Saturday, November 29, 2008

Baby scan and some Irish soda bread

Yesterday I went for a check-up again. After having a miscarriage, the feeling is just different. From not seeing 'anything' to looking at a bud, followed by the heartbeat and then yesterday a fetus with arms and limbs (and more heartbeats). It is like taking small step one at a time, the mixed feeling of being nervous to being relieved and grateful.

You can't see much from the pic, but that's the whole of 4 cm (CRL) of my 5th baby;).

I was lucky yesterday the whole thing that normally takes me 3 hours took only 2. I ran back to the office to get something done. I lost track of time and while I was getting ready to leave, a PhD student just came by to say hi. I was a little excited about something I did and shared with him. I showed him pictures from the field and he seemed to be impressed.

But I told him over and over that I had to leave, but again since he was the first person I saw after the check-up, I just could not help it. I pulled the scan pic from my handbag and showed that to him. He seemed like he wanted to say something, and at the same he looked stunned. I just blurted out "What? Say it!". He murmured..."I'm happy for you". I said "You don't take that long just to say that!".

Then he just said "You are amazing, and you are just my type!". I got a little embarrased, tried to hide it and said "'re too kind" and with a sad puppy face "But I'm sorry...I'm all taken!". "But don't worry, go and find's hard to find my species but there are still more out there". I just love being able to do that to any guy!

He just smiled as I waved before driving off.

And since I still am crazy about my not-so-new oven, I'd share what I made for tea today. I bought new loaf tin last night at Ikea, and I'm also trying to finish some baking ingredients that I have before buying more stuff. So I just find something easy and fast that does not include having to take out my mixer.

Got the bread recipe from allrecipe.

It turned out to be dense, not airy like bread. I'm not used to anything Irish. Except for this one time when I was in a pub in Budapest and I thought I wanted to try Irish tea. It tasted so good and mentioned that to my friends when I got back to Bristol. What a huge laugh I got from them, since earlier I told them over and over that I didn't take alcohol. They said what made it tasted so good could be something that I should not consume. I learned my lesson for being ignorant.

I digress. Anyway, no alcohol added in the bread and the texture resembles scone's. I love scones so I don't mind that. I have no idea why it cracked at the top while still having more space to rise up. We ate it warm. I just let cold butter to melt on it and it tastes good with mint tea. It is not exceptionally the best but as long as the kids kept asking for it and the husband just ate without saying anything, that's good enough.

And I also learn something new: substituting buttermilk that I don't have with milk and vinegar. Lovely!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cupcakes first attempt

I thought I was not much into cake decorating. But since I have little girls and I know how girls love decorating, I thought I must do cupcakes once in a while.

It just happens that tomorrow (or rather today), the kindy is holding a children party, sort of a farewell party before the school holiday. I was thinking that I wanted to do something to teach my kids to show some appreciation to the teachers. I was toying with some ideas, but was not very serious about it. I thought I was in a trance when I asked the headmistress today if it would be ok if I contributed something for the party. She said they didn't ask parents to give anything as they are not involved but of course would love it if we offer. I was not really myself when I asked her the exact number of all teachers and students in the kindy.

Anyway, I had commited myself and I could not run.
It is a 12-piece-big-and-120-tiny-cupcakes first attempt.

After 3 stops to get stuffs, I started at 9 pm and finally finished at 3.15.
Twelve big cakes and 24 small ones in a go. I knew right away the big ones needed trimming at the top.
The 3 girls insisted on helping of course. I let them decorate definitely. I'm not very proud of the result. We got no certain theme, there are alphabets, numbers, squiqqles, zigzag. Actually I was just lazy to make more icing and tried to make do with what we had. We had some cakes darker than the others. But for the kids as long as they could play with the colourful thingy, it was fun already;). That's the most important thing.
I ushered everyone to bed. Bea1 knew I would wake up again to continue and asked me to wake her up. She was so excited, and I told her she must sleep and I got a surprise for her in the morning!.
It is a bouquet of flowers for her and Bea2 to hand to the teachers....
with a little thank you note and lots of love!
Nice or not? The fetals are marshmallows, M&M in the middle, the stem is ready-made fondant with bought sugar leaves. Writings done with gels on also fondant. Thought of putting all teachers name but the board was too small for that.
Of course that idea is not originally mine, got it from the net and I did some modification. A lot of room for improvement but for now I think I deserve a pat on the back for this first big attempt. Now I'm going to bed with a smile on my face, and a hope that the kids will enjoy the party tomorrow (or rather today!).
Update: Tsk...I called that ready-made icing fondue, corrected already...anyway it was the very first time I ever laid my hands on them! And from last night, as much as I always get tempted by the looks of beautiful, perfectly-decorated cakes, I still think that I really need to wait for my youngest to be 4 years old (whenever that is as we are still keep on adding;). Anyway, the trip to the Cakeconnection makes me think that there is actually no more excuse for not baking our own birthday cakes at home!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Finally, my first whole roast chicken

Ok, that's a terrible pic., I didn't have the camera with me so I just used the camera in the laptop. Anyway forget the pic, it was a success. I followed almost everything from Jamie Oliver's recipe.

I was sceptical about having uneven cook as the chef doesn't say anything about turning the bird to the other side. And I thought cutting the bird in between the ribs (aiseh, what do you call this part?), and let it stay flat in the tin is not a good idea as the recipe asks to stuff a lemon inside the cavity. Anyway, it cooked perfectly, the flesh all juicy and soft all over. The hot fat that oozed out to the tin during cooking cooked the ribs nicely.

Anyway, since I wanted nice brown colour all over, I turned the bird so the ribs faced up for about 20 minutes. Next time I would let it stay longer that way, as I think this will let the flavour from the lemon, garlic and thyme penetrate through the breast flesh.

The chef's idea of parboling the potatoes with the garlic and lemon is just brilliant. The potatoes turned out to be very tasty that Bea1, Bea3 and Adel kept asking for them. I have never tasted potatoes that tasty, and they turned out a little sweet too. Dunno why but one of the commenters (in the website) also mentioned that.

I used 11/2 kilo bird and lower temp. at 180C, it also took 11/2 hours to cook and only used 1/2 kilo potatoes. And I didn't smear the cooked garlic flesh on the chicken as I believe the taste would be too strong for the kids.

We finished the whole bird and potatoes except for a breast for lunch. Hubby decided to have porridge for dinner, I used some of the bones to flavour it and shredded the flesh into it. Perfect!
I didn't know roasting a whole chicken can be this easy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy kids and carrot cake

Bea1 once said to me that she had forgotten how it was like to be in my tummy. I thought it was the cutest thing to say, got carried away with that and didn't really say anything. Anyway it didn't sound like a question to me.

Then one day, on the way to send both bigger girls to school Bea2 asked how the baby in my tummy eat. Bea1 almost jumped at the question, and said she also wanted to know as she had forgotten how she ate when she was there.

Then, I reminded her about the umbilical(spelling?) cord..., (she's seen pics) and how the baby gets the food from me yada, yada, yada.
I also added, a mother's womb is the most comfortable place. The baby does not get hungry, the temperature is just nice, no need aircond, nobody to fight with (ok, maybe yes for twins;)), the baby won't get hurt, it's not that noisy in there, no need to go to the potty...yada, yada, yada!
She went "Wowwww....."

Then I asked "Would you like to come and stay in here again?"*pats tummy*. She almost shouted "NOOOOO....!"

"How about you?" (to Bea2)....She also went "Noooo..." with giggles!
I breathed my sigh of relief. That's an indication I'm raising happy kids.
Ok now the cake. The weekend passed without any baking done though I was all set for a carrot cake. Did it last night when kids all in bed.
I did a recipe from youtube, the first you get when you google "carrot cake recipe". I'm lazy to find the link. It's been around for over hundreds years, a family tradition, according to the chef. It's the easy peasy one. I'm sharing what I did here:
Mix all dry ingredients: 2 cups sugar, 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt.
Add 2 tsp vanilla essence and 4 eggs. Mix again. Can only use hand and spoon.
Add 1 cup vege oil and 3 cups grated carrots. At this stage I found the mixture to be too runny, I knew I have different cup size. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups oil, I just added 1 cup only, and I added 1 more cup of flour.
The baking tin was prepared by spreading some oil at the bottom, and sprinkling some flour on top of it.
176 C (or 360F) for 30 minutes, accoding to the chef. Two tins side by side...nice! The chef comes out with 3 tins, me 2 so I was convinced measurement lari already. And he uses rounds one, but I think the volume (of the tin) is about the same.
Look closely to the right, some part are beginning to brown faster...arghhh!
People say do not open the oven when cake is cooking...but I did to rotate and switch the position of the tins, to get evenly distributed cooking and colour.
Finally after 40 minutes, and a few poking to make sure my cakes really done. Look at the edge, all brown and harder...urghhhh! It was 1.30 am anyway, and my warm bed was calling.
But I must finished that once and for all! For the icing, just mix 250g cream cheese (I use the expensive Philadelphia RM11.00), 250g butter (CSC or is it SCS RM8.50...ok, this recipe really ain't cheap!), 2 cups of icing sugar (but I used 11/2 cups of castor), 1 cup chopped walnuts (the chef uses pecan) and some vanilla essence. You can just use your mucsle to beat it but it's almost 2 am and I used a blender. Just a quick mix with the blender will do.
Finally, my messy carrot cake. The chef put the round cakes on top another, looks nicer that way, but I prefer to have them separately to cut into smaller pieces later on. Make sure the cake is really cooled before you smear the icing. That brought me to 2.30am. "yawn"
Carrot cakes ready to be shared with everyone!
One happy kid eating some carrot cake for breakfast this morning (she sulked a little though, knowing I bake without her 'help')!
And another!
As expected I got wide-eyed "You bake, too????" and "You have the time to bake????" in the office! One colleague already copied the recipe.
Overall, the cake was good. Everybody said they loved it, some prefer not to have it with the icing. I used to bake acrrot cake donkey years ago, and the normal ones are always with walnuts in the cake. Anyway, think the recipe is great, only thing is I need to figure out how to get the best result from my oven. I don't want to remove the edge of the cake anymore, and also there is some bigger holes in the last pic. Something must be wrong with the way I bake.
I still have leftover icing at home. Maybe I bake another one soon and try to improve.
Now, I'm off to fetch the happy kids from school and pass some of the goodie to the babysitter.

Monday, November 03, 2008

How do I like my choc chip cookies?

Less sweet, crispy and with lots of nuts! And nothing else.

And I didn't say they must be beautiful, did I?

I know choc chips cookies lovers have their own favourite recipes or maybe just settle for Famous Amos'.

I had found the best recipe, and made it a few times. A friend said I should start a business with it and I began to dream about starting an enterpreneurship already. But that would only happen if I stop doing geology;), which is very unlikely.

I found the recipe from the Star Kuali a few years ago, and thinking that it would be there forever I didn't bother to memorise it. It had been almost 3 years, and with the new oven I could not wait to bake my favourite cookies again.

I could not find the recipe in the website again. There are a number of recipes there, and one could only be accessed after getting a permission from the author. Tried emailing a few times but I didn't get any reply. Giving up, I tried two of those recipes available for the Eid but they were not the same...*sigh*.

After a thorough search in the computer, I was ecstatic when I found it at last. I thought I had saved it somewhere as I shared with a few friends before. Not sure if it is from Amy Beh (of Kuali) or anyone else. I'm sharing the modified version again here:

Choc Chips Cookies with lots of Almond;)

135 g butter

125 soft brown sugar

3/4 tsp vanilla essence

1 egg yolk

175g plain flour
1 tbsp rice flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
40g almond chopped
50g chocolate chips
40g sultanas (I replace with more almond)

I toast the almond first. With the new oven, I used max temp. about 260C (like toasting a sandwitch) for two minutes. Think this is important as I don't think the almond would be toasted the same way when they are in the cookies mixture, I mean if you just use them raw. Once cooled, I grind them with mortar and pestle to have a mixture of fine and coarse bits.

Cream butter, sugar, essense and egg yolk until light and creamy.

Fold in sifted flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder and add in almonds and choc chips. Mix well.

Shape the mixture into small limesized balls. Place balls on prepared trays and flatten with a spoon.

I use a fork instead to get the grooves on the top. And since I can never get enough of almonds, I add more here. I used to use slivers, but I tried flakes for the first time on Sunday. I figured, flakes would be crispier after getting roasted while the cookies being cooked. And yes, it would always be flakes after this;).

Bake in about 180C for about 15 minutes. I just found out from the the sifu that a lower temp. is sufficient in a fan-assisted oven, like mine. Er...actually my first 70 pieces were burnt at about 175C in about 12 minutes last night. We were only left with 30 pieces that were baked later. I turned to 160 and had to wait for 25 minutes. Maybe 170 C is the right one for mine.

Anyway, the obvious difference from the other recipes is actually the rice flour. Think that gives the crispier texture to the cookies.

And have you experienced some choc chips that are easily melted when being mixed, that they are like 'blended' together in the mixture and you can't really see them in your cookies? I have and I found out that Vochelle does not behave that way. I love to be able to really see the chips among bits of almonds on my cookies;).

The recipe gives you about 50 huge cookies, I normally double the amount to get more.

It is a hit to Bea2 too who keeps going back to the jar, but for Bea3 after she is done with the cookies, she picks up only the almond flakes and leaves cookies for mama to finish. Bea1 had a huge batch just after they were cooled from the oven.

Give it a try, and if you think your recipe is better, please share...I'd love to try more!