Orange Poppy Seed Bread

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Happy Spring!!! The weather may have been disagreeable these past few days, but it is officially spring! Woo hoo! The end is in sight! Ahhh…now that I’ve gotten all that out of my system, let’s celebrate with this simple and light but oh so yummylicious, wake up my taste buds bread. Enjoy! :)


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Note: This was made using those tiny Halos mandarin oranges, which I found to be too sour to eat straight but they make a delicious bread. You can use regular naval oranges as well.
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
¾ cup extra light olive oil
1 tablespoon orange zest (from 4 mandarins)
1 cup orange juice (from 11 mandarins)
1 extra-large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan (I use PAM Baking Spray). In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and poppy seeds. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together oil, zest, juice, egg, and vanilla until blended, and add to the dry mixture. Mix lightly, just enough to combine all the ingredients. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool bread in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely (bread is fairly delicate, be careful when removing it from the pan).

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Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Delicious muffins!

Delicious muffins!

Feels like forever since I last posted something! “Has she fallen off the face of the earth?” some of you might wonder (I wonder about that often myself). However, the truth is nowhere near as dramatic. :) I’ve just been feeling sooooo… exhausted lately, and the weather is certainly not helping! I’m so sick of winter…..can’t stand the snow and the cold anymore…ugh! Although I’m sure I’ll probably feel otherwise in the summer, spring can’t come fast enough for me this year.

So Chap Goh Meh (last day of Chinese New Year) and Valentine’s Day came and went and we hardly celebrated the occasions. In fact, I didn’t even realize those two celebrations fell on the same day this year until the day itself. Of course, I didn’t do anything at all (had no intentions to cook or bake) and wouldn’t you know, Keith surprised me with a feast from our favorite Chinese restaurant. Bless his heart! (Love you, hon!)

Anyway, despite the winter blues, I’ve continued to bake here and there in the past month…I just didn’t get around to blogging about it. But most of the things I’ve been making are easy recipes…comfort recipes…foods we eat daily such as these yummy banana oatmeal muffins. Moist, tender, and chewy, these muffins are delicious for breakfast, lunch, or anytime of the day. This batch was essentially made by my baby (who is no longer a baby, I know but since he’s my only child, can I call him my baby forever? :D) with a little help from me. Enjoy!

Adapted from Jean Childress’ Country Kitchen Muffin Cookbook Oatmeal Muffins recipe
Note: Although these muffins are tender, they do have a chewier texture than a typical muffin. 
1½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½  cup light brown sugar
¾ cup sour cream
¼ cup milk (I use vanilla soy milk)
1 extra-large egg
¼ cup vegetable or canola oil
¾ cup mashed banana (from 1-2 ripe bananas)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease muffin pan or line with baking cups. In a large bowl, combine oats, sugar, sour cream, milk, egg, oil, mashed banana, and vanilla extract. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and add to the wet mixture. Mix lightly, just enough to combine all the ingredients. Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, and bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. When done, transfer muffins out of the pan to a cooling rack and cool completely. Makes 12 muffins.

Line the muffin pans - we doubled the recipe for this batch

Line the muffin pans – we doubled the recipe for this batch

Measuring the ingredients for the wet mixture

Measuring the ingredients for the wet mixture

Usually, I crack the eggs for Alex but he did it by himself this time with hardly any help...great job, bud!

Usually, I crack the eggs for Alex but he did it by himself this time with hardly any help…great job, bud!

Mixing them all up

Mixing them all up

Alex's favorite part - measuring dry ingredients

Alex’s favorite part – measuring dry ingredients

Add to the wet mixture and stir only enough to combine all the ingredients

Add to the wet mixture and stir only enough to combine all the ingredients

Dividing the batter - an ice cream scoop comes in pretty handy at this point

Dividing the batter – an ice cream scoop comes in pretty handy at this point

Enjoy with a cup of tea! :D

Enjoy with a cup of tea! :D

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Happy Chinese New Year!

Being super-busy with our daily lives, I decided to put off making any Chinese New Year treats until this past weekend. Not that last weekend would have been any better (time-wise) since I work both Saturday and Sunday every week but I was determined. Then, I got sick (of course) and that was the end of any plan I had. But Chinese New Year has just started…I still hope to make a treat or two…sometime…somehow. :D Gong Xi Fa Cai, everyone!

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Easy Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

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Wow! We had a -10ºF temp. with a wind chill of -38º overnight! It was definitely the coldest I’ve ever experienced since I’ve been here. We survived the night, thankfully! The house is still intact – the roof did not come down on us despite all the weird noises it was making. :D And most importantly, we still have power. Yay!

Here’s one way you can stay warm in this brutally cold weather - with a delicious, spicy chicken curry! Not to be deceiving, this dish is super easy due to the use of pre-packaged curry mix. Our favorite is Tean’s Gourmet Chicken Curry Paste. Amazingly, we can actually find this mix in our local Asian store. If you can’t find it in yours, it’s also available on And if you prefer to make your curry from scratch, here’s a chicken curry recipe I grew up with. :) The pre-packaged mix definitely saves a lot of prep time, and makes a delicious one-pot meal with hardly any effort at all. Enjoy!

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8-10 pieces boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs (I use frozen without thawing)
About 4 large potatoes (I love Yukon Gold for curries), peeled and cut into 1½” chunks
2 (200g) packets Tean’s Gourmet Chicken Curry Paste
1 cup water
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
1½ pounds veggies (I like green beans or whole okra)* 
Salt to taste 

*For green beans, I use only fresh (I dislike the taste of frozen) and I keep them whole with the ends trimmed. Before adding them into the curry, I pre-cooked the green beans in a casserole dish in the microwave for 3 to 4 minutes. As for the okra, I usually use frozen without thawing (it’s extremely hard to find fresh okra here) and I would use 2 (16-ounce) packages which makes a total of 2 pounds veggies.

For easier clean-up, lightly oil the inside of the slow cooker. Place chicken, potatoes, curry paste, and water in the slow cooker. Cover and cook until chicken is tender (I would usually stir it once halfway through just to make sure the paste is thoroughly mixed in). If using fresh chicken, that will take 4 to 6 hours on low. Since I use frozen chicken, I set the slow cooker for 3 hours on high and then 2½ hours on low. Of course, you can keep it on low the whole time for frozen chicken as well…it’ll just take longer. (I read somewhere…I think it’s in America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook that chicken should only be cooked on low in a slow cooker to prevent the meat from drying out, which is why I don’t keep the setting on high the whole time). Once chicken is tender, stir in coconut milk and veggies and continue to cook on low for another 30 minutes or until it comes to a boil again. Season with salt to taste and serve curry with rice - with lots of gravy on mine please! :D

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Happy New Year!

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Edible Runner

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Okay, here’s the bad news - there are no pictures from our Christmas dinner this year. We were too busy diving in, enjoying our food and each other’s company. The good news is that everything turned out absolutely delicious. The turkey was perfect once again (you can check out the previously posted recipe and photos here). For the sides, instead of the traditional mashed potatoes and stuffing, I made America’s Test Kitchen Easy Baked Brown Rice (recipe can be found in The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook), Simple Cranberry Sauce, Cranberry Wheat Bread, and for veggies, just a simple lettuce and pear salad. Besides trying to keep prep at a minimum, I was trying to be a little healthier this year but I have to admit I did miss the mashed potatoes and stuffing. For the gravy, I made a modified version of the sauce found in the Chicken in a Pot with Thyme and Lemon recipe (which can be found in The ATK Healthy Family Cookbook as well).

Here’s what I did for the sauce (note – I didn’t measure anything so these quantities are just approximate):

A couple tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 turkey neck
¼ of a large onion, sliced thin
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
Juices from the roast turkey
Fresh lemon juice

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add turkey neck, and scatter the onion, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme around the neck. Brown the neck on both sides. Add broth and water and bring it to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for about an hour. Strain the concentrated broth (if turkey is not done yet, keep broth in the fridge and reheat once the turkey’s done), and add the turkey juices that have collected in the roasting pan. Let mixture sit, then skim the fat off the top with a spoon. Season with fresh lemon juice to taste. We like our sauce more on the lemony side. Serve separately, along with the turkey.

Alright, let’s now talk about the edible runner (didn’t mean to get sidetracked). I first saw a video of this concept in Martha’s Classic Thanksgiving DVD a while back (it can also be found on Martha Stewart’s website under the title Cornucopia Table Setting), and had wanted to try it out since then. Of course, the reality was not as impressive as Martha’s version. We didn’t use anywhere near the amount of ingredients they did to form the edible runner but despite that, it was still pretty and we had a lot of fun munching on the variety of nuts and chocolates. :D We would definitely consider setting our holiday table this way again.

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Christmas Cards

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Every Christmas, I’ll have Alex make a few cards for those special people in his life. Although he grumbles and complains about the actual work, I know that ultimately, it gives him immense satisfaction to know that he makes the recipients extremely happy. I purchase blank cards from art supply or craft stores (5″x7″ is a good size) and Alex’s favorite medium for this purpose is Crayola washable markers which is essentially mess-free (love the vibrant color as well). All our art ideas come from our favorite art blog – Art Projects for Kids. It has great step-by-step how to draw tutorials, and that’s what Alex uses to draw freehand on the blank cards. These handmade cards simply make a delightful and thoughtful gift. Don’t you think so?

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Reindeer Noses

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Here I was, scrambling the evening before the last day of our homeschooling group (we break for the holidays), wondering what simple treats we can make for the kiddos in Alex’s class. In came Google to save the day. :D We found these too adorable for words Reindeer Noses treats…no baking involved…whew! Made a quick trip to a couple of stores to get the supplies and ta da…Reindeer Noses! I have to say it was a family affair. Keith helped print out the labels and Alex helped with the packaging and we had it done in less than an hour (at 10pm!) That was a close call!

P.S. Label is a freebie from Kate Hadfield Designs. You’re a lifesaver!
P.P.S. If you decide to try making this next year, make sure you have enough Whoppers to allow for self-indulgence (Yum!) Trust me on this. :D
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Santa’s Key

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There is actually a story behind this key. This Christmas, we decided to let Alex pick out an ornament to add to our Christmas tree. We took him to a local garden center which is transformed into a winter wonderland store every Christmas. Of the many, many, many decorations there, he decided on this Santa’s key. Now, remember this was supposed to go on the tree but did it make it there? You guessed it, nope! For the next couple of weeks, Alex kept this key right next to him, wondering constantly what magical lock it could open, lol. Maybe it’ll make it to our tree next year. :D

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For the past several years, I have been dressing our Christmas tree essentially the same way. Commenting on that fact to a co-worker who is also a very dear friend of mine, she responded, “Chris, that is what tradition is all about. ” And here I thought I was just being cheap. :D I mean all the current decorations are perfectly fine, buying new ones will mean having to choose among the gazillion choices available in the stores (just thinking of it hurts my brain), and most importantly, I’m making a tradition. :D Other than our standard decorations, we do have a few extra-special ones scattered around the tree - they were either bought by us to remember certain special occasions, made by Alex when he was little, or given to us by families and friends over the years. They will always have a special place on our tree and in our hearts. Here are photos of some of them…

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