Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

"Spooky" Treats!

Tomorrow, Saturday October 31, is Halloween.
We won't be going Trick or Treating.
I always wonder whether the kids really eat all the candies they collect.
I am not a huge fan of frosted cakes and cookies. It is fun to go along with the holiday theme in baking though, so I opted for cookies with minimal decorations. I chanced upon this website, Cookie Madness, and was happy to find a recipe to use up my leftover cream cheese from baking buns.

It was a bad day for baking.
Anything you think could go wrong, went wrong!
I put in too much cream cheese, and as a result, my dough was very sticky. I had to slowly add more flour into the dough so that it become "moist but not sticky" as stated in the recipe. It was a moist and soft dough. I chilled it in the refrigerator for about an hour, hoping to bake them so that darling sons can bring them to school as snack the next day. Bad luck! The cut-outs were so soft that when I tried to lift them onto the cookie sheet, they broke apart! Sigh! I did manage to lift a couple without breaking them, but ended up with my back almost breaking! The few cookies that "survived" and made their way to the cookie sheet smelled so good when baking in the oven! I put the dough back into the refrigerator to have it chilled overnight, and was happy to have a few pieces of cookies to munch on. I had no problems cutting out the cookies the next morning, as the dough was firm.

The next time I bake these cookies, I would roll the dough into the correct thickness for cutting, before wrapping and putting it into the refrigerator to chill. That way, when the dough is taken out from the fridge, all I need to do is just cut! The cut-outs will be firm and easy to lift up and slide off the cutter. But that will also mean that it will occupy quite a huge area in the fridge.

For now, I am enjoying my cookies ... Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies =)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pizza Bread

Hurray! No more fever this morning!
But my Mama was too tired to cook a proper lunch for us today.
She said that we could make our own lunch. I wonder, how?

Near lunchtime, I saw many bowls on the dinning table.
There were pasta sauce, ham, canned mushrooms, pineapples chunks, and shredded cheddar cheese. We were each given two slices of Honey Whole Wheat bread.

We could put the ingredients in whatever order we liked.
I had fun spreading the pasta sauce on the bread!

Mama helped us put the bread into the oven to toast.
We love toasted bread! We love pineapples too!

Yummy Pizza Bread with a glass of milk! Mmmm .
And Brownie Cakes for tea later, yeah!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fever and LAIV

Darling son YW had a high fever (39.5 degree Celsius) on the night of hubby dear's birthday. We were suspecting it was due to the seasonal flu mist spray (LAIV) he had on Sunday afternoon. This was the first time the boys had the mist spray. All along, the boys had their flu jab (Inactivated), and they were alright after the jab.

From the brochure given to us at the clinic ...

There are two types of seasonal influenza vaccine :

  • LAIV (nasal spray) - A live, attenuated influenza vaccine contains live but attenuated (weakened) influenza virus. It is sprayed into the nostrils.
  • Inactivated influenza vaccine, sometimes called the "Flu Shot", is given by injection.
LAIV is made from weakened virus and does not cause influenza. The vaccine can cause mild symptoms in people who gets it ... Mild problems including fever, runny nose, headache and muscle aches, nasal congestion or cough, abdominal pain or occasional vomiting or diarrhea.

Since the elder was without a fever, he slept with his daddy, while the little one with the fever slept with me that night. I stayed up the whole night, taking his temperature every hour. I was worried that the fever might go up to 40 degree Celsius in the middle of the night. It didn't help that he felt cold and the temperature outside the house was at a single digit. He had to have the blanket on. But the blanket trapped heat in the body and didn't help in dissipating the less desired heat. I had to sponged him occasionally, as his face and body felt really hot to the touch. It was an exhausting and sleepless night.

It was a nightmare the next morning, to find that the older boy's temperature had gone up to the mid 38! As with fever, the boys had no appetite. I tried to cook something which they would enjoy, but it meant two dishes for two boys! The older boy preferred cold soba, while the younger one preferred porridge. I was glad they managed to finish their meal. By evening, their temperature was back to normal. Phew!

They were happy to miss school for that day.
No school on Thursday and Friday as the teachers had to attend the WEAC Convention. It was a super long break for the boys .. would have to think of activities to keep them occupied for the next two days ...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Whose birthday was it?
Hubby dear =)

The kids requested for a chocolate cake .. I looked through my baking books and found a recipe from "Baking From My Home to Yours, Dorie Greenspan" ... Cocoa-Buttermilk Birthday Cake. Cakes baked using buttermilk must be very soft, so I decided to give it a try. It had an unusal frosting, using malt milk powder.

I'm not good at frosting cakes. To make up for the lack of skills, I ordered some basketball players toppers from Wilton. The cake did look more like a birthday cake, after I put them on, haha. My little boy spent almost an hour playing with the toppers on the afternoon they arrived.

The frosting was a little too sweet for our taste buds. The cake was very soft when cooled, and a little dry after I put it in the fridge.

As long as the boys and the man enjoyed the cake, I'm happy!

Note : Darling son YW had a fever at bedtime. Temperature at 39.5 degree Celsius. It had been a long day, and it would be another long night, having to stay up to keep track of his temperature. . No sleep for Mama tonight =( Hope the fever subside by tomorrow.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Big and Little Jack "'O"

Hi, I'm Big Jack "O" and this is my brother, Little Jack "O"!
Will you visit us on Halloween night?

Will it be Treat or Trick?
See you then!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Knives and Pumpkins!

What do you with three huge pumpkins sitting on your kitchen floor?
Pair them with a serrated knife and a scoop, and you are ready to carve!

First, you cut a wide circle around the pumpkin stem with the carving knife. Pull the cut lid off the pumpkin by the stem. Use the scoop to scoop out the inside of the pumpkin.

Next you draw/trace the picture you want to carve, onto the pumpkin.
You can have a smiley face, a scary face, a witch, a ghost, or even a haunted house.

Now you are ready to carve the pumpkin!
Use the carving knife to saw along the lines drawn on the pumpkin. When done, use a wet cloth to wipe the marker lines off, and dry the skin.

Darling son KW is all ready to try, since it's that simple!
He pick the "Haunted House" for his pumpkin carving.
Darling son YW is too young to hold a knife, so daddy has to carve it for him, on the little pumpkin he pick up at the pumpkin patch during the school field trip.

Since the little one is not allowed to hold a knife, he is happy to play with our little neighour while waiting for daddy and his gor gor to carve the pumpkins.

Tada! Done!
See you tonight, Jack "O"s !

Monday, October 19, 2009

No-Fuss Lunch

Another easy-to-prepare meal for the lunch box ... Rice and blanched broccoli sprinkled with furikake, and baked popcorn shrimps.

I left the popcorn shrimps in the oven to bake, and got ready breakfast for the kids. While the shrimps were left to cool in the pan, I quickly washed up the dishes for breakfast, and cut the broccoli into smaller florets. When ready to pack the lunchbox, mix the rice, broccoli and furikake. Partition the container and pack in the popcorn shrimps.

A no-fuss lunch is packed!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Apple Honey Sauce?

That's right! That's what I tell my kids when I cook it!
Apple Honey Sauce.

No, Mummy is not lying.
The other brand of Japanese Curry which I bought the very first time, Vermont Curry, had the words "Curry with a touch of apple and honey". There were pictures of a jar of honey, and an apple!
My boys couldn't read then ....

"Can you see the apple and jar of honey?" ... "YES!"
"Shall I cook this Apple Honey Sauce for you?" ... "YES!"
Since then, this dish changed its name to Apple Honey Sauce =)

The boys like to eat their rice with the sauce. The curry flavor is mild, and the sauce has a slight sweetness to it. It is an easy dish to prepare, and a nice warm dish to serve on a cold "Autumn= Almost Winter" night ...

How do you prepare the "Sauce"?
I fried some onions in oil. Then I add some diced chicken thigh fillets. When the chicken is almost cooked, add about 2.5 cups of water, and slowly bring the water to a simmer. Add some carrots. Dissolve the "Apple Honey Sauce" cubes in the hot water. Let cook about another 15 minutes. Make sure the chicken is fully cooked before you turn off the heat. You can also add some potatoes, after adding the carrots. You will need to cook longer, as the potatoes will take a longer time to soften. The "sauce" will be thicker than when you omit the potatoes.

Serve the sauce over a bowl of steaming hot rice. Add more vegetables if you like ... broccoli, shredded lettuce or baby spinach. You can also pour the sauce over a bowl of wavy egg noodles, angle's hair, or any pasta of your choice! East meets West ... YUMMY!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Joy of Baking ... Bread!

Motivated by the success of my first attempt in kneading bread by hand, and having soft fluffy buns for tea later, I baked another batch of yogurt buns the following day. As darling sons missed the sausage buns back home, I used half the dough to make mini sausage buns, since I only have mini sausages in my fridge!

The surface of the sausage buns didn't look too pretty/smooth after the second proof. I sent the batch into the oven, and they didn't turn out too bad after baking! I was pleased. The sausages, which were a little salty (by my taste buds), tasted just right when wrapped in a bun. My tray was a little small, and the buns were joined after baking. The round doughs were already touching each other after the second proof!

For the second half of the dough, I did the usual ... Nutella and Cream Cheese. I added some chocolate rice onto the cream cheese filling this round. Yum! It was not overly sweet. Just the right amount of sweetness ... I am not a person with a sweet tooth =)

I would usually bring a snack to school for the boys to eat after their dismissal. My little one would almost, always, offer some to his friends. Since I had so many buns, I decided to give some to darling son's classmate. An assortment of buns.

What bread shall we make the next round?
A loaf of yogurt bread! Yeah!

I am looking forward to the next round of baking!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cold Lunch and School Field Trip

During dinner last night, darling son YW asked me :
"Can I bring the bun for my field trip tomorrow?"

So this morning, I packed the cream cheese bun I made yesterday, into his lunch box, together with some cherry tomatoes and sushi. With this Lock&Lock Box as his lunch box on a school field trip, I don't have to worry about him losing his thermal jar. The box is easy to open and lock, and Sushi is easy to eat. He doesn't need to ask for help to open his lunch box at all! He will have enough time to finish his lunch.

Salmon and Broccoli Sushi

Broccoli :

  • Microwave and cut into smaller pieces.
  • Mix the broccoli with rice.
  • Add sushi rice vinegar. Mix well.
  • Set aside to cool.

Salmon :

  • Heat up a frying pan.
  • Melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter in the heated pan.
  • Put the salmon into the pan, with the skin side down.
  • Cook the salmon, turning it at least twice.
  • Sprinkle a pinch of salt onto salmon when almost cooked.
  • Add a little more butter if required.
  • Cut the salmon into long strips if possible.

Prepare the sushi :

  • Lay a sheet of nori, shiny side down, on the bamboo sushi mat.
  • Spread the rice and broccoli mix onto the sheet of nori.
  • Place the salmon strips on the rice.
  • Roll and cut.

Enjoy your bento lunch, my little darling .... love, Mummy =)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Yogurt Bread!

My first attempt in kneading the bread dough by hand!

I am really excited and nervous about it.
In the woods, I have to make do with minimum baking equipment. Kneading the dough by hand is the only option, and I am happy to find a very comprehensive photo-instructions at Happy Home Baking.

Finally, I was ready to start kneading!
All went well, from weighing the ingredients, to gathering the dough and starting to knead. It was only after 15 minutes of kneading that I realised my little bowl of butter was sitting at a corner of the table! No wonder the dough didn't feel right to the touch. It was dry, and although getting a little stretchier, it had a rough texture! I quickly added the butter into the dough and continue kneading for another 15 minutes. Finally, I get a smooth and elastic dough =)

I oiled a mixing bowl and put the dough in. The oven was preheated and left to cool. I put the mixing bowl with the dough into the slightly warmed oven. As this is the first time I was kneading the dough by hand, and first time baking bread in the woods with temperature outside at 2 degrees Celsius, I wasn't sure if the dough would rise, or if it did, how long it would take. One hour? More? I had to keep my fingers crossed and wait patiently.

I was very happy to see the dough doubled in size in an hour! Warming the oven and putting the dough in to proof was a good move! Following the instructions closely, I punched down the dough and let it rest for 15 minutes. Then I cut the dough into small portions and shape them into smooth balls. I didn't really bother to weigh each portions, and I ended up with buns of slightly different sizes. At this point, I could have put the round balls into the baking tray and continue with the second proof. Instead, I flattened each smooth balls, put a scoop of cream cheese/nutella in the centre, and wrapped the filling with the dough. Buns with fillings instead of plain buns!

The second proofing took about 45 minutes.
I was happy to send the trays into the oven ..... it took about 15 to 20 minutes for the buns to bake, at a temperature of 180C.

250g Bread Flour
15g Sugar
3g Salt
3g Yeast (I used a sachet of Quick Rising Dry Active Yeast)
100g Yogurt (I used Vanilla Flavored Yogurt)
60g Fresh Milk
30g Butter
25g Egg (About 1/2 an egg : Lightly beat egg, slowly pour into bowl to measure)
Milk or egg to glaze the top of the buns.

I had a third of dough left after making the buns. The remaining dough was rolled into a rectangle. I cut the rectangular dough into half, lengthwise. Then I spread Nutella on each half of the dough. Rolled each half up swiss roll style. Braided the two rolled up halves. Joined the two ends to form a ring. How did the final product look like? The baked braided "bun" was about the size of my hand =)

The boys were excited and happy to have the buns as their after-school snack. They each ate three mini buns!

Want some exercise?
Want some yummy buns?
Start kneading and baking!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Miso Turkey

"Would you guys like to try the school lunch tomorrow?", I asked.
"No way!" came the answer from my elder boy.

So since school started, I have been cooking and packing lunches for the boys. I don't mind preparing their lunch, even though it means that I have to cook in the morning. A look at the school lunch menu helps made the decision : French Fries, Brownies, Chicken Nuggets, Chocolate Cake, Green Beans, Baby Carrots and Dip, etc. It may be low-fat brownies, or baked french fries instead of deep fried. There may be healthy items like baby carrots. But to have a dip to go with the baby carrots? I don't know what goes into the dip, really. Plus, my boys love eating rice more than bread or pasta. Yes, very asian.

I have only about 45 minutes each morning, to cook and pack their lunch boxes, wake the boys up, prepare breakfast, change and get ready to walk to school. Hence, whatever that goes into the lunch box with rice, has to be easy to prepare! No fancy bento boxes. Mummy has no time for that =)

Miso turkey, is one of the dish I prepare at least once a week. It goes well with mushroom, broccoli or cauliflower. I will usually put the broccoli/cauliflower in the microwave while I cook the miso turkey.
Ground turkey can be substituted with ground chicken or pork.

250g Ground turkey
2 tbsp Red Cooking Wine
1 tbsp Miso Paste

  • Marinate the ground turkey with the red cooking wine.
  • Set aside the ground turkey for 5 minutes.
  • Heat up the saucepan.
  • Add a tablespoon of oil into the saucepan.
  • Add the ground turkey into the hot oil.
  • Using a pair of chopsticks, or spoon, stir the meat.
  • When almost cooked, add the tablespoon of miso paste.
  • Stir to mix well.
  • If too salty, add some water.

The miso turkey adds just the right amount of flavor/saltiness to a bowl of plain hot rice with broccoli/cauliflower. I usually do not season the broccoli/cauliflower. For my little boy, who is a slow eater, I will cut the broccoli into smaller pieces. Alternatively, I fry some fresh button mushrooms in a little butter to replace the broccoli/cauliflower.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fried Dumplings? Potstickers?

It is strange how the same type of food can be given a different name.
The above is known as Potstickers in the woods. I would have called them "Jiao Zhi".

These are frozen Potstickers from Costco. It is easy to cook, and unlike some frozen dumplings, the meat inside is juicy and full of flavor. The men in the house, big and little, love these dumplings. It will be a regular dish on our table =)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hello, Mr Pumpkin!

Hi Mr Pumpkin! How are you?
I am happy to meet you at the farm.
My Papa has met your giant friend, Mr Pumpkin-Head!
He is so tall!

My teacher says that I can pick a pumpkin and bring it home!
Before heading to the pumpkin patch, I need to take my lunch. But it is so windy and chilly today. I need to quickly gobble down my lunch! My friends are all ready to go to the Haunted House! I am glad my Papa and Mama are with me today. I am a little scared, going into the Haunted House.

Yippee! A wagon-ride to the pumpkin patch!
Wow! There are so many pumpkins for us to pick!
Which one shall I take?

I see a corn maze on my way to the pumpkin patch. My Papa says that we can go there after we pick our pumpkin. The maze is big! Me and my friends love to run about in the maze. But my Papa and Mama are so slow, we have to back-track to look for them!

While walking to the corn maze, I see this sign that says "Kitty and Bunny". My Mama says that we can go in to pet the kittens and bunnies after the maze. There are so many white kittens in the barn. I wonder where the bunnies are. My two classmates, the two girls, love kittens.
They keep asking my Mama if they can go back to pet/carry/see the kittens. But I see the tricycles and sand pit with construction vehicles. I am glad my friend Farsha wants to go with me to ride the tricycle. I am happy to leave the girls with my Mama. Papa will be with us!

I see these yellow school buses on the road all the time. I always wanted to ride on one! This is the first time I am riding on a yellow school bus. I am very happy and excited. It is now time for us to go back to school. My Papa and Mama are not taking the school bus back. They will be driving back. I will see them later at school! Bye Bye, Papa! Bye Bye, Mama!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

More Notes on Doors!

The little one has fallen in love with writing. He writes letters to us, and he writes notes, to be stuck on doors in the apartment. And since he writes so frequently and so much, I have accumulated a stack of letters from him, and the notes on the doors will be changed on every other day. The above note is found on one of the doors in our apartment ... Guess which door that is? Yes, the bathroom!

The note is on our bathroom door, because the signs "BOYS' BATHROOM" and "GIRLS' BATHROOM" can be found outside the bathrooms in school.
I have been telling him "No entering the girls' bathroom. See the sign?". Not that he enters the girls' bathroom. Just a gentle reminder, in case he needs to go to the bathroom and enters the wrong one while at school. But at home, there's no sign! Everyone uses the same bathroom ... hence the new note, "Boys and Girls".

Before bedtime this evening, I found a new note on his bedroom door : STAY OUT .... with a picture of a frowning guy drawn on the note.

I wonder why "Stay Out" with a frown ....

Monday, October 5, 2009

The "Never Fail to Help Me" Book

This is one book which I will read again and again :
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk.

I use this book for the different stages of my boys' growing up. Ever been in a situation where the more you ask the child to stop crying, the louder he will cry? Like he wants Banana Crunch Cereal for breakfast and all you have is Cheerios? "We don't have anymore Banana Crunch Cereal. Have some Cheerios instead." ... "NO! I want Banana Crunch!" ... "But we don't have any." ... CRY ... The harder we explain, the harder they protest by crying. Useful tips in the book like "Give the feeling a name", "Give a child his wishes in Fantasy" help me in dealing with such tricky situations. Letting the child knows that we feel his frustration, we understand how badly he wants something make it easier for him to accept reality.

Now that the boys are older, leaving behind their terrible twos, and moving into assertive independence, I am re-reading the book again. And I am still in Chapter 2 : Engaging Cooperation.

My boys are used to going to bed by 8am, and as a result, they will wake up before 730am the next morning. Lovely timing for school term. Bad for the weekends and school vacation! It is so difficult to get them to cooperate by keeping their voices down in the morning, just so the parents can nap for another half an hour. Or they will be arguing at the top of their voices, over who the lego bricks belong to.

One Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago, and after many failed attempts in talking to them, requesting that they play quietly on their own and not raise their voices while playing, I decided to try one of the methods stated in the book : Write a note.

I put the note on our bedroom door, low enough for the boys to see it should they come knocking on our door in the morning. The boys woke up the next morning, saw the note, and I heard them whispered to each other : Shhh .... Then they proceed to brush their teeth (very quietly), and to play on their own/together (quietly without any arguement). WOW! I was very pleased indeed. We managed to nap for another 45 minutes!

The little boy, since starting school this Fall, is learning to write. Last Sunday, we woke up to find a note stuck on each of the bedroom doors.

The note on our door read : Mama and Papa is still sleeping. You need to go brush your teeth by yourself ... Picture of a "NO Entry" with a person on it. When I saw the note, I read the part which I could understand, out loud. He grinned broadly when I asked if he wrote the note all by himself.

The second note on the boys' bedroom door read : And don't disturb my brother. Brush your teeth by yourself and play your Lego as quietly as a mouse. Picture of a "NO Entry" with his brother sleeping on the bed. His brother had gone back to lie on the bed after using the bathroom in the morning. Only the little one was up that morning. So he used his time to write the notes, before brushing his teeth.

How creative kids can be! Combining his knowledge on the "NO Entry" sign with "NO Entering because .... " in picture form. It really warmed my heart, seeing the two notes on a cold Sunday morning, and amazed at how fast and how much the little one learns ...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Little Bundles of Joy

Two of my friends are having their third baby ... the first one with two daughters, recently gave birth to a son. Another friend A, with two boys (just like me), is pregnant with a little princess due next year. I am really happy for them! And how I envy them! For me, I would love to have another. However, without the physical and emotional support, I do not have the confidence of going through, yet another draining cycle of an emotional roller coaster ride.

Babies are a joy. Even though my two boys are both in school now, remembering them as a baby always bring on a smile. Of course, there's the ups, the joy of being a stay-at-home mom. The joy of seeing the little one learning to flip to his side at three months, his first tooth emerging at the fourth, sitting on his own at the sixth, cruising at the nineth, and walking on his own at 12th! You are there to witness the many 'firsts' =) But there's the downs too. Being a stay-at-home mom with no help at all is very taxing for me. Night feeds, baby's constant crying, not to be mention having to carry both boys when both of them decide to throw a tantrum and whine at the same time. Being stuck at home all the time (yes, weekends inclusive) brings no joy, especially when the 'patience' bucket is empty.

Having a daughter would be great! Yes, I would love to have one. Especially when the boys and the man drive me mad sometimes. Men in general, are a species of 'not so sensitive' creatures. They do not notice when you are feeling down, not unless you tell them very clearly in details what is bothering you. They do not know how to comfort you, and they do not know what to say. My little one sometimes will come over and give me a hug when I tell him "Mama is feeling sad". But how long more will I get these hugs? The older one is already refusing hugs outside. Only bedtime kisses are allowed now, and he is only 6+? The younger one since going to school, just wave goodbyes. I am also careful not to hug them outside, since they may feel uncomfortable.

A friend once said to me "I have not seen you in pink". Firstly, pink is my least favorite colour. Secondly, I will stick out like a sore thumb walking besides two boys and their dad. With two boys at home, our conversation involves helicopters, space, spiders, dinosaurs ... all the boys' stuff. Daughters are different. I remembered going shopping with my mom even though I was already in my twenties? Walking around town with my arm around hers? I do not think my boys will do the same with me when they are in their twenties. They would probably be holding their girlfriends' hands. One may argue and say that "what make you think that the daughter will do the same as you did"? She may be like their brothers, holding her boyfriend's arm instead of yours. True. But however it will turn out, I would not know, as I am not going to have a third one.

I will continue going to bed tonight, dreaming of a daughter. Meanwhile, I will continue to do my very best, being a patient and loving mom to my two boys ... till they find their other half to take care of them.

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