Malaysian Laksa

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We celebrated Alex’s 12th birthday recently. 12!!! Sob! Where did my baby go? He has grown into a young man, apparently. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it before but Alex is on the Autism spectrum and it has been a long road to help get him to where he is right now.  He has progressed so much in the past few years (with a lot of hard work and therapies) and we are so proud of him! We continue to strive to help him reach his fullest potential.

Sometimes, when I see other moms with kids on the spectrum looking so sad, tired, and probably feeling hopeless when dealing with the multitude of challenges that come with the disorder, I just want to give them a hug and tell them that things will work out…they will be okay! At the same time, I know how difficult it is to believe that statement in the midst of it all. If you know a family with an Autistic child, please be sensitive about what these parents go through and refrain from making judgmental comments (even if you mean well). It is a disorder, and is not the result of something the parents did or did not do. They already beat themselves up more than you would ever even begin to imagine, trust me. Be courteous and be kind, that’s all anybody could ask for. :)

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I had always wonder how we could eat so much spicy food living in Malaysia, I mean considering how hot and humid the weather is. You would think all we would want to eat is something cold and cooling ALL the time. But nope! Nature gives us lots of spices and hot peppers and they definitely don’t go to waste. After a while, I guess you do get used to the heat – weather or food, they sort of all just blend together. One of my favorite spicy dishes is laksa (a spicy noodle soup), specifically Sarawak laksa since that was what I grew up with. It is commonly purchased from the many hawker food stalls that are available back home, instead of being homemade. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty deprived of laksa (and many other things) when I first moved here. Thankfully, for several years now, we can find laksa paste over here in the States. My favorite is the Tean’s Gourmet Curry Laksa Paste. It’s so, sooooooo good, I would eat this even when it’s 90 degrees out! No more feeling deprived of laksa. Enjoy!

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Note: Surprisingly, I can actually find Tean’s Gourmet Curry Laksa Paste at my local Asian store. If you can’t find the laksa paste anywhere near you, you can purchase it online at AsianSupermarket365.com. When making the laksa, I use low-sodium chicken broth (Swanson brand) instead of water to give the soup an extra boost of flavor and as for the noodle, I use bee hoon (thin rice sticks). My favorite brand is the Dynasty Maifun Rice Sticks, which can usually be found in the Asian aisle in your regular grocery store. We eat our laksa topped with soft fried tofu, bean sprouts, shredded rotisserie chicken breasts, shrimp, sliced omelet, and a hefty squeeze of lime…so DELICIOUS! Please also note that the instructions on the back of the laksa package are different from my instructions here – my aim is to get the taste as close to Sarawak laksa as I could, which I think I did.

1 (6.75-ounce) package Dynasty Maifun Rice Sticks
12 ounces bean sprouts
8 ounces medium shrimp, thawed if using frozen
1 (32-ounce) carton Swanson Natural Goodness Chicken Broth
1 (7-ounce) package Tean’s Gourmet Curry Laksa Paste
1 (4.75-ounce) package small fried tofu
1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
3 extra-large eggs
Rotisserie chicken breast

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add noodles and cook until tender but firm to the bite (if the noodles are gummy, you’ve overcooked it), about 10 minutes. Remove noodles to a dish. Bring the same pot of water to a boil again over high heat (replenish water if necessary). Add bean sprouts and cook until wilted but still crunchy, about 2 minutes. Remove bean sprouts to a dish and set aside. Bring water to a boil again and add a generous amount of salt. Add shrimp and cook until curled, about 30 seconds. Remove shrimp to a dish. At this point, discard cooking water. In the same pot (which is now empty), add chicken broth and bring it to a boil over high heat. Mix in the laksa paste, add the fried tofu and coconut milk, and bring it to a quick boil again. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Whisk eggs with a pinch of salt and pour into the hot pan (you may have to cook in two batches depending on the size of your skillet). Cook until egg is mostly set, carefully flip it over, and continue to cook until egg is firm but tender and lightly browned on both sides. Remove from heat, cool, and slice thinly. Shred rotisserie chicken breast.

Putting it all together: Place noodles in a bowl or soup dish, and add as much or as little bean sprouts, shredded chicken breast, shrimp, and sliced omelet as you like. Pour the hot laksa broth into the bowl along with some tofu. Serve hot, with a squeeze of lime! Yum!

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Posted in Pasta and Noodles | Tagged | 2 Comments

Summery Watermelon Basil Drink

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Looks like we are finally going to get some sun for the rest of the week after countless days of rain. Yay! Currently, I’m recuperating from a wrist surgery that I had just yesterday, and it’s only uh, one day after the surgery, and I’m ready to tear the wrap off! Not only that, I’m feeling so restless and useless for not being able to do anything much. However, it’s all for the good of my wrist, so I’ll bear with it…since there’s pretty much nothing else I can do. :)

Here’s a sweet, refreshing watermelon drink that’s just perfect for a summer day. It has the added fragrance of sweet basil and lime that makes it just a little bit more special and delicious. Enjoy!

4 to 5 cups watermelon pulp and juice* or about 6 cups cubed watermelon
3 large sweet basil leaves or to taste, torn into small pieces
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 small lime)
A pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar or to taste (optional)

*Sometimes, I like to use a melon baller to scoop out the watermelon, just to be a little fancy. :) Often, there will be quite a bit of watermelon left near the rind. Not to be wasteful, I’ll scrap it off with the melon baller, and in the blender it goes.

Place all the ingredients in the blender. Cover and blend until smooth and thick. Serve cold.

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Stir-Fried Noodles with Shrimp

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Looks like it has been a while again since the last time I checked in. Too many things are going on in our lives right now – worrisome things, depressing things, but thank goodness some happy things as well. I guess that’s just life – you take the bad with the good and somehow, things will work themselves out (or at least that’s what I’m trying to convince myself of). :)

Now that the weather is heating up, the oven is officially closed for business. That simply means more stir-frying for me, not that it’s an uncommon thing in our household to begin with. Today, I would like to share an easy stir-fry noodle dish that uses only a few ingredients but tastes oh so delicious. Enjoy!

Note: My go-to brand for soy sauce (both the light and mushroom flavored) is the Pearl River Bridge brand that can be found in most Asian stores. For obvious reasons, using different brands of soy sauce will produce slightly different end results. My rule of thumb is use what you like and chances are, you will like the resulting dish. :)

8 ounces (¼-inch-wide) rice noodles
2 tablespoon oil (I use extra light olive oil)
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
12 ounces medium shrimp, thawed if using frozen
8 ounces bean sprouts
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon mushroom flavored soy sauce
¼ teaspoon salt
A large handful fresh chives, cut into 2-inch lengths
Thinly sliced Serrano pepper and lime wedges, optional

To prepare the noodles: bring a small pot of water to a boil and turn off heat. Submerge noodles in the hot water, cover the pot, and let noodles soak until softened, about 5 minutes; drain. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add garlic and cook until fragrant and light golden brown, stirring constantly. Add shrimp and cook, continue to stir for about a minute. Add drained noodles, bean sprouts, light soy sauce, mushroom flavored soy sauce, and salt and cook, stirring and tossing until noodles are evenly coated and shrimp is cooked through. Turn off heat, and stir in chives. Serve with Serrano pepper on the side and a squeeze of lime, if desired.   

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Buttermilk Biscuits

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Since I mentioned the wonderful weather we had last Saturday, it has turned cold, and we’ve even gotten hail and snow. I guess I should have known better than to celebrate so soon. :) As the locals would say, “It’s Cleveland” (although we are officially in the suburb, it still applies to us), meaning that it’s crazy and unpredictable. It can be 90 degrees one day and 45 the next, but still we trudge on through. However, I think most can agree that we are so ready for warmer days to come and stay!

On to food – here’s a super-easy, delicious biscuit recipe that takes less than 30 minutes from the start to the table. I first made them for our Easter meal and I was thoroughly impressed with the simplicity and precision of the recipe, considering that it was from my old 1942 vintage cookbook. For instance, the recipe said to bake them at 450ºF for 12 minutes, not 10 to 15 minutes, not 10 to 12 either or even 12 to 15 minutes (you get the drift). I baked them for exactly 12 minutes and they came out perfect! Tall and fluffy and golden brown on the outside, and did I mention that they were delicious? They are great for breakfast, as a side dish, or just anytime you feel like it. Enjoy!

{Original recipe can be found in The American Woman’s Cook Book, 1942 edition}
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ cup cold unsalted butter
1 cup cold buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450ºF. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add buttermilk and mix quickly. Knead for a few seconds on a floured surface. Then, pat dough out to ½-inch thickness and cut to desired size with a knife (or cut with a biscuit cutter). Place on sheet pan lined with parchment and bake for 12 minutes.

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Posted in Breads, Sandwiches, and Pizza | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

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We had fantastic weather on Saturday in northeast Ohio! I hope many of you who live in the area got to get out and soak up the much needed and appreciated sunshine. :) Now that winter is over, I’m definitely looking forward to more gorgeous days in the coming weeks (we are so deprived here in northeast Ohio). Yay to sunny days!

Recently, I made these delicious blueberry buttermilk pancakes and we gobbled them up in record time. The base recipe actually came from “The American Woman’s Cook Book,” to which I changed only a few little things. The pancakes turned out soooooooo good! Enjoy!

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon corn meal
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups buttermilk
2 extra-large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 cup (or more) frozen blueberries (I use Wyman’s Wild Blueberries)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, corn meal, and sugar. Make a well in the center, add the buttermilk and eggs. Stir/beat until smooth, adding the melted butter halfway through (batter will be thick). Preheat a nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Lightly grease the cooking surface with butter or oil. Pour batter (I use a heaping ¼ cup per pancake) into the skillet and sprinkle the top with a tablespoon (or more if preferred) frozen blueberries – keep in mind though that too much blueberries could cause the pancakes to break apart. Cook pancakes until golden brown on both sides, adjusting the heat as needed. Serve with your favorite syrup.

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Posted in Eggs and Breakfast | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Vintage Cookbooks

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I have a serious addiction…to cookbooks! In addition to contemporary cookbooks, I started collecting vintage cookbooks a couple of years ago and I apparently can’t stop. :) I think if I don’t purchase another cookbook ever, I’ll still have enough to last me a lifetime. Do I need help yet? At least I don’t spend a lot on these vintage cookbooks. The average price I pay per book is $2, which is a deal, right? The problem I have is that I’m running out of room. So I tell myself not to add any more cookbooks to my collection. That’s it, Chris! No more cookbooks! Well, guess what I walked out with two days ago when I checked out a local resale store? Two more cookbooks! It was buy one get one free – I paid $1 for two vintage Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks. Like I said, a serious addiction!!! :)

One of my current favorite vintage cookbooks is “The American Woman’s Cook Book.” It’s in pretty bad shape but it’s a treasure trove of recipes. My awesome boss and friend, Cindy (knowing that I love vintage cookbooks), rescued it from the free pile basket two book sales ago at the library. It cost nothing – you can’t beat that! I have to admit though that I was a little grossed out by the condition of the book initially but I’ve since gotten over my aversion. :) Thank you so much once again, Cindy!

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Posted in Daily Life | Tagged | 2 Comments

Friendship

Friendship Quote copy

Our mail carrier delivered a package to our door today. It turned out to be a surprise care package from my wonderful and dearest friend, Bonnie! She had heard, I’m assuming from her husband, who probably heard from Keith how stressed I’ve been these past couple of months (our husbands were housemates back in our college days). In her usual thoughtful and caring way, she put together a care package for me (with a little something for Alex too – thank you Auntie Bonnie!). I was extremely surprised and really touched by her beautiful gesture. Bonnie, thank you for thinking of me and you absolutely made my day! I’m truly blessed to have you as a friend!

xxx
Chris

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Rustic Apple Tart with Homemade Crust

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Hello, everyone! It has been a while again – too many things have happened since the last time I checked in. A week after we discovered ice damage in our family room, we found the same problem in one of our bedrooms! So, we’ve been dealing with on-going repairs of these two rooms for more than a month now. It’s getting really old, let me tell you. The furniture is all over the place. The living room is a mess! Nothing is where it should be. It’s driving me up the wall! Aaaarrrggghhh!!! In fact, that was exactly what I said to Keith just ten minutes ago. :) The end is in sight though…we are almost done with the indoor repairs…almost. Now, if only the weather would just cooperate, we would be able to get the necessary roof work done as well so I wouldn’t have to continue to worry about new damages. But that would just be too easy, wouldn’t it? Keith is probably wondering who is this shrew he’s married to and I’m wondering why doesn’t he have any magical powers to fix this problem in a nanosecond, LOL! Truthfully, he helps keep me calm and grounded, although I can feel the calmness slipping away, Hon! ;)

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Alex went through another bout of sickness two and a half weeks ago, which was supposedly our spring break week (although we homeschool, I try to follow our school district’s calendar). He had high fever and the works, again, and it went on the entire week. By the fifth day, I was wondering if he’ll ever get over this virus, which he did, just in time for school of course. Poor kiddo! As for me, I took the opportunity to cook in bulk and freeze. I didn’t bake much and I definitely didn’t document anything I did. Sorry, guys!

I did however, take photos of the apple tart I made last Friday. The filling was delicious, if I may say so? :) However, the crust didn’t turn out exactly the way I had hoped. It’s your typical all-butter pie crust but with a little addition of baking powder. The baking powder is supposed to make the crust extra light and crispy, which it did partially. The top part turned out exactly that but the bottom layer, I felt was harder than crisp which made the tart hard to cut through. Keith and I talked about it and in hindsight, we think the problem is actually not the crust itself, but the layer of cranberry sauce I spread on the dough before piling up the apple. We think that the sauce actually caramelized, therefore making the bottom layer hard, instead of light and crispy. So, I’m not tossing the recipe into the lost cause pile yet but will give it one more try another time. Meanwhile, I’m going to note what I’ve done here…so feel free to just ignore it. You can also try making the tart with your favorite pie crust recipe or store-bought crust like I did in the Easy Rustic Apple Tart post. Have a great week!

Love,
Chris

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Pie Crust {The original Light Crispy Pie Crust recipe can be found in The Lazy Days of Summer Cookbook by Jane Watson Hopping}
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup cold unsalted butter

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add about ½ cup cold water (or more if needed) a little at a time, mixing lightly with a fork. (I find this to be the trickiest part of making a pie – check often towards the end, the dough is just right when it’s moist enough to hold together under slight pressure.) Divide the dough in half and roll each half to about 11½ to 12 inches wide in between two parchment sheets, occasionally peeling back the parchment to prevent creases on the dough. Place dough (still in between parchments) on a large baking sheet. Chill until firm.

Apple Filling
⅓ cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 pounds Golden Delicious or Gala apples (5 to 6), peeled, cored, sliced ¼ inch thick
⅔ cup cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine light brown sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl, then stir in the apples until they are evenly coated with the sugar mixture. Remove pie dough from the fridge. Working with one pie dough at a time, place the dough on a large baking sheet. Remove the top parchment paper, spread ⅓ cup cranberry sauce on the dough, leaving a 2-inch border around the edge (since we think this may have caused the hard bottom crust, I will skip this step in the future). Place half the apple filling on top of the cranberry sauce. Fold the dough over the apples, pleating it every inch or two (if dough is still too firm, let sit for a few more minutes). Lightly brush top of dough with water, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar. Repeat with the other dough. Bake tarts until crust is golden and crisp, about 40 to 45 minutes. Cool tarts on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then use the parchment paper or large spatula to transfer the tarts directly onto a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Posted in Desserts | Tagged , | 4 Comments

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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