Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Struggles’ Category

We managed another road trip with my parents on Thursday but this time, we weren’t as ambitious as before. It was a straightforward 40-ish minute drive to Cliveden, an estate now owned by the National Trust.

Cliveden actually means “valley among cliffs” and has been home to dukes, countesses and a Prince of Wales! Amongst others, of course. Its grounds are huge and its gardens are gorgeous. The day we went was another amazingly beautiful day, perfect for all the families who came with their little ones for a picnic and to run around.

The vastness of Cliveden made me wonder just how its past inhabitants used to get around. By horse? Carriage? Walking? And what if they needed to find each other? 

There was also an area where The Dollhouse was situated. They had these little tree stumps together with a big stump that doubled as chairs and a table. Dad got quite excited being able to sit on one of the stumps.

We continued further in to a large fountain also known as The Fountain of Love where the shell supports three females who are being seen to by Cupid. Yes, I actually try to do some kind of research on these things especially for those who are interested.

I’m sure there were a lot more to Cliveden that we missed out on simply because it was so big and we didn’t have enough time to explore every nook and cranny.

From this shell fountain, we walked up the long driveway leading to the mansion that now operates as a 5-star hotel.

We didn’t enter the hotel but we did walk round its terrace which gave us a bird’s eye view of the parterre. At 4 acres, this is possibly one of Europe’s largest formal gardens.

How cool is that?!

After reaching the parterre, we decided to try and loop back to the car as tummies were beginning to growl. We kind of overshot one of the turns but in doing so, we managed to get a nice shot of Flo and I amongst the tall trees with not a person in sight (behind us). We were all wondering actually, why the crowds had thinned out.

Mum, I think, was getting tired, so was a little annoyed that we had to walk the extra way to get onto the right path back to the car where lunch was waiting for us.

Olive Bread with Serrano Ham. 

Hopping back into the car, we continued on in search for what is allegedly the oldest freehouse in England. Mum and Dad were brought there by a good friend of theirs before and it wasn’t far off from Cliveden. Only… it’s located in a rather remote area so finding its exact location required some trial and error, before resorting to some old-fashioned help, before getting confirmation from Googlemaps which decided to come through for us only after we’d already asked for directions.

Rickety, uneven floors and a low ceiling greeted us at their entrance.

And the interior did feel quite dated with all the random paraphernalia seemingly gathered over the years, decades, centuries?

The place did look old, but whether or not its as old as the over 900 years that they claim to be, I’m not so sure.

Age aside, it still looked sturdy as a rock and while the boys had their pints in hand to cool them down in the afternoon sun, Mum and I settled for coffee.

We decided to have our drinks out in the warm sunshine even though the inside looked very cosy and intimate.

We managed to make it home much earlier this time around which was nice. Our day felt quite relaxed and it was great being able to spend more time out in the fresh air. Being home early also meant that dinner was served hot and fresh out of their pots and pans.

Grandma made my favourite Spinach Curry!! And Mum’s favourite Braised Chicken with Lily Bulbs and Shitake Mushrooms.

I know, I keep saying that Grandma made my favourite this and favourite that. That’s because they’re all my favourite and just as the flavour of Mum’s cooking is unique to herself, so is Grandma’s. Replicating the taste of her cooking would be a near impossible feat!

Also, on many previous trips, owing to my ED, I refrained from eating Grandma’s food what with the oil and salt and blah blah blah. I would buy my own food and cook them to my liking. So I think that being back this time around and allowing myself to enjoy grandma’s food also made her so much the happier. And there were times after dinner where I’d feel as though I’d overindulged but at the end of the day, it was a real treat being able to eat her familiar cooking so f*ck ED because it was worth it.

Read Full Post »

Our first morning in London – Northwood to be exact, the town where my family resides when we’re there. It was a soggy day, quite typical of the UK, and it was a bit of a bummer because I felt like Hamburg had totally impressed me with its weather and while I was hoping that London would do the same, it felt like a lame effort on her part.

I guess London being London, it just had to keep to its ‘usual’ default, predictable self. And that, I suppose, can be quite endearing.

After a nice breakfast at home, Flo and I went for a walk around the area. I just showed him our small little high street, and Waitrose – because we love supermarkets!! And just around the corner, was my old school where I did my A level’s.

Northwood College. 

The sign’s been changed and looks rather stiff and boring now. I mean, it didn’t look that much fancier before but it used to state the headmistress’s name as well and somehow it looked prettier.

Flo and I had a rough idea how we were going to plan our days in London so since we didn’t have much time there, we decided to take the family out for lunch first thing. Grandma and Grandpa chose to go for dim sum and I have to admit, I’ve had dim sum at their ‘usual’ before and wasn’t too impressed. We went there anyway, and whaddya know? Looks like they’ve upped their game. The dim sums were more refined and the only dish that disappointed us badly was the pork and century egg congee. That was just mehhh…

I kind of over-ordered not realising that grandma was adding on quite a few noodle dishes but all of us managed to polish everything off in the end. I helped quite a bit too although I did feel quite bad after. And even then, I hankered after a bit of dessert but decided to wait till later…

Because the fam-bam decided we would go visit Windsor Castle while grandma and grandpa went shopping at the Chinese Supermarket.

We used to visit Windsor every year when my brother and I were little. And every year we’d take a photo on their wooden benches by the castle. We” as in my family, and/or just my brother and I, and/or my parents and my brother, and/or my parents and me. You get the idea.

This time, we managed to get one with all of us including Flo. This lovely lady, she sounded Welsh, who was with her young family, gamely offered to help us take a photo. And she did a great job of it too!

Then after a bit of wandering along the Windsor high street, Flo and I decided to have some ice-cream. Not just any ice-cream. A softee! 

Again, this is something from my childhood that I haven’t had in years!

And with a Flake no less!

I remember Kor and I running up to the Mr. Softee van to buy a cone each whenever we were there in summer.

This time though, there wasn’t a van. Just a quaint little shop by Windsor Castle. A quaint little shop that sold these softees for £2.50 each!! Well, 50p extra for the Flake.

That pretty much summed up our Monday. We went home in time for grandma’s dinner. Mind you, we had dinner at home every day while we were in London because grandma kept enticing me by cooking all the food that she knows are my favourites. Also, she was very flattered that Flo enjoyed her cooking and that spurred her on to make sure she cooked at her highest level each evening. That’s what Chinese families are like – we show our love through food. The more we feed you, the more we love you. 

Tuesday morning, we left home at 10am, and went all old-school with the map to go to Stratford-upon Avon.

It took us a while because we decided to go through Oxford. Bad idea. Oxford had really heavy traffic getting back onto the motorway and just before we reached Stratford, Flo and I were dying for a pee.

We stopped by this super cute little town just before Marlborough, and found a pub that generously allowed us to use their restrooms. I loved how they had their walls embellished with these words/phrases of affirmation.

Yes. “Shine bright like a diamond”. We all know that song, but how often do we remember to shine like a diamond?

Also, this town seemed very into crafts and even the little barricades(?) by the roadside were adorned with knitted ‘hats’.

From the top…

Had your 5 a day?

When we finally reached Stratford, it was right about lunch time. So we quickly found a cafe where we could sit al fresco and order some hot drinks to go along with our homemade sandwiches.

Or breadrolls.

I had the poppyseed one.

With cream cheese and stuffed with salad greens and smoked salmon. Yummers!

Mum and Dad decided they wanted to continue with their sit-down so Flo and I took a walk around the street where Shakespeare used to trod on.

Right at the head of the street they have a statue of a Jester.

And to the side sits Shakespeare’s humble (or not-so-humble) abode.

A picture of me taking a picture of Mum and Dad.

And of course, a wefie!

We were contemplating going to the lake round the corner and were actually walking towards it when Mum informed us that if we wanted to visit Bath or Avebury, that it might be smarter to leave sooner rather than later. So we turned back towards the carpark where we set off towards Avebury since we ascertained that it’d be nicer to walk around the area than to visit a single site. Also, Flo had seen Roman baths in Italy before so we might as well go somewhere new.

And off we went.

Again, the journey took quite a while from Stratford and by the time we got there, it was already about 4pm.

We didn’t manage to spend too much time walking around the huge stones. The area actually consists of three stone circles, including the largest stone circle in Europe. They’re much like the ones set in Stonehenge only the nice thing about here is that you can still go up to the rocks and touch them.

Till today, when summer solstice arrives, so does a crowd of campers who might participate in meditation activities together or to simply enjoy the soundscape concert.

Perhaps some might be there for the sheep. Mum was a little reluctant to trod on the grass because of sheep poop pretty much everywhere. It’s not too bad as long as you watch where you’re stepping, or if you’re like Flo, you might not care at all and go chasing after the sheep.

My boyfriend, the shepherd. 

We were off not long after we arrived. I think we were a bit too ambitious this time taking a road trip to two places that were not very close to each other. Stratford was a bit of a drive away and we would have probably done better spending the day there rather than try to stop over at Avebury. It felt as though we’d spent more time sitting in the car than enjoying the fresh cool air of England and as we’re all not getting younger, you can imagine a lot of backache and leg cramp action going on the longer we sat in the car.

Oh. I also tried this Vanilla Coke Zero. It ended up being the only one I had because I couldn’t find it any place else.

I thought I’d struck gold when I picked up another bottle at our Northwood Newsagents’, only for Flo to point out that it was Vanilla Coke, no Zero. Boo! This was an absolute gem of a drink. It taste incredibly creamy and luscious. ’tis a pity it’s not available as widely as it should be!

Also, at the very place I found my Vanilla Coke Zero, I picked up a packet of this popcorn.

wp-image-1102128744

I wasn’t expecting much from it but it was so good! It really tasted like peanut butter even though they really just used peanut flour and ground almonds to flavour the popcorn. And a bit of sugar.

It blew my mind! On the way back I bought a packet of their Fiery Worcester Sauce & Sun-dried Tomato flavour but that was a bit of a let down. I’ll stick to the Peanut & Almond one.

Grandma cooked my favourites for dinner! I know it doesn’t look like much but Chinese home-cooking is a lot healthier and tastier than the salty, greasy stuff often found at Chinese takeaways.

Braised Chicken with Shitake Mushrooms and Chestnuts. And Glass Noodles stir-fried with Sweet Cabbage and Dried Shrimp. Aaaaand my favourite, comforting bowl of Lotus Root Soup on the side, unpictured, brewed with lots of patience, and love!

Read Full Post »

… And almond cake.

But before I get into the nitty gritties of my latest kitchen experiment, I had the privilege of baking Kim’s birthday cake albeit a little early since I’ll be away on her actual birthday.

She requested an Apple Walnut Cake with Peanut Butter Cream but as she’s pregnant and currently having to watch her sugar intake, I made this with 60-40 Coconut Sugar to Caster Sugar ratio, and refrained from adding sugar into the cream since peanut butter already has some of its own. I did drizzle more plain, melted peanut butter on top since peanut butter is love and who doesn’t want more of it?!

Kim’s special in that she was the one who recommended Dr. A to me. She’s a real inspiration to me and is someone I love and admire. Kim and her husband are both outstanding people not just in their accomplishments, but also in character. I know that both of them have gone through challenges in their lives, individually and as a couple, but God is faithful and they are now being blessed with a soon-to-be-born daughter whom I cannot wait to meet!

Now, this is actually a scheduled post and right now, I’m probably biting into a Currywurst and walking around Planten um Blomen in Hamburg with Flo. I’ll definitely be writing about my virgin trip to Hamburg as well as my 3484239th trip to London (first trip there with Flo though!) when I get back. In the meantime, I wanted to share this Date and Almond Cake recipe with you.

The Muslims are about to begin their fasting month and it is often the case that they break fast by eating dates. I have never fasted for religious purposes before, and I won’t even try to compare my ED days of extensive restriction to what my Muslim friends go through annually. I respect their steadfast dedication to their beliefs so what better than to demonstrate that than by baking a cake using dates!

Also… I just wanted to bake something different.

The beauty of this cake is that you get crunch from the almond nibs, a bit of chew from the dates, a hint of spice from the cinnamon, all smacked in the middle and on top of fluffy, vanilla cake!

Date and Almond Cake (Yields 1 8″ Round)

150g Finely Chopped Dates (I find it easier to cut them using a pair of scissors)
100g Almond Nibs
90g Brown Sugar
5g Cinnamon Powder

250g Butter
180g Caster Sugar
Vanilla Extract
3 Eggs
290g Plain Flour
7.5g Baking Powder
125g Milk

  1. Preheat oven to 170deg C and line an 8″ round baking tin. 
  2. For the filling and the topping, mix dates, almond nibs, brown sugar and cinnamon powder together and set aside. 
  3. Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Then add in vanilla and eggs one at a time. 
  4. Add dry ingredients and milk alternately, starting and ending with the dry mixture. 
  5. Pour half the batter into prepared tin, then sprinkle half the date and almond mixture on top. Pour the second half of the batter on top to cover, before topping with the rest of date and almond mixture. Gently press the mixture down into the cake batter so that they ‘stick’. 
  6. Bake for 75min. If the top starts to brown too much, cover with foil for the last 15min. 
  7. Allow to cool before removing from tin. 

This cake is perfect for sharing amongst friends and family. Have it as it is, or if you’re feeling indulgent, drizzle some salted caramel sauce or honey on top. This cake has so many different textures and flavours that work incredibly well with each other. Definitely stick to the dates but if almonds aren’t your thing, switch to walnuts or pecan nuts. Not into cinnamon? Try ginger or cardamom!

Chances are, this cake isn’t going to last you through to when I return from my little Eurotrip. I’ll be back though so don’t you forget me!

And a quick update:

I saw Dr. A one more time last Monday because I wanted to get a little ‘booster shot’ before leaving for Europe. After a couple good weeks, ED is trying to hit on me again which is expected since that’s what bullies do. I’m anxious about how meals will be while I’m away but apparently, our body reacts to fear and excitement in exactly the same way. The only difference is how we perceive the situation. In other words, I may actually be excited about the different foods I’ll get to try especially in Hamburg – tasting things that Flo grew up with. Will I fall in love with them? We’ll just have to wait and see…

Read Full Post »

Flo and I had another cooking session together this past weekend since we figured after our salmon dinner the other time, that we’re pretty good cooks. And food cooked with love tastes even more awesome.

We decided to go for something relatively simple but fun – Vietnamese Summer Rolls. Only, we switched things up a little by making beef bulgogi and because I couldn’t find the thick vermicelli noodles often used in the filling, I went for enoki mushrooms as fillers instead.

I sliced up some tenderloin steak the night before and did a quick, easy bulgogi marinade  for the beef to sit in overnight. I found the recipe on My Korean Kitchen although I scaled down the portions and used less sugar. I also used Asian pear instead of the apple but Ooooh the flavour was really good anyway. Flo did the cooking of the beef slices which was perfect. They were not too sweet and very tender.

We also grilled up some prawns before having them, sliced up some red onions, and julienned a carrot. Flo did most of the handiwork this lunch, while I plucked the mint and basil leaves off their stems.

Flo also made the sauce while I made sure he got the measurements right. Keeping in with the idea of Korean-inspired Vietnamese Summer Rolls, we made a Gochujang dipping sauce. I find that gochujang is already sweet by itself so we left out sugar in our recipe.

Flo was exceptionally generous with the garlic so you can imagine how lovely our breaths smelled after we were done with our meal. We both tried to make photogenic summer rolls but for some reason, our rice paper kept getting really sticky no matter how quickly we dipped it into the lukewarm water. Yeah, I’m blaming the rice paper and not our wrapping skills in creating not so pretty looking rolls. Still, they were very tasty with the herbaceousness from the mint and basil, that gentle kick of spice from the gochujang dipping sauce, the smokiness of the prawns and the savoury sweetness of the beef.

This week has also been very busy for me. It’s been cakes galore with Mother’s Day being on Sunday and then lots of birthdays the rest of the week. It looks like May is a popular month for babies to be born.

Also, because I’ll be leaving to Europe on Sunday where I’ll meet Flo who’s going a couple days earlier to attend a wedding, I’ve been trying to meet the extra orders from the cafes I supply to so that they’ll be able to have enough cakes for the two weeks I’ll be out of action. The kitchen has been buzzing with activity and the closer it’s getting to the end of the week, the more tired I’m getting and the more excited I am to go on my holiday. I’m half-dreading the work load when I return but I’ll leave that for when I’m back.

I guess the tiredness has also made me feel a bit more bleh about the physical changes my body is currently undergoing. When I’m tired my brain automatically translates that to feelings of fatness. The fact is though, that as big as I may feel, it’s probably because I feel like I haven’t yet got on top of all my orders even though I’m currently on schedule for all my tasks. The process of still wading through my work makes me feel as though I’m not in control but in reality, I am. In reality, based on what I’ve set myself to do each day until the end of this week, I’m right on the ball.

In order to make light of my negative feelings, I decided to get some dark chocolate. The last time I made Rye Brownies, I used 70% dark chocolate and I felt like going darker might not be a bad thing. After all, once you go black…

Anyway, dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, has been proven to improve blood circulation, raises good cholesterol, protects the heart aaaaaaand is good for brain function. It also makes people happy.

90% Cocoa Dark Chocolate! I was contemplating 99% but I think that would have been a little hardcore. Instead, I used 160g of this dark chocolate and mixed it with 40g of 60% dark chocolate to use in my brownies, while reducing the amount of sugar so that the recipe yielded a more bitter brownie with just enough sugar to sweeten the deal.

I added orange zest into the brownie batter for a touch of tang as well as some shiro miso for that hint of salty umaminess. Then I threw some white chocolate buttons on top to caramelise while the brownie baked in the oven.

Bitter dark chocolate offset by fragrant zesty orange, followed by a wave of subtle miso, and finished with a light caramel flavour from the sweet white chocolate. So rich and so decadent.

90% Cocoa Dark Chocolate Orange Miso Brownies (Yields 1 8×8″ Square):

200g Dark Chocolate, Melted
200g Butter
115g Sugar
3 Eggs
50g Shiro Miso
1 Orange, Zested
50g Plain Flour
50g Cocoa Powder
85g White Chocolate Droplets, to top

  1. Preheat oven to 175deg C and prepare an 8×8″ baking tin.
  2. Cream butter with sugar, then add miso paste and orange zest in to blend. 
  3. Add melted chocolate.
  4. Incorporate plain flour and cocoa powder until just mixed.
  5. Pour batter into baking tin and scatter white chocolate droplets on top – the oven heat will caramelise them.
  6. Bake for 20-25min, then remove from oven to cool before cutting.

Again, as with most of my recipes, you can play around with the ingredients. You can omit the orange zest or use a less intense chocolate. However, what I really love about these brownies really is the boldness of the dark chocolate that really stands out. This is a brownie for serious dark chocolate lovers and less for the kiddies. Give it a go and you may fall for it hard just like I did.

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Food challenges are part and parcel of ED recovery, although there are other factors that may contribute to the ED and need to be dealt with concurrently.

My appointment with Dr. A last week went well and it was quite a light-hearted session. I shared with her about how I think that things are going well for me and how I feel better equipped mentally to handle food situations most of the time. I also shared with her about how reframing my negative feelings have helped me to feel more in control of my emotions, as well as my own well being.

I am becoming increasingly aware of how my body has changed over the last few months. Pictures that I used to think looked ‘chubby’ now make me cringe a little at how emaciated I actually looked, how tired, lifeless. And current pictures are sometimes a touch bit challenging to look at even though I have to admit that they look a lot healthier and I am a lot happier. Learning to accept my body is a work in progress, but so far, I’m not hating it.

One of the things Dr. A asked me during our session was how I think I’m doing on a scale of 1 to 10 with regards to recovery. I told her that I think I’m a 7. I’m handling my fear of carbs a lot better and I always try to incorporate some carbs when I make dinner for Flo and I. I’m able to consume carbs as part of my lunch meal even when dining alone – which is often the case on weekdays, and every week I try to push myself a little harder by incorporating something more into that meal.


I still find it difficult when facing a variety of food choices and usually opt for slightly safer options when at the hawker centre. For example, I go for soupier dishes and while some are much nicer in a soup form, other dishes taste better when eaten dry. Like wanton mee (wanton noodles). The other day when Flo had his wanton mee dry, I went for the soup version. Truth be told, I hadn’t had wanton mee for so long and never in my life before ED had I ordered wanton mee soup before. So yeah, the soup version was a little bland and not very exciting at all. Also, I guess I would struggle to bring myself to the hawker centre or food court if not for Flo, preferring instead to prepare something at home.

Dr. A then posed a challenge to me. Her challenge was to have a plate of dry wanton mee, and finish it all by myself before our next session. If I wanted to, I could try it alone, or I could have it with Flo.

Was I up for it? She asked.

Immediately, I could feel my brain whizz in panic – OMG! Calories. Carbs. Fat. They put lard in the noodles don’t they? All that sauce to mix into the noodles. Can I do it? Should I do it?

And then I took a deep breath and thought about all the big meals I’ve had that’s sure to put a little plate of wanton mee to shame – in particular, that Omakase meal. I decided that it was just ED instilling fear in me, when in reality, I have faced much greater food challenges before and managed to overcome them.

So Sunday lunch time, we met Amanda and Alex for lunch at Haig Road Food Centre before our Diablo 3 Marathon. I did queue up for my plate of wanton mee. For a good 15-20min. Wedged tight between two old aunties – one who liked her bum rubbing against me, and the other who liked her belly resting against my back.

I did order my plate of wanton mee – $3.

And…

I did finish my plate of wanton mee.

I did enjoy it but after seeing and tasting a little of Flo’s wanton mee that he ordered for the other stall he’s been eager to try but has never been open every single time we went until this last Sunday… I think his plate of noodles tasted that little bit yummier. The grass is always greener on the other side it seems.

Whatever the case, I made it through the plate of noodles and am none the worse for wear because of it. Life is still going on and I don’t think I’ve gained one-ton from the won-ton. Get it get it??? Hurhur..

In other news, we had Mum and Dad over Saturday evening for dinner. Flo cooked the German Bratwurst we bought from Huber’s which turned out nice, porky, and very juicy.

Alongside, we had a bit of cheese and cold cuts, as well as the lobster I managed to get at 50% off!! I get so happy when I find good stuff on special. Of course, it was a little lobster, and getting it out of its shell was my only contribution to dinner. Still, it was done meticulously and with a whole lot of love.

Read Full Post »

I understand that being a home baker doesn’t sound like a very difficult job. Essentially, it’s like having a hobby and earning money off of it. The truth is though, while it may seem that I sit around at home doing little else but throw batter into the oven every so often, it can be highly demanding especially when orders come flooding in. And trust me, when it rain, it pours. Similarly, there can be periods of lulls too.

I don’t generally start my day as early as most office people do. I have the luxury of rolling out of bed at 9am, I have the flexibility of going out for tea, I have the ability to fit in supermarket runs to pick up groceries for dinner, I can also find time to clean and tidy up the house while I have cakes baking away. What matters most to me is that by the end of the day, I have my orders ready, or my prep work done for the cakes waiting to get dressed up the next day.

Some days, I start work straight after breakfast, shovel a quick 5-10min lunch into my mouth, and carry on with more work until late afternoon. 4pm, 5pm.. That’s a pretty good time to finish work and clean up. But imagine standing on your feet for 7-8 hours to mix up batter, make frosting, decorate cakes, wash equipment, dry equipment and repeat just so that your other half can come home to a place that looks nowhere near the chaos that was only a couple hours ago.

In a way, I guess I’m like those toys you had as a child, the ones that came to life the minute you shut the door behind you to go to school, wreaking havoc through your bedroom, only to settle back exactly the way they were placed the second your door creaked open.

Something that I struggle with sometimes though, is that because I work from home, people generally see what I do as ‘fun’. Of course, I have a lot of friends who are supportive and order cakes for special occasions. Then I have others who expect free bakes from me whenever we meet. I guess I also put it on myself to bake cakes for close friends on their birthdays. The difference though, is that when it is expected of me versus when it is something I choose to do, it makes me feel I’m not being taken seriously as a baker.

Ingredients cost money. Time costs money. Don’t get me wrong, I love experimenting and creating new baked goods. In doing so, I often have more than Flo and I can eat so I try to distribute them out to friends and family to enjoy and give feedback on. It’s those times when people request for cakes and pastries like I owe it to them that irks and upsets me.

Now, I don’t make a whole lot of money but what I make it enough for me to get by. I’m trying to make a living here too so just because I don’t get dressed up every morning to go to the office, just because I don’t sit at my own desk, and just because I don’t have a regular monthly income going straight into my bank account, does not make my work inferior.

Also, people forget that when we don’t work, we don’t get paid. At the same time, I am a big believer in life experiences so I feel that it’s ok to put money into travel especially, and it’s nice to be able to enjoy a good meal from time to time too.

Falling ill is a big no-no when you are your one and only employee. I remember once when I was crazy ill with UTI (which was symptomless and was initially diagnosed as dengue), feeling faint, aching to the bones and running a temperature that kept returning after the panadol had worn off, I still had to haul myself to the kitchen and bake for my customers. So in a way, there are no off-days and I can’t tell a customer that I can’t bake their child their birthday cake because I’m ill, or that the cake didn’t turn out the way I wanted so I’ll bake it again and deliver it the day after instead.

It may seem that being a home baker is a rather stress-free job especially since there’s no one breathing down my neck, no boss to report to. The truth is, I see my customers as ‘bosses’ because my aim with each cake is to be able to meet their expectations, or surpass them even. I want to be able to deliver cakes that not only brings a smile to their faces upon seeing them, but also a warmth to their hearts and stomachs upon eating them.

Just yesterday, I was dealt with a bit of a crisis when I was about to start decorating an apple walnut cake. Upon cutting into it, I realised that my complacency had led me to bake a cake that was not fully cooked. It couldn’t be salvaged and I had a mere three hours to bake a new one, cool it down, whip up a batch of frosting and get it decorated. In fact, factor in the time spent stocking up on fresh ingredients and travelling from home to the delivery place and really, I only had a little more than two hours.

I had to think quick and switch to a different recipe that baked faster and cooled quicker. I used a lighter sponge and quickly grated up two Granny Smiths while the eggs whisked to volumise, crushed some walnuts, and had the cake baking for a good half hour. Said cake is in the two pictures above. 

I made a quick lunch to scoff down as it cooled before having to slice up a still-slightly warm cake, make a fresh batch of Honey Mascarpone Cream, and assemble the whole thing before the cream melted in our tropical heat. I left the cake in the fridge to chill for as long as I could before undertaking the mission to deliver it in one piece.

To be honest, I worried that the cake was not baked to the level that I would have liked having been done under a high level of stress and time pressure. But in the evening, Kim, who ordered the cake for her colleague, sent Ada’s feedback to me which read:

“OMG! The cake is sooooooo yummy!!! The flavours go so well together… it’s light without compromising on the complexity of the taste… really very good…”

And that was enough to make my day and remind me of why I do what I love, and love what I do.

Which brings me to this:

I’ve been dabbling in more healthier bakes recently and it’s true that healthier isn’t necessarily less tasty. While I’ve still not gone in the direction of making everything gluten-free or eggless or butter-less, I mean, honestly, butter is gold!, I think that there are ways to adjust recipes to make them that little bit more nutrient-dense.

My love affair with blondies and brownies has not ended either. So I married the idea of healthier bakes with brownies to get my latest favourite dense, fudgy brownie that hits the spot with every bite. Yes, I change favourites like I change my undies. But seriously, Dark ChocolateRoast Almonds… A sprinkle of Maldon Sea Salt… mixed with Rye Flour and Coconut Sugar. What’s not to like? And dark chocolate is apparently full of antioxidants so it’s a health food!

Now before I share my recipe, I’ll have you know that I used a mix of two chocolates because they were on special and I decided to take the lazy route and not toast my own almonds. I used Cadbury’s Old Gold 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate and Old Gold Dark Chocolate with Roast Almonds. I used them in equal parts and voila! Party in your mouth!! I might bake this again with an even darker chocolate just because I can, but I went for 70% this time because I was being a wuss.

Dark Chocolate Rye Brownies (Yields 1 9×9″ Square)

300g Dark Chocolate (In my case, 150g 70% Dark Chocolate + 150g Dark Chocolate with Roast Almonds)
150g Butter
165g Caster Sugar
165g Coconut Sugar
4 Eggs
200g Rye Flour
50g Cocoa Powder
2.5g or 1/2tsp Baking Powder
Coarse sea salt to sprinkle on top

  1. Preheat oven to 180deg C and line a 9×9″ baking tin.
  2. Melt chocolate(s) with butter on a bain marie. Once melted, remove from heat and whisk in both sugars and eggs.  
  3. Mix in rye flour, cocoa powder and baking powder until just incorporated. 
  4. Pour batter into prepared tin and spread evenly. Sprinkle coarse sea salt over the top and bake for 20-25min. 
  5. Let cool on a baking rack before slicing. 

Honestly, the roast almonds were a wonderful nutty, crunchy addition to the brownies so either do what I did and get a bar of your favourite chocolate bar with nuts to use in this recipe, or toast some almonds and throw them in. Insanely yummy and not to mention quite highly nutritious with rye that’s high in fibre, low in GI and rich in iron and magnesium. Still, that’s not to say that you should eat a tray of these brownies in one sitting. Everything in moderation my dears!

Anyway, I’m sure that a lot of people who work from home may, or may not, identify with all that I’ve just shared. Some days, I sit back and wonder if I should just get a straight-laced office job with regular hours and good pay. Most days, I think about how so many (note: not all) friends complain about their cushy jobs that comes with a fat pay check and wonder how happy they are dragging themselves to a job they loathe every single day. The thought of putting myself in their shoes is what constantly strengthens my resolve to continue with what I’m doing – at least for as long as it can sustain me. 🙂

Read Full Post »

It’s been quite a crazy few days but such is life.

Flo and I were treated to some of Mum’s lovely Chicken Curry last week. I made some Spinach with Garlic to go with the Brown Basmati Rice I cooked as well. Flo’s quarter-Indian blood clearly shone when he ladled spoonful after spoonful of curry over his rice, almost drowning it. The only ‘ang moh’ (Caucasian) thing that got me quite tickled was that he wasn’t used to having bones in the chicken. Still, he quickly picked up the art of eating chicken off the bone using a fork and a spoon.

I’ve not had Mum’s chicken curry in so long because of the ED and I hesitated even wanting to have it. But diving into Mum’s lovingly cooked food filled me with flavours of nostalgia. They were familiar to me in the way only Mum’s cooking can be, and even with an infinite number of curries all over the world that many might say is the best, to me, Mum’s ranks as #1. No contest!

Last Monday being Labour Day or May Day, I had another day of Flo with me! We had a really good weekend that consisted of rest and activity in equal measure – sleeping in, shopping, binge watching Scrubs, comedy night… So when Monday came around, Flo wanted to stay in and play his Game of the Moment – Horizon? I think that’s what it’s called.

We were thinking of popping downstairs to get lunch but in the end, I mentally scanned through the bits and pieces of food we had in the fridge and decided that he could play a little longer while I fixed something up.

I made a quick Shakshuka with Prawns thrown in, Avocados on top as well as some crumbled Blue Cheese, served with sliced, toasted Rye Bread. Nothing fancy but still quite delicious if I do say so myself!

Just yesterday, I received a call from my gynae’s clinic regarding my pap smear results. Apparently I have some abnormal cell changes that require a week’s treatment followed by another pap smear in 3 months’ time.

It kind of sucks visiting the gynae’s clinic more often than most people and perhaps part of it may have been my own fault because of my poor eating habits thereby creating a lower immune system. Perhaps as healthy as I may appear externally, in the sense that I don’t often fall sick, I may not be quite so strong internally.

The results aren’t particularly anything to worry about but for sure, it would have been a lot nicer to have had good results without any complications. Needless to say, I didn’t have the biggest smile on my face leaving the clinic after picking up my course of medication, but one thing that did manage to put that smile back on were these Brondies I made. I dubbed them Brondies because they’re a hybrid of Blondies and Brownies. Perfect for days when you cannot decide which one to go for!

I did quite a bit of honey for sugar substitution, and decided to incorporate some Earl Grey Tea into the blondie. The result, I am happy to say, was a beautiful blend of floral aromats just strong enough to hold its own against its rich, chocolatey counterpart. The toasty Walnuts on top did their job of providing some texturally contrast as well as imparting a lovely nutty flavour to the brondie.

Brondies (Yields 1 x 8×8″ Square or 12 pcs)

Earl Grey Almond Blondie Layer:
75g Butter, melted
45g Brown Sugar
45g Honey
1 Egg
60g Almond Flour
60g Plain Flour
1 Sachet Earl Grey Tea 

Brownie Layer: 
75g Butter
90g Dark Chocolate Chips
50g Brown Sugar
50g Honey
1 Egg
30g Cocoa Powder
40g Plain Flour

Chopped Walnuts (Optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 180deg C and line an 8×8″ baking tin.
  2. Prepare blondie layer:
    Melt butter and stir in sugar and honey. 
    Whisk in egg.
    Incorporate almond flour, flour and earl grey tea into wet mixture until just combined. 
    Set aside.
  3. Prepare Brownie layer:
    Melt butter with chocolate and stir in brown sugar and honey. 
    Whisk in egg. 
    Incorporate cocoa powder and flour into wet mixture until just combined. 
  4. Spread blondie layer into the base of prepared in. 
  5. Pour brownie batter on top and try to spread over blondie layer as evenly as possible.
  6. Top with chopped walnuts and bake for 18-22min until just set. 
  7. Let cool before slicing. 

As with most of my recipes, these are easy to play around with. You may omit the earl grey tea from the blondie layer and choose instead to add in white chocolate chips. You could put in a caramel layer in between the blondie and the brownie. Candied almonds would go really well in this recipe as well or you might even want to throw in some Rolos just for the fun of it.

We don’t always know what life is going to throw at us but I always believe that whatever happens, everything will always turn out well. We just have to have a little faith and trust that rainbows will come after we’ve weathered the storms. And if there’s anything I’ve learnt through baking, it’s that wherever there’s cake, or brondies for that matter, there are always happy smiles! 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »