Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Crispy coconut and mozzarella bites
In just a couple of hours, 2008 will be history. And we'll have a brand new year. While it's generally been one of the toughest years ever, I am grateful for many many things. Not least of all, the wonderful comments I've gotten from you guys. I wish everyone a fabulous 2009 filled with good fortune, good health and happiness. May you also achieve all the new resolutions you can dream of!

And for all-"round" good luck, here are some crispy coconut and mozzarella cheese bites. Recipe from Lidl Treats.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My new pet
Woohoo! This is my new pet devilsaur (Level 71 Tyrantus named mob) stomping around with my hunter in WOW (World of Warcraft). It's TEH AWESUM! Its DPS (damage per second) is MAD!

Yeah I guess if you're wondering where I have disappeared to in the past few days, it's there. I finally succumbed to the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. I really tried not to, given that WOW is such a time-sink and spare time is something I can ill afford these days. Oh well, my little Christmas time indulgence. Now, what shall I name this creature?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas everybody! Hope everyone who celebrates this is feasting well, and I'm sure beloved friends and family make everything taste much better!

(Jolie eating her first chocolate cookie! She sure is putting those two front teeth to good use already!)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Skinny Cookies

OK, after Skinny Pizza, here are some skinny cookies. I had not intended for them to be so penyet (flattened) but it's a happy accident. These are my first cookies and being the noob that I am, I shaped them (prior to baking) like, well, cookies instead of balls. They simply spread out. But that also meant they were all thinly crispy, and I love that!

I got the recipe off Nigella's website but it's not her creation. It's a reader-submitted recipe called My Mom's Oat Cookies (my notes below added in green). Irresistibly tasty and so easy to make! You basically mix all the ingredients together and bake for just 15 mins.

INGREDIENTS

4 oz/100g self raising flour
4oz/100g porridge oats (I used a high protein muesli mix)
½ level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
4oz/100g butter or margarine (I think it can be less, cookies are slightly oily)
4oz/100g granulated sugar (this is very sweet, you can halve this and it's still OK)
1 rounded tablespoon golden syrup (honey works fine too)

METHOD

1. Heat the oven to gas mark 4 or 180 c
2. Grease on large baking tray with butter or margarine. (I used two trays for 8 large cookies)
3. Mix flour, oats, and bicarbonate of soda together in a bowl put to one side.
4. Put margarine or butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan and heat on a low heat until butter and sugar are melted, stir occasionally, take off heat and stir in the oat mix, beat well with a wooden spoon.
5. Scoop dessertspoons of mixture up and make into ball shapes (d'oh! I shaped them like cookies) and place on a greased baking tray when the tray is full slightly flatten the balls out with the back of the dessert spoon.
6. Cook in the oven for 15 minutes, when ready remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking sheet for 5 mins before moving onto a wire rack.
7. Repeat and do the same until all the mixture has been used up.
8. Serve with a cup of tea any remaining biscuits can be kept in an airtight tin for about a week (if they last that long)

Oatmeal Cookie Penyet

Friday, December 19, 2008

Wild Truffled Mushroom Skinny Pizza
I know a lot of people love thin crust pizzas. But just how thin is in? A couple of weekends ago, we spotted this very new shop at Suntec City, called Skinny Pizza. The crust is so thin, it's practically a lavash cracker. Any thinner and it'll be a papadum!

Truffle oil and mushroom overload!
This is the 12-inch Wild Truffled Mushroom pizza (S$18). Generous toppings of roasted mushrooms, garlic, truffled oil and Italian parsley - nice and luscious at first bite, but became rather heavy and cloying thereafter. We couldn't decide if the thin, dry cracker crust worked. Hubby didn't like it much, but I'm a sucker for anything crunchy.

Drinks at Skinny PizzaPizza and soup menu
The menu is small, and even then, not everything is available (they're just warming up operations). In fact, they didn't have the smaller 8" pizza and are already thinking of phasing that out to streamline things. I wish they'd keep that, because if they had that, we'd have ordered two different pizzas, instead of one large one.

Red Pepper and Tomato Soup
The soups were a hit and a miss. Both of us found the red pepper and tomato soup too tart, with a strange bitter aftertaste. It was like drinking Tabasco.

Sweet Corn Crab Soup
Sweet corn crab soup fared a little better, but still too sweet for me. Hubby liked this one though.

Funny! Clever ad for Brazilian waxing
We found hilarious brochures for STRIP, the Spa Esprit waxing chain, which is just next door I think. Skinny Pizza is also under the same umbrella group. I hope they manage to iron out their teething issues. That's why I waited til 2 weeks before posting this. The manager was very hospitable and asked for a lot of detailed feedback from us. They really want to make this work, and I do hope they manage to finetune the menu and operations successfully.

SKINNY PIZZA
next to STRIP
3 Temasek Boulevard #01-006
Suntec City Galleria (near Convention Centre)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I baked a birthday cake for Jolie, and hubby requested that it be pineapple upside down cake. Rather unusual choice, but I've never had this cake before, so why not give it a try? I chose Nigella's version because she says it's totally fine to use canned pineapples. Martha Stewart's recipe is hardcore - peel and slice your own pineapple! Sorry, but I'm never in the mood for that.

Festive colours good enough to eat
Anyway, Nigella's recipe is (once again) terrific. This was so easy - barely 15 minutes of prep, 30 minutes oventime, and you have delicious cake! The red and green cherries double up as a festive Christmas accent.

Nigella's pineapple upside down cake

Here's the recipe which you can find in her Nigella Express book, or on her lovely redesigned website. I used an ordinary 22cm cake tin. As I have no food processor, I simply softened the butter in a saucepot (on low heat) and mixed all the ingredients together. It works fine.

INGREDIENTS

butter for greasing
2 x 15ml tablespoons sugar
6 slices pineapple from a 425g can, plus 3 x 15ml tablespoons of the juice
11 glacé cherries, approx. 75g total weight
100g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100g soft butter
100g caster sugar
2 eggs


METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Butter a tarte Tatin tin (24cm wide at the top and 20cm diameter at the bottom) or use a 23cm cake tin (neither loose-bottomed nor springform).
2. Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of sugar on top of the buttered base, and then arrange the pineapple slices to make a circular pattern as in the picture.
3. Fill each pineapple ring with a glacé cherry, and then dot one in each of the spaces in between.
4. Put the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, butter, caster sugar and eggs into a food processor and run the motor until the batter is smooth. Then pour in the 3 tablespoons of pineapple juice to thin it a little.
5. Pour this mixture carefully over the cherry-studded pineapple rings; it will only just cover it, so spread it out gently.
6. Bake for 30 minutes, then ease a spatula around the edge of the tin, place a plate on top and, with one deft – ha! – move, turn it upside-down.

Serves 8

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jolie is ONE today!
Jolie is one year old today! She's a happy baby, and I am going to bake her a cake! And cookies! More on that later.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My childhood hero Jet Li 李连杰 has become a global warrior for humanity. He is now a full-time relief worker. Yes, many celebrities do charity work, mostly in between albums or films. But Jet Li has completely walked off the job and immersed himself in philanthropy.

He set up the "One Foundation", which has become so successful that Harvard is studying how it got so big in just a year. I think he's hit the nail on the head. A charity that's totally accountable - you can see where every cent goes. Other charities might do well to take a leaf from it too.

I LOVE this article from Time Magazine
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1862595,00.html

Times UK also wrote about their efforts for the Szechuan earthquake. http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/fashion/article5274774.ece

I'm glad he's found his passion and his calling. The world needs more love!

Jet Li's One Foundation

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Kay Hua Roasted Specialist is at Joo Chiat Road
Chanced upon this superbright yellow shop (complete with colourful characters) at Joo Chiat Road, after checking out the kitchen supplies shops nearby for bakeware.

Roast chicken noodles
They had unusual dishes like roast duck laksa, but we stuck to the traditional. I had the roast chicken with noodles (about S$2?). It was OK, not spectacular, but for that price, I'm not complaining.

Roast pork char siew rice
Hubby had the roast pork and char siew rice (about S$3?). It didn't look that appetising to me, but it was gone in a jiffy. I think hubby was very hungry.

Dumpling soup
Dumpling soup for only S$2! But the dumplings tasted like they were frozen, not fresh. But at least they had enough filling in them, and tasted savoury enough.

The whole meal with soup only cost S$7 for two. Service is quick and friendly enough. But if you prefer something a bit better than hawker fare, Joo Chiat has plenty of other options.

KAY HUA ROASTED SPECIALIST
No.102 Joo Chiat Road #01-01
Singapore 427396
Open Daily from 9:00am to 9:00pm

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lightly caramelised top of the brandy butter cake
This is my first cake. Yeah, finally. I've baked quite a few items, but never cake or cookies. You can tell roast pork is closer to my heart than sweet treats. But I recently got a mixer, and decided to start with the simple, humble butter cake. Only I didn't have enough butter, so I threw in a tablespoon or two of brandy butter instead. It lent a lightly heady and festive fragrance to the end product.

Soft and buttery
Brandy butter cake. This was nice. Soft and fluffy when just out of the oven, but became like pound cake when chilled. For those who want the recipe, here it is.

INGREDIENTS:
220g butter (basically one 250g block minus 1-2 tablespoons)
1-2 tablespoons of brandy butter (depending on taste)
180g caster sugar (I used 150g brown sugar)
5 eggs
200g self-raising flour
half teaspoon vanilla essence

METHOD:
1. Line a 9" baking tin and grease the sides. Preheat oven at 170 degrees C.
2. Use the 'K' beater and beat butter and sugar until creamy and light.
3. Add eggs one at a time, and mix until well-combined.
4. Add flour and fold in using low speed.
5. Add the vanilla essence and mix evenly.
6. Pour mixture into baking tin and bake in oven for about 45-50 minutes.

Throw in a tablespoon of this into your butter cake!
But I suppose it only works for you if you like brandy. Available in Cold Storage (price varies from outlet to outlet, between S$6+ to S$8.05)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Grilled Special Rack of Lamb with Chinese Wine
Few of us think of Christmas feasting at a Chinese restaurant. So we were intrigued when Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel invited us to preview their special Oriental Christmas menus at Jia Wei. We were very glad we went. The food was delicious! Behold, the Grilled Special Rack of Lamb with Chinese Wine. I don't know how the chef managed it, but there is very little of that strong, gamy flavour that turns most people off this meat. Even hubby who takes to lamb/mutton like a vampire does to garlic, enjoyed this. We loved the sauce too. To borrow Rachael Ray's phrase, YUM-O! I am so coming back for this (hurrah, it's available as a regular item on the a la carte menu).

Pan-fried Fillet of Pork Spare-rib with Special Sauce
But all right, I am getting ahead of myself. Basically there are two six-course menus offering a festive salad, premium soup, main, vegetables, noodles, dessert and a glass of red/white wine.

The grilled lamb is the highlight of the Festive Cheers menu (S$98++ per pax). The Christmas Glow menu (S$79++ per pax) features Pan-fried Fillet of Pork Spare-rib with Special Sauce as its main. A rich, fatty slab with juices seared in, and flavoured a most unusual seasoning - I can't quite figure out what it is. Hubby liked this a lot.

Festive Turkey Ham and Fresh Fruits
Both sets share the same starter of Turkey, Ham and Fresh Fruits Salad. The cream lashings had a hint of wasabi. I'm not a fan of turkey but the crisp pieces of fruits were very refreshing.

Jia Wei Superior Shark's Fin Soup in Hot Stone Pot
The Festive Cheers menu gives you a huge, bubbling, hot stone pot of Jia Wei's superior shark's fin soup. Generous combs of gelatinous shark's fin in delicious stock, dotted with crab roe. This alone would probably cost a tiny fortune in other restaurants.

Superior Shark's Fin Soup with Conpoy
The Christmas Glow menu is superior shark's fin soup with conpoy. Served on a regular soup plate with a dumpling. Nadine and Jolie both loved the soups.

Braised Bai Ling Mushroom with Broccoli
Braised Bai Ling Mushroom with Broccoli for Festive Cheers. Very well-executed. The mushrooms absorbed the rich flavours of the stock.

Braised Dry Scallop with Sea Cucumber and Bamboo Pith
Braised Dry Scallop with Sea Cucumber and Bamboo Pith from the Christmas Glow menu. The vegetables are very fresh.

Homemade Noodles with Prawn and Conpoy
Both sets also share the same noodle dish - Homemade Noodles with Prawn and Conpoy. The prawns were huge and succulent, the noodles pristine and clear-tasting. The gravy seems a little bland, though.

Chilled Lemon Jelly
The chilled lemon jelly is a great palate cleanser. The intense lemon sorbet paired well with the gentle sweetness of the jelly and aloe vera cubes. This dessert comes with the Festive Cheers menu.

Chilled Mango Pudding
The creamy, chilled mango pudding has real cubes of sweet mango embedded within. I could eat tubs of this. Both desserts are sprinkled with colourful, dried fruits that are so customary of Christmas.

Both menus will be available from 15 Dec 2008 until 4 January 2009. Diners enjoy a whopping 30 per cent discount from Mondays to Thursdays (except on 24, 25 and 31 December and 1 January, of course). You'll also enjoy 10 per cent off Yuletide Specialties at the Lobby Cafe when you present your Jia Wei bill.

Incidentally, Feast@East, the buffet restaurant upstairs (tel: 6340-5665), is also giving discounts Mondays to Wednesdays this festive season - 30 per cent for lunch and 40 per cent for dinner (except 24 and 31 Dec).

Jia Wei has delicious dim sum
Jia Wei has pretty good dim sum too. Chef Lee Tuck Seng has over forty years of culinary experience, predominantly in Cantonese cuisine, and has won awards in the FHA International Salon Culinaire. They have an extensive wine list and have started featuring wines of the month. However, if you prefer to BYO, corkage can be arranged. Service? Always impeccable.

Most residents in the Marine Parade area are familiar with Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel and its restaurants. Its recent renovation into a four-star hotel has made it a very pleasant place to stay and dine. We'd like to thank Marcoms Manager Keane Sua for being a wonderful, fabulous host, and Marcoms Assistant Seow Shu Ling for helping to arrange this lovely meal.

JIA WEI CHINESE RESTAURANT
Level 2 Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel
50 East Coast Road (opposite Parkway Parade)
Call 6340-5678 for reservations
Lunch: 12noon - 3pm
Dinner: 6pm - 11pm

Update: You can read Ladyironchef's review here. I finally met Brad in person!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Mix berries cream cheesecake in a chocolate waffle cone
Wow, this was awesome! "Mix berries cream cheesecake" in a chocolate waffle cone from Marvelous Cream. Gorgeous, fresh berries in a rich, cream cheese ice cream. Trust the Japanese to make cold marbletop mix-in ice creams really enticing! You can choose from 28 creations (see delicious photos here), or devise your own personal blend.

Choose from a variety of premium Hokkaido ice-cream
Choose your base ice cream from flavours like White Milk Cream, Marsala Espresso, European Cream Cheese, Golden Vanilla, Strawberry Cream, Fruity Mango, Hazelnut Praline and Belgium Chocolate. All premium Hokkaido ice cream.

Toppings galore to choose from - fruits, cake, jelly, nuts, macarons, sauces!
Toppings include
- fruits: strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, melon, mango, banana, apple compote
- cake/sweets: sponge cake, brownie, millefeuille, tart, marshmallow, rum raisin, chocolate chip, white choc slice, cocoa powder
- jelly: coffee, mango
- nuts: hazelnut, pecan, almond, dessicated coconut
- macarons: vanilla, raspberry
- sauces: fresh cream, caramel, Koo Belcher choc, condensed milk!

Chocolate-coated ice cream cone
Then, choose the size of your desired delight - Junior $4.90, Regular $6.20, Large S$8.80 for preset creations, which come with about 3-4 toppings. Custom order ice creams start from Junior $4.30, Regular $5.50, Large S$7.90 and come with one free topping (additional toppings S$0.60).

Finally, choose the container (paper cup is free, waffle bowl/cone add S$1, chocolate-coated waffle bowl/cone add S$1.50).

The parfait range from Marvelous Cream
They also have readymade desserts in a cup, called Premium Parfait. Extra Berry Shortcake, European Caramel Custard, Banana Cream Brulee, Tiramisu, Belgium Noisette Chocolat, Exotic Patissier, and Mont Blanc.

Japanese cold stone ice creamery Marvelous Cream is now at Citylink Mall!
Marvelous Cream in Japan has outlets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Kobe, Nagoya, Hiroshima, Gifu, Ibaraki, and Okinawa. But in Singapore, you can get your fix at CityLink Mall. I hope more outlets open soon!

MARVELOUS CREAM
#B1-04 Citylink Mall, One Raffles Link, Singapore 039393
Tel: 6238-1863

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Antipasto
I like Japanese-style Italian, so I was naturally curious about Mondo Mio ("My World"), which has roots in Japan, with sister restaurants Piccolo Mondo ("Small World") in Osaka and Kobe. Mondo Mio is a casual little eatery offering Southern Italian cuisine, which leans more towards the use of olive oil than butter.

We saw very value-for-money S$12 set lunches (soup/starter, main, dessert, coffee/tea) but opted to go a la carte. Our antipasto (small, S$12) comprised this mix above. Smoked salmon, ham, potatoes, chickpeas, greens, asparagus, melon slices and some really great olives and pickles on skewers. A good deal but I can't help thinking about that divine antipasto platter from da Mario, just nearby.

Aglio Olio Peperoncino with prosciutto and rocket
The aglio olio peperoncino with prosciutto and rocket is between S$14-18 (sorry we forgot to keep the receipt). We requested the leaves to be on the side, instead of on top - hubby doesn't like this peppery plant. It certainly was al dente but hubby still wasn't too enthused about this dish. On its own, the aglio olio may be a bit bland but the prosciutto makes it sing.

Pizza Diavolo
Hubby loved the pizza though. The Diavolo comes with lots of tasty, stringy mozzarella and paper-thin slices of salami. Lovely thin crust. I found it a tad greasy but I'd eat it again anytime.

It's a busy little place, quite family friendly with lots of Japanese and Western clientele. Service staff are warm despite being constantly busy. The Italian manager was especially friendly to Nadine, kissing her outstretched hand with such dramatic flourish that she requested it again and again.

MONDO MIO
30 Robertson Quay
Riverside View #01-02A
Singapore 238251
Tel: 6736-2503
Open: 11am-2pm, 6pm-10.30pm (closed Tuesdays)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's December already! What do you really want for Christmas? Time to daydream and have a fun poll (see right sidebar).

LG recently did a light-hearted survey in six countries to find out what people really want for the holiday season. About 650 from Singapore participated, including me! Results?

* A vacation was ranked top gift, followed closely by latest electronic gadget.
* More people preferred to spend time with Santa Claus than the President of the United States (maybe they should have put President-elect!), the Queen of England or the Pope.
* Brad Pitt trounced Orlando Bloom and David Beckham as celebrity most wanted for under-the-mistletoe kisses. Jessica Alba beat Angelina Jolie and Nicole Kidman for those honours.
* Most folks in Singapore, Brazil and UK said they'd budgeted about US$100-300 for gifts (but 37% in Singapore also voted US$50-100). Those in Hong Kong and Australia are thinking bigger - more than US$500.
* Biggest concern across the board was, not surprisingly, MONEY NO ENOUGH!

So on the whole, it looks like Singaporeans still want to spread some festive cheer despite the economic downturn, but will be spending money prudently. Let's not forget the reason for the season.

And if you really want an LG phone (the Black Label Series LG Secret, the 8-megapixel LG Renoir camera phone or the full touch screen LG Cookie), you can win one at the cheery LG Holiday site. But hurry, you only have til 14 Dec to enter. Results will be announced 23 Dec, just in time for Christmas. Good luck!

Personally, all I want for Christmas is...to see Jolie's two front teeth fully come out! :D
Jolie's two front teeth are peeping out!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bak chor mee
Ah some food at last! I forgot to post this earlier. This was right after the Bobby's Christmas set menu food-tasting session, which left us still ravenous since the portions were merely bitesize tasting portions. Southernoise and I went looking for more food nearby, but most good places like Noodle House Ken had closed for the afternoon. We ended up at a cheap eat. Well, it's called EAT, literally. The bak chor mee (above, S$4.30) was decent. Good for non-fussy, hungry people who want food fast!

EAT at Centrepoint
They have laksa, fishball noodles, and some snacks. Food court prices, and food court quality. Somehow, the eateries at Centrepoint don't seem too interesting. Is it me, or do they need better restaurants?

EAT
The Centrepoint #B2-114/115
Tel: 6733 2163

Monday, December 1, 2008

Quintessential Nadine - fearlessly striding in search of adventure
Speaking of Nadine, here's our current favourite photo of her, haring down the road in search of adventure. This one captures her essence so well. She's always striding ahead fearlessly, determined to explore and enjoy her world.

Jacob Ballas Children's Garden school outing
The photo was taken at a school trip to the Jacob Ballas Children's Garden (JBCG) at Singapore Botanic Gardens. It's near the NUS Bukit Timah campus. The park is not very big, but is packed with lots of little features (see map here for full details).

Not fully awake from her afternoon nap yet
JBCG has a lot of potential for educating young children, but exploring the park in scorching weather can be a challenge. They do provide lots of rest stops and booths for shade though.

The only F&B outlet there, Kidz Cafe
The only F&B outlet is a Kidz Cafe at the lobby/entrance of the gardens. Expect fries and nuggets, food that most kids love. Apparently you can't bring food into the gardens, but I doubt this rule is really enforced.

Some areas are ironically not pram-friendly
Ironically for a children's garden, some areas are not that pram-friendly.

Nadine and a teacher sliding down the treehouse tunnel
But we all had fun despite the heat. This is Nadine and a teacher going down the tunnel slides at the giant treehouse. Tandem sliding?

Waterlilies - beauty amidst dirt
They have water plants on show as well, near the floating platform.

Dead tree rising
This is a bit eerie. They transplanted a very old and very dead tree - it had been struck by lightning.

Explanation of century-old tree struck by lightning
Hide and seek here? No thanks. I wonder why it could not have been left back where it was in the main Botanical Gardens.

Dragonfly
There is abundant life elsewhere though. Bold dragonflies that enjoy a bit of "still-life" modelling.

Musical bells at the sandpit
There's a sandpit with playground-like toys. Nadine liked the musical bells.

The kids loved the waterplay area
But the most popular by far was the waterplay area. The kids almost refused to leave the place!


I brought my point-and-shoot camera because I didn't want to risk soaking the DSLR. I'm glad I did that, because we got video too! Look at how excited she is!


And Nadine gets caught in the act - cheekily inspecting fellow schoolmate Ian's bum.

Nadine running around
Catch me if you can? I think Nadine really enjoyed this outing, like she did the National Museum one.

JACOB BALLAS CHILDREN'S GARDEN
Opening hours: 8.00am - 7.00pm; closed on Mondays (except when it falls on a public holiday)
Admission is Free - the Children's Garden is open to children up to 12 years old. All children have to be accompanied by an adult. No pets allowed.
 
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