It is half way through the week and I...

>> Wednesday, June 22, 2011

...have been cooking with whatever left overs I have in my fridge. It's clean-up fridge week!

...realised I need to stop borrowing books from the library when I have a bookshelf full of untouched books. Oh, and found out I owe the library something like $17 in late fees. How'd that happen? (and I'm sorry if you've been trying to borrow what I had out.) finally taking 1 step forward! For the longest time I've been stuck at the 2 steps back stage! Praise God!

...don't know if you'd believe me, but I woke up in the middle of the night and figured out what EVOO stands for. For the longest time I thought it was some branded salad dressing that people use in the U.S. Or that it was something like POM juice. (Are we still friends?) I guess I never really gave it much thought. Then at ~3am Tuesday, I opened my eyes in the dark with the thoughts:  'EVOO...Extra Virgin Olive Oil? Noooooo.' *pinches self and questions sanity*. This confirms that my brain is overactive and works while I'm asleep. Hmmm, I just wish it thinks about something more meaningful and useful!

Anyways, there's not really a recipe today. 

But I want to share with you what I had for lunch yesterday using the leftovers, because sandwiches are kind of pretty to photograph. 

Here goes:

1. Mix chopped chives with cream cheese. Spread over a piece of bread.

2. Resist eating the sandwich as it is.

3. Convince yourself that mint has a place in this meal too. Don't over-wash them as I did! 

4. Slice half an avocado and place on top!

5. Generously place the smoked salmon over the sandwich. I'm sure chicken would be yummy too.

6. Place another slice of bread on top to finish up.

7. Slice and enjoy the quickest lunch.

I'm off to make a salad now, with some EVOO of course ;)

I feel like we're finally on the same page now. Me and you.


Oatmeal Raisin Spelt Cookies

>> Thursday, June 16, 2011

I love watching the sunset. But the truth is I don't make the effort to see very many of it each year.

My last trip to Taiwan (my hometown) me and some friends made a trip to a scenic spot just to say farewell to the sun.

The sunset was incredible. And all around me I could spot people gasping with delight at the sight of the slowly descending sun or people posing for the cameras with the sunset as the backdrop, or couples embracing in silence as they soak in the beauty of it all. Fascinated. Content. Seems like the worries and the grudges of daily life suddenly disappeared for everyone.

And so I wonder what it is about nature which has the power to mesmerize us over and over again? The ever changing colour of the sky, the lofty mountains, the incredible sunrise and sunset....I mean, surely we've seen a number of these in our lifetimes? It's nothing new to be honest - but how does it inexplicably melt the hardest of hearts and calms the most unsettled soul?

As I'm getting older (another birthday this month! Eeek.), it's not hard to notice that my sense of wonder declines. Only the 'new' can amaze me - the latest gadget and what the next superfood is. Tomorrow the new becomes old and yesterday's wonder is not so wonderful anymore. It's all temporary, no?

I'd like to think that I understand a little bit more about life, about people and about God as I mature but sometimes (and often) pride tricks me into thinking that I've seen it all or done it all. That I don't need to go back to the basics or 're-learn' some of the forgotten lessons or be reminded about the familiar Scriptures that I thought I understood.

Afterall, I have a looong list of things to do and who has the time to walk the same walk and what's the point of looking at something I've seen already?

But every once in a while, just like on this recent trip, I do take my time to gaze at God's amazing creation and my hard heart melts, my weariness disappears...and I am humbled by the beauty and wonder of it all, once again.

And in a sort of similar way like the sunset (okay, maybe not quite comparable), there are some of my favourite basic foods that I simply forgot about in the busy-ness of trying all other new and exciting recipes and food combinations.

One of them is my all time favourite oatmeal cookies (yes, they beat choc chip cookies for me!)

This is back to the basics for me. I remember making them growing up. This was the only way I'd have oat back then (how things have changed - now I have oatmeal every morning!)

I'm also beginning to find spelt flour extremely versatile and use it to replace the All Purpose flour completely in many of my bakings.

What is different about this recipe is that the oats are first toasted lightly in the oven so as to deepen the oaty flavour. Hmmmm, delicious. Next time I want to try another recipe soon using oat flour instead of spelt flour. Imagine that, oat + oat flour = oat-ness overload.

I was in a hurry to leave the house after baking these cookies so had to pack them up (in style) as my train ride snack (then took a photo of it, obviously hehe):

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
  • 3 cups old rashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups spelt flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 12 tablespoon (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 1 cup rasins
Makes 2 1/2 dozen 3-inch cookies

Viv's note: I halved the recipe so only made 1 tray.

1. Place one rack in the top third and another in the bottom third, and preheat the oven to 400F (200C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. Spread the oats out on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake on the bottom rack for 3 minutes, stir and continue baking until lightly toasted, 1 to 2 more minutes. Set aside to cool. (you can omit this step - but baking the oats deepens the 'oaty' flavour)

3. Reduce the oven temperature to 350F (177C)

4. In a large bowl combine the spelt flour, cinnamon, baking soda, powder and salt. Stir until blended.

5. In a food processor fitted with steel blade, or with an electric mixer, process the brown and white sugars and butter until smooth and fluffy. Add 1 egg and process for about 20 seconds. Add the second egg and vanilla extract and process until the mixture is smooth, about 20 secs more. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until the flour is absorbed. Blend in the toasted oats and the raisins until the oats are all coated with the dough.

6. Drop heaping tablespoonful of the dough onto the parchment lined baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between the cookies for spreading. Use the back of the spoon or your fingers to gently flatten the cookies roughly into rounds about 1/2-inch thick.

7. Bake on the upper rack until the tops and bottoms are nicely browned and the tops spring back to a very gentle touch, 8 to 10 minutes. Rotate the cookies every 3 mins for even browning. Slide the parchment paper onto a cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining batter, relining the cookie sheet with a clean parchment paper and making sure to let the sheet cool between batches.

Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 10 days.

I hope your week has been nice so far.

Oh, and I finally updated my About me page too. I will be working to complete the other tabs soon.

I hope!

Toodles for now :)


Afternoon tea + win some scones!

>> Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Eeek. I feel like I've been on an adrenaline rush since the weekend. I am finally sitting down.

Wobbly leg.

Sugared out.

Only myself to blame - I had scheduled to host an afternoon tea chez moi yesterday (Tue) but since I had only gotten off the plane on Monday, I started to get very worried that night as I only had a very rough idea what I was going to make.

Fortunately, there weren't too many disastrous incidents (although at one stage I had melted chocolate streaking down my top to my pants - which forced me to take a timeout and do the laundry) and I tweaked some recipes (which I had bookmarked to make in the past) as I went along and took 'shortcuts', not as in omitting certain steps but using simpler recipes with ingredients that I have ready in my pantry.

And thank goodness that I didn't have to make my own scones too! Baker's Delight sent me some of their new flavoured scones released recently - which are packed full of real chunks of apple, juicy sultanas and cinnamon!

So, I did manage to pull off a simple afternoon tea. Overall, it didn't take too much time to prepare - I started the preparation the night before in between making dinner and watching the Amazing Race, and I started on the savouries an hour before my guests arrived.


Anyways, here it is:

Almost Last Minute Afternoon Tea Viv's way!

{scones} - Courtesy of Baker's Delight

Scones are an essential part of any afternoon tea - with clotted cream and homemade jam of course :) Love love warm scones so I lightly toasted them in the oven just before serving! Delicious! Scroll to the bottom of the post to see details on how to win a voucher from Baker's Delight!

{something chocolatey} - Rich Chocolate Tart

I'm not sure if chocolate could be absent from any (ladies') afternoon tea.

Why I love this chocolate tart:

one. The filling is rich, bittersweet (70% cacao) and sooo smooth.

two. The base is not buttery and sweet, and this whole wheat olive oil tart shell is seriously the easiest AND healthiest one I've come across (they're from Lisa, who I think is the tart queen).

three. It's a helpful and generous tart - it lent its leftover dough to the base of my quiche! Time saver! 

{something nutty} - Raw Blueberry 'Cheese' Cake

Ok, I don't want to be misleading you, but this is not a real cheesecake. It has none of that cream cheese in it - just loads of raw cashew nut blitzed together with a bit of frozen blueberries for the colour! This is a super simple recipe but the cashews require soaking in water for 3 hours (why? read about it here) which I did before anything else.

Oh, and the base took less than 10 minutes to prepare from start to finish!

{something fruity} - Ispahan Agar Agar

This is a cheats way for me to re-live my Paris days with Pierre Herme's Ispahan macarons that I fell for (I bought them again in Japan but it's just not the same...sigh...memories...).

It has a thin layer of pureed raspberry and thicker layer of lychee agar agar. I was going to use the real deal (blend the lychee fruit with the juice) but hey, time's a-ticking so I only used the juice from the lychee can! Canned lychee and frozen raspberries are my helpful friends here.

{something savoury} - Smoked Salmon Avocado and Green Goddess Tea Sandwich

As much as I adore all things sweet, the savoury tier at any afternoon tea is my favourite.

I decided to do a simple avocado and smoked salmon tea sandwich, as well as the more labour intensive Green Goddess tea sandwich which is filled with loads of yummy herbs! They're adapted from Joy's!

I know,  I should've used white bread but you gotta work with what you've got you know? 

{something eggy} - Mushroom and Pea Quiche

This is the simplest quiche! The tart shell is already pre-made (using the choc tart's dough from above) so I just had to thank my lovely freezer for its green pea contribution and also some mushrooms.

See, just put frozen peas and few slices of mushroom (I didn't have the smaller button mushroom) and pour in the eggy/cheesy mixture and bake away!

{something soupy} - Cauliflower and Potato Soup

Ok, I definitely would've run out of time if I had to make a soup but guess what, I'm smart and I stole somebody else's soup (which I found in the fridge) :) Desperate time calls for desperate measure, right?

{tea} - Assorted

Apparently it is rude to offer tea bags in an afternoon/high tea setting. Maybe a British high tea expert lady would frown at me, but at least I get to bring out my special tea box that I won ages ago!

Growing up I've always been told off for my poor table manners and unlady-like behaviours, so I had to read up on some etiquette for my own benefit:
  • Always pour the tea into the cup before the milk or sugar (and never add lemon slices when there's milk otherwise you'll get a curdled mess!)
  • Gently stir the tea with a spoon - the spoon should not touch the side or the bottom of the cup.
  • Spoon stays on the saucer and not in the cup right?
  • Hmmm and it's not cool to dunk your scones into the tea.
  • Finally, take small sips! :)

What a day!

Great company, delicious treats and warm cuppa tea makes it all worth it at the end. 

I hope you all a wonderful week ahead wherever you are.


Now, for your chance to win 2 of $10 and 1 of $5 vouchers (so 3 winners in total!) to be used in any Baker's Delight store in Australia.

How to enter:

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post!

The 3 winners will be chosen at random.

This giveaway is only open to Australian residents only. Sorry!

(If you do not have a blogger account, just select 'Name/URL' next to 'Comment as' and remember to leave your e-mail addresss so I can contact you for your mailing address.)

The Baker's Delight giveaway closes on Wednesday 29th June 2011 at 10pm AEST and the winner will be announced on Thursday June 30th 2011.


Links to recipes below:

Note: For each of the recipes, I have scaled the ingredient measurements accordingly (mostly by half)!

Rich Chocolate Tart
Whole wheat olive oil shell recipe from Tart ju jour.
Chocolate filling from Dulce Delight.

Raw Cashew 'Cheese' Cake 
'Cheese' filling from Roost Blog.
Cake Base:
  • Digestive biscuit
  • Butter, melted
I didn't use the almond + date as a base from the recipe -  instead I bashed 50g of digestive biscuits with 20g of melted butter in a plastic bag using a rolling pin. Then I push the wet crumbs into the base of a small 15cm round baking pan (using the back of a spoon) and put in the freezer for 5 minutes before I poured the filling inside.

Ispahan Agar Agar
  • Agar agar powder
  • Frozen or fresh raspberry
  • 1 can of lychee
The general rule of thumb for making agar agar is:

..for every 1 cup of liquid, add 1/2 tsp of agar powder. Really. That's all. The rest, taste as you go along.
(note: if the ingredient you're using is more acidic like raspberries you will need to add a little bit more agar powder).

I pureed 3/4 cup of raspberry in a blender and put it through a fine sieve to remove the seeds. 
Then I cooked a small amount of water with agar agar powder, and once it boils I let it cool down slightly before I add in the puree of raspberry. I then transfer this into a square tin to let cool and set.

Meanwhile, add the lychee juice + agar agar powder into a pan and bring to boil. Let it cool slightly before adding to the raspberry layer. Pop a few whole raspberries into the lychee liquid if you like!

Smoked Avocado Tea Sandwich
Recipe from Eating Well.

Green Goddess Tea Sandwich
Recipe from Joy The Baker.

Pea and Mushroom Quiche
Quiche base and filling adapted from Tart ju jour - I used frozen peas and mushroom instead of onions + tomatoes in Lisa's recipe.


Edamame beans pancake

>> Saturday, June 4, 2011

The weekend is here. Hello!

June is here too.  Hi too, but I just didn't expect you in such a hurry!

How can it be that I haven't accomplished much this year and we're already half way through the year?

Not good.

Especially if I continue to get through my weekends like this.

And by 'this', I mean something along the lines of sleeping in and long lazy breakfast.

Like today.

But in my defense, breakfast shouldn't be hurried.

I've enough of breakfast on the run in my life that I almost think they should be banned.

While recovering from my wisdom teeth extraction a few weeks ago, I've learnt how to eat properly again.

Slowly. Purposefully. With intention. Savouring each bite. Not gulping down. Sitting down (the multi-tasker in me used to eat and run errands at the same time). T.V off. Away from computer or any techie devices. And preferably with good companies (but alone is also do-able too!).

So, edamame beans is a type of green soybean that is normally cooked in salted water and eaten as a side dish in Japanese (and sometimes Chinese) cuisine.

It is also something that we could all do with more off as it's loaded with carbs, protein, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, manganese and vitamin K... Good healthy food to start the weekend ensures a happy and productive weekend (disclaimer: not tried and tested but will report back with my results post-weekend).

This morning, I've chosen to have my edamame beans pureed (with almond milk) and added to my pancake mix. The taste the beans wasn't prominent in the pancake so next time I will definitely use more in my recipe, but it does add a beautiful faint green colour to this breakfast food.

Edamame Beans Pancakes
Inspired by Masa
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour + 2 tbsl whole wheat flour
2 tbsp honey or agave nectar

  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 cup cooked edamame beans (you could use up to 3/4 cup)
1 cup almond milk (or regular full cream/skim milk)
1 1/2 tbsp oil
 (I used rice bran oil)
  • 1 egg

  • sprinkle of salt
  • honey (to taste)
1. Put the edamame beans and the milk in a blender and mix until smooth.

2. Whisk together the bean mixture from previous step, oil, honey and egg in a bowl.

3. Combine with the dry ingredients - flour. baking powder, salt.

4. Heat a nonstick pan with few drops of oil and ladle some mixture into hot pan. This recipe will make 3 large/thick pancakes, or 4-5 smaller pancakes.

Don't forget to top with some good quality honey too!

This weekend I'm going to be celebrating Dragon Boat Festival by eating lots of zongzi (sticky rice stuffed with fillings in bamboo leaves!)

And I also have a flight to catch to go back to my other 'home'! 

Sounds like a busy weekend already methinks!

Happy weekend and talk to you soon!

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