Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dinosaur Cake 恐龙蛋糕

Dear Ming Ray,

Happy belated 8th Birthday!

Where has time gone? I just couldn’t believe we had just celebrated Ming Ray’s 8th birthday last week! It felt like it was just yesterday when I still had him in me.  Flashing back to the day of Ming Ray’s birth on the 14th July 2004, I can vividly recall the more than 6 hours labour agony ending in a forced C-section because of baby’s heartbeat dropped drastically on every contraction. The labour process was awful to remember, but meeting my first born little baby boy for the first time was a moment no words could ever describe and now he is 8.  It didn't seem at all that long ago when he was just a thought...a wish.
Ever since I indulged myself in baking, I had always wanted to bake a cake for his birthday. In fact this dinosaur cake was long overdue, I saw this fantastic Dinosaur cake idea last year from Betty Croker website via YouTube but at that time we just moved back from Auckland and had yet to settle down.  That, plus the house renovation work didn’t make the right opportunity to bake for him.
Like many other kids, Ming Ray loved dinosaurs since he was baby.  Any item related to dinosaurs attracts him. I couldn’t recall how many times he had watched the series of movie Jurassic Park over and over again; I guess it is very common that boys like dinosaurs.
In fact he had designed a very creative dino cake box for his Auckland School's garage sales which I shared in my previous muffin post back in 2010. Check it out here.
I was glad I managed to fulfil my promise to him to make an icing sculptured dinosaur cake. However, I must thank hubby for helping to decorate the cake.  Without his fine touch I supposed I would end up with a flop project as I was struggling with the icing to make volume to the body of the dinosaur cake. The icing I made was a bit too runny hence it was difficult to lay and shape on the cake.

We had a small birthday party with another close friend of ours whose children were also Ming Ray’s buddies.  I felt so happy and relieved when the kids said the cake was yummy!
Yes! Mission accomplished!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Lady’s Fingers/Okra 羊角豆/秋葵

From garden to table - Lady’s Fingers/Okra

The short one was normal okra purchased from market

Following my previous gardening post, this post I wish to showcase one of my successful crops from my recent gardening experience. The star of the day is Lady’s Fingers /Okra.
This tropical plant with its edible green seed pods is commonly known as "lady's fingers" in South East Asian region. However to the westerners especially in United States they are branded as Okra. Okra has high content of fibre and is also known to be high in antioxidants. It may even be eaten as part of a weight loss diet since it is both fat-free and cholesterol-free. However, some may not like the gooey slime inside of an okra pod. This substance is called "mucilage" which is made up of protein, carbohydrate and fibre molecules.
There are many ways to cook lady’s fingers. In Malaysia okra is commonly used as vegetable ingredients in spicy dishes especially curry, stir-fried with sambal belancan or steamed and eaten as salad with sambal. For the Chinese in Malaysia, other than stir-frying and steaming, we like to stuff fish paste in it and boil with a selection of vegetables and tofu and to be served in soup. We call it Yong Tau Foo, one of the signature dishes of Hakka cuisine. In the Japanese cuisine, deep fried tempura okra is another easy recipe to make.
Both hubby and I love lady’s fingers; it is one of our “must buy” in our weekly marketing list. When I resumed my gardening interest, one of the plants that I wanted to grow was Okra. Ten over years ago, I planted Okra in our front yard and it was a huge success. We always harvested more than we could consume and had to give away to friends and neighbours.
I was so pleased when one of my neighbours, an old former farmer offered his okra seeds to me when he saw me clearing and plowing the plot of land into garden bed a few months ago. I told him I wanted to cultivate a piece of own homegrown vegetables and herbs garden. In supporting my wills, he shared about 8 of his okra seeds with me and some with my next door Auntie who is also a gardening lover. Three of us, started to plant the seeds at about the same time. After a week, out of the 8 seeds, 6 germinated but only 4 survived, my successful rate was about 50%.

When I checked with my neighbours, I was surprised to learn from the ex-farmer neighbor that he only had 4 survived out of 30 seeds he planted. Even worse for the lady neighbour, none of her okra seeds survived! I guessed I should be very proud of my result! J
Okra flower and new pod

The okra I planted is longer breed, 2 times longer than normal type purchased from market

The 2 longer okra/lady fingers harvested from my garden

Time to get the harvested crops to the table!

A pan fried fish

Curry paste - click to get the recipe

Fresh mint leaves from garden to garnish

Curry fish with steam okra/lady fingers

Serve with white rice, let's eat!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

2012 Tropical Garden

My Malaysian garden experience

After taking a year to settle in with the job and a massive house make over renovation since we came back from Auckland in April 2011, in March 2012 I started to indulge in my gardening hobby again. Argh....how I missed my Auckland garden ! (click to view my Kiwi gardening experience)

With the latest layout, all our back yard had been merged to be part of our constructed dwelling whilst 90% of our front yard was tiled up. We were only left with a tiny patch of soil which hubby preferred to keep for planting soft carpet grass.

Showing a before and after look of the front yard after the renovation we made.

Before May 2011

December 2012

I was hardly left with any spare land to pursue gardening. For that reason, I was left with no choice but to explore cultivating the vacant land located opposite our house. Well, strictly speaking that vacant land belongs to our local council. Hopefully they wouldn't mind for me to use it. After all, I helped to transform a land of disarray into a productive vegetation land aligned with the "Go green" concept. J

It’s fortunate for me to stay in a neighbourhood full of gardening lovers. With their generous gift of seedlings and plant seeds I got off to a good start with my 2 bird eyes chilies (辣椒) plants in my little garden, then later came lemon grass, lady’s fingers/Okra seeds, mints (the plant which I left with my neighbour 2 years ago and now passed back to my caring) and water spinach/ water morning glory (Kangkung in Malay) 空心菜.

Shown below is my recent gardening experience in chronological order.

March 2012
The result of my 3 weekends of hard works in digging and plowing
My tropical garden

April 2012
If you wish to find out how to plant chili in cold climate check out my old post here

Bird eyes chili
Water Spinach/ Morning Glory - Kangkung 空心菜
This plant is super easy to plant. I planted straight with the roots that I cut off from the water spinach I bought from market, not with seeds.
Okra/lady's finger seedling

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tofu with salted fish and minced meat 豆腐肉末咸鱼粒

Quick and easy 30 minutes meals

If you are a working mom who loves cooking, who still prefers to make delicious home cooked meal for your love ones at home after a long day at work. Following recipe that I’m going to share is a great recipe for you.
This tofu dish is so quick and easy that you can serve it on dinner table in less than 30 minutes even if you included the dish preparation time.

This dish is one of the popular dishes serves in our local Chinese restaurant; it is also kid’s friendly meal. For healthy version you can do away salted fish or if salted fish not available you can replace with dried shrimp or anchovies.  For chilies lover, you can also spice up with chopped chilles.  

Tofu with salted fish and minced meat 豆腐肉末咸鱼粒


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