Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Mandarin Orange Muffins

I came to know about a food event known as, Muffin Monday Round Up, while surfing around for muffin creations. I decided to take part in this event, since I love baking muffins, and furthermore, it is hosted by Elena of Experiments, from Singapore.

Here's my entry for the event: Mandarin Orange Muffins.

I came across a blueberry muffin recipe from a Japanese-Chinese translated cookbook...Sweet Simple Dessert. I love the way the muffins look...very pretty, with nice and smooth domed tops. Most of the time, my muffins turned out to have very cracked tops :(

I followed the recipe but replaced the blueberries with mandarin oranges since I have been wanting to bake something with them. Instead of the usual "muffin" method where the wet ingredients are added to the dry ones, this recipe is based on the creaming method, i.e. cream butter with sugar.

I was rather satisfied with how the muffins turned out. The tops didn't crack that much as compared to my previous bakes. The texture is very soft and light, almost like cupcakes. The sweetness is also just right, with only a slight tang from the mandarin oranges.

(makes 12 cupcakes)

200g plain flour
20g corn flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
50ml milk
2 tablespoon plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
110g butter, softened
160g caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 mandarin oranges, cut into small chunks


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degC.

  2. Sift together plain flour, corn flour and baking powder. Set aside.

  3. Mix yogurt and milk together in a bowl. Set aside.

  4. Whisk butter still soft. Add in sugar and salt and continue to whisk till mixture turns light and fluffy.

  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, and whisk until combined. Mix in the vanilla.

  6. Add in half of the flour mixture, stir with a spatula until just combined. Add in half of the yogurt & milk mixture, stir until just combined. Continue to add in half of the remaining flour mixture, followed by the remaining yogurt mixture, and finally the remaining flour mixture. Stir until just combined between each addition.

  7. Fill muffin cups to half full with the batter. Distribute orange pieces evenly among the cups. Spoon remaining batter on top. Decorate with one slice of orange on top, if desired.

  8. Bake for 25 mins until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Sunday, 25 February 2007

Low-Fat Orange Yogurt Cake

I am always skeptical when it comes to low-fat desserts and bakes. I really doubt they will taste as good. However, after the feasting and binging on Chinese New Year food and goodies, it's time that I try making something that's low-fat. Earlier this week, I made curry chicken with low-fat milk, after hearing good reviews from my friend. Indeed, the curry tasted as good, except that I missed the sweet aroma from the coconut milk.

I made a "loaf" of low-fat orange cake last night. I adapted a Cranberry Pecan Cake recipe from Alice Medrich's Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts. As I just needed a simple cake, I omitted the cranberry and pecan, as well as the frosting. I used a wooden spoon instead of an electric mixer as I was too lazy to do the cleaning up. Although, on hind sight, I should have use a manual whisk instead. I think it would be easier to whisk the butter and sugar with it as it took me a quite a while to cream the butter mixture till pale & fluffy with the wooden spoon :(

The cake is meant to be baked in an 8-cup tube pan, since I don't have such kind of pan, I used a disposable foil loaf pan. Fortunately, the cake turned out to be very soft and light, unlike those moist and dense pound cake or butter cake. I believe the use of cake flour and yogurt helps to give the cake such a soft texture. This is meant to be a low-fat cake, but I think the sugar ought to be reduced further by at least 20 to 30%, I still find it a tad too sweet for me!


250g cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
70g butter, soften at room temperature
zest of 1 orange
180g sugar (original recipe calls for 200g of sugar)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup plain, non-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 tablespoon orange juice


  1. Preheat oven at 180 degC. Grease or line a 8" by 4" loaf pan.

  2. Sift together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

  3. In a bowl, mix together yogurt, vanilla essence and orange juice.

  4. With an electric mixer, beat butter and orange zest for 1 min. Add in sugar and beat on high speed for about 3 mins.

  5. Add in eggs gradually, about 1 tablespoon at a time, beat constantly for about 2 mins.

  6. On low speed, beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture. On medium-high speed, beat in 1/2 of the yogurt mixture. On low speed, beat in half of the remaining flour mixture. On high speed, beat in the remaining yogurt mixture. On low speed, beat in the rest of the flour mixture.

  7. Scrape into prepared pan and bake for 45 mins or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Violets are blue

This post has got nothing to do with baking or cooking. Now, unless you like gardening and flowers, you can skip this posting ;)

I was pleasantly surprised when I watered my plants this morning. A flower bud has sprout out from my pot of african violet!!! I was so happy! This plant has stopped blooming ever since the first set of flowers were gone. The plant has been on my window sill for many months...and I must confess, I really didn't give it much attention or care. I just water it once or twice a week, without even giving it any fertiliser. It is really difficult to grow violets in this kind of weather in Singapore. I used to own several pots of violets while I was still working. I keep my plants in the office as they grow better in air-con environment.

I'm not sure whether it was a pure coincident...as I posted some photos of my "past" plants in flickr.com just a couple of days ago...including a photo of this pot.

Can you see the flower bud?

A closer look at the flower bud:

This was taken when I first bought this plant home, it was in full bloom then:

I hope I could find my green fingers back real soon!

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Quick & Easy Fried Vermicelli aka Fried Bee Hoon

I usually cook simple one-dish meals for lunch as there are only the 3 of us. I am really fortunate that my 2 boys are not picky eaters. They eat whatever I cook. A few weeks ago, I made them fried noodles which tasted like rubber-bands, and yet, without any complaints, they finished up whatever that were in their plates. I told myself I really have to brush up on my cooking soon.

This fried bee hoon with stewed pork ribs, is one of the few better dishes that I could manage. I once ate this dish at my MIL's place, and from the ingredients, I figured out my own version.

I know fried bee hoon is one of the simplest local asian dish that any good cook would not deem it fit to even mention it. However, for an inexperienced cook like me, it took me a few attempts before I got the taste right. Thanks to the encouragement and support from my two little ones!

This is a rather straight forward dish as you simply need to fry the bee hoon with cabbage, carrots and canned stewed pork ribs. It can be ready in 30mins. In fact, the preparation time could be shorter, if not for my poor cutting & chopping skills ;)

What you need:
(serves 3 ~ 4)

1/2 packet bee hoon/vermicelli
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 carrot
1/2 chinese cabbage (small)
1 can stewed pork ribs
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp light soy sauce

  1. Soak bee hoon in cold water for about 10 to 15 mins.
  2. Peel carrot and rinse cabbage. Cut into shreds
  3. Remove any excess fat from the canned stewed pork ribs. Remove the bones and tear the pork ribs into shreds. Retain the sauce.
  4. Fry eggs till done. Cut into shreds and set aside.
  5. Heat 2 tablespoon of oil in a wok till hot. Stir fry carrot and cabbage till soft. Add in stewed pork ribs with the sauce, stir in salt, soy sauce and 1 cup of water. Bring to boil.
  6. Add in drained bee hoon. Toss and stir gently till sauce is fully absorbed by the bee hoon. Serve garnished with egg shreds.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Banana Blueberry Muffins

Muffins again?!

Sorry, but I couldn't help but to bake muffins for breakfast today. As the CNY public holidays are still on, most of the stalls at the hawker centre or coffeeshops will not open for business until tomorrow. As such, we won't be able to have our breakfast outside, even though it is our usual routine to do so during public holidays.

I have left over bananas and blueberries, so I came up with this recipe of my own. I think I have been quite comfortable with making muffins, so much so that I could easily "mix and match" recipes and ingredients to make my own version ;)

Here's my version of banana blueberry muffins. The muffins are much better than the previous batch of blueberry muffins. They are more fragrant because of the bananas and the sweetness is just nice. The texture is rather fluffy and moist, although again, the appearance is not too pleasing to the eyes :(

I do hope I could made tasty and yet pretty muffins very soon!

(makes 12 muffins)

210g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg, lightly beaten
100g sugar
1/4 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 medium sized bananas, mashed
1 cup fresh blueberries


  1. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda in a bowl.
  2. Working over the bowl, toss the blueberries with about 1 ~ 2 teaspoon of flour mixture in a sieve, and set aside. Coating the blueberries with flour helps to keep them from sinking to the bottom of the muffins as they bake.
  3. Combine egg, sugar, oil, vanilla essence and mashed bananas in another bowl. Mix well.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture. Stir until just blended. Fold in blueberries gently.
  5. Fill muffin cups/liners till almost full. Bake in preheated oven at 200 degC for 20 to 25 mins.

Monday, 19 February 2007

A Tower of Brownies

Made these brownies last night. I have refrained from baking anything with chocolate lately, as both my kids have been unwell for the past weeks. Upon their request, I baked these for their breakfast today.

I followed the recipe from Alice Medrich's Chocolate Holidays: Unforgettable Desserts for Every Season. It recommended a ice bath method...a special but simple technique to a perfect brownie. This involves baking the brownies at a high temperature of 200 degC for 20 mins, and once out of the oven, submerge the pan straight into an ice bath (a bigger pan filled 3/4 full with ice & water). Let the brownies cool in the ice bath before cutting into squares.

Cleaning up after the baking session was really easy. The main utensils I used were only a saucepan and a wooden spoon! I melted 4 oz butter and 4 oz unsweetened chocolate in the saucepan directly over low heat(although the instructions says to melt them in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water). Then, I simply stirred in the rest of the ingredients: 200g sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp vanilla essence , followed by 2 eggs (adding one at a time) and finally 70g of plain flour directly in the saucepan. I also lined the baking pan with foil, and if you are really not fussy, you don't even have to wash it ;]

The top half of the brownie is rather crispy while the bottom half has a softer texture. In fact, you could see a clear distinction of the 2 layers from the photo above. They are rather rich and a bit too sweet for my liking, although my kids find the taste just nice. Anyway, I'll definitely cut down the sugar next time.

Note: This recipe yelds 16 squares.

Friday, 16 February 2007

Chinese New Year Cookies Part II

I was crazy enough to try making 2 types of Chinese New Year cookies this morning!

A few weeks ago, I was telling myself that I should not be making any CNY cookies as store-bought ones are so easily available, and most of them taste quite ok. Little did I know that I found myself caught in the baking craze over these cookies in the past week! It didn't help that most of the local food bloggers that I visit have all their delicious and yummy CNY cookies splashed all over their posts, be it pineapple tarts, kueh bangkit, cornflakes cookies, peanut cookies and so on. I was so inspired and couldn't resist myself but to try baking one or two of them, otherwise I might regret it as I won't bake them till next year.

I attempted to make peanut cookies and kueh bangkit this morning. I try out with another recipe for the kueh bangkit. This time round, the dough is softer and easier to roll and cut out. The only problem is the baking time and temperature. The cookies took quite a long while for the centre to dry out completely. I had to test taste and adjust the oven temperature a few times to ensure that they don't get burnt. As a result, most of the cookies were a little over-browned :(

I compared the cookies made from the two different recipes, and came to the conclusion that I should "marry" the two of them. The cookies from the 1st recipe are more crispy but plain, while those from the 2nd one are sweeter and more fragrant.

Making the peanut cookies was a breeze. I followed the recipe from Florence's blog. The only difference is that I omitted the coarsely chopped peanut bits. I have the dough in the oven in less than 20 mins. Again, they took a much longer time to brown as compared to the stated time of 20mins. Taste wise, they are very good and really melts in your mouth :)

Thursday, 15 February 2007


Oyakudon is one of the easiest and simplest dinner that I cook for my family. It is one of the Japanese donburi dishes or rice bowl dishes that have meat and vegetables simmered together over rice. It is made of chicken and eggs...and that's how the name "Oyaku" was derived (mother & child in Japanese). I used to think that it means a dish prepared by a mother for her child ;)

I happened to come across this oyakudon ready-made seasoning at the supermarket a few months ago. The cooking instructions are in Japanese...somehow, from the pictures printed at the back of the box, I managed to figure out how to made this dish. It turns out to be a very simple and delicious meal. I topped the oyakudon with some furikake rice seasoning that comes in these cute Cinnamoroll packaging. This is great for busy mummies who want to cook a quick and simple meal for the family.

(serves 3 ~ 4)

2 chicken drumsticks, de-boned and cut into bite sizes
2 onions, sliced
3 eggs
cooked rice

Here's how you do it:

  1. Stir fry onions with some oil in a saucepan. Add in the chicken and stir fry till the meat turns white.
  2. Add in 1 cup of water and 2 or 3 packets of oyakudon seasoning (one packet is for 1 serving). Let it simmer till chicken is done.
  3. Add in lightly beaten eggs gradually. Once the eggs begin to solidify, turn off the heat and cover the saucepan. The remaining heat will ensure the eggs are just done.
  4. Pour over cooked rice and serve immediately. Top with furikake rice seasoning, or seaweed as desired.

    Here's my version of a simple and yummy oyakudon.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Chinese New Year Cookies

I finally made one of those Chinese New Year must have...Kueh Bangkit. These are biscuits made with tapioca flour and coconut milk. The tapioca flour has to be fried with pandan leaves before it can be used. This is one of the main reasons that I have been putting off the idea to make them. With my sub-standard stir-frying skills, I may over fry the flour and very likely spatter flour all over the kitchen.

The other problem is, there are too many different recipes to choose from. It would be difficult to choose one which would yield the best result...crispy and yet melt-in-the mouth. Even with the same recipe, different people may achieve different results. If you are unlucky, you may even end up with trays of rock-hard cookies!

By chance, I came upon this recipe that does not require the tapioca flour to be pan-fried, it can be done by heating in a convection or a microwave oven. I guess the main purpose of frying the flour is to get rid of the moisture and add fragrance with the pandan leaves. With moisture eliminated from the flour, the biscuits will turn out very crispy. With the assurance that I will unlikely get flour all over the place, I went ahead with the recipe. I "bake" the flour the night before and cool them overnight. Making the dough was rather straight forward. The only difficult part was rolling out the dough as it was rather dry and hard. I had to roll the dough with a piece of parchment paper covered on it to prevent it from sticking to the rolling pin. My younger boy volunteered his assistance and we had a fun time cutting out the biscuits. I left him to finish up the last tray while I cleaned up the mess. He really did a good job! The biscuits turn out to be very nice and crispy. However, I could hardly tell whether they are really good, as the last time I had these biscuits was a year ago.

Sunday, 11 February 2007

Blueberry Muffins

This is the first time I bought blueberries from the supermarket. It has never occurred to me to eat this fruit as it is not as common as strawberries or even cherries. I bought them specially to bake blueberry muffins. I've came across several blueberry muffin recipes but have never had the chance to try it.

I made this batch of muffins for breakfast this morning. The recipe is adapted from Annie Bell's Gorgeous Cakes, Plum Muffins. I took this recipe as it's the only recipe where I have all the ingredients on hand. The muffins lack the fragrance and sweetness as compared to the banana-raisin oat bran muffins I made the other day. They tasted rather "plain and simple", if not for the vanilla essence I added. The blueberries were sweet, and although they were rather small berries, they were quite juicy. Judging from the "nil" comments or lack of enthusiaism from my kids, I believe I'll have to try out other recipes. Nevertheless, these muffins are certainly soft and moist and went very well with a cup of coffee.

(makes 6 big muffins)

225g flour
75g sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
30g butter, melted
1 egg
200ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup fresh blueberries

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degC.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the egg, then add in the milk and butter. Mix well.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir until just incorporated. Do not over mix.
  5. Fold in the blueberries. Spoon the batter into muffin cups/liners and bake for 20 to 25mins, or until risen and lightly browned.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Banana-raisin Oat Bran Muffins

George Bernard Shaw once said,
"You don't get tired of muffins, but you don't find inspiration in them."

I certainly agreed with the first part of the sentence, but not the second...maybe, during those days, there were only a few types of muffins around?? Anyway, I like muffins...they are usually easy to make, with simple ingredients, always with fruits added, and are more healthy as compared to cupcakes. Thanks to my friend, who passed me some oat bran, I baked a batch of oat bran muffins last night. It was my first attempt to bake wholesome muffins. As a novice, I was not even able to differentiate between oat bran, rolled oats or whole bran!

While I was preparing the ingredients, my little one came along and eagerly offered his help. We had a good time baking the muffins together...just the 2 of us. It was really easy and quick...we took less than 15 mins to pop the muffins into the oven. I was a bit worried when the batter appeared to be rather dry and lumpy. I was only a little at ease half way thru the baking, when my whole kitchen was filled with this wonderful aroma of the sweet fragrance from the bananas.

The muffins were golden brown when they were ready. I was surprised at the coarsely texture...if not for the sweet aroma they were emitting, they certainly look ugly and unappetizing, sitting on the cooling rack. I couldn't wait for them to cool completely before biting into one. Well, the saying, "don't judge a book by its cover" applies to these muffins too. They tasted really good despite their look, the top maybe coarse, the centre was really soft, moist and fluffy. I shared it with my little one, and he asked for another one to go with his bedtime milk. My elder boy who missed out on all the actions, told me over breakfast this morning, "These muffins look really ugly, but they taste really yummy!"

I used to try out recipes based on the appealing photos of the bakes. I have now learnt not to judge a muffin by it's look.

(makes 12 muffins)

120g plain flour
94g oat bran
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 box (net wt. 42.5g) Sun.Maid raisins
1 egg, lightly beaten
100g sugar
1/4 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 medium sized bananas, mashed


  1. Mix flour, oat bran, baking powder, baking soda and raisins in a bowl.
  2. Combine egg, sugar, oil, vanilla essence and mashed bananas in another bowl.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture. Stir until just blended.
  4. Fill muffin cups/liners till almost full. Bake in preheated oven at 200 degC for 20 to 25 mins.

This recipe is adapted from "The 250 Best Muffin Recipes, by Esther Brody".

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Curry Chicken

I have decided that I will add in a category "Simple Dishes" to my postings here. I am not a good cook, in fact I can't really cook! I have been cooking for the family for almost a year, but till now, I can only make simple dishes such as porridge, fried rice, fried noodles and claypot chicken rice. My family members are not fussy eaters...that's probably why I can't improve ;)

This curry chicken will be the first post for this category. I have not cooked this dish for months. Simply because I have ran out of my sis' homemade chili paste. She finally found time to make the paste 2 weeks ago.

It's really a simple and easy dish, especially, if you have ready-made chili paste. Here are the steps:

Step 1:
Mix 1 ~ 2 tablespoon of chili paste with the chicken pieces (half a chicken).

Step 2:
Stir fry the chicken and potatoes a little, and add in 1 packet of coconut water and simmer for 20mins.

Step 3:
Mix 2 tablespoon of curry powder with a little bit of water to form a paste and add into the curry.

Step 4:
Add in 1 packet of coconut milk and simmer for another 5 to 10 mins. Ready to serve!

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Piano Cake

I finally picked up the courage to make this cake.

Saw this video clip from youtube while searching for sanrio products. My 5 yr old is a fan of Cinnamoroll, one of the many sanrio characters. We were watching a video clip of Cinnamoroll when I came across the Sugar Bunnies, another sanrio character. After viewing the clip, I told my boys that someday, I will make them this cake, just like the sugar bunnies. If you like baking, do spent less than 4 mins of your time to watch the clip, I am sure you will find it very cute and interesting. It is in French (I think), but it is really self-explanatory.

Since this is my first real attempt to frost a cake, the result is very very very far from the one shown in the video clip. It took me a while to convince myself to post it here, haha!

The cake itself was quite easy, as I used a simple sponge cake recipe. I used peach slices and whipping cream for the filling, but then I realised there wasn't enough cream for me to decorate the cake, in fact, it wasn't even enough to cover the entire cake!

My younger boy helped me with the filling, and, as usual, he helped himself with the left over peaches. The elder one guided me on the correct position of the "black keys". They were actually chocolate wafers from Meiji. Too bad they weren't exactly black...they were dark brown. They were the closest I could get. My son asked me whether we could just paint them black ;)

I really lack the skills to assemble a 3-layer cake. The cake was not really flat and sharp at the edges. I ended up with a bulging keyboard. Well, although the cake didn't look what it's suppose to be, at least the taste is still alright. I guess I have to practise many more times, if not will have to go for a formal baking class, before I could make a decent looking cake!

Monday, 5 February 2007

Korean Fare

We had a little gathering at my friend's place over the weekend. We had a full spread of Korean food for dinner. One of my friends cooked the Korean dishes...there were spicy rice cakes, kimchi soup, jajian mien (Korean style), and a few side dishes, such as simmered lotus root, cold tofu, etc. She even prepared cinnamon & ginger tea, though it was not very well received, sorry Ah M, I guess not many people like the taste of cinnamon...including myself ;) I like the spicy rice cake and lotus root most.

I brought these Strawberry Jellyhearts for dessert. It was my 2nd attempt in making these, and I was very happy with the result this time.

The jelly layer is so much better as compared to the 1st attempt. I made the biscuit base and cheese layer in the morning, and made the jelly layer only at night. The cheese layer was fully set by then, as such, there were no bits of cheese floating around, and when set, the jelly layer was almost crystal clear. It gave a very nice reflection when I was trying to take the photos:)

I was also able to achieve nice clean cuts without having to heat up the knife. The only problem was the biscuit base...it was a bit too crumbly...either I didn't use enough butter or I didn't press them firmly enough in the cake pan? By the way, I used an ordinary square pan...I don't own any loose-bottom pans or springform ones. I improvised by lining my square pan with a layer of foil...once the jellyhearts are ready, I simply lift it out of the pan with the foil.

Made a batch of Horlicks Doggies Cookies for my friend. Her kids can't take too much chocolate, so I omitted the chocolate chips that were supposed to be wrapped in the cookies. Nevertheless, the cookies are still as tasty, but they are not sweet at all, as no sugar or eggs are used. I hope her kids will like them :)