Sunday, December 22, 2013

Happy winter solstice to all !


Hi all, I know that I have been MIA for a while, too much was going on for the last 2 months.
I am glad to annouce that the major breakthru for me for this year was, I finally completed my maiden marathon on 17th November 2013! It took me grueling 5:52 hours to cross finishing line, however I felt really pleased that I had finally done it!
Just a week after the race, I took a break to spend 2 weeks long holiday to Northen Thailand with my family. After the holiday, I was busy with office works, citing now is year end and too much reporting needed for year end closing.
In addition, our high school is organising 30th alumni dinner on 28th December and I was asked to help to  compile old school photos into video presentations. I had been burning quite a number of mid nights oil in doing this task.   
I will share more on Thailand food later once I get back to my routine.
Tomorrow is the day that Chinese celebrate Winter Solstice - 冬至.  To many Chinese this day is really important day, another big reunion day.  One of the must dessert to celebrate this day is - Tangyuan ( Sweet Glutinous Dumplings) 汤圆 .

These are the Tangyuan which Auntie Lan and hubby had just finished shaping hours ago. We will let them air dry overnight before boiling them tomorrow and turn them into a delicious sweet glutinous dumpling soup. :-) 

Are you ready to have a bowl tomorrow too?
Wish to know how to get a QQ Tang yuan, check out my old recipe here:
这是新鲜出炉的糯米粉圓,现把它风干一晚, 明天把它煮一煮,再加上甜汤, 就是一级棒的湯圓啦! 想吃QQ的湯圓吗?

Tang Yuan (Sweet Glutinous Dumplings ) 汤圆
The blue coloring is natural coloring from a type of flower commonly found in Malaysia - bunga Telang.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Homemade Golden Syrup

Lately, I had to admit that I was a bit lax in blogging again. I used to update my blog during weekends. However since I signed up to participate in the Penang Bridge International Marathon on November 17th, weekends were never the same any more. With a full time job, weekend was the only time for long distance running training. After the long run training, what’s left in my mind was only to get my body lying down on the cosy sofa and turned myself into a couch potato doing nothing for the rest of the day .

This post was supposed to be published last month coinciding with the mid autumn festival theme but I was too worn out to blog it until now. Following the series of moon cake recipes covering from the basics of making moon cake dough to moon cake fillings like Yam/taro, Red bean and Mung Bean,  now is time to learn to make another key ingredient – the Golden syrup.

Instead of buying ready-made golden syrup, I opted to make my own with recipe adapted from Agnes Chang’s moon cake series. This completes the recipe for making 100% homemade moon cake. I started making this syrup 2 weeks before mid- autumn festival. However, it is even better if you can start making the syrup a few months ahead as the syrup can easily last a year or more.

This golden syrup is good for use in any baking or cooking that calls for golden syrup in place of the commercial ones.

Initially, I did not have a good start in the syrup making. I was not attentive enough during the cooking stage and got the syrup overcooked. On top of that, I was fooled by the consistency of the syrup when it was still hot. The syrup looked runny but when it cooled down, it became really sticky and as hard as caramel candy!

Nevertheless, after some online research, I cross referred to Christine Golden Syrup recipe to save the failed syrup which I thought was a waste. Following her advice, I added more water and lemon juice and re-boiled the syrup again to eventually get the right fluid consistency for the golden syrup.   

The moon cakes that I made using my homemade golden syrup.
The moon cakes which I couriered back to my dad.P1110740

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Easy-to-make Snow Skin Mooncake

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival
Mid-Autumn Festival is just around the corner on 19th September 2013. Are you busy looking for some simple recipe for mooncake? Well, try this really simple Snow Skin Mooncake recipe! Snow skin mooncake tastes similar to Japanese Mochi.
 As a follow up to my previous blog post featuring traditional Snow Skin Mooncake recipe obtained from my good friend Helen, here’s another variety adopted from Y3K cookbook which is so easy and the result is so presentable that a novice cook can easily impress!  P1110736
Only 4 major ingredients are needed for this recipe - cooked glutinous rice flour (Gao Fen), icing sugar, shortening and water. In addition, don’t forget to get one cute little mooncake mould to make your favourite shape. This year, I bought myself another small mini square mooncake mould.

However Auntie Lan commented that it was best to use round-shaped mould, so as to symbolize reunion/unity, as in the case of the big round full moon in this mid autumn evening “月圆人团圆”

snowskin _mooncake collage

 If you wish to have a more authentic version of the homemade mooncake, you can also try to make your own fillings such as Taru/Yam paste, mung bean paste, red bean paste which I introduced before. Click on the links to get to the old blog posts for the recipe.

Coconut Milk Mung Bean paste filling

I had shared these mini mooncakes with my colleagues in the office.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Muah Chee ( Glutinous/Sticky Rice snack with Peanut) 花生芝麻糍粑

This year, August the 14th was my late mother-in-law’s 5th passing anniversary or jìrì () in Chinese. As usual Auntie Lan would remind hubby of this occasion. Every year, without fail Auntie Lan would prepare mother-in-law’s favourite dishes to serve as prayer offering. This year, instead of the usual Teo Chew Cai Kuih that she used to make, hubby asked her to make Muah Chee. I had posted this snack recipe back in 2010 before when I resided in Auckland, with the steaming method from Agnes Chang’s Hawkers’ Delights cook book. This time I would like to introduce another traditional method of making Muah Chee. Shared below is not just the way of making sticky rice dough for Muah Chee, also how to make fine powdery ground peanut.   Photo edited with Shown below were the offering dishes we made for late Mother-in- law. P111044601 As usual, I was responsible for my signature Crispy Roasted Pork Belly. Hubby did an awesome job in food cutting and food presentation, didn’t he? roastedporkbelly
Crispy Roasted Pork Belly  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Herbal Napier Grass drinks 马草凉茶

Let’s try a glass of Herbal Drink?
This plant was planted by my neighbour next to my Bunga Kantan. Initially I wanted to clear it, thinking it was weed. Then, my neighbour quickly came to me and told me it was one type of herbal plant used as a great detoxing supplements and consumed as a herbal drink. She later showed me its health benefits as illustrated in a Chinese Herbs magazine. The Chinese name of this plant is 马草, literally translated as “horse grass”. clip_image001
She said this plant was once very popular and widely sought after in Taiwan. It was even made into commercial skin caring juice, with advertisement claiming its effect in treating acne problems.


Later, I did some research and discovered the English common name for this plant was Napier Grass. Scientifically its species is Pennisetum and it belongs to Poaceae family. You can find more information on this page.

According to the Chinese wiki, this plant is rich in vitamin C and is claimed to contain the anti-oxidant and even the anti-cancer effects. It is good for treating swelling and easing stomach-ache. After knowing the goodness of the plant, instead of disposing it, I helped her to water the plants regularly.

The normal way to consume the plant is to blend the leaves and extract its juice to drink fresh without heating to prevent oxidization. It is also not advised to blend at higher than 900 rpm or above 50 ℃, as it will destroy its chlorophyll and vitamins.

However, instead of blending into juice which may taste a bit too raw to us, another way to consume it is to boil the grass along with its stalks and added with rock sugar to make into delicious herbal drink! The taste of the drink is very much similar to drinking Bamboo Sugar Cane, really tasty!
Beer anyone?
No, this is the Chinese Herbal Napier Grass drink,
served in a beer mug 马草凉茶 clip_image001[4]

 If you happen to find this plant growing wildly somewhere, do try to take some back and try out. It is such a great refreshing and cooling drink especially if you have symptoms of a “heaty” body such as sore throat and acne. Every now and then, I will pluck some to make herbal beverages for my family.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

DIY Wristlet Purse

Making your own limited edition

It has been a while since I last worked on any new sewing project. With the long Raya break at home, I reckoned it’s best to occupy the time to stock up my homemade gift buffer stock. I was hoping to make something useful other than household items.

Nowadays, wristlet purse is getting trendier. It is super versatile because you can use it as a replacement for bulky handbag which may not be so convenient to carry around to run short errands, office lunch outing at crowded eatery shops or even those disco nights where dancing is the prime agenda rather than keeping an eye of your oversized handbag. The wristlet can easily fit basic necessities, including ID, mobile phone, credit cards, lip gloss and cash and is small enough to use as a wallet in bigger handbags.

I seldom carry handbags to work. I used to have one self-made wristlet to take out during lunch hour which was big enough to store my wallet, hand phone, tissue, lipstick and car keys. Once, during a lunch outing with my boss, he saw the wristlet I carried and acknowledged it was much safer to carry such tiny handbag with short strap around hand than a big handbag. He later shared his wife’s unpleasant bag snatching theft experience and wanted to recommend his wife to get one too. This suggestion has prompted me to make more to share with my lady friends and relatives.

Shared below are some of the works I finished during the first 2 days of Raya break. Coach wristlet too expensive? Why not making your own ?

Not only cost saving but most important limited edition! Smile



Do you like these Bow Clutch Wristlets ? You can get the free DIY tutorial here.

Bow clutch collage



To add some variation to the bow clutch, I added a cloth rosette to it. I learnt to make these rosette via YouTube.

clothroses collage

Transform placemat into a trendy clutch wristlet with magnetic button


Simple lining zipper wristlet


I spent longer time in making this little half circle purse because I hand sewn the zipper. You can get this free tutorial here


This wristlet adapted from Garden Party Wristlet - Designed by Keyka Lou. I couldn’t locate any free pattern online, so I spent hours in trial and error to get this up.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

No Bake Chocolate Ganache Cheesecake 免烤巧克力芝士蛋糕

My boy turned 9!

14th July 2013
I just can’t believe my darling boy has turned 9!  Last month, he attended one of his classmates’ birthday party and his classmates had asked him to organize the same for his birthday too. He came back with this request. I was happy to support his suggestion and even promised to make him a birthday cake. However, his dad was reluctant with the idea of kids running around our house and the hassle of tidying up the aftermath. He later suggested throwing a small water splashes party at our golf/swimming club which was just 5 minutes away from our house instead. This win-win idea turned out to be a blast. Ray invited 4 of his close school buddies over and at the end of the birthday party; all of them rated this event as one of the best birthday parties they had ever attended. They gave a big thumb up for the great fun at the pool and the water guns we bought for each boy.

Frankly speaking, compared with bread baking, I was still pretty amateur in cake baking. But not to disappoint my boy, I needed to try my best and honour my word.  Knowing Ray loved chocolate and ice cream, I opted for the easy “no bake” cheesecake instead. I wrote to my good friend, Helen in Auckland for help.  She was the master that had taught me baking when I resided in Auckland. Her recipes were mostly idiot proof. Do check out the recipes that I attempted before, Lemon Cheesecake, Tiramisu and Moon Cake. I was thankful to her; she came back promptly to my request as she just did the same birthday cake for her daughter a month ago.

No Bake Chocolate Ganache Cheesecake 免烤巧克力芝士蛋糕
As you could see, the cake was not perfectly done. I had 2 failed attempts in the process of making this cake.  This was my first trial in making ganache.  I was hoping to have a smooth silky ganache but the cake ended up with bubbled surface and the ganache was not set enough to firm even after more than 3 hours of freezing in the fridge.

Later, I did some checking and realized that part of the reasons why the ganache did not firm up was possibly due to the un-boiled fresh cream. I should bring the cream to boil for a minute or more to help reduce the water content in the cream and to break up the protein strands. Emulsified sauces combine better when the amount of water is reduced. I then recalled that I was pouring cold cream into melted chocolate instead of boiling the cream before adding it to chopped chocolate.  That was the first failed attempt.
Chocolate transfer sheet walls
 The second failed attempt the use of chocolate transfer sheets to decorate the edge of the cake.  Again, I failed to get the chocolate to firm up to tear the plastic sheet out from the chocolate coating. Not to ruin the cake presentation and for the sake of photo taking, I left the plastic sheet around the cake and only removed it when we wanted to cut the cake. However, I was relieved the cake was not completely a failure. Hubby did a great job in piping words onto the cake and we got the cake nicely decorated with Ray’s name.

Initially, I was really disappointed with the cake, but when my boy told me the cake was what he liked most out of all the food served that evening. I was over the moon! With that statement I rated the event “Mission Accomplished”! :-)

They say “don’t judge a book by its cover”.  This seems describe well this occasion.  The frozen cheesecake did taste really yummy despite my poor cake decoration skill!
Delicious Chocolate Cheesecake

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Calamansi Sour Plum Juice 桔子酸梅汁

Let’s squeeze and Zest up!

Calamansi or Calamondin or Limau Kasturi (in Malay) or 桔子(in Chinese) is a hybrid of lime and orange belonging to the citrus family. Its size is much smaller than lime. Calamansi is best grown in warm weather and is widely found in Southeast Asia, especially in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

One and a half year ago, at only RM5, I bought this Calamansi tree in a small pot from a nearby garden nursery and planted it in my vegetable garden. It grew healthily in the garden since then. However, it seemed like ages to see it flower and bear fruits. At the beginning of this year, my neighbour helped me to fertilise the plant with fertiliser that was supposed to encourage plants to flower. After this application, the plant still did not flower as much as we anticipated. It only produced a few flowers and I only managed to harvest one fruit at the end. L
I was kind of disappointed but nevertheless I continued watering it and twice a month applied normal poultry manure fertiliser. Finally, a month ago, we were overwhelmed to see it flowered and produced abundant fruits!  
Calamansi Tree life cycle

 While writing this post I did some research on Calamansi tree. Then only I realised Calamansi tree typically takes 2 years after planting to fruit. This fact, matched exactly with the timing of my tree, which has been nearly 2 years since I planted it.  It’s the time for it to flower and fruit.
Calamansi is one of the most common citrus used in Southeast Asian cuisines. In Malaysia, Calamansi (Limau Kasturi) juice is one of the key ingredients added in Sambal belacan and used in Nyonya Food. Other than using its acidity as a natural preservative additive to food, it is also great for making drinks.

Calamansi juice, as a drink, makes one of the best thirst-quenchers. It is best to consume during a heat wave. Even though Calamansi juice tastes acidic and sour but when consumed, they are alkalizing to the stomach, which helps in weight loss and detoxification.  Similar to its citrus family members, Calamansi is rich in vitamin C too and is great for skin whitening.

 Seeing the abundant fruits on the tree, I couldn’t wait to harvest them to make one of my favourite fruit juices which I often order when we dine out.  It’s called Calamansi sour plum juice.

Calamansi juice is one of the popular beverages that is easily available in Malaysia eatery shop.  It is very soothing to the throat, quench thirst and a great remedy for sore throat. This drink also helps digestion and is known for relieving the symptoms of gout.  So, if you happen to get them at your local veggie shop, do give them a squeeze and drink up! It’s a great substitute for lemonade!  
Calamansi Sour Plum Juice 桔子酸梅汁

Saturday, June 1, 2013


Diet? Why not a piece of rye bread

Nowadays, to optimize health benefits, more and more health conscious people opt to eat bread made of wholemeal grain rather than plain flour bread.  Many believe, in fact is also proven, that bread made of wholemeal flour which contains higher fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than the refined and bleached white bread flour is healthier. Wholemeal promotes weight loss, as it takes longer for the body to absorb than it takes to absorb refined grains. 

I have posted wholemeal bread recipes, click to visit the post here Tangzhong wholemeal bread. To continue in trying out more nutritious multigrain breads, this time I combined wholemeal flour with – Rye flour. Research shows Rye flour is more nutritious than wheat. Rye flour helps to lower insulin response and improves blood glucose profile which reduces the risk of diabetes. It also reduces inflammation in people with metabolic syndrome. Rye bread with higher fibre content makes you feel fuller and satisfied longer than wheat. It also helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Wanna have a bite?

For this recipe, I adapted the Tangzhou wholemeal recipe and replaced part of the wholemeal flour with rye flour. I found with the rye flour mixture, the texture of the bread was softer and lighter than wholemeal flour by itself.  
Click more to check out the step by step slideshow.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Satay Beef balls 沙嗲牛肉丸

 Homemade meat balls

This simple savory flavor not only can be made into meat balls, it can easily be made into burger patties too. This quick and easy recipe is not only great to serve with pasta; it can also be awesome kid’s finger food for children party. When made into patties, it is excellent for BBQ too!

Not in favor of beef? You can replace ground beef with any other meat to your preference such as pork or chicken. 

Satay Beef Balls before oven bake
Satay Beef Balls

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Omelette 煎蛋饼

Serving home grown vegetables

Omelette is a recipe which needs no introduction.  A basic omelette is so simple and easy to prepare that a kid can do it. For variations, it can be as simple as eggs, onion and milk mixture to rich cheesy, meat, seafood, vegetables and any combination of your choice.  

Vegetarian Omelette 煎蛋饼

To some, it can be a little tricky to cook an entire omelette without folding. The skill in flipping the omelette over to cook both sides evenly without breaking may not be easy to master.

My experience tells me practice makes perfect. The following additional tips would also be of some help.

1.   Recommend to use a non-stick pan with less oil.
2.   Not to put too much eggs mixture:
This is because when egg mixture is too thick, the centre may be too runny resulting in inconsistency in the omelette texture where it can tear easily when flipped.

3.   Cook with medium low heat to avoid the bottom side turning brown before the top centre egg mixture sets.
4.   Only start to tilt the pan when the centre of egg mixture sets.
5.    If omelette too big and too thick to flip, use a bigger plate to cover and slide the omelette cooked side down onto the plate. Invert the pan over the plate, then holding them firmly, turn the plate and pan over together.

Shared below was my healthy vegetarian version with home grown cherry tomatoes and dwarf beans freshly picked from my home garden in Auckland. For more of my Kiwi garden click on My Green hopes.

Monday, April 8, 2013

African Violets 非洲紫罗兰

My first flower gardening experience

As a practical person, this trait has influenced my choices in gardening.  I’m not keen in flower gardening but favour vegetables gardening because if I were to put in efforts into growing something, I’d rather have plants that I can harvest for consumption than for aesthetic appreciation.

Some time ago, my company’s HR manager decided to do away with the fountain corner in the office lobby due to poor maintenance. Seeing the unknown flowers surrounding the fountain left unattended and dying one after another, I decided to bring back the last two pots and tried my best to revive them.

The pots that I brought back only had a few stems and a few dark green, thick, hairy leaves.  I had no idea what species these plants were at first and had no clue of how to take care of them. I continued to water daily but the initial firm standing stems gradually turned soft and looked sickly. A chance visit to a nearby flower nursery made me realize these plants were known as African Violets. (Saintpaulia ionantha) . These plants needed just enough water to keep the soil moist, but never soggy.  It should not be exposed to direct sunlight. I was advised by the owner of the nursery that I might have overwatered the plants and that these flowers were not easy to take care of.  After knowing the source of the problem, I went home and made some adjustment.  Not long after, voila!  I was pleased to share the following results J

I was so overwhelmed when these flowers blossomed, and felt so contented that I succeeded in reviving these flowers.


African Violets (Saintpaulia ionantha).

But I was equally sad to find they only lasted for 3 weeks before they withered. Overall it was a really good gardening experience for me.

Monday, April 1, 2013

My 1st Project Runway

Barbie Fashion Project Runway

During the school holidays last December, my niece in Penang, Kyra came to me saying that her mommy (my sister Cindy) told her that I was good at sewing and asked that I make some new clothes for her Barbie dolls. How could I possibly reject an adorable 7 years old’s request? So, I accepted her request and that gave birth to my 1st ever Barbie Fashion project runway! Smile

Like most girls , I often played dressing up dolls in my childhood days, but never a Barbie.  Barbie seemed to become popular only after my “time”.  At my tender age, the popular dressing up doll games was paper dolls, not this type of sexy plastic doll.  I guess some of you ladies would know what this paper doll game was about. Yes, it was a paper game made of A4 size thin cardboard, with a printed dolly girl figure and other colourful and fashionable dresses with tab and pre-cut tearing line. To play, we just had to press on the tear line to detach the doll and dresses. To dress the doll, the tab of the dress was folded and fixed on to the paper doll.  I still could remember that I used to design new paper dresses for these dolls from my own cardboard. Now with Barbie, instead of paper, I used scrap cloth that I salvaged. 

At first I did not obtain the right measurement from the Barbie doll. I did online search for Barbie free fashion templates and downloaded those as sample. However after making a few dresses,  it seemed very difficult for me to get the measurement right unless I had a doll to try on. I asked around my lady colleagues to see if any of them had daughters who had an extra Barbie doll to loan to me for this project. I managed to get one from a co-worker whose daughter had more than 10 Barbie dolls and wouldn’t mind to lend me one of her least favourites.

I took a few weekends and some late nights to come up with the following collection. I tried rushing to complete them in order to bring them to my niece during the Chinese New Year holidays for her to dress her Barbie with new clothes to celebrate New Year too. Smile

I must say, thanks to this project, it brought back many of my happy childhood doll playing memories. Not only I got to fulfil my fashion designing dream by coming up with series of fashion to dress up her Barbie dolls, I got to experience playing Barbie which was not available back in my time.

Shared below were my experimental Barbie Fashion collection.

Elegant Evening Gowns
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One dress 2 ways
My own design gowns, with scarf  and hair accessories.
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Casual Wears
Matched with bags, scarf and hat.
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 Sexy hot bikini swim suits
Using stretchable fabric recycled from my evening dress, after I had shortened the dress into mini skirt.
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Kyra and her Barbie dolls performing Chinese New Year Barbie Fashion Show


The Project Runway Models

Kyra and her models enjoying high tea



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