Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Meal Planning Method

In case you haven't figure out by now, I love to cook. Actually to be more precise, I love to eat, and I'm cheap. So cooking is the next best thing! Thought I'll share with you some of my meal planning method. Usually I only do my marketing on the weekends. I'm kinda particular about the food I eat. I don't eat frozen meat at all, so during weekends, I go to the market on both Saturday and Sunday. Yes, I am pretty anal when it comes to my meat :P  But luckily for me, I love vegetables, so I'll stock up on vegetables either on Friday after work, and also during the weekends. I usually just buy whatever is the cheapest vegetable available (usually SGD1 per packet), and that will keep me happy. But there are a few things that is always in my kitchen: tomatoes, onions, and garlic. I am addicted to all three. I find that i am also especially fond of carrots, and can eat a whole pack in a few days. And eggs, there are always eggs at home :)
Anyway, to plan what to cook, I usually scan through what is available at home, and write out a meal plan. If I'm cooking only for the weekend, the meal plan would look something like the above picture. That is a meal plan for one fine Sunday. Yes, it's written apple spaghetti. I love apple spaghetti ever since I tried it once in a fusion vegetarian restaurant. I cook them quite often actually. I kinda like fruits with my main dishes. Baby tangerine with salad during Christmas time, lychee with roast duck during Chinese New Year, mango prawn spring rolls, French toast with bananas. I love fruity dishes although I hardly eat fruit on it's own.

So once a plan is hatched, off to the market I go to gather my ingredient. That usually just takes half an hour and I'm home. I usually don't spend more than SGD20 each trip. Compare that to a SGD40 meal in a restaurant, I pretty much indulge in raw ingredient without much guilt. The only pity I have is I'm not allowed to cook steak at home due to religious reason (even though I myself am not religious. Preparation usually takes another 30 minutes, and after that it's the cooking that usually don't last more than an hour. My husband always comments that I make cooking seems so easy. But seriously, it is easy if you have a plan, and you love fresh and simple food.

I would love to be able to cook home-cooked meal everyday, but sadly I have to work to make a living. I used to per-packed lunch to work, but somehow the nutrient is lost in overnight food and microwave heated food just isn't the same. Now I just try to cook for weekday dinner, and weekend meals. Above it a weekday sample meal plan. I'll try to write everything out by Sunday so that I can stock up, and I can go auto pilot mood during the weekdays. I usually get home by 7:30pm in non-peak project period, and can eat my dinner between 8 to 830pm (depending on how complex the meal is).

So there! My retirement plan is to live within walking distance to a market/supermarket so that I can always buy fresh ingredient to cook daily! I have self-made recipe scrapbooks in which I collect recipe I'm interested in. Hopefully one day I'll be able to cook them all!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Grilled Salmon

So I have this pack of Hollandaise Sauce that has expired like 3 months ago the other day, and it was during the weekday, so I can't egg Benedict out of it. So the other most logical way to get rid of the sauce is of course to cook it with fish. So during one of the weekday lunch, I went to NTUC and bought a salmon fillet for SGD 5.95, which to me was bloody expensive meat! But it was on my blackboard of food to try and cook, so I had to give it a try. When I got home, I just grilled the salmon fillet in my Happy Call pan, and pare it with some vegetables (1 carrot, 1 potato, and 1 tomato. I cooked the salmon 15 minutes one side (skin facing down do the meat won't over cooked), and 3 minutes the other side, followed by 1 minute high heat just to charred the skin.
Here is the end result. Hollandaise Sauce goes over the fish, and a bit of garnish and there you have yourself a gourmet meal! For cost price of around SGD8, I think it's pretty worth it considering how much restaurant meals cost these days.
Now here is the part that totally blew me away. When I cut into the salmon and ate it, it was moist and creamy with fish oil! It was not dry one bit as it was normally the case when I pan fry fish. I credit this to my Happy Call for retaining the moisture of the fish. Incidentally, the Happy Call pan is also great for grilling vegetables as it always come out perfect, soft inside, and charred to perfection outside! Would definitely give this try again in future!


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cheese Platter

I've always love cheese platter. The very first cheese platter I ever had was from Le Bistro . It came with the set dinner as a dessert. I was goggling around on how to make my own cheese platter, thinking that I could make a cheaper plate than what they charge in the restaurant (usually SGD15 a plate). So one day while shopping with a friend in Jason's Marketplace in City Hall, I decided to spend around SGD20 on three type of cheese. I got a Camembert, an Aged Cheddar, and some French Reblochon (I have no idea what that is). I also got some Pate De Foie. Guess I was feeling kinda depress that day and needed to treat myself something nice. Anyway, on the right is what the platter look like after assembling. I added some nets and dark spice orange chocolate to the mix.
 As I was having the whole thing for dinner, I serve it with some homemade bread and balsamic vinegar, and some red wine to add to the ambiance. I know I know, it sounds damn atas (high class). But actually it's kinda fun to make this at home.  The verdict? The bread with vinegar was great, the nuts and chocolate was great. The French cheese was the best of the three cheeses, followed by the aged cheddar. The factory made commercial Camembert was a real flop. So lesson learned. Buy only french artisan cheese :P
I tried another cheese platter from the Wine Company on my anniversary in 2013. It cost around the same price as well, but it was wonderful. They have three types of platter (red wine, white wine, and sweet wine). I believe I tried the red, and it was just fabulous!!! The above are the cheese that came with the platter I ordered. They write the name of the cheese which I taught was a great idea for cheese dummies like me!


Friday, January 24, 2014


You know that when you own a breadmaker, you are bound to make a pizza at least once. Yes, this is pizza made from scratch! Following a breadmaker's recipe, make the dough. Ingredient required aside from the dough: Tomato paste, fresh tomatoes, eggplant, mock crab meat, green bell pepper, pineapple (cause I like Hawaiian pizza), and lots of mozzarella cheese! Oops, guess I forgot to tell you this is a vegetarian pizza. Yeah, I'm kinda really into vegetarian when I'm cooking for myself, or when I'm eating out. I'm kind of a social meat eater. I realize this when I was staying alone in Bali and realized I ate no meat at all when left to my own devices. I do however crave steak from time to time, or a big mac however shitty people say McDonald is.
Anyway, back to the pizza. Once the dough is done, just assemble! Dough, followed by tomato paste, and vege on top, followed by a generous layer of cheese! Bake till perfection and ta-dah! Homemade pizza! It was edible, but I think my dough was kinda wet so it tasted more like bread than pizza. Guess I'll just make it thinner next time so that when I bake it the moisture will all be baked out!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Paint By Numbers

 Remember my Italy post where I told you how a DIY painting inspire me to travel to Italy? Well this article is about that painting. There was a push card that started selling these paint by numbers box set where I work, and everyday I would walk past it. At that point, I just got my own place in my hometown of Penang and have all these crazy ideas on how I would decorate it. I wanted to decorate it with paintings, but I didn't want to spend money on them. Frankly, I thought if I painted the paintings myself, they would be more meaningful. So one fine evening, I got myself a set of a riviera scene. The box came with the canvas, the paints, and one brush. All you have to do is match the colors with the numbers on the canvas. Pretty straight forward. You started out pretty mechanical, but after a while, you realize it doesn't really matter whether you follow the numbers or not, so long as you get the idea, the painting would still come out ok.
So I started one weekend to paint it. It took me 8 hours to get from the first picture above, to the second picture below! My back was hurting by that time. I suddenly have a strong appreciation of painters and their art. The painting was so vibrant in colour, and I told myself that I wanted to visit such a place one day, which kinda kick start my mad plan to visit Italy to find such a scene. You can read about my Italy trip 2013 here.
Here's a picture of my hard at work in my living room. Look at those killer arms of mine :P You should have seen those arms after my trip. Backpacking does wonders to your body! Anyway, till today, the painting is not yet completed. Me bad. But one day, I promise you, it is going to hang in one of the walls in  my place retirement home in Penang. Maybe I'll get another painting to inspire me to travel to another mysteriously beautiful place? Who knows? And then my wall would be covered with memories of great adventure in all those crazy places! What a way to live! For a list of Italian Riviera you can visit, see reference below. The place I visited was Cinque Terre, technically not a riviera, but just as beautiful all the same :)

Paint By Numbers
Italian Riviera
Cinque Terre

Monday, January 20, 2014

Kluang Bak Kut Teh

Bak Kut Teh, or herbal pork rib soup was never a big deal to me until I moved to my current residential area at Bedok South. There is this uncle who operates a Kluang Bak Kut Teh just outside of my home, and I have been eating it for the past 9 years. It's just a perfect blend of herbs and pork. I tried making it at home, but it never come close. But still, when you're desperate, this recipe isn't so bad on a rainy day.

I got my packet of spice from Malaysia, specifically Kluang Bak Kut Teh to ensure it's the herbal type, instead of the white pepper type which are very popular to the Singaporeans. I only like the herbal kind. And basically all you need are some black soya sauce, garlic, salt, pork ribs and water to make a delicious pot. Whatever else you put into it is your personal business.

For my pot of deliciousness above, I put in pork meatball for the saltiness, soya stick cause I'm a soya addict, mushroom to soak up all the soup, and quail eggs to make it more exotic. I serve mine with brown rice and some you-tiao (fried dough). Bak Kut Teh is actually a pretty healthy meal to have! Try it!


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sewing Staffed Charms

Catching up with my post, I'm clearing up last year's activities. When one of my girl friend went to Taiwan for a holiday, all the other girl friends in a group of 4 to 5 got a postcard with a piece of cloth on it and instruction on how to sew it into a little stuff charm. (refer 2nd image on what the postcard looks like). I thought they were adorable!
 The first one I did was the rabbit. It reminded me of Miffy the rabbit. It took me around 60 mins to 90 mins to make one, depending on how wrong I get the sewing. They were really really small so it's kinda hard to put them together. Plus the instruction was kinda dodgy as well, being translated from chinese and all. My favorite part of it was stuff them with synthetic cotton and watching them come alive! The end product is really cute!
My other friend who didn't like sewing passed me hers and this was the end result, a little stuffed dinosaur. I needed the tag that says "Feed Me!" on it and left it at her table when it was completed. 

Another friend made her own with the piglet postcard she got and posted the above picture of it in our whatsapp. It looks kinda cute too! Hope you like this post, it's making feel all woozy due to all the cuteness!


Friday, January 17, 2014

UP by Jawbone

 My company has this habit of giving us CapitalLand voucher as reward from time to time. Last year I received a SGD150, and after giving away SGD50 to  my husband, I still have SGD100 left, and for some unknown reason, I decided to get a Jawbone up cause it looks so cool and I thought it would help me to lose weight. I actually wanted the minty green colored UP, but at that time it was new in Singapore and they only have black and navy blue I think. So I settle for the black one. My colleague SW got a matching pair.
 I managed to take some photo of the box before the actual unboxing. The UP cost me SGD189, so I did top up some cash for it. I thought it was a cool technology to wear, and it sync with my phone to keep track of my steps per day, and my sleep hour. It can also track my exercise, and food intake, but those are kind of a pain to key in as it's based on your own data entry.
 Here are some UI of the UP on my phone and my colleague's phone. I named my UP CordyLifeBand, and my profile is a photo of Sapon from Sentimental Circus. Maybe I should change it to something more motivating? Lol. I used it from April to August 2013 at first. Keying in the food in take was the most painful task. After a while, i just gave up. Now I only update the food intake during weekend when I feel like it cause it looks cool. The feature to scan food product and get the info is kinda cool, and so far it worked for US and Korean products. But Singapore local product is quite a pain to input on a go. It just takes too much time. There is a library feature where it keep all your entry, but there is cache to that and it's still a pain to repeat something you have not had for sometime. You can add friends to your UP which I did. To date I only have two friends, and they hardly update their UP  :( I stopped using UP from Sep to Nov 2013. I find it doesn't keep a memory of my activity when I don't have a data plan to upload the day's event. So it kinda screw up my tracking while I was overseas. Anyway, I started again in Nov 2013, and have been using it daily so far as I wanted to be more active and sleep more. 
Here's an image of a day I actually managed to achieve my goal! My sleep target is 8 hours a day, and in a week, I'll be lucky to hit it once or twice. Only so its really  my own fault when I don't get enough sleep. UP is a tool to show it to me visually so that I'll be guilty enough and do something about it! My daily step goal use to be 8000, increase to 10,000, and now I've set it to 12,000. I find that the steps are easier to achieve since I love to walk anyway. And it has motivated me to move more. These days I walk to the train station from home. Since I came back from Italy, I managed to survive Christmas, New Year and Birthday month without actually putting on any significant weight. In fact, I have managed to maintain my weight thus far, and hope to decrease it slowly as Chinese New Year comes and go. Good luck to me!

Here to share a sadly uninspiring ad on UP found on youtube. You'd think they could come up with something better for such a cool gadget. Anyway, I'm targeting an Android watch next, something that can interface with my phone!

UP Jawbone

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Italian Inspired Christmas Meal 2013

Like it or not, Italy did something to  my cooking style. I wasn't exactly fascinated with the food while I was there. In fact, it all looked so simple that I'm starting to cook them at home. It's not hard to make food tasty. So let me share with you our Christmas meal for 2013. Top photo: A toasted bread with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and arugula, match it with my transit to Frankfurt of a German Sausage with Sauerkraut and mustard (from Paris :P ), and wash it down with a mocha made from milo powdered and CBTL espresso. The above is like recalling wonderful memories of my trip to Europe all over again. Got the serving board from Rome too!

For lunch I roasted some chicken with carrots and tomatoes after marinating the chicken with some Maggi seasoning sauce. While baking it in the oven for an hour (turning it every 15 minutes), I was also grilling some potatoes on my Happy Call.  Garnish with arugula again and serve with my slight obsession while I was in Italy - San Pellegrino Aranciata Rossa. Heavenly!
 And lastly for dinner, let me show you how I transformed the packet of instant Gallo risotto into that wonderful plate in front of it! All in 30 minutes only!
First, start grilling eggplant, onions and pork sausages. And in another wok, sauteed some onions, then add mushroom. I think I added some butter as well. Once they started to water, add water and instant risotto and cook for 20 minutes. Off the fire and shave in some Parmesan. Garnish accordingly and another meal is serve. Mushroom risotto goes well with white beer as it brings out the flavor! Heavenly!

Happy Call
San Pellegrino Aranciata Rossa

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Soup Mania

I love soup. But I always thought those Western soup were hard to make. Well I was wrong. When one of my colleague told me that Soup Spoon's soup ingredient are available from their mobile application and that with that you can use basic soup technique to replicate the soup you like at home. One day while out walking around NTUC after lunch, I saw that a wedges of pumpkin was only SGD0.80. So I bought it and started my journey of making homemade soup!  So far, I've only tried two. Here's to share with you my soup adventure!

The first soup I made was pumpkin. Ingredient: 1 wedge of pumpkin, 1 small apple, and 1 cup of milk. That's it! That made me one bowl of awesome soup! I cut the pumpkin in cubes of similar size, same with the apple, and steam them for 20 minutes. After that, while they are still hot, I put them in a blender, added some milk and voilà! Done! It was still warm when it was done, so I ate it all up there and then. It you have been following my food journey you'll know that I don't put sugar or salt in my cooking most of the time, cause really, who needs them when you can taste all the bursting flavor of the natural ingredient? The pumpkin was super sweet, and it was so smooth too! Will definitely make it again in future!
The second soup I made was only this week - Tangy Tomato. This was my favorite soup from Soup Spoon, so of course I need to give it a try. The ingredient are listed in the image above. This is also an easy to make soup cause I was mopping my floor while making it. I cut the pepper, tomato and garlic into wedges and just toasted them in my toaster. While I waited, I mopped my whole house clean. Once they were nice and burned, I put them all in a blender and blended them. In a pan, I sautéed some chopped onions, dump in the tomato puree and basil leaves, add some milk and wait for it to boil. This soup tasted ok, but didn't have the body you get when you have those from the shop. It could be due to me using milk instead of cream. It could also be the tomatoes which had high water content. I have no idea! But it tasted ok, just light. I serve two bowls for lunch with some leftover corn bread, and kept the rest as pasta sauce! I'm sure if I thicken it up with some Parmesan, it would be just lovely!

Soup Spoon

Monday, January 13, 2014

Risotto Milanese

 I'm kinda addicted to risotto lately, especially since I got ready to cook instant risotto mix all the way from Italy! So today I made this Milanese risotto using the following ingredient: One pack instant risotto mix from STAR, onions, mushroom, basil, and salami (optional). I also used some oil, butter and Parmesan cheese.
Cooking instruction: Sauteed onion with oil till fragrant. Add some salami if you want to. Add mushroom and some butter and sauteed till the mushroom becomes soft. Add basil leave for fragrance (I think this add a certain nice scent to the whole mix, my kitchen smell like heaven after that!). Add the instant risotto mix in, and one bowl of water. Cook for 20 - 25 minutes stirring occasionally. Before done, off the fire, and put some Parmesan cheese and mix it in to get a thick texture. Serve hot. Taste like heaven, and my whole kitchen smells like Italy which brings back lots of great memory of my trip! Good times!

Star Risotto Milanese

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Registering for my Japanese Lesson

You know how a new year is approaching and you are wondering what new year resolution you should make for the upcoming year? Well I have a few targets on my list for 2014, and one of them was to finally give Japanese Language a try. I've always like Japan ever since I went there for a home-exchange program in 2001, and now I have a strong sentimental connection with that land. I try to visit it every 4 years, and I am sadly overdue. So far I've been there 3 times, and all 3 times have been amazing. So my dream would be to be able to go live there for a brief period of time, even if it is only for a few months.

So on 15-Dec-2013, I set off to the Japanese Cultural Society to register for the elementary course in Japanese. The goal was to give it a try for one year. And if I haven't drown by the end of it, I would very much like to carry on and get thru the JLPS (Japanese Language Proficiency Test)  and hopefully be fluent enough to carry a decent conversation by the time I hit 40. Yes, it's part of my bucket list to clear, so better start now than later!

I reached the place at 10:30am, yet my queue number was 140! I had the impression that Japanese was no longer popular now as the K-Pop world take over. Still, they made me queue. I didn't know what to expect, but up I went to the centre, and registered myself anyway for a weekly Saturday lesson. The whole elementary course takes 1 year. And cost less than SGD700 for the full year. Here's a sample of the course fee as of 2014 year enrollment. This does not include text box which is 2 x SGD15 for each book. Books used are actually from San Her Publishing, a Malaysian company! Planning to go back Penang to get some books from there. The books are only RM33 (SGD13) each there.
Well, yesterday 11-Jan-2014, I attended my first lesson, and I must say, it's pretty fast pace! There will be two exam, one in June, and one in December which we have to pass to proceed on. Year 1 will complete Lesson 1 to 16. When I complete till Lesson 50, the teacher say I'll be able to converse in Japanese. The class size is around 25 per person, ranging from young to old, and surprisingly quite a number of guys. The teacher is a Japanese, and does give us some background on how the language is use in Japan, which is a nice touch.

Here's looking forward to my new venture. I'm kinda glad I eventually started my journey on this. I'm planning to go back to Japan in 2015 after I renewed my passport that allows me to visit Japan without a Visa, and maybe get a job there if I complete my course.

So looking forward to it :)

Japanese Cultural Society Singapore
San Her Publication.