Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Catching Up Over Christmas

I have been extremely busy during the days running up to Christmas. Both due to work as well as personal Christmas preparations. As a result, my blog has been post-free during this period of time althought that did not mean that I didn't do any baking. Nevertheless, I am now catching up on the posts that I should have posted earlier. Better late than never, right?

Cooking Up A Storm on Christmas Eve

That's right. This year I have been put in-charge of my family's Christmas dinner which we have decided to hold it on Christmas eve. I have to admit it took me a while to finalise on the menu for the night. There were many recipes which I considered but then in the end, I have to find the ones that sound yummy, but not too task-demanding. After all, except for baking, I am relatively alien to the kitchen in terms of cooking...

After 2 weeks of recipe contemplation, 2 hours of ingredient shopping, 4 hours of preparation in the kitchen prior to dinner (with the help of 2 maids and my good ol' sister who arrived early for the dinner), here are my (ahem) pride and glory:

1. Prawn Salad (this is contributed by my niece. Simple & nice, go girl!)
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2. Broccoli, Cauliflower, Crabstick & Mushroom Salad in Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce topped with "longan" fruit. (A case of "dump all leftovers here"...)
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3. Sausage & Pineapple Cocktail.
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4. Coca-cola Pork Ribs (this is the family's favourite, it seems)
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5. Oven-Fried Cucumber & Zucchini Sticks
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Mains: Choice of the following with sides of Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Honey Glazed Carrots.
1. Swiss Steak
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2. Fish in Lemon Parsley Butter sauce
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Kid's menu:
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1. Fried Chicken cutlets
2. Sausage/Crabstick Cheese Bruschetta
3. Garlicky Mash
4. Chocolate Milkshake

1. Chocolate Tartlets
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2. Creme Caramel
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3. Lemon Pudding Cheesecake with Kiwi Fruits
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I have to declare the dinner to be a success except for a minor accident. Moments after cutting slices of the cheesecake and when I was about to return it to the fridge, somehow the slippery pie dish slipped out and fell to the floor. Oh no!!! And just when I thought I could have it for breakfast the next day as I like this cheesecake very much. :(

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Here's the cheesecake, seconds from disaster!

Nevertheless, it was a fun evening. Tiring yes, but fun! We ended the night with gifts-exchange under the Christmas Tree.
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Merry Christmas to All! Good tidings and Peace!

Countdown to Christmas III (Tartlets, Cupcakes & A Cake)

More goodies for the upcoming Christmas celebration...

Fruit Tartlets (for my office)
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Hazelnut Frosted Cupcakes (same frosting as below) for my friend's potluck Christmas dinner.
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And another birthday cake for my brother (Hazelnut Cream Cake). Frosting was very-very good...., but then again I used Varlhona chocolate and good quality roasted ground hazelnuts. ;-) But looks like I have got a long way to go in mastering the art of cake decoration.

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Countdown to Christmas II

More Christmas cookies baking....

Orange Chocolate Chip Stars
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Clockwise from top: Dark Chocolate Truffle Cookies, Peanut Snowballs, Coconut Orange & Sultana Stars
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Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Best Celebration Of The Year!

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"This Christmas Day, All Christians Sing,
Sing Out The News the Angels Bring;
Over All The Earth, Let Praises Ring,
For Jesus Christ is Born.
All Sins Departs before His Grace,
And Life and Health come in its place;
The Love of God We Now Embrace,
For Jesus Christ is Born."
(Part of the Lyrics from my church choir's anthem for this Christmas, "Sing The News" by Stan Pethel)

Christmas has been and always will be my favourite celebration of the year!
Wishing All a Joyous Christmas and A Blessed New Year!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Happy Birthday, Daddy Dearest! (Ice-Cream Cake)

Another birthday in the family, this time it is daddy dearest. And that also means another opportunity for me to make a birthday cake which I approached with glee.
For this occassion, I decided on a "Ice-Cream Cake". Not difficult to make, just sandwich some ice-cream with sponge cake and frost it all over with whipped cream. The latter seems to be the hardest for me. The first time, I over-whipped the cream till it curdled and started turning into butter. The second time, the whipped cream melts faster than you can say "melt"! Look at the pictures below and you will understand.
I guess my kitchen's temperature is just too warm. : I

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Ice-cream Cake that won't stay "frosted".
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Sliced. FYI, it's Vanilla & Choc Brownie ice-cream.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Countdown to Christmas

Countdown to my most favourite holiday season, Christmas has begun. There are Christmas shopping to do, presents to wrap, and cookies and cakes to bake. :)

Some recent bakes:
Cranberry Yoghurt Babycakes
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Peanut Snowballs
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Walnut Marble Yoghurt Cake
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Baked Caramel Tapioca Slices (they may not look like much but these are very delicious and decadent)
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Kiwi Jam (as gift to a friend)
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Monday, December 05, 2005

An Apple A Day (Light Apple Cake)

You know what they say about "An apple a day...." (Takes the doctor away).
If this is true, then you should have my Light Apple Cake. It has one apple on it! *grin*
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This cake is another easy & fast recipe, provided that you use a cake mix. I personally like the Butter Cake Mix from Best23 and City Bakers baking supplies shop (for those staying in the Klang Valley).
Here's what you need to do:
- 250g butter cake mix
- 125g butter, softened
- 25ml apple juice
- 1/4 cinnamon powder
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2+1/2 eggs
- One red apple, sliced thinly with skin intact but discard seeds
- Some demerara sugar + dark molasses sugar + cinnamon powder (or just use brown sugar)
Cream butter and cake mix until light and fluffy. Add eggs one by one and mix well. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
Pour into greased and lined 7 inch square cake tin. Arrange sliced apples on top and sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon generously all over. Bake at 175-180c (pre-heated) for about 30-35 minutes (or until cake is done). Cool on rack.

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Light and fluffy inside

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Let's Feast on Pumpkins!

Halloween and Thanksgiving may be over but one does not need a particular festival to feast on pumpkins.
I bought a 1kg pumpkin today with the intention to experiment with making Pumpkin Paste tong shui (sweet consomme). Then I realised that I only needed 500g of it so that means I was left with another 500g.
A quick ponder, and I decided to make a Pumpkin Bread with half of the leftover and Chilled Pumpkin Jelly with the other half.
Luckily, I love pumpkins and so do most of the adults at home. Otherwise, the above trio would be an over-kill for us. :)
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Pumpkin Paste Tong Shui (Recipe here)
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Chilled Pumpkin Jelly

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Based on this recipe for Sweet Potato Bread, I improvised and made:
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Pumpkin Bread from the bread machine. (Improvised recipe here)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Better Late Than Never (Cookies & Muffin)

Well, I may have missed out some of the latest food blogging events such as "Hay Hay It's Donna Day" and the 2005 SHF/IMBB Cookie Swap but like they say, "better late than never..."
I think I must have been star-struck by the numerous utterly-delicious entries for both these events, to the point that I felt like I must give them a try too.
Ok, enough mumblings. Here are my "delayed" efforts:

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Self-Frosting Muffin
(based on recipe by Donna Hay; see link above for details and recipe)
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After reading so many raves, I have to see what the hype was all about. And I am glad that I did. These are so good, although I only got a quarter bite out of one muffin. Then again, this emphasizes how good the muffins were All gone before I can have another bite! *grin*
I have no doubt that Nutella would be absolutely fantastic with these muffins but all I had was a jar of PB & Chocolate jam. But no regrets in using this though. I think I must have been overly generous with the PB for the entire top was almost covered by the jam (maybe I should have folded more of the muffin dough over the topping). When baked, it formed a crusty and sweet top (that is somewhat similar to those infamous "Rotiboy" buns, but only crustier) .
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The 2005 SHF/IMBB Cookie Swap reminded me that I have to start my Christmas cookies-baking soon. From the round-up of this event, there are tons of cookies recipe made available. Really useful for anyone looking for new recipes to try this Christmas.

For starters, I tried 2 recipes. One was Honey Ginger Snaps based on the recipe from Esurientes, and the other is Custard Crunch Cookies from Gina of Kitchen Capers.
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Honey Ginger Snaps
For the former, mine was a far cry from the original. I expected them to be crispy but they had a chewy center. Could be due to under-baking since I have a phobia of over-baking cookies in my notorious oven (see previous posts if you wonder why). But I still think they are good! The sweetness of honey is nicely balanced with a slight tinge of peppery ginger. Would make this again, and this time will make them thinner so that they are crispier.

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Custard Crunch Cookies
For the latter, no fats are listed in the recipe. These cookies came out being quite hard-to-crunch but somehow, I got addicted to them. They could be a taxing on the jaw but I kind of enjoyed the crunchy effect. And the taste was very nice as well. Next, I would have to learn how to lessen the "hard crunch" effect.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Monday's Breakfast: Incredibly Soft Honey Walnut & Golden Raisin Whole-Wheat Bread

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What I baked for breakfast today, the Incredibly Soft Honey Walnut & Golden Raisin Whole-Wheat Bread.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A Taste of Four Sugars (Low-Fat Cranberry Spice Bread)

* Healthy
* Low-Fat
* Easy
* Quick
* Great-tasting!
With the above descriptions of this recipe that I saw recently, I don't need further reasons to try my hands in baking this. And since I have a packet of frozen dried cranberries on hand, and in line with this weekend's theme on "healthy baking", I set about making this quick bread.
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It was indeed fast and simple to assemble everything together before popping it into the oven. I followed the recipe closely except for the following:
1) I didn't have buttermilk so I made my own using low-fat milk with white vinegar.
2) As mentioned earlier, I used frozen cranberries instead of fresh ones.
3) Unknowingly, I managed to amassed quite a variety of sugars. Since the recipe calls for 1/2 cup of white sugar and 1/2 cup of brown sugar, I used 1/4c each of white sugar, brown sugar, demerara sugar and organic molasses sugar, hence the title of this post.
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I like the bread. It is just like as described by Nic of BakingSheet, I quote,
"The bread is a bit sturdy and holds up well to toasting. It's not overly sweet, but provides a great backdrop for the bright, tart cranberries. The spices are mild, to enhance the flavor of the berries and the buttermilk without overwhelming the loaf."
Having said that, I found that bread tasted even better after keeping it wrapped for a day.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Let's Get Healthy (Tau Suan)

I have been overly indulging in too much rich food lately. To spare myself any further guilt trip, I decided to go healthy this weekend by making not-so-sinful stuff.

So today, it's just plain but good ol' Tau Suan tongshui (Split Mung Beans Sweet Soup). To be honest, I only had my first taste of this tongshui early this year. Although my mom cooks a variety of chinese tongshui, for some reason she had never made this before. Well, I guess I will be the first person to cook this tongshui for my family.

Being a fan of almost all non-coconut milk based tongshui, naturally I love this too. Best served with sliced crispy yau char kwai (chinese crullers) like in the picture below.
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I followed Jas' recipe here. The only change I made was to add 2 pieces of dried mandarin peels to the soup. However, I find it slightly too sweet for my liking so I would reduce the rock sugar by about 20g to 30g next time.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Coconut Blueberry Slices

A colleague of mine recently gave me a small jar of "non-boiled" blueberry jam. When I saw this recipe, I immediately thought of using it to make Coconut Bluberry Slices with the blueberry jam. To try it out, I halved the recipe. Quite fast and easy to make. Taste rather good too!

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Before slicing. See the blueberry jam oozing out from the corner?
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Sliced. Yummy, I like.....!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Opening BBM3 Treasure Chest

Continuing from my previous post on BBM3...
It was exciting to participate in my first “BBM” or “Blogging By Mail” event. The theme for BBM3 is “Home For The Holidays”. I had a great time in preparing my package to be sent to my partner in Southern California. It was equally as exciting to receive a package from my “secret santa”, Niki who hails from Australia (co-incidentally, I spent my university days there and I love the country to bits).
Opening Niki’s package was like opening my first ever Christmas present; not to mention that it brought back many wonderful memories of my stay in Sydney as an university student. Niki did an outstanding job in preparing this fantastic package to me. Here’s what it contained:
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Vegemite-In-A-Biskit Biscuits
During my university days in Sydney, my flat-mate was obsessed with this strange and mysterious Vegemite that almost every Australian that I know seems to be crazy about. I wasn’t so keen then. But I love “Chicken-In-A-Biskit so I already knew that this wouldn’t be bad. It was far from bad, almost enough to convert me to become a Vegemite fan.

Bountiful Chocolates
Niki must have a sixth sense. I LOVE VIOLET CRUMBLE! Used to gorge on this almost every other day while studying in Sydney. And Niki was kind enough to include a large bar of this (*grin*) together with another large bar of Cherry Ripe chocolate bar. In addition, there are also some Caramello Koala chocolate treats, a mini Santa Claus chocolate made by Melbourne’s Ernest Hillier Chocolates as well as Wizz Fizz Sherbert for the kids at home (my nephews and niece). I am so touched by this generous gesture.

A packet of dried spice mix of Australian native herbs and spices such as Dorrigo Pepper among others. I will definitely post my experiment in using this.
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Australian-themed Christmas Pudding by Heritage that has unique Australian ingredients such as Tasmanian Leatherwood honey and lemon myrtle. Although dying to try it, I shall save this till Christmas to make it even more special.

Pavlova Magic Instant-Dessert Mix
This comes in the cutest egg-shell packaging. The instructions sound simple enough for an amateur baker like myself. Another great dessert idea for Christmas. Do stay tuned for how this turns out soon!

Plum & Nectarine Jam
Not forgetting also a jar of home-made Plum & Nectarine Jam made with fruits from Niki’s grandmother’s very own orchard. I wasted no time in tasting it this morning for breakfast and it was every bit as good as I expected it to be. Thanks so much!

Home-Baked ANZAC Cookies
Upon opening the package, I could already smell something delicious with hints of warm spices. And I was right. I was delighted to discover a box of the most delicious ANZAC cookies that I have ever come across. I first tasted these during (surprise!surprise!) my uni days in Sydney and remembered them as being chewy and delicious, but certainly not as delicious as these ones by Niki. And furthermore, there’s a great history behind these cookies too!
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In addition, Niki also shared with me how a typical Christmas Day is like for her and her family (I was almost salivating from reading descriptions of all the food being served on that day). Also included is a recipe for Orange, Cardamom & Brandy Biscuits (her gift cookies of choice for this year's Christmas) and a sweet Christmas card (my first for this year). I enjoyed reading every word of her letter too (Niki, don’t worry about not hand-writing it, I didn’t hand-write mine too…).
Wait..! There’s more to this almost bottomless treasure chest. Included is a copy of a newpaper pull-out on food & wine from her local daily, The Age and also a copy of Donna Hay magazine. Hurray! My first copy of DH magazine. I have heard and read so much about DH and I will surely enjoy pondering over every article and recipe in this magazine.
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I hope you can guess by now that I have become an extremely HAPPY person. And I am sure the glee from opening this wonderful package would last me through to the next BBM event. And thank you so much Niki, for bringing so much joy to me! ;-)

Note: Click on title for link to the round-up of BBM3

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

BBM3: Package Arrived!

Ooh, I am so excited. My first "Blogging By Mail" package had just arrived from the lovely Niki of Esurientes all the way from "The Land Down Under". The contents are simply awesome! Here's a sneak peak of this fabulous package. More to follow soon.....
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Thank you "so very much", Niki; and to Cathy as well for organizing this great "BBM3 - Home For The Holidays" event!

Here's another teaser; what I had for breakfast today. None other than Niki's home-made Plum & Nectarine Jam on thick toasts (made by yours truly of course). Yum...What a great way to start a brand new day...
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Monday, November 21, 2005

Monday's Breakfast: Cheese & Raisin Sugar Loaf

Bought a block of cheddar cheese on sale so I decided to bake Cheese & Raisin Sugar Loaf for breakfast today.
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