Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Pineapple Fried Rice and Onion Mustard Monkey Bread

I made more rice the previous night so that I could have enough to experiment on another Thai recipe - Pineapple Fried Rice. Although we have been making our version of Pineapple Fried Rice for quite some time now, I decided to follow the recipe and see how different would it turn out compared to ours.

According to the book, this recipe uses only fish sauce and soy sauce to flavour the meat and rice. My usual version normally include sesame oil, oyster sauce, ketchup and rice vinegar. But the simple version from the book actually yields a more authentic Thai flavour. The taste and smell of fish sauce is more distinct here, without the distractions from other sauces.

The original recipe called for cashew nuts, but I used peanuts, because that's what I have on hand. The marriage of crunchy nuts, soft tangy pineapple chunks, juicy prawn and chicken with rice make this Oriental Fried Rice a destined crowd pleaser.

The cold weather also make me crave for some warm fresh bread. As a result, I made half a recipe of Onion and Mustard Monkey Bread from Food and Wine magazine. It would be the perfect side dish with roast chicken or pot roast. But we were too engrossed with the fried rice and ended up not eating much of the bread. I kept 4/5 of the bread in a paper bag, hoping that it will not turning into an inedible rock the next day. It looked absolutely stunning when it first came out from the oven. From the little piece that I ate, I know that this is going to be a keeper. As for OCT? He prefers RICE over any other types of grains anytime. He will be very grumpy if he didn't get his RICE fix every few days.....

Onion Mustard Monkey Bread
adapted from Food and Wine Magazine

1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 envelope dry active yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons snipped chives
1 teaspoon chopped thyme

In a saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the milk and sugar and heat just until warm. Transfer to a large bowl, stir in the yeast and let stand until foamy, 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt until a sticky dough forms. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, 5 minutes. Oil the bowl and return the dough to it. Cover with plastic and let stand in a draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Butter a 10-inch tube or Bundt pan. Punch down the dough and divide it into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a 12-inch log and cut each log in 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a skillet. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until softened, 6 minutes. Stir in the mustard, chives and thyme. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter; stir until melted. Season lightly with salt and transfer to the large bowl to cool slightly. Add half of the dough balls and turn to coat with the onion mixture. Arrange the balls in the bottom of the pan. Repeat with the remaining dough balls. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let stand until risen to the top of the pan, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425°. Bake the bread in the lower third of the oven for 25 minutes, or until golden. Cover the pan loosely with foil, reduce the oven temperature to 375° and bake for 30 minutes longer, or until risen. Let the bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Set an inverted plate on top and turn the bread out onto it. Set another plate on top and invert the bread so it’s right side up. Break into rolls or cut into slices.

MAKE AHEAD: The bread can be prepared through Step 3 and refrigerated overnight.

Note: I halved the recipe, and make it in a 9-inch loaf pan.

Thai Pineapple Fried Rice ( Khao Phad Suparod)

2.5 cups cooked rice
4 oz skinless, boneless chicken breast
8 large shrimps, shelled, deveined (5 oz/150g)
1/2 cup pineapple chunk
6 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp chopped garlic
2 eggs
3 tbsp soya sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup roasted unsalted cashews
2 stems green onion, thinly chopped
strips of red pepper
fresh coriander leaves
slices of tomato and cucumber

Slice the chicken into 1/4inch/5-mm strips. Reserve along with the shrimps.

Heat oil in a wok (or a large frying pan) until it is just about to smoke. Add garlic and stirfry for 30 seconds. Add chicken and shrimps and stirfry for 1-1.5 minutes, until the meats have turned white, then decrease heat to medium high. Break the eggs directly into the wok. Fry the egg without breaking them up for 2 minutes, until they are partially set.

Push the eggs and meat to one side of the wok, and add the rice to the other side. Add soy sauce and fish sauce on the rice and then using a shoveling motion, combine the 2 sides of the wok, tossing- stirring for 2 minutes, mixing the rice with the eggs, chicken and shrimp, working from the bottom up so that all the rice has a chance to fry in the oil and everything is integrated.

Sprinkle black pepper on the rice and add cashews, green onion and the reserved pineapple chunks. Toss-stir for 1- 2 minutes, folding the new ingredients into the rice and then remove fom heat. Transfer to a serving dish and top with red pepper strips and fresh coriander leaves.

Garnish sides with slices of tomato and cucumber. Serve immediately.

Serves 2-4

Note: Use the ingredient list as a guideline and season the fried rice as you cook.


Baking for some Very Important People

OCT is meeting with his graduation committees today for the last time before he prepares for his thesis and defense. After that, he will be called Dr Ong. Too bad there isn't any nice designation for the wife. Anyway, OCT requested some "not too sweet breakfast pastries" for the committee.

After consulting my piles of recipes, I settled on a Blueberry Muffin with Almond Streusel Topping. Not only that it's presentable, but it's also something healthy, wholesome and tasty. Compared to the rest of muffins I made before, this Blueberry Muffins used much less sugar and oil. Most the sweetness comes from the Streusel, which one has complete control on how much to put.

I read somewhere that blueberries are packed with antioxidant and vitamins but I rarely buy the fresh stuff. They are simply too expensive here. I used the frozen berries from Trader Joes instead. They have been chucked in the freezer since Summer, when I used them to make smoothies.

I tried one of the muffins when it came out from the oven and thought it wasn't sweet enough. Interestingly, after sitting overnight, the flavour improved. And the texture was still moist and tender.
A healthy option for weekend breakfast. According to the recipe, these muffins freeze well. Too bad I run out of blueberries, or I could whip up another batch for another SUPER VIP coming to our place in less than 48 hours!

Blueberry Streusel Muffins
adapted from Southern Living

1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup uncooked regular oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup oil
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Pulse almonds 2 or 3 times in a blender or food processor until chopped. Add brown sugar and 1 tablespoon flour; process 5 seconds. Add butter; pulse 5 or 6 times or until mixture is crumbly. Stir in oats; set aside.
Combine 2 cups flour and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture.

Whisk together buttermilk, oil, and egg; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moistened.

Toss blueberries with remaining 2 tablespoons flour; gently fold into batter. Spoon batter into greased muffin pans, filling two-thirds full; sprinkle batter with oat mixture.

Bake at 400° for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove immediately from pans, and cool on wire racks.

Note: Freeze muffins up to 1 month.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Gochujang and Miso

Monday night dinner features a Korean condiment- Gochujang and a Japanese condiment- Miso.

A recent discovery of Gochujang has allowed me to include some korean meat dishes to my repertoire. The mildly spicy and sweet sauce pairs extremely well with pork. This time however, I want to try it with chicken breast, making it into Dakgalbi (marinated chicken stirfry in Gochujang sauce). I like the way in which many veggies can be incorporated into Dakgalbi, making it an all in one dish. For most Koreans, rice cakes and sesame leaves are added into the dish on top of slice onions, cabbage, carrot and green onion. Since I don't have rice cakes and sesame leaves, I simply add more cabbage to make up for it.

Another side dish- Corn with bacon and miso butter, is a nice twist on buttered corn. The flavour of miso in this dish is subtle, but we like the colour constrast of corn kennels and bacon. The combination of sweet corns and savory bacon is highly addictive. It keeps drawing me to go back for more. I now proclaim this one of my favorite side dishes in 2007.


What I crave on a cold winter afternoon

A warm scone from the oven.
A huge mug of coffee.

And some almond biscottis.

I love biscottis, not only because they are generally low in fat, but they also have pretty long shelf life. Unlike other cookies that are best devoured over the next few days after they are baked, biscottis can be kept in a container for more than a week. Well, theoritically, if they can be kept that long before the glutton/s gobble them down.

This recipe that I adapted from Fine Cooking is a good change from my usual Chocolate Hazelnut Biscottis. The citrus zests and fennel seeds added to the dough impart an exotic flavour to the otherwise dull almond biscottis. I added some 72% chocolate, because I like everything with chocolate! On hindsight, maybe I shouldn't have added the chocolate. The biscottis would have looked neater without the awkward dark spots. If I were to make this biscottis again, I would also reduce the amount of sugar. I think it is a bit too sweet to eat on its own. But it's great if you were to eat it with a cup of strong coffee. The sweetness of the biscotti balances the bitterness of coffee.

I never learn to appreciate a good cup of black coffee. But I never make my coffee too sweet either. A few years ago when one of my superiors saw me making coffee, she commented that I should add more sugar to my coffee. "There is enough bitterness in this life, why not make your coffee sweeter?" She said. She was an outstanding sales manager, but there was many unhappiness going on in her personal life at that time. So she was naturally bitter, towards most of us.

I remember I told her that I left my coffee slightly bitter, so that I will be reminded of the sweet things in my life. It's all relatively speaking, isn't it? Whether something is sweet or bitter. It depends on what you compare them with. Not long after that, she was headhunted by a competitor company for an important role. I heard that she has done very well there, but I hope she is a happier person now.

Almond Biscotti
adapted from Fine Cooking
7 oz (1 1/3 cups) whole almonds, skin on
11 oz (2 1/2 cups) unbleached all purpose flour
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tsp table salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp aniseed
grated zest of 1 lemon, 1 lime and 1 orange
3 large eggs plus 3 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
(I added 3.5 oz of 72% chocolate)
Heat the oven to 375F. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet in the oven until they emit a nutty aroma but haven't turned dark brown inside, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, aniseed, and grated zests on medium low speed.
In a separate bowl, lightly beat together the eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla extract with a whisk. With the mixer running on medium low, pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture. When the egg mixture is almost completely incorporated, reduce the speed to low, add the almond and mix until the dough come together. Do not overmix. The dough will be stiff and sticky.
Dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead in by hand any remaining dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl. Divided the dough into three equal parts. With floured hands, roll each part into a log about 10 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Place the logs 4 inches apart on greased or parchment lined baking sheets.
Baking the logs at 350F until they are light brown but still soft, about 45 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and reduce the temperature to 300F. Let the logs cool on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes. Cut the logs on a slight diagonal into 3/4 inch thick biscotti. Place the biscotti flat on the baking sheet and dry them in the oven until they offer resistance when pressed, but the cut side hasn't begun to darken, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.
Yield about 3 dozens biscottis.


Monday, January 22, 2007

The Most Ugly Friday Treat

Last week, I baked a batch of Lemon Scented Blueberry Cupcakes for OCT's lab meeting. Although they were healthy and yummy, they looked depressingly ugly. So ugly that I almost threw them out of the window. I thought my poor frosting skill didn't do the light and fluffy cupcakes justice. OCT didn't even try to console me, but to reaffirm my foreboding that the ugly cupcakes would be poorly received.

Luckily, it was not as bad as I had imagined. The cupcakes were all finished without a crumb left. I guess they must be very hungry that morning....

Lemon Scented Blueberry Cupcakes
adapted from Cookinglight
1 1/2 cups (about 6 3/4 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
10 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 large egg
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed

1/4 cup (2 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Fresh blueberries (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Place 12 decorative paper muffin cup liners into muffin cups.

To prepare cupcakes, lightly spoon 1 1/2 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Measure 1 tablespoon flour; level with a knife. Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour plus 1 tablespoon flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Combine melted butter and egg in another large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add buttermilk, milk, and 1 teaspoon rind to butter mixture; stir with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Toss blueberries with remaining 1 tablespoon flour. Fold blueberries into batter. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

To prepare frosting, place cream cheese, 2 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon rind, vanilla, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed just until blended. Gradually add powdered sugar (do not overbeat). Stir in juice. Spread frosting evenly over cupcakes; garnish with blueberries, if desired. Store, covered, in refrigerator.

makes 12 cupcakes


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Exploring Thai Recipes

One of the highlights on this week's menu is Thai food on Wednesday. I got this Thai recipe book from the library that really put me into the mood of cooking Thai food. Building on what I have on hand, I decided to make a Sweet and Sour Pork and Shrimp with Green Beans in Chilli Sauce.

In many ways, recipes from Southeast Asia share many similarities. Like the condiments they use. But here, I want to talk about Thai Food only. Most of the Thai recipes use soy sauce, lime leaves, lime juice, fish sauce, different kinds of curry pastes, tamarind and coconut milk. Fish sauce in particular, is the essence of Thai food (in my humble opinion, of course). It never fails to appear in any recipes. I guess they use it in the same way we use salt?

Because I wanted to get the flavor right, I followed the recipe religiously. Most of the time when I cook, I just eyeball everything. But not on this. I didn't want to mess with this and end up having yet another disappointing dinner. My effort was paid off when we finally sat down for dinner. Both dishes turned out great~

I am so proud that I made the sweet and sour sauce from scratch! Although it was not exactly my own recipe, but nevertheless, it's still better than using the ready mix sauce that who knows how much MSG is in there! And the aroma and bright colours of this dish lifted up my spirit on the cold gloomy night.

The Shrimp with Green Beans in Chilli Sauce was nice too. Except that it's kind of too spicy for both of us. I believe this can easily modified to suit our taste in the future. But I like the technique of stirfrying the curry paste before adding other ingredients, instead of diluting the paste first, like in other recipes. The heat of the pan helped the curry paste to release some of its flavour before it was mixed with the prawn and green beans. It would have been nicer if I have lime leaves and lime on hand. I am sure the dishes would taste more authentic that way. But for the time being, lemon juice is a good substitute.

With dishes like these, it's no surprise that we each had an extra bowl of rice.

Sweet and Sour Pork (Moo Preow Waan)

10 oz trimmed pork tenderloin
1/2 tsp tomato paste (or 2 tbsp of ketchup dissolved in 1 tbsp water)
1 tbsp water
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp rice (or white) vinegar
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp chopped garlic
1/4 small onion, roughly chopped
1/3 medium red pepper, cut into 1 inch/2.5 cm squares
1/2 small tomato, cut into 1 inch/ 2.5cm chunks
1.5 inches english cucumber, cut into 1 inch/2.5 cm wedges
1 cup pineapple, cut into 1/2 inch/1 cm pieces
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water
pinch black pepper
strips of red pepper
fresh coriander leaves

Slice tenderloin into strips that are 1/4 inch/5mm thick, 2 inches/5cm long and about 1 inch/2.5cm wide. If you find it difficult to cut thinly through fresh meat, leave it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes to harden slightly, then slice. Reserve.

In a small bowl mix together tomato paste, water, fish sauce, vinegar, lime juice and sugar and beat until blended. Reserve.

Heat oil in a wok (or a large frying pan) until it is just about to smoke. Add garlic and stirfry for 30 second. Immediately add reserved pork and stirfry for 2-3 minutes until all th pork has fried in the oil and is turning white. Add onion, red pepper, tomato, cucumber and pineapple as well as soy sauce and black pepper and stirfry for 2 minutes, unitl all the vegetables have begun to wilt.

Add reserve sauce (tomato paste etc, stirfry for 1-2 minutes until everything is integrated and shiny. Dissolve cornstarch in water, add to work and stirfry for less than a minute, until the sauce has thickened somewhat. Take off heat.

Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with black pepper. Top with stips o red pepper and coriander leaves. Serve immediately, accompanied by steamed rice.

serves 4.

Shrimps with Green Beans in Chili Sauce (Phad Prik Khing Goong)

4 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp red curry paste
2 lime leaves, cut into quarters
1 cup water
16 large shrimps, shelled and deveined (10 oz/300g)
14 long green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch/2.5c.m pieces
1 tbsp sugar
strips of red pepper
fresh coriander leaves

Heat oil in the wok (or a large frying pan) on high heat until it is just about to smoke. Add the red curry paste and stir to dissolve for 30 seconds. Turn heat down to medium low and stir cook for another 30 seconds. Add lime leaves and stir fry for 1 minute. Turn heat back to maximum and add 1/2 cup/ 125ml of the water and stir cook for 1 minute.

Add shrimps, green beans and sugar. Stir fry for 1 minute. Turn heat down to medium heat, and add the rest of the water (1/2 cup / 125ml). Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until shrimps are pink white and springy. Take off heat.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with red pepper strips and coriander leaves. Serve immediately, accompanied by steamed rice.

Serves 3 to 4.


Pasta & Mushroom with Parmesan Crumb Topping

I love all kinds of mushrooms. So when I see a recipe using lots of mushrooms, I am immediately sold and know that I have to make it! Mum knows that I love mushrooms. So she always cook Chinese Braised Mushrooms with dried oyster and scallop when I am home. Too bad I couldn't reproduce this dish here, but I get my mushroom fix through experimenting other dishes. Some works, but some don't. When a dish with mushrooms in it turns out disappointing, I blame the person who develops the recipe.

And yes, I am blaming the one who develops this recipe. It looked all promising when it came out from the oven. I have such a high hope on this.

But it was really bland!

I am glad I made something else too, because I won't be able to eat this pasta alone. On the scale of 1 to 10. If eating boiled pasta without any sauce was rated 1, then this pasta & mushroom casserole would rate 3, at most 4. Definitely not pass as a stand-alone dish. This leads us to the next dish that I made, which savaged the dinner.

I made a simple fish dish - Tilapia with Balsamic Butter Sauce. Lucky for us, the balsamic butter sauce has an intense flavor, that paired well with the pasta. With the help of the tilapia, we managed to finish half of the pasta. As for the other half, I am still thinking what to do with it......

Tilapia with Balsamic Butter Sauce
adapted from Bon Appetite

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 4- to 5-ounce tilapia fillets

Simmer vinegar and garlic in small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to thick syrup, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in each of 2 large skillets over high heat. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Sauté fish until golden, about 2 minutes per side.

Rewarm balsamic syrup over medium-low heat. Whisk in 1/2 cup butter 1 piece at a time.

Drizzle sauce on Tilapia.


So simple and so gooood....

This is so yummy and the preparation couldn't be simpler. I am talking about Monday's dinner, when we had crispy chicken wings, mustard roasted potatoes and Caesar salad.

After my recently discovery of oven roasted chicken wings, I decided to make another batch, together with the mustard roasted potatoes. Perfect food on a cold winter night. Plus it doesn't need much attention. After 40 minutes of roasting, all food appeared on the table like magic. And OCT said it was better than eating out. I couldn't agree more.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Friday Treat -Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake

In the continuation of a healthy treat theme this month, I baked a Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake for OCT's Friday lab meeting.

This cake, which is full of vitamin C (from orange) and antioxidant (from bittersweet chocolate) comes from Barefoot Contessa Parties. My favorite cookbook author, Ina Garten. So far, every recipes I tried from her series of cookbooks have been nothing short from excellent. I really like her style of using the simplest ingredients and turning them into showstopping kind of dishes.

This cake is no exception. In this recipe, Ina incorporated lots of orange zests and semisweet chocolate into the cake. I took the liberty to switch the semisweet chocolate to bittersweet, because I simply like bittersweet chocolate better! And because oranges are in season and plentyful, I know I have to make this cake. I did add one secret ingredient into this cake though.
Instead of cutting up chocolate chunks, guess what I use?

thanks Santa, for your selfless sacrifice....

After the cake was cooled, I couldn't wait to cut a small piece to try. And needless to say, I love it! If you like citrus fruit and chocolate like I do, this is for you. It's a perfect with a cup of coffee or tea, for breakfast, tea or just anytime of the day.

Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake

1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1/4 cup grated orange zest (4 large oranges)
3 cups all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups good quality semisweet chocolate chunks

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

8 ounces good quality semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the orange zest.

Sift together 3 cups flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine the orange juice, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures, alternately in thirds to the creamed butter, beginning and ending with the flour. Toss the chocolate chunks with 2 tablespoons flour and add to the batter. Pour into the pan, smooth the top, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the syrup. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, cook the sugar with the orange juice until the sugar dissolves. Remove the cake form the pan, set it on a rack over a tray, and spoon the orange syrup over the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely.

For the ganache, melt the chocolate, heavy cream and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over top of the cake.

Note: I omitted the chocolate glaze for a healthier version and used bittersweet chocolate. Also, I think 2 cups of chocolate chunk is too much, I will use 1.5 cup next time, and reduce the syrup by half. Plenty of citrus flavor and sweetness even with half the syrup.


The end of a series of extortion and the beginning of a new chapter

Other than stuffing myself silly with lots of food over the holiday period, I also spotted a few good deals on things that I have eyed on for a very long time. I decided it's time for me to acquire them. So, I extorted from the one and only person I could, and got myself the following:
5 brand new cookbooks!

And a new Pentax DSLR with image stabilizer!!!!!!

Of course, all of the above were bought at a bargain price. But buying the DSLR is a major decision that we have thought, discussed and monitored the price for months. In the end, we bought it at $502.99, after rebate. Just 2 days before the rebate ended, and 100% sure that the price couldn't go any lower than this. I can't tell you how excited I am to finally own a DSLR. Hopefully, I can take better food photos with this new gadget. But, I am not putting my old Canon, which has served me well for over 4 years to retire yet. Not until I master the new DSLR.


Asiago and Balsamic Caramelised Onion Focaccia

OCT shuddered when I told him that focaccia was part of the menu last week. Because the last time I attempted to make focaccia, it took us forever to finish it. Moreover, it was not really a success. (at least that's what OCT thought) .

the focaccia I baked 2 weeks ago, and took us forever to finish....

But I determinely like focaccia, and endeavour to bake a killer batch one day. I even borrowed a book on how to bake bread from the library. It's sitting prominently on my apartment floor. I will read it from front to back on one fateful day...

But before that, I made a simple focaccia, adapted from Cookinglight magazine. And I halved the recipe this time, so that we could finish it in 2 days. Interestingly, this small batch seems more manageable compared to the past batches I made. It worked out nice for us, since even the half batch can feed 4 people. So, I could even tear some to snack on before dinner.

I baked it in a 9-inch cake pan, which it rose up nicely. However, the texture of the focaccia was a bit too soft for my liking. I prefer the chewy type. But the soft texture suited OCT's taste, so he didn't complaint this time.

Asiago and Balsamic Caramelised Onion Focaccia
Adapted from Dec 2006 Cookinglight

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil, divided
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons honey, divided
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 1/4 cups warm water (100° to 110°)
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (about 17 ounces), divided
Cooking spray
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated fresh Asiago cheese

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, 1 tablespoon honey, and thyme; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cool completely.
Dissolve yeast and remaining 1 tablespoon honey in 1 1/4 cups warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add onion mixture, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and 3 1/2 cups flour to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes). Add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands.

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Gently press dough into a 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 25 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 400°.

Sprinkle dough with cheese. Bake at 400° for 18 minutes or until browned. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on rack.

Note: I halved the recipe.


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Salmon with Sweet and Sour Pan Sauce and Warm Potato Salad

I should have posted this entry earlier. Because after I uploaded the photos of what we had on Wednesday night, I can't remember much about the dish. Except that the salmon was easy to prepare, its sweet and sour sauce was wonderful. And for the potatoes, I love it, though not as much as the roasted one. But I generally like potatoes, so whether it's smashed, fried, roast or boil doesn't really matter. Potato could easily win me over rice, anytime. Looking at the photo almost make me want to roast another batch of mustard roasted potato tonight. Maybe I should..... It would be perfect for the cold weather.

Coming back to the Warm Potato Salad, the original recipe called for new potatoes, but I only have Russett (which is excellent for roasting, by the way). So, I proceed with Russett. The dressing was made with 2 type of mustards: Dijon and Grainy which is weight friendly compared to mayonaise and other wholesome stuff. (see recipe below). I wouldn't mind making it again for picnic come Spring, since it can stay at room temperature.

As for the salmon, I didn't expect it to be so nice! The sweet and sour flavor combination striked a great balance in this dish. And I am sure it would taste nice with rice too.

Warm New Potato Salad with Grainy Mustard
Adapted from Gourmet

2 lb small (1- to 1 1/2-inch) potatoes, preferably new potatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots (about 2)
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cover potatoes with water by 1 inch in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan, then bring to a boil with 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes, then drain.

Whisk together shallot, mustards, vinegar, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified.

When potatoes are just cool enough to handle, halve them, then add to vinaigrette along with parsley and toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings.

Salmon with Sweet and Sour Pan Sauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over low heat.
Combine broth and next 5 ingredients (broth through garlic).

Increase heat to medium-high, and heat 3 minutes.

While pan heats, sprinkle fillets with salt and pepper. Add fillets to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Remove fillets from pan.

Drain fat from pan, and discard fat. Add broth mixture to pan, scraping to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil; cook 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Serve sauce over fish.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 fillet and 1 1/2 tablespoons sauce)

Note: The sauce is quite thin. To thicken, add some cornstarch dissolved in water to the pan, and bring to a boil together with broth mixture.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Banana Loaf Cake

We have run out of bread. And this is the rare occasion when OCT will ask me to bake something for him to eat as breakfast. Perfect timing for me to try out Nick Malgieri's latest book: Perfect Light Recipes. A book full of dessert ideas, all under 300 calories per GENEROUS serving.

I chose a Banana Cake recipe, because I had some bananas in the freezer, urging to be used. And banana sounds healthy enough for breakfast. It was a simple recipes, using 5 bananas, 3 egg whites, some sugar and plenty of flour. Compared to my favorite banana cake recipe, I found this cake to be a bit too compact, eventhough the cake is bursting with banana. On hindsight, it may make the cake better had I remembered to include some lemon zest. I guess I will never find out, because I don't think I will revisit this recipe. Sorry Mr Malgieri. Maybe I will try other recipes in your book to make up for this. I heard lots of good reviews with other recipes from people who had tried them. I think I would try them soon, particularly the biscottis! And maybe the chocolate chips cookies and oatmeal raisin cookies.

Banana Loaf Cake
Adapted from Nick Malgieri's Perfect Light Desserts

2.5 cups bleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry measure cup an level off)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2.5 cups mashed banana (about 5 large, very ripe bananas)

One 9x5x3-inch loaf pan, sprayed with vegetable cooking spray and the sprayed surface coated with fine, dry breadcrumbs

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F.

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites to break them up, then whisk in the granulated sugar and the brown sugar.

Whisk in the butter and vanilla, followed by the mashed bananas.. Sift the flour mixture over the banana mixture and thoroughly fold it in.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the cake for about 55 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean.

Cool cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then unmold it and cool completely on a rack.

Serving: This cake is excellent unadorned, or it can be spread with a little low fat cream cheese.

Storage: Keep the cake wrapped in plastic at room temperature after it has cooled. For longer storage, double wrap and freeze for up to a month. Defrost and bring to room temperature before serving.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Mustard Heb Crusted Pork Tenderloin

I am very picky when it comes to pork. Maybe because of the bad experience I had when making pork dishes. Other than spareribs, and pork butt, that I used to make roast pork once, I hardly acquainted myself with pork. Even when it's on sale in the grocery store.

Not too long ago, my confidence with pork, particularly pork tenderloin is regained after seeing it appears in some recipes. I gave it a try with a Korean recipe, using Gochujang- the multi purpose korean red pepper sauce. It was really nice! And reminds me of the pork dish grandpa used to make when I grew up.

Spicy Korean Marinated Pork (Jeyuk Bokkeum)

With previous success, I happily planned a pork tenderloin dish for our dinner. The recipe comes from Jan 07 issue of Cookinglight, and is fairly easy to prepare. The trimmed tenderloin is first coated with a mustard mixture, followed by a drenche in seasoned breadcrumb. The rest of the work is left to the oven.

OCT's lunchbox, packed full with the pork tenderloin

I guess I must have overbake the pork tenderloin, as it turned out slightly hard to my liking. OCT thought it's quite nice. But I think I still prefer the Asian preparation, which the tenderloin is marinated for a couple of hours before a quick stirfry. Maybe I will use the remaining pork tenderloin in a Thai recipe. But that can only happen next week, as I already have this week's menu all planned out! I am a planner, yeah!

Mustard Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin
Adapted from Cookinglight Jan 07

1 (1/2-ounce) slice white bread
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons grated fresh Romano cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 garlic clove, minced
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450°.
Place slice of bread in a food processor, and pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1/4 cup. Combine the breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, cheese, and 2 teaspoons thyme in a shallow dish. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Combine Dijon mustard, fennel seeds, and garlic in a small bowl. Rub pork with mustard mixture, and dredge in breadcrumb mixture.

Place the pork on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 25 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160° (slightly pink). Let stand for 10 minutes. Cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Chinese Style Stove Top Pot Roast

I think I am slowly getting more organized. For example, I just planned for a whole week's menu. Alright, no big deal. But if you know me, you know how haphazard I am, so this is definitely a good start. After planning what's for dinner this week, I feel a sense of purpose when dinner time approaches.

Tonight we have Chinese Stove Top Pot Roast. Had I not planned for this recipe earlier, I wouldn't be able to serve dinner on time! Because the pot roast took a good 3 hours to cook! Normally I would choose something that can be cooked within a short time, but this recipe has been lying in my to-try-list for awhile; Moreover, it is also one of the staff favorites for October issue of Cookinglight, so I decided to give it a try.

When I have high expectation on something, I can't help getting disappointed when it doesn't turn out the way I expected. My pot roast is a far cry from the authentic Chinese five spice beef stew. It isn't too bad, but just not as good, as those authentic one that I have tried. Having said this, this recipe is one with potential, which I think I will give it a try some other time, with maybe more star anise or five spice powder, and some chinese chilli oil....

Chinese Style Stove Top Pot Roast

(Adapted from Oct 2006 Cookinglight magazine)

Ginger, soy sauce, star anise, and Chinese five-spice powder infuse this dish with Asian flavor. If you can't find fresh Chinese egg noodles, substitute rice noodles or even linguine.

4 teaspoons peanut oil, divided
1 (2 1/2-pound) sirloin tip roast, trimmed
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5 cups fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
1/2 cup dry sherry ( I used red wine)
1/4 cup thinly sliced peeled fresh ginger
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 star anise
2 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps
2 cups (2-inch) julienne-cut carrot (about 2 large)
4 baby bok choy, halved lengthwise (about 1 3/4 pounds)
12 ounces fresh uncooked Chinese egg noodles ( we eat it with rice)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle roast evenly with five-spice powder and salt. Add meat to pan; cook 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Add broth and next 6 ingredients (through star anise) to pan; bring to a simmer. Cover, reduced heat, and simmer 3 1/2 hours or until meat is tender. Remove meat from pan. Cover and keep warm.
Strain cooking liquid through a sieve over a bowl; discard solids. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and carrot to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Add bok choy and 4 cups reserved cooking liquid to pan. Cover and cook 5 minutes or until bok choy is tender.

Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Divide noodles evenly among 8 bowls. Shred the meat with 2 forks; arrange 3 ounces meat over each serving. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons vegetable mixture and 1/2 cup broth. Place 1 bok choy half on each serving; sprinkle each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons green onions.


Baking on a row

Friday- the usual treat day. I chose to bake a Chocolate Banana Bundt Cake for OCT lab meeting last week. It's a recipe from Fine Cooking, nothing too fancy, but I guess after the many feasts over the year end holidays, they may appreciate something lighter. I like the marble effect on the cake, but thought the texture was mediocre at best. At one point, I even contemplated a coffee or chocolate glaze to dress up the cake. But I was too tired after making another cake for the next night's dinner at OCT's soccer mate's place.Still, the chocolate banana cake received positive responses from OCT's colleagues, and not a crumb left. Even his boss who doesn't like anything sweet had a piece. There was a little accident though, while making this cake. Instead of using a cake tester, I used an angel hair to test for doneness. Unfortunately, the crisp hair broke right in the cake. I have used this tricks countless times, and this was really the first time it broke! I tried to make a mark on the cake, but I couldn't find it after inverting the cake! I told OCT to warn his colleagues about the presence of the tiny "hair", but none of them seemed to have eaten it.

For the dinner, I made a Chocolate Cake! It's from Ina Garten's latest book: Barefoot Contessa At Home. The cake benefited from 2/3 cup of strong brewed coffee. An interesting way to add moisture and intensify the chocolate flavor. The cake was moist and not overly sweet. To lighten the cake, I used only half of the frosting. Which was a mistake. I ended up not having enough frosting, and had to frost the cake really thinly. It certainly didn't look appettizing.....So, with the limited creativity, I chopped some walnut, and cut some chocolate curls to camouflage the poorly frosted cake. The end result was passable, as you can see below. It would be nicer with more frosting. But using 2 sticks of butter for the frosting? You can't blame me from chicken out, and cut the recipe half in a heartbeat.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Balsamic Soy glazed Chicken Wings, Soup and roasted green beans

Thursday night, I was feeling a bit depressed,maybe because of the rain or because knowing what's for dinner later. But still, I decided to make the balsamic soy glazed chicken wings and roasted green beans with mushroom as planned earlier in the week. The idea of having some new side dishes along with the so-so pastitsio somehow lifted my spirit. It would be even better, if say, we can have a bowl of tummy and soul warming chicken soup!

So that's the plan for dinner. First, the chicken wings and green beans were sent into the 450F oven for a good 40 minutes, while I prepared for the nourishing Chinese Chicken soup. Since I can't find much Chinese herbs here, I have to make do with whatever I have. Instead of using a whole chicken like what my mum does, I find using the roasted chicken bones are far more efficient, not to mention budget friendly. Afterall, I am not interested to eat the chicken meat after it's been cooked for more than 2 hours. The flavor of the meat would have all gone into the soup.Not that it is a bad thing, but, the fact is: most of the flavor actually comes from the bones. So it was quite a waste of chicken meat in my opinion, to use a whole chicken for the soup. What I normally like to do, is to roast the chicken, with bones and skin on. Then skin and bone the chicken after it is cooked. While the meat could be enjoyed the way it should, the bones are reserved for another use, in soup!

For the chicken soup, I added some chopped carrots, onion, chinese dates, goji berries, an apple (cored, sliced and unpeeled)along with the chicken bones. Yes, apple! I tried chicken soup with apple once in a Singapore hawker center and remembered how sweet the soup tasted. Although I wasn't sure which type of apples were used, I took a leap of faith and added one granny smith into my soup. It turned out really tasty. In fact, the tastiest I have had so far, since coming to St Louis. It was a simple recipe, all you need is time and patience, for the soup has to simmer for two and a half hours. But I think it's definitely worth the time.

So much on the soup. Another winner was the balsamic soy glazed chicken wings. The high baking temperature had formed a crispy skin on the chicken wings, which continued to stay crispy for few more hours after they were done. A simple reduced balsamic and soy sauce was then poured onto the chicken wings, rendering them an interesting sweet and tangy taste. I like it a lot and will choose this over the deep fried chicken wings anytime!

The roasted green beans with mushroom was great too! I just like the way veggies caramelised after roasting. All the flavor from the veggies just intensify after roasting under high heat for half and hour or so. It's fool proof, and a delicious ways to eat our veggies!

Balsamic Soy Glazed Chicken Wings
(adapted from Gourmet Dec 2006)
4 lb chicken wingettes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Line 2 large shallow baking pans (17 by 11 inches) with foil. Put pans in oven and preheat oven to 500°F.

Pat wings dry, then toss with oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and divide between preheated pans, spreading wings in 1 layer. Roast, without turning, until golden and tender, about 35 minutes.

While wings roast, simmer vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1/3 cup, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted.

Remove roasted wings from oven and let stand in pans 1 minute (to make wings easier to remove from foil), then transfer with tongs to a clean large bowl.

Pour balsamic mixture over wings and toss to coat well. Let stand 5 minutes, then toss again.

Cooks' note: To make wingettes from regular chicken wings, cut off and discard tips from chicken wings with kitchen shears or a large heavy knife, then halve wings at joint.

Makes 4 (main course) or 6 to 8 (snack) servings.

Roasted Green Beans with Mushrooms
(Adapted from CL Sept 2006)
6 cups quartered cremini mushrooms (about 1 pound)
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed
Cooking spray
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 450°.
Combine first 4 ingredients on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with thyme and pepper. Toss well to coat. Bake at 450° for 30 minutes or until beans are lightly browned. Sprinkle with salt; toss to combine.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 1 1/3 cups)


DDD- Double Duty Dish

I love double duty dish! It's especially great if you have a small family like us, and dread eating the same leftover for days!Just the other night, while looking up recipes to use my top round beef, I found a recipe of a pot roast, and another Pastitsio recipe using the leftover from the pot roast. Both received rave reviews from people who had tried them, so I was really excited to have an opportunity to try 2 recipes using the very same ingredient! Usually when I cook beef stew or pot roast kind of dish, we will be stucked with the abundant leftover for a couple of nights. I can't complain as the flavor somehow develops the longer the stews are kept. But sometime, that has deterred my attempt from trying other stuffs too! So, double duty dish is definitely good news to me.

So Tuesday night, I cooked the pot roast with a sense of purpose. It was ok, but OCT and I much prefer our usual beef stew. Even with this comment, we still manage to whip up half of the pot roast, along with the yummy roasted mustard potatoes.

Wednesday night, I made the Pastitsio. Having made the roast the previous night, all I need to do was to make the bechamel sauce, boiled some pasta, and assembled them on the baking dish. It was then baked away in the oven, beckon to be eaten after 40 minutes. With the extra time on hand, I made some Asian Broccoli salad with sesame oil, oyster sauce, salt and pepper. The Pastitsio was so-so only. And we only ate a quarter of it. Seems like we were stuck for a couple of meals again....


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year Resolutions

I can't remember since when have I started to make new year resolutions on the last day of every year. It's always an exciting process to write down my resolutions on the diary. It's the beginning of a new year, a new page, a clean slate and comes with it- new hope. It feels as great as I have already achieved all the resolutions I have set for myself. (although most years that weren't the case)But the point is, I always feel good on the beginning of the year. As if I could achieve anything I set my mind on. I don't know why, I am my most optimistic self in January!

And hence, once again, I put down my resolutions for 2007.

1. To be a better person. I know the scope is far too broad. Can I be more specific? I try. I want to be a better person, by being an understanding wife, a reliable and dependable friend, a filial daughter, a responsible resident on earth,and maybe a patient customer?!

2. To be more sensitive to others' feelings, especially those I really care. Up till this point, I have been leading a life which I speak my mind pretty freely and do whatever I feel like doing without bothering if my action or speech would hurt anybody's feeling. This is going to change in 2007. I know this is not going to be easy for someone who talks faster than she thinks, but I promise I will keep trying.

3. To be more organized and exercise self-discipline. Just the same second as I am typing this out, I glance around my surrounding, where clothes are scattering everywhere and books ( mostly baking related) have occupied almost all corners of my tiny apartment.In fact one of them was still lying on the stovetop since I used it for a chocolate cake recipe this afternoon.I believe I am seriously lacking in the department of self-discipline, and hence that explains the constantly messy state our apartment is in. I need more strength this year to refrain myself from sitting in front of my laptop. Then I will able to find time to do other meaningful things like cleaning the apartment, reading and exercising.

4. Speaking of reading, I made a resolution last year to read at least 4 books per month. I believe I would have succeeded, if COOKBOOKS were counted too...Other than that, I seldom read other type of books. Even if I did, I must have returned them unfinished 40% of the time. This year, I am making the same resolution of reading 4 books in a month again, excluding cookbooks, of course. Although I must admit that I learnt a lot from reading cookbooks last year :P Aiming to read 4 books in a month, in which the average number of pages per book is 360, I have to read about 50 pages a days! I am not a fast reader, and considering my limited vocabulary, it will take me quite some time to check out the meaning of some new words from the dictionary. Well, 50 pages a day is really challenging, but I will try. ( January really makes me feel invincible and on top of everything)

5. On the note of exercise, I totally forgot about making a resolution last year to exercise 3 times a week!! Needless to say, the idea of keeping fit vanished the second I published my resolution in this blog. BUT this year, because I am DETERMINED to be a better person and have self-discipline, I believe I can do it. (as long as I don't give up the hope to strive to be a better person and exercise self discipline)...

6. Besides on trying out new recipes from cookbooks, hopefully this novice baker can come out with some good recipes that I can proudly claim as my own before we leave St Louis. And continue to record my journey to be a better baker in this blog!

I hope you have made your resolutions for 2007, and no matter how long you list is, here's my wish, for you and me - that as long as we have faith in ourselves, we will succeed and exceed our goals this year!


Monday, January 01, 2007

The period between Christmas and New Year

Nothing much happened between Christmas and New Year. This period was pretty quiet, except for catching up with some friends here on Christmas Eve and an impromptu dinner with some after a night visit to the St Louis Art Museum.

I took advantage of the after Christmas sales to buy some chocolate santas and turned them into props for a "break the santa" game after a dinner with friends. It was as usual, a silly idea of mine, which my friends had kindly obliged. The objective of the game was to break the 8-inch santa into pieces. Everyone had a chance to break the santa down by his/her preferred method. (smash it against the wall, against the table etc)
Poor santa still didn't know what would happen to him moments later.

Santa with some of his tormentors:

The chocolate santa was surprisingly hard. He was left mostly unscathed after numerous wracking. Until he met the seemingly demure M, who smahed santa against the dining table and ended his misery.Yeah, I know this is childish. Thank you.

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