Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Surviving the lunar new year - have your cookies and eat them!

The year of the Sheep / Goat / Ram - somewhat confusing, but all applicable for the lunar new year - is just two weeks off, time to get snacking!
> Treats for the arduous journey, happy 2015
> Color me happy, it's 2014!

Cookies and traditional desserts are a staple at every Chinese home - a way of welcoming visiting well-wishers, and feed festive once-a-year-gamblers that get hungrier as the stakes go up and coins change hands.

As a new generation (I would like to think!) Asian household, we've tried to do away with clutter.

Keeping things simple, cherishing the space.

There are however, a few very delectable (yes, all edible once again, a running theme I realise) key elements of the lunar new year that you just can't dispense with. The convivial spirit is never the same.

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1) Bak Kwa: barbecued sweet pork slices
No one understands the insane phenomenon of queuing for hours at the most popular stalls, paying double the usual prices - when bak kwa is there for the taking any other day of the year. But the craze continues, and the chinese new year festivity is all the rowdier and happier for it.

> Which bak kwa to get in Singapore?
> Not too many options in Hong Kong, but there's always good 'ol Bee Cheng Hiang

Image from Gallery Funny Game

2) Mandarin oranges
Like bak kwa, the mad scramble for mandarins takes some strategic planning (not too early, they'll rot before you get to give them out; not too late - none left for you!), and hefty muscles. Be smart and know what you're grabbing at the markets, not all oranges are created equal.
> Meet the oranges that wink

Image from Infographics.sg

3) Lo Hei
Insanely messy, ridiculously rowdy and superbly delicious - tossing yu sheng is mandatory during the luar new year. Do you want to be the shmuck who misses out tossing in some good fortune? And be honest - no one actually knows the right phrases for each stage in spite of the collective brave shouting of unintelligible gibberish, as you try to outdo your neighbour tossing higher with each round. Here's an awesome guide to doing lo hei like a boss.

4) New Year cookies
Hands up anyone who's managed to NOT put on weight during the chinese new year. Yep, pretty much zero. I've always advocated balance - food, life, work, sports - everything. So balance is the way we're gonna take on the new year feasting, you can have your cookies and eat them! Toasted oats and nuts are the healthy way to go. Coupled with reduced sugar and butter, you've got yourself some pretty scrummy treats that taste fab and keep you fitting the same pair of pants you walked in with pre-cookies.

Make smart choices this lunar new year, gong xi fa cai everyone!

I'm joining Best Recipes for Everyone Jan & Feb 2015 Event Theme: My Homemake Cookies by Fion of XuanHom's Mom and co-hosted by Victoria Baking Into The Ether.

Link to "My Treasured Recipes #5 - Chinese New Year Goodies (Jan / Feb 2015)" hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House.

Also linking this post to "Cook & Celebrate: CNY 2015" event organized by Yen from Eat Your Heart Out, Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Treats for the arduous journey, happy 2015!

Happy 2015!

If you're anything like me, you're probably running behind on your to-do errands, and that resolution list should definitely be retitled '2016' - by the time I get to it.

But that's ok.

It's alright to take some time to catch your breath, to relish the threshold of crossing into a brand new year.
> Ringing in the year with cake pops

I've been catching up on some reading over the holidays, and reminded that the essence of anything we do is really to be in the moment.

Each step is there for a reason, to make a difference.
Savor it. And then move on.

Starting a whole new set of 365 days is a big deal, so let's take a little time out to let that sink in. It'll refresh and refocus us, and we'll get to what we need to do in just the right time.

I'm still working on my 2015 Inspiration List for now.

This is by no means a rattling of resolutions, but really things that I want to remind myself to do as I barrel into the year.

I'd probably fail at half of them, and forget the other half.

But I do find myself needing inspiration and reminders, especially as the year chugs along.

It's easy to get swept up in things we're doing, work, obligations and even fun.

I've learnt over the years, that it helps to have a couple of little lights to point us back to path along the way, remind us of what it is we WANT our year to be like.

5 things on my Inspiration List:
1) Be grateful
2) Live healthily
3) Make a difference
4) Enjoy what I'm doing/baking
5) Feel joy about something - everyday

It's still a work in progress, but this is where I'm at for now.

I'll continue refining it along the next 358 days.

And as you work on your lists and resolutions, I know you're gonna be needing a bit of encouragement.

Here are 5 little treats to keep on hand for the arduous journey ;)


These little bites are crunchy and light, perfect with some milk or cocoa. And the best part? The dough can be made ahead, so you're never left without.  

And they're just perfect for packing into little bags to share with a fellow resolution-maker.

> Recipe from Martha Stewart

Ombre swirl cookies


Mix it up with any sort of herbs you like, this recipe from Bon Appetit brings out a nice savory fragrance balanced by a barely-weighty shortbread. And if you don't have caraway seeds, toasted black sesame seeds work perfectly well too, adding a pinch of earthiness.

More shortbread recipes:
Chocolate chip shortbread
Chocolate-almond sables - shortbread cookies


One of my fave snacks, just can't get enough of these. Swap the almonds out for any other nuts you prefer. These sables have such a chocolately fragrance, I make them jumbo for indulgence, but they work just as well in teeny bites.

> How to make these delectable beauties
> Double chocolate cookies - equally irresistible!


I love making cookies either extra large for giant yumness, or bite-sized poppers - so easy to eat, no crumbs, no fuss. These (recipe here) go wonderfully with a hot cup of tea, or if you have milky chai on hand - even better!

> Make some Chai Granola to go along


These are dangerous. They carry a hint of the Asian palm sugar (gula melaka), settling subtly and making merry with its bowl mates. You could eat a whole jarful of this without feeling anything close to sick. So addictive. Good thing they're packed with oats, nuts and coconut - so it's good for us!

> Make your own gula melaka granola

> More granola recipes:
   - Chai Honey
   - Deep Chocolate

These are all bites that keep well so have them handy in a jar, and good luck with your list-making and inspiration in the new year ahead!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The season for delicious - Chocolate Almond Sables

It's 6 days to the birth of Christ (the mankind date, at least), and it doesn't just look like Christmas, but sounds and smells a lot like it too.

There are 2 camps of Christmast-ers.

The Gifters - natural-born Martha Stewarts who adore the shopping and wrapping. And then there are the Diss-ers - people who scorn gifting as the commercial witchcraft of the season.

I actually appreciate the act of Christmas gifting, as long as we don't get too carried away.

Giving someone a gift is telling the person they matter to us, and we've put in effort to think about them in the tizzy of festivities.

Of course there are many gift nightmares, things you have no idea what to do with, things that shouldn't have been invented in the first place. But take it in the right spirit - someone thought of you,  and you're lucky enough for someone to care.

I love food gifts.

And when I say Christmas smells, it's really kitchen baking that I'm thinking of.

Make some amazing kitchen gifts of your own:
> Gula Melaka Granola

One of my favorite bakes this Christmas is Bon Appetit's Chocolate-Pistachio Sables - so scrummy.

I've adapted it into Chocolate-Almond Sables because I love a good crunch, and the almonds give a much stronger crackle.

Other cookie recipes to try:
> Double Chocolate Fudgy Cookies
Ombré Swirl Cookies
> Chocolate Chip Shortbread
> Lemon Poppy Cookies

Strictly speaking, these are not your traditional French-style sables (shortbread cookies). But they carry the butter-cookie base that makes them so sabley rich and tender, generously enveloped with rich dark chocolate.

It screams of Christmas!

I've made mine into jumbo logs and sliced them thickly for extra festive indulgence.

So gorgeous for gifting.

They bake into a lovely semi-crunchy exterior, with a mottled crumbly interior that makes them quite addictive.

You can use any sort of nuts you like, just remember to chop them up coarsely so they mix easily into the dough.

Chilling the logs is also essential for a crunchy bake, and when you make jumbos like mine (about 7-8cm), use a big sturdy knife to slice your cold dough - or a big ol' cleaver, much better grip!

Remember friends, think of family and even strangers this Christmas season. Remember to show some love.
> Remembering Robbie Williams

Everyone deserves to be happy at Christmas.

More Christmas goodies for the season:
> Edible Christmas Wreaths
> Red Santa Hats
> Christmas Cake Pops