Monday, December 27, 2010

Chocolate Banana Muffins

I just had the most delicious, moist chocolate muffin this morning. WHERE you ask? In Malaysia. To be more precise at the home of my gracious sister in law K. Late last night while I was lounging in the tv room, watching a movie, with her kids and mine ( and falling asleep and snoring in between) she discovered some bananas that had been overlooked and was now too ripe for good eating. Before you know it, she was whipping up these banana chocolate muffins. The very thoughtful person she is, she used a vegan recipe so that a staff member in the pre- school she runs, who is vegan could enjoy them too. THEY ARE DELICIOUS! I highly recommend them. There is no need for labels like vegan, vegetarian etc - they are just fabulous muffins. I think whoever came up with adding ice water to the mix was a genius. Simple addition which adds so much moisture to the muffins without adding more fat. Needless to say, I will be making them when I get home.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

It is not quite Cherry Pie

Sigh! I am on the top rung of the ladder harvesting plump, juicy, deliciously looking cherries but NOT! All I can think about is that I wish these were cherries because then I would be popping those babies in my mouth and be enjoying them with red stained fingers. Instead, these beautiful fruits are olives. They are bitter off the tree. Sigh, sigh, sigh.........

Don't get me wrong, I have been excited since I saw the 3 olive trees on the grounds of our new home. Visions of bottles of olive oil and olives in my pantry filled my mind. It has been quite exciting these past few months, watching the olives getting color. First green, then a slight blush, then reddish, maroon and finally a deep almost grape color. I  research how to preserve olives and produce olive oil. Now, reality hits! Instant gratification is out of the question. A ready to eat olive takes a minimum of 2-3 months, maybe longer depending on what method you use. Hence, my love hate relationship with my olive trees. At the end of the long wait, I may have a batch of bad tasting olives.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Moorish (Tortilla) Afghan Update

The heat wave this week has kept me out of the garden. I was forced to sit under the fan and clear up long overdue paperwork. Glad that it done. On the plus side, I finally joined  the beautiful Moorish motifs (Tortilla) to make the Afghan. It was exciting to see it come together.

I started by using the main color to join the pieces together per the instructions but did not like the look of it. It was too contrasting.Whip stitching the pieces together made it a tedious process to undo placement mistake. Prowling through the CrochetMe blog, I found others were slip stitching the pieces together using the dominant color between the motifs. I used this method. Any placement mistake was easily 'unzip' by pulling the thread, undoing the chain of the slip stitches. I also like how using dominant color between the tiles made it flow better- like using the right color grout between tiles. To make it easier I color up the motif chart to make it easier to keep track that of the motifs I was joining. 

The finished product is beautiful, soft and cozy. However, I think it is a bit small than I like. I currently cozy up to a gorgeous quilt my good friend C made for my 50th. Birthday. I want to make it closer to that size.  I ordered more yarn and I am in the process of making more of the Moorish tiles motifs to enlarge the afghan. Will update again.

Deciding which color to use to join motif

Color up chart to make placement easier

Keeping track of diamond motifs

All motifs used up

Way smaller than the gorgeous birthday quilt my friend C made for me

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tomato, Artichoke and White Bean Penne

This one of our favorite pasta dish, the one that makes my son ask with a smile on his face -"Is it the one I eat a ton of ?" Literally, he would have eaten 4 bowls before I ask if he is having seconds! I made it this week for my daughter as part of  her count down Must Eat before College dish. It is something she can easily make in her new apartment.

I make it a lot in the summer with tomatoes from my garden and also at other time of the year with just pantry staples. It is best with fresh tomatoes but canned whole tomatoes will work too. As long as you have cans of whole tomatoes,white bean and artichoke hearts in the pantry and pancetta or bacon in the fridge, you are on your way. It is a dish that you can easily substitute with items you have on hand. I think italian sausage in place of the pancetta or bacon and asparagus in place of the artichoke will work well too. Just experiment!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mee Hoon Kuih in Soup

This is another of my daughter's Must Eat Before College request that I obliged this week. This posting is for you, my darling daughter! Now that you have your  own apartment complete with a kitchen you can cook a little taste of home whenever you want. Of course, 1-800-Mommeeee is always available to you.

This is a traditional Hokkein dish which is essentially fresh handmade pasta in a flavorful broth. It is a favorite of my family here in the US as well as our families in Malaysia. My mother makes a top notch version. She is particular, often making and serving individual bowls. That way, the pasta is truly el dente. Since I am the only one forming the pasta and somehow my family is always already too hungry when I make this dish, I make all the pasta first before calling everyone to the table. I just remove, drain and keep the cooked pasta hot in a big serving bowl. A drizzle of shallot oil keep the pasta separate.

The toughest part of the dish is stretching out the dough thin enough to make Mee Hoon Kuey (pasta), tearing the pieces off and dropping it into hot simmering broth. It is a tedious hot work so you must love your family! Not many families make it at home in Malaysia these days because of the work and skill involved. Lucky for them it is possible to order this dish at food stalls. Some vendors have updated it, rolling out the dough through a pasta machine and making fettucine style pasta. I prefer the old fashioned, rustic torn off pasta.The toppings is everything!! I serve it with fried anchovies, meat topping, chinese bok choy, fried peanuts and fried shallots. Like I said, lots of work but yummy! 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Blueberry Scones

This posting is in honor of the secretaries and the other wonderful ladies at the front office of my son's high school. My son recently suffered an injury to his eye and he had to be out of school for awhile. These ladies helped get his homework from his various classes and got him his off campus passes for follow up doctor visits. This truly helped me in a stressful situation. I bake some of these blueberry scones as a treat to these special ladies.

The pictures are from another batch I made at our Temecula weekend home. I had fresh peaches and blueberries but no sour cream. I improvised by adding 2 tablespoon of buttermilk powder to 1 whole cup of milk in place of the 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 sour cream. Another substitution I made was 1/2 stick of non-trans fat cisco and 1/2 stick of butter in place of 1 stick of butter. Again, based on what I had on hand. I am a great believer in making it work! The scones were flaky and moist. Original recipe was from CooksIllustrated. These are so easy and fast to make that I made an extra batch for the freezer. I freeze them unbaked so that I can have truly fresh Blueberry Scones the next time I am up at the house.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mud Pies for the Adult Gardener

Last weekend, I finally got out to my garden and PLAYED!!! Spent a glorious afternoon with my hands wrist deep in soil blocking mixture and water. For weeks now, my soil blocker had been calling me. This spring's finicky weather worked against me. I was fooled into direct sowing only to be hit by cold weather and then by scorching heat and freaky cold spells!! As a result the seeds took too long to germinate and  then grew so slowly that they were old before they reached full size. My current plan is give my seedling a fighting chance by starting them in soil blocks. The evening before, I mixed up a batch of blocking mix for my soil blocks. Added water, mixed and let it sit to ensure that mixture was evenly moist.

Two years ago, I bought 2  soil blocker mould to avoid using plastic pots in my yearly seeding starting routine. More than 20 years ago, I read Elliot Coleman Organic gardening book and was immediately attracted to the idea of using soil blocks to start seeds. I had just moved to the US at that time and the idea of spending so much money to buy a contraption to press mud into mud/soil blocks that acts as pot was ridiculous. I was still converting Malaysian Ringgit to US Dollars - $4.50 Ringgit to US $1.00 was tough to swallow. But a good idea will stick with you. When I started being serious about growing heirloom vegetables it made sense that I grew them as green as I could.

Blocking mixture - soil, perlite and coco fiber

Correct blocking mixture yields perfect soil blocks
Essentially a soil block is a soil pot made of wet soil mixture, shaped and compressed with the use of a soil blocker. A seed is inserted in a depression in the block. The seedling grows uninterrupted, its roots air-pruned when it reaches the edges of the block, creating a strong root system. There is no transplanting shock because it is not in a container.  I love that I do not have seed starting plastic pots to clean and store. It is essential to mist the soil blocks daily to avoid it drying out. I start minuscule seeds in my 15 soil block sets and larger seeds in the 4 soil block sets. If I am working with the soil block in early winter I sometimes start off the seeds in the 15 soil block sets and later pot up  into the 4 soil block set  before setting out the plants in the garden.

I'll keep you posted on how this year soil blocks work out.

N.B. - birds have started to peck out the seeds in my soil blocks. Since the weather is warm, they are flying all over my garden. I covered the soil blocks but the wind blew open the fabric cover. Hopefully they left me enough seedlings!!

Eating from my garden

As May drew to a close and sunny June, despite the June gloom reputation, settled in,  my garden started to take off and provide me with pleasurable eating. I started off eating blueberries with my breakfast cereal, slowly adding blackberries, then came the strawberries. Now, I am in heaven!! I am eating my morning cereal with all those berries and tree ripen bananas from the garden. Imagine!! 

Harvest the fruits
slice the strawberries and bananas, scatter blueberries

Milk Star on blueberry

It has been many years since I have devoured, yes that is the correct expression- DEVOUR- because that is exactly what I do, tree ripen bananas from my garden. Almost every year a banana plant or two would flower. Invariably it is almost Fall when it does so. I half heartedly let it flower but more often that not chop off the flower, sometimes offering it to my Filipino friends. This is because there would not be enough time for the fruit to develop before winter. Somehow last year, the timing was right and I let it develop combs of bananas. Sceptic that I am I never thought it would ripen. It sure took a long time but now I have delicious bananas!! I was going to cut down the whole stalk and let it ripen away from the tree. Luckily for me, my dear husband suggested that I leave it on the tree and enjoy them tree ripen. So each day I can be seen plucking individual bananas and eating them right under the tree. 'Ice Cream' banana does its name proud.

Banana grove
Ripening combs of bananas
Top combs ripening first

The first tomatoes are also on our dinner menu. Speckle Roman tomatoes with fresh basil from the garden, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil makes a fine lunch. Cherry tomatoes are the sweetest fruits in my garden bar none. They are so beautiful with the sunlight shining through them.Olive oil, chopped garlic, pinch of chili pepper flakes, fresh basil sautéed with those cherry tomatoes makes a delightful sauce served with spaghetti. 

Heirloom Speckle Roman
Sliced Speckled Roman, Basil and fresh Mozzarella  Cheese

Cherry Tomatoes glisten like jewels in the sun

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Spring 2010 in my garden

I thought I would post some updated pictures of what is happening in my garden. It has been a strange spring. It seems like we had a lot more rain then usual but that also means it was colder longer than normal. Seedlings sprouted but never really grew. I had to pull up Kai Lan, Garland Chrysanthemum/ Tong Ho and Broccoli Rabe plants because they grew too slowly. They were old before they grew of size. Basil plants set out in March are only just taking off as the weather warms up.Next year, I will work on a cold frame structure or hoops to increase warmth of seedlings.

Moorish Tortilla !

First there were the projects with the scraps of yarns.... then more yarn was purchased to finish off the project that the scraps started. See where I am going........ One of the places it lead me to was the making of I fondly refer to as my Moorish Tortilla! Beautiful vibrant Tortilla.

Luscious Moorish Tortilla!

Hooking my way through the Web

After my fascination with making Amigurumi last year, I was left with various quantities of yarn of various colors. I visited various sites on the internet and was inspired to make a couple of fashion and home items. Here are some samples of what I made and the original that inspired them.

Surprisingly warm necklace
White Flower Necklace-Creative Yarn

Hand Warmer
Oatmeal, Tan and Gray Hand Warmers
1st logical yarn scrap project

Hexagon How

Here is Crochet Cake I made for my friend Charlotte's birthday last year. She complained that I never made her a birthday cake so "I did"! Hidden under the Crochet Cake was a delicious Flourless Chocolate Cake Kit from William Sonoma. So I made her a cake And no I did not- she had to make the cake herself. Clever right??

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Potions, lotions, markers and crayons - for the Grown Up Girl

I was too excited to receive the Sephora catalog, me thinks.  What am I talking about? Have you seen the Tokidoki line of makeup? Sumptuous!! Markers for grownups. Those beautiful colors. They had me at first glance.

When I read that those waterproof eyeliners can be used to draw temporary tattoo on skin......  Simone Legno, Tokidoki's  creator is shown here PLAYING :) What fun!

I have been fascinated  with Tokidoki for awhile now. Last year I bought my daughter some Tokidoki rain boots! Now I just want the whole makeup range they have at Sephora. I am not sure if it is the makeup I want or the gorgeous packaging they come in... maybe both.

I love those oh so cute characters. Take a look and see if you dare disagree with me!

These past few years I seem to regain my interest in makeup... subconsciously regressing into the teenager I was. Ha, ha. Don't get me wrong I do not wear all that much makeup, actually almost none most days. I just love the colors and the packaging and the promise of how it can transform me into this Beauty. Just like jewelry that I make and love,  do I wear them? Rarely. So much so I think the holes in ears for earrings have become smaller.....I actually have to make a conscious effort to put on jewelry But I do love them.

At 50, I am more about skincare routine than makeup. (don't open my drawers or those pots of eye shadows will come tumbling out!). I am a Philosophy Girl! I cleanse with Real Purity at night and Micro Delivery Exfoliating Wash in the morning on a good day. Otherwise, Real Purity morning and night. Hope in a Jar has been my main moisturizer for 5 years. It just sinks into the skin like a tall drink of water, like the cliche but oh so true. Most important is I apply sunscreen each and every day- Dr. Denese SPF30 Defense Cream, a full spectrum tinted sunscreen moisturizer. I truly believe that sunscreen is the most important part of my skin care. Unfortunately, despite all the sunscreen I am getting freckles!! Relatively wrinkle free but sun kisses! I have to step it up and reapply sunscreen during the day somehow or maybe stop gardening when it is hottest!!

             Cleansers                                                                 Moisturiser and eye cream

           The only things I wear on my face most days - SUNSCREEN!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

OMG !!!!

A little over a week ago I "celebrated" my 50th Birthday.OMG !!! Not because I turn 50 but all the comments and the reactions......People, I turned 50. I am not stepping over to the other side. Life is not over. Not by far. It reminds me of my 20s when I get comments like "but you are married!" It did not stop me from pursuing an challenging career, sometimes travel alone or admiring a good looking guy who was not my husband. Ha, ha, like I say to this day, I am married not dead!!( I am still married almost 25 years later). Now, I say I am 50 and enjoying life.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Updated Rendang - Tok Rembau

We like to try making and eating different types of Rendang.  Rendang is a Malaysian style curry spiced with ground spices and thicken with ground toasted grated coconut. Flipping through the cookbooks we could not identify the last Rendang enjoyed. So instead, we decided to make Rendang Rembau from Negeri Sembilan. However, inspiration struck! My dear husband had just bought a box of fresh young coconut. We decided to marry Rendang Rembau with Rendang Tok from Perak, which incorporates the flesh of young coconut in their Rendang in addition to the kerisik (toasted grated coconut).

We enjoyed the Rendang although it could have been spicier. I guess winter chilies are not as spicy as those in hotter months. I will use dried chilies the next time.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pineapple Tarts

Chances are if you were to ask an overseas Chinese from Malaysia or Singapore, what cookie they miss most during Chinese New Year, Pineapple Tart will top the list. This year I made 2 batches of pineapple jam. One from fresh pineapple and another from canned pineapple rings in pineapple syrup. The jam made from fresh pineapple was a tad fresher in taste, though not significantly. I would certainly make the jam from fresh pineapple if they were in season and reasonably priced. Otherwise, I would not hesitate to make it out of canned pineapple.

I experimented with two different pastry recipe. One more melt in the mouth feel and the other a little less so and also less sweet. The melt in the mouth pastry had cornflour and icing sugar. Choose the pastry recipe depending on your preference. Both are very good.

I got to use my brand new silicone rolling pin - the Silpin and Even bands. They worked beautifully. I barely had to use any additional flour, only lightly flouring the pastry cloth I rolled the pastry on. The Even Bands were ingenious! They are heavy duty rubber bands of various thickness you slip unto the rolling pin. Pastry rolled out perfectly to desired thickness. I am so glad I traded in my trusty 21 year old wooden rolling pin.

Kuih Bangkit

A restlessness has been upon me as Chinese New Year approaches. The urge to bake and cook is strong. I resisted it no more. Yesterday, I made some Kuih Bangkit- a traditional Nonya Arrowroot Flour cookie. Last year, I could not find the elusive arrowroot flour and had to fall back on recipes that used Tapioca and cornflour instead. The cookies were hard. A few months back I chanced upon Arrowroot Flour by Bob's Red Mill while shopping at Henry's. I grabbed two bags full and stashed them away.....for Chinese New Year.

I truly miss my Ah Mah, my paternal grandmother. She made the most amazing Kuih Bangkit. Beautiful, white and melt in your mouth.CNY baking is a family affair. I remember coming home from school and rushing to the kitchen table. Most of the time I was relegated to dotting the eyes duty. A small saucer of red food dye with sticks of toothpicks were my tools. I patiently wait as my grandmother, my aunt and my mom, press balls of dough into the designs of the floured wooden moulds. A swipe of the butter knife, removes excess dough. A deft swift flick of the wrist, knocks the mould against the table top and out pops the cookies. The cookies are placed on the cookie tray where I give life (eyes) to rabbits, frog, fishes, birds or flowers. Regretfully, as I grew up, I never went beyond making the cookies to actually making the dough with Ah Mah. By the time I was in my teenage years and young adult, Ah Mah was living with third uncle and his family. I made fancy modern and western cookies. I received my tin of Kuih Bangkit from Ah Mah but stop making them with her. The trend of buying CNY cookies was beginning to take its evil root...... (a practice I abhor I let you know). Then I moved to the US. By the time I was ready to once again learn the secrets of making CNY cookies, Ah Mah was rendered bedridden by a stroke......My beautiful, gutsy, strong and funny Ah Mah is gone now but always remembered. I see her vividly as I use her Kuih Bangkit moulds. Wished I have her whisk.... ha,ha I can see her beating the egg yolks with sugar to a thick golden froth with the round coiled whisk in an up down motion.

Determined to succeed this year, I had my husband crack a fresh coconut for me which I patiently grated with my coconut grater bought at an Indian grocery store ( yes, another toy). Ordinarily, I would have just popped open a can of coconut cream. I put the precious grated coconut in a muslin cloth and squeeze the daylight out of it. Managed to only get 100ml of first santan ( coconut milk). Alas, I made to make up the difference with a carton of coconut cream. So continues my adventure....