Saturday, August 30, 2008

Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup

Husband was away. The dishwasher broke down. It just refused to drain. Finally after cleaning the filter and running the dishwasher for 3 cycles, I gave up and called the repairman. No appointment until Tuesday, after Labor Day!. Decided on a Wednesday appointment as Tuesday being the first day of school can be trying. Who knows what will happen that day.

To top it all, I suddenly develop a hacking cough. My throat is irritated. Sucked on cough drops. No relief. Took Robitussin, still coughing. Now, I am up at nights as I keep coughing when I am lying down. Have to sit up to sleep. Totally exhausted. Cannot wait for husband to come home so I can collapse without guilt.

What do I eat? Listless, i just want something soupy. I am thinking of my favorite dish at Korean Restaurant- Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup. So I retrieve 2 cornish hens from
the freezer and thaw them. Rummage through my now sadly depleted fridge because I have not been grocery shopping. Find some garlic and ginger I need. No scallions but who cares! The pantry does not produce any glutinous rice but I do have some sushi rice. That will have to do. I find some sliced ginseng and also capsules of ground ginseng that I can use. Of course, I do not have the red dates needed. But visions of slupping the hot ginseng chicken soup pushes me on. How hard can this be? I have eaten this soup so many times. At worst it will be a good chicken soup.

I cleaned and washed the Cornish hens. Mixed the sushi rice with some of the powdered ginseng. Spoon in some of the sushi rice,sliced ginseng, ginger and garlic into the cavity. Seal it up with a pin (saved from bacon wrapped Fillet Mignon). You can use skewer or toothpicks.Put
the prepared Cornish Hens into my pressure cooker. Put in enough water to cover chicken. Bring the pressure cooker to high pressure. Once pressure is reached, lower flame, maintain pressure and cook for 30 minutes. Voila, Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup or at least a fair version with my limited pantry. It saved me!!!

I know, Ah Khor will probably say it is too "heaty" with my sore throat. Sadly, I am the most ignorant of all my siblings when it comes to Chinese remedies or medicine. Always been hearty so was never feed chinese remedies as far as I can remember. Did not have the influence of my mother in law or older generations as I have lived abroad for almost 20 years now. So I muddle along as I please. At that moment, I needed my Ginseng Chicken fix. Besides, my son loves the soup too! One for each of us, how perfect!

Husband is home and suggest I take Sudafed PE nasal decongestant. But I tell him I do not have a runny nose and I am not congested. He tells me that it happened to him before and the doctor told him that it was a nasal drip causing the irritation. So I take it. Fitful sleeping up to about 3 am coughing every now and then finally sleep. Wake up and I am a lot better. Looks like Dr.Quack may know a thing or two. Feeling a lot better today. Dear husband just drove me to get the night version of Sudafed PE so that I can sleep tonight. I guess I slept last night from pure exhaustion.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Successful Moon(cake) Landing

You know me. I just could not accept that I had failed at making Mooncakes. So, washed and cooled the baking sheets and immediately started another batch of Mooncake dough, this time I tried Lily Sek's of I made half the quantity as I already have more Mooncakes than we can eat. Mixed up the starter, set is aside for 1 hour. Luckily, we had a late lunch so I could still play.Meanwhile I pan toasted up some sunflower seeds and almond silvers to add to the too sweet filling. Chilled the mixture in the fridge.

Prepared dinner for family - Adobo Flank Steak and Grilled Eggplant on the grill outside.While Flank steak was cooking, I pulled out the chilled filling and rolled them into balls. It is now abou
t 9:30 p.m.! Of course, I was torn between watching the basketball finals between USA and Spain and redeeming my name!

Made the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes while I ate dinner. This recipe ask me to knead the dough.
The previous one said not to knead. I used almost maximum flour asked for; 220 gm for half recipe. Adding flour as I kneaded until it was no longer sticky. It felt like good playdough. I felt more confident.

I roll the dough into balls. Flattening each ball into a 2 1/2 inch circle. As luck would have it, next to me was a plactic 1 cup measure. I put it on top of the ball of dough and pressed down. A nice circle
of around 2 1/2 inches. I pick up the flatten dough. Put a ball of filling in the middle. Lily is right. If you put the dough and filling ball in the middle of a cupped palm and push the filling against the dough, it will stretch, allowing you to cover the filling without too much extra dough. I lightly roll the filled dough between my floured hands, before putting it into the mould and pressing lightly. A couple of knocks on the counter and it comes off the mould. A prefect little mooncake.
The imprint was more distintive this time. The recipe calls for broiling it in the oven for 5 minutes. My oven's broiler needs to be preheat.By the time I put the prepared Mooncakes in, it was quite hot. At 3 mins 40 seconds it was quite brown. Admittedly, I was watching the Basketball final and did not check on the Mooncake....Next time, I would broil for less time or keep an eye on it (so Ladies, no Chinese Soap or House Episodes).Take out of oven and rest 10 minutes. That was was good, as USA had started to make careless fouls....Brush on egg glaze and another 5 minutes rest. Caught a little more game.

Baked for 10 minutes as it was quite brown form my broiling. Cooled it on sheet and then on cooling rack. The imprint was so much clearer this time!

The Mooncake
seemed a little harder than the other recipe. Lily's recipe said to store for 2-3 days before it is ready for eating. Cut one to try anyway. Just a tad drier but just as delicious pastry. The added sunflower seeds really cut the sweetness.The skin was evenly around the filling. Very nice.

This morning ( the day after) the pastry already seems softer and more shinny and taste even better. So, It is worth a try. I will make different fillings the next time and share the recipe.

Romance Killer ?

"I spend all my free time with you, Mommy. That is why I do not have a boyfriend!" How would you feel if your daughter told you this???? I guess, I will have to cut her out of my life so that she can have a life - a love life.
Am I a suffocating, controlling mother? I always thought she spent all that time with me because she loves being with me. All this while..........One day she says I am her Go To Girl and the next she says this. Hmm, she is spending all this time with me because......because.....I don't know why. Because I did not cut the umbilical cord? Because I frighten away prospective boyfriends?
Wait, I will not be the villain in this. This must be it. It is because I am better than a boyfriend, that's why.
All this because I asked if she wanted to watch a movie with me and she wanted to sleep! Sleep deprivation makes a daughter cut deep and draws blood. I don't make her spend her free time with me or do I.......? I do not know anymore. Why does she ask me to wait till she is free to watch certain movies with her or to wait and go places with her instead of going on my own. You know what I think? I think I do not have a social life because she is always making me wait to do things with her that's what. Trying to make me think I am the bad one. HA!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Oh where do I hide my Moon Face?

So sad to report, my Mooncakes experiment was not quite a success. They looked good before baking but when they came out of the oven, the beautiful imprint were so shallow, they were barely visible. I was looking forward to reporting success and giving tips on how to make them. Oh, where do I hide my shameful Moon Face????? I guess it is back to the kitchen.

Before Baking After Baking

I think the pastry dough was not firm enough to hold the imprint while in the oven. Maybe,I did not measure the ingredients accurately- too much Golden Syrup. That does not seem likely as the pastry was just nice, not too sweet.I put in only the half tablespoon of alkali water it called for, seeing how paranoid I was about that ingredient- so that could not be it ( too little? maybe but I think not- I was very focus on getting it right). That leaves the flour- too little? All in all the texture of the pastry/ skin was good.

I had used ready made black bean and red bean filling. It was too sweet for our taste. Next time I will either make my own or add nuts and sunflower seeds to ready made filling to cut down on the sweetness.

I think part of the problem could have been the wrapping of the dough around the filling. Maybe I did not wrap it close enough around the filling, leaving a air gap. This would not have given the pastry the support it needed, allowing it to `spread'.

Whatever it is, it is back to the kitchen for me though the sweet taste of the filling at the back of my throat is not encouraging me. Maybe I can make the Snow Skin Mooncakes instead. No, I will persist and make some beautiful Mooncakes soon and report back.

Now what do I do with these very sweet Mooncakes?

Friday, August 22, 2008

To Mooncake or Not

On my recent trip back to Malaysia I saw beautiful Mooncakes being sold everywhere. No longer contented with the traditional black bean paste, lotus paste with diced ham and fragrant nuts (Kum Thui), we now have chocolate, peanut butter, cappuccino, green tea, durian filled Mooncakes. The array become even more confusing with the Snow Skin version of Mooncakes - filled with strawberry, raspberries, blueberries, longan and every sort of flavor you can imagine. With the Snow Skin Mooncakes also comes the colors; the greens of the pandan and green teas, the pinks of the berries and others hues tinted by the fruits and herbs used. Then the sizes and shapes. Things sure has change from when double yolk Mooncake was the luxury!

Anyway, I was inspired to try to make Mooncake this year. My dear sister in law was kind enough to take me to buy some Mooncake moulds before I left ( and also a Ang Ku mould... hopefully more about that later). Of course, I have the dilemma of the alkali water aka Potassium Carbonate and Sodium Bi- Carbonate solution aka Kan Sui aka Lye water. I always knew that alkali water was involved in Mooncake as in many Chinese dishes.....and also how controversial it is. I guess I knew I would be trying this. Who was I kidding.

Anyway to the blogs I go to find out if there is a substitute for lye water / alkali water. I come across it being banned / pull off the shelves in Australia- highly cautic, strongly akaline. I read about Norwegian dishes that use it. Of European Artisian bakers who use lye and believe that there is no substitute for it.Pretzel makers use it (although I use sodium bicarbonate in pretzel recipes with good success. Will experiment at some point). Somehow the texture of traditional food is different without it. The Chinese use it in making Noodles, giving it the springy texture, the Kan Sui Koh, Kan Sui Chung (Rice Dumpling) to name a few. It boils down to being careful with it, using only a very small amount of it, keeping it out of the hands of children and buying food grade alkali / lye water, none of the drain cleaning grade!

So tonight, I have followed Betty Yew's Traditional Mooncake recipie and prepared my deadly starter for tomorrow's Mooncake skin. More tomorrow on the Mooncake adventure as I (hopefully) live and breath.

As a footnote, my husband bade me goodnight in the kitchen, with snide remarks about the potion I was going to kill him with.......

I Am The Go To Girl !

When my friends ask me who I go to for advice, I say me. I am the total package, and my mommy. My mommy is my Go To Girl. Thus said my daughter to me. Shucks.... I am blushing. I love you too babe


As I sit here at my computer, I am thinking about my siblings. A brother who is experiencing fatherhood for the first time in his forties, a sister who has a brood ( I exaggerate - just 3) of children ranging from kindergarten to a new teenager and my youngest sister a recent induct into baby boot camp! Been there, done that, still doing it. Do I have any advice for you????

I do not know about advice but I can perhaps share my feeling, hindsight. Nobody told me that I would love my kids so much, what I would do for them, how far I would go for them.This was not how I imagine motherhood in my twenties. Actually, I don't think I even imagine motherhood. Which lead to my mother and others thinking I did not like children!! I just was not ready to be a mother. I had a great career and a wonderful husband who was equally driven career wise. We just wanted our time together. It would be six years into our marriage and a continent away before we would start our family and begin our love affair with our children.

Like I said, I did not put much thought into motherhood. Yes, I wanted children at the right time.I would be a good mother- nuture, feed and cloth them, piano lesson etc. No further thoughts beyond that. Like my dad said, children are like "ubi kayu" ( sweet potatoes)- stick them in the ground and they will grow. It seemed like that was how we grew up.... ( he did do more. both my parents did. They greatly influenced my life- more about that in later postings). I think they were busy providing for the four of us. As long as we were happy they were happy parents. What more is there, then making sure that your children are well adjusted and happy. Both teachers, they always made sure that one of them would be home with us.

To me, parenthood was to be a natural progression in life not a driving force in my life. I never imagine that my career would take a back seat to parenting. I don't think many who knew me back then would have imagine this life I now lead. But then, I think I was one of the earliest in my class to get married at 25.( I know 25 is not real early but I married at the earliest age among my siblings too) It just felt right and it is- will celebrate my 25 wedding anniversary in 2010!

A dear friend told me recently how devoted and dedicated a mother I am. I never looked at it that way. It naturally evolved. My children made it so easy, I am truly blessed. My daughter who inspired many friends to start families because she was so "easy" to take care of and so loving. She made them think "we can do this". My son, the irrepressible rascal with the big heart. I thank my dear husband for enabling me to be to scale back work and be able to enjoy our lives together and be the mother I am ( and hopefully a good wife!).A wonderful partner and support. I appreciate it even more so these days, as I count down the days we have with my eldest, a daughter, senior year in high school.This time, next year we will be packing her off to college.Imagine that!! I am amazed at how my son is growing up- a wonderful young man, full of life, energy and passion. A wonderful heart. It is incredible how he `grew up' right in front of my eye as he moved from elementary school to middle school last year.

So I am thinking maybe I can share some of my parenting experience.
My brother - you are lagging behind but at least you are in the race!! (ha, ha) I mean game of parenting. Second sister ( salutation for the benefit of the youngest sister), you are not far behind. We both have teenagers of the same age.Little youngest sister - the newest entry - welcome to parenthood.

And maybe it will help others -how it differs from my and maybe your upbringing. Especially for those of us born in the East and now living in the West. Each step of our children lives especially in school had been new to us - we had to find out what to do. Maybe it can benefit some of you out there.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Still Not Sure

I am still on the fence regarding blogging......I love taking pictures but I am still wary of posting pictures of my love ones on the internet. And that, takes half (maybe the whole) fun out of it. I know I can keep the posts private but......I just have to come to terms with it.... and hopefully soon.

To my sister who wants to wait for a block of time to work on a project, that is not our lives now! We have to seize the moment. Like this post, just a two paragraphs mussing about my ambivalence about blog. Ha, ha and I want to encourage you to blog.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Not Total Devastation

Sorry if I made it sound like all was lost in the caterpillar rampage. My heirloom tomatoes were the main casualties. At the end of the day I did manage to rustle up a tasty meal the first night of steaks and potatoes on the grill with a fresh salad of lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, pepper and herbs like basils and parsley from the garden. Some of the lettuce were a bit old but the tomatoes were so sweet and juicy and the red pepper was not half bad. The herbs was very flavorful and fragant. Unfortunately, the potatoes plants in the garden wilted while I was away so potatoes that night came from the pantry. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to those lovely baby spuds from my own garden later in fall.

Happily, the kumquat flowers I saw before I left had developed into fruits. Should be a decent crop of kumquats if not too many drop. The strawberry guava tree is reliable as ever, masses of fruits, plumping up nicely but no color yet. The persimmons are quite large now and will soon color too.

Had an unfortumate setback with the figs. Must have been some scorching days while we were gone because I had fruit and leaf drops. Some of the figs remaining on the trees were quite dry. Hopefully I can nurse it back and have some fruit for this season. I should be fine next season.

Seem to have lost one side of my mango tree while new leaves are growing on another side. Still trying to figure that out. The pomegranate plants too seem to have suffered from the heat. They had dropped their leaves but now seem to be coming back. The banana, ciku, nona, passionfruit and even the lychee trees seem to be thriving. All in all, I am happy. I always expect some casualties during my summer breaks. It is just those darn Tomato Horn Caterpillars! I do love my Tomatoes.Posted by Picasa

Vacationers without reservation

On the way back from the airport, I kept wondering, what will my garden be like? I hope my kitchen garden is alive. We had been away for 3 weeks. Normally, I would not worry too much as we have irrigation but..... You see, a couple of days before we left, I came across huge caterpillars in my vegetable patch. Those ugly critters were the size of my middle finger; Tomato Horn caterpillars! They were ravaging my vegetables. I even found one on my grapefruit tree in my orchard.They look so plump and juicy. Normally, the birds would take care of them but maybe this time they were too big or there were too many of them. I diligently search them out and metered out justice. I cut them in half ... cruel I know but I was fighting for our food. Besides, it made it easier for the birds to eat them then. I try to keep my garden organic so it means removing snails and other bugs by hand or apply organic solution like baking soda, garlic and chili or just plain jets of water. Anyway, I kept on the killing spree for a few days but worried as I board the plane that there may another generation of those caterpillars developing in my garden.......

Fast forward to our return. I open the back sliding door and look up to my Kitchen Garden. I see red tomatoes in the distance ( a small smile) but it does not not look too lush and green ( a frown on my forehead). I slowly walk across the patio and up the stairs to the kitchen garden......My heart sinks as I view ripe tomatoes on the ground and ripening ones on the vines- vines almost without leaves! As I suspected another generation of caterpillars vacationed in my garden while was away.My guests without reservations. I have spent the last few days trying to bring back the half dead tomato plants.

Caterpillar attack