Friday, September 30, 2011

September Bento Days (3)

The busy first month of school has gone by without a hitch and I am very glad that the kids are loving school. No whinning, no crying, no complaints..... music to every parent's ears.

Not done much in the kitchen except for Bento. Obviously I am in the Angry Birds Craze now, albeit I don't own an Ipad or anything technically sophisticated that needs my fingers more besides this old laptop I am working my posts on. When I was little, I always envied kids who got the latest stuffs, whether it is fashion, gadgets, access to anything that I don't have and longed to have. Fair to say that kids these days are more spoiled than ever and me being a frugal parent and believing in limiting all wants for the importance of needs also practises that kind of teachings to my own kids that we cannot own and buy everything that is the hype or in fashion now just to keep up with their peers. So, the only practical thing I do is making Angry Birds out of food and letting my kids have the fun of eating one. Hey, you can simply walk into any Apple Store these days and sit there and play Angry Birds but not alot of kids get to eat one. Agree?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

September Bento Days (2)

I managed to pick up some more Bento tools and picks during my summer trip to Asia. Seeing the supplies there was like a kid in a candy store and having Bento making as a hobby surely breaks the bank if one doesn't practise a bit of control over the impulse buying. The fact is new designs of Baran, picks, boxes and simply anything to do with Bento keeps getting cuter and better and for a mom like myself with 2 young kids who simply cannot help it but to load up and hopefully being able to use all of them in the preparation of food for the pure enjoyment and happy faces of my kids.

This week was less hectic than last with both kids are now settled down with school, their routines and myself getting used to getting up early in the morning. My new way of doing Bento for this year is to prepare all cut out decorations that uses vegetables like carrot and cucumber the Sunday before the week and store them all in a small container. This saves up alot of time during the weekdays and prior planning on what to pack for the whole of the week is also helpful. I am still not very comfortable with the idea of cooking and freezing bento fillers for quicker preparation in the morning and rather cook fresh and from scratch everyday. I have no judgment towards moms who goes with this method as long as their ways suits them and their kiddos get to eat healthy.

This week I attempted the White Angry Bird. Despite being the easiest to make with a hard boiled egg, the droopy sad expression of this particular bird was quite a challenge to put together. I ended with very thick brows instead but that definitely created a more angrier looking bird. For the cat Bento, I pan fried some dried noodles for the first time and it turned out great for the whiskers. These are what I made this week for my daughter's Lunches.

Apple Streusel Muffin

With rain on a daily basis and cooler evenings, summer is officially over for me. Despite being away for more than 2 months and busking under the hot sun of Malaysia, I always prefer the warmer days than winter days. It was great to experience the remaining of the summer here for the past 2 weeks and thanks to my hubby, he managed to freeze a big box of the summer blueberries from this year's batch. And I guess when the days do really get colder, I shall pull it out and bake something with it to remind me of how great and short lived every summer is.

Although the leaves on the trees have not peak nor shown any colors of Fall yet, the apples and pumpkins are definitely making their entry to this season quick and plenty. To me, apples are the ultimate fruit. Easy to pick with many varieties to choose and always ready to eat with skin on, grabbing one for a snack or to complete a meal always reassures me that I am eating the less of all calories food and something that a doctor actually recommends without limitation of how many I can eat per day. Someone I know once lamented that apple is the most boring fruit but I beg to differ, especially when I have all the pleasure of being able to pick fresh ones from the trees and to use each and every type for different cooking method and my baking experimentation.

For this recipe, I used the McIntosh apples which is more softer in texture and tart in taste. After baking with apples for years, I find that using brown sugar, regular or light gives the overall baking a better color and provides a more in depth caramel aroma and taste. If possible, do use brown sugar in place of regular white sugar. If time is limited, apple sauce from a jar can be used instead for the batter but making from scratch allows you to control the amount of sugar added with consideration given to the tartness of the apples themselves. For these muffins, using very ripe Red Delicious will also be a good substitute.

Recipe (Makes 12)

Ingredients :
Apple Sauce
2 large McIntosh apples, peeled and diced (weighing about 350g after skin peeled and cored)
1 cup water
1/2 tsp Baking Soda

Streusel topping
50g All purpose Flour
30g Light Brown sugar
35g Soft butter

200g Self Raising Flour
1 large egg
60g Soft Butter
60g Light Brown sugar
1/2 tsp Cinnamon Powder

Method :
Apple Sauce
1. Bring the diced apples and 1 cup of water to a rolling boil. Lower the heat to cook slowly.
2. Apples will disintergrate and starts to turn mushy after about 10 mins. Continue to stir and cook for another 7 mins till the apples turn all mushy and thick.
3. Turn off heat and leave to cool at room temperature.
4. Stir in the Baking soda till dissolved. The mixture will turn slightly foamy. Leave aside till ready for use. Start Preheating the oven to 350F/180C. Line 12 muffin cups with paper cup liners.

Streusel Topping
1. Stir the flour with the brown sugar together.
2. Cut the butter into smaller pieces and drop into the flour mixture. Using a food processor, process the mixture for a short 10 seconds.
3. Set aside and prepare the batter.

1. Beat the butter and sugar till creamy and light.
2. Beat in the egg to combine.
3. Stir the flour and cinnamon together in a different bowl.
4. Take half of the apple sauce and mix it into the butter, sugar & egg batter.
5. Next fold in half of the flour & cinnamon mixture into the batter.
6. Add in the remaining half of the apple sauce and mix into the batter.
7. Lastly, fold in the remaining half of the flour.
8. Divide and spoon the batter into the paper liner, filling up to half.

1. Sprinkle the streusel topping onto each of the muffin batter cups.
2. Bake on the middle rack for 25 mins till brown.
3. Turn off the oven and let the muffins sit inside the oven for another 5 to 7 mins.
4. Remove and let cool on he rack.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September Bento days

This new School year sees both my kids graduating to the same school and myself becoming a very early riser to pack both their Bento lunch and mid-morning snack boxes. It was not easy for the first week, having just recovered from jet lag from our recent trip to Asia and sorting through new activities schedules for both the kids during the whole week. At first I thought I would have some free time during the morning hours when my youngest attend half day kindergarten but it seems that I have more things to do than ever! And now I am not only a Bento mom but also catching up with all the other Soccer Moms who has to chaperone and drive rounds of trips per day for out of school activities. Welcome to the 21st century motherhood.

Due to sleepy eyes and not so awakened hands muscles and brain co-ordination yet, my Bento pictures were pretty unclear for these past 2 weeks. But I hope to do better, now that I have more ideas on what to pack and how to decorate the lunch boxes. Lighting is still a problem with my camera and hopefully I can find a right solution soon. Till then, I also made these bento boxes.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Drunken Chicken (Shanghai)

Hello all! Have been way too long that I have been away from cooking and blogging. Hope everyone who follows my blog is well and fine. With the year nearing to an end, that means alot of festivities and seasons to celebrate and I will get back right into the kitchen and continue cooking up and baking out stuffs that teases the eyes and pleases the palates.

I have been out of the kitchen for more than 2 months now for the simple reason that I went back to my hometown in Malaysia and let my mom's talented maid cooked me and my kids everyday meals. My passion and interest in the culinary kitchen were put on hold for a while over there and trust me, with a hot tropical temperature of 37'C everyday, I wished I can feed on ice lollies and ice cream all summer long! Every time I turned on the stove, I feel like I am the one being cooked!

Today, my family and friends will be celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival together and we do it yearly with Lanterns lit and mooncakes eaten after dinner. I have grown to like Cold dishes very much over the summer and I prepared this Shanghainese version of Drunken chicken which is served alongside Beef Tendon and JellyFish in a large platter. Restaurant versions uses chicken thighs for meatier cuts but I went with chicken wing parts of wing and drummets. If possible buy the frozen and ready cut types to save you from having to cut the wings into parts after cooking.

A table of colorful dishes is a pleasant welcome to the Autumn/Fall. Having recently returned from our respective Asia trips, my friends and I managed to cook up all these dishes to celebrate the coming of cooler weather and new school year for our kids. The mooncakes were bought in Hong Kong and coming from the land of critical eaters and gourmands, they were good. Indeed a very great gathering after a hot and away summer for all of us.

Recipe for Drunken Chicken (serves 6 person)

30 pieces of Chicken wing parts (wings & drummets separated) or 3 large thigh meat
2 knobs of ginger (thumbsize), sliced thickly
White part of Green onion, 3 stalks
3 tbsp Sesame Seed Oil
2 tsp Salt
3/4 cup Chinese Shaoxing Wine
3 cups water

Method :
1. Clean the wings/thigh parts. Pat dry.
2. Boil the 3 cups water. Add in the ginger slices and green onion parts. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a rolling boil.
3. Add in the Shaoxing wine, sesame seed oil and salt.
4. Lastly add in the chicken wings parts and let simmer for 12 to 15 mins on low heat. Stir and turn the chicken pieces occasionally to ensure all parts are simmered inside the liquid.
5. Remove chicken from the liquid and drain out the liquid from the ginger and green onion pieces. Reserve this liquid and let cool to room temperature.
6. Arrange the chicken wings in a large and deep bowl/plate.
7. Pour in the broth liquid till all chicken wings are submerged. Cover and let it sit in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight.
8. At day of serving, remove the chicken carefully from the congeal liquid and gently scrap off any jelly. Arrange on a platter and serve with sesame seed oil. For Chicken thighs, cut into neat pieces before serving. Note that the cutting must be done only after overnight and at time of serving so as to get the best flavor from the broth.