08 April 2016

A refreshing soba dinner

The weather in Malaysia has been so hot since Chinese New Year!

My green grass is now yellow and crackles under your feet. I struggle to keep my herbs and potted plants and fruit trees green.

But that is Mother Nature and I respect that. You will give us rain when you want to.

So.... I don't feel like hot rice and dishes for dinner. 2 nights ago, I made roast chicken thighs, cold mashed potato and a fruity-salad. Much better.

Last night I decided we would go with cold soba.

So I visited Midori , a new Japanese mini market that opened in Ipoh 7 months ago to pick up some additional cha soba (green tea Japanese buckwheat noodles) and suyu. I added breaded scallops and marinated seaweed to my basket.

It was a refreshing dinner ... we almost finished  600g of soba.

How to
  • Boil the soba in unsalted boiling-then-simmering water till right (taste it)
  • I used Kombu Suyu and diluted it with water till it tasted right
  • Chill the cooked soba and place ice cubes under it before serving
  • Use Miso paste to make the Miso soup. I added a tube of soft tofu, strips of dried toasted seaweed and chopped spring onions
  • I Air Fried my 24 piece of breaded scallops
  • Serve chopped spring onions and the marinated seaweed as side dishes
  • A small dish of Wasabi

Simple, healthy and cool!

10 March 2016

Pandan Chiffon Cupcakes via Airfryer

I tried out this recipe that was shared by Joyce Tan on FB. It's easy and quick, a real pleasure to whip up. Although whisking the egg whites takes some effort (as always). Thanks Joyce!

Ingredients: 
4 egg yolks
35 g castor sugar
50 g corn oil (I didn't have any so I used olive oil)
65 g liquid (15g pandan extract and 50g coconut milk)
1/8 tsp salt


80 g cake flour
¼ tsp baking powder(sift with cake flour)

4 egg whites
70 g castor sugar


Method
1)Whisk egg yolks and 35 g castor sugar till thick and pale. Add oil. Whisk till well combined. Add 65 g green liquid. Whisk till evenly mixed.

2) Re-sift sifted cake flour and baking powder into the mixture above. Whisk till just evenly mixed. Set aside. Wash whisk thoroughly.

3)Whisk egg whites till thick. Gradually add 70 g castor sugar whilst continuing to whisk. Keep whisking till egg whites just reach firm peak stage.

4) Add egg whites to yolk-and-flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing till almost even after each batch. Scrape down thoroughly. Fold till just evenly mixed. Bang mixing bowl against worktop 3-4 times to get rid of big air bubbles.

5) Bake in AF @ 150 degrees C for 10-11 mins.


Pandan extract: I plucked a large handful of pandan leaves from my garden and  cut them into small pieces. Then chuck into a blender with a splash of water and blend. Strain out the liquid. Or if you don't have pandan leaves I guess you could just cheat and use green food colouring plus pandan flavouring.

Note: My paper cups were too thin and several kinda lost their shape as the batter sat in them. Joyce said to use thicker cups, like in the picture.

01 March 2016

Sure fire cure for hiccups

Hic! Hic! Hiccups!

I've been meaning to share this guaranteed hiccup cure for some time , so here it is.

Take a mouthful of water, and swallow in little gulps up to 7 times, if you can make your mouthful of water last that many little gulps.

I can only make it last for as many as 5 gulps.

It's worked for us ever since a friend told us about it.

Happy trying!

16 February 2016

Dogs: Snake bite and eye infection

If you are a pet owner, you will surely know that owning pets, comes with great responsibility. (just not super powers)

My Rottweiler has not had a great month.

The cobra
Just after Christmas, a cobra came a-calling (we get that sometimes), and my husband had gone out with our Rottie to investigate what was causing all the dogs to bark madly. He was expecting an iguana. What waited outside the gate that afternoon, under the shade of our sidewalk trees, was a black cobra.

Of course our Rottie sprang at it before hubs could stop her. Fortunately, hubs had gone out with a long bamboo cane in hand. In a short time, the cobra was subdued and hubs scooped it with the cane and threw the cobra into the wildlands just outside our borders.

However, he didn't realise our Rottie had been bitten by the cobra.

When , they came back into our compound, our Rottie went for a drink, as she is apt to do after exertion. My maid and I noticed that her right ear was wet. We touched it, and there was blood. Shortly after, our Rottie exhibited weakness in her hind legs and had to lie down. We feared she had suffered a snake bite.

She started breathing heavily and rapidly, her whole body heaving. I called our vet. He said if indeed she had suffered a snakebite, there was nothing to be done, and there is no anti venom available. The vet said that a sever snake bite may lead to death in one hour.

One hour?

We were stunned. My kids did not quite grasp the gravity of the situation. I tried to comfort our dog as best I could, talked to her, stroked her, calmed her. I also attempted to squeeze out blood from her bitten ear.

Her breathing became increasingly laboured. Her eyes glazed over. My heart sank.

But still we remained by her side.

Without warning, she defecated. She had no control over her bowels. It was watery stools. Then our Rottie got up, moved away and lay down again, breathing heavily. Her eyes lost the glossy look.

Then, she retched and vomited. A lot. All signs of snake poisoning.

But it had been more than an hour. We made her drink. We sat with her. Her breathing was still rapid but her eyes brightened. We called a friend who suggested feeding her 2 egg whites. What did we have to lose? So we did. I had to pour the liquid down her throat.

By nightfall, her breathing had quietened and she was still alive! She had survived the snake bite, probably on account of her size (40kg) and perhaps the snake had not delivered a full dose of its venom.

We took her to a different vet the next morning. She said our Rottie was lucky to have survived the snake bite.

The vet snipped off the fur on our Rottie's ear to reveal the wound; we could not see 2 distinct puncture marks. The vet administered an antibiotic shot to our Rottie, sprayed a wound healing substance onto her ear, and sent us home with more antibiotics, pain killers and anti swelling medicine.

It was a long week - our Rottie's ear swelled, Then the skin turned black while the surrounding tissue turned white and mushy. The skin on the ear was dying. My son said "it looks like a monster eye sitting in the middle of a volcano of pus". It was that ugly to behold. I had to made sure our Rottie ate her medicine, made sure to spray her ear with the vet's herbal spray, keep her ear clean and dry. And keep her from scratching at it. Which means I had to put our Rottie in an Elizabethan Cone (remember, the Cone of Shame in Up?)

I am happy to report that my Rottie has fully recovered.

The eye
In the midst of this, our Rottie got an eye infection.

I was like, what???

Her left eye exuded a lot of sticky substance and was watery. So I wiped her eye with a cotton ball soaked in warm salt water, followed by human unmedicated eye drops. I did this for a few days, and her eye healed. 

I hope there will be no more health challenges for my Rottie, this year of the Fire Monkey.

28 January 2016

Air Frying Seaweed Snacks for CNY

I am happy to add another feather to my cap.

Nice and crispy air fried seaweed snacks
Inspired by my Air Fryer group on FB, and following their instructions so generously shared, I attempted to air fry seaweed snacks. It is one of my daughter's favourite snacks during the CNY period and I would usually buy a few tubs of this snack each year.

It was delightfully easy to make; the recipe is simple and the AF made it even easier! I was ever so pleased with the results.

Now, my girl can have the seaweed snack homemade by Mommy and oil-free too.

Recipe:
Frozen popiah (spring roll) skin (from supermarket)
Large sheets of seaweed (ideally, the toasted ones for making sushi)
1 egg, beaten with some soya sauce (or salt or sugar, to your taste)

Thaw the pastry skin.
Seaweed pasted onto popiah skin and cut into strips
Brush each piece of pastry skin with the beaten egg and paste a sheet of seaweed onto it.
Cut into bite size strips.
Place into your AF at 180 degress for 3-5 minutes. You may check it midway, and toss it around a bit. Increase the air frying time if you have placed a lot of pieces into your basket and find that some pieces haven't crisped yet.
Enjoy!

My husband appraised my snacks with a satisfactory nod and didn't realize I had used the AF and not deep frying with oil, until he walked into the kitchen and saw the AF sitting there cooking away. "No wonder it seems lighter and less oily than those bought outside."

My daughter too was more than happy with the snacks.

Another first, and another success.

18 January 2016

Homemade Authentic Bak Kwa or Barbecued Dried Meat

Three more weeks to Chinese New Year to welcome the year of the Monkey.

Continuing with my many firsts (baking bread, roasting turkey, making soap), I attempted to make Bak Kwa, also called Ro Gan or Long Yook, depending on your dialect. In English it is just called Barbequed (Dried) Meat, hopefully not to be confused with Char Siu.

I don't know why I decided to take the plunge to make Ro Gan this year. Guess I am becoming more adventurous. 

So with just one day's online research I picked a recipe that sounded authentic and homemade. I used the Bak Kwa recipe from Shanon who posts through her blog Just as Delish .

I liked Shanon's recipe because she tried it twice, once without grilling and once with. She preferred the one that she grilled. Also, Shanon's recipe does not use any hoi sin sauce, or char siu sauce, which in my opinion are flavourings made for the Western/ Caucasian market. I find food flavoured with hoi sin sauce or char siu sauce artificially sweet, with a distinct telltale taste of the sauce.

Even my homemade Char Siu never incorporates Char Siu sauce.

I did tweak Shanon's recipe just the tiniest bit, so here it is:
 
Ingredients
  • 1kg fatty Meat Mince - either Chicken, Beef or Pork (Fattier mince makes more tender, juicy bak kwa)
  • 120g Brown Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice Powder (Shanon used 1 tsp)
  • 1 tablespoon Fish Sauce (I used Squid Sauce)
  •  3 tablespoons Light Soya Sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon Rice Wine (Shao Tsing) which I omitted
  • 3 tablespoons honey (I increased it to 4 tbsp but brought it back to 3)
  • 1 tablespoon Vegetable oil 
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce 
  • 2 teaspoons Sesame oil 
  • Red food colouring - optional
  1. Thorughly combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cover and marinate 8 hours or overnight in the fridge.
  2. Preheat oven to 150°C (Shanon used 100 degrees, which I found too low and did not dry out my pork enough). Wash and dry flat baking trays. Line with aluminium foil.
  3. Place mince onto the tray then spread and press down to form a thin sheet over the surface of the tray to a thickness of 3-5mm. You can either use wet fingers/ wooden ladle to manually press it or you could lay a sheet of plastic or baking paper over it and roll it thin with a rolling pin. Try to keep the edges as straight as you can so you can cut into neat squares.
  4. Place the trays in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the meat has dried out - the surface is dry to the touch, most of the liquid has evaporated and is holding together without breaking (It's fine to be a little moist underneath the sheet). 
  5. Cut the dried meat sheet into squares with a kitchen scissors.
  6. Heat up your charcoal bbq or grill and grill each square until darkened and caramelised. It’s totally ok to have the tiniest hint of charring but keep your eyes on them because they burn quickly and easily.
  7. These Bak Kwa do not have preservatives, so it's better to keep them in an airtight container in the fridge with sheets of greaseproof baking paper between each slice of Bak Kwa. When needed, reheat Bak Kwa in grill or microwave.
Grilling over charcoal imparts smoky aroma to the meat


I made 2 batches of Bak Kwa. The first batch tasted good,  but I did not press the mince thin enough. For the second batch, my maid pressed the mince with her hands, making it a much thinner layer than mine. The second batch looked much more like the Ro Gan or Bak Kwa that you buy from the shops.

Many elderly people now say not to eat too much Bak Kwa due to concerns about the quality of meat, chemical colouring and preservatives used in making them.


As my family loves Bak Kwa, I can now serve them my homemade Bak Kwa with peace of mind.

15 January 2016

Chinese New Year of the Monkey 2016

Christmas has come and gone, and now we are set to welcome the Chinese New Year.

This is more of a checklist of things to be done, and I hope my current high energy levels continue as I am now ahead of schedule:

  • wash curtains
  • wash sofa covers
  • wash throw-pillow covers
  • cream-wipe leather sofa
  • clean balconies
  • power jet the driveway
  • wash mosquito nettings
  • put up decorations
  • wipe windows
  • wash all patios
  • wipe ceiling fans
  • tidy up garden
  • bake cookies
  • try to make barbequed dried meat
  • plan CNY menu and pre cook some dishes
  • throw out accumulated junk

I think those are the major CNY preps. Gonna get busier soon, therefor wishing those celebrating the festival a Very Happy Healthy and Successful New Year!

06 January 2016

Christmas Dinner 2015

So another year is coming to an end. Another Christmas to celebrate and to be grateful for.

This year, everything costs more. Malaysia is bearing the consequences of a very weak Ringgit, a crisis of confidence in the ruling government and PM Najib, introduction of GST in Malaysia, record low world oil prices and a slowing China economy. All bad news.

But hey, I'm no politician. So who wants to hear what I think about the government and the PM right?

So let's talk turkey.

After having roasted turkey from Maria's Cafe and Beacon Point, we decided that we like Maria's turkey better, but they don't roast turkey for Christmas anymore. And this year's roast turkey costs about RM450 for a 5 kg bird from most places I called to enquire.

I decided to take the plunge. Roast my own turkey.

First find the frozen raw turkey. Not so easy in Ipoh. The main supermarkets, AEON and Tesco don't stock frozen turkey for Christmas anymore, citing "halal" problems. Whatever. So then, what do I do? I texted a friend right in the supermarket aisle. And bless her, she told me she got her frozen turkey from InTrico. Ah, I know that place! So off I went to buy my turkey.

It was a giant of a bird - 6kg! InTrico didn't have anything smaller, and I didn't want to hunt elsewhere, and then risk my bird in InTrico being sold off. So I bought it.All RM228 of it.

And came home to my husband giving me a hard time about buying such a big bird, that we would have leftovers forever, blah blah blah. Not a very nice start to my first ever attempt at making a home roasted turkey. Oh well.

I scoured the internet and found a recipe that I liked from Simply Recipes; described as the family's traditional roast turkey year in year out. I liked the sound of that. And they cook the stuffing separately, because having the stuffing inside the bird makes it harder to roast the turkey evenly. I like that logic too!

Honestly it was rather nerve wracking roasting such a huge bird. I had to worry about defrosting it completely before roasting (which took 2.5 days) and then seasoning it and watching it (literally) roast whilst in the oven. Of course while the bird was cooking, I was cooking the stuffing and cranberry sauce, making pasta, cutting vegetables and getting the pumpkin soup started.

And in the middle of all that, my husband walks in and asks why I am roasting the turkey so early (it was about noon, and dinner was going to be at 7pm) Was I roasting it too early? Instructions said it would take at least 3.5 hours to roast.
Cranberry sauce

I am happy to report that the turkey turned out well, the stuffing was delicious and dinner (all home cooked) was a success.

Stuffing
Here's encouraging all of you to roast your own turkeys too! If I can do it, so can you.

 My son loved my cranberry sauce and the turkey gravy. My daughter, who usually complains that turkey smells funny, ate her turkey happily this year and said "No smell Mommy!"

Only spoiler, father in law said, "maybe next year you can cook the stuffing inside the turkey".
(He can, if he wants to.)

25 November 2015

Homemade Soap - unveiled

I waited anxiously for 48 hours. For my soap to harden.

So with bated breath, I removed the insulating towels from the soap tray. A waft of pleasant lavender greeted me. A creamy white substance sat inside my tray. Was it solid or liquid, that is a success or a failure?

Gingerly, I touched it. Woohoo! It was solid. It was smooth and silky.

Everything is looking right with this first batch of homemade and handmade soap.














Now, the next wait will be longer, 4 to 6 weeks for the soap to cure. They are now sitting in my study area.

Shall I order more oils to make another batch of soap?

23 November 2015

Homemade Soap

I made soap today. The cold process method.

It's still sitting in the tray, hardening for the next 24 hours. Only then will I know whether Project Soap is a success.

This year has seen a lot of firsts in homemade products for me, like my breads and rolls, and collagen soup, and now soap.

I saw a few posts on FB regarding hand made soap, and with the drastic decline in the value of the RM this year, our usual soap costs a lot more. We use One with Nature, an American brand that uses Dead Sea minerals. The soaps are mild, and my kids don't step out of the shower with red blotches on their skin like they do if they use other readily-available commercial brands.
Lye solution

So I thought why not try soap making? Doesn't seem that hard. And the attraction for me was the thought of making soap that is all natural and chemical free.

Alas, soap cannot be entirely chemical free. It has to have lye (sodium hydroxide) to interact with the fatty molecules of oil in order to saponify into soap. At least, that is the ONLY chemical in home made soap.

The ingredients for making soap are delightfully simple: water, oil and lye. That's it.

The Youtube videos on soap making give dire warnings of the potential dangers of lye - it is a caustic alkaline substance that will burn you upon contact, and the fumes it produces when dissolved into water are powerful.

So I had to do some psyching up before taking the plunge. I purchased my first soap making kit from Soap Lab and designated my work area outside the house; the patio by the fish pond and bamboo hedge just outside the family room. Perfect.

I achieved trace very quickly
Everything went well today; I set up my work table, I laid out my utensils, I weighed out my ingredients, I suited up with goggles and gloves and mask, and I kept the children and pets away.

Now I wait.