Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Mad about chicken

The kids and I aren't big meat eaters. Actually our diet comprises mostly vegetables and seafood. When it comes to meat, we eat mostly chicken. Even then, the kids prefer breast meat which happens to be the part I dislike the most. We often find chicken that hasn't been properly marinated too 'chickeny' for our liking.

CH is more adventurous when it comes to food. He loves mutton and can never understand why I complain it's too gamey. When we're eating out, he orders beef or mutton which he can't get at my house. If tripe or something exotic like camel is on the menu, he would order it!

While we were eating at Buyan Russian Restaurant last Friday, we had a hard time picking the main dish. Finally, we settled for the Jordanian roast chicken. Despite the rich aroma, the chicken tasted a little bland. We felt that the chicken wasn't marinated long enough for the spices to penetrate. Then again, it's a Russian restaurant, so we weren't expecting anything too fiery.

Last week, while I was at the butcher (gourmet one), I was intrigued to see a selection of spatchcocked chicken marinating in spices, herbs or lemon. They're ready-to-cook and ideal for busy working people. But the prices are quite steep.

So guess what I did? I went to the wet market and bought two pieces of half chicken at a fraction of the price. I marinated one in herbs from my garden while for the other half, I used a spice rub and lots of garlic and shallots.

When I got home from work yesterday, I popped the marinated chicken together with some potatoes, carrot and onion into the oven and went on to do other stuff. The chicken turned out very juicy and full of flavour.

I've decided to do this every weekend so I can have ready-to-cook chicken during the week. I can get really creative with the marinate as well!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Eating well

These days, I'm not the only one at home cutting down on carbs. SK has been telling me not to give him any rice during dinner while YK hardly eats rice anyway. I've been trying to introduce brown rice but they do not like the taste.

It's hard to fill two growing boys up without any carbs, so I have to be more creative during mealtime. Last night, I made roast chicken marinated with herbs (majoram, tarragon, sage and rosemary) from my garden. Even though I found it delicious, the boys who aren't huge meat eaters, didn't really fancy it. On the other hand, the Vietnamese rice rolls were polished off quickly with nods of approval.

Since YK is busy studying for his test this afternoon, I decided to make a simple pasta salad before leaving for work today. It's one of the easiest dishes to make and the taste improves after a couple of hours. It's great for picnics and potluck parties. Yes, pasta is still carbs.

If you're thinking of making some, here's the recipe.

1. Boil pasta in a pot of salted water until al-dente. Drain and set aside to cool.
2. Panfry minced garlic, shelled shrimps and squid in olive oil until tender and lightly cooked.
3. Chop red and yellow capsicum, sugar peas and 1 red onion into small pieces. You can be as imaginative as you like and add anything like cheese, olive, tomato etc.
4. Toss pasta and vegetables together.
5. Make a dressing using juice of 1 lemon, 1 teaspoon of mustard, 4 tablespoon olive oil, pinch of salt and ground pepper. Pour over the salad and mix well.

I've discovered the perfect food for my own breakfast. It's the humble tempeh, a kind of fermented soybean cake. Here is what it looks like before cooking.

I panfry it in olive oil until it is crispy at the edges and eat it with a light sprinkling of sea salt. It's surprisingly delicious and packed with lots of nutrition.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

An ordinary day

Valentine's Day has come and gone without enriching our lives in any way. We have agreed some years back (can't remember when) that we will not celebrate like the millions of couples around the world on this over-rated day. So, I went to bed really early at around 8pm, when all the restaurants were filled with starry-eyed couples, feeling like a sad puppy. Yah, I shoudn't be feeling this way but I did.

To add to the misery, Rusty threw up twice on the shaggy rug early this morning. He ate something that didn't agree with his tummy. After he got it all out, he was happily wolfing down his breakfast and begging for his walk.

Yesterday YK asked, "Aren't you celebrating Valentine's Day with CH?" I said no and that was it. He then went on to bake a gorgeous fruit tart for his friend's birthday today. After he was done with assembling the tart, he said, "There's still plenty of custard in the fridge, maybe you can make yourself something?"

Sounds tempting but I guess not. I'm taking a break from carbs this week. But if he makes me a cake, I will eat it!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

All grown up

SK is coming home today, after being away for 18 days on a trip to Australia. He flew alone to Bangkok to meet his father, from there they set off to Melbourne and Tasmania. SK has been keeping me updated of his whereabouts via email and sms. Tonight, he'll be flying back from Bangkok alone. I'm so proud of him!

It's funny how when the kids were young, they had to depend on me for everything. YK was so fascinated with marine life as a toddler that he would pester me to draw sea creatures for him. Well, I'm not exactly the most artistic person, so very often he would cry out of frustration when his beloved creatures looked mishappen or unproportional. He was quite the perfectionist with high expectations.

Both my kids are very artistic, eventually they could draw so well, I was relieved of my drawing duties. SK almost always gets a distinction in art and has decided to pursue his studies in environment design which I think suits him perfectly since he is also a nature lover.

It's the same with cooking. They love pasta and would make me cook pasta for them all the time. Now, YK makes his own pasta and believe me, they taste so much better than mine. He bakes pies, tarts and muffins too. Last week, he made chocolate cupcakes on a whim and they turned out to be the best I've ever eaten.

Eating freshly baked chocolate cupcakes is really different from eating store bought ones. YK used good ingredients in generous portions. The cake turned out moist and so chocolatety. For the icing, he used marshmallows, cream, rum and dark chocolate. Oh, the taste was heavenly!

After slogging away for so many years, it's now time for me to sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labour.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Staying active

I have reached the age where I can no longer take good health for granted. Keeping healthy and staying fit is hard work. Just a few days of slacking can undo all the good you have done throughout the year.

The daily walks with Rusty is hardly enough for me to stay trim. It doesn't raise my heart beat or make me sweat. A more intense workout like running is still necessary, in addition to watching my diet.

Alas, after laying off for several months, I still struggle to get the groove back after starting 2 weeks of running. It used to be as easy as putting on the shoes, zipping out of the door and covering 5km effortlessly. It'll take me another couple of weeks before I can run so easily again. Now I can understand why sportsmen get so frustrated when they can't train because of an injury.

So, it was with much psyching before I headed out this morning. I felt so tired even after a good night's sleep but by the time I ran to the canal, the rising sun made me feel energised all at once. I stopped to take in the breath-taking view before continuing the run. I only did 30 minutes today but it's better than nothing.

Last weekend, after dropping YK off at the fish farm at Pasir Ris, I drove to Lorong Halus Wetlands to check the place out. I didn't quite know what to expect and thought all I could see was a marshland transformed from a landfill.

I was in for a surprise. Besides being a biodiversity haven for plants, birds and other wildlife, the wetlands also uses innovative systems incorporating plants and ponds to collect and treat water. A large dam in the distance shows that it is more than a leisure park.

An impressive pedestrian bridge, with Serangoon River running beneath, connects Lorong Halus to Punggol new town.

I was really impressed with the running track and facilities across the bridge. The clear stream and rolling hills made me feel as if I were out in the countryside. The truth is, the bustling Punggol town is just steps away. The residents are lucky to have easy access to the park.

It was too hot for me to linger but I'll definitely be back for a good long run one day.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The week so far

In another 5 days, the Chinese New Year will officially come to an end. If you ask me, two weeks of celebration is a long time! We can't go on feasting like this.

I've recently violated all my rules about healthy eating and am now suffering from the ill-effects of over eating. I felt so lethargic and heavy that I forced myself to start running again. After a 4-month break, it was such an effort to pound the pavement that I ended up with sore muscles. Well, I'm glad I did because it is easier now.

I'm also back to eating lighter meals. Last night, we had Vietnamese rolls and fish soup for dinner. Vietnamese rolls are surprisingly delicious when eaten with a tangy dip, and they're such a cinch to make. They are completely fat-free as well.

The family loves it, so I forsee it will be a regular feature on our dining table from now on. On Tuesday night, I met up with some friends for a mostly vegetarian dinner.

We had yu-sheng (raw fish and vegetables) of course since it's only available at this time of the year.

During the new year, my god children came to visit me and as usual, everyone focused their attention on little Rusty.

We also went visiting. It's nice to know that my best friends are the same ones who went to school together. This group from junior college meets regularly. We've even gone on holidays together. In fact, I'm going hiking with ML in Southern Italy this May. We're really excited about the trip.

Needless to say, a visit to best friend's house is compulsory every new year. We were treated to delicious popiah and snacks.

And we washed everything down with Chinese tea- a very pretty variety that 'blooms' in hot water. Just look at how gorgeous it is!