Strawberry Oatmeal Smoothie

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What do you mean, we can have our oatmeal and drink it too? :) With strawberries nonetheless, which just reminds me of spring.

Spring can’t come fast enough for us this year. February had been absolutely brutal with its extreme cold and mountains of snow. Not only that, Alex and Keith got sick although both have finally recovered. Just in time for the next challenge, of course – ice damage on the roof which soaked part of the ceiling, wall, and carpet in our family room! According to the insurance adjuster, ours is not the only home in the area having this problem but somehow, that didn’t feel too comforting. So at the moment, we have huge gaping holes in the ceiling and wall where wet drywall and insulation had to be removed. Let’s not mention the giant water stain on the carpet. :( The biggest challenge right now is to keep the inside dry while Mother Nature melts the ice outside. Like I said, spring can’t come fast enough for us this year!

Since there’s nothing much we can do until the ice is gone, let’s take a moment and savor this delicious, full of goodness smoothie and dream of warmer days to come. ;) To spring!

½ cup quick oats
1 cup milk (I use vanilla soy milk)
Frozen whole strawberries
Additional milk (again, I use soy milk)
¼ teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar or to taste

Combine the first two ingredients – oats and milk in a medium, microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, pour strawberries into the blender until about the 6-cup line (we have a 6-cup blender). Add milk to about the 2½-cup line, and then add the cooked oatmeal (you don’t have to wait until it’s cool), salt, and sugar. Cover and blend until smooth and thick. Makes about two to three glasses of smoothie, depending on the size of your glass.

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Ang Pow

The best part of Chinese New Year when you are a kid is definitely the ang pows! Gong Xi Fa Cai! Ang Pow Na Lai. ;)

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Happy Chinese New Year!

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CNY Eve Dinner

Here are some dishes I made tonight…there were eight courses in all! I was actually aiming for nine, lol. Yes, I’m insane…insane for even contemplating doing it. However, it is a family tradition and I find that as I get older, tradition becomes increasingly important. And the best part is – there is enough food probably for the next five days. :)

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Celebrating Chinese New Year

It’s Chinese New Year Eve today! In Malaysia, we would have a huge family reunion dinner tonight to start the celebration but in the States, it would just be the three of us. :) Normally, we would invite close friends to celebrate with us but Alex has been sick with the flu…so no invitations went out this year.

To get in the mood, I put up some festive decorations this morning. I also set out a few treats (nothing homemade this year) and the first thing Alex inquired about when he saw all these was of course, the “ang pow.” For those of you who are not familiar with the term, “ang pow” simply refers to the money-filled red packet that one receives on CNY. Well, at least the kiddo remembers something about CNY, I guess. :) Gong Xi Fa Cai!

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Banana-Nut Muffins

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It’s always a wonderful feeling when a simple recipe yields fantastic results. I recently purchased a used Southern Living cookbook titled “The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook” for two bucks. :) I told Keith I couldn’t not buy the book. I mean it’s Southern Living’s ultimate cookbook…it says so in the title. Lol, that got a chuckle out of him.

Anyway, I was flipping through the book, looking for a new recipe to use all the ripe bananas sitting on our counter when I saw the banana-nut muffins recipe. Simple and unpretentious, I wondered if the muffins would turn out just bland and one-dimensional. However, I love simple recipes and this one was calling out to me to give it a go.

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My kiddo decided to join me on this baking jaunt. :) Although the kitchen always ends up messier and the prep time takes longer when that happens, the time we get to spend together is absolutely priceless. Alex was a fabulous helper – mashing up the bananas, chopping the nuts, and getting all the dry ingredients together. Surprisingly, the muffins turned out really delicious for such a simple recipe. They were moist, light, not too sweet (just the way I like my muffins), and had the perfect amount of banana flavor. This recipe is a keeper! Enjoy!

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{Slightly adapted from the Banana-Nut Muffins recipe in The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook}
1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup mashed ripe banana
½ cup milk
⅓ cup extra light olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup chopped walnuts plus more for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan or line with baking cups (tip: spraying baking cups with cooking spray will prevent muffins from sticking to the paper). In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Make a well in the center, and add egg, mashed banana, milk, oil, and vanilla extract. Stir just until moistened, then stir in the walnuts. Fill the muffin pan, dividing the batter evenly. Sprinkle the top with more chopped walnuts (optional). Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and transfer muffins to a cooling rack.

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Sweet Potato Dessert Two Ways

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Happy New Year! Sweet potatoes in coconut milk and sweet potatoes in sugared water are two Asian-style desserts I grew up with. The first is essentially “Bubur Cha Cha” (which is sweet potatoes and taro in coconut milk) minus the taro simply because I prefer it to be all sweet potatoes. That’s the beauty of making the foods yourself – you can make them EXACTLY the way you like it. :) I tend to make mine a little less sweet than how most locals favor them as well. Not only that, I prefer a higher liquid to potatoes ratio than what is typical and you will see these adjustments in my recipes. Feel free to change them to your taste. Usually, I’m more partial to the plainer sweet potatoes in sugared water over the richer coconut milk version, but on days when you can’t decide, make both like I did this time. Enjoy!

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Sweet Potato in Coconut Milk
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
1½ cans coconut milk (about 21 fluid ounces)
¼ cup sugar
A pinch of salt
2 pandan leaves, rinsed and knotted, optional

Place sweet potatoes and 1 tablespoon water in a microwavable casserole dish. Microwave covered on High until sweet potatoes are tender (easily pierced) but still hold their shape, about 4 minutes, stirring twice. Uncover and set aside until needed. Place coconut milk, sugar, salt, and pandan leaves (if using) in a medium saucepan, and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Add sweet potatoes and let it come to a boil once again. Remove from heat, and serve warm or cold.

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Sweet Potato Soup
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
3½ cups water
1 slice fresh ginger, optional
2 pandan leaves, rinsed and knotted, optional
¼ cup sugar or to taste

Place sweet potatoes, water, ginger (if using), and pandan leaves (if using) in a medium saucepan, and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Lower heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. Add sugar to taste. Remove from heat, and serve warm or cold.

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Apple Cheddar Muffins

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Alex has been sick twice now in two weeks and is in fact, still recovering at the moment. Today is day six of the second round and I think he’s finally reaching the point where he can’t stand being sick anymore. He told Keith and me tonight that he needs to get better. Believe me kiddo, I’ll grant you that wish if I could. :)

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is in three weeks? Before the cooking frenzy starts, here’s another easy-peasy recipe for all those apples. The muffins turned out moist and super-delicious, with a surprising extra depth of flavor from the Cheddar. Enjoy!

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{Slightly adapted from the Apple Cheese Muffins recipe in the Apple Kitchen Cookbook by Demetria Taylor}
½ cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
½ cup light brown sugar
2 extra-large eggs, room temperature
1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1⅓ cups finely chopped, peeled apples
⅔ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
12 thin slices peeled apples
Turbinado sugar
 

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan or line with baking cups (tip: spraying baking cups with cooking spray will prevent muffins from sticking to the paper). In a large bowl, cream butter and light brown sugar with a wooden spoon. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring well to incorporate into butter mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and stir into butter mixture. Stir in oats, apples, cheese, and pecans (if using), and mix well. Add milk , stirring only to moisten the other ingredients. Fill the muffin pan, dividing the batter evenly. Then, coat apple slices with turbinado sugar and press one slice into batter in each muffin cup. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let muffins cool in the pan for a minute or two. Then, transfer muffins out of the pan to a cooling rack and cool completely.

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Apple Pancakes with Apple Maple Syrup

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Happy Fall!!! It’s apple and pumpkin season! We have a couple of orchards just down the street where we live and are taking full advantage of all those fresh apples. Here’s a couple of super-easy and delicious recipes to add to your collection. Enjoy!

On a personal note, the pain of losing Cyber is finally easing up. It has been strange adjusting to life without our four-legged pups but maybe in time, we’ll be able to open our hearts and home to more. Hope everyone’s enjoying this gorgeous season (well, minus the cold, windy, rainy, and dreary-looking part). :)

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Apple Pancakes {slightly adapted from the Apple Griddlecakes recipe in the Apple Kitchen Cookbook by Demetria Taylor}
1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
1 extra-large egg, room temperature and well-beaten
1 cup milk, room temperature
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup finely chopped, peeled apples
 

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine egg, milk, and butter. Add gradually to the flour mixture, stirring only until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in apples. Let sit for 10 minutes. Cook pancakes on hot, greased griddle or pan (I use about ½ cup batter per pancake) until golden brown on both sides, adjusting the heat as needed. Serve with the apple maple syrup below. :)

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Apple Maple Syrup {slightly adapted from the Apple Pecan Syrup recipe in the Apple Kitchen Cookbook by Demetria Taylor}
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup maple syrup
Pinch of salt
2½ cups thinly sliced, peeled apples
 

Combine butter, syrup, and salt in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until butter has melted. Stir in apples and bring to a simmer. Then, lower heat to medium-low and cook until apples are tender but still hold their shape. Remove from heat and serve warm. 

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In Loving Memory of Cyber

Two weeks ago, we said goodbye to our almost 15-year old pup. It was with an extremely heavy heart that we made that decision. He had not been feeling well or happy for a long time. Strangely, a couple of days before the actual day, I dreamt of Max – she was laying next to Cyber on the side of our bed like she hadn’t been gone all of this time. We felt like she was telling us that she would take care of Cyber, that it was okay for us to let him go. She was always very protective of all of us. We believe Cyber is finally where he belongs, together again with Max and Darwin. He would have been ecstatic to see them! As for us, maybe in time, our hearts will be whole again.

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In Memory of Cyber copy

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