Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Baking Dilemma

I stalled for a long time deciding what to make for my edible gifts this Christmas. The truth is I have a dilemma. I think the gift should be something sweet, but I no longer eat a lot of sweet things and have learned to like less sweet treats. In addition, I have almost completely given up grains over the last year.

Grain-free and low sugar desserts (like grain-free honey cakes) are expensive to make. And, let's be honest, they usually do taste a little bit different than the normal versions. They taste great to me -- but I know that my tastebuds have become accustomed and happy with a less intense sweet.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pork Ribs with Tomato Marinade

Thanks to this week's Wednesdays with Donna Hay challenge I have got over a long standing fear: cooking pork ribs. It turns out they are easy! All I did was mix together a marinade and leave the ribs overnight. Then bake for 40 minutes and they are done. Wow, what was I so worried about?

I changed the marinade recipe. I could not believe it called for one cup of brown sugar. That would sure make the ribs sticky, but it is too much sugar for me. I would rather sacrifice some stickiness in order to not get a sugar high from my main meal.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sweet Potato Soup with Whipped Goat's Cheese Topping

Simple sweet potato soup: just four ingredients. This is my kind of meal. When my husband is away (and hence I'm allowed to eat vegetarian), I whip up a soup or salad or both for my dinner.

I made this soup just a tad more special by whipping a goat's cheese topping. I used 1/3 c (100 g) soft cheese, 1/4 c (60 ml) of sour cream, and 1 T of milk, with lots of pepper. A quick whizz and it's a little bit fluffy. The goat's cheese complements the soup by adding a bit of complexity. Also, the topping is cool while the soup is steaming so it's a great contrast. I like to incorporate a tiny bit of topping with each spoon of soup to enjoy the colours and flavours together.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Grain-Free Cloverleaf Rolls

In middle school, one of my traumas was my uneven earlobes. One was higher than the other! Gasp, the agony. I could not wear earrings because it made me feel so uncomfortable. They were clip-ons, uncomfortable anyway, but the delicate dangling earrings just made me feel even more awkward. Thankfully my earlobes have evened out now, or maybe my head is wider and no one notices if they are a little off!

Humans love symmetry. Studies show that we are more attracted to symmetrical faces. I think that we are also attracted to symmetrical food! Hence I adore and recommend these cloverleaf rolls. They are cleverly baked in a muffin tin so they come out with three pull-apart sections.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Best Food Writing 2013

Our Kitchen Reader book in November was Best Food Writing 2013. This is the first time I have bought one of these anthologies (there have been thirteen!) and it was brilliant. It is made up of such a diverse selection of short pieces - they were perfect for reading on the bus or just before bed.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Bacon, Leek, and Potato Soup

This is not your usual pale, creamy, and smooth leek and potato soup. This is a chunky, flavourful, heartwarming dish with big bits of bacon, diced potatoes, and sweet leeks. It needs about 20 minutes to simmer, which is the perfect amount of time to make some rolls or a salad to go alongside. (Recipe for cloverleaf rolls coming this weekend.)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pumpkin and Goat's Cheese Grain-Free Pizza

I have spent a long time looking for a grain-free pizza crust. As it turns out, this is the best I have found so far. It's actually more like a flatbread. It's made with black sesame seed flour, though you canals use white sesame seed flour. You can make the flour yourself by putting sesame seeds in a high-powered food processor.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Coleslaw with Caper Mayonnaise

Salt and pepper are my two favourite condiments. Sea salt, in particular, and freshly cracked black pepper. They are the white and black, the most basic of all flavourings.

In this coleslaw recipe, the salty role is played by capers. Aren't they just lovely little balls of brine-y goodness? The capers are incorporated into a mayonnaise that dresses this coleslaw; they are subtle but essential overall. And the black pepper is cracked extremely generously over the top.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Feta and Eggplant Meatballs

This is the tastiest meal I have ever made.

When I served these meatballs to my husband he took a picture before beginning. Then he took a bite, put his fork back down again, and moaned. "Ooonh, my!" Pause. "Wow, that is amazing." Pause. Gentle, low intake of breath. Then a little sigh.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sparkling Ginger and Lime Crush

As part of Thanksgiving dinner, I made this easy drink. It's my first foray into making a "house cocktail". We also served other drinks, but everyone tried and enjoyed a glass of this sparkling beverage. It's markedly gingery with a hint of lime.

I made it with part plain water and part sparkling water (in about the ratio 1:3) to make it lightly sparkling. When sparkling drinks have too many bubbles, they just go up my nose and destroy my imbibing enjoyment. This ginger and lime crush is enjoyably bubbly.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Apron Anxiety: My Messy Affairs In and Out of the Kitchen by Alyssa Shelasky

I was not expecting to like Apron Anxiety, our October Kitchen Reader book. And I didn't, at least for the first half. It's the memoir of a New York celebrity journalist, the beautiful writer-type whose job involves lots of partying, skimpy outfits, and gossip.

(image source: The Guardian)

Here are some quotations to illustrate the self-centred Shelasky:
Some people might say that I'm a hot girl; others that I'm a hot mess.... I can be beautiful or busted.... Whether it's my inherited confidence, or an inner cool when it comes to the opposite sex, or some life-less-ordinary aura, getting guys has always been easy.
I go on a Ferris wheel of "friend dates." The women are either profoundly conservative or profoundly crazy.... I have convinced myself that they're just too ordinary to every understand me.
[The restaurant partners of my boyfriend] think I'm a prima donna, coasting in with my big shades and flowery sundresses.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Quick Pickled Okra

Today I was marking a piece of student work called "Patterns in Our Lives". The idea is that we see patterns all around us, especially in design features, and there are mathematical ways to describe the patterns. This got me thinking about the patterns I see in my life more generally. As I got up from my completed marking to make lunch, I realised that I eat a variety of foods, but very similar types of dishes and meals. For example, most of my lunches are a mainly a mixture of raw or lightly cooked vegetables. This pattern of eating makes me feel energetic after lunch.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Weekend Links #32

Weekend Links is a way of sharing all the engrossing things I see around the internet. I publish Weekend Links approximately every two weeks. As usual, I welcome your ideas and feedback.

food reading links:
--How many times should you try a food before deciding you don't like it? At least once, argues Jay Rayner in The Observer Food Monthly. And in the case of tripe, many more times. (I have not tried it so I can't comment.)
--A detailed (but readable) analysis of 23 studies comparing low fat and low carbohydrate diets (from Authority Nutrition).
--"Don't bother going out to eat all the time"... and you will enjoy it more (from Casual Kitchen). The same goes for eating chocolate.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

We hosted our Canadian Thanksgiving one week early this year. There were seven of us and just one Canadian (me!). Everyone was an honourary Canadian for the day. We all have so much to be thankful for. We wrote things we are thankful for on coloured leaves and stuck them up on the dining room mirror. Actually counting our blessings makes it so easy to be grateful.

The food was extensive - as it should be. We had one vegetarian and several veggie-friendly eaters. Here is the menu.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Weekend Links #31

Weekend Links is a way of sharing all the engrossing things I see around the internet. I publish Weekend Links approximately every two weeks. As usual, I welcome your ideas and feedback.

food reading links:
--How poetry can help you become a better food writer. Fascinating (from Monica Bhide).

recipe links:
--Burger buns made from spiralized sweet potatoes and eggs, formed in ramekins (a guest post on Paleo OMG from Inspiralized).
--How to use up a half cup or so of pumpkin puree (from Kitchen Stewardship). What a great problem to have!
--These espresso martinis sound killer - in a good way, of course (from A Beautiful Mess).
--Easy preserving if you have too many radishes (from Adventures in Local Food). Huh, has this ever happened to you?
--How to make a simple steamed bok choy salad (from A Veggie Venture). A simple entry to Asian greens if you are new to them.
--Simple and delicious pumpkin roasted with rosemary and onions (from BakingNCooking). This is just the kind of simple dish that makes cooking worthwhile.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Plate to Pixel by Helene Dujardin

I bought and read Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography and Styling a few years ago when it first came out. I had received a digital SLR (my "big camera") for Christmas a little before and food photography had fast become my second favourite part of blogging. (Nothing competes with cooking.) Plate to Pixel by Helene Dujardin is the just the kind of book a "big camera" beginner needs to get everything figured out.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Asparagus with Balsamic Butter

Would it surprise you that I ate this whole dish of asparagus for lunch recently? It was just so easy and tasty! This "recipe" is more of a vegetable suggestion: grilled with balsamic butter. There are only three ingredients. (You can already name them.)

Making asparagus this way transforms them for the people who like their veggies with a sauce. I know a few folks who think plain vegetables are boring and prefer them with something extra. Balsamic butter is a very simple way to dress up "boring" vegetables.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Seared Salmon with Coconut Spinach

This week's speedy dinner is so easy - wilted spinach with some tasty additions, and pan-fried salmon. It all came together in just a few minutes. I added some reheated rice for my husband, extra spinach for me, and plated it up.

It turns out that spinach and coconut milk is a really great combination. I didn't find the coconut flavour too overwhelming. It was just enough to add an exotic touch. Supper felt exciting in a way that spinach and salmon wouldn't normally. I'm converted!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Four Ways to Eat Mushrooms for Dinner

Next time you see a punnet of mushrooms in the fridge you know you can make dinner. Here are four brilliant ideas.

1. The new idea for me this week is leek and mushroom fritatta, pictured above. It is a Donna Hay recipe that I tried this week.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cucumber Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette

All last school year, every Monday I went to a group personal training session. A trainer came to work and a small group of us pushed ourselves through a punishing number of of press ups, burpees, TRX rows, and the like. I did this every Monday. Every Monday, that is, except one.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Baked Fish Fillets with Tomatoes

Last weekend was spent organising our new flat. It feels so good to have all the boxes gone now. (Except four that I have been avoiding sorting through.) Our new bookshelves are full; the cookbooks have a shelf all to themselves.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Weekend Links #30

Weekend Links is a way of sharing all the engrossing things I see around the internet. I publish Weekend Links approximately every two weeks. As usual, I welcome your ideas and feedback.

food reading links:
--Liking healthy foods is a choice, argues Zen Habits.
--In defense of posting pictures of your food on social media (from Inside Scoop SF). We do it because it's fun and it's what we actually like.

recipe links:
--I've decided that Sunday should become my roast chicken day. I was inspired by Nourished Kitchen.
--Ginger cilantro slaw sounds like a perfect summer crunchy dish (from Cave Girl Eats).
--When I last made muhammara (a roasted red pepper dip) it included a ground up pita bread. Now that I don't eat (much) wheat, I want to try this version from Paleo Non Paleo.
--An iced coffee frappucino recipe (from Healthy Green Kitchen, pictured above).

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Corn and Bacon Cakes

It's Wednesday, so that means I'm posting a recipe from Donna Hay's vast collection of work. Our bloggers' group chose to make corn cakes this week. My version is based on Hay's, though loosely, since I have replaced all the "pancake" ingredients. My version is gluten-free and grain-free, similar to many of recipes I have made lately. But I stuck with the original corn and bacon flavours; yum.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cooked by Michael Pollan

This month's Kitchen Reader book is Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan. Unfortunately I had some trouble getting a copy and only managed to start reading a few days ago. Little did I know that it is a massive manifesto on the main ways to cook food.

Pollan singles out four processes that humans use to cook food, naming them after the four ancient elements: fire, water, air, and earth. Fire is for grilling, the most primal of ways to cook food. Water is for boiling, steaming, and braising. Air is for the effects of the oven and yeast on bread. And earth is for fermentation, a chemical reaction that "cooks" food.

With the short time I had available, I decided to read the introduction and only one of the main four chapters. The one I am most interested in, by far, is about fermentation.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Chilled Cantaloupe Soup

Recently I've been inspired by reading magazines. For example, my local grocery store is called Cold Storage, and they publish a cheap quarterly magazine that is full of clever recipes. This chilled cantaloupe soup is from it.

But I like to read lots of magazines--almost any type are fine by me. I read sports ones about Formula One, running, or working out. I also like house and decorating magazines. I like essay magazines like Time, Monocle, and National Geographic. While in New Zealand on holiday in July I tried out a magazine called North & South ("the magazine for thinking New Zealand") which was very informative. And since arriving here in Singapore I picked up Time Out, of course.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Grain-Free Honey Cakes

This is the best textured grain-free baking I have done so far. These beautiful little cakes are fluffy and light even though they are made with coconut flour.

Coconut flour is much more dense than wheat flour and also soaks up a lot of liquid. Hence for bakers used to normal cupcake recipes, there is an relatively large quantity of wet ingredients in this recipe.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How to Make the Perfect Salad: Pear, Rocket, Fennel, and Blue Cheese Salad

What makes a perfect salad? I think it should hit all the tastebud areas on your tongue. Below is a tongue map (image from James Beard Foundation). To make a perfect salad, pick ingredients that include all these tastes. And then make sure every forkful includes them!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mint and Lime - a Perfect Combination

I have decided that I need to use lime and mint together more. They are a perfect pair. Think about mojitos, for example. They are just lime, mint, rum, and soda water. And they are delicious!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sweet Potato and Chicken Thai Green Curry

This week's recipe pick for Wednesdays with Donna Hay is from a book that I don't own, Off the Shelf. But I found a blogger who had written about it and so I adapted the recipe I found.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Spinach with Sesame Dressing

If you are looking for a quick side dish, look no further! This is officially the recipe with the shortest cooking time on this entire blog.

Let's play a guessing game. Look at this beautiful spinach with sesame dressing, adapted from a recipe by Donna Hay. How long do you think the spinach is cooked for?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Hilarious, true to life writing. That's how I would describe Nora Ephron's novel, Heartburn. Ephron also wrote plays, essays, and screenplays, most notably When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and Julie & Julia.

Heartburn is a novel that is mostly autobiographical, and it was our Kitchen Reader pick for July. The narrator is a cookbook writer named Rachel whose life falls apart when she discovers her second husband is having an affair. Ephron somehow manages to make this a very funny book, while also being true to the pain of the situation, which mirrored her own life.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

How to Reduce the Sharpness of Raw Onions

I love raw onions but find they taste too strong. I feel as though their sharpness is just one notch too high for me. Thankfully there is an easy way to reduce the strong bite of raw onions slightly. And it only requires reordering your preparation steps.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Almonds

I found some beautiful Brussels sprouts at a grocery store near me. What a treat in Singapore - they are definitely not local food. These few sprouts cost me S$6.24, which is approximately GBP 3.25 or US$5. I made sure to enjoy every bite! I made them into my lunch: brussels sprouts with lemon, garlic, and almonds from Donna Hay's website.

Since coming to Singapore I bought my first Donna Hay cookbook! I've long admired Hay's simple food and absolutely beautiful styling. Below is the sort of image for which she is famous - this is from a recipe on her website for bacon and roasted tomato omelette. I love this photo because it is a very straightforward picture, not fussy, but nicely composed and inviting. Hay is also famous for this pale blue colour, just click through her website to see how prevalent it is. I am sometimes a bit in awe of blue in food photos; it's not at all common and hard to get right. All my photos with blue backgrounds look a bit sickly.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Supermarket Finds (and Mysteries) in Singapore

Hello Singapore! My husband and I have just moved here and I have been settling in by finding my closest grocery store. Today I snapped some photos of things I found there. Some of them are exciting finds, others are mysteries to me. (Please chime in if you know what to do with any of them.)

How small are these limes?! (Fingers shown for context; heehee.) Wow, the large ones are not that big and the small ones are tiny! They would make cute garnishes, but could they really be used for juicing?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Simple But Impressive Stuffed Peppers

I used to believe that stuffing a pepper (or mushroom, or squash) was a waste of time. And pretentious. Why bother with something that takes extra time and looks so ridiculous? Yet recently I have changed my tune.

I have come to believe that stuffing a pepper makes an easy meal look more impressive than it is. It's so easy to do. First, turn the oven on and cut some peppers in half. Put them into the roasting dish and into the oven while it heats. Meanwhile, scramble fry some meat and vegetables. Then pour the mixture into the hot peppers; top with cheese. Return the peppers to the oven to melt the cheese and voila! Impressive dinner!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Easy Braised Endive

Finding some endive at the grocery store was exciting! I have recently been wanting to try cooking it. Simple cooking is best for me - I don't have the patience to faff about too much. So I read up about cooking endive and distilled what I learned into the simplest tasty recipe.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Three-Star Lunch at Caprice

My husband and I went for the set lunch at Caprice this weekend. It's a three Michelin-starred restaurant in the Four Seasons hotel in Hong Kong. The view looks out over Hong Kong harbour.

We had three courses with a glass of wine. Allow me to describe each in a bit of detail.

Starter: chilled tomato consomme with mozzarella and tomato cocktail

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Pumpkin and Cranberry Muffins (Grain-Free)

What I love about cranberries is the way they make my mouth pucker. My teeth pop them open and the acidic juice quirts out. Just thinking about eating one of these muffins is making my saliva start to run. Does that happen to you when you think about eating sour foods?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pork and Shiitake Mushrooms in Lettuce Cups

Using my hands to eat seems to make the meal more fun. Don't you think? There is something about picking up the food that makes it so much more enjoyable. Except perhaps on a date, when I inevitably spill sauce down my wrists and into my sleeves. Or at a fancy restaurant when my sharp elbows pointing out at the neighbouring table make me feel conspicuously out of place. But at home I can eat with my fingers and let the sauce drip where it may.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Penguin Books "Great Food" Series

This month for the Kitchen Reader book club we were able to choose any book from the Penguin books "Great Food" series. It's a collection of twenty slender volumes by beautiful food writers that cover 400 years. I chose to read two books from the collection.

Love in a Dish by MFK Fisher

I have enjoyed the work of MFK Fisher before so this was my first choice from the "Great Food" series. Her writing is always insightful, useful, and funny. She strongly advocates for home cooking, which may explain why I like her so much, saying that eating average American restaurant food is "deliberate mass poisoning, a kind of suicide of the spirit as well as the body."

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Roasted Aubergine Dip

I am a veg-aholic. You may already know that I am in love with vegetables. That's why I started this blog. I think more people should become crazy veg-lovers! My main goal with this blog is to inspire other people to love vegetables - because I think they can be really versatile and delicious.

A lot of the people I meet have had bad experiences with vegetables. For example, have you tasted overcooked, mushy carrots with your school dinners? Or foul smelling boiled cauliflower, blanketed in bland sauce? There are some atrocious vegetable dishes out there!


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