Thursday, May 29, 2014

Awesome ways to use Beer!

Beerfest is in a couple of weeks, and with beer so wildly loved in this hot, hot state of ours, we put on our (still sober?) thinking caps for the 5 Best Uses for Beer:

1) Beer Spa

Detoxification, purification, relaxation and rejuvenation - beer bath enthusiasts can't get enough of submerging into vats of beer - especially when the medical benefits run a mile long on the spa websites. And of course you get your very own beers to chug while immersed in the beer barrel. Let's hope that isn't where the used beer from the earlier beer spas goes :)

> Some of our feel-pretty desserts:

2) Spicy Food

Mugs up if you're ever chased mad spicy food down your belly at the hawker center with ice cold beer, I know I have! Something strangely effective about cold beery bubbles nuking the chilli burn, highly recommended.

> 'Healthy' foods: Fruity cakes & shakes  
> Rustic food: Red velvet cake

3) Polishing Pots


When you've got a bit of leftover beer (how and why that would ever happen, we don't know), don't throw it out. Grab your nearest copper pot, pour on the leftover beer, let it sit for a while and wipe off. Viola, spiffy shiny pot is born. That's what the Idaho Brewing Company claims anyways. 

4) Beer Shampoo

Pour another... for your hair. Yet another way alcohol seems to aid beauty - enterprising personal care companies have kicked beers up a notch and brought them into the daily bath routine with beer shampoos. Silky shiny hair, with beer run-off so conveniently tasty while rinsing off, what's not to like?

5) Guinness Cake

There's ALWAYS a good reason to bring dessert into the picture. Beer + cake = perfect sense. The Chocolate Guinness Cake is velvety heaven on a plate, with a very subtle hint of the alcoholic brew. Nigella has an excellent recipe for an inky black cake, that has a place in every celebration.

The secret to a fantastic Guinness cake: good ol' malted
Guinness and sour cream. That's right, sour cream - it
lifts the cake, injects airiness, and is
responsible for the tender crumb and moist bite.

I love edible science experiments.

The bubbly brew wells up under the chocolatey
egg mixture, giving it lift and lightness.

This next step isn't in Nigella's recipe, but you'll need to sift
the flour well, or you'll end up with little flour craters
that won't break up well because of the beer's airy bubbles.

You can't taste the beer per se, so don't be
 disappointed if you don't get hit with a huge
 slug of Guinness. Its role is in lending texture
and a slight hint of the brew's dark tang. 

Nigella does a beautiful cream cheese
frosting in her recipe, I've swopped mine
out for a rich Bailey's irish cream frosting
 which upps the indulgence level.

To make the frosting: Beat 450g butter in mixer
 till light and fluffy, add 2 cups confectioner's
sugar + 4 tbsn Bailey's, beating for a few min
till fluffy again. This should be enough to
frost and top an 8" cake generously. 

I like to tuck in a bit of surprise when I can,
and this cake has a hidden layer of crunchy
chocolate balls and crushed oreo biscuits to
give it more texture when you bite in.

Style the cake any way you want, the frosting
is a forgiving canvas. Chill the cake to let the
frosting set, bring it out about 20-30 min
before eating - perfect texture.

Experiment and play around with shapes and
sizes, I made some cute tiny sunflower cups
 with the cake batter. They took almost no time
at all to bake (argh yes, I forgot to time them so
I don't have an exact bake time for you), and
taste gorgeous even on their own with no frosting.

More chocolate desserts: 
> 4 Melt-in-your-mouth decadent chocolate treats
> Chocolate cake, 10 years young
> Curious George (sorta!) cake pops
> Chocolate Minion cupcakes

Friday, May 16, 2014

It's Food Revolution Day!

Food options and life choices are pretty much the same, to me at least.

Just as important, just as empowering.

Many of us are fortunate to be served the world - with an uncountable repertoire of sweets, savories, soups, frieds, greens, locals, homegrowns, imported.

But even more of us are struggling from meal to meal, each more precarious than the last.

And while we're so blessed to have so many food options to choose from, it's nice to take time to appreciate what we're eating, to think a little about what food means.

Which is what Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day (FRD) is all about.

His mission to inspire change is well documented.
He believes in investing in the future, and I love the glorious exhilaration of FRD's slogan "Let's Get Kids Excited About Food".

I'm not saying we go all crazy gluten-free, no-sugar, all-organic-only.

That's just no-fun.

Eating well can still be a ton of play and excitement, and I wanted to share a couple of fantastic inspirations for kids' food I came across:

Picky Palate

I love Jenny's philosophy towards food - a cookie in one hand, a salad in the other. Something I completely agree with. One of the sections on her site is aptly named Skinny Palate. While it's not targeted at kids, Picky Palate is about food that even the pickiest eaters will love - someone say kids! Green Eggs & Ham Scramble, Honey & Orange Creamsicle Slushy Chocolate Banana and Peanut Butter Milk... she's got it going.

Super Healthy Kids

This isn't just one mom's blog, but the collective wisdom of an entire team including a trainer and nutritionist. Their focus is on fruits and vegetables, and they have fantastic ideas for better health for kids. Sports nutrition, keeping kids fit, how to introduce food groups to your kids - where were these guys when we were young??

In case you're thinking they sound like health nazis (they are a little!), they do have fun too with recipes like the Raspberry Cheesecake and Sugar Snap Bugs and Butterflies.

Meaningful Mamma

Anyone who can make fruits look this adorable, needs to be mentioned. Jodi started the site as a way of sharing her parenting experiences and giving back, and it's now expanded to include the cutest food ideas. Not all her food recipes are health-based (her site does focus on Character Development after all), but she's got a few gems that are adorable and creative. Check out her Owl Strawberries and Butterfly Snack Packs.

Eat well everyone, let food make you smile, and be thankful for life!

To participate and donate to FRD, click here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

How to make a high heel topper

It's the day after, but I'm still inspired by the pretty-and-sweet of Mother's Day.

Plus, this quote from humorist/writer Sam Levenson just cracks me up:" Insanity is hereditary; you get it from your children". 

How true.

And so today's post will still be about moms - three things that wouldn't have been the same without them:

1) The real reason sweaters exist
"Sweater, n: garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly" - Ambrose Bierce, writer/jounalist. Don't think I need to say more, the love is evident. 

2) Mastering omni-presence
Moms have eyes front, back, side, underside, overside. Scary, but true. And that is how we have in turn acquired chameleon-vision. There's no other explanation for being able to pound away at the computer, and spot a tiny child-hand swiping cupcakes cooling on the kitchen table behind us. All in one fell swoop. It's just not natural. 

3) High heels
Instruments of torture and of exquisite beauty; most women have a love-hate relationship with these towering shoes. I may not have inherited all of my mother's grace on heels, but I did manage to make one for a cake recently.

How to Cook That has a fabulous video detailing all the painstaking steps of creating a fondant high heel. She's done a marvelous job with a frilly Jimmy Choo, and I've adapted parts of it for a simpler girly sandal that the birthday girl wanted. 

Jumping the gun a little with this picture, but it
shows the process of making the shoe.

Start with the heel, let it dry for a day or two.
Add some sugar paste modelling gum to strengthen
when molding, we need the heel to be quite sturdy,
bearing the weight of the entire shoe.

Follow the steps in the video tutorial for the
(pink) shoe sole.

Here's the inside liner of the sole I've done, indented
with stitch marks running round, made with a
toothpick or a wheel tool much like what
seamstresses use. 

Instead of the strappy front in the video, I made this
sweet peep-toe with a template of the same shape,
and embossed it with a swirly texture mat.

Fix to pink sole with a little water, prop up
with tissues to let it dry in a curved shoe shape. 

Make your ribbon for the front of shoe.
Check out this fab video by Amanda Oakleaf
showing the steps.

Start with a rectangular piece of fondant, trim the
centers slightly, glue the two open ends to the center to
form the bows.

Wrap middle of ribbon with a small strip of fondant,
prop the two bows up with rolled up tissue or rolled
cardboard pieces (like I've done in my picture below).

Let ribbon dry, and attach to front of shoe
with royal icing or melted chocolate.

Paint on any labels or numbers you might
want with edible black paint and the
tinniest paint brush you can find. I love using
a lipstick brush. It's so small, it gives you
the  perfect sharp point you need for lettering. 

Let the shoe dry completely for another day or two
if you can. It's a pretty fragile topper, so the more
time it has to dry, the stronger it'll be.

My shoe is propped up on styrofoam here because
I've added a support skewer into the heel
(when I first made it a couple of steps back), to
anchor the shoe when I add it onto the cake,
 and not risk it tipping over.

Let every day be Mother's Day, tell them and show them that they matter to you :)

Some bakes mom would love:

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Taste of home

Happy Labor Day!

I kinda think it's a pseudo mother's day in disguise.
> More Mother's Day treats

Besides being in labor for a good many hours to bring us into the world, moms constantly labor over their children - feeding, schooling, nurturing, dressing, fussing over.

A lifelong stint.
No return policy :)

And for this reason, home truly is where mom is.

Moms have a magical power (also known as 'sheer love') to create warmth, and we've 2 desserts that are the quintessential taste of home.

Sesame Matcha Cupcakes

This is such a warm, earthy cupcake that pairs
perfectly with a very grown-up matcha frosting. 

The slightly bitter edge from the sesame seeds 
keeps each mouthful light, and fills you with the 
warmth of home, especially on a cold rainy day.

Recipe from 6bittersweets here. I prefer a slightly
stronger sesame taste, and upped the amount of seeds
to nearly half cup; you can always adjust as you like it.

 Toast the sesame for 3-5 min in a dry pan to release
the oils and flavors, then give it a blitz in the food
processor or mortar and pestle. The toasting brings
out the most amazing aromas.

Resist temptation to gobble seeds up; you'll either
burn your tongue from the heat, or be left
short of seeds for your cupcakes.

Either way, it doesn't end well!

The smell of pastries fresh out of the oven is heavenly.
My favorite time to take a bite or two out of the bakes -
when they're barely cool enough to hold!

The key is to get good sesame. The black seeds
have a stronger aroma, and look gorgeous
coloring the cupcakes a milky ash.

To complete the look, save some
of the toasted seeds to sprinkle on top.

Zingy Ginger Crunch

Ginger is a flavor that I only grew to appreciate 
in my early adulthood. It used to be 'that 
weird yellow spice' in stir frys and steamed 
dishes, but I've since since learnt the error of my ways. 

It's a magical elixir that gives a dessert an 
extra taste dimension, and lifts warm drinks
 from the ordinary to extraordinary.

This recipe is from, and the baked crunchy 
base is a superb counterbalance to the ginger 
layer that would otherwise be too sweet on its own. 

I like to serve these in little cubes. They pack
quite a punch, and go blissfully with green tea.

 More homey desserts:
> Fruity chiffon cake
> Sweet, sweet strawberries
> Double chocolate chip shortbread
> Rich red velvet cake
> Ombre swirl cookies