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Re-entering the Kitchen: Coconut ‘n’ Coconut Agar-Agar
I just learned a new ‘word’ from Hannah today. She was sitting on my lap munching my coconut agar-agar and uttered “Ah-ti-ker is here”. She started saying “ah-ti-ker” after her ye ye (paternal grandpa) bought her a kiddo laptop. It took me weeks to figure out that she was actually referring to the COMPUTER. Ha, this is her most mispronounced word so far :P
Okay, back to cooking :)
My greatest embarrassment in cooking is my countless failed attempts at making a decent agar-agar. Surprise surprise. Yah, I just couldn’t get the ratio of agar-agar powder to water to sugar right. The idea that making agar-agar is based on ‘agaration’ (estimation) is so wrong! Sigh.
I finally got some success recently after trying out a recipe from a pretty cook book entitled ‘Pretty Little Agar-Agar’ by Amy Wong. A sign of success is whenever Yang goes for a second helping :D
I love the aromatic sweet taste of coconut water and its flesh. So when I saw a recipe using coconut in the cook book, I jumped at it straight away. The outcome of combining 2 different coconut flavours takes some getting used to but savour them separately and they are good on their own. I’d perhaps replace the lemon juice for the sea coconut layer to calamansi juice as the latter gives a stronger tang. :)
Yummy Toddler Foods: Banana-Blueberry Popsicles
After reading Annabel Karmel’s suggestions for using various fruit combinations in making popsicles (aka ice lollies), I was inspired to try it at home :)
Just over last weekend, I finally chanced upon a set of popsicle moulds at Plaza Singapura’s Spotlight and bought it immediately. Yang told me that I was a happy camper for the rest of the day. :P
As I have leftover bananas and blueberries at home, I saw that the stars are almost all aligned for popsicle-making when I saw Martha Stewart’s online recipe. I just need to get yoghurt that’s all. I made one slight change to her recipe in order to make the her already healthy popsicles better – substitute sugar with honey or pure maple syrup. :) I chose Farmers Union Greek Style yoghurt as recommended by the mommy of Food 4 Tots who has a recipe for making popsicles too. Below is my recipe for banana-blueberry popsicles.
Ingredients (makes about 3-4 popsicles)
Banana – 2 large and ripened for 2-3 days, peeled
Blueberries – ½ box
Yoghurt (Farmers Union Greek Style) – ¾ cup
Lemon juice – squeezed from ¼ lemon
Honey – 1 tbsp
1) Blend bananas until smooth.
2) Squeeze in lemon juice, add yoghurt and honey and blend further to combine all ingredients well.
3) Pour out half of the banana mixture and set aside.
4) Add blueberries into the remaining half banana mixture and blend briefly so that the blueberries are coarsely chopped up but not totally disintegrated.
5) Layer the popsicle moulds by alternating the banana mixture (from step 3) and blueberry mixture (from step 4). I did 3 layers with the blueberry mixture in the middle.
6) Use a chopstick / satay stick / small knife to do a swirl in each mould to create the swirl effect.
7) Cover the moulds and freeze for at least 8 hours.
8) To remove the popsicles, just dip the moulds in hot water briefly and wriggle them out.
I enjoyed the flavours but both Yang and Hannah didn’t take to the taste positively. :( Yang didn’t like yoghurt for its sourness and Hannah probably couldn’t manage the coldness and also the sourness of the treat. Sigh, I shall try another flavour without yoghurt in my next attempt.
2 Years 3 Weeks
A quick update on new words Hannah’s learned!
A fortnight ago, Hannah was going through a new resurgent phase of not wanting to go to bed, which necessitated us taking turns each night to sit by her with the lights off until she fell asleep. Funny bit here about how long it took to soothe Hannah to sleep before we couldn tip-toe out: Ling took 30 minutes, I took just 5 minutes! I kept telling her it’s not rocket science, but she still got so exasperated she made me to do all the nights, insisting it was far more optimal use of time =)
I thought the reason for Hannah not going to bed readily lied in that her perception of an end-of-day routine to bed had evolved yet again. So, over several nights, I taught her new words – specifically “Good night daddy/mommy/dog-dog (her Ikea dog stuff toy that she sleeps with every night )”, and coupled my good night sentences with words already familiar to her – ‘sleep’, and ‘flying kiss’.
By going through this new modified routine every night, Hannah’s for the last three nights now has been readjusted to going to bed on her own again without needing us to accompany her. I think she’s become cognizant that when I saw words like “Good night” to her now, she knows it’s the end of the day, and that she should turn in.
Oh yes; other new words over the last week have included: “好吃” and ‘oishi’ – which is ‘delicious’ in Chinese and Japanese. Now I just have to get her to say these words to Mom when we’re at Lentor for dinner. =)
Parenting, and so it begins…
I’m sure many parents out there had wished that each of our kids come with an instruction manual. None of us attended school that prepared us for parenting. We attended school, rather, to master at least one language, general Mathematics, basic Sciences, appreciate fine arts, etc.
The day Yang and I became parents, we discovered that we were thrown into the deep end with the overwhelming dawning reality that it would be a 24/7 commitment and responsibility for the rest of our lives – well, almost. We found out that the going would be especially tough during the early years if new parents don’t get support from their parents / in-laws / care-givers / maids / etc. Sleep, for the first time, becomes a luxury – any parent would tell you. Missing a meal or two in a day is not uncommon for full-time, unaided mothers in the baby’s first year of life.
So, when our infant became a toddler and start to ‘misbehave’, our first reaction was to employ parenting methods that we were brought up and familiar with. Broadly speaking, we could classify the methods as ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ approach. Soft or hard sell does curb the undesirable behaviour now and then but sometimes I wonder whether we could be doing our child a disservice in her development as a person in the long run. Thank God that the world today has opened up to meet the needs of clueless parents in so many aspects ranging from topics such as breastfeeding to threading the minefield on discipline. Yang just borrowed some library books on parenting for us and I’m currently reading one of them in hope to distill some educated and researched approach towards parenting our girl.
For the next few months to come, I shall blog about my gleamings of a parenting book entitled ‘Positive Discipline for Preschoolers’. In this way, I hope to discipline myself to make a conscious effort to remember sound parenting principles and try out new parenting methods that have worked on other ‘misbehaved’ kids and put them on the track to become good and happy human beings. Wish us success. :)
Re-entering the Kitchen: Crustless, Mushroom & Spinach Quiche
This is definitely one dish which I wanted to do for the longest time.
According to Wikipedia, a quiche (pronounced as ki-sh) is an oven-baked dish made with eggs and milk / cream in a pastry crust. Ingredients such as meat, vegetable and cheese are often added to quiches.
I came across a few recipes that did away with the crust, a great idea as it would free up time for other things. From Joy the Baker’s blog, I found one such recipe which appealed to my taste buds. Her recipe could be found here. I made some modifications to her recipe to suit what I had in the refrigerator at the time and also Yang’s preference for some meat. Below is the modified recipe.
- 250 g of spinach (English or Chinese type, I used the Chinese spinach aka ‘puay leng’), rinsed thoroughly with tap water & stems trimmed away
- Extra virgin olive oil – 2 tbsp
- Fresh white button mushrooms – 1 tub / 2 cups, sliced
- Garlic – 2 cloves, minced
- Salt and pepper
- Eggs – 3 large
- Ham – 1 slice, broken into small pieces
- Half and half – 1 cup (I substituted with 3/4 cup buttermilk & 1/4 cup evaporated milk)
- Gruyere (crumbled) + cheddar cheese slices (2, broken into pieces) – makes a total of 1 cup
- Butter – for greasing the pie dish
1) Preheat oven to 190°C. Butter a 9-inch oven-proof dish and set aside. (You could either use a piece of cling wrap or the back of a spoon to spread the butter on the bottom and the sides of the dish)
2) Place the spinach in a large pot of boiling water and cook over medium heat just until wilted, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and spoon into a strainer set over a bowl. Allow to cool.
3) PRESS HARD on the spinach in the strainer with the back of a spoon to remove most of the moisture, then SQUEEZE in your hands to remove more. Turn out onto a cutting board and coarsely chop. Place between two layers of paper towels or wrap in a clean kitchen towel and PRESS to remove more moisture. You should have about 1 cup packed spinach. Set aside. (Note: The liquid from the spinach would affect the consistency of the egg custard component of the quiche and you could end up getting a watery egg meal instead.)
4) Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, stirring to break up the clumps, until any remaining moisture has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add a sprinkle of salt (the cheese is salty, so you won’t need much) and pepper to taste.
5) In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until light. Stir in the buttermilk & evaporated milk mixture. Spoon the spinach mixture evenly into the buttered dish. Sprinkle with the cheese and ham. Pour in the egg mixture.
6) Bake the quiche until puffed and golden brown, about 35 minutes. Serve warm, cut into generous wedges.
Yang enjoyed the quiche even though he disliked green leafy vegetables in general :P Hannah had this for dinner as well. She couldn’t stop asking for more. It was soft and easy to chew. Except for the slight saltiness, it contained healthy ingredients for a growing toddler. I would try to reduce the saltiness by adjusting the type of cheeses used the next time.
Staycation – Activities with Hannah
It wasn’t long after checking into Capella Singapore @ Sentosa that we both arrived at the same conclusion; that given how luxurious the place was (and that I paid a hefty bill for the stay), we both felt that we would rather spend more time in the hotel than in Sentosa itself! I don’t think this will be the last time we’ll visit Sentosa, especially since Hannah’s at such a young age she couldn’t appreciate the sights on the tourist-y island anyway.
So, a few more pictures of our little outing.=)
Staycation @ Capella Singapore – Part 3
More pictures of Hannah adapting to the room and surroundings.=)
Staycation – Birthday Redux
We had a really pleasant surprise at Capella Singapore @ Sentosa shortly after check-in. While still settling down, a belated birthday cake for Hannah was brought up to our room. And the cake was so good that Hannah had at least half of it. =)
Staycation @ Capella Singapore – Part 1
Hands down; the best hotel or resort we’ve both stayed yet.
This is one property where (nearly – see below) everything’s just perfect. We got to the resort pretty speedily in on the early yesterday Saturday afternoon, got the car parked, and found our way to the reception. One thing that struck us immediately was how idyllic Capella felt. It’s strange considering that the hotel was supposed to be at near full occupancy, but hardly anyone was about.
It’s amazing too that every staff we ran into greeted us warmly, with the reception staff even knowing us by name already upon arrival. Interestingly, most of the reception staff weren’t local.
There was a welcome card in the room. Handwritten, and signed off by the General Manager – not typed-out. I’m sure it’s done for every guest arrival and I’m not sure if the card was written by the GM himself, but it was nonetheless a very nice and warm gesture.
The room was massive – and this was the lowest-priced room even. The size at 77 square meters was about more than half the size of our Rivervale apartment! There was plenty of space for Hannah to move about, and she took joy in simply walking round and round the room, touching and exploring.
Warm earth and traditional colors throughout too, but yet the room was driven by high tech gadgets. Including a full LCD-equipped telephone, power board boxes, ceiling mounted speakers with a Bose CD player, a 42 inch LCD rotatable wall-mounted screen, electrically controlled light settings, curtains and blinds, with mood settings too.
Most of the wall comprises a large glass window that gave us a view of the garden below, and also Palawan Beach further beyond.
We were glad to see that a baby crib had been laid out too in the room, though it creaked a little as Hannah adjusted herself to it at night. Strangely; crib pillows were not included, though Ling had earlier specifically asked if crib pillows would be included and the answer was yes. When she called the reception to inquire about it again, the final answer came back in the negative. That necessitated a trip back home to pick up Hannah’s pillows (Ling had also forgotten if she’d switch off the living room fan LOL). The one downer in our stay.
We mused that the relatively high price tag for the room – at SGD550+ lowest – might had been instrumental in keeping away most stayers. Plus the relatively low number of rooms versus the very large physical land space the resort is spread out mean that the resort never felt crowded.
Continued in a next post. =)