Goodbye world! Also, Gwen and Dimitri made us zuccanoes…

Dear friends,

This is going to be last blog post for maybe a little while, maybe a lot while, or maybe forever.

I have loved writing this blog and I have loved sharing my life and loves with my readers but it’s now time for me to retreat back into my shell.

I recently realized I was increasingly feeling like this blog was a burden rather than a boon and that planning, photographing and writing these posts felt like it was taking me out of my life, rather than enhancing it. I also felt like I didn’t want to share so much of myself anymore. Weird coming from me, the most extroverted person I know – minus one very boisterous friend I shall not name. And finally if I’m going to do something I want to do it right and I’m not doing this blog right. Snatching moments to write posts, coming up with ideas on the fly – that’s just not giving it my all and I know it.

SO it is time to say farewell!

Dimitri and Gwen <3
Dimitri and Gwen ❤
But before I go here are some pictures and a recipe of the food served at a dinner party I held at home with the most charming couple in the world – Gwen and Dimitri. This was supposed to be posted under my cooking with friends series and the party was so much fun that I realized I didn’t want to be taking pictures of the dinner. I just wanted to spend time with the people there.

Gwen is my colleague and friend and Dimitri is her lovely husband. For your reference Gwen is American and Dimitri is French (so you can imagine the accents, in your head). A little bit about this charming couple’s charming story – don’t worry I won’t give it all away – they met in a random Southeast Asian country where they were both on holiday.  There was some picture-taking, some well-timed rain, some huddling under the umbrella which obviously led to true love.

Listening to the story is one thing but getting to know them has been another. Let’s just say I have a people crush on them and how kind, sharp and charming that these two are – apart and together.

When I put out the call for people to cook with Gwen (a) volunteered to cook, (b) came up with the dish she was going to cook and (c) brought her nice camera along to take pictures of the food for my blog. FYI, this is how to be a good friend.

Gwen and Dimitri decided to make zuccanoes, which is this stuffed zucchini crazy-delicious-ness that is one of her favorite recipes from a while ago.

Artistic mise en place - with a frenchman at the helm - would you expect any less?
Artistic mise en place – with a frenchman at the helm – would you expect any less?
ALL THE COLORS!
ALL THE COLORS!
You start with hollowed out zucchinis... (by the way hollowing them out is SUPER hard - this is when I discovered that Gwen has super-human strength)
You start with hollowed out zucchinis… (by the way hollowing them out is SUPER hard – this is when I discovered that Gwen has super-human strength)
A recipe that puts you to work - mid way through the million steps needed to make this happen.
A recipe that puts you to work – mid way through the million steps needed to make this happen.
More work
More work
Work SO MUCH WORK
Work SO MUCH WORK
My lovely dinner mates
My lovely dinner mates
Bartender for the night
Bartender for the night

I decided to make dark chocolate mousse with a gingersnap base for dessert because DAYAMN. Wouldn’t you too?

#ourstomachsbroke
#ourstomachsbroke
Recipes for the food above can be found here:
Zuccanoes – Mollie Katzen
Dark chocolate pudding with gingersnap crumbs – The Sugar Hit
Espresso Martini – The Telegraph

Happy me with my pudding. ALL MY PUDDING.
Happy, blurry me with my pudding. ALL MY PUDDING.
***

It’s been a blast my friends – I’m going to miss all the positive feedback and love!

See you in the real world!

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Just eat the goddamn pudding

Bread pudding!
Bread pudding!
I have what you can call an interesting relationship with food.

As a kid I basically ate everything which meant I was a little soft around the edges.

This meant A LOT of teasing in primary school and as I grew older, I grew heavier. Finally, in high school there came a year where I ate very little and exercised very much.

That year changed my relationship with food – it became an enemy and something to fear. Weirdly enough I also started thinking about it a whole lot more – despite not consuming very much.

Fifteen years later I still have a very intense relationship with food but don’t think I will ever fall back into the pit of unhealthy deprivation. I eat specific things that I think are healthy and nutritious and give me a lot of energy. I also make sure I have an allotment of chocolate everyday for, you know, #health.

Still sometimes, when I want to make and eat a desert all these old feelings of trepidation rush back – is this is a good idea, will there be too much, do I really need these extra calories, but I CAN’T BE EATING CAKE FOR BREAKFAST FOR FIVE DAYS!!!!

This past weekend all these confusing feelings and thoughts flooded my brain after I decided I had to make bread pudding (I mean I had a leftover baguette, what’s a girl to do?). That was when I had a bit of a “check yourself, before you wreck yourself,” moment.

Eating a bit of bread pudding is not going to kill me. It might even make me happy (in that moment, I know food is not the solution to all things). And while I don’t advocate eating cake and bread pudding and generous mouthfuls of refined white sugar everyday, it’s important to let myself eat the things I want and love, sometimes.

It’s irritating, but also true, that moderation might be the only way to approach food and also life.

*The bread pudding I linked to is the recipe I used and it was GORGEOUS. Skip the sauce though – eat with maple syrup/honey instead!

Weekend Meal Prep YOUCANDO

Prepping for prep
Prepping for prep

Every weekend I set aside about two to three hours, to plan how I’m going to take over the world.

No seriously, because the only way that I can take over the world is if I eat well-balanced, nutritious food that will then give me enough energy to take over the world. Right?

But more seriously this is my post about meal prepping on weekends. I got into meal prepping for two simple reasons 1) Shutterbean and 2) IHAVENOTIME.

Let me explain.

1) Shutterbean is this fantastic blog written by Tracy who cooks these wonderfully healthy and varied meals not just for her blog, but also for her family (her husband and son). And she achieves this by being organized and prepping the ingredients and pre-cooking certain items on the weekend. Check out her awe/jealousy-inspiring meal prep grams here, here and here.

2) IHAVENOTIME. I know, I have a choice in life, I can stop saying I’m so busy and sit down and smell the roses… but guess what? I don’t want to do that. I want to run and go to yoga and hang out with my friends and go to work and read and do my laundry and read a book and get 8 hours of sleep AND eat somewhat healthily. SO. That means being a little organized and getting some stuff prepped over the weekend.

I don’t prep like Tracy, since I don’t have a family, but what I do is that I have a simple rule. I try not to eat more than one meal out a day, so if I’m eating dinner out I’ll pack a lunch for work, if not I’ll eat the dinner for the week.

I hard-boil 5 eggs for breakfast and make either a muesli or granola every two weeks which I enjoy with greek yogurt. That is my breakfast all week – minus the one day I get my chocolate almond croissant from Tiong Bahru Bakery.

I prep a salad for the week by buying spinach leaves or romaine (they keep fresh for about three days), grill vegetables (usually a combo of carrots, beets, peppers, etc), grill chicken, make a salad dressing (loving this one right now) and cook 1/2 cup of dried quinoa (about 5 meals worth for me). That lasts me for about five meals and mid-week I usually re-do the whole process.

This takes me about 2 to 3 hours, with plenty of time in between to dance around my apartment or do more laundry.

Totally doable right? And I’m not advocating an oat and salad filled existence.

Make whatever the hell you want.

Mel, my apartment mate, preps awesome tofu-veggie pasta salads every weekend.

Another good friend puts together protein and fish and fruit every night for her BYOL.

Just think about eating and living intentionally. Because – it’s kind of awesome.

The TASTIEST Granola Bars

Starting out
Starting out
I really like fake healthy food. Like oatmeal cookies. Granola. Granola in the bar form. Oat bars. Fully loaded oatmeal. I think I’m seeing a trend.

I think I like these treats because they have nuts and oats and dried fruit and all these nutrients but really they’re just full of sugar – and taste like it.

So, when I was scheduled to go on a nature walk to see otters (I didn’t see them) at 7:00am in the morning, I knew one thing would make this exercise infinitely more tolerable.

Crazy tasty and filling granola bars that I could whip out of my tote bag (because I’m eco-friendly like that!) and munch as I surveyed nature. And stuff.

All packed in
All packed in
Browned to perfection
Browned to perfection

When it came time to cut these – they didn’t stick together. They just failed and crumbled.

I had to shove it into foil and mold it into a square shape for my nature walk.

I have to admit, I was skeptical about these babies but one bite and I was swooning. They’re just crazy delicious and the right amount of sweet and chewy. I’m salivating as I write this.

When I got home I found that everyone in my house was also totally into them. And the fact that they were basically only possible to eat with a spoon? Did not phase us one bit.

I urge you to make these, eat them with friends, eat them alone, eat them for tea, eat them for breakfast, eat them with greek yogurt… Just make them. And eat them. What else are you doing this weekend?

A crumbly situation...
A crumbly situation…

Deb’s recipe is very adaptable but this is my ingredient list – be sure to follow her instructions at the link below:

1 2/3 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 Tbsps melted butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp water

*Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Home-made Muesli

HELLO!

My brekkie!
My brekkie!
I really tried to come up with something good after a long hiatus from Salad Mondays. I still eat salads, like everyday, but they’re the same damn salad. This salad to be specific.

So yesterday I decided to try something different.

Ok, I’m lying, it was basically that same salad with a tahini based dressing.

Salad nooooooooooo
Salad nooooooooooo
Looks ok, doesn’t it?

It was gross. Not super gross, but heavy gross, and unworthy of being touted as a Salad Monday salad.

SO – this was going to be a post I saved for a Friday or a Saturday to inspire some weekend projects but instead, since it turned out so beautifully and made me so happy this morning, I decided to share this little bit of success/heaven.

Every morning I eat some oat based breakfast. It’s usually overnight oats or granola or muesli. After months of the first two, I caved and bought a bag of Marks and Spencer’s “Four Berry Muesli”. Very delicious. Also, very expensive at about SGD15 a bag. It was also close to expiration.

So every morning, as I shoveled this very expensive and slightly stale cereal down my throat (with greek yogurt, obs), I realized I should try making it because a) I had most of the ingredients in my house and b) whatever I made should be cheaper.

This is what I came up with and seriously – it tastes fresh and nutty and is WAY better than any store bought muesli I have ever had, is easier to make than granola and is probably healthier – coz no added sugar!

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup chopped almonds, toasted/roasted (with no added salt)
1 Tbsp chia seeds
2/3 cup raisins
2/3 cups dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 175C/350C.

Spread oats onto a baking sheet until its 1/4 inch deep (ish). Toast for ten minutes, stirring once in the middle.

Remove from oven and cool in a separate tray/ big plates.

At this point you can toast the almonds if you need to. Ten minutes should do it.

Once cool, evenly scatter the almonds, chia seeds, raisins and dried cranberries over the oats.

Carefully scoop into an air-tight container.

And done!
And done!
Serve with milk or yogurt. Drink black coffee. Revel in your brilliance.

*Adapted from Leite’s Culinaria.

Butter Cake with Coconut Lemon Curd

Cracked Cake! Not to be confused with Crack Cake...
Cracked Cake! Not to be confused with Crack Cake…

The motivation behind this cake – was a donut.

The motivation behind the coconut lemon curd – was a lack of tastiness.

Let me rewind.

So, Saturday last week, I awoke, slightly worse for the wear after… let’s call it, an enthusiastic Friday night.

The only solution was – brunch. And grocery shopping. Because I had to make food. And get on with my day. Because no matter how you feel – you gotta get shit done. Coz you’re an ADULT. See here for inspiration.

So, in my mind I had a game plan. I was gonna go, get the freaking groceries and get a donut from Starbucks. A glazed old-fashioned donut with a cup of black coffee. And life would be beautiful.

After getting all them groceries and ambling over to Starbucks, the semi-polite barista informed me they were out of donuts.

WHAT???

Since my entire plan for happiness, that Saturday, was precariously hinged on whether I not I ate that donut, I left said Starbucks knowing that all hope was lost.

I had nothing else to do but make butter cake.

Also I bought a lot of eggs. Butter cake requires many eggs.

All the batter
All the batter

I would like to tell you that after I hate-baked this cake I discovered that it was quite dry. This may be because I baked it like 10 minutes more than the recommended time. The batter was still jiggling – OK? The only thing I could do – obviously – was to then make lemon curd to go with it.

The curd!
The curd!

When life gives you lemons…

Butter Cake
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature – I used salted because I didn’t have unsalted. Don’t judge.
1 + 2/3 cup / 200gm all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup / 200gm castor sugar
4 eggs
½ tsp salt
4 Tbsps yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F.

Grease a loaf pan with butter, line with parchment paper, and grease that. Foolproof dudes. Use this method when baking.

Sieve the flour and baking powder together, stir in the salt.

Use an electronic mixer, unless you want to hate your life, to cream the butter and sugar together until pale yellow in color.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Add in the vanilla extract and mix well.

Fold in the flour. I did this by spooning the flour in and making a “figure 8” shape with my spatula. Mel told me to do this. It worked.

Add in the yogurt and mix.

Pour mixture into the baking pan and smooth down with a knife.

Bake until golden brown and no longer jiggly! About 40 minutes. Use a cake tester to see if cooked.

Reading this recipe properly now, I realize I baked it at the wrong temperature, so 40 minutes might actually work.

Coconut Lemon Curd
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (approximately the juice of 1 lemon)
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (approximately the zest of 1 lemon)
1/3 cup / 70gm sugar
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup / 60g unsalted butter, cubed
4 Tbsps coconut milk

Measure out the lemon juice, zest and sugar into a saucepan. Cook over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves completely.

Whisk egg yolks in a medium heatproof bowl until frothy and add the hot lemon mixture slowly. Whisk continuously to combine. Strain the mixture through a mesh sieve.

Return to the heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, stirring continuously, until the mixture sticks to the back of a wooden spoon. Do not allow the mixture to boil.

Remove from the heat and add the butter cubes, whisking until fully combined.

Finally, add the coconut milk and whisk to combine.

Set aside to cool. Should keep in the fridge for about a week.

*Butter Cake and Coconut Lemon Curd from Rasa Malaysia.

A slice of buttery goodness
A slice of buttery goodness

Funny thing about this cake and lemon curd was, I really thought it was just kind of blahhhh but my flatmates ate it all. I guess one person’s butter cake can be another person’s chocolate chip cookie.

Super Simple Roast Chicken and Spaghettini Aglio Olio

Chicken done right!
Chicken done right!
This past weekend and week – I two dinner parties (with my attendees help) and they both went really well. The first was a Taco Salad Bar with my girlfriends. Just prepped the ingredients and let each girl fix their own bowl.

The second was a lovely dinner in with Alex and Avi – my best bros. The challenge? Pulling this off on weeknight.

The reason for this not-so-convenient timing was that Alex was due to fly back to Kabul and we all wanted to spend some quality time together.

What could I whip up that was:
A) yummy
B) boys would eat it
C) easy + fast

And remember – boys had to eat it, so I couldn’t just like, serve them a salad.

Then I suddenly remembered Hoi serving me the best roast chicken I’ve had in my life for Christmas.

Whipped out my phone and texted – “Hoiii can you send me the recipe for your roast chicken that you made for Christmas???”

“Sure.”

And then I had it.

What about carbs?

I had some conveniently gifted spaghettini which would make this dish… FREE… if I used it. Hmmm…

A short Google search later led me to a efficient use of ALLTHEINGREDIENTS I already had in my pantry. Good thing parmesan was optional coz I don’t eat cheese/I’m cheap.

But what about greens?

The boys might not want them but my digestive system did. Too much info? WHATEVER.

I decided some chopped romaine and a simple lemon dressing would perk up the menu.

I was back home by 6:45pm, after buying groceries, prepped the chicken, popped it in the oven.

Alex came over and started on his apple crumble flambe.

Avi mixed them some Cuba Libres while I made the salad dressing.

Once Alex was done – I quickly prepped the spaghettini and Avi chopped the salad.

My (not-so) pretty plate
My (not-so) pretty plate

Dinner was served by 8:30pm. Not bad I would say.

The crumble baked while we ate. Alex then insisted we needed San Pedros to go with it. That is basically vanilla ice-cream and rum. Blended.

The food was humble, delicious and very satisfying. And totes doable on a weekend.

Also, I have literally never seen Avi that much – in my life.

It was a fantastic night that had us all laughing and me thinking about how crazy it was that these two friends of mine, who I met separately at very different parts in my life (high school vs masters), click so well. I mean the dudes both watch Hannibal, drink too much alcohol and can’t stand it when women use silence as show of anger.

Go figure.

Apple crumble flambeeeee
Apple crumble flambeeeee

Food links:
Roast Chicken
Spaghettini Aglio Olio
Lemon Vinaigrette
Cuba Libre

Apple Crumble Flamble – Ask Alex – coz it’s a family recipe!

Happy Friday everyone!