Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas All!

Christmas is almost upon us! Somehow this year I have pretty strong festive feelings, not sure why. :) Perhaps is the awaiting of meeting up with my dear friends or maybe it's just the burst of eagerness to bake after my vacation. :P Either way, I am please that I got to bake some Xmas goodies this year. The last one is this Christmas log cake, inspired by my friend Grace. :)

I used plain vanilla Swiss roll recipe but encasing rich and decadent dark chocolate buttercream. ;) It was baked for a dinner gathering at my in-laws and everyone loved it. ;) It was finished off in a flash!
Since I have an early morning tomorrow, I shan't be posting up the recipe. Interested bakers can inquire after Xmas. ;) Be back before you know it!

Lastly, I just want to thank all my dear readers and fellow bloggers' constant support throughout this year. I truly and really appreciate it! I hope I can continue to do this and have you all by my side. ;) Lastly, I'm taking this opportunity to wish everyone a blissful and joyous Christmas and an amazing New Year! Cheers All!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Matcha Cookie Tree

Christmas is just around the corner, and I am still stuck with so much things to do. :P Can't wait for my short break coming this weekend! As busy as I am, I am still finding time to bake in my kitchen, sort of a therapeutic get away for me. There is one thing that I have been longing to bake for Christmas for a couple years now....somehow it just didn't happen. :P A Christmas Cookie Tree! Well, this year I finally got to do it, almost sounds like a mini wish come true. (^_^) But I actually had to break up the steps to 3 days....crazy right, to think that it's actually not that hard to do at all! Anyway, here it is; my Christmas Matcha Cookie Tree.

I used a simple butter cookie recipe and incorporated green tea powder into it. And since I worry the Matcha taste will be too strong for my kids, I didn't add too much, so my cookies aren't as green as I hoped. ;P However the taste was really good plus the cookie was buttery and crisp which I liked a lot. :9

Ingredients for Matcha Butter Cookies : (makes about 25-30 x 5cm round disc)
240g all purpose flour
12g matcha powder
150g unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
1/4 tsp salt
110g confectioner's sugar
1 large egg yolk

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream, refer here for recipe and steps
  • In a large mixing bowl, sift flour, matcha powder, powder sugar and salt into it. Knead the cold butter in until resembles bread crumbs.
  • Add in the egg yolk and knead till just combined. Wrap dough with plastic wrap and chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
  • After chilling, lightly flour a cooled work surface. Then roll out the cookie dough on the surface into  about 1/4" thick. If dough gets too soft and greasy, return it to the fridge for 15 minutes.
  • Use desired round cookie cutters which varies in diameter size, must have at least 5 different sizes. Also cut out a star shaped cookie to top off the tree. Arrange cookie on parchment paper and chill in fridge for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 175C.
  • Bake the cookies for 13 to 15 minutes till the edges are slightly golden browned. Let cool completely before use. 
  • Arrange the largest disc as the base and pipe a round ring of buttercream around the edge. top off with the second largest cookie. Repeat this till all the cookie has been stacked. Finally pipe a dollop of the cream on top and stick the star right there. Chill the whole tree in the fridge till the buttercream firms up and it'll be really for your desert centerpiece!
I think this little cookie tree will make a nice centerpiece for the desert table during Christmas, don't you think? 
Since I did reduce the sugar quite a bit, the cookies does go well with the Vanilla Swiss Meringue buttercream, so no worries about having a  overly sweet taste there. But do chill the cookies before serving as the cream will eventually soften the cookies. So either assemble right before or chill it prior.

I am happy to submit this to participate in the White Christmas Challenge organised by Very Good Recipes via Quay Po Cooks.

Okay all, will try to post up another Xmas bake this week before I leave for my short get away. Hope I can squeeze out some time!! Cheers!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Chocolate Cornflake Wreath

When I was out lunching with my in-laws and kids at Holland Village yesterday, we happened to pass by Da Paolo Gastronomia. In case some of you haven't heard of this place before, it's actually an eat-in or take-out one-stop store with freshly made entrees, pastry or deserts. They even have freshly made pasta for sale which according to my SIL, it's very good. :) As for myself, I have always loved their selection of deserts there. I have tried their cheesecake and brownie and already fell in love with them! So rich and decadent! (but quite sinful, lol!) We then spotted this really interesting item that was displaying at the desert section, a chocolate coated wreath made with cornflakes! It look awfully good and chocolaty. :9 So when I got home, I decided to replicate it myself....chocolate + cornflake, how hard can it be? After some this and that....look what have I got!
Not too shabby don't you think? Lol! In fact this is so easy to make, I highly recommend that you make it yourself! Get your kids to help you as a fun holiday project. ;) Make as many as you like as gifts to your family and friends. Plus you don't need an oven to do this, no baking involved. (oops, there goes my submission for Aspiring Bakers this month. :P) And since there are only 5 ingredients involve, I bet you already have them in your pantry. :)

Ingredients for Chocolate Cornflake Wreath: (Makes a 8 to 10")
140g dark quality chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp honey
60g unsalted butter
100g cornflakes
50g sweetened dried cranberries (Optional)
  • In a heat proof bowl, place chocolate, honey and butter in. Either melt these ingredients over the double boiler or simply just microwave it. Mix well till combined.
  • Lay some plastic wrap over the tube pan you will be using. (I used a 10" bundt pan)
  • Stir the cornflakes and dried cranberries(if using) in and make sure all are coated.
  • Spoon mixture into a tube pan (I used an 10" bundt pan).
  • Wrap the mixture up gently with the plastic wrap and chill in the fridge in the tube pan for at least an hour or freeze if you are bringing it to a dinner party.
  • Once the chocolate has set, remove from pan and remove plastic wrap. Decorate at will with colorful ribbons!
The initial look after it came out of the pan was just so normal. But when I "dress it up" with some simple ribbons, it looked pretty grand. :)
And if you like crunchy, chocolaty snacks, this is definitely something you will enjoy. :) And how you eat it, whether you break it with your hands or slice it up with a serrated knife, it's just as yummy. :) And kids will love them, guaranteed!
Hope you all like this simple and yummy Xmas treat. Try it out!

Okay all, have a super nice weekend!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Baked Rigatoni with Meatballs and Herb Crumbs

Oh my, it's only 10 days to Christmas! Pretty exciting isn't it! ;) I am pretty stoked about it since I will be spending this holiday with my good friends. I am really looking forward to it since I've not seen them for awhile now. (^_^) I am sure many of you have great plans too for this joyous holiday too. But whether it's a small gathering or big dinner party, I bet you can't leave food out of the picture! So if you are planning to have friends over and still wondering what should you serve? Well, I have a good suggestion for you! A delicious and homey dish that's sure to warm anyone up; Baked Rigatoni with Sausage Meatballs and Herb Bread Crumbs. ;)
I have not make this pasta for years. Don't know why, probably because living in Singapore and the influences here just tend to lean towards serving Asian cuisine. Nevertheless, I decided to reminiscence this comforting meal at home again and was really glad I did. :D My family loved it and went for seconds. :9

Ingredients for Baked Rigatoni with Sausage Meatballs and Herb Bread Crumbs (Serves 6-8)
400g sweet Italian Sausage (I got mine from Cold Storage)
1 broccoli floret, cut into small chunks
1/2 yellow onion, chopped small
1/2 carrot, peeled and chopped small
1 jar tomato sauce (15 ounce)
150ml heavy fresh cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp sugar
1 slice stale bread
1 small bunch curly leaf or Italian Parsley
150g mozzarella, shredded (or more if desired)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
500g rigatoni pasta
4 slices Applewood smoked bacon, sliced into small chunks
2 cups of oil for frying meatballs

  • To prepare the meatballs, remove the casing and divide the sausage into small bite size portions and roll them round. Heat up the frying oil in a pan at medium heat. Fry the meatballs till it becomes golden brown. Dish up and drain them on paper towels and set aside for use later.
  • Using the same frying pan, remove the oil and set the fire at medium low. Put in the sliced bacons and slowly stir fry till it becomes slight crisp and most of the oil has been emitted out. Dish up and drain on paper towels and set aside for use later.
  • Leave about 1 tbsp of the bacon oil in the pan and add in the chopped carrots and onions. At low heat, cook till the vegetables are soft and translucent. Add in the tomato sauce and heavy cream and stir well. Cook for a good 5 minutes and add salt, pepper and sugar to taste.
  • Once the sauce starts to bubble, add in the sausage meatballs and stir in well. Cook for a couple minutes and then turn the heat off. Set aside for assemble later. Grease your baking pan with some butter. I usually save those butter wrappers for this purpose. ;) This step is gonna save you some scrubbing later!
  • In the meantime, boil a pot of water and add the chopped broccoli florets in. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, then drain out the vegetables. Then do the same for the rigatoni pasta. Cook in rolling boil water till al dente. Drain out and dish into the baking pan. Ladle the tomato meatball sauce over the pasta.
  • Add in the broccoli florets and toss everything together to mix well. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  • Tear up the stale bread into a blender and add in the roughly chopped parsley. Blend till it resembles fine bread crumbs.
  • Sprinkle the herb bread crumbs over the pasta. Then follow by sprinkling the bacon, mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheese over the pasta.
  • Lastly, add small dollops of butter over the top, about 2 tbsp should be suffice. Bake the pasta in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes uncovered, till the top is golden crisp and the pasta is bubbly.
Bare in mind that this can be made ahead. Meaning you can prep everything up till the baking part, and chill it in the fridge up to a day or 2 prior to the event. Then an hour before serving, bake it up and it'll be nice and delicious for your guests!
In fact this can be made any time, not just for dinner parties. It has this rustic homey feel, that is pretty comforting to have at any time. :)
Hope you all will give this a try. It is truly yummy! Hope everyone has a great day! Cheers!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Melbourne trip 2011 Part One & Banana Oat Pancakes

Melbourne, capital of the state of Victoria in Australia. One of the places that I have eyed on for awhile to visit. My family and I finally made a trip there and it was a wonderful experience and a nice get away indeed! Mid November's weather is like Spring to Summer season, so the temperature was really nice too! In our stay, we got to experience both the colorful city life in Melbourne as well as some quiet stay in the nearby seaside cities which is only a couple hours drive away. However I realize  I didn't really capture many nice pictures this time....perhaps I was too busy taking care of my kids, lol! Anyway, bare with me and hope you will still enjoy viewing them. ;)
Flinders Street Station is the central railway station of the suburban railway network of Melbourne.
(GPO) General Post Office Clock Tower, one of the prominent buildings in the CBD area.
One of the highlight in Melbourne is a visit to their famous Queen Victoria Market.
An abundance of fruits all over the market. Not only that, it sells all sorts of stuff over there too! I even heaved back a 10 inch pie dish, 4 ramekins & a 24cm cast iron roasting dish! Why? Because it was so cheap...the cast iron roasting dish only cost me AUS$24.90! Ok ok, will show you all once I cook up something with them. After I returned to the hotel then I realised that I've forgotten to take pictures of the store. It's located in the far end corner of the market. Haiz...gotten too excited about my purchases!
A showcase of Artisan breads there. Looks good isn't it, but I didn't get any since I decided to eat this instead....

How good does this look?! I realize that Aussies love their bacon and ham...I have at least one serving of bacon or ham every other day...:P Yum!

It wouldn't be right if you don't get to see a real koala when you are in Australia. In fact that is basically what my kids wanted to see most of the time while we were there. (*_*)"
It took me so long to get this shot. Some koalas simply just shy away from the cameras and it seems ages before they move an inch. :P
Since this trip was a visit to a koala conservation center, the animals are always at a safe distance from the visitors. So seeing them through my camera lens is as"close" as it gets. :P
Look at this cuddly cute baby koala bear! It's sleeping so comfortably in it's mummy's arms. (^_^)
I'm sure anyone that had been to Phillip Island before knows about the "No photography" rule on the penguins when they do their "penguin march" back to their young on land. But we were so lucky that we spotted one baby penguin the day after! Good thing it was bright day light, so no flash was used, heehee!
The Nobbies, one of the most breathtaking spots we visited.
Caught my little one gazing out into the blue ocean. Wonder what she is thinking...
These eye catching and colorful boat sheds are at the lovely beach in Mornington, a small seaside town. I love how quiet this place is, there are only a handful of people at the beaches there on a weekend afternoon. And those 3 are my husband and kids!
We are practically the only people there. (^_^) Finding such a nice, clean, quiet beach is like finding a treasure...I love it!
We even found small starfishes near the beach sides! No worries, no sea creatures were harmed in the "making" of this post, hehehe..
On our ferry ride from Mornington to Sorrento, Queenscliff, we actually saw dolphins swimming along side the ferry! It's too bad I didn't have my camera with me. (-_-) Sorrento is yet another small quiet town with many gracious old buildings, definitely a nice place to get away from the hussle and bussle of city life.
We stop at this really nice place call The Pear Cafe for lunch. Love the ambiance there. 
Warm toasty bread with steak ham and juicy tomatoes plus gooey mozzarella....a simple and satisfying lunch.
Best of all, with a cup of Mocha. Frankly speaking, I'm not a coffee person, but this cup of Mocha is super yum! It's creamy rich, fragrant and chocolaty (yes, chocolaty). Hmmmmm!

Before I keep going on with more photos of my trip, I think I should save it for my next time. Else this post will be super long! More photos will be posted next time with scenes from the Great Ocean Drive! So stay tune!
What's a food blog without any food?! So here it is; I want to share with you all a simple, delicious and healthy breakfast that you can easily whip up for you family; Banana Oat Pancakes.
I got this recipe from the special edition of "The Australian Women's Weekly Christmas Entertaining 2011" magazine. I usually love to buy the local food magazines whenever I go traveling, and Women's Weekly is definitely one of the good ones to get.
These pancakes are so so good! You would think that oats will make the pancakes heavy, but no, oh no, they are light and creamy, almost melt in your mouth! Really! I was a little worried my kids will shy away from them because of the oats, but luckily, they each had 4 pancakes...doubled what they usually have. ;) I did slight modification to the recipe, here is my version:

Ingredients for Banana Oat Pancakes: (serves 4 adults)
375ml fresh milk
80g unsalted butter, cut small
100g quick cook oats (original calls for 140g)
60g plain all purpose flour (original calls for 50g)
40g brown sugar (original calls for 1 tbsp)
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of cinnamon
2 egg,s separated
1 tbsp cater sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 small bananas, about 150g (original calls for 340g)
cooking oil or butter
butter, maple syrup and fresh fruits to serve together
  • Combine the milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts and bubbles appear around the edge. Remove from heat and stir in the oats. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  • Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into a medium bowl. Whisk egg yolks and vanilla extract into oats mixture; add flour mixture and stir until just combines.
  • Mash bananas; fold into the pancake batter. Beat the egg whites with 1 tbsp of caster sugar till stiff peaks, then fold into the oat mixture until just combined.
  • Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat; spray with cooking oil to grease. Drop 1/4 cups (60ml) of the batter onto the pan; cook for 2 minutes each side or until cooked through and browned both sides. Remove pancakes from pan; cover to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve while still warm.
I love oats, so these pancakes are perfect for people like me. :) I'm not exactly a health freak, but if you are...better still, you'll love it! It's that nutty, creamy taste from cooked oats that's just so good! You gotta try this out and you will know what I mean. And I am very sure these pancakes will be on my breakfast plate very often from now on. :)

Okay, hope I didn't bore you all with my super long post! Have a good weekend all and stay tune to my next post. ;) Cheers!