Monday, October 29, 2012

Shrimp, tomato and spinach pasta



I've made some changes to the recipe from the original source. I couldn't find any fresh basil from the supermarket, and so, I used baby spinach as substitue. I also used 3 more extra cloves of garlic coz the husband likes a stronger garlic flavour in his pasta dishes. And I think the overall flavour was just nice for us.

Shrimp, tomato and spinach pasta (recipe adapted from : here)

Ingredients:


- 1 1/2 pound(s) medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (tails removed)
- Coarse salt
- Ground pepper
- 6 teaspoon(s) olive oil
- 2 clove(s) garlic, minced 
- 1 can(s) (14 1/2-ounce) diced tomatoes in juice
- 1 pint(s) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 pound(s) linguine
- 1 1/2 cup(s) lightly packed fresh basil leaves (I substituted with baby spinach leaves)

    Directions:

    1) Season shrimp with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 4 teaspoons oil over high. Add shrimp; cook until opaque throughout, turning occasionally, 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; set aside.

    2) Make sauce: To the same skillet, add remaining 2 teaspoons oil and garlic; cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add canned tomatoes and their juice, along with 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have softened and are saucy, about 15 minutes. Remove sauce from heat; stir in cherry tomatoes.

    3) Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain; return pasta to pot. Add tomato sauce, shrimp, and basil; season with salt and pepper, and toss. Serve immediately, garnished with basil leaves, if desired. 

    Sunday, October 28, 2012

    Orange Shortbread



    I have a strange relationship with oranges. I like the colour orange, and almost anything with oranges in them. Orange chocolate, orange cake, orange cookies, orange ice cream, etc. But I don't really like eating orange as a fruit or drink it as a juice. 

    So with 5 large oranges left in my fridge after making these shortbread, be prepared that my favourite "fruit" will make its appearance in the next few blog entries. ;p


    Orange Shortbread (recipe from : here)

    Ingredients :



    • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
    • zest of  2 large oranges
    • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/2 cup sugar mixed with the zest of one additional orange for rolling
    Directions :

    1) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla and zest of 2 oranges. 


    2) In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together (it will be very crumbly.  


    3) Dump onto a surface dusted lightly with flour and roll the dough into two logs, about 2 inches in diameter. 


    4) On a large plate, combine the 1/2 cup of sugar with the additional orange zest.  Roll each log in the sugar mixture and then wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
    5) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Slice each log into 1/4 inch slices.  

    6) Bake on parchment lined baking pans for 12-15 minutes, until the edges just start to brown.  Cool on wire racks.  Store, tightly covered, at room temperature.

    Friday, October 26, 2012

    Easy Buttermilk Biscuits



    I had never thought to try making biscuits. But my youngest sister had so enthusiastically showed me a blueberry biscuits recipe she found online and was determined to give it a try. Though the instructions were quite long but didn't look too difficult after reading it a few times.

    Sad to say, that didn't work out. At all. 

    Though the outside was cooked to golden brown, the insides were all mushy and not cooked at all. We didn't know what was wrong as we followed the recipe very thoroughly.

    Anyway, since we were already on making biscuits, I decided to find another simpler biscuits recipe to try again to see if we could find out what went wrong. And the second attempt was slightly (just slightly) better coz they were edible and cooked on the inside. Though these were quite tasteless, on the bright side, they went quite well with strawberry jam. :)

    Easy Buttermilk Biscuits (recipe from : here)
    makes 8 large biscuits


    Ingredients :
    2 cups all purpose flour
    2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
    1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
    3/4 cup buttermilk, chilled, plus additional for brushing
    Directions :
    1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
    2) In a medium bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix in the butter with a pastry cutter or a fork until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the buttermilk and stir until the dough comes together in a ball.
    3) On a lightly floured surface, gather the dough into a bowl and knead gently 6 times. Pat dough into a 10 inch circle about 1/2 inch thick. Cut dough into three inch rounds with a lightly floured cutter. Place on the prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Brush with buttermilk.
    4) Bake until golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

    Saturday, September 01, 2012

    Cameron Highlands (26 - 28 Aug)

    The husband's friend, who was from Cameron Highlands, suggested the few of us to take a trip up for a short break. It had been years since I been to Cameron Highlands, and there was barely any memory of it.

    And so the 7 of us set off, in 4 separate cars, on a 6-7 hours (excluding stopover breaks) journey up to the highlands. It was our first road trip and it was quite an experience. It was also great fun travelling with a group of friends, chatting, joking, eating. :)








    To sidetrack a little, I had learnt to add annotations to photos from a friend... and I loved the idea. So here they are, my first batch of "self-explanatory" photos. :)

    Monday, April 09, 2012

    Braised chicken with carrots and mushrooms



    This is the first time I used rock sugar in my cooking. Not sure if it was because of the rock sugar but the sauce seemed to decrease rapidly after I added about 4 small pieces, and in the end, there was not much sauce left to go together with the plain rice. But taste wise, it was good. :)

    Braised chicken with carrots and mushrooms (recipe from here)Serves 2

    Ingredients :
    - 500g chicken thigh, chopped to smaller pieces (you can also use half chicken)
    - 2 tbsp sesame oil
    - 1 carrot, peeled and cut to bite-sized chunks
    - 1 stalk of negi (Japanese scallion) or 2 stalks of spring onions, sliced
    - 200g fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
    - 150ml water (adjust accordingly to how much gravy you want)
    - 1 tbsp dark soy sauce 
    - 1 tbsp oyster sauce 
    - 1/2 tsp 5-spice powder 
    - 2 to 4 small rock sugar cubes
    - 3 ginger slices
    - 5 garlic cloves, bruised


    Directions :
    1. Heat sesame oil in wok, th
    en add chicken pieces. Stir fry until the chicken is no longer pink.

    2. Add water, carrots, mushrooms, scallions, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, 5 spice powder, ginger and garlic. Stir well. Cover with lid and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.

    3. Using kitchen tongs or spatula, flip the chicken pieces over so that they can absorb the braising liquid. Add rock sugar for sweetness and a beautiful glazed finish. Simmer with lid closed for another 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.

    Friday, April 06, 2012

    Bangkok (17 - 20 Mar)

    It's been almost 7 years since the husband and I went to Bangkok... and that was also how long we had been married. :) So, when one of our friend suggested for the four of us, together with her husband, to go for a short trip, we also took it as an opportunity to have a short getaway break.

    It was really a relaxing trip... nothing much to do, just walk around, eat, and hang out with one another in the evenings. 


     Crab with vermicelli *yums*


     Walking through Chinatown area


    At the weekend Chatuchak market
    (the husband and I found that it wasn't as exciting compared to when we first came in year 2005. There wasn't much things to buy)

     The view from our 35th-floor hotel room

    We didn't know there was a zoo, Safari World, in Bangkok until our friends recommended it. We realised it was a place more for animal shows rather than walking around to look at animals. There were about 7 - 8 shows from around 11am all the way to 4:30pm, after which the zoo would close for the day.

    We only caught the orang-utan show, elephant show and dolphin show. The rest of the time were spent wondering around the almost people-free zoo, which was actually a good thing coz we could take photos of animals, and look at them closer without people jostling around.

    The "empty" zoo. We suspected everyone was there just for the animal shows.

     The orang-utan show

     The elephant show

     The most number of giraffes I've ever seen

    In the car, driving through the safari park

    The most fun part of this trip was the drive through the open safari park. Of course we had to stay in the vehicle for the whole time, but it was really an experience and great fun. (the driver must be thinking we had never seen tigers, lions or rhinos before.. haha) However, the weather was too hot and most animals were just lazing in the shade rather than walking around so we didn't get many photos taken. But it was a really fun and memorable day. :)

    Monday, March 26, 2012

    Babysitter for the day

    The husband and I had decided to take one day off from work to help look after my niece for the day, as my Mum was accompanying my Dad to the hospital for a colonoscopy, and my sister and brother-in-law were having a short weekend getaway in Malacca. 

    As my niece was quite a creature of habit, we had prepped her a few days before that we would be the ones to bring her to and back from school today. And also to bring her to eat xiao long bao (小笼包) for lunch if she was on her best behaviour for the time in school. Coz according to my mum, she would sometimes cry in class for no reasons.

    So, when I met her after her class this morning, the first thing she said to me was "大姨,我今天没有哭。" Haha.. funny little thing. Which means that she could have not cried in class at all for all these while, if she wanted to.


    Happy. After school, and all ready to eat! 

     Keeping herself occupied while waiting for the food to arrive.

     Giving her full attention, and enjoying the xiao long bao thoroughly

    At our place. Letting her watch some YouTube videos to kill time while waiting for her parents to come collect her

    After babysitting today, I really admire my parents for taking care of my niece, Mondays to Fridays, and also kudos to all those full-time babysitters. The husband and I were quite tired by the time my sister came to pick her up around 5pm. On one hand, it was really fun spending time and bonding with the little tyke. On the other hand, it was also a little stressful and tiring coz we had to be on constant alert and lookout as to where she was running to and what she was doing. 

    Sunday, March 04, 2012

    Lemon thyme water


    Lemon thyme water (recipe adapted from here)

    Ingredients :
    2 lemons
    • 10 sprigs thyme
    • water
    • ice

    • Directions :

    • Slice lemons into thin wheels and distribute between 2 pitchers along with thyme sprigs. Fill pitchers with ice and cover with water.

    Sunday, February 19, 2012

    Pasta with chicken and mushrooms


    There is a slight difference in one of the main ingredients in this recipe, that is the Italian pork and fennel sausage. I really didn't know if it was sold anywhere in Singapore, much less in any supermarket near my place. Therefore, I substituted it with just plain normal minced chicken, which I seasoned with a little salt and black pepper and set it aside for a while before cooking.

    However, if there is any chance that I could get the Italian sausage, I would certainly try this again. :)

    Pasta with pork and fennel sausages (adapted from "Quick and Easy workday dinners")
    Serves 4

    Ingredients :

    6 Italian pork and fennel sausages (I substituted with minced chicken)
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 small red onion, finely chopped
    2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
    1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
    300g field or button mushrooms, thinly sliced
    1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
    500g penne rigate
    grated Parmesan, to serve


    Directions :

    1) Split the sausage open, remove and crumble the filling, then discard the skins.

    2) Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and cook the onion for 3-4 minutes, or until fragrant and transparent. Add the garlic, chilli flakes, mushrooms and crumbled sausage meat. Cook over high heat, stirring gently to mash the sausage meat, for 4-5 minutes, or until the meat is evenly browned.

    If necessary, use a tablespoon to remove any excess fat from the pan, leaving about a tablespoon of oil. Continue to cook, stirring once or twice, for 10 minutes.

    3) Stir in the tomato and thyme, then bring the sauce to the boil. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the sauce doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.

    4) Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large saucepan of rapidly boiling salted water according to the packet instructions until al dente. Drain well, then add to the sauce, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with Parmesan, then serve immediately.

    Sunday, February 05, 2012

    动感清明上河图 - A Moving Masterpiece

    I first came across this while watching the news one evening. What captured my attention was not only the animation, but that the painting was able to change from day to night. To be honest, I didn't know what was this painting about at all. But I managed to do a little research on the Internet for it before I went to the exhibition.


    The painting was famous because it supposedly depicts the richness of the society, from the poor to the wealthy, from the rural area to the capital city, and also the daily life of the Northern Song Dynasty.

    Before actually seeing the animated painting, there was an area where there were exhibits of the lives of the people during that time.

    What really caught my attention was this man named Bi Sheng (毕生). He invented the movable type printing equipment, whereby each chinese character was carved on one single piece of clay, and these characters could be re-arranged on a metal plate to form different sentences to be printed.



    I wonder if Scrabble was an inspiration from this? ;p

     A bank note from the old times

    Finally, there was the 128 x 6.5 metres projected image of the painting. There was no way to capture the full length of the painting.


     The day and night scenes of the same area 






    When I first mentioned to the husband that I wanted to see this painting, he was kind of hesitant. The entrance fees was kind of steep, if there was the impression that it was just to go into the place to stare at one painting. However, he was quite surprised and impressed after the whole thing, and seeing the exhibits and considering the amount of work being put  into making the painting animated, and to transit it seamlessly from day to night, I could understand why the entrance fees were a little high.

    All in all, it was an enjoyable and fun experience. As there was no Chinese history being taught in school, this was a good way to know more about the ancient Chinese cultures, and also to be kept interested in the history.

    I had managed to capture a video of the painting changing from day to night. Enjoy! :)
    video

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