Are you a rice or noodle person? (I’m afraid this question does not cater to ang mos. :))

Given any eat-out occasion, I’d hardly go for rice unless it is the only available staple food. I’m a noodie foodie :)

It has been a great challenge to get Yang enjoy the noodle dishes I cook at home. Sigh, so the heading here cannot be parked under my usual ‘Re-entering the Kitchen’ something-something. As Hannah accepts my new soba noodle dish positively, it shall be under the toddler food category then!

A hearty bowl of goodness :)

Taken from Cookin’ Canuck blog site, this recipe is easy unless you make your own chicken broth (which I did). Although Yang finished his portion, he just didn’t like it. Sitting just next to us was Hannah who licked her bowl clean. Now I know this recipe is meant for the girls in the family :)

Aside from the daily battles with mosquites, her encounter with other creatures include our resident load of pet fish, urbanised birds, domesticated dogs from neighbours, stray cats, ants and millipedes. Yeah, millipedes.

Hmmm, millipedes?

Story goes like this. We happened upon them on our way home from the nanny’s on a fine sunny afternoon. I saw one stray millipede on the pavement we took and stopped to point it out to Hannah. Unguarded and full of curiosity, she just stared and followed its trail. Soon enough, it crawled back to its homeground – a patch of soil fertile with its kind. Suddenly, we were all too conscious of their presence. Undulating little worm-like bodies weaving in and out of the leaf litter and amongst the industrious big red ants.

Hannah was drawn to these fascinating little bugs while most of us folks prefer to cast them just yonder creepy crawlies. Since the discovery of their habitat, Hannah has been paying regular ‘visits’ to spot these guys. I just played along to encourage her at nature appreciation. There was a recent episode where another toddler (and much older) came along to watch these little critters with Hannah. She called them centipedes and to my surprise Hannah told her, “no, it’s millipedes, millipedes”. The toddler’s maid rescued her from embarrassment by saying that she has not seen a millipede before. The older toddler girl quickly identified another critter on the grounds to show off her side of knowledge. :) Yoda speaks “Outdo one another, people will.”

The combination of our girl with nature is too tempting to pass up and so I whipped out our video camera to capture a snippet of it for memory’s sake :)

For an alternative tasty soup, try this one!

Thanks to Food 4 Tots, we have another new soup to enjoy :)

Just the other day while I was doing grocery shopping at Sheng Siong, the sight of green radish caught my eye. Another new vegetable to KIV for home-cooking I thought. Soon enough, I found a soup recipe that uses green radish and bang, the dish was born in our household :)

Beautiful cross-sections don't you think? :)

An added bonus of this tasty soup is that it has some medicinal properties which could reduce phlegm. Just what we needed here. Hannah has been coughing still and Yang just came down with yet another cough. The soup came just in time! Lovely.

I substituted lean pork for pork spare ribs in the recipe and as usual used much less water as we prefer a richer flavoured soup :) I pan-fried some buttered prawns to go with the soup for a simple dinner at home. We finished everything. :)

1) Do you maintain your kitchen knives regularly at screaming sharp edges?

2) Do you clean and dry your knives soon after use?

3) Do you know that full tang is not necessary for a good knife?

4) Do you know that wooden chopping boards can trap as much germs as plastic ones?

If your answers to the above questions tend towards ‘Mmm-huh?’, then you have company, and plenty of it. :)

After acquiring a kitchen knife from a well-known knife maker in Kyoto during our Japan trip last year, it got me rather hooked onto understanding more about kitchen knives. I started reading this highly recommended knife book ‘An Edge in the Kitchen’ by Chad Ward to learn more about types of knives, their uses and how to maintain them. The writer, who is a chef himself, has an impressive and up-to-date knowledge of this essential kitchen tool, knows how to wield it and maintain it at peak performance.

From what I’ve gathered, unless you’re a chef of some sort you basically need about two to three types of knives for typical home use.

Anticlockwise from left: Cleaver, bread knife, chef's knife and paring knife

1) Chef’s Knife: This is THE knife you use most of the time for cutting, slicing, dicing, chopping, you name it. In fact, if you have budget for just one knife, this is it. Don’t be fooled into buying a knife set with other knives thrown in thinking that you are getting a good bargain. Truth is, other knives in the set would be sitting in the knife block unused while the chef’s knife calls the shots day in and day out. Therefore, choose a good chef’s knife that is either hand-made (forged) or machined (not the cheap stamped ones). Okay to get some idea, those stamped knives sold at NTUC are the ones to avoid if you want good knives that last. To maintain the chef’s knife, you would need at least 2 good whetstones (water stones) of different grit to sharpen it occasionally.

2) Paring Knife: This is something like a smaller chef’s knife. It is smaller for easy peeling of fruits, deveining prawns, intricate carvings and the like. We use this knife 20% of the time.

3) Bread knife: This is a long knife with serrated or scalloped edge for cutting well, bread of course. If you often eat bread (I also use it to cut the cakes I bake), this would come in handy. However, unlike the chef’s knife, don’t spend too much on the bread knife as its edge is too tedious to sharpen and hence it won’t last as long as you like. Just buy a new one when the current one loses its desired sharpness.

4) Cleaver: If you cook Asian dishes like we do sometimes, you would probably find a cleaver handy on top of the 3 knives mentioned above. We use the cleaver for hacking spare ribs, coconuts and cutting through hard vegetables such as corn, winter melon, pumpkin, etc. We also use it to slice fish fillet just in case we hit a hard bone or scales and chip the sharp edge of our precious chef’s knife.

There are just about 2 types of steel to choose in a knife. Either carbon steel or stainless steel. The former alloy will allow the knife to take on a very keen edge but the downside is maintenance. Carbon steel rust readily if not cleaned and wiped dry immediately after use. The stainless steel knife will not rust as easily but pales somewhat in terms of screaming sharpness. Then again, there are those sophisticated grades of stainless steel thanks to advanced technology today that boast improved performance over their inferior cousins.

In Singapore, it is not easy to find suitable whetstones from departmental stores. Most, however, sell knife sharpening devices which might be set at inappropriate angles to sharpen your knives to make them last. I bought one whetstone of 1000 grit together with the chef’s knife while in Japan and Yang helped me acquire another whetstone of 6000 grit from an online store. The 1000 grit is meant for sharpening while the 6000 grit does fine polishing to make the edge last longer. I must add that sharpening knives is not as daunting as it looks or sounds. It takes some practice of course.

Our 1000- & 6000-grit Japanese whetstones

Finally, Ward kept reminding his readers the usefulness of having a finely grooved honing rod as well. It helps to straighten any rolled over edge on the knife to keep it at peak performance longer. This is probably the final item we would acquire to complete our knife maintenance at home.

19. October 2011 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, At Home, Baby Blues, Dining

Hannah has been gradually recovering from that nasty bout of cold and coughing from a month ago, and nicely in tandem too, been finding it easier to settle into bed on most evenings. Her modified winding-down routine too has been taking root too.

After her last milk feed and teeth-brushing, Ling will spend five to ten minutes reading to her (Hannah’s favorite book now is a kiddie book about David and Goliath), then prayer. When she’s tucked in, I’ll take over: and I’ll usually sing one or two songs to her, then let her in a little on the next day’s activities before saying good night.

Couple of the usual pictures again. These were taken a week ago at a new restaurant we were checking out at Heartland Mall; Xin Wang Café. The franchise has an Cineleisure Orchard outlet Ling and I enjoy patronizing. Parking was a nightmare, but after we got a lot, the rest of our brunch went quite well:

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… and promptly after these pictures were taken and we fed Hannah a small piece of the very yummy Bo Lo pineapple bun, our girl vomited! No pictures of that, but it was not a pretty sight. It wasn’t to do with the food, but possibly that Hannah had difficulties chewing the piece we fed her, and her gag reflex kicked in.

Hannah looked a little bewildered though and was near tears but thankfully didn’t burst. Can’t imagine if we had to deal both with vomit and bawling! Ling had spare clothes for her, and we did our clean-up operation and got help from the wait staff.

Baby blues indeed.=)

Yang got me this parenting book as a surprise birthday gift recently as I kept extending its borrowing period with the library. :)

The last time I shared something from this book was about a month ago. I touched on Hannah wanting undue attention from us. Besides demanding for our attention, she has also engaged in quite a bit of power struggle with us (more so with mommy). The book called such a display from toddlers ‘misguided power’.

The recent major outburst has been during her bedtime routine. The mere mention of “it’s time to bathe now” would set her on the whining motion. And then she would refuse to take off her clothes, want to take this take that with her to the bath tub, want to sit on the toilet seat repeatedly even after she has emptied her bladder, wail while I tried to shower her, transition to the hysterical mode while I put clean clothes on her and continue throughout until we put her to bed. I remember the first few nights we had time-outs for her, i.e. let her ventilate on her own. I tell you, our girl is a natural loud hailer. And one with a great stamina at that too. We felt sorry for the neighbours who have to put up with her loud tantrums. Whatever good advice and tips I have read from the book were all thrown out of the window when I came face-to-face with this tiny but formidable giant. She wanted her way and I insisted on mine. Neither would give an inch.

Yang often stepped in to act as our peace-maker. That was when I began to see the value of two parents instead of one. Some of his strategies include reinforcing my expectations with Hannah in a softer tone, giving Hannah the option of having daddy to bathe her, holding her hand to walk around the house to calm her down and very occasionally using her favourite iPad as a carrot to coax her into cooperation. I took the opportunity to calm down too while Yang dealt with Hannah.

Still, we have to drive home the message to our girl that mommy and daddy have rules at home and she would do well by obeying them. For instance, she has been wanting to read almost all her books during the bedtime routine and I started to set a rule that she could only read one book. I allowed her the option of choosing which book she wanted me to read to her. Whenever she tested the boundary, I would remind her of the rule calmly and walk out of her room if she disobeyed. So far I have walked out a couple of times and it took her about 5-10 minutes to come looking for me to reconcile by holding my hand or asking to be carried. She would go “mommy mommy” in her sweet child-like voice or give a sad, teary gaze that made me feel sorry to have treated her with much sternness.

A friend who was on her way to being a mother once asked me about the joys of parenthood and I found it hard to put into words. I mean there are strong indications out there in public (e.g. handling wailing kids) that speak against any joy of being a parent. But there is joy nonetheless. It is in her snuggie little hug, in her happy face when she looks up at you, in her peaceful sleep, in the way she goes “yayyyyy” when she runs gleefully, in her amazing trusting nature, in her effort to sing and dance and imitate funny sounds after you…you feel hopeful around her in this broken world…and she makes you desire to be a better person. Or at least that is how I feel around our daughter.

Oops, I have digressed! Okay back to the book. The authors advised the following responses when the tot gives you the “you’re not the boss of me” attitude:

  • offer limited choices
  • turn misguided power to useful power by asking for help
  • shut up and act with kindness and firmness (it’s true, silence speaks louder than words in times like this, and kindness touches the heart)
  • make a date for problem-solving (applicable from 3 years onwards)
  • distraction (works big time especially for tots below 3 years)

Thank God that we are gradually gaining the upper hand of the situation at the moment. I’m beginning to see a certain pattern and suspect certain trigger points for her tantrums. May God grant us much wisdom and will-power to be better parents.

03. October 2011 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, At Home, Recipes

Over here in Singapore, we are really spoilt with a wide array of international cuisines. Just look at our very own home-grown multi-racial fare, it is already quite an impressive spread of mouth-watering delights. Take for example the Chinese food here. I could easily enjoy cuisines from various dialect groups such as Teochew, Hainanese and Cantonese. If I’m bored with these, I can switch over to Malay or Indian food any time. And there is also the Peranakan food, a fusion of Chinese and Malay cooking, which I can happily divert to.

One of my favourite Malay dishes is sambal goreng (meaning: chilli stir-fry something).  Surely the name doesn’t lift an eyebrow but oh the flavours! This is a protein- and calcium-packed powerhouse, not to mention the telling fire-power from chilli itself. Below is a glimpse of the nutritional value of the main ingredients (by bulk) of this dish:

Long beans: a vegetable rich in protein and calcium

Firm tofu (‘tau kua’): coagulated soy milk rich in protein and calcium – yep

Tempeh (fermented whole soy beans into cake form): fermented soy product rich in protein and calcium – need I say more?

Fresh prawns: seafood rich in protein, selenium, vitamin D and low in calories – raise your hands if you already like this dish!

Just the other day, I decided to pluck up some courage to ask the mak cik* selling Malay rice dishes at my workplace for her sambal goreng recipe. And she so generously did. Thank you, mak cik!

Recipe for Sambal Goreng

Ingredients:

  • red chilli – 1 big, deseeded if you wish to reduce spiciness
  • onion – 1 big, peeled and quartered
  • garlic – 2 cloves, peeled
  • lemon grass – 1 stalk, cut off the very bottom bit and top part leaving 7-8 cm of the bottom portion. Peel away any outer layer that is dirty. Chop into 2-3 parts.
  • belacan – 1/4 tsp
  • tomato paste / sauce – 1 tbsp
  • sugar – ¾ tbsp
  • salt – ½ tsp
  • long beans – 4 stalks, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • prawns – 6 medium, shelled and deveined, each divided into 3 chunks
  • firm tofu (tau kua) – 1 block, cut into 1-cm cubes (buy freshly made ones at any wet market or Sheng Siong if you can)
  • tempeh – 1 piece, cut into small cubes
  • vegetable oil
  • water

Method:

1)      Blend the first 4 ingredients with some water to form a chilli paste.

2)      Heat up some vegetable oil in a heated non-stick pan and fry tofu and tempeh cubes. Stir every now and then to ensure all the sides of the cubes are lightly fried. Remove from pan and set aside.

3)      Add 1 tbsp oil and stir fry the chilli paste until fragrant. Add belacan, tomato paste, sugar and salt and stir to combine well.

4)      Add long beans and stir fry in the chilli paste until cooked. You might want to add some water to aid in the cooking of beans. The water will evaporate after a while.

5)      Add prawns, the fried tofu and tempeh cubes to the long beans and stir to combine well. Once the prawns are cooked, dish up and serve with steamed white rice. Sedap**!

*A respectful way of addressing an elder woman in Malay, just like the way we call any elder woman as ‘auntie’ here.

**Delicious in Malay.

01. October 2011 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, At Home, New Home · Tags:

We’d been meaning to go by to take a look at the ongoing construction of our new home but kept putting it off. Our friend Ann had also purchased an apartment at The Minton too. She showed over our cell-group meeting yesterday evening pictures of a recce visit they did a few days back, so we decided to go by too to take a look in person.

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Found the place without too much difficulty.

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At least a year and a half more to completion!

There are several vantage points, all of which will give you an idea of the sheer size of the project. We’d thought that our current home The Rivervale was a large project at 671 units; but The Minton tops it at 1145 units; nearly double that number. The HDB block we went up for our first site visit was 158, which is somewhat on the left hand size of The Minton.

Our agent had advised last week that construction was currently at about four to five levels, so we were surprised to see that our cluster of blocks (the centre of the picture, and below) is already at level ten.

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Block 10, 10A and B.

Our block and unit can’t be seen from this angle here. I think Ling’s gonna be peering into the large resolution versions of these pictures here to get a better sense of the sizes of the front and back unit balconies.

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Hannah makes a face!

We’ll probably check out the view from another block at the next visit. =)