Thursday, May 27, 2010

May Bento Days (3)

It is almost end of the school year and I am glad that Miss E enjoyed her kindergarten. I remember the first day and week that I left her alone to walk up to the school play yard by herself and being on her way to learning rules and ways of life on her own without my presence..... that moment was really crushing to me as if I am seeing her growing up and out of my sight! And now, it is the end of that preliminary year before she enters 1st Grade with all the more serious stuffs of homework and projects from school. Times flies when you tend to kids 24/7 and yet throughout the process, some days can be slow and some days can be quick to get by. Overall, being a mother to a school progressing kid also means a learning process for myself, but unlike my girl's road in education with references and help from books, my motherhood road is a tagging along process, sometimes with guidance and sometimes more dependant on instincts and I hope I am doing the right things for my kids for now.

Throughout the whole year, I have been packing snack size bento boxes for Miss E and will be doing the real lunch box portion come September. I have alot of ideas swirling in my head but I doubt that I can prepare whimsical looking lunches everyday as it is alot of work even if I can prep some of the bento ingredients the night before. Still, once in a while I will put in some effort to make one or two special cute lunch boxes so that Miss E still gets the thrill of opening to a surprise smiling face or cute animals rice balls. I love the idea of making her smile and think of me everytime she eats something from my kitchen.

Today's Bento is made up of cold chicken pasta with raisins and mayo and Dijon Mustard as dressing. As the weather gets more nearer to summer's temperature, my kids appetite gets smaller and they prefer cold dishes rather than warm rice and meat. Basically all the Bento's contents can be prepared overnight and put altogether the next day. Instead of omelette, I boiled each an egg, decorated with some cheese cuttings, served along with ham and strawberries. For a special treat, I gave them each a small cookie, which is shaped like a mini burger complete with sesame seeds and chocolate filling, of which I managed to grab a box from my last Hong Kong trip. Only in Asia you get to have these types of cute stuffs and when I first saw it, all I thought was to use it for my Bento and not to eat nor snack on. I just wish we can have more access to these type of food products over here as they really jazz up an ordinary lunch box and makes the Bento eater happier!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Strawberry & Almond Loaf Cake

When I was growing up in Malaysia, I understood bread is bread and cake is cake. Meaning, breads are those white squares cut up from a long rectangle loaves baked from flour and yeast while cakes are either round or square with multiple flavors and sweetened with fruits and sugar. After so many years living in the States, I still find it awkward whenever someone say they want to bake a banana bread or blueberry bread as the first thing that always come to my mind is the flour and yeast type with banana and blueberry baked into them and not the American versions of sweet bread baked like a cake but in the loaf shape! So instead of naming this recipe as Strawberry & Almond Bread, I will call it a loaf cake. Just like old habits, once I am used to one term it is hard to process my mind and call it another term.

These loaves are very easy to make and I just love their simplicity with the buttery flavor, embedded with soft strawberry slices and slight crunch from the almond slices make them a delight to eat all day long on a Sunday. I made it a bit fancy with extra layers of strawberry slices on the top of the cake batter before I baked them and they raised and pushed the strawberry slices to the sides! But they turned out pretty and no icing required . The cakes need to sit and cool at room temperature for at least 20 mins as it will be too moist and soft once out of the oven and cannot cut cleanly.

Recipe :
Ingredients :
1-1/2 cup All Purpose flour
1 tsp Baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) Butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar and extra 1 tsp for sprinkling
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp Grenadine syrup/vanilla essence
1/2 cup Almond milk/milk
2 cups sliced strawberries (about 8 large strawberries)
1/2 cup almond slices

Method :
1)Preheat oven to 375F. Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt. Set aside.
2)Cream the butter and sugar (reserving the extra 1 tsp) till light. Beat in one egg at a time till blended. Add in the grenadine syrup or vanilla essence.
3)Spoon in half of the flour mixture and fold into the butter and sugar mixture. Pour in half of the almond milk or milk and stir to combine. Continue with the remaining half of the flour and fold in. Lastly stir in the remaining milk.
4)Take 1/3 of the strawberry slices and half of the almond slices and drop into the cake mixture. Stir to combine. Grease 1 large loaf pan and spoon in the batter. Use a spatula or spoon to spread out the batter evenly. Arrange the strawberry slices on the top and sprinkle with the remaining almond slices. Sprinkle the remaining sugar on top.
5)Bake for 35 to 40 mins and test for doneness. Turn off oven and let it stay in the warm oven for another 10 mins before removing and cooling completely before cutting.

Serves: 6 person

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Chocolate Tofu Pudding Tarts

I came across this new product from Nasoya called Silken Style Creations, made of tofu or soy and flavored with Chocolate. I grabbed it without much thought of what I am going to do with it until today, I logged onto the site and followed the recipe suggested! Very interesting to know that I can make a chocolate based dessert from tofu without any cheese, eggs nor extra cream added. All my childhood and adult life in Malaysia, little did I know tofu can be this versatile and certainly looking forward to use this product more in future.

I had some tart dough left over from my last Vegetable tart baking and used it up by making 6 smaller tartlets, about 3.5inch each. The only thing about using this soy product is that after the baking is done, the desserts need to be refrigerated to set further. And as the corn flour added to the tofu product was minimum, the texture of it resembles more like a set pudding and doesn't really cut well. To bake a firmer tart will require using cream cheese or some fat with the tofu. Perhaps next time I should try making a cheesecake out of the original silken tofu. The idea of using this product is to reduce the fat content of the baked dessert and a more better option for weight watching people like me.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Crimini Mushroom Tomato & Basil Tart

For the past month, I have cut down on baking, mostly on my determination to eat less buttery tarts and sweet cakes with cream and anything that is fattening. And I channelled the time that I have to homeschooling my kids more, taking a nap and doing more exercise time on the treadmill and yoga mat. Gradually I am getting used to this change of course but I still bake once a week to keep my interest in it. There are many phases in my life but finding the right hobby and sticking with it comes only once in a blue moon and I must not let my baking tools turn rusty and wasted! So instead of sweet creamy things, I will bake more savory stuffs now, at least I can get rid of the sugar if not the butter. At least I am trying !

For this tart, nothing complicated about it and all I wanted to do was to put my new oblong tart tin to use. I wasn't sure on how much tart dough to make for this tin and went about concocting something more than enough. I guess the dough quantity to cover a 9 inch round tart pan will suffice. I found it difficult to roll out the dough into an oblong shape and so I just patch random pieces of dough into the tin with my hands. But first I rolled out the dough on a working surface first to get an even thickness and cut them into smaller pieces and arranged and patched them all up inside the tin itself. As with all tarts, the sides will definitely shrink during baking and I made the sides extra thick. The tart case was first baked for 25 mins before I put in the filling and baked for a futher 25 mins.

I made this for dinner today , served with mushroom cream soup and salad. Very spring like!


Tart Case:
225g All purpose Flour
140g cold Butter
1 large egg

2 large eggs
125ml heavy cream
125g sliced Crimini mushrooms
125g halved Grape/Cherry tomatoes
2 large basil leaves, julienned
salt & pepper

Tart Case:
1)Put the flour and butter in a food processor. Process till resembling coarse crumb.
2)Beat the egg slightly and pour into the butter and flour mixture, process till the crumbs form into a soft dough.
3)Butter a 9 inch round pan or oblong pan. Roll out the dough to a uniform thickness, about 1/2 inch and as large as possible. Place in round pan and pat in the sides. For oblong pan, cut out squares and take each piece and paste into the oblong pan. Emphasize more on the sides of the pan when you are patting in the dough. Prick the bottom of the case with a fork and cover with cling film. Let it rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
4)Preheat oven to 375F. Take out tart case and bake for 25 mins. Remove and cool to room temperature.

1)Beat the eggs slightly. Mix in the heavy cream and beat to combine. Season with salt & pepper.
2)Place the cooked tart case onto another large pan. Scatter 3/4 of the mushroom and tomato pieces all over inside the case. Sprinkle in the basil leaves. Slowly pour in the egg and cream mixture.
3)Put in the remaining mushroom and tomato pieces.
4)Bake at 375F for another 25 mins till the egg and cream mixture sets.
5)Serve warm with salad.

Serves 3 to 4 person

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

May Bento Days (2)

I got up pretty late this morning and had to finish up this Bento quickly before sending the kids to school and delivering the lunch box to Curry's office. One thing about Curry, he is slim in posture but his appetite is huge, more than mine and everyday he comes home in the evening, he head straight to the fridge or biscuit tin. And still he is the lucky one, he doesn't put on a single weight!

For today's Bento, I used Japanese Udon noodles, which is precooked in their packaging and all I had to do was rinsed it in water and stir fried it with grated garlic, scallion and soy sauce. Deep fried tofu cubes is a lovely ingredient which is delicious eaten plain dipped in sauce or stuffed with meat to enhance the texture and flavor. For this Bento, I stuffed them with minced beef, and pan fried them with a bit of cooking oil and flavored with a teaspoon of Japanese cooking seasoning, Mirin. The sugar content in the Mirin caramelized the surface of the tofu and gives it a charred look. For the vegetables sides, I used homemade pickled cucumber and carrot with store bought Radish Kimchi.

Today Miss E had a show and tell at school and she talked about Bento. She was very happy to have told an interesting topic to her teachers and friends and indeed, Bento is fun to learn and make. I am currently in the look for more summer ingredients to include into my family members' Bento boxes and hopefully to serve up more vegetables varieties and move my kids to eat more fish. I have been on a vegetable and white meat diet for 2 months now and I do indeed feel healthier.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

May Bento Days (1)

After a brief hiatus, I digged out the Bento boxes and tools this morning. Tuesdays are perfect days for Bento Lunch making as both my kids are in school and having got through a busy Monday and recouping my energy over a good night's sleep made my day more driven!

As I experiment more with bento making, I noticed that the simplest cuts of cute characters makes the most impact and I am trying to adopt a more simpler approach similar to cut and paste to decorate all my future Bentos. As long as my kids can discern what I am making and enjoys them, then I am on the right track.

I made a sea animals theme Bento today, aptly served with pan fried salmon on the side. I have always liked the octopus sausage and tried to make some today. Taking both round ends of a sausage, I cut to a length of about 2.5 inches, slit them crisscross downwards about 1 inch from the flat bottom  and boiled them for 2 mins. The corns are out and I thought they make a nice addition of color and texture to the plain rice that I flavored with some Furikake. Green beans is a good change to broccoli and they are easier to arrange.

The cut outs of the octopus and fishes were made of American cheese and ham. A bit lazy to complete the fish with scales and I used poppy seeds instead of black sesame seeds for the eyes.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Chocolate Cake Dessert Cups /Mother's Day 2010

Happy Mother's Day to me, my mom, my grandma, my aunties, my cousins, my sister in law and my friends far and near. This is my 6th year celebrating this occasion and my kids just get better with everything they do and say!

After 6 years of motherhood life, I can say I have learned and progressed alot in terms of endearing stress, enjoying little pleasures and of course letting my kids little minds train and inspire me! The days just go by faster every year with them hollering around my days and  I am a very proud mother of my kids. Although they are not wholly angelics nor saints, I take pride of having raised them so far with a good conscious of everything and they in return shares everything with me with their little stories and experiences in their growing. 

As with every year, I get a big breakfast in bed, made by Curry and my 2 kids. This year, they had to drag me out of bed at 7.30am and I was feeding on my cheese omelette with half opened eyes and messy big hair! Recently I am very down with stamina but not due to motherhood duties, highly because I have allocated more time to my exercise regime and the set on of spring season allergies which slows me down. For a whole week or two, my mind and body were occupied with the same calories counting topic and I lost my mojo in cooking and baking.

Miss E brought home a card she made at school and she was right in stating that she loves me because I am good at Baking! She loves to eat and my Bento makes her very happy while Prince D tags along in everything, like or not like! And so in order to continue to be a cool and lovable mom, I tried to bake a cake for today. True enough, after a while not doing it, I lost my mojo and my chocolate cake didn't rise as much as I wanted it to be in the pan. What did I do then? Besides being the Queen in my kids' eyes, I am also the Queen of fix it when comes to flop and failed cakes. I cut up my chocolate cake with round biscuit cutters and took out my best dessert cups and made something very simple and of course nice!

I whipped up 1 cup of heavy cream with 1/4 cup of icing sugar, shelled some pistachio and hulled some strawberries and piled them all up with the chocolate cake circles. With a touch of love and simplicity, I made these pretty little cups of desserts for teatime and I feel good that I am not taking advantage of Mother's Day to stuff myself , which I will definitely have to pay for it later in sweat! And of course, thank you to my lovely hubby who treated me to my favorite lunch plate so far...... Sashimi, deluxe size and all mine!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Diet & Exercise

First thing first, when you saw that Post title, surely you think I am joking right. All these time with that much cooking and baking, sampling and snapping beautiful shots of all the food I made makes me an interesting person rather than ranting on diets and losing weight like most women. But yet, I am still like any woman, flabs are more disturbing than any butter fat and numbers mean everything in every sense from dress sizes to calories!

I have been on an exercise routine since my return trip from Asia in January and up till now, I haven't given up working up the notch every month just to train my heart pumping, lowering my Blood pressure and trying to lose weight. So far I have melted away almost 13lbs and still working on it till I see a very pleasant number on the weighing scale, most probably end of this year. Sure I was always on a yo-yo motion when comes to setting diet and exercise goals in previous times but this time I am very determined to lose it and if I am successful, I made a pact with myself that I will revamp my diet and maintain the ideal weight till the last day of my life.

Losing weight is no easy thing to do, infact it is a torture. So tortured that I sometimes feel like bursting out in tears to accompany my sweat when I am trying to score a higher number of steps or bigger score on the calories counter. So to all people out there who are trying as hard as you can like me, I share your pain. It is the easiest thing to put on weight and the hardest thing to take it off! Naturally both are total opposites and for people who has to go through it, the process is long but with perseverence and strong will, it will pay off.

I have heard alot of remarks about my weight and it hurts most when the negative remarks comes from people whom I am related to. Weight remarks are always harsh no matter how soft toned or well intended they are meant to be and at the meantime I am very frustrated with a remark that I will put back on all the weight no matter how hard  I tried to lose it now. Such negative comments did spoiled my day and I went out and looked around and thought about it. Well, the other thing that this exercise regime did to me besides physically made me fantastic was that my mentality was also polished and progammed to be stronger. I will just set my mind to work harder now and lose it and shut out all bad comments like that once and for all. And if I still  hear something like that, I will comfort myself with the lbs I lost and think that the bad comments were just coming from people who cannot make it themselves and jealousy runs in everything!

I wish to share something. I find the following food helped me through these past 4 months of losing the flab and think everyone should give it a try. They are dried prunes, avocado, almond milk and oatnut bread. I snacked on them during the snack times of mid morning and teatime. And also I totally take out the rice at dinnertime as my metabolism rate is pretty low at dinnertime and work on the threadmill in the evening before I hit the bed. I found out that rice is really something that I should eat at a minimum quantity in the afternoons only and not at night as I can still burn it off as energy for the rest of the half day left but after dinner time, the carbs from rice seems to linger on in my system and build up as excess! I may have very strange food intake strategies here but since it worked, I hope it can help anyone else too.

Till next time, all I can say is there is really no shortcut to losing weight except exercise and food intake watch. Do whatever you can to motivate yourself and remember that the longer you wait to lose it, the harder it will be. Negative remarks are only a form of motivation and as long as I take it and rethink it, it can be turned into a positive motivation!