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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Goi Ga AKA Vietnamese Chicken Salad

Yummmm

So, DiniBlini, is still a food blog in it’s essence. Just that I haven’t been repping that side of it that hard, recently.

PZ sent me a picture of some amazing risotto she had made a couple of weeks ago – which she had served with what looked like an enticing salad.

Since I’ve never met a salad I don’t like I was all “Hayyyy what’s that? Is it tasty? Can I get the recipe??”

PZ obliged and sent me her version – which I promptly adapted – and messed up.

The first time round I made it, it looked like this:

Goi Ga close-up
Goi Ga close-up

Which is to say – it was GORGEOUS but I forgot to put sugar in the dressing and left the onions I had marinated in vinegar on the counter and didn’t put it in the salad. I also added the quinoa which I had prepared to make it a full meal on the counter and only added it after I was halfway through. Which made me sad. It also made me hate my counter.

The second day I prepared the salad – I was ready. Onions went in! Honey (I didn’t feel like sugar), went in! Quinoa went in! And it was great. This was a salad on a budget (Let’s face it Chinese cabbage is a lot cheaper than those mixed salad leaves) and it does a body (and wallet) good.

Serves 2 – or 1 hungry girl, twice

Protein
1 chicken thigh
1/4 tsp salt
olive oil

Salad
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 – 3/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 head of Chinese cabbage, about 500gm, quartered, cored and cut crosswise into 1/4″ ribbons
1 carrot, peeled and finely shredded
1/2 bunch chopped coriander/cilantro leaves
1/2 cup cooked quinoa

Dressing
1 to 2 chillies, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
Pinch of salt
1 tsp honey
4 Tbsps fish sauce
2 Tbsps lime juice
3 Tbsps water

Protein
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.

Toss the chicken with a bit of olive oil.

Lay it on the grill bit and bake for 20 to 30 minutes – flipping once halfway through.

Remove from the oven and let cool. Chop into bite sized chunks.

Original recipe: Fill saucepan half full of water, add salt, let the water reach a rolling boil on high heat, and drop in the chicken. When the water bubbles at the edges, remove from the heat, cover tightly and let it stand 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and reserve the stock for another use. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it by hand and let cool to room temperature.

Dressing
Pound the chili, garlic and salt into a paste. Scrape into a bowl and add the honey, fish sauce, lime juice and water. Combine well.

Salad
Place the sliced onion in a small bowl, add enough white vinegar to cover the slices and let sit for 15 minutes.

Drain the onion, add it to the chicken, along with the cabbage, carrot, coriander/cilantro and quinoa.

Toss the salad with the dressing just before serving.

Beef Eggplant Stir-Fry and Wholesome Weekends

sooooo good
sooooo good
There are weekends that you spend PARTAY-INGGGGGGGGG.

And then there are weekends where you clean your house and workout and sleep on-time and hangout with friends and play boardgames and DON’T get crunk and you’re just generally a good kid.

That’s what I did this past weekend. I was a good kid. And it was awesome. And I feel really good now.

Sometimes it’s good to be good.

Also make this beef eggplant stir-fry, because it’s actually very good and it calls for mint which, incidentally, is a very surprising and refreshing substitute for basil. And it’s spicy and that eggplant soaks up all that zesty, fishy, gingery sauce and it’s SO good.

I’m #justsayin but you should #justcookit.

Cooking with… PZ

Aerial shot
Aerial shot

I met PZ at work, under what I would describe as not very fortuitous circumstances. She doesn’t know this but we became friends because I thought it would be a good idea to charm her since we had to work together and people generally work better with people they like so…*

Little did I know that once I embarked on this friend-making journey that I was going to end up liking her.

And how couldn’t I? Pei Zhen or PZ, as she gently told me to call her (Pei Zhen is too long, lah!) is a highly capable Comms professional at work and a scarily skilled chef/baker at home.

Some of the earliest text conversations are her telling me how she was making some blueberry cheesecake and Horlicks flavored ice-cream for Chinese New Year “because her mother-in-law liked it.” Hardcore and a good daughter-in-law, what more could you ask for?

As our whatsapping progressed she divulged that she has her own version of french onion soup, packs a gourmet lunch for herself and her husband almost every day and that she’s a walking encyclopedia of cooking information. If I needed a recipe or a way to do something, there were PZ recommended variations or solutions. She’s a 21st century Martha, no airs and graces and ready to draw on her resources for a good meal. This includes real-life cook books, the Internet and her vast experience (which includes on-going friendly culinary competitions with her Mom who also cooks scarily well).

Knowing her made me realize that I wasn’t the shit in the kitchen. But not in a bad way. She just made me realize, some people were made for cooking and some people were made for communicating. So I decided to communicate how she cooks.

This is what I’m hoping will be a new series featuring people in Singapore who cook and who are generally inspirational.

When I mentioned this idea to PZ, she was all for it. She also decided to take it as an opportunity to “school” me and get me to like kale. Kale, the one health superfood I can’t get into. It’s like grass. But tougher. And possibly grosser.

SO. PZ says she will make (while I help and observe) a chorizo-kale-stew thing.

Right.

On the appointed day, PZ came over, all business. She wanted to know where the spices were AND she had brought an entire container of homemade ice-cream dotted with chocolate bits for dessert. If she wasn’t already married, I would have been first in line to woo her.

PZ doing her thang
PZ doing her thang
Knife
Knife
Knife skillz 1
Knife skillz 1
Knife skillz 2
Knife skillz 2
Knife skillz 3
Knife skillz 3

Did PZ live up to how good I thought she was? Well, let’s just say she had no hesitation in taking charge of the kitchen. And her knife skills? I mean I know how to chop things but compared to her I’m like a blind man with three fingers. Can you say EVEN.

Produce shot
Produce shot
Beans for days
Beans for days
Another pretty produce shot
Another pretty produce shot

The stew was all sausages, beans, dried spices and chicken stock. It was hearty, warm and very satisfying.

Me! Being useful
Me! Being useful
Chorizo in all its raw glory
Chorizo in all its raw glory
Chorizo and spices
Chorizo and spices
Chorizo and spices
Chorizo and spices
Kale
Kale
So much kale
So much kale
Chorizo and kale
Chorizo and kale

PZ confidently breezed through all the cooking, with minimal help from me, except towards the end of cooking when we tasted the stew and it was just flat.

But what do you do? I would have just let it go, eaten the flat stew and lamented about how I was never cooking that again!

PZ tasted it. Hmmed and haaed. Asked me for my opinion. Declared it needed some oomph – in the form of red wine vinegar.

Repeated Instagram photo
Repeated Instagram photo

It did the trick, gave dimension to the stew which we enjoyed with a loaf of crusty sourdough bread from Marche and a glorious Sauvignon Blanc from who knows where.

It was a fantastic lunch and an even better experience.

PZ had made me realize, that you should never accept a bad outcome. Instead, you should always try and fix it.

It might work or it might not.

But it could mean the difference between being good or being great.

*This may also be the genesis of my friendship with you. But don’t worry, we are both benefiting from the relationship. I promise.

**My flatmate Hoi is the photographer for these beautiful pictures, which is what happens when you decide to stick around and eat the lunch. There’s no such thing as a free one, people.

*** I still don’t like kale.

Leftover Gochujang Paste Salad

Forgive the fuzziness - look at the pearly keeeen wahhh
Forgive the fuzziness – look at the pearly keeeen wahhh
Friends, my blogging has been patchy and I apologize for that. Work has become all-consuming, and funnily enough I’m happy about it.

My Dad, who worked as the head of HR in a very prominent international bank for many years, once told me that he used to tell his staff that if they liked 30% of their job – they were lucky. I like close to 80 to 90% of my job. So I must be very lucky.

It’s not often that you get paid to “sell” or in my case “communicate” a product that you believe in, so very much.

These past few weeks, as things have gotten busier at work, I have found myself getting more tied to my organisation. Each task I had to do, each press release I had to write and each project I had to manage somehow made me more invested in the outcome of how we were being presented in the public. And it’s not because it’s a KPI or goal I have to meet. It’s because I am so proud of the work we are doing.

Science Comms you know? The researchers are passionate geniuses and I’m lucky to be along for the ride.

Ack – just went off on a tangent about work when I’m clearly supposed to be talking about gochujang and food!

So, since I’ve been working hard, it’s left little time for cooking. Or less, anyway.

One weeknight I wanted a fresh healthy salad, but didn’t want my protein to be that regular grilled chicken with garlic and lemon I eat ALLTHEDAMNTIME. I realized I had gochujang in the fridge (leftover from my last bibimbap-making frenzy). Why does that matter you ask? WELL, gochujang is a fabulous marinade for chicken.

So that same night, after a hard day’s work, I slathered two tablespoons of gochujang on one chicken thigh and stuck it in the fridge to marinade while I ran my 5K.

When I came back – I popped it in the oven for 30 mins (flipping it once in the middle) at 200 degrees and it was gorgeous. I served it with cooked quinoa, chopped cucumber, diced red peppers and mixed salad leaves drizzled with this Asian-y salad dressing.

This baby can keep you going strong for all them working hours. Like it did me 🙂

Real Food

Reading whlle brunching
Reading whlle brunching

What: A super healthy cafe, with NO MEAT and NO FAT and NO BAD THINGS.

Pros: The food is simple, the staff are sincere and there’s plenty of space to stretch out and get your Sunday on.

Cons: The food is really simple – like the only thing I could say after I ate it was – “Man, this does taste like real food.”

Verdict: I like it, but just keep in mind that you could probably make whatever they serve you at home. And try not to feel resentful about it.

Details:
Real Food – I went to the outlet in Central:
6 Eu Tong Sen St
The Central #B1-52/53
Singapore 059817
62244492

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.