and get inspired as to what they can make or do and I came across these small craft punches which are used by scrapbooking moms to embellish their craft work. Lucky for me, they were on sale this week for 50 cents each and I bought a dog paw and dragonfly shape. I just used the dog paw shape and punched out the eye shapes and picked up the little pieces to make the nose part of the rice balls faces. Although the punched out shapes were not as exact and perfect, they did served the purpose and that is a reason I like doing these Bentos. Planning makes me think and it is challenging to put an array of colors and think of the nutrition contents of each piece.

I made mini beef burgers with melted cheese on top, served over some sushi rice. The cherry tomatoes were stuffed with ham disks to add color and texture while the carrot and long beans were boiled prior to cutting and filling into the boxes. Sausages are very common in kids Bento boxes and they can be cut into any shapes that fits the imagination. The only problem is that I haven't found a good brand which is not too salty. I normally boil them for some time to get rid of all the saltiness.

It was very funny to see the kids eat them. Missy E simply has no mercy at all when she poked and messed up the girl's face within seconds. While Prince D looked dazed and mumbling to me, presumably questionning on how to eat the boy's face. That really tells me something, both of them grow up very differently and their thinking is so opposite. See.... I do learn something from food crafting too.



Tuesday, January 20, 2009

January Bento Days (2)

Today's post should have been about President Obama but I think the whole day coverage of the inauguration on TV and the internet have covered that. Still, I am as excited and amazed as those people who were in Washington DC and all over America, truly a moment of history in the making and an inspirational achievement of an individual, not through privileges of silver spoon upbringing nor advantages by reason of race nor color but through ordinary real life experiences of the working class life, importance regard to education as a means to improve and the belief in dreams and hope for a better future.

I don't know about Obama and his excitement, I was up at 2 am this morning and stayed awaked and lying in bed up to 4.30am!!! Not that I am that fanatic and certainly not the reason that kept me up, it was just Prince D was crying loud after a nightmare and my sleep was disturbed. I didn't realize when have I became so sensitive or perhaps a sign of old age catching up when the 8 hours sleep cycle is no longer a necessity and the time 4am will soon be the dawn of my days.

And so the story went on that I didn't crawl out of bed and Curry left without his lunchbox. As part of my resolution this year to make better Bentos, I persevered to make it and took 10 minutes drive to his office with the kids to deliver his lunch. Missy E enjoyed the idea of delivering her daddy's lunch bag.

For today's Bento, I coated the salmon with the ubiquitous Eel grilling sauce (Unagi sauce) and pan fried it and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The sauce is very thick, sweet and gives a nice glaze to the fish. I used some left over of the taro puffs fillings of minced pork with shiitake mushroom and shrimp to stuff the Japanese deep fried tofu pouches (Inari) and steamed it for 10 minutes. The Inari itself is sweet with a tinge of saltiness out from the can and added flavor and texture. The vegetable part consisted of diced carrot and green beans, stir fried with pieces of Japanese yam cake (Konyakku). The texture of Konyakku is like hard cooked gelatine, chewy and absorbs flavor from other ingredients like tofu. And no matter how long I simmer them, they never fall apart and retain their texture. I love broccoli florets and wish I can find the purple ones in future. But everyone in my household never eat them raw though and I always cook and soften them in boiling water prior to serving. Clementines are in season now and sweet. The only thing is that they have seeds in them and I guess we have been spoiled long enough with all the seedless versions of oranges and grapes that spitting out seeds after every slice of the clementine takes some effort!!


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Taro Puffs

Every year at Chinese New Year time, I tend to miss my hometown in Malaysia very much. Since young, I have always loved Chinese New Year with its food goodies, especially the big square tin of prawn crackers and of course the red packet money that my parents and elders gave out. Even now, married with kids and I have to do the giving, I still enjoy it. Celebrations here are kept to the minimum and it is just not the same when family members are far and widely scattered all over the world! I just hope Missy E and Prince D will have a chance one day to experience the atmosphere of this celebration back in Asia and it will be so much fun seeing them running around with their cousins collecting the red packets, anticipating the arrival of the lion dance and snacking on the dried candied persimmons and candies that simply spread on the table in every Chinese homes.

I believe all the hard working wives of the Chinese households are baking or cooking up something during this whole week up to the actual day of celebration. One thing I know is that there are always alot of deep fried stuffs like mini curry puffs, prawn crackers, cashew nuts and peanuts and I always envy houses in Malaysia where they can have both the indoor dry kitchen and outdoors wet kitchen, when all the frying takes place outside the house while I have to open up the whole kitchen windows in this -5C snowy weather so that we don't suffocate from the frying oil.

I wanted to make this Taro Puffs for a long time but never gathered the courage to do it. My mum made this Puffs 3 or 4 times when I was young and perhaps only succeeded twice and she warned me it was the most difficult thing to make. Indeed it was. I made the fillings a day before and the outer skin and frying on the next day. The forming and wrapping up of the 18 puffs took me almost 30 mins and the deep frying part took another 3o minutes. A better advice for those who has no patience... don't do it and just get some at your next Dim Sum outing. But for those who might be as crazy as myself or simply determined to do anything, try it out and if you can make this, nothing else will be difficult to make anymore when deep frying is concerned. The satisfaction of seeing these puffs puffed and browned in the hot boiling oil with its frilly and crusty crust forming is beyond words. My first 4 simply disintegrated and I was disheartened a bit. I cranked up the heat again and continued and suddenly each was blooming up nicely and ended up with 12 perfect ones. Curry gave the thumbs up for my effort and Missy E loved it, while I myself slowly savored the crusty skin with the soft mushy taro inside, complemented by the shiitake mushrooms and moist minced pork and shrimp fillings. It took me so much time to make it and only I understood the need to eat it slowly!

Ingredients:

600 gm Taro (cut to slices, steamed till soft & mashed)
1 - 1/3 cup wheat starch

6 tbsp vegetable shortening

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1-1/2 tsp baking powder


Filling: 2 cloves garlic, minced; 1 small shallot, minced; 250gm minced pork; 150gm peeled and cut raw shrimp; 5 shiitake mushroom, sliced to small pieces; 1 egg yolk; 1 tsp cornflour added to 3 tbsp water; 2/3 cup water; 2/3 tsp salt; 1/3 tsp sugar; 1 tsp sesame oil; 2 tbsp oyster flavored sauce

Method:

1. In a bowl, mix the minced pork, shrimp, mushroom, salt, sugar and sesame oil thoroughly.

2. Heat pan with some cooking oil. Fry the minced garlic and shallot for 30 seconds. Add in the minced pork mixture and cook for 3 minutes, continuously stirring with spoon. Add in the water and let simmer further for 10 to 15 mins on low heat. Add in oyster flavored sauce and simmer for 2 mins. Add in the cornstarch and stir so the gravy becomes thick. Turn off heat and spoon fillings into a bowl.

3. Add in the egg yolk and stir to combine. Let cool to room temperature or store in fridge.

4. Boil 1 cup of water. Turn down the heat and mix in the wheat starch. It will turn to thick, sticky paste. Remove from heat and leave to rest for 5 mins.

5. Mash the taro first and then add in the vegetable shortening, sugar, salt and baking powder and mash together. Add in the wheat starch paste and knead to combine. Use hands to ensure better mixing.

6. Take some of this taro paste (use 1 scoop of dinner spoon as measurement) and flatten it on your palm and spoon some filling in the middle. Slowly wrap up from the sides and gather up to enclose in the middle top and shape to ovals. Wrap up all the puffs before starting the deep frying part.

7. Heat up deep frying oil ( 3 cups or more) on medium heat. The oil must be boiling hot before deep frying starts. Check with a piece of the taro paste, it is ready when it immediately sizzles once it touches the oil. Get ready a frying Asian Ladle (Spider Skimmer) and dip it into the hot oil for 1 min.

8. Put 1 or 2 pieces of taro puffs inside the Ladle (spaced & apart) and dip into hot oil. If the wheat starch starts to disperse and floats away from the taro filling, the oil is not hot enough. If it immediately browns with the frilly crusts forming and everything intact, keep an eye, they will cook very fast, about 20 seconds. Once brown, take out and drain oil on kitchen towel.

9. Continue with the rest in small batches of 1 or 2 and don't rush. Place in individual paper cases and serve at room temperature. These puffs are best eaten the day they are made.

Makes: 15 to 18 pieces


Thursday, January 15, 2009

January Bento Days (1)

Super cold day and we stayed indoors. At the time I am doing this post, it is -4'C outside. This winter has been brutal and I wonder how long will this cold span lasts. It takes forever to bundle up when going out and walking and driving after an overnight freeze can be very nerve wrecking. Even my mail box doesn't open and frozen shut!
Recently I have been able to access blogs from Japan and I am just lost for words when I see the Japanese bloggers do their Bento boxes. From the painstaking effort of creating a Character or Kyaraben to a simple arranged multitude of ingredients to create the eye pleasing and palate tempting lunch, Japanese people are so creative. Patience plays an important part in this art of lunch box and early planning and preparation of the matching ingredients contributes to a successful attempt every time.
Infact I am so inspired and I wanted to do it more often for the kids. Prince D has reached the age when he understands possessions and whatever his sister has, he must have too. He may still be too young for a Bento box lunch as he can hardly aim his spoon right to his mouth, let alone eating neatly from a compactly arranged box of food. But having kids with 2 years of gap between them makes teaching both together of life's rules and ways easier and I always look for ways to maximize education in both Missy E and Prince D in the most minimum time. And I believe kids learn faster from their own kind than the adult or parent paying too much attention on little details.
I made each of them a Bento Box today. Of course, the portions were for Missy E and Prince D shared his with me. I made potato croquette simply by mashing up cooked potato with some butter and milk and coating them with breadcrumb and pan fried them with vegetable oil. The broccoli florets and carrot chunks were boiled before I cut them into flower patterns with mini cookie cutter. It took me alot of time to release the carrot cutting by poking them out of the rim of the cookie cutter as they were so small. I always think quail eggs were made for kids, adults shun it for having so high cholesterol but kids have not as much concern as we do and they love their baby eggs. For my first attempt of a character Bento, I chose a simple one. Using toasted black sesame seeds and carrot, I poked them into the eggs to make eyes and beak of ducks look alike. Prior to this I poked the eggs with toothpick so that the indentation can hold the seeds and carrot better. Next I attempted the cow. With a teddy bear face sushi mould, I cut the shape out of white cheese and and sliced off the ears part. For the cow's face, I shredded some nori and randomly stuck them all over to give the black and white effect. For the ears and nose part, I cut shapes from yellow cheese. Not a very successful attempt and needed a bit more practising. The blackberries serves as a nice filler and added patterns and color to the Bento.
Missy E finished up everything and I am proud of her for being a neat eater. Prince D on the other hand, has lots to learn for his motor skills and table manners. They were happy.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Potato & Meat Pie

It is that time of the year again. Where resolutions are set, plans are made and hopes are high. One and half week into January, I already felt my days are long and most of the times my mind is not thinking right due to the setting in of stuffy nose and chest with a lingering cough that slows down everything. Weekly snow and ice storms don't help with the miserable feeling of cabin fever and gloomy expectations of the economy surrounds everyone I see outside the house. Other than looking forward to spring, nothing seems to be uplifting the spirits these days.

Another big snow day today and I wanted to make something warm and homey for the kids. The sack of potatoes still sitting in the basement needed to be used up before it started sprouting. I got the idea of making this dish from the Good Food April 2008 issue which was originally known as Cottage Pie. A tweak here and there, my version turned out good to warm the souls and provided a light lunch for all of us who just want a lazy day on the couch with no rush to anywhere.



Ingredients:

1/2 lb minced beef
2/3 cups frozen peas
1 onion, sliced & cut to pieces
2/3 cup water
2 tsp cornflour added to 3 tsp water
6 medium size potatoes
2 medium carrots
2 & 1/2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup milk
salt & pepper
dried oregano
6 baby tomatoes, quartered
2/3 cup of grated cheese (mild tasting)







Method:

1. Peel potatoes and carrots. Immerse in cold water and bring to boil for 25 to 30 mins, till potatoes are soft. Turn off heat and drain water and add in milk and butter. Add salt and pepper. Mash till mushy consistency. Leave aside to cool.

2. Preheat oven to 375F.

3.Heat some cooking oil in frying pan. Saute the onion for 2 mins. Add in the minced beef together with the peas and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper and continue to cook for another 5 mins. Add in the water and turn down the heat and close lid and let simmer for 10 mins. Add in the cornstarch and stir to combine. Turn off heat.

4. Spoon the meat mixture into a loaf pan and spread out evenly.

5. Spoon the mashed potatoes and carrots on top of the meat mixture, spreading evenly throughout the pan . Arrange the tomato slices on top and sprinkle with crushed oregano and grated cheese.

6. Bake for 35 to 45 mins till potato top is slightly brown. Remove and serve warm.

Serves: 2 to 3 persons

Friday, January 9, 2009

New Jersey

travel post continued.....

Sunday December 28, 2008
Tired but time to leave Pennsylvannia. Left around 10am. Perhaps we had too much fun in serene Pennsylvannia with its courteous drivers who really uses the left lane to overtake only, we kind of forgotten on how terrible the traffic could be going into Newark New Jersey towards New York city!! To me, New Jersey Turnpike is the most adrenalin pumping driving area, especially the section towards Newark airport. Every cars seem to be rushing to catch a plane and everytime we have to drive through it, I have to calm my nerves and gather my guts regardless of my almost 20 years of driving experience.

It was not a bad day but we had a hard time locating our first destination. Exiting the Turnpike took us almost 30 mins and once we were in the local areas, we were lost for almost 1 hour. Worse, it was lunch time and I had 2 hungry kids on the backseats. At that moment, I realised that my old eruptive temper had mellowed. I am sure all couples who lost their ways during their travels go through some sort of frustration and the blaming starts. For this part of the drive, I was very sure Curry blamed me as I was the one who wanted to go to this particular place in Edgewater NJ to shop for Japanese stuffs! Strangely, despite there was that 'It is all your Fault' look on him, I wasn't bothered. See, marriages do make better people!

Once we reached Mitsuwa, it took us another 30 mins to get a parking. And I thought I was the crazy one who drove all the way passing 4 states to get there until I saw car plates from our neighboring Massachusetts. Always ready, I sent Curry and the kids to the prepared food sections to pick up To go lunches as the food court was insanely packed like rows of human sushi! Throughout the entire trip, I cannot think of anything else but plans & efficiency between Curry and I really got things going. In the end, we sat outside the store and had a picnic while shoppers passed by.

Took another 1 hour drive south to Princeton New Jersey. Our kids just went along with the ride and Missy E was excited to see our old friend, Ram and his kids. She went straight into our host's house even before I could off load the things and before I knew it, she was already chatting away with both adults and kids. Had a lovely homecooked Indian meal and loved the cranberry chutney! Looking forward to make it when I get the recipe.

Monday December 29 2008

Got up early and excited to move again. Everytime I go travelling, my energy level spikes but after it is all over, the exhaustion sets in so badly that I need double the time to recover to normalcy! Sign of old age. Initially, Curry wanted to go visit New York city but Ram came up with a better idea.... drive to Philadelphia. Princeton New Jersey is just so strategic. 1 hour drive and we were back in Pennsylvannia already. Visited the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Science Museum. Again, big crowds everywhere and kids dominated every types of exhibits and hands on tools. Interesting collections of machineries, scientific tools and gadgets and worth the visit if you are a science buff like Curry!


Tuesday December 30 2008

The highlight of this trip.... to visit Princeton University. I have seen Harvard and Princeton was my to see list of the Ivy Leagues. Princeton itself is a very neat and quaint town, with old and new buildings, tourist shops and chic coffee places for the learned minds. The people roaming around at this time of the year were either like us, the tourists or the students who stayed back over the holidays. Good time to visit the university grounds as there were no crowds and no charges. On the way, we managed to catch a glimpse of Einstein's old house of which he lived in during his days at Princeton. Neat.

From the facade of the buildings, the university is old but very distinguished in design and beautifully maintained and very neat. Ivy was growing up certain part of the walls and sculptures were engraved on the facades of some of the buildings. The European gothic and Renaissance touches made this university stood out compared to the buildings I saw in Harvard and personally, I think Princeton is nicer. I can only stand there and imagine what pride it must be to be attending this prestigious university.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Pennsylvannia

Belated Travel Posts!
X'mas Day 2008
Drove for 7 hours to West Chester PA to see my cousin & her family. Good weather, extra smooth traffic and excited kids. Great duck dinner too.

Friday Dec 26 2008
Got up early and out of the house by 9am... travelling with the kids makes an efficient parent out of me! Drove less than 2 hours towards West to Hershey, PA! Yes, food stop.... what else!! Not bad... free parking for 2 hours and no admissions fees to the Chocolate World Tour. Not a very big fan of Hershey chocolates though except for its cookies & cream nuggets and managed to hold the wallet and sampled the samples instead! Talk about frugality! Missy E and Prince D had a great time and so did the parents! Luckily the Park was closed, or else Curry will be so ready to go for a ride on the gigantic roller coaster which I shiver just by the look of it! Amazing town too, Mr. Hershey was a great man with a very sweet taste in life!




Saturday Dec 27 2008

The idea of seeing the Dutch Pennsylvannia Country lifestyle was a last minute idea. Since the weather was good, and I was not interested to get all worked up going to shopping malls to look for bargains, we left for another road trip to Lancaster, PA. Slightly over an hour drive through farms, green open spaces and silos, we ventured into Amish people's territories. Their lifestyles of choice which was simplicity and plain will be very difficult for me, the suburbanite minivan mum and I cannot comment more than that! Our first stop was the National Christmas centre which was amazing as the one stop Museum for everything you ever wanted to know or see about X'mas from the past to the present. Worth every dollar of the admission fee charged!




The towns in this County have names which jolts the imagination..Intercourse, Paradise etc. The Amish people are very religious people, going about their lives with strict observations of their theological beliefs and teachings. Their horse buggies are just as usual as the cars that rides the country roads. Lancaster County is really a tourist place but I believe the Amish people would rather not have all the attention. Managed to try out the famous "Shoo Fly Pie" at the Dutch Haven and it was good. And also the famous Pretzels. As always, never missed any chance to pick up a local recipe book titled Pennsylvannia Dutch Cooking.... for a mere $1.99! To cook or not to cook is another option!


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