Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mid Life Dilemma

It has been sometime since I last wrote anything about my thoughts. Although I am known to my friends that I am a very private person, sometimes I do long to scream out to the world on what is in my mind and to get all the steam off my chest!

The whole month of October was a lazy and kind of lost month for me. Once in a while the blues of a stay home mom gets to me and this month, the effect has been a bit overwhelming. The thoughts of my kids growing up too fast before my eyes and that I will be left with nothing much to fuss about them in 2 or 3 years time gives me the alarming nerves of what I am going to do with my life then! I seriously think a woman's life is made harder than a man. From the tender young age to the teenage stage, all we ever worry about are weight issues, monthly side track stomach upsets and leaks that is rightfully called "our part of growing up", excessive protection and sometimes over worried parents of our flourishing bosoms and sexuality curiosities and not forgetting the need to belong to a sisterhood group which sometimes really brings more harm than good! Come to the twenties, we are expected to throw ourselves into the mad world of careers chasing and outperforming the men in whatever field we choose to immerse ourselves in. Fast reaching the 30s, our own parents starts to worry if we are still not dating nor flinging ourselves out for the taking! And once married, the need to procreate and produce! Sigh..... and so on!
And now, I am at that stage of the dwindling need to stay with the offsprings for hours and days, and it seems that all I can feel is that they are getting more independent while I feel myself depending on them for support and purpose in life. It is like I am suddenly thrown into a dilemma ball again, and have to decide whether to roll into the ditch or aim at a new target of which I have not a single idea on what to aim! I love to be optimistic about everything but being a human and moreover a woman, negative thoughts flow and agitate my thinking at times. I don't see myself going back to a career lifestyle like the one I had before my marriage but I do feel that I don't have a lot of options open to me! Perhaps what I really need now is a career counselor and a light in the tunnel that will suddenly shine at me and show me the path. Moreover, I really need an opportunity that is out there that really suits my interests and skills and which I would like to believe is waiting for me to grab hold to and lead me to my future. Wishful thinking doesn't hurt, although not practical, it gives me some hope :) .

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Apple & Pear Crumble

For a while I thought I have lost my interests in the kitchen. For the past 2 weeks, the whole household was upside down with kids and adults alike coughing sick, appetite zero to none, miserable cold and wet weather and nothing seems to be driving the passion of picking up the whip and butter to create. My interests once in a while do go through a short span of abandonment and sometimes takes a long time to revive it. Currently I am still getting rid of the lingering dry cough but with my nose cleared and unblocked, my palate is teaming up with my smell sense again in sniffing out the next best thing to bake!

Autumn does have its colors and senses but I feel that it doesn't really give me a lot of options in baking. Pies and bread type cakes are the norm but after a while, they do appear mundane. However said, a good baker must know how to use what is available in season and make the best of the ingredients available and so, the only thing that I can think of for now is a fruit crumble. With the fruit filling baked to soft and mush texture, topped with a crunch and sweet top that begs to be eaten warm with a dollop of ice cream or a bowlful of custard, this dessert is always welcome on a cool rainy autumn day.

Recipe :

Crumble top :
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, diced
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup granola
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar

Filling :

3 apples

3 pears

Juice from 1/2 of fresh lime

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup sugar

2 tbsp all purpose flour


Method:
Crumble Top:
1)Preheat oven to 375F. Sift the flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg together. Stir and mix in the dark brown sugar.
2)Add in the diced cold butter pieces and mix roughly to obtain lumps and pea sized mixture. Set aside.


Filling:
1)Peel the skins of the apples and pears. Remove cores and cut into thin slices and wedges.
2)Squeeze the lime juice over the fruits and coat. Mix in the sugar and all purpose flour and coat evenly.
3)Spoon fillings to ramekins, filling 3/4 full. Sprinkle with dried cranberries.
4)Spoon 2tbsp of the crumble top mixture onto each ramekin.
5)Put all ramekins on a larger baking tray and bake for 40 mins till brown.
6)Remove from oven once cooked and let cool.
7)Serve with ice cream.

Makes : 8 ramekin size

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Squash Cream Cheese Autumn Cookies

When the fall season starts, the cookies baking season gets started too! It is obvious that cookies serves the best purpose as small gifts or simply an indulgence in one's home. All sorts of cookie cutters are available now in line with the upcoming festivities of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukkah and New Year. One will have any reason to bake a batch of cookies this time of the year.

With no more scent of summer roses permeating the air, the best smell of autumn is spices. Cinnamon and nutmeg are the popular choices and I would love to incorporate cumin and fenugreek seeds one day. I made these cookies thinking of the fall flavors with squash added to the cream cheese filling and nutmeg and cinnamon made up the cookie dough. These cookies are crunchy and cut thinly. With its high content of butter and sugar, these cookies stays crunchy up to a week without the filling and surely can be made way ahead of time.

I seldom use canned pumpkin and when I tried to look for it, they were all sold out. Instead of getting a whole pumpkin, I opted for cut squash slices at the grocery which saves me alot of time in cutting and cleaning. Perhaps the color is not as bright as the pumpkin flesh, but the taste of the squash is equally as good as the sugar pumpkins. The squash pieces were firstly steamed for 20 mins till they are soft and then pureed in the blender and let cool before adding to the cream cheese and sugar mixture. As the cookies are sweet enough, I added only 1 tbsp of sugar to the cream cheese. Additional sugar can surely be added if the sweet tooth desires.

Recipe :

Cookies
1-1/3 cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp Cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp Nutmeg powder

Method :
1) Sift the flour with the cinnamon and nutmeg powder. Set aside.
2)Cream the butter and sugar till well mixed. Beat in the milk.
3)Fold in the flour mixture and knead into a dough. The dough should feel slightly wet and heavy and if still dry, continue to add milk 1 tbsp at a time till the right consistency is achieved.
4)Place the dough in a plastic bag and let it rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
5)Remove the dough from the fridge. The dough is ready to be rolled and cut when it is malleable and still cold. Dust the surface lightly with all purpose flour and roll half of the dough out thinly (similar to the thickness of ham slices).
6)Preheat the oven to 350F. Using a 2 inch size fluted cookie cutter, cut out about 15 to 17 pieces. Place this group of cookies in one tray.
7)Roll out the other half of the dough into the same thickness and using the same fluted cookie cutter, cut out 15 to 17 cookies. Take a smaller cookie cutter of your choice of design or use linzer cookie cutters, punch out the middle of each cookie from this group. Place the cookies on another baking tray. Use up the cut outs to make up the numbers of cookies.
8)Bake the cookies at the middle rack of the oven for 15 to 17 mins, rotating the pans once after half time of the baking. The cookies are done once it starts to brown slightly and browns faster on the bottom than the top. Remove from oven immediately.
9)The cookies may still look soft but it is done and hardens after the cooling period. Remove immediately to the cookie rack to cool. If not used immediately, place in an airtight container.



Cream Cheese Squash Filling :

Recipe:
8 oz squash
4 oz low fat cream cheese
1 tbsp sugar

Method :
1) Set up a steamer and cut the squash slices into smaller chunks. Steam for 20 mins till the squash is very soft.
2)Drain the water and place the squash into the blender and puree it.
3)Beat the cream cheese with the sugar till thoroughly mixed.
4)Slowly add in the squash puree using a tablespoon and stir to combine. I used about 6 tbsp of the puree.
5)Using a butter knife, spread the squash cream cheese lightly onto one whole cookie, with more in the middle part. Using a cookie that has a cut out, place it on top of the filling to complete the cookie.
6)Serve or store in fridge for 3 days.


Makes : 15 to 18 cookies (2 inch sizes)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

October Bento Days (1)

The leaves outside are slowly turning colors and the autumn wind gives a chill to my spine. The occasional rain makes everything set for a damp and cold day which makes one feel that all you need is a cup of tea with cozy slippers and lots of lazing around. I believe these autumn days can make me very lazy and my instinct tells me that I should do something that takes up alot of my attention and time!

I haven't made a Bento box for Prince D for sometime now and I pity him always looking at his sister's school snack box while he gets to eat only the scraps and pieces from the left over ingredients that I used for Miss E's snack box. He is a very special boy and although he hasn't learned alot in school nor in life compared to his sister, emotionally he understands on what is he missing out and can feel that he is not getting more attention than his sister at times. Kids minds are very interesting to me, sometimes I think I know them very well, and yet I cannot say so. It is just a growing phase in every one of them and before I can grip a hold on their current thinking, they are already showing a different phase and planning things up their sleeves the next minute! Every day they grow, I learn something new.

The baby tomatoes that we are growing in our small patch is growing well and I love it when tomatoes come with their vine leaves. It just adds another dimension and perks up the lunch boxes contents. Brown Enoki mushrooms is a very good ingredient to introduce to kids as they are slightly chewy and tastes earthy. I succumbed to the temptation of buying frozen chicken nuggets which I just heated it up in the microwave for more than 1 minute. One thing good about my kids is that they eat broccoli and love peas. It is obvious that I always include a green and a red in their Bento boxes to tempt their eyes and palates.


Perhaps I made them waited too long, which was 30 mins past their usual lunch time, both Prince D and Miss E finished everything within 15 mins. I was curious on how fast does Miss E actually eat and she was already on her last broccoli when Prince D nibbled on the peas & corn! I heard from my friend Crazymommy that kids at her age don't normally eat much during snack time and for the whole month since she started school, I always wondered if she was the last one to finish up her snacks and took extra time from the 10 mins alloted for snack time. Without problem, she can finish her snack box contents every day and she always says that she is the fastest to finish up in her class! Well, the teachers are not complaining and I am comfortable with packing varieties of snacks for her school Snack box everyday.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Grape Jelly Cupcake

It is almost mid week and with my son starting to attend an hour more at his pre-school, I am beginning to feel more at ease. As with any moms who are seeing their kids going to school, I have been getting the same questions lately on what am I planning to do with all those free time! My answer is to tidy up my house, sip my morning coffee and eat my toasts in peace and hopefully to watch an hour of those morning talk shows with hosts that were born to rise and shine every morning of the day! Perhaps the ideas sound silly but these things are those that I haven't been able to do nor complete doing when my kids are around me. Peace and Quiet in my humble home is just Priceless these days.

To rekindle with my inner peace, I started baking again and of course, I wanted something very simple, good and quick to make. No frills and nothing complicated, these cupcakes were a cinch to whip up and bake. With the cool autumn days, I yearn for baked goods that smells buttery but just the right portion and size that I can grab with my instant coffee, kept piping hot in my insulated cup during the morning hours. There was a jar of grape jelly in the fridge that doesn't seem to be able to take the favorite spot of the marmalade jar next to it and I thought of the jelly doughnuts sold at Dunkin Donuts. I got the idea and used a teaspoon of the grape jelly to fill each of the 12 cupcakes and baked them to perfectly golden with the jelly retaining its liquidy lumpy form and yields an additional sweetness to the cupcakes. The amount of filling is a personal choice and I made mine with less as I didn't want the kids to get all sticky with the jelly on their hands. But of course, for a treat, the more jelly filling the better!

Ingredients :

2 cups All purpose Flour
2-1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
8oz butter, room temperature
6oz sugar
2 eggs & 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup milk
Grape Jelly


Method:

1) Preheat oven to 375F. Line 12 muffin tins with paper cups.

2)Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.

3)In a mixer, beat the butter and sugar till creamy. Beat in the eggs and yolk for 1 minute and add in the beat and mix for another 30 seconds.

4)Fold in the flour mixture till evenly combined.

5)Scoop the batter to fill up to 1/2 full of the paper cups. Place 1 teaspoon of the grape jelly in the middle and spoon more batter to cover. Continue with the rest.

6)Bake for 25 to 28 mins till golden brown. Remove from heat immediately and let the cupcakes cool on racks for 15 mins before serving.

Makes: 12 regular size cupcakes


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kindergarten Bento Days (Week 4)


September flew by so quickly and I hardly had time to do much except Bento for Miss E. A new supply of Bento tools came in early this week and I was over the roof with excitement! In the midst of making all these kids Bento, I kind of lost the urge to fix Curry's Bento box as I used to last time. Perhaps it is the first month of school and I am still trying to juggle and balance the time and all the activities during the whole week and hardly any more energy left to prepare an adult sized Bento. Perhaps October will be better with the cooler weather, a more settled mind and more organized in the daily routines.

Prince D seems to be behaving better this week in terms of attending school. Although still loaded with a grumpy face and defiant glare everytime he steps through the school's door, I am confident that he will emerge with a happier personality after a whole year with his wonderful and patient teachers.

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