Natural food bar and colours.

>> Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hello Spring,

You have a way of creeping up on me rather quietly. 

Then one day, as I was busy going about my business, I smelled you and saw you in all shades of colour. 

And wondered why I hadn't noticed the signs - longer daylight hours and neglected scarves and jackets.

So I think it's about time to bid farewell to the slippy, drippy, nippy winter and make room for some showery, flowery and bowery times ahead (yes I remember my nursery rhymes).

I'm looking forward to days of ice-cream after dinner, unsightly tan marks, pizza parties, hiking trips and possibly some pollen allergies. 

Thanks for coming on schedule year after year and please make yourself at home!


Below are some of my recent Spring snapshots in 'rainbow'!


Spring is like a doting mother dressing her babies with red flowers. 


Drive into the orange sunset (in a convertible with flowy scarf and immaculate hair. Maybe only just the flowy scarf part.)


Banananana...they still cost an arm over here! But of course that didn't stop Mae and I from a banana bake-off!


Another delicious breakfast food = green zucchini fritters. And some sour cream.


True Blue! Did I tell you how pretty my city is?


The stigma of this flower is indigo, right? I often get indigo confused with purple or navy (because they never taught me this colour in kindergarden, so totally excusable!)


This purple lavender greets me every morning as I rub my fingers against its leaves for the lingering smell.

I need to declare my love for this natural food bar (almost like those museli/nut bars you find in the supermarket but is less processed = much healthier for you.) 

Being one of the few Asian kids growing up my area in NZ, Mother used to pack muesli bars in my lunch box when I wanted to fit in with the rest of the kids, as eating things like sheets of seaweed didn't exactly fly off with the others in primary school.

I really think I would've preferred this yummy homemade version.

This power energy bar is made of few simple ingredients: dates, almond, cocoa, walnut, and salt. I sometimes use nuts like cashew or pinenut, and add a bit of peanut butter too! The best thing about these is that you can try a gazillion flavour combinations with different ingredients and they are just sooo quick and cheap to make. 

I will be packing these energy bars to accompany me for the Spring hiking trips - I think they will make me more popular than in my primary school days. ;)

Chocolate PB Almond Dates Bars 
Adapted from Delightful Delicacies

  • 1 cup whole almonds and/or walnuts (or mix of nuts as you prefer)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa (unsweetened, optional)
  • 1 cup dried dates (whole)
  • 2 tablespoons natural unsalted peanut butter (optional, but I find it binds the bars together better)
  • pinch salt
Chop the almonds in a food processor until you have a mix of chunk sizes. Add cocoa and pulse once. Add dates, salt and peanut butter and pulse until well combined.

Line a loaf pan with wax or parchment paper, press fruit and nut mixture into the pan and press down firmly. Remove from the pan, cut into bars, and wrap individually in plastic wrap or wax paper, tie with string.

Store in airtight container inside the refrigerator or freezer.

Makes 8 bars


Breakfast toast

>> Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It was the first time my kind-hearted boss shook his head in disappointment at me in front of everyone. The embarrassment and shame when he said I had forgotten where I came from. I felt all eyes on me, in disbelief, as if I had done something so terrible. I just hoped that they didn't think my parents failed to raise me right. As blood rushed to turn my face red, I wanted to close my eyes and magically disappear from the attention.

So what 'crime' did I commit? Well, one early morning, I groggily responded with a confused "huh?" when asked about how my Mid-Autumn Festival was spent earlier this week. ;) I had forgotten all about it despite seeing all my foodie friends eating/baking mooncakes since last week. Actually, maybe I didn't completely forget but it's just my brain does not function at its normal capacity on days when I do not have breakfast - which was the case for that fateful day.

So I've learnt my lesson and the next morning, I made sure I woke up early for a hearty meal before leaving the house. 

Creamy avocado egg salad. For some fat and protein.

And juicy tomatoes and goat cheese. Anti-oxidant and calcium. (You do know I'm no nutritionist right?)

On toasted spelt sourdough. Carbs for brain function?

Yes please!

Just brush each slice of bread with some olive oil then rub with the cut side of halved garlic. For the tomato toast, crumble a bit of goat cheese evenly on the bread.

Grill them in the oven at around 230C (450F) for a few minutes (until cheese melts).

Mash 2 hard boiled eggs with one large avocado

Don't forget a dollop of mayo and whole-grain mustard seeds, and some sprinkling of S&P.

(edit) Oh and a squeeze of half a lemon (or vinegar) too.

Slice up some juicy tomatoes and layer them on on the goat cheese.

Spread generously the avocado egg salad onto the other slice!

Hope you had your breakfast today. :)

A good breakfast can really set you up well for the rest of the day, me thinks!

Thanks to Kate from Cookie and Kate for the delicious goats cheese/tomato toast idea!

Have a lovely rest of the week and bye for now. xoxo.


Flour's Classic Carrot Cake

>> Thursday, September 8, 2011

One of the many reasons I try to take my camera everywhere with me is because it makes me look for opportunities to capture some of the hidden beauty in the world that is sometimes overlooked as the mundane and ordinary. I think sometimes we don't expect to see beauty in the unexpected places. But isn't it usually there that we often see it shining through the most?

There are times however where those unanticipated beauty cannot be captured by the camera. They might be in words overheard on the train, gestures seen in the elevator, or feelings expressed over a cup of hot chocolate. But I'm not too good with capturing those kind of moments with words. 

I took the following photos recently...they are not what you might call beautiful or great shots by any stretch but the stories and moments associated with them are.

Carrot cakes are my replacement banana cakes in the days when bananas are still over ten dollars per kilo. Like banana cakes, they are non-fussy and non-pretentious. You eat them for what they are and not because how they look. 

I recently bought Joanne Chang's Flour cookbook which proved to be a lot of fun reading especially the stories associated with each of the recipes. But to be honest I wasn't thrilled initially when I flipped it through as it was loaded with recipes that I don't normally like to make...well just treats which require a lot of ingredients that I try to minimize in my diet (which rules out most of the delicious baked goodies I know!) But after trying a few recipes here and there with everything turning out delicious, I realised that maybe I just needed to learn portion control. Or give away the cake as soon as I take a slice. (Which didn't happen this this case unfortunately....)

This carrot cake is the best I've made (yes, even compared Sydney's own Bourke Street Bakery version I made last year). It is everything I want a carrot cake to be: loads of shredded carrots for that moist crumbly texture, just the right portion of spices, juicy sweet raisin and crunchy walnuts. I don't normally frost my carrot cakes but this time I followed through the recipe and just decreased the icing sugar amount by a little bit. And instead of a thick layer of frosting in the middle layer of the cake, I just had a thin-ish layer of it - which was just the right amount for me!

Classic Carrot Cake
Adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang
Makes one 8-inch, 2-layer cake
Or 12 cupcakes
For the carrot cake:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup (220 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons nonfat buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (160 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups (260 grams) tightly packed shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup (80 grams) raisins
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) walnuts, toasted and chopped
For the cream cheese frosting:
  • 12 ounces (340 grams) cream cheese, left at room temperature for 4 hours
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick/114 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cups (230 grams) confectioners' sugar

For the carrot cake:

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch cake pan (or line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners).
2. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment (or a handheld mixer), beat together the eggs and brown sugar on medium-high speed for 3–4 minutes, or until the mixture is light and thick. (This step will take 8–10 minutes if using a handheld mixer.) In a small bowl or pitcher, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. On low speed, slowly pour the oil mixture into the egg-sugar mixture. This should take about 30 seconds.
3. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the egg-sugar mixture. When most of the flour mixture has been incorporated, add the carrots, raisins, and walnuts and continue to fold until the batter is homogenous. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan (or divide evenly among the prepared muffin cups).
4. Bake the cake flour for about 1 hour and 20 minutes (or the cupcakes for about 50 minutes), or until the top is golden brown and springs back when pressed in the middle with a fingertip. Let cool completley in the pan on a wire rack.
For the cream cheese frosting:
5. While the cake is baking, put the cream cheese in the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute, or until smooth. If you have forgotten to take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator 4 hours in advance, you can softren it in a microwave on medium power for 30 seconds. Add the butter and continue to beat for another 1 minute. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the confectioners' sugar. Beat for 1 more minute, or until well mixed. You should have about 3 1/2 cups.
6. Cover the frosting and refrigerate for 2–3 hours before using to allow it firm up enough to pipe and spread. (The frosting can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)

7. Remove the cake from the pan and split it into two layers. Place the bottom layer, cut-side up, on a cake plate. Spoon about half of the frosting onto the layer and, using an offset spatula, spread it evenly to the edges. Place the top layer, cut-side down, on top and press down to adhere. Spoon on about 1 cup of the frosting and spread it over the top and down the sides of the cake. This is the crumb coat which will keep any loose crumbs from migrating to the surface of the finished cake. Spoon the remaining frosting on top of the cake, and spread it evenly across the top and down the sides.

(If you have baked cupcakes, remove them from the muffin tin. Fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch star tip and fill the bag with the frosting, then pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes. Or, spread the frosting on the cupcakes with an icing spatula.
8. The cake (or cupcakes) can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It is best served a littel cooler than room temperature, so remove it from the refrigerator about 2 hours before serving.

...and provide for those who grieve in Zion — 
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes
the oil of joy instead of mourning, 
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. 
They will be called oaks of righteousness,  
a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

 -Isaiah 61:3


Green Tea (Matcha) Chiffon Cake

>> Friday, September 2, 2011

I'm kind of going through a transition phase of my life. Did you know that?!

It's a good place to be at to wrestle with the unknown and the uncertain. At the same time it brings to the surface a lot of my deeper desires and dreams, and has challenged me in my faith to believe what God can do with this ordinary life of mine!

I find that one of the challenging task these days is answering questions about how it feels to be in this position and about what I have planned for the next phase, not because I didn't know what I want or want to share, but because it is almost too frightening to express them for the fear of not being fully understood or supported.

(Pssst, Spring's here by the way!)

Actually, that's not completely true. I think I am still trying to fully believe in the voices in my mind and heart myself. And I am trying to resist living in the confines of what I can control or accomplish on my own, letting my own fear/inadequacies take over, and questioning what I know is real and true. I can't get anywhere being in those states!

So far, it has been a humbling, restful yet purposeful experience. And I'm thankful that I have a bit of time to pursue my hobbies, contemplate whether to re-learn driving (I may be the only fully-licensed person who can't drive), spending time catching up with people, meeting new people, and trying a lot of new recipes (resulting in the stacks of cakes in my fridge at the moment - feel free to claim them :P)

None of what I said so far has anything to do with this chiffon cake recipe I know. I just felt like sharing and filtering a bit of my thoughts of late on this little space here that I've been neglecting over the week! :)

For some reasons, I had always thought chiffon cake is an Asian inspired dessert but found out recently that it was actually invented in the US back in the 20's! A good chiffon is incredibly light (due to absence of butter like angel food cakes) and is rather foamy and has a fluffy texture which is achieved by beating egg whites until stiff and folding them into the cake batter!

Apart from being light, a chiffon cake should be springy too. And has the ability to make you have one slice after another and before you know it you've eaten half the cake!

Sometimes the simplest treats are the best on a day filled with cherry blossoms.

Green Tea Chiffon Cake 
Adapted from Simply Hanushi
Makes an 18-cm tube cake

  • 3 egg yolks 
  • 40 g castor sugar 
  • 100 g cake flour 
  • 1 tsp baking powder 
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 2 tbsp good quality Green Tea powder
  •  50 ml vegetable oil 
  • 75 ml water 
  • 3 egg whites 
  • 40 g castor sugar 
1. Sift cake flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside. 

2. Place egg yolks in a mixing bowl, add sugar in 3 separate additions and with a manual whisk, whisk till the mixture becomes sticky and turns pale. 

3. Drizzle in the oil, whisking at the same time till the mixture is well combined. Repeat the same with the water. 

4. Add in the flour mixture and whisk until flour mixture is fully incorporated into the batter. 

5. Add in the tea powder and mix well. 

6. In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until mixture becomes frothy and foamy. Gradually beat in the sugar and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. 

7. Add the beaten egg white into the egg yolk batter in 3 separate additions, each time folding gently with a spatula until just blended. 

 8. Pour batter into an ungreased 18-cm tube pan. Tap the pan lightly on a table top to get rid of any trapped air bubbles in the batter. 

 9. Bake in a preheated oven at 170°C for 45 – 50 minutes or until the cake surface turns golden brown, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. 

10. Remove from the oven and invert the pan immediately. Let it cool completely before unmold. 

 Notes - I sifted the Green Tea powder together with the flour mixture.

Thanks for visiting this little space of my heart today! :)

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