Baby’s full moon (满月 or “man yue”)

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A friend of ours showed up at our front door to give us some cakes as part of the Full Moon Celebration of his baby. He couldn’t even come in for a quick coffee as he was busy making deliveries of the cakes to many other friends and relatives.

It was so very sweet of him to include Bert and myself. It was our first personal encounter with this tradition. According to Chinese Culture at about.com:

The first important event for the newly born baby is the one-month celebration. In Buddhist or Taoist families, on the morning of the baby’s 30th day, sacrifices are offered to the gods so that the gods will protect the baby in his subsequent life. Ancestors are also virtually informed of the arrival of the new member in the family. According to the customs, relatives and friends receive gifts from the child’s parents. Types of gifts vary from place to place, but eggs dyed red are usually a must both in town and the countryside. Red eggs are chosen as gifts probably because they are the symbol of changing process of life and their round shape is the symbol of harmonious and happy life. They are made red because red color is a sign of happiness in Chinese culture. Besides eggs, food like cakes, chickens and hams are often used as gifts. As people do in the Spring Festival, gifts given are always in even number.

Check out the box. How delightfully cute is that.

 

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Related: I came across the Chinese name of the custom in the title at Singapore Motherhood.

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Lunch highlights: Onions and bread

I absolutely love the whole onions Bert just threw in the oven together with the fish and potato wedges he prepared for lunch a few days ago. So great how such a simple and ordinary ingredient could taste so good, cooked so simply with just a bit of olive oil and salt. Uncomplicated and unembellished.

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Served with lovely homemade bread.

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He’s going through another make-our-own-bread phase, one I happily welcome with open arms (and a wide open mouth). So good and satisfying just smeared with some butter or dipped into olive oil. A nice kind of bread for bruschetta, too.

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Christians who choose not to eat pork

I’ve long known that, like Muslims, Jews don’t eat pork. Well, not all, apparently. From articles like this one and this one I recently learnt that some do and some don’t.

This is the first time time though that I’ve heard of Christians who don’t, either. It’s truly fascinating.

When I first saw the video on a friend’s Facebook, I was really surprised. And the first thing I did was to turn to my Catholic partner of more than twenty years and asked him incredulously, “Did you know there are Christians who don’t eat pork?” and he replied he never heard of Christians not eating pork either. So, yeah, it’s definitely something interesting to learn.

A quick Google search to check out who Joel Osteen is garnered the info that he is “an American preacher, televangelist, author, and the Senior Pastor of Lakewood Church, the largest Protestant church in the United States, in Houston, Texas.”

So I guess that’s a Texan accent? Sexy. Not to be disrespectful to a pastor or anything, but ah do love that drawl.

Oatmeal Cookies from halfbakedharvest.com

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Just out the oven. Waiting for my teeth to sink into them.

I think I’ve made these more than ten times now, ever since I discovered the recipe at Half Baked Harvest just a couple of months ago. I’ve been meaning to make my own cookies for some time and finally got around to checking out some recipes online. I chose this one and it’s like I hit the jackpot because they are, oh my God, so good, and so fast and easy to make. I wanted a recipe I could rely on time and again, and this is just that as like I said, I’ve made them more than ten times in the space of maybe two months.

The recipe is from the mum of the blog’s writer, Tieghan Gerard, and is actually for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies. But I substituted dried fruits like cranberries, dates and prunes for the chocolate chips simply because I always have the former in my kitchen (I love them as a snack) and have been using them ever since. But I really should try chocolate chips one of these days.

Like the Chicken Soup recipe from Martha Stewart I’ve noted here some time ago (and have made many times since then as well), this recipe satisfies my criteria:

  • Delicious
  • Easy to make, even for a kitchen dummy like me
  • Not too many ingredients, so it’s not expensive to make and most or all the ingredients are likely to be already stocked at home

Last minute guests? Made these cookies for them. Decided last minute to bring a small gift when visiting someone? Whipped these little babies up and presented them in a cutesy little gift pack. So fast and easy. Hmmm, my mouth is watering a little now thinking of these cookies so much I think I’ll bake a batch when I’m done with this post.

Click here for the link to the recipe ‘Mom’s Simple Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies‘ at Half Baked Harvest.

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It’s so fast it takes only about 10 to 15 minutes for me to prepare it. First I preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. I line two cooking trays with grease paper.

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Like that

Then the ingredients.

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First there’s 2.5 cups Rolled Oats. 2 cups Flour, and 1.5 cups Brown Sugar

Also 1 teaspoon Baking Soda and 1 teaspoon Salt. Mix these dry ingredients well.

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Then add in 1 cup Canola Oil. (I’ve used Olive Oil instead as well. Turned out ok too.)

Also 2 large Eggs and 4 teaspoons Vanilla Extract. Mix everything together. I tend to use a spoon or spatula initially but then switch to mixing by hand to combine well. It becomes a crumbly, dry-ish looking dough, but as long as it holds up when you shape it into little balls later, it’s okay. Otherwise you’ll need to add a tad bit more oil.

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And finally 1 cup Dried Cranberries is added here to the crumbly mix

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When I use cranberries I like to use these. I find them at Aeon supermarket (in Johor Bahru). They are delicious and not too sweet as a quick snack too. And at a great price too at only around RM7 if I remember correctly. That’s like a little over SG$2 (Rate now is around SG$1 = RM3)

Use your hands to create little balls of dough. Yields about 2 dozen.

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 Bake for around 12 minutes.
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Love at first bite. I love oatmeal, so oatmeal cookies are the best kind of cookies there are to me.

The dried cranberries turn out deliciously a little chewy. But I’ve found them a little bitter if over-baked, so keep an eye on them when in the oven and don’t let them become too brown on top. I remember when I used prunes, they turned out so delicious and even still a little moist, but handling and chopping up those sticky prunes was a tad bit more work.  The cookie itself is chewy and substantial, like a cookie ball version of an energy bar, which makes one or two of these fab for breakfast.

(“One or two“. Hahahahaha.)

 

 

Basic Chicken Soup from marthastewart.com

Chicken soup cooked 3rd Jan 2015

My partner has the flu real bad these past couple of days. I wanted to cook some chicken soup for him as a nice surprise to cheer up the poor guy. Most of the time it’s him cooking for us. I’m not very good in the kitchen, which is why I’m only inspired to cook like maybe once or twice a year. Basically the interest just isn’t there.

So I felt relieved to quickly find some chicken soup recipes that seemed really simple when I googled just that: ‘simple chicken soup‘. And they require so few ingredients to buy too which is a nice bonus. Chicken, carrots and celery. That’s it. The rest is just onions, garlic and salt, stuff we tend to already have at home.

I chose to try a recipe from Martha Stewart’s website. It even has an accompanying video as the recipe was demonstrated on Martha’s show by Sarah Carey, Food Editor of Martha Stewart Living. It was simple enough to follow on its own, but the interesting video featured was a welcomed bonus.

Click here for the link to the recipe.

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We both loved it. It was so delicious. And of course I loved that it was so easy even for me. I definitely want to make this soup over and over again.

Notes:

  • Part of why it’s such a breeze to make is that there is no separate stock to make. I loved that I didn’t have to use any bouillon cube for flavour. The soup was already so rich and tasty from the chicken and the vegetables, especially the thinly sliced onions. Four whole cups! That’s a lot of onion to me, but mmmm it made the taste of the soup so lovely.
  • And not a single drop of olive oil or any other oil either. The oil from the fat of the meat and the skin is enough. Update 4th January: In fact Bert just mentioned it was a bit too oily for him in his condition, with his coughing and all (ooops!). So next time until he gets better, I’ll remove whatever fat and all the skin except on the wings.
  • I used 3 carrots instead of six as stated in the recipe, since it’s just the two of us.
  • I took about one and a half hours to make this soup. More than an hour of that was just leaving the soup to simmer, partially covered.

Prego Restaurant

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I haven’t visited Prego for years, more than a decade. It used to be a firm favourite with me and Bert. We first came across it about twenty years ago I think, around when it first opened, when the space it occupied used to be under one of the Westin Hotels formerly there. Westin Stamford or Plaza, I forgot which. Now the hotel there is called the Fairmont.

So it brought back some nice memories when we went back with a couple of friends recently. To me, the fact that Prego is still there after all these years is remarkable for Singapore. But it’s pretty stunning that even the interior is the same. Now that’s incredible. Commercial space here like malls and restaurants get makeovers frequently, some every few years. From interiors to even entire building facades, it can seem striking even for locals how frequent and fast things change, let alone for repeat visitors like tourists.

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The shock of yellow is a tad gaudy to me but I guess it goes alright with the rest of the colour palette. I love the potted bushes of rosemary.

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I so love that they kept this travertino floor at the foyer, and the waves of happiness kept rolling over me when I realised they kept everything I remember about the place.

I don’t know why I was so darn happy. It’s just a restaurant. I think it’s just that I was so surprised because it’s so unusual for things to stay the same in Singapore, and for such a long time. Things keep changing here. To keep them appealingly fresh, I suppose. But the way I see it, the problem becomes: how do you really let sink in the memories that you can treasure by letting them take root, when the places these memories are crafted around seem disposable. At the back of your head you are already thinking that the place won’t last, that you would soon be forming new memories with the new things that will take over the space. After a while there are just too many of these ‘short-term’ memories, so you allow all these memories associated with the same space to be filmsy and disposable too.

So when I walked in again and saw that things were mostly the same as it were twenty years ago (except for some very few and very small touches here and there) Prego ceased to be just a restaurant. It became snapshots and voices and laughter from years ago, the food we ordered, what we liked and didn’t liked. The faces of the friends and family we dined with. The other people we brought there. I even remember a few of the waiters. Not their names or what they looked like, but some things that were said or done to earn smiles or frowns. Crazy, the amount of memories. And now imprinted even more deeply in me, to be cherished for many more years.

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I don’t remember the awning and similarly striped wallpaper, but the rest of the restaurant looks exactly the same as I remember it, including the chairs.

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We went for the ‘Sunday Semi-Buffet Lunch’

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Just a glimpse of the buffet line. There was actually a big and very tasty selection of appetisers and desserts. I was too shy to go around taking photos of the spread, and it would have been disruptive to the other people getting their food.

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Part of the buffet is this long list of dishes you order ala carte. Just tick what you want and hand it to the waiter. Limited to one dish a person at a time. When you’ve had that, you can order more. This turned out to be a very good idea, as we found that we were beginning to be stuffed by the time our ala carte selection arrived.

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They even kept these Mediterranean-style plates I remember! If not exactly the same ones, they at least kept to the same design, which put yet another smile on my face. These four dishes are our first round from the buffet ala carte menu.

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Beer barrel tables! I want one, if only I have the space for it at home. And painted so prettily too. Cuteness overload.

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The windows used to look out to the street but not anymore, so I guess the hotel had claimed the space outside to expand its interior. The sayings above the restaurants are yet another thing I remember and remember liking. This one is “Troppi cuochi sciupano la minestra” which is “Too many cooks spoil the broth“.

‘Prego’, the name of the restaurant, means ‘welcome‘, by the way.

The Grand Gem restaurant

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The entrance of the restaurant at the lobby of Grand BlueWave Hotel.

This is an Indian restaurant my sister brought us to in Johor Bahru. She’s been wanting to introduce it to us for some time as the food is really good and the prices are very attractive. We totally agreed with her.

The restaurant is located at the Grand BlueWave Hotel which is mere minutes from Causeway CIQ (Customs, Immigration & Quarantine) centre. So it’s very convenient for Singaporeans who just want to hop over to J.B. for a few hours like, say, shopping mainly at City Square.

They serve a buffet lunch for Ringgit Malaysia (RM)25. That’s like Singapore (S)$10! And it’s nett price!

Buffet! Less than ten dollars! Nett! And it’s not even one of those buffets that are economically priced but then get you to fork out for expensive drinks. No. This one came with a free flow of drink too. Bert and I were excited at the thought of pigging out at a buffet for less than ten dollars. So far, the best deal we had experienced for buffets was at the then-newish Shangri-La Hotel in Chiangmai, which was the equivalent of about S$16. Yes, a Shangri-La hotel buffet for only S$16. Amazing Thailand, indeed. That was in 2009, though.

At The Grand Gem, the buffet is even better-priced. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be for us that day. Their buffet lunch is only from Thursday to Sunday, and we could only make it to J.B. on a Wednesday. However, Bert caught sight of a leaflet at the entrance that informed us there were set lunches for RM18 (less than S$7!). There were a total of 4 choices offered.

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My choice was this – called the ‘Non Vegetarian – Fish‘ set. The rice looks little but the metal bowl it comes in is deep and the portion was actually enough for 2 persons.

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While Bert went for the Naan bread set, served with chicken curry. He ordered two more garlic Naan, and that was RM6.50 (about S$2.50) each, and then found it was too much food for him. I was happy to help him finish.

My mouth is watering as I type this, looking at the pictures and recalling the deliciousness. Everything was delicious.

Other notes:

  • Only a few tables (about ten) were occupied when we were there at lunchtime during the non-lunch-buffet weekday we visited. Just how I like it: pleasant, relaxed and not noisy.
  • Service was attentive and gracious, with polite friendly staff with easy smiles.
  • The food took some time to be served, although we didn’t wait too long. Just how I like it. If it had came out too quickly I’d suspect it was just dumped in the microwave to be reheated.
  • Our RM18 sets each came with a sweet drink like mango juice or lassi, a delicious and refreshing yoghurt based drink. Generously portioned in a tall glass. Besides this, water was also served, cold or warm as we wished.
  • My sister was driving us and her carpark charge at the BlueWave Hotel was RM4. Her car was parked there for maybe around an hour and a half, I think.

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The decor was very nice. There were the touches you’d see in an Indian restaurant, set in an opulent yet largely modern and refreshing design. I didn’t take many photos and besides my photography is ultra basic, haha. For a better idea of how nice the restaurant is, please head over to the following blog for some really beautiful pictures in its review, including the buffet: JB Foodie.

Related:

  • Facebook of The Grand Gem restaurant – with information about their buffet and other promotions, as well as general info like address and opening hours.
  • Google Map – Grand BlueWave Hotel, Johor Bahru.

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Day 99 of ‘100 Happy Days‘. So, my lunch at The Grand Gem with Bert and my sister is the very last thing that made me happy that I’m noting for this 100 Happy Days saga. Tomorrow I’ll wrap it up on the 100th day by noting how freaking happy I am that I’ve done this thing, and what it is that I’ve learnt and discovered from the interesting experience.

Coconut Sugar

A new product I just saw for the first time today, and was curious to try.

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From the organic section of Jusco Supermarket in Johor Bahru. RM9.90 (about S$3.90). 220grams.

I try not to be a sucker for great packaging or for something just because it’s got ‘organic’ stamped on it. But the nice, clean and professional-looking label did get me interested to pick it up and read more, but more than anything I’m just curious what Coconut Nectar Sugar is and tastes like, as I’ve never heard of it before.

I tried a bit at home, and the taste immediately made me think of Malaccan Sugar (Palm Sugar or Gula Melaka), an ingredient I am familiar with since childhood and like very much especially in local desserts. So, to me the Coconut Nectar Sugar is delicious. I can’t wait to have it with my coffee tomorrow morning. I take my coffee black and I just know this will be great with it.

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I need to read up more about it. If the ‘Low Glycemic Index’ part might be true, that’s a bonus and I might get one for a friend who is diabetic, and maybe more for myself in future. You don’t need to be diabetic to have a diabetic’s diet, which is healthy. In the meantime, I will treat it as regular sugar.

Related:

  • Authority Nutrition – Coconut Sugar – Healthy Sugar Alternative or a Big, Fat Lie?
  • Summer Tomato – Is Coconut Palm Sugar a Healthy Sugar Substitute?
  • About.com – Coconut Sugar – Is it Really Low-Carb?

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Day 93

Nuts for Nutella

I haven’t indulged in the Italian chocolate spread Nutella for a long time. Today is yet more evidence that I’m a sucker for nice packaging because I picked it up at the supermarket just because I love their new jar. Or maybe I’m just using that as an excuse. But it is unusual and pretty.

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A 1-kilogram jar. $10.90 at Sheng Siong supermarket. The print comes in several different colours. No purple, though :-(   but this pink kinda passes for purple.

Nutella 2014 back

The back looks the same as before except for the ‘2014’.

Nutella with sponge cake and ice cream

I think I opened the jar within ten minutes of arriving home, for an impromptu triple treat afternoon snack: Nutella on spongecake with ice-cream.

Photo from Nutella Italy's Facebook. Click image to go there.

Ah, it’s actually for their 50th anniversary and these are the four colours available together. (This photo from Nutella Italy’s Facebook. Click image to go there.)

Related:

  • Oh my God, there’s actually a ‘World Nutella Day‘!! Haha!
  • Grist – It takes at least six countries to make a jar of Nutella. Hello, Palm Oil (from Malaysia). Ugh.
  • BuzzFeed – How to make your own Nutella. (Goodbye, Palm Oil! Yay!!)
  • Mental_floss – 8 things you may not know about Nutella

Furious Pete eating an entire 750-gram jar of Nutella in the video below. I got furiously jealous watching it so I only managed the first minute. I don’t have the guts to enjoy life that much because I’m scared of getting diabetes and for my waistline, not that I am trim in the first place.

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Day 85