With no. 2 now in tow, home-cooked food has become a nice-to-have item. We try to cook on the weekends but weeknights are often defined by take-out dinners. Thank God that Hannah is fed home-cooked meals by her nanny on weekdays and well, the adults can get by with eating junk. Hee hee. Things should change for the better (hopefully) when Peter become less dependent and mommy gain yet another higher level of multi-tasking and speeds!

Whenever I think about cooking a meal, the first thing that comes to mind is how fast it gets done. Previously, congee required at least an hour of cooking in order for us to enjoy its softie-smoothie texture. One has to stand at the pot to stir regularly so as not to let the rice grains get stuck to the base. So the idea of cooking congee always get tossed out because it was time-consuming and quite laborious.

That, however, changed recently.

Thanks to the sharing by the mommy who runs the blog Food4Tots, cooking congee is no longer a time-consuming activity. In the past, I used to grind rice grains to increase the surface area:volume ratio so as to increase the rate of cooking. Well, the faster way to date is to freeze pre-soaked rice grains. The science behind it: when water in the rice grains become ice crystals, they rupture the cell membranes to release starch and at the same time also create internal cracks in the grains. So when the frozen grains are cooked in boiling water, they break into tiny bits (increase surface:area) and absorb water faster and release the starch sooner. Fantastic right? Many of us know that it is a bad idea to freeze vegetables due to the damage caused by ice crystal formation while few have applied this fact to quicken cooking of rice to make congee.

Oh, I digress. Back to the salmon congee. I usually use white fish (e.g. threadfin) to cook congee but recently discovered that salmon tastes just as good in congee too. In fact, I like it more. The omega 3-rich fish makes the taste buds and tummy really satisfied at the end of the meal.

Here my recipe for a quick salmon congee. Serves 2 adults and 1 toddler. I added minced pork for more flavour.

IF

Ingredients

  • salmon fillet – about 300g, deboned and sliced as desired (make sure that the salmon is fresh)
  • minced pork – 150g, marinate for at least an hour
  • uncooked white jasmine rice – 1 cup
  • century eggs – 2, deshelled and cut into small pieces
  • garlic – 3 cloves with skin intact, washed and smashed with blade of knife
  • ginger – 3 slices
  • salt – 1/4 tsp
  • light soy sauce – 1 tbsp
  • white ground pepper – dashes
  • corn starch -  1-2 tsp

Method

  1. Wash and then soak the rice grains for about 10 minutes. Rinse, pack the rice in a sandwich bag, tie and freeze overnight or for at least 4 hours.
  2. Marinate minced pork in soy sauce, pepper and corn starch in the fridge for at least an hour.
  3. Place the frozen rice grains in 2 litre of water in a big pot. (I used a non-stick pot to reduce the need for stirring) Add garlic and ginger. Bring it to boil.
  4. In the meantime, cut the salmon into slices (about 1 cm thick), deshell the century eggs and cut into small pieces, and use your hands to form little minced pork balls and lay them out on a plate.
  5. Once the water has boiled, stir the congee every now and then (especially if your pot is not the non-stick type). Don’t cover the pot. Let it cook for 15-20 minutes in medium heat or until you get your desired texture. Add some water if the congee gets too thick for stirring. (You could also continue with step 4 if you didn’t managed to prepare the items earlier on)
  6. Add the minced pork and give the congee a few rounds of careful stirring to cook the meat. Add salt and stir.
  7. Let the congee come to a boil again and add salmon slices with any of its juices. Gently stir to separate the fish slices if they are clumped together. Turn off the heat. Cover the pot for a minute or so. (Note: It is important not to overcook the fish. Otherwise it would become tough to the bite. Not so tasty lah.) Remove ginger and garlic if desired. Serve the congee in bowls topped with century egg. Enjoy!

p.s. Even Yang was surprised by how fast I could cook congee since I learned of this method. :)

I have put on at least 10 kg during this pregnancy and am feeling easily tired in the last trimester. I promised to bake rock cakes with Hannah a month ago and since both of us are having school holidays now, I better keep my promise.

Rock Cakes - Hard on the outside, soft on the inside.

Rock Cakes – crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside.

We went to supermarket this morning to buy a tray of eggs, the missing ingredient for the recipe, and started baking in the late morning. It was a simple recipe to follow and within 30 minutes the rock cakes were baking in the oven. I got Hannah to help in measuring the ingredients using the digital weighing scale, whisking dry ingredients, pouring ingredients and rubbing cold butter into flour. She was very excited since last night when I announced that we were going to bake the rock cakes together on the following day. She reminded me to buy eggs the moment she woke up in the morning and fished out her apron from her drawer to get ready. Below is the recipe we used.

Ingredients

  • Plain Flour – 100 g
  • Baking Powder – 1 tsp
  • Cold butter – 50 g
  • Castor sugar – 50 g
  • Raisins – 25 g
  • Egg – 1
  • Salt – pinch

Method

1. Preheat oven to 190 °C. Grease the baking tin.
2. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl to mix well.

Whisking the flour, baking powder and salt together.

Whisking the flour, baking powder and salt together.

3. Cut cold butter into small chunks and rub into the flour mixture.
4. Add sugar and raisins.
5. Add egg and whisk to a stiff batter.
6. Use 2 metal spoons to scoop and unload the batter in small heaps onto the baking tin.
7. Bake for about 15-18 minutes until lightly golden brown.

Rock Cakes_Baking in the Oven_2 FB

8. Take out the rock cakes to cool before serving.

Want to try my rock cakes?

Want to try my rock cakes?

Our small-group friend recently bought a bread maker machine. Ling does a lot of baking at home, though it’s been mainly pastries and the occasional cake. I’ve been packing quick ready-made sandwiches to work several days each week, so figured that I could kill two birds with one stone; surprise her with a baking machine, and secondly enjoy home-baked bread too.

I know next to nothing about baking though, so it was lots of the usual reading and finding out before I settled on the same machine – the Zojirushi Bread Maker BB-HAQ10 – that our friend bought. There were other manufacturers and models of course, but the general consensus is that while there are much cheaper machines with equivalent features, with the Zojirushi, you’re paying for quality and the brandname. I found a local store here that was selling the machine at a much lower price than suggested retail, and after double-checking that I would be getting the real deal and that it would be supported by local agent warranty too, we went by after Hannah’s birthday celebration event last TUES to pick it up.

Given how busy we’ve been this week, the machine was only finally used yesterday evening. Hannah was probably even more enthusiastic about the exercise than both of us were. Hannah, in her usual authoritative fashion, said the following to me to show she meant business.

H: “Daddy, Mommy and I are going to make bread. You can watch us. Go sit there and watch!”

blog-2013-cooking-P1010707-breadmaker-flickr blog-2013-cooking-P1010713-breadmaker

The machine churned out Ling’s first attempt wonderfully well; crunchy crust and very soft insides.=)

When it comes to noodles, there are just too many types that I don’t think I’ll ever get round to trying all of them in my lifetime. My dad used to ta-bao (do take-away) ee-fu noodles or yee mee for me for dinner. I’d affectionately call it rubber-band noodles. Because it’s brown and its texture is like rubber-bands; chewy and somewhat spongy. Of course, it doesn’t taste like rubber!

Tuck in :D

Tuck in :D

Ee-fu noodles also have some variation as well. I managed to find only one type at NTUC recently and so settled for it. Its cross-section was squarish. The other common type has an oblong cross-section. Tried a new recipe using this type of noodles for lunch and it was a hit with Hannah. :)

Ingredients (serves 2-3 persons)

  • Ee-fu noodles (Yee mee) – 1 to 2 cakes (depending on size)
  • Chicken broth – 300 ml (for braising)
  • Sweet peas – 6, sliced breadth-wise
  • Carrot – 1 small, peeled and cut into strips
  • Baby corn – 3 fresh, sliced diagonally
  • Shiitake mushrooms – 3 fresh, sliced
  • Prawns – 8, shelled, deveined
  • Sauce: 1tbsp oyster sauce, 1/2 tsp light soy sauce, 1/2 dark soy sauce, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp cornflour, dash of pepper, few drops of sesame oil, 200 ml chicken broth

Method

  1. Soak noodles in hot water in a medium pot. Use a pair of chopsticks to loosen and drain at once. Discard the hot water and add 300 ml chicken broth into the same pot and heat up to boiling.
  2. Add noodles into the pot of boiling broth and lower the heat to simmer gently until broth is reduced. (If the noodles look plumped up and there is still some sauce left, it is okay) Dish up and divide amongst bowls.
  3. Mix sauce ingredients and set aside.
  4. Heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a heated wok and stir-fry sweet peas, carrot strips and baby corn for about 4-5 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue to stir fry until they soften.
  5. Stir the sauce mixture well and add it to the veggies. Bring to boil. When the sauce begins to thicken, add prawns to cook briefly (avoid over-cooking the prawns).
  6. Turn off the heat and dish the sauce mixture onto the noodles in each bowl.
  7. Serve hot.

The original recipe calls for only yellow chives, bean sprouts and straw mushrooms as the veggie components. I really liked this combination but yellow chives are not commonly available and so I improvised.

It has been a long time since I tried any new recipes at home. I bought a simple Chinese cuisine cookbook some time back and finally inspiration led me to try out one of the dishes over the last weekend.

 Heart-shaped design for Hannah's bowl :)Heart-shaped design for Hannah’s bowl :)

The recipe requires the rice to be fried simply and so I fried overnight rice with egg and corn. For the red sauce, I replaced chicken strips with white fish as I wanted to clear the frozen threadfin sitting in the freezer. The red sauce contained skinned tomato pieces, sliced onion, ketchup, sugar, salt, pepper, cornflour and water. For the white sauce, it contained prawns, sweet peas, evaporated milk, water, corn flour, sugar and salt.

Ran out of white sauce for Yang's bowl...so the fried rice was exposed in the middle :P

Ran out of white sauce for Yang’s bowl…so the fried rice was exposed in the middle :P

The novel part of the recipe was to use folded aluminium foil to create patterns with the two sauces on the rice. I attempted a heart shape for Hannah’s bowl. Glad to learn and experience something new :) Taste-wise was okay. I plan to use curry leaves to infuse into the white sauce in my next attempt to create more kick in the flavour.

A strip of aluminium foil folded twice for creating patterns with the red and white sauces.

A strip of aluminium foil folded twice for creating patterns with the red and white sauces.

Verdict: A fun and satisfying one-dish meal. :)

Wished I had cooked more.

Since school holidays have started, Hannah started spending time at home with me. Despite my tiredness and morning sickness during this first trimester of pregnancy, I still prefer to have home-cooked meals. To make things easy going, I decided that lunch should be easy to prepare and good to eat.

As usual, I visited a few cooking blogs to gather some lunch ideas. Found one which looked promising to kick start our lunch routine. It is a simple fried beehoon dish with loads of vegetables and some meat. The recipe can be found at Food4tots. My dish has 2 differences from the original: 1) I forgot to add glass noodles, and 2) I omitted the cabbage.

After having the beehoon for lunch, Hannah told me that she liked the meal and that it was “yum yum!”. Personally, it was quite tasty but one shouldn’t rely on a pregnant woman’s opinion as the pregnancy hormones do tricks to the taste buds. :)

Spare Pork Ribs in Plum Sauce

It all started with a neglected bottle of plum sauce in our fridge. I just cleared and tidied up the fridge recently. And I’m very proud to announce that all the items in the fridge are neatly organised and packed in containers. No more loose packet of cheese slices or some half-opened sultana box can be seen lying around in the riot town that is the fridge. Law and order have prevailed at last. :)

Yo, back to that plum sauce story. Yup, it would go to waste in a few months’ time if I didn’t use it. I recalled vaguely eating pork marinated in plum sauce previously and started googling for recipes. Found one and tried it! Boy, you have to try this. It was so easy and delicious!

Below is the recipe (I tweaked the original one very slightly to suit my personal liking), thanks to ‘Hochiak! Delicious Asian Food’ blog.

Ingredients (serves 2 adults)

  • 500 g of spare pork ribs (try to request for more meat than bones)
  • 1 to 2 large onions (I used small onions as these were what I had then)
  • 3 large carrots (peeled and cut into chunks)

Marinade

  • 6 tsps of plum sauce
  • 3/4 tsp of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 heaped tsp of corn flour
  • dashes of ground white pepper

Method

1) Wash and pat dry the pork ribs.

2) Mix the marinade ingredients in a small bowl, pour and coat the pork ribs well. Cover with cling wrap and marinate the pork ribs in the fridge for at least 1 hour. The longer the better.

3) Lay onions and carrots on bottom of slow cooker (aka crock pot). Then, lay pork ribs on top of the onions and carrots and spoon out any remaining marinade onto the pork. Turn on slow cooker to ‘high’ and leave everything to cook for 3 hours. No water is required. The ingredients will form a yummy sauce at the end of cooking.

Bottom layer should be hard root veggies as they require higher heat to cook.

The upper layer should be the marinated spare pork ribs

Cook on ‘high’ setting for 3 hours. Resist opening the cover to check.

4) Serve with steamed white rice.

The pork was so tender that it fell off from its bones after cooking. And the marinade was well absorbed into the meats making them succulent and flavourful. And the carrots and onions were cooked to tender perfection! Great dish for toddlers too. I did blanched xiao bai cai in special oyster sauce to go with this dish and it was a great dinner! Yang loved it. :)

Recipe for the blanched xiao bai cai in special oyster sauce can be found at this blog called Noob Cook. I added a few drops of sesame oil to her oyster sauce mixture. The result is restaurant quality veggies! I’m lost for words.

A final note on the use of slow cooker. Where the meat cuts are concerned, it is not critical to buy premium cuts such as pork ribs as slow cooker has the ability to cook ordinary meats to tender-goodness without drying them out. That’s why I used spare ribs instead. Can save some $$. :) Lastly, I used Indonesian pork, not Australian.

 

14. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, At Home, Baby Recipes, Recipes

Kids are often drawn to colourful foods.

Feeling the unbearable heat these days? The popsicle to the rescue! :)

Trying out new recipes for popsicles is so much fun as they are quick and easy with satisfying results. Making popsicles give a lot of room for creativity too!

The idea for the kiwi in orange juice popsicle came from a blog site called Weelicious. This site also has many other fun and healthy recipes for toddlers. The original recipe calls for lemons but my personal policy is that if oranges can replace lemons in any recipes, the better. Why? This is because oranges are often stocked in our fridge whereas lemons are only bought if a recipe requires them – and I often end up with half an unused lemon. IMO, oranges often impart a better flavour to cooked / baked foods as they have the natural sweet factor which is lacking in lemons.

Okay, enough orange philosophy. :P

Ingredients for making 4 popsicles are: freshly squeezed orange juice (about 2-3 large oranges), 4 slices of green kiwi fruit and 1 tbsp of organic honey (adjust amount according to the sourness of the orange juice). Add one slice of kiwi into each of 4 popsicle moulds. Pour honeyed orange juice into each mould, cover and freeze overnight or at least 8 hours before serving.

Easy popsi, orange squeezy! :)

Simple, healthy and delicious treat :D

07. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, At Home, Baby Recipes, Recipes

From the wide array of recipes which use carrots, I like raw grated carrot, carrot cake and carrot muffin best. Yang loves carrots but he likes them cooked to just tender to bite.

Enter the raw carrot salad today! :D I wanted Hannah to eat more vegetables in their raw forms and hence did this salad as an entrée for her lunch recently. I was glad to hear “Mommy, it is yum yum!” when I asked Hannah for feedback.

I used the finest grater I have at home to achieve fine slivers from 1/2 a small carrot. Then I squeezed juice out of a thin wedge of orange over it, dump in 1/2 teaspoon of mayonnaise, sprinkle some sultanas and toss everything together to mix well. Ta-da, a lovely salad done in no time. The orange juice and mayo are optional as the grated carrot was already so sweet, juicy and refreshing. If you’re going to give this salad a try, do buy carrots that are sweet smelling. :)

Taking barley drink to cool down our bodies on hot days is a common practice amongst the Chinese. There is the barley drink and then there is the China barley drink. One is the true barley and the other is the imitation. Just kidding…! :)

China barley aka coix seeds aka Job’s tears

I did some homework on this grain and here is what I’ve gathered. China barley is native to Asia but has been grown worldwide. Although it looks like the big brother of pearl barley (i.e. the true barley), it belongs to a different genus and hence is technically no barley at all. Perhaps due to its production in China, it has been called China barley. Other names for this grain are coix seeds and Job’s tears. In Chinese, it is called 薏仁 (yi ren).

Before I write this post, I don’t have the faintest idea of the benefits (and ‘dangers’) of consuming China barley or that China barley isn’t barley at all. I simply assumed that it was also a cooling grain just like pearl barley. After finding out more on the Internet, I heaved a sigh of relief that China barley is generally beneficial to health. Yes, it has cooling property just like pearl barley. On top of that, it is able to strengthen the spleen, enhance immunity, prevent swelling, remove pus, treat symptoms of diarrhoea and arthritis. Other properties include inducing diuresis and excreting dampness (a TCM term which I have little clue). And I felt good when I read that it could enhance complexion too, hee hee. As for pregnant ladies, do try to avoid China barley as it might interfere with development of foetus.

I was introduced to this grain when my mom started adding it to her home-made cheng teng (清汤). The sweet fragrant taste of China barley left an impression on me then. It is something which pearl barley cannot match up to.

I used to brew pearl barley drink for Yang to help him cool down or ease his cough-induced sore throat. However, I am not fond of pearl barley drink at all. I found the resultant texture too gluey for my liking. I like my cooling drink to have a somewhat clean and refreshing taste. Just a couple of weeks ago, China barley came to mind and I decided to try brewing this type of cooling drink for my family instead. And I was delighted to discover that not just Yang took to the drink positively, Hannah became hooked to it. She has been asking for barley drink ever since. As this is a cooling drink, it should not be consumed in excess and prolonged periods of time.

Okie dok, enuff said. About the recipe, I adapted it from a pearl barley drink recipe from Food4Tots.

Ingredients

Ingredients for our China barley drink

  • China barley – 200 g
  • candied winter melon (冬瓜糖) – 80 g
  • rock sugar – 50-60 g (adjust sweetness according to preference)
  • pandan leaves – 3, washed and tie into a knot
  • water – 2 litres

Method

1) Rinse China barley thoroughly until water runs clear.

2) Soak the China barley grains with 2 litres of tap water for an hour in a big pot which they would be cooked later.

3) Add candied winter melon to the pot and bring water to boil.

3) Once the water starts boiling, skim the scum from the surface. Cover the pot and lower the heat to simmer (gentle bubbling) for about 1 hour.

4) At the last 10 minutes of simmering, add the knot of pandan leaves and rock sugar.

5) Stir to ensure all rock sugar has dissolved. Scoop up 2/3 of cooked barley, some candied winter melon and pandan leaf knot and discard.

6) Serve China barley drink with some of its grains and candied winter melon, warm or chilled.

The cooked grains and winter melon are both nice to chew on.

I usually keep the excess drink in bottles in the refrigerator and warm it up in batches for the next couple of days for consumption. For Hannah, I limit her consumption to 1 cup (~ 190 ml) per day.