Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Calamansi Juice With A Twist

Recently together with all the home cooking and home baking I have found a new frontier, making my own drinks/juices! It's been fun brewing and mixing different concoctions for drinking pleasure with the meals, especially with our hot weather, there is nothing like downing some fresh minty drink.

However, I had noticed that in the last 2 weeks, I had finished a significant amount of brown sugar. The amount that usually stays untouched for a while, unless I am making cinnamon rolls, was gone in just two weeks. 

Then it hit me, in all the fun and juice bottoms-up we have been consuming a lot of sugar. So I got determined to try out other drinks that require minimal sugar, or at least just honey. For this, I also had to make sure I ordered 1kg of commercial honey. True story, grocery bills are so high when you make everything at home.

From my last week's Tesco order, I had a good amount of calamansi limes, and what better time to make some calamansi juice. And no, this is not the bottled calamansi juice.

I squeezed juice from 7-8 pieces of calamansi lime. Be sure to cut the top small section, cutting through the seed will give bitterness. Added some 2-3 tbsp of honey, some salt, and the twist here, some apple cider vinegar! Add some water and give it a taste, adjust the taste as per liking. I was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out, especially with the ACV twist. Not just healthy, its yummy too! And of course I top it up with some bruised mint leaves, and get this, ginger slices, just because!

And since it turned out so good, I am roaring to try other combinations next! Happy trying!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Tomato Sambal Recipe

Online shopping is a boon to most of us. We don't have to step out of the house, drag the kids, or even our own feet, and make our way to the store, to purchase those sweet things we want to buy. And now, with Tesco online grocery shopping, things have just gone sweeter!

Living in a condo now, it is rather a chore to do grocery shopping buying all those bulky items, and gather the whole family to transport things upstairs. In this case, online shopping is really useful that you can plan, pick and add your items to your cart. 

However as with anything online, it has several disadvantages. One being you can get carried away, over-buy, and in my case, accidentally buy things in larger amounts or sizes. A month ago I ordered RM1.80 worth of fresh turmeric, and I received turmeric so much that I am still using it up slowly. One of the things I made was this tropical juice. Ever since, I have also added fresh turmeric in most of my cooking.

Two weeks ago, I had another Tesco delivery fiasco, when I received 2.5kg of tomatoes, and some obscene amount of calamansi limes (I had ordered RM3 worth). I put my thinking cap on and got planning!

I took the big amount of tomatoes to my stride (and into the fridge). I decided to make some tomato sambal that would go with rice, and even for our idli weekends (oh yes, there is such a thing in our household).

To my embarrassment, I realise that I did not snap a pic of the tomato sambal. However, I can still share the recipe of my sambal here.

For the sambal, I take about 3 onions, 5-6 cloves of garlic, about 3-4 inches of ginger, 7-9 dried chilli (soaked in hot water), 2cm of raw turmeric. Give it a nice blend with some water. Set aside.

Heat the pan with some oil, add 2 chopped onion and lemongrass (chopped too), sautee till fragrant. Then you can add the blended mixture, and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes or longer if you need to. Halfway here you can add 5-6 chopped tomatoes. If you feel the sambal is drying up very fast, you can keep adding water to your desired consistency. Season with salt and brown sugar to your liking. In my case, I keep trying till I get it right. The level of heat of the dried chilli really differs every time.

Tomato sambal goes well with plain rice, nasi lemak (especially if you are going vegetarian) and even with mee hoon! 

Everything has a silver lining. I started using turmeric into my sambal paste since the over-buy of turmeric and I have discovered turmeric really enhances the taste and gives the sambal a vibrant red hue. After the tomato sambal I used the calamansi to make some refreshing juice which I will share soon. Happy trying!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Malawi Dhal And Potato Salad Recipe

Dhal is something grew up eating, like 5 days a week. It was our main protein provider, save for the Sunday feast. Through time I got so tired of eating the yellow lentil soup that I hated the very sight of it, till I moved away for my higher education, and then working far from home, when I realised how it formed the taste of home for me, till today.

Presently dhal is in our weekly menu, paired with stir fried vegetables and raita, or just yogurt. The thing about making a pot of dhal is that it can last for more than one meal. This way if I make it for lunch, we eat with rice. And for dinner on that day, I just make capatis to add some variety, and the dhal still remains a hit.

Dhal is not just main source of protein, but you can also load various vegetables into it. Usually I do cauliflower, brinjal, potatoes, tomatoes and radish, that is apart from the onion and garlic. Here's how we go about making a hearty pot of dhal:

As you can see in the picture below, I prepared the dhal stew in a pressure cooker. About 1 cup of malawi dhal and a handful of masoori dhal. Let it soak or just start cooking right away. Add some brinjal, potatoes, tomatoes, radish and cauliflower, and also chopped onion and garlic. You can reduce or increase the amount of vegetables as you like.

In fact, in this dhal stew, I had included 4 additional whole potatoes, which I will scoop out once the dhal is cooked, to be mashed with some ingredients for a nice potato salad, Indian style.

For this stew, I seasoned with some turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, fish curry powder, and then some salt. 

Let it cook in the pressure cooker for about 3 whistles, around 20 minutes. Once done, let it sit for 30 minutes before doing the tempering.

For the tempering, heat some ghee in a pan. Add asafoetida, dried chilli, mixed spices and cumin seeds. And of course, don't forget the curry leaves. Once the seeds pop and get aromatic, you can take it off the heat and throw everything into the cooked dhal.

 Add some tamarind paste, and give it a last boil. Once it  comes to a boil, add in chopped coriander leaves. Give a stir and leave it uncovered for a while, so that the coriander don't turn black.

Remember the whole potatoes I boiled together with the dhal? Here they are, with some finely chopped onion, garlic and coriander leaves. And some Indian pickle masala. Season with salt and olive oil. 

Works best mashed with bare and clean hands. I can't help tasting and tasting as I mash this.

In fact this potato salad is similar to the filling that we make for aloo parathas, or potato stuffed parathas. After we had the dhal and salad for lunch, I used the remaining potato salad as filling for capati, and voila, we had hearty aloo parathas for dinner! Nothing beats that, really!

Till then, here's hoping my kids never get tired of their dhal doses. Happy trying!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Dum Briyani In Pressure Cooker Recipe

Some two weeks ago the Mister had discovered the amazing world of youtube video recipes. And he was totally hooked on watching these two desi Indian guys making briyani in the pressure cooker in a very humble setup. Despite it all the briyani looked so good and even the cook exclaimed 'it smells so good I could dig into it now', and there it got us salivating.

A quick trip to the market later we got all the ingredients ready and roaring to go, or rather eat!!

So here's me trying to be as pictorial as possible (well, because I did not get pics for every step, but I hope this helps) to explain the steps and process as we get along.

It starts with 3 major preps, the fried onion, the chicken marination, and the parboiled basmati. At the end of it they just come together in a perfect harmony.

Firstly you need a mountainful of chopped onions, and an obscene amount of chopped coriander and mint leaves. Separate the chopped herbs into 2 equal parts.

Fry the onion in good amount of oil mixed with ghee.

For the marination, you need cumin, coriander and chilli powder. And some yogurt. You also need turmeric powder but here I used fresh turmeric pounded old-style. Add all these marination into the chicken. Also some lemon juice. 

Add 1 part of the chopped coriander and mint mixture into the chicken marination, and let it sit for 30 to 60 minutes.

In the meantime prepare a pot of water to parboil the basmati rice. Add some cardamom, cloves, cumin and cinnamon stick. Also add in the remaining chopped herbs, and then your desired amount of basmati rice. Let it boil to cook the basmati halfway.

In the meantime your onion would have browned nicely.

 You can turn off the heat for the onion, and drain them out.

Transfer the marination to the bottom of a pressure cooker. Add the fried onion (take only half, keep half for later) and give it a nice stir. You can also add in a few spoonfuls of the oil that we used to fry the onion.

By now the basmati rice would be half done. strain it all out, including the spices. Spread one layer of the basmati rice onto the chicken marination.

Top it with the fried onion, some ghee, saffron water (we didn't have this so just did some turmeric water) and milk. And then the remaining amount of the basmati, and the same ingredients yet again.

Tighten the lid, and let it cook for 15 minutes, and turn off the heat. I let it sit for additional 30 minutes before eating, and the chicken turned out so tender and full of flavour!
This pic of our final done briyani does not justify the amazing taste it had. I learnt one thing that the onion should be cooked slightly brown so that it continues cooking further in the pressure cooker later on. 

Served the briyani with some raita and boiled eggs, and we were so hungry we dug in, forgetting to take any final picture for this recipe. Well this goes to show how damn good it was! Happy trying!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Meals Below RM20

Being an all-in-one stay at home mother, I am pretty much handling everything in the house, the kids' matters, planning the menu, doing the market runs, and well, everything. The same time I have to keep aside time for my work, especially on days I have urgent matters to settle, it is not easy giving attention to prepping and cooking for meals on time.

The kids have their extra activities after school hours. It is usually like prepping a quick dinner, down it, and then get ready to rush for their activities. Put this on repeat, 3 times a week. And no, they are not attending tuition as yet. This itself is quite a busy schedule.

As we are eating at home mostly, I try to incorporate balanced meals as much as possible, also cater to the picky eater who almost just finds excuse every time not to eat. However, to give him the benefit of the doubt, he has improved tremendously in recent times. Yet, being the smart kid he is, he always finds some excuse, stories, or just random chatters to delay the process of eating.

Being pressed for time, and usually limited planned trips to the market, I have to get creative in using available ingredients to produce dishes that take up least amount of cooking dish time. If I were as smart as Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, I could come up with direct correlation between recipes and their cooking time, or something to that effect.

Usually I plan the meals to have at least one protein, either dhal, chicken/fish or egg. With a side of stir fried vegetables and cucumber raita. This is one way of planning menu, while keeping within a budget. And if I look back, the average budget for my meals is RM20 per meal, that is for 2 adults and 2 kids.

One such mean is as below, I made egg curry, with some bean sprout stir fried with broccoli, and some butter corn with bacon. Simple, yet unique. And really, it hardly costs RM20 for this one.

I got the recipe for egg curry from Masala Hut youtube as below, in case you are wondering to try.

Next is oven steamed fish, with brinjal sambal and some gravy with chicken broth base. I also used the same chicken broth base to marinate the fish and steam it in. Having some gravy for every meal is necessary as the fussy eater needs some liquid for his rice dishes.

On some days when we go meatless, I just make some dhal loaded with generous amounts of vegetables. I have potatoes, brinjal, tomatoes, cauliflower and radish in this one, apart from garlic and onion of course. And yes, it works easier when made in the pressure cooker. I temper the spices and pour them all back into the pressure cooker again. 

Usually when I make dhal, it would last for more than 1 meal. Having some papadam crisps and spicy Indian acar really make the kids excited for their meals, no matter how simple. And since this dhal stretches way till dinner, I beef up the meal with some omelettes. 

To perk up the regular fried eggs, I try to do different types of omelettes. This one here is the Indian spiced omelette, which is hubby's current favourite that he tried in India recently. All you gotta do is sautee some onion, garlic, vegetables like celery and pepper, and then add in some coriander/cumin/curry powder, little water, and let it braise and cook a little before adding in the beaten eggs, and then lastly some cherry tomatoes that just need a slight sizzle, and voila!

This one is a one pot (or rather pan) dish. It is the typical sizzling claypot tofu style, and for the family I am using chicken broth as the gravy base, added some additional vegetables, and we are done for the meal. This one, probably costs less than RM15.

Here's my secret weapon for a hearty but simple meal. The oven steamed fish. I buy the biggest one available so that it can feed the 4 of us. You may wonder how does oven steaming work. Well I have a deep baking disk that fits the length of the fish. Clean and marinate the fish as per your desired recipe. Cover with aluminium foil, and bake at 200C for 20 to 30mins. Minimal effort with the best results!

Who says cooking and eating at home is expensive? If you plan, there are ways to stretch the value of your money further, plan meals that are simpler in prep and cooking time, so that you can optimise your time at home meeting your other KPIs, like coaching the kids' homeworks and completing this blog entry. Who said SAHM life is easy? But it sure is rewarding!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Meatballs And Cous Cous Recipe

On some days hubby gives me 30 minutes notice of early return, which also means I'd need to whip up something for dinner. Something not instant yet takes short instance to put together. For those days I need to keep my secret weapon ready.

I usually make large batches of meatballs and freeze them for impromptu meals. Emergencies like this calls for the meatballs to be defrosted and reheated. But then, sometimes the meatballs are not enough, and you feel that you want to add more to the plate.

On the days I have minimal items in the fridge, I just heat the meatballs up with some pasta sauce and cheese, it makes swell good baked meatball meal.

On the days I have more items, I go a little further. This one for instance, I had heated up the meatballs, served with some butter corn and cous cous.

The cous cous is something that tastes really mild, a little like small pasta. With added butter, it tastes really soft and buttery, and is easily enhanced with vegetables like capsicum, cherry tomatoes and cucumber. There are some recipes that would tell you to just add hot water or stock onto the cous cous and let it sit and fluff up for ten minutes.

However I prefer the sautee method below, a little extra work, but great difference taste-wise.

Firstly, heat some butter in a pan. Add chopped onion, stir and allow it to cook till soft. Next add in chopped garlic, and add cous cous. Season with salt and black pepper. Give it a nice stir. Next you can add chicken stock or just water. Bring it to boil, and turn off the heat. Cover it and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then, you can remove the cover, fluff it up, and add cucumber and coriander/parsley as you please. The cous cous is ready to be served!

The best thing about cous cous is that it makes a great side dish to your protein laden meals. You can add your favourite vegetables. During the point of sautee, you can add red capsicum, mushroom or cherry tomatoes. For such vegetables, give it some time to sautee before adding in the cous cous. You can also play around with the seasonings and flavours, hopefully I get to try it one of these days.

Till then, happy trying!!

Tropical Tonic Drink Recipe

Picture this: You have just had a busy time on your market day. Sure shopping is therapeutic, but don't forget that you have to first list out the items, go to the market, select and hand pick the items, pay for them, lug your things around, get into the car, lug them to the house (oh yes, this is the toughest bit now that we don't live in a landed property anymore. And once home, you gotta segregate, wash and dry, arrange, and in some cases, portion the meat and store properly. Even typing the routine out is already tiring. 

In the midst of market day chaos, it is so soothing to know that something is cooking, literally, that can help to not just uplift your mood and energy, but also spread the aroma of goodness all over the house. As soon as I got back from the market, I took out the ingredients for this delicious and potent tonic, and got it boiling, so that once I am done, I can just dive into it.

A friend of mine who is an advocate of everything natural, shared this recipe for the tonic, made from raw turmeric, ginger, pandan (screwpine, no, I am not swearing) leaves and lemongrass. All you gotta do is pound or bruise the turmeric, ginger and lemongrass roots. Knot the pandan leaves. Put into a stock pot full of water (well depending on how much you want), and boil away. Add brown sugar as per your taste. 

I boiled for almost 1.5 hours. I got my right amount of sweetness. And drank away. The aroma of the fragrant pandan leaves will get into every nook and corner of your home. Not to mention it pleasantly flavours your drink. The mixture of ginger and lemongrass gives a minty effect to the after taste, which feels so cooling on its own. I personally prefer to drink this chilled. 

It is awesome to have such uplifting drinks at home especially with the hot weather, and I usually like to chug down cups of iced water. This, in its chilled version, works awesome!

Try it, the ingredients are using our local products, and perhaps easily available in your fridge! How does it get simpler than this. Happy trying!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Parmesan Herb Hokkaido Loaf Recipe

For a long long time my breadmaker has been very busy kneading dough for me. Usually for capati, or pizza, or cinnamon rolls. Only on selected few occasion I actually make a full loaf on it, which is actually very convenient given you have allowed enough time to knead, proof, bake and cool, that is about almost 3 hours.

Yes, you need ample of time to cool down, and I very well know that from my own experience. There were times that we eager-mcbeavers jumped into the loaf, only to find it too soft to handle, totally spoiling the shape of the bread, and not to mention overly hot ugly slices. The only thing good out of it is perhaps the fact that butter melts super well on it. Now.. the glass is always half full here at Sunnyside.

In the past I tried making the tangzhong Hokkaido bread, and also attempted to add butterscotch to the regular Hokkaido loaf recipe, and it goes without saying, like many others, we totally loved the texture that it gives. But I did not want to repeat myself, because for one thing, my audience is always hungry for something new. And a plain hokkaido bread on a Sunday afternoon is not that interesting to cheer up upcoming gloomy evening.

That is when I decided to go for the best thing that goes with bread, cheese, parmesan, at that. And some herbs. Really, this reminded me of my favourite focaccia, and yes that is what I was going for.

Long story short, using the regular Hokkaido loaf recipe, I added parmesan cheese, herbs and some olive oil halfway in the breadmaker, and that did it just fine.

This recipe is from the Tesco breadmaker facebook group, and is definitely a keeper for a long long time, hence I am immortalizing it here on my humble blog.

You need: 270g Bread flour
30g All purpose flour
15g Milk Powder
5g Yeast
40g Sugar
4g Salt
1 Egg
125g Milk/yogurt
75g Whipping cream 
Just dump everything into the breadmaker as you usually would at function 5, sweet, color light, 1.5L. Give it 10 minutes of kneading time, and then add in maybe 2-3 tbsp parmesan cheese, some mixed dried herbs and lastly some drops of olive oil. Feel free to add more if you like.

Wait patiently, slice the bread, and savour with butter, or just focaccia style, with balsamic vinegar and olive oil!

Turned out my load was rather dark in colour despite being at the light mode. For the next loaf I ought to turn the machine off 10 minutes before its supposed to. Hopefully that does the trick. Nevertheless, it smelled heavenly and tasted divine. You definitely can never go wrong with cheese! 

The next loaf in my plan would be caramelized onion loaf, because repeating is just boring.
Happy trying!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Buttermilk Pancake Recipe

When you are a parent, you greet Sundays by waking up at 7am. It is either the kids are eager to be up and playing, or perhaps it is by habit of 6am weekdays, that your body alarm wakes you somewhere there, and by the time you laze on your bed, and crawl out, its just 7am! Yes, JUST 7 freaking AM.

However waking super early on Sundays is really fruitful when you have exciting breakfast plans ahead. On Saturday night I prepared the pancake butter, and slept through the night only to spring up and excited to make and dig into 'em fluffy pancakes, and a little spring was caused by kids crowding the bed too.

This is one of the weekly food that I pack for Sanju, for he loves them with hazelnut spread. But really, it is not the same preparing and packing them to be eaten later. When you make those pancakes, and eat immediately, still hot from the pan, with sinful amount of butter and your favourite toppings, that is when it works well. On top of that, there's nothing like sharing happiness over food with the whole family. Sunday pancake breakfast is just perfect for this reason!

This buttermilk pancake recipe is the simplest, yet the most fluffy pancakes you will ever make or eat. You don't have to separate the whites and yolks, yes, I super hate doing the separation. Eggs are meant to be used together, they are like a family, please don't break them up.

Simple, as I said, because it just requires ones of everything.. it is like 1-1-1 recipe. You require 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of buttermilk and 1 egg. And then there's 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp vanilla essence, pinch of baking soda and some salt. That's it. 

Don't worry if you don't have buttermilk. Usually I just make my own by mixing 1 cup milk with 1 tbsp vinegar, giving it a good stir and sit for 10 minutes. It's that simple!

So you can start by mixing the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder/soda and salt) at one place and wet ingredients (buttermilk, egg and vanilla essence) at another. Then mix them together, gently whisk with a fork. Don't worry about having lumps. Let it sit overnight in the fridge, and make your yummy pancakes in the morning.

I use the curry ladle to scoop one ladle onto the pan. I am using Mr DIY premium marble pan, and loving it. You should get bubbles like below, and then you can turn.

See the even brown-ness, it is so hard to achieve with regular pan.

This recipe can make up to 9 medium sized pancakes. And just for the sake of this blog, here's me stacking 'em pancakes.

Check out the rise of every pancake. That is pure chemistry between the buttermilk and baking soda. 

Each and every bite compensates you waking early on a Sunday morning. In fact they are so addictive you will tempted to whip them up every morning, or rather night, as you will see, they make the best pancakes if the batter is left overnight.

We have it with crazy amount of butter, drippings of honey, squirts of chocolate sauce topped with homemade granolas. How does it get any better than this. Oh, yes, bananas, or any fruits available to you. Happy trying!


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