Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bento Days January (3)

Some Bento lunches for this week. As I get busier and lazy in the morning, I resort to pre-made stuffs for the fillers. Here I perked up some all white meat chicken nuggets with smiley faces and used store bought ready cooked Pork Gyoza to add the protein part of the Bento. Although convenient, always read the ingredients on the back of the package before buying and choose one with less MSG and preservatives.


Chicken Nuggets decorated with punched out nori faces


Pan Fried Pork Gyoza served with side soy sauce


Pineapple Tartlets & Pineapple Jam Filled cookies

Happy Chinese New Year to all my family in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada and wherever that I cannot remember. Yes, I have relatives all over the world and I am sure they celebrate Chinese New Year, regardless on a large or small scale. In the Chinese Lunar Calendar, every year is represented by an animal, with 12 animals in total, and rotating every 12 years. This year will be the Year of the Rabbit/Hare and for any babies born on February 3 or thereafter till the next Chinese New Year, together with those who will be 12, 24, 36, 48 and so on, you are all  Human Bunnies!  Basically it is Astrology in the Chinese sense, more superstitious I would say but fun to read about.
This year's New Year will fall on Thursday February 3 and we celebrate it for a total of 15 days, with emphasis on the Eve, 1st and 2nd days and the 15th day. Back in Malaysia and Hong Kong, offices and business organizations will be closed and relatives and friends will be visiting each other to send their well wishes. And the most important focus during this celebration is the food on the table, and starting from the Eve night, families gather around for dinner over a variety of dishes, specially prepared and auspiciously arranged and named to welcome a new and prosperous year. When I was young, I loved the mornings of the 1st and 2nd days as we all sat and ate a full meal complete with rice, meat, vegetable and soup for breakfast. Sadly though, my own kids are being raised here in USA, where we are so far apart from families and missing out on all the fun of gatherings and the spirit of the celebration. Fortunately we have friends around who are like myself, expatriate and simply hold this tradition of celebrating very important to remind ourselves and educate our kids of their Chinese origins and customs. Although we celebrate it on a really small way, I feel happy.

These pineapple cookies and tartlets are part of the New Year celebration. I am not very sure which Asian country nor group of the many Chinese ethnicity that started these cookies, but these days there are many versions of these cookies. Most Malaysians love the open faced shape where the pineapple jam filling is exposed and lodged on a slice of pastry while most of the others that I have seen in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan are enclosed inside the pastry itself. I like both and my requirement is that the pineapple filling itself is the right sweetness with a hint of cinnamon. In the Chinese language, the sound of pineapple is synonymous with the meaning of 'Luck Coming'. As with their unique beliefs, Chinese people are very observant of their culture, words and way of life, and if they can relate to anything that is auspicious especially concerning fortune and wealth, they will adopt the idea. Hence, giving a container of these cookies to a host or serving to guests, the idea is to bring wishes of wealth to the receiver.

To make the pineapple jam and the pastry itself is not difficult at all. The hardwork comes when rolling the pastry dough and making the filled in cookies itself as the dough tends to be soft and can break easily when rolled with too much pressure and the amount of filling must be right so that the cookies can be wrapped up nicely. Frustration can mount after one or two attempts but you just have to work out on which is the best you can do. The open face shape poses no problem as long as the dough is rolled to about 1/4 inch thick, cut and stamped out with the proper mould. I used a mould to shape the pillow shape but round ones can be done with hands. I added vegetable shortening to the butter to get a more lighter and flakier pastry and this creates a steady and tender texture that doesn't crumble easily and gives a slight crunch when bite into. There are recipes using wholly butter which I believe provides a better structure for the filled in cookies, contrary to vegetable shortening which provides a more tender and lighter pastry.

Recipe
Ingredients
Filling
650g canned pineapple chunks, juice drained
100g sugar
1 tsp cinnamon powder

How to Make it
1. Roughly cut the pineapple chunks smaller. Use a food processor if available but do not over process or mush but only roughly chop, leaving smaller chunks. Heat a saucepan and put in the pineapple and sugar and let it bubble over medium heat.
2. Once it reaches boiling stage, turn down the heat and stir. Let it cook for about 30 mins till the liquid is almost evaporated completely. Sprinkle in the cinnamon powder and stir to mix. When the jam starts to splatter, it is done and remove from heat and let cool completely or store in the refrigerator till ready for use.

Pastry
180g cold and malleable butter
50g chilled vegetable shortening
50g sugar
1/4 tsp salt
400g All Purpose Flour
60 ml milk
1 egg, large
egg wash
extra flour

How to make It
1. Beat the butter and the vegetable shortening together till creamy. In another bowl, beat the egg and milk together.
2. Pour the egg mixture into the butter mixture and continue to mix for another 1 min.
3. Stir the flour, salt and sugar together. Add half of this mixture into the egg mixture and mix well. Add the remaining half in to make a soft dough.
4. Sprinkle work surface and hands with flour. Take 1/3 of the dough, shape into a ball and roll out to 1/4 inch think. Using a round cookie cutter, measuring about 2 inches in diameter, cut out circles from the dough.
5. Spoon 1 heap tsp of the pineapple jam and place in the center of the circle. Do not flatten it out but leave it like a small dome. Gather the edges of the dough gently and pinch to close to contain the filling. Turn the dough upside down with the pinch side down. Gently roll it on the working surface and lift it up and gently roll in your palm. Alternatively, make the open face shape and fill the middle with the pineapple filling. Continue with the rest of the dough and filling. Arrange all the cookie dough on a non stick baking pan.
6. Return to the fridge for 30 mins to chill. Preheat oven to 350F.
7. Remove from fridge and egg wash the cookie dough. Bake for a total of 20 to 25 mins, removing after 15 mins to egg wash again.
8. Remove from the baking pan immediately when done and let cool completely on cookie rack. Store in air tight container for 1 week.

Makes: 35 to 40 Filled cookies
              60 Mini Tartlets



Monday, January 24, 2011

Pork Gyoza Pot stickers

As much as I love to cook everything from scratch, there are certain ingredients that I like to buy ready made. For the plain reason, I need these ingredients to cook fast for packing Bentos and also served as a side dish to our staple of rice and noodles for lunchtime. With more emphasis on healthy eating, the manufacturers of frozen food have developed alot of new products over the years to meet the market and I am always on a look out for new and healthy ready made stuffs from my grocery shops.


Pot Sticker is basically a Chinese dumpling which is made up of rice wrappers with fillings of meat and shredded vegetables inserted. The term Pot Sticker refers to the way that it is cooked by first pan frying it on a frying pan for a few minutes and some water is then added to the hot sizzling pan to create a steam to completely cook up the dumplings. The evaporation of the liquid causes the dumpling to stick to the pan, hence Pot Stickers. Alternatively, these dumplings can be blanched in hot water to cook or deep fried.

I came across these Dumplings in my local Asian grocer, manufactured by Day-Lee Pride and made in USA. There are different varieties of chicken, pork, beef or vegetables. I got the smaller packet of pork dumplings which has about 2 dozen dumplings for the price of $4.99. Not bad, as I would have to get separate rice wrappers, minced meat and vegetables to make these dumplings, which in total costs would far exceed $4.99. I like the taste of these dumplings for the reason that the presence of ginger is not overpowering and the size is right. Moreover the rice wrappers are not thick nor thin and didn't burst during cooking. The packaging said it has no MSG and I didn't feel the need to fetch for water after eating them, and the taste was just right with the slight Umami presence and not salty.

When cooking them in a soup base dish, I recommend that they be defrosted first as they kind of burst if drop in frozen straight into hot water or soup. As they are already pre-cooked, a mere 2 mins of re-cooking will be enough. I pan fried mine for about 7 mins after defrosting as I find that way cooks more evenly than straight out from the freezer. For an authentic way of eating these pot stickers, serve them with a side plate of soy sauce with julienned ginger.

As Side Dish with Soup Based Noodles

As Bento Filler

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Citron Honey & Kumquat Cream Cakes

For the whole of the past week, I was so occupied with the kids and the snow clearing outside that I barely had energy to last past 8pm everyday. As the kids grow, their level of energy spikes when school is out due to snow and thinking up of activities to occupy them doesn't sound so simple anymore. When one activity is suitable for one, the older one thinks it is a waste of time and when the older one can do her own stuffs, the little one will bother and holler around. Being a parent these days means being versatile and articulate in all aspects and one day of rest from all things concerning kids is really priceless. To me, I was looking forward to today when all things let loose and I adopt the 'I Don't Care' attitude to stretch my weekend Sunday. And my plan today was to make a lovely cake for tea.

Citron belongs to the citrus fruit family and yields a very fragrant smelling skin and rind. Very little seen in usual groceries, I came to learn about this fruit when I first bought a jar of 'yujacha', which is a syrupy concoction of honey and the citron peel and rind from the Asian store. I first tasted this honey drink in Hong Kong two years ago and started to like it and went about looking for it here. It is basically a Korean drink, which is nicely sweet but not chokingly sugary, fragrant with a slight bitterness from the rind soaked in the honey and when diluted in water, it makes a refreshing drink, hot or cold. Instead of lemon and honey to sooth itchy throats on dry cold days, I like to take citron honey as it is very convenient to mix and drink in an instant.

Kumquat is another citrusy fruit, mostly found in Asia and plentiful during this season, when the Chinese New Year is celebrated. Their miniature tree form with bright yellowish orange colored and dainty olive or small round shaped fruits makes them very pretty as ornamental and decorative plants. In the Chinese language, the citrus fruit which sounds "Kum" is synonymous with the Chinese word "Gold", and this Kumquat plant is usually placed or presented to a host at the Chinese New Year celebrations which resonates with the idea of bringing gold and luck to the receiver or owner. I think this is the only citrus that you can eat as a whole from its peel, rind to its flesh. Slightly sweet and bitter at the same time, you can pop one into your mouth and chew away. The rind is not thick and the flavor of the fruit concentrates on the peel itself rather than its flesh. The Chinese also preserves Kumquat in salt to produce the enzyme and uses the contents to mix into tea or water to provide a soothing drink. As with the citron, they are also used in making marmalades and as garnishes.
For this cake, I added the Kumquat peel and citron honey to the genoise cake base and also to the cream mousse part. Each part was made up separately and arranged together with raspberry jam. I usually make a genoise base cake and cut it into small pieces and shapes with individual molds to shape them with the cream mousse part. I have been using the same Genoise recipe in Flo Braker's book where I can tweak easily to suit my ingredients. I got this book back in 2003 when it was still in its first publication and swear that it is the only cake making book I seriously love to refer to. The mousse part was made up from whipped heavy cream, gelatin, citron honey and kumquat peel. As the honey was sweet enough and sugar is present in the Genoise itself with the additional sweetness in the raspberry jam, I omitted the addition of any sugar in the cream. Overall the flavor of citrus premeates all parts of these cakes but not overbearing nor too sweet like a lemon tart. There is no presence of tartness in these citrus fruits but only a slight bitter bite. The sweet raspberry jam lends a beautiful accent color and cuts through the citrus flavors.



Kumquat on FoodistaKumquat

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rabbit Mochi


It has been a long time since I attempted the Japanese sweet gooey Mochi. Like Daifuku, Mochi is solely made from the mixture of glutinous rice flour with water, which is then steamed and shaped with sweet fillings inserted and presented as snack or for tea time. The Japanese, like most Asians do not eat sweet dessert after dinner and mostly, only slices of fresh fruits are served.

With the Chinese New Year coming up, I thought of this Rabbit shaped Mochi. Partly because the design is simple and white without need of much hand moulding and further decorating. Most of Japanese Wagashi contains the mashed red bean filling but for this I opted crushed peanuts as I was lazy to cook and prepare the red bean paste that can take about 2 hours from start to finish!


As with all mochi, working fast with the steamed glutinous rice flour is the key. Just like sushi rice, you need to work with it while it is still warm or else it gets harder to mould. The filling must be made first and prepared and all other extra flour and tools are ready on hand.

Recipe for Filling :
100g toasted peanuts, skin removed
50g sugar
2 tbsp peanut butter

To make: Grind the peanuts and sugar together, not too fine. Spoon in the peanut butter and stir around. Form 6 balls with your hand, measuring appx. 25g each.

Recipe for Mochi skin :
150g Shiratamako flour (Japanese Glutinous Sweet RiceFlour)
1 tbsp sugar
110ml water
1 tbsp Crisco spread
extra shiratamako flour (lightly fried)
red non pareils for eyes decoration

To Make: Stir the flour together with the sugar. Slowly add water to make a dough. Prepare steamer and wet a kitchen towel and lay on a large steaming plate. Take the dough, divide into 6 to 8 equal sized pieces, appx. 30g each. Lay them on the wet towel and steam for 7 mins.
Take out and put in a bowl, cut in the Crisco and mix quickly with a spatula.
Sprinkle the extra flour on your hands and divide the cooked dough into 6 to 8 pieces and take one, roll it out a little and stretch a bit. Place 1 ball of the filling in the middle of the dough and wrap it up. Using your hands, roll it gently and shape it like a rabbit's body. Continue with the rest.
With a kitchen shears, snip to shape the ears and using a tweezer, insert the red non pareils. Serve and eat within 1 day.

Makes 6


Friday, January 14, 2011

Bento Days January (2)


The second snowstorm of this Winter hit us on Wednesday. Kids were off school and hubby was out of the office to dig snow at home! And for me, I stayed indoors. Everyone was looking forward to the snowstorm as it is pretty strange that we and the rest of the New Englanders to the North seem to have seen too little snow this Winter. I am just happy that this year is not so bad and I am only too happy to hear that the Weather Forecast reporting No Snow! Yes.... the Snow Party Pooper.

Anyway, managed to pack a few Bento for lunches this week. As posted last week, I have done a review of the EasyLunchBoxes and click here to see it all! Here are the other 2 containers with the different colored lids that comes in the 4 in 1 package as marketed by EasyLunchBoxes.




Wednesday, January 12, 2011

EasyLunchBoxes

Right before X'mas last December, the very vibrant owner of EasyLunchBoxes, Kelly Lester contacted me to do a review of her lunch boxes and cooler bags. When I took a look into the company's website, I immediately thought that the colorful lids of the 4 in 1 value package were very tempting and imagined a whole bunch of different themed lunches that I can pack with them. I am very open to ideas and despite the fact that the containers themselves looked plain and nothing out of the ordinary with the storewide offerings of plastic containers, I believe that every food container deserves a try and what really matters is what I pack in them and the ease and functionality of the container itself. And the bags came in lovely chic colors too, not mentioning their generous sizes!


The Containers & 4 Colorful Lids


Easy Lunch Boxes

One set comprised of 4 containers and 4 different colored lids. When I first took them out from the delivery box, I was surprised on the quality of the plastic boxes. They felt sturdy but not heavy, light but not flimsy, wide and readily compartmentalized. For any plastic boxes, the quality I look for is the grade BPA free and made of polypropylene plastic #5. Without these features, I will simply drop and walk away even how cute or beautiful it may be. No matter how healthy your packed lunches are, if the quality of the containers are in doubt, there is really no point in packing at all. So these containers passed my first requirement and I am impressed of EasyLunchBoxes able to show and prove their Product Safety details.

I tried to bend the containers gently and drop them on the countertop with my packed lunches in them. They didn't warp nor dent easily, which are usually the disadvantage of the store available containers after a few uses. Perhaps after a continuous period of usage the color of the plastic container itself may fade but I wash my containers with hands and so far there are no leftover foodstains nor difficulty in cleaning the separate compartments. With the 3 different sized built in compartments, I find it very easy to visualize my lunch or meal before actually packing the food inside it and this saved me alot of time of trying to slot in extra smaller containers into my Bento just to separate different types and textured food. The idea of healthy eating is to slot in the main components of nutritions to make the meal itself complete. With these containers, I was able to plan and pack separate combinations of carbs, protein, vegetables and fruits, all tucked into their individual space. The only thing is the contour and design on the inside compartments is not very straight and uniform as to form a perfect rectangular or square shape, hence I find it a bit difficult to arrange my lunches neatly as there are small gaps here and there. But perhaps it is just me who always want things neat and tucked in!

In terms of the size of the containers, I find it a bit too big for my 1st Grader and Pre-Kindergarten kids, unless I use one for Both kids OR pack both their snacks and lunch into One container. I would think it is the perfect size for older kids about 9 and above when they need more energy during their busy schedules of school, sports practice and extra curriculurs. And definitely a man's appetite can be fed through lunch packed in these boxes as I myself who is currently watching my calories intake find these containers quite spacious for me to pack alot of fruits and vegetables that come in different shapes and sizes. And if you have a bigger appetite person in your household, just pack and fill up another container and carry them in the EasyLunch Box cooler bag. I tried all my other cooler bags and it seems the containers only fit into their spacious cooler bags, which can actually contain 2 of their containers with a flat ice pack  And of course, the simple design of the containers without frills or squiggles of cutesy animated characters like those you find in most Japanese styled lunch boxes makes these boxes suitable for all ages, gender or tastes.

For the lids, I really like the colors they come in, which were not shocking to the senses and pleasing to the eyes. I packed large sushi rice balls in the container and the lid did not squish them flat. They close easily with one palm press down and can be lifted open from all 4 corners without any sharp edges besides the one corner tab. Although the lids don't close very tight and not leak proofed, EasyLunchBoxes was frank and honest about this in their marketing labels. The fact is the lids fit snuggly but doesn't simply fall away from the container itself when being shifted or moved. Well, to tell the truth, who would ever play with their lunches and shake or turn their lunchboxes upside down except for curious babies and displeased kids? This little disadvantage can be saved in a few extra ways, like using an elastic band around it, containing watery and liquid sauces in extra smaller containers that fits into the lunchboxes itself and packing them in a steady cooler bag.

And lastly, speaking for myself and all the busy moms out there, we always strive for more space in our kitchen! Being a Bento enthusiast, sometimes I am overwhelmed on how many containers I accumulated and I just hope that they don't fall on my face everytime I open the cabinet shelf that contains all of them. For these containers together with the lids, they are all stackable and easy to stack them sideways or upright. The only thing you have to do everytime you pack with these containers is just choose the lid color to suit your mood of the day and all is done. No searching for displaced lids, no mismatched sizes as all containers are of the same size and 1 lid fits all!

My Easy Lunch Boxes





All in all, these containers are good value for starter enthusiasts who want to try Lunch Packing the green way with less plastics and brown bags and keen on eating healthy with the right proportions and a combination of the nutritions recommended. The ready compartments built in the container itself divide different types of food which may be of different texture and flavors that needs to keep till lunch time. It has sufficient space for anything from a sandwich to burger sliders, a proper meal of pasta and meat together with fruits and also a regular sized muffin. Other than being a bit oversized for my young kids and the non tight sealed lids, I see myself using these containers to pack my own lunches and also finger food for picnics or snacks for a playdate.

The Cooler Bag

Red Cooler BagsBlack Cooler Bags

My personal favorite is the Red one and they come in 5 different colors. One thing I like about these bags are that they are generous in size and I can fit one EasyLunchBox container in them, 1 large bottle of water, extra yogurt cup and an apple and my cutlery together with an ice pack. And I tried with cans of soda and they fitted 9 nicely! I swung the bag with my lunchbox inside and it was still intact. The other thing I like about these bags is that I am able to put my containers inside it flat down rather than standing upright, which most of the lunchbags in the market are designed to be. Keeping your lunchboxes flat ensures the contents don't scatter all over the place during transportation and that ensures a happy Luncher rather than a messy container that can hamper appetite! 

I would love an adjustable strap to the bag though since now it is designed only for carrying with your hand. Being a busy mom who carries alot of things all the time and not mentioning to hold onto my kids hands in busy surroundings, an adjustable strap will enable me to sling the cooler bag over my shoulder or sling it backside like a small messenger bag. 

I received these products for review and not compensated in any other ways.To find out more about these containers and cooler bags, click EasyLunchBoxes .
EasyLunchboxes.com - Bento Lunch Boxes - Best Lunch Containers, Cooler Bags for Kids, Adults

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Thyme Corn Bread

My first taste of Cornbread was at one of those big chain eateries which served them as the appetizer dinner bread. It was not a good impression as the texture was so dry that I choked on a clump and had to wash it down my throat! Second time round in another eatery, I tasted their corn bread and I loved it! Besides being moist, there was a slight sweetness to this bread that makes it so tempting, especially when I had to wait forever for the server to bring my main dish order! What I like about it is the coarse texture,  resulted from the mealy corn meal itself together with the subtle sweetness in the added sugar that seems to accentuate the scent of corn in the corn meal itself. The texture of this bread is simply homey, meaning that it resembles the home baking that your grandma make, no fuss and no frills, just plain good thing out of the oven, fresh and fulfilling! 

I wanted to make this for a long time and even bought a box of yellow cornmeal last October! With all the holidays around then, the box got shifted and hidden at the end of the pantry cupboard and I went nuts searching for it today. You know the feeling you get when you think you did bought something and yet cannot find it in your grocery bag or kitchen? As I was short of time almost everyday with tight schedules ruled by my kids schools and activities, I almost gave up the idea! Despite my bakings and blogging, I do these only when time permits and I was glad I found the cornmeal and made this within 1 hour from mixing to baking. My kids are not picky eaters but they always look forward to after school snack time for special treats and they actually liked this cornbread. The only thing is they have to eat it with a large plate to catch all the crumbs!


Recipe
Ingredients
130g All Purpose Flour
130g Yellow Corn Meal
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 egg
75ml Vegetable or Corn oil
120g low fat Sour Cream
225 ml low fat milk
50g corn niblets
1 tbsp fresh Thyme

How to Make It
1. Preheat oven to 400F and grease a large loaf pan.
2. In a large bowl, stir the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda and the Thyme together. Reserve some Thyme for sprinkles.
3. In another bowl, beat the egg lightly and add in the vegetable/corn oil and beat for 1 minute. Stir in the milk and the sour cream next. Stir in the corn niblets.
4. Spoon the flour and cornmeal mixture into the milk mixture and stir to combine. Pour batter into greased pan. Sprinkle the remaining Thyme onto the batter.
5. Bake on the lower rack for 30 mins. Let bread cool in loaf pan for 10 mins after removing from oven and cut and serve. Eat within 2 days.

Serves: 6 persons


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hong Kong Style Minced Beef on Rice/Noodle

On Sundays, I usually stay late in bed and couldn't be bothered about the whole day. But lately I have been waking up early like normal weekdays and couldn't force myself back to bed anymore. And so, I will just surf the web, get lost with the current world's news and food blogs. I leave all the cooking to Curry, and stay away from the kitchen for a day.

Curry has 2 specialties in the cooking world. His instant noodles and this particular minced beef dish. He has been cooking this for years  and only now do I care to ask him on how to do it and post the recipe here.

The minced beef is the accompanying dish to the rice or noodle but serve in one single plate or bowl. I always opt for noodles in soup while my kids prefer the rice.

Curry insists this is a Hong Kong dish, served at those small eateries with offerings of other economical dishes and a one plate dish that many working people eat for lunch or dinner before they rush back to work or dash of to continue with their busy lives in the ever bustling world of Hong Kong.


The trick here is to mince the beef really well to break it down so that they don't clump up during the cooking which as a result produces a dry and chewy dish. Beef is a difficult meat to cook, and this also applies to minced meat.The minced beef that I got from my grocery was minced further with a cleaver to further break it apart and firstly marinated with sugar, salt, dark soy and corn flour. The rice and noodle together with the soup base were cooked separately. To give a nicer presentation to the dishes, additional vegetables like peas or corn and scallions can be added to the minced beef itself.


Recipe
Ingredients

600g Minced beef
1 tsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Corn Flour
1 Tbsp Dark Soy
200g Peas (optional)
Cooked Rice for 3 OR Somen Noodles for 3

Sauce: 1 Tbsp Dark Soy
   1 tsp Sugar
           2 tsp Corn Flour
                     1 tsp Sesame Seed Oil
                      a pinch of white pepper
     3/4 cup water

Soup Base: Beef Stock (portion for 3)

How to Make It
1. Further mince the beef with a large kitchen knife or cleaver for 1 minute.
2. Marinate the minced beef with the sugar, salt, corn flour and dark soy sauce. Stir and mix thoroughly with a spoon. Leave to marinate for 30 mins in the fridge.
3. Plate the cooked rice or noodle and garnish ready with scallion and hard boiled egg.
4. Heat 3 tbsp cooking oil and cook the minced beef, stirring as you go. Continue to cook for 3 mins.
5. Mix up the sauce ingredients in a bowl. Pour into the pan and stir. Bring the sauce to a boil and it will thicken. If too thick add a little water to dilute the consistency. Pour in the peas and stir to mix in with the beef. Let it cook for a further 5 mins.
6. Heat up the Beef Stock for the Noodles and pour into the noodle bowl to half full.
7. Spoon the minced beef onto the rice and noodle. Serve when still hot.

Serves: 3

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bento Days January (1)

It is the year of the Hare/Rabbit in the Chinese Lunar Calendar and for the first bento of the year, I made this one for Miss E. If anyone is born after February 3 this year and those who will be in their ages of 12, 24, 36 and so on with the interval span of 12 years thereafter is a  Human Bunny, literally. Those who were born in the year of the Rabbit are said to be very lucky in everything and talented in the fields that they choose to pursue. For a fact, I find that true as I have family members who were born under this sign and they are good in what they do!


This one was a quick one that I threw together this morning after a long and busy week. I always ask Miss E on what she wants for lunch the next day and try my best to accomodate to her wishes. The mini hearts were made of omelette which was rolled into the nori wrapper and ham.




I would like to thank Kelly Lester of EasyLunchBoxes for sending me these neat lunchboxes from her company. I find it very easy to pack in these ready compartmentalized containers and I am definitely loving the bright colors of the lids to suit my different moods of the day! I will be doing a review on these boxes later when I have more time in hand. Do keep tuned!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cranberry & Pistachio Sour Cream Muffins


Happy New Year. Every January I get both excited and depressed. The excitement is wanting to start everything new and ditching anything old and useless. While the depressed part is because of the long winter days that seems forever which sets in the cabin fever mood and everything out there looks dull, bald and lifeless. For a start, 2011's winter has not been that bad and I am counting for the temperature to stay above freezing everyday till Spring.

For the first bake of the year I opted for muffins. I like to think of the muffin belonging to the same category as the loaf of bread or buttery pastries like croissants and Danish pastries, which in all complete the morning Breakfast trays. Unlike cupcakes, fancy creamcakes and macarons which tend to be more of a fad of the sweet baking world and only appropriate as special treats on certain occasions or just to pamper oneself out of boredom, muffins are always around steady and easy to find. Personally I love to make muffins because they are quick to mix up, bake and serve. All I need is a pretty paper liner to perk it up.



These muffins resembles the English scones texture with a slight crunch and crisp on the top and a fairly softer but less crumbly texture inside. I love the lighter color of the muffins which lends a nice soft blend with the oozing cranberries which are baked right into the batter itself. Fresh or frozen cranberries are very nice in baked goods as the baking cuts down on the tartness of the berries itself and yet they maintain some juice in them and let out a berry bite to the muffin as a whole.


Recipe

Ingredients
400g Self Raising Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
50g Toasted Pistachio

150g Sugar
2 large eggs
100g Butter (Room Temperature)
175g Sour Cream
1 tsp Vanilla Paste
100g fresh or frozen cranberries

To make
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners.
2. Beat the butter with the sugar till light in color. Beat in the eggs one at a time till combined.
3. Stir in the sour cream together with the vanilla paste till well combined.
4. In another bowl stir the flour together with the baking soda and pistachio. Drop half of the cranberries into the flour bowl and gently mix but do not crush the berries.
5. Spoon half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Stir in gently to mix with quick strokes.
6. Take the remaining half of the cranberries and gently stir into the mixture. Do not crush the berries.
7. Spoon in the remaining half of the flour mixture and stir to combine.
8. The mixture resembles clumps of cookie dough. Divide and spoon the batter into the paper liners.
9. Bake for 25 mins. Insert skewer to test.
10. Let cool in the muffin tins for 10 mins and remove to cool completely.

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